Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale [and learning to sit in the dark]

Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser

I scroll through my social media feeds, read articles about the latest news, and listen while a friend shares her heartache. It all feels so heavy. It is so heavy, the corporate hurts and the individual heartaches, the mundane struggles and worldwide crises. Some griefs are deeper than others, and I have the luxury of walking away from the news or giving up social media for a while before the weight crushes me. But the world is a hard, dark place, and I’m trying to learn what it means to mourn with those who mourn, to sit in the darkness without the darkness swallowing me whole.

I believe God will one day make all things new. He will fully bring his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, he will put everything right, he will bring justice and restoration and glory and joy. But we’re not there yet. We’re in this strange “already but not yet” place, a place still speaking the language of lament. My brothers and sisters throughout the world speak it fluently, but I easily forget. It’s a language that’s not easy to listen to, one I want to silence and ignore.

Frederick Buechner writes, “But if (the preacher) does not make real to them the human experience of what it is to cry into the storm and receive no answer, to be sick at heart and find no healing, then he becomes the only one there who seems not to have had that experience because most surely under their bonnets and shawls and jackets, under their afros and ponytails, all the others there have had it whether they talk of it or not.”

I so often look for a solution. I look to speak a word that will fix what is wrong or at least attempt to silence such uncomfortable sorrow. But the Gospel we preach must be big enough for the nights when solution seems far off, sure enough to sustain us when our God seems absent. It must be clear enough to speak to tongue-tied souls that can barely mutter a prayer. Because even when we can’t bring ourselves to preach, the Gospel remains true in our silence.

We hold up our heroes in the faith, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and more. But we gloss over what Hebrews 11:13 says, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised.”

Is our Gospel strong enough to hold us if we die without receiving?

The same Gospel for which so many are killed is the same Gospel that sustains in the day-to-day. It’s not a gospel of easy solutions, quick fixes, or temporary comfort—that’s no Gospel at all. If that’s what I preach to myself and others, we’ll all too quickly find that gospel will crash with even the smallest storm. Superficial solutions make a feeble gospel.

Those heroes of the faith died before receiving. Jesus wept before raising Lazarus. He was crucified before he rose from the dead. But the Gospel—the true, sure, life-altering Gospel—says that his promises will come to pass. Our weeping will turn to rejoicing. The dead will be raised. The same Spirit who raised Jesus will give life to our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11). And so we live according to that Spirit with enduring faith, come what may. That is a Gospel to cling to—and it will hold us.

As we wait in this “not yet” place, we weep and mourn, wrestle and plead. We learn to speak the language of lament knowing that one day our God will turn those cries into rejoicing. We work for change, justice, growth, and renewal, standing not on the shaky ground of cursory solutions but on the sure foundation of the kingdom of God, a kingdom that can never be shaken (Hebrews 12:28).

Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser
Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser
Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser
Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser

Whether in seasons of deep grief or ordinary heartache, we all need encouragement. But sometimes when we long to speak life-giving words and give comfort, our mouths get dry. We say something stupid. Suddenly we realize we have no idea what to do with our hands. (All these things happen to me all the time. Please tell me I’m not the only one!)

When you need to fill the silence or process sorrow by putting your hands to work, food is a great place to start. This recipe is a hearty, comforting dish that travels well so it’s perfect for sharing with friends or family who need a little encouragement.

Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale
Yields 6-8 servings

1 pound orecchiette pasta (other types of pasta work, too!)
12-16 ounces bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces chopped kale
1 ½ cups shredded Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 to 2 ½ cups of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for about 4-6 minutes, until some of the fat renders out and it just starts to get crisp. Add the diced onion and cook for another minute until the onions begin to soften.

Add the sliced mushrooms and the garlic. Cook until the bacon is fully cooked, the onions translucent, and the mushrooms soft, stirring every few minutes. You want the onions and mushrooms to take on a darker color and get a little caramelized. This should take about 12-15 minutes.

Turn the heat to low. Add the cooked pasta, kale, and 1 cup of the pasta water. Cook for a couple minutes, stirring everything together, until the kale wilts and the ingredients are fully incorporated.

Stir in the shredded parm. Add additional pasta water, a quarter cup at a time, until the pasta has the consistency you like. (I end up using another cup, for a total of 2 cups of pasta water.)

Season with salt and pepper to taste. The Parmesan and bacon give this dish a decent amount of salty flavor, so you shouldn’t need a ton of salt, but I do like to add in plenty of black pepper. Top with red pepper flakes for a kick of heat.

Serve with garlic bread and a fresh salad if you like, or enjoy the dish on its own! Pair it with a crisp, dry white wine like Pinot Grigio. The wine balances out the richness of the pasta perfectly. Enjoy!

Sheet Pan Balsamic Pork Chops with Roasted Veggies [and the messy practice of eating together]

Sheet Pan Balsamic Pork Chops with Roasted Veggies - Sarah J. Hauser

I handed my two-year-old twins their plastic plates—the purple ones with the three sections so no food touches another kind of food. To my son, mixing items would be on par with the zombie apocalypse. It’s also convenient they’re the same color. No fighting over who gets blue and who gets green. Everyone gets purple.

At least we sidestepped that crisis today.

Still, they complained about the tiny pieces of cucumber I tried to sneak in. During the witching hour frenzy, I overcooked the burgers, and sad patties of meat were poked, prodded, and eventually ignored.They only ate a few pieces of potatoes. Potatoes are a plant, though, right? I count that as a dinnertime win.

My husband and I eventually sat down with our own plates, and before we could take a bite, the kids announced they were done. They squirmed in their chairs at the table for a few more minutes, although not by choice. I was determined to get everyone in their seats together at least long enough for us to say a quick mealtime prayer—a goal I used to think was realistic.

My daughter kept taking my husband’s fork and threw a tantrum when she couldn’t have it. Missing her nap earlier this afternoon only made her strong will stronger. She and my husband left the table. My six-month-old grabbed his bowl of puréed sweet potatoes while I wasn’t looking and slathered himself in them. I divvied out more food for my toddler son, the baby started screaming because he was still hungry, and I tried to hold back my own tears.

Keep reading and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs!

Sheet Pan Balsamic Pork Chops with Roasted Veggies - Sarah J. Hauser
Sheet Pan Balsamic Pork Chops with Roasted Veggies - Sarah J. Hauser
Sheet Pan Balsamic Pork Chops with Roasted Veggies - Sarah J. Hauser

Full post and recipe instructions can be found at Coffee + Crumbs!

Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw

Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw

I enjoy watching football. OK, let me clarify: most of the time I enjoy watching football. And by most of the time I mean when I’ve finally given up hope that the Bears will actually do anything productive, flip the channel to another game, and momentarily pick a different team to root for. Fair-weather fan, I know. I fully admit it. But I’m a Bears fan just by marrying a Bears fan, so I don’t have to watch every painful second of every game, right?

Regardless of where your team loyalties lie, half the fun of game day is getting together with friends and family - and you can’t watch football without food. I think it’s physically impossible. Just like movie night and buttered popcorn or Chicago baseball and a Vienna Beef hot dog, the experience of watching football requires the appropriate fare. Super Bowl weekend and pulled pork sliders certainly fits that requirement.

This recipe for Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders is made in the slow cooker, so if you’re having a big crowd over, you don’t have to worry about prepping food while everyone arrives. (It also freezes well, so you can save leftovers.) The coffee flavor complements the pork and isn’t overpowering, so even those who aren’t coffee fans will love it. It’s sweet, savory, and smoky with a hint of spice at the end. Top the pork with a tangy, creamy homemade slaw, serve it on slider buns, relax on the couch, and savor the day the Falcons’ beat the Patriots.

Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw
Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders with Red Cabbage Slaw

Coffee Rubbed Pulled Pork Sliders
Yields about 20-24 sliders (10-12 servings)

1 (4-5 pound) pork butt roast
3 Tablespoons finely ground coffee
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
20-24 slider buns

In a small bowl, mix together the coffee, chili powder, brown sugar, garlic powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Thoroughly rub the spice mix all over the pork butt roast. You should end up using most, if not all, of the spice rub. 

Place the spice-rubbed pork in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for about 6 hours. The pork is ready when it can be easily pulled apart. 

Use a couple forks to shred the meat, and remove any large pieces of fat. Give everything in the slow cooker a good stir so the spices, juices, and meat are thoroughly mixed together. 

Serve the pork on the slider buns, and top with the red cabbage slaw and a few chopped green onions. Serve and enjoy!

Red Cabbage Slaw
Yields about 10-12 servings

1 medium-sized cabbage, shredded (about 8 cups) 
2 large carrots, shredded (about 2 cups) 
4 green onions, chopped
2 limes, juiced (about ¼ cup of juice) 
¾ cups mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons honey (plus more to taste)
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more to taste)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (plus more to taste)

In a large bowl, mix together the cabbage, carrots, and most of the green onions (reserving a few for garnish when serving). 

In a separate bowl, make the dressing by whisking together the lime juice, mayonnaise, 3 Tablespoons of the honey, vinegar, salt, and black pepper. 

Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture, and stir until everything is fully incorporated. Season with additional honey, salt, and pepper to taste. 

Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. When you’re ready to serve, give the slaw another good stir to redistribute the dressing. Serve on top of the pulled pork and garnish with the reserved green onions. Enjoy!

Quick Tip: Why not have pulled pork for breakfast? Save some of the meat, and top it with an over-easy egg the next day. Check out this recipe for more info!

This post was also featured on the FreshGround Roasting blog, and ingredients were provided by FreshGround Roasting. All opinions are 100% my own. 

"Creamy" Celery + Potato Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

Creamy Celery + Potato Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

You know those recipes that require you buy an entire bunch, can, jar or bag of something, and then you only need a tiny amount of that particular ingredient? That drives me crazy. Take tomato paste, for example. Almost every recipe I use with tomato paste calls for just a tablespoon or two, but then I’m left with almost a whole can. Fortunately, a lot of canned leftovers can be frozen so I don’t end up wasting it…but fresh ingredients pose more of a challenge.

Like celery. I always seem to be scrambling to figure out ways to use leftover celery. It’s not like you can freeze it (or can you? I’ve never tried, but that sounds weird to me), and there are only so many celery sticks I can stand to eat at a time. After making a batch of chicken salad a few weeks ago that required a few stalks of celery, I was determined to find a way to save the rest of bunch before it met its moldy demise. 

Creamy Celery + Potato Soup with Crispy Prosciutto
Creamy Celery + Potato Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

Enter Celery + Potato Soup with Crispy Prosciutto. Ironically, I think I’ll be buying celery from now on for this recipe, and then using leftovers for all the other salads and such. This soup is even husband-approved. He’s not always the biggest fan of blended soups, especially when they’re comprised primarily of vegetables, but this one is creamy (without containing cream!), savory and incredibly flavorful. 

Creamy Celery + Potato Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

Of course, even after the hubs and I taste-tested and approved, we decided we couldn’t resist adding a little pork to the mix. A crispy prosciutto topping gives the perfect salty crunch to complement the smooth blended soup. Add a drizzle of olive oil and you’ve got yourself a healthy, comforting (and Whole30 compliant!) dish.

What ingredients do you find yourself scrambling to use up? Have any tips for storing or using those lingering leftovers?

Creamy Celery + Potato Soup with Crispy Prosciutto
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Yields 10-12 cups

3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
5 cups diced celery (about 10 stalks)
1½ pounds red potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt (plus more to taste)
¼ teaspoon black pepper (plus more to taste)
4 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
¼ cup coconut milk

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the celery, onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions are softened. Add the potatoes, salt and pepper and cook about 10 minutes more, stirring frequently. 

Add the chicken stock and the bay leaves. Turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are tender. 

Turn off the heat and remove the bay leaves. Transfer the soup, in batches, to a blender and blend until smooth. (Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender.) 

Return the soup to the pot. Stir in the coconut milk and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Top with crispy prosciutto and a drizzle of olive oil. 

Crispy Prosciutto

Prosciutto slices (1-2 slices per serving)
Parchment paper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the prosciutto slices out on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until the color is slightly darkened.

Transfer the prosciutto to a paper towel lined plate to cool (it will get more crisp as it cools). Once cool, crumble it into small pieces. Serve on top of Creamy Celery + Potato Soup.