(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate [and the gift of play]

(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate | Sarah J. Hauser

My daughter keeps asking to have a tea party or a picnic or play doctor with her. I oblige when I can, but preschool play is not my strength. But little by little, my kids draw me into their worlds, teaching me how to play again. They show me the joy of silliness and letting go of inhibitions. They help me loosen my grip on practicality. I still fight it every day. I want to see check marks on my to-do lists and know I’m working toward a goal. Those desires aren’t all bad, of course, but we’ve lost something when we let utility push fun completely out of the picture. We’ve lost the joy and beauty of play.

Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, researched how the absence of play contributed to the violent behavior of homicidal males. (Don’t worry. This blog post won’t take a dark turn toward examining the psychology of murder, but if you want to learn more check out Dr. Brown’s TED talk or resources on the National Institute for Play website.) Through years researching both humans and animals, Brown “came to understand that humans are uniquely designed by nature to enjoy and participate in play throughout life.”

We shouldn’t wait to play until all the more important things get done. Play—doing something for the sheer joy of it rather than as a means to an end—is essential for human thriving. It’s something we need in our everyday lives. It cultivates creativity, combats stress, and stimulates the brain. Whenever I watch my kids play, I see them creating, adapting, growing, working together, figuring things out, smiling, and so much more. Yet somehow as an adult, I decided play wasn’t important.

Even when I do try to play, I struggle. I play with my kids but grow easily frustrated by the fact that they’re not following the rules of Candyland or adequately explaining the rules of their own made-up game. I set a mental timer trying to decipher how long I have to sit and eat pretend food or roll cars across the floor before I’ve fulfilled my duty as an attentive mother. To be honest, preschool play can feel utterly mind-numbing to me sometimes. (Please tell me I’m not the only one?) I marvel at the creativity of my kids’ preschool teachers and friends and family who play with my kids with ease. Give me a basketball and a high school kid, and I’m good to go. Give me Play-Doh and a three-year-old, and I’m lost at sea.

When I attempt to play as an adult, I often only do so when there’s a clear goal. I run for exercise. I photograph to get a blog post out. I create a recipe in the kitchen so I can share it online. But what if I did all those things—running, photography, cooking—for the joy of it? What if I allowed myself to do something I love just because? That sounds so...frivolous.

Despite my ineptitude for play, having kids has given me a new chance to learn how to do this. I see them making funny faces, running in circles until they’re dizzy or creating elaborate story lines as they talk to their stuffed animals. They’re learning and growing in many areas that could be labeled as productive. But my daughter doesn’t assign dialogue to her stuffed sloth because she's practicing her language skills. She’s doing it because it’s fun.

O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.
— Psalm 104:24-26

God has given us the gift of play—a gift we see his creatures using throughout creation. In Psalm 104, the psalmist writes of the Leviathan in the sea, “which you formed to play in it.” Leviathan (whatever we deem that creature to actually be) was created to play. We see the playfulness of God throughout his world, in the colors of the sunsets or the creativity of the animal kingdom. What was God thinking when he made a platypus? I wouldn’t be surprised if he simply thought it was fun. If we’re to image God, one of the ways we do this is through play. We see and recognize the joy he takes in his creation, and we image that to the rest of the world. If we only ever image our God as practical, realistic, or utilitarian, are we really demonstrating who he is to others?

When’s the last time you did something for the fun of it, not as a means to an end? When’s the last time you allowed yourself to truly and wholeheartedly play? Do you view it as a luxury, or as a necessity? What can you do this week to wholeheartedly, unabashedly play?

(Need some play inspiration? How about playing in the snow and then savoring some hot chocolate afterwards? The recipe below is dairy-free, paleo, vegan, and so, so good! Scroll down to learn how to make it!)

(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate | Sarah J. Hauser
(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate | Sarah J. Hauser
(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate | Sarah J. Hauser
(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate | Sarah J. Hauser
(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate | Sarah J. Hauser
(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate | Sarah J. Hauser

(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate
Yields 1 large serving or 2 small servings
Adapted from Detoxinista

1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Coconut whipped cream for topping*

In a small saucepan, add the milk, maple syrup, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne pepper (if using).

Turn the head to medium-low. Cook until warmed through, whisking frequently until the hot chocolate is smooth.

Pour into a mug and top with coconut whipped cream. The coconut whipped cream adds an amazing creamy richness, especially as it melts into the drink!

*For full instructions and tips to make coconut whipped cream, click here for a post from Tastes Lovely. Basically, take a can of full fat coconut milk and put it in the fridge for a few hours (I just store a can in my fridge at all times). The cream will separate from the coconut water. Scrape the cream off and add it to a bowl. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, beat for a couple minutes until soft peaks form, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. I whip in a bit of maple syrup to sweeten the cream. The ratio I like is about 1 tablespoon of maple syrup per cup of coconut cream.


Elderflower, Lemon + Rosemary Cocktail [and learning to play]

Elderflower, Lemon + Rosemary Cocktail - Sarah J. Hauser

I sat at the kitchen table with a blue plastic bowl full of applesauce, spoon-feeding my son, Josiah. My three-year-old twins ran laps around the house, and for a few moments I savored the fact that they were playing well together. No fighting, no tantrums, no tears. I overheard whispers about superheroes, and I knew what was coming. They stomped upstairs to retrieve their blankets and within a minute stood next to me asking for help tying on capes.

I set down the baby spoon and knotted the corners of the blankets around their shoulders. Off they went shouting, “We’re superheroes!” I smiled—until I saw them carrying a third, larger blanket.

“Mommy! Be a superhero with us!”

Let me confess something: I am not good at playfulness. Silliness for the sake of it seems so unproductive. I need to plan dinner. Change diapers. Write that essay. Answer an email. Basically, I’m a maternal Scrooge.

Fortunately, my kids’ pleas got the best of me. I tied that blue and green quilt around my neck and chased them from the kitchen to the living room, then through the dining room. They laughed hysterically, as did their baby brother who didn’t seem to mind taking a break from eating to witness this hilarious spectacle.

Keep reading and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs!

Elderflower, Lemon + Rosemary Cocktail - Sarah J. Hauser
Elderflower, Lemon + Rosemary Cocktail - Sarah J. Hauser
Elderflower, Lemon + Rosemary Cocktail - Sarah J. Hauser
Elderflower, Lemon + Rosemary Cocktail - Sarah J. Hauser

Read the full essay and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs!


Digory's Plea, The Magician's Nephew + The Compassion of God

Digory's Plea, The Magician's Nephew + The Compassion of God - Sarah J. Hauser

It's strange reading things you wrote years ago. Sometimes I roll my eyes, embarrassed by my words yet grateful for the growth that embarrassment shows. Other times, it feels like someone poured a bucket of cold water over me as I wake up to truth I knew but have since forgotten. 

My dad recently reminded me of a post I wrote on my old blog almost exactly six years ago. At the time, my mom had stopped treatments for pancreatic cancer and her impending death loomed over us like a dark cloud. My husband and I were rereading The Chronicles of Narnia, and a passage in The Magician's Nephew hit quite close to home. 

I've toyed around with the idea of sharing this post again. I thought maybe if I posted it, I'd rewrite it from my present-day point of view. But I'm not in a season right now like I was then. While I still grieve over my mom, we're through heaviest of that sorrow. I made a few minor edits, but otherwise kept my six-year-old post the same. I think if I changed the perspective the weight of the words would be lost. 

So this is me, six years ago, writing about my dying mom and the compassion of God. My mom has since passed, and my season of life is different.

In all of it, God is still good.  


“‘But please, please – won’t you – can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?'”

I can’t count the number of times in the last year and a half I’ve asked that same question Digory asked Aslan in the The Magician’s Nephew. Then you wait for an answer. And you wait longer. And longer. Until it seems God finally answers with a resounding, “No.”

What do you do with that response? I guess I can’t say God has given me a resounding no, but right now it sure seems like that. There’s always been one more appointment, one more treatment, one more thing to try. Yet eventually there comes a time when the road of possibility arrives at a dead end. 

Where is God in that?

Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.

Our God is not distant nor apathetic. Karl Barth wrote, “If we fix our eyes upon the place where the course of the world reaches its lowest point, where its vanity is unmistakable, where its groanings are most bitter and the divine incognito most impenetrable, we shall encounter there—Jesus Christ. On the frontier of what is observable He stands delivered up and not spared. In place of us all He stands there, delivered up for us all.”

What does that mean for us now? We can have hope of eternal life in the midst of our temporal suffering, because God has overcome suffering. 1 Peter 4:1-2 says, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” The suffering of Christ provides a hope for the future and an example to follow in the midst of our own suffering in this world.

“‘My son, my son,’ said Aslan. ‘I know. Grief is great.’”

God takes up the broken state of humanity and fixes it. He does not remain distant but rather relates so deeply to the human condition that he became human. He defeats suffering through experiencing it and overcoming it in the resurrection. Our God is not a distant God. He doesn’t shy away from our pleas, our questions, our tears. He knows better than anyone that grief is great.

Then Digory took a minute to get his breath, and then went softly into his Mother’s room. And there she lay, as he had seen her lie so many other times, propped up on the pillows, with a thin, pale face that would make you cry to look at it. Digory took the Apple of Life out of his pocket.

I can’t help but read that paragraph and think, “Stupid story. There are no magic apples in this life. There’s no Narnia, no Aslan, no…whatever.” Spoiler alert: Digory’s mom gets healed. 

Why hasn’t God healed my mom?

I don’t know. That’s why it’s taken me so long to write this blog post. I’ve had it half written for probably six months and haven’t been able to bring myself to finish it. If I’m going to finish writing, I feel like I have to come up with an answer, a nice little conclusion that puts the my mind and the minds of my readers at rest. I’m supposed to have an Apple of Life to pull out of my pocket.

I don’t have one.

God sees our suffering and knows better than anyone that grief is great. There is hope in the midst of grief, joy and peace knowing this is a light and momentary affliction. An eternal “Apple of Life” exists, despite my frustration there’s not one right now to heal my mom. Instead, I’m left holding a thousand questions and pleading with God. He graciously listens. 

In my attempt for some semblance of conclusion, I fall short. This part of my family’s story is not over, and I expect that the epilogue will not be revealed this side of eternity. 


Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles [an easy holiday appetizer!]

Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles

I brush the crumbs off my son’s shirt, grab paper towels to wipe his hands, and clean him up as best I can before he’s off to the next thing – running laps around the house, building towers with Magna-Tiles, or racing cars across the kitchen floor. I do the same with his twin sister, although it usually takes a while to convince her to let me help after she says, “Izzy do it!” four or five times.

They ate a decent lunch, but I see a few pieces of peanut butter and jelly left on their plates. Isabel didn’t touch her grapes and Elijah only took one small bite of his cheese stick. I hear Josiah start to fuss from his bouncy seat just as it dawns on me that I haven’t eaten yet. My mouth begins to water, but it’s time for the baby to nurse.

I grab the leftover PB&J and grapes, and the half-eaten cheese stick and scarf them down while I walk over to the baby. I guess that’s lunch for today. Maybe at naptime I can actually sit down.

****

We wander through the giant refrigerator at Costco. Josiah lays in his car seat and I try to keep the twins content in the cart. If I let them loose in the store, they inevitably wander in opposite directions, taking my sanity with them. I forgot my grocery list at home, so we’re going by memory on this trip. It’s never a wise idea to wander Costco without being tethered to a written plan, especially when you have to find all the things and make a thousand tiny decisions before someone begins to melt down. It’s a race against the clock. How soon will the baby wake up? How long will food samples keep my twins entertained? Will the twins fall asleep in the car on the way home mess up naps for the rest of the day?

I grab the giant bag of baby carrots – way more than we’ll ever need, but whatever. It’ll save me a trip to a second store just to buy baby carrots. I toss that, a package of salad greens, and a giant container of strawberries (that will be gone by tomorrow) into the cart. And oh! They have chanterelles! Of course I need chanterelles, right? Because why wouldn’t I need a pound or two of fancy mushrooms? I add them to the pile starting to overtake the car seat and gently rearrange the produce around my infant.

****

Chanterelles sound interesting and different and grown up – even though these mushrooms are relatively common. But sometimes I need something different. I need to eat more than a few toddler-sized squares of PB&J they didn’t finish. I need to eat like an adult.

This recipe for Crostini with Garlic Sautéed Chanterelles requires only a few ingredients and a simple preparation. The mushrooms have a rich, earthy, and almost fruity flavor. Add the crunch of toasted bread, brightness of thyme, and warmth of sautéed garlic for a grown-up dish that’s perfect as a holiday appetizer – or lunch on an ordinary Thursday. 

Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles

Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Yields about 20 appetizers

3-4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 sprigs of thyme, plus more for garnish
16 ounces chanterelle mushrooms, large ones cut in half lengthwise
1 baguette, cut into ¾ inch slices
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and and thyme and cook for about 30-60 seconds until the garlic is fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the mushrooms in a single layer and cook for about 3-4 minutes without stirring until the bottom side is golden and browned. Sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Reduce the heat to medium. Turn the mushrooms over and cook for about 5-7 more minutes, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are tender to your liking. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

While the chanterelles are cooking, set your oven rack as close to your oven’s broiler flame as possible. Preheat the broiler (to high if you have a high/low setting). Lay the baguette slices out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Broil the bread for 1-2 minutes until the edges are browned and slightly crisp. You may need to turn the pan once or twice to ensure even browning. Make sure to watch this very closely. It only take a few seconds for the bread to go from toasted to burned!

Remove the bread from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Top each slice with the sautéed mushrooms, and garnish with fresh thyme leaves. Serve and enjoy!

Note: The olive oil left in the pan has so much flavor. Use it on leftover bread for an extra treat for the cook!


This recipe was originally featured at Lark + Linen.