Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Brussels Sprouts

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Brussels Sprouts | Sarah J. Hauser #sides #dinner #paleo #easyweeknight

I tend to overcomplicate things. While researching a recipe using bread I thought, “Well, why not just make the bread myself?” That’s all fine and good. Things with homemade bread taste better. But while I daydreamed about the smell of dough in the oven, a pile of laundry sat in my bedroom, dishes from two meals ago filled my sink, I had yet to shower, and I watched my one-year-old running by with a diaper about to explode. I don’t have time for homemade bread—but I bookmarked the recipe for another day. Maybe tomorrow. Or next week. Or when my kids drive off to college. For now, I need to simplify.

In the spirit of simplicity, I thought I’d share what I do most nights for meals. I’ve slowly learned to get more realistic about dinner. Then when I can make the space, I add in a new dish or try an interesting ingredient. But many nights, our menu consists of a green veggie, a starch, and a protein. Tomorrow, we’re doing baked chicken drumsticks, green beans, and corn. Another day, we did baked salmon, rice, and roasted asparagus. Sometimes I’ll follow a new recipe or make a stew or soup on the stove or in the slow cooker. But the formula still stands: beef stew, mashed potatoes, peas (technically a legume, but whatever).

Also, 9 times out of 10, whatever vegetable I make is roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper. That’s it. Keep it simple. In the recipe below, I added a little maple syrup—’cause every once in awhile you gotta’ go wild.

This formula makes it easy to mix and match, and I can gradually introduce new foods to my kiddos. If we’re going to have brussels sprouts, a food not exactly known for being kid-friendly, I’ll make sure the other two parts of the meal are relatively well-liked (although, kids are quite fickle, so you never can know for sure). They have to try at least one bite of the new food. If they don’t like it at least they’re not leaving the meal hungry, and I’m not making a whole separate dinner for them. If I’ve got time for that, I’d rather go back to making the homemade bread.

Everyone has their own methods for feeding their families, and I’m still learning as we go. For now, this seems to work for us more often than not.

How about you? Do you meal plan? What tips and tricks have you found helpful as you’re getting dinner on the table? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Brussels Sprouts | Sarah J. Hauser #sides #dinner #paleo #easyweeknight
Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Brussels Sprouts | Sarah J. Hauser #sides #dinner #paleo #easyweeknight
Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Brussels Sprouts | Sarah J. Hauser #sides #dinner #paleo #easyweeknight
Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Brussels Sprouts | Sarah J. Hauser #sides #dinner #paleo #easyweeknight

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Brussels Sprouts
Yields 4-6 servings

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾”-1” pieces
2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (large ones quartered)
2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons maple syrup*
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus another pinch
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spread the sweet potatoes out onto two large rimmed baking sheets. (If you crowd it onto one baking sheet, the vegetables won’t brown as well.) Drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil and the maple syrup. Sprinkle with salt. Toss the sweet potatoes to make sure they’re evenly coated with the olive oil, syrup, and salt.

Bake for 16-18 minutes. Remove from the oven and use a spatula to toss the potatoes. Add the brussels sprouts, dividing them between the two baking sheets. If the vegetables look a little dry, drizzle on an extra tablespoon or so of olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat and return the pans to the oven.

Bake an additional 20-25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and browned to your liking. (For extra browning, you can also put them under the broiler for a minute or two at the end.)

Serve alongside your favorite protein such as pulled pork or crispy chicken thighs.

*This gives a very slight maple flavor, but in this recipe it’s intentionally subtle since sweet potatoes are already so sweet. If you want, you can increase the maple syrup by a tablespoon or so. You can also leave the maple syrup out entirely if you want to avoid added sweetener.

Note: These vegetables also taste AMAZING with an over easy egg on top in the morning! It’s a great way to get some veggies in for breakfast!

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!

Panko-Crusted Pacific Cod with Roasted Mushrooms + Sauteed Spinach [and a slow start to the year]

Panko-Crusted Pacific Cod with Roasted Mushrooms + Sauteed Spinach | Sarah J. Hauser

We ended 2017 with a 15 hour drive from New Jersey to Illinois. We had spent Christmas with extended family on the East Coast, then on December 31st drove the long trek home along Route 80. (It’s supposed to take just over 12 hours, but with two toddlers, and infant, and snow along the way, 15 hours was pretty decent time.)

We didn’t get home with just our kids. We brought with us a bout of pinkeye and the flu. Despite my efforts at cleaning, hand washing, and doling out anything known for boosting the immune system, sickness was inevitable.

January 1 arrived, and I already felt like I started on the wrong foot. I cleaned up snot, held exhausted children, and made doctor’s appointments. It was simultaneously tiring and boring, wearying and quiet. Three sick kiddos made for long nights, but our days were more calm than normal. All my kids wanted to do was sit together in the big white chair wrapped in the fuzzy red blanket.

We were forced to rest.

Maybe you can’t shake the feeling that you’re trying to catch up to something. But you aren’t quite sure exactly what that is. You spin and you worry and you are swept away in the current of activity. We are often tricked into believing that the only relief from feeling behind is to catch up. But this is war, and the enemy is an illusive and foggy expectation.

The truth is there is not rest right around the corner. As it turns out there are no corners; there is only one big circle. So we have to find rest in withness and presence in the midst of it.
— Emily P. Freeman, The Next Right Thing, Ep. 16.

Initially, I felt frustrated by our slow start to the year. I didn’t get much checked off my to-do list. For a while, I didn’t even get around to making the to-do list or resolutions or picking my word for the year. But our bodies have a way of making us stop, and nursing little ones back to health meant I had to slow down and simply be with them. I had to sit still, a practice I don’t often do.

Our culture tells us that January 1 is the time to get started. To do all the things. To exercise and read and work and hustle. But at least in the Northern Hemisphere, January 1 falls in the middle of winter, and winter is a time to slow down.

Nature knows how to do this. Plants are dormant, animals hibernate, and even the sun hides for most of the day. Evidences of life and productivity seem few, but they’re there - they’re just doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Sitting still. Being quiet. Silently preparing for spring. Resting.

How do you find rest when there are diapers to change, toys to pick up, laundry to throw in, mouths to feed, and deadlines to meet? I don’t always know what rest looks like at this stage in life, but it doesn’t look like worry, agitation, or frenzy. There’s a difference between a life that’s full and a life that’s frenetic, a mind that can be still when needed and one that races even during stillness.

It’s nearly February, and I finally feel like our family is coming out of the fog of holidays, travel, and sickness. I want to be careful I don’t forget the slow, silent growth that happened during these weeks. I wish we hadn’t been sick, but I don’t want to label this month as unproductive.

Our minds quieted and our bodies slowed down. And that’s not a bad way to start the year.

Panko-Crusted Pacific Cod with Roasted Mushrooms + Sauteed Spinach | Sarah J. Hauser
Panko-Crusted Pacific Cod with Roasted Mushrooms + Sauteed Spinach | Sarah J. Hauser
Panko-Crusted Pacific Cod with Roasted Mushrooms + Sauteed Spinach | Sarah J. Hauser
Panko-Crusted Pacific Cod with Roasted Mushrooms + Sauteed Spinach | Sarah J. Hauser
Panko-Crusted Pacific Cod with Roasted Mushrooms + Sauteed Spinach | Sarah J. Hauser
Panko-Crusted Pacific Cod with Roasted Mushrooms + Sauteed Spinach | Sarah J. Hauser
Panko-Crusted Pacific Cod with Roasted Mushrooms + Sauteed Spinach | Sarah J. Hauser

Speaking of a slow start to the year, I intended to post this recipe weeks ago but never got around to it until now. I still absolutely love this dish, though, because it's simple enough for a weeknight meal but makes a great date-night-in dinner, too - especially paired with a decent bottle of wine (I recommend Sauvignon Blanc or a buttery Chardonnay in this case). 

Many of my favorite seafood recipes tend to be light and summery, but I'm always wanting something a bit more hearty during cold weather months. For this recipe, I roasted cremini mushrooms, which give the entire dish a rich, deep, earthy flavor. Pacific Cod gets a crunchy panko crust and then bakes alongside the mushrooms. Spinach sauteed with a few cloves of garlic rounds out the plate perfectly for a warm, filling, healthy, and flavorful meal.

Panko-Crusted Pacific Cod with Roasted Mushrooms + Sauteed Spinach
Yields 2 servings

Panko-Crusted Pacific Cod with Roasted Mushrooms

1 pound cremini mushrooms
¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
⅓ cup panko crumbs
1 lemon
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 (8 ounce) cod fillets*
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the mushrooms in half, large ones in quarters. Add the mushrooms to a rimmed baking sheet, and toss with ¼ cup olive oil, the white wine vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes.

While the mushrooms roast, add the panko crumbs to a small bowl. Zest the lemon and add the zest to the panko, along with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the parsley, a scant ¼ teaspoon of salt, and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper.

After the mushrooms have roasted for 10 minutes, remove them from the oven. Push the mushrooms to the sides of the baking sheet to make room for the fish. Add the cod fillets to the baking sheet, and brush each with 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise. Top evenly with the panko mixture. Return the baking sheet to the oven, and bake for another 10 minutes.

While the fish and mushrooms cook, cut the zested lemon into wedges, and reserve the wedges for serving. Make the sautéed spinach (recipe below).

When the fish and mushrooms are done (the fish should easily flake apart and the mushrooms should be tender), remove from the oven, and transfer to plates. Serve with the sautéed spinach. Squeeze lemon juice over the fish, and serve with extra lemon wedges if desired.

Sauteed Spinach

2 Tablespoons olive oil (take this to the next level by substituting white truffle oil)
3 cloves garlic, minced
10 ounces fresh spinach
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for one minute, stirring frequently. Add the spinach, one handful at a time.(This will look like a lot of spinach but it shrinks down quite a bit.)

Cook the spinach until it’s wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with the panko-crusted cod and roasted mushrooms.

*Especially for those of you living in the Midwest, I highly suggest checking out Sitka Salmon Shares! I have purchased their fish for a couple years now, and I absolutely love their mission and their product. This is not at all a sponsored post - I just love recommending good companies!

Roasted Squash + Kale Salad with Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette [and why I celebrate]

Roasted Squash + Kale Salad with Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette

Many of us will gather around the table to celebrate Thanksgiving in a couple days, and if your family is anything like mine, there will be an abundance of food. We’ll talk and eat and laugh and eat some more. We’ll all go home with leftovers for a week, and you’d better believe I’m already thinking about the turkey sandwich I’ll make the next day. 

Thanksgiving dinner is the quintessential feast. 

Feasting demonstrates bounty, abundance, provision, security, generosity, beauty, enjoyment - all things we want to see and experience when we celebrate the holidays. But whether it’s Thanksgiving, a birthday, Christmas, or any other occasion we commemorate, we don’t just celebrate merely to eat, drink, and be merry. It’s so much more than that. 

As Christians, our eating and drinking and gathering around the table point to the ultimate celebration and the feast we will one day enjoy in the new creation. 

Isaiah 25:6-9 says, 

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
    of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
    the covering that is cast over all peoples,
    the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
    and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
    for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
    “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
    This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

The Christian community is the beginning and sign of God’s coming world - and no more so than when we eat together. Our meals are a foretaste of the future messianic banquet. Our meals reveal the identity of Jesus. Our meals are a proclamation and demonstration of God’s good news.
— Tim Chester, "A Meal with Jesus"

Whatever holiday it happens to be, we celebrate because we have the promise of eternal celebration. Our God will swallow up death forever. If that is not a reality worth celebrating, I’m not sure what is. We celebrate because we rejoice in the salvation we have received from God, for without this, any celebration on earth is temporal. But here on earth, we have the opportunity to depict the glorious celebration that we will someday be a part of in the new creation. 

God throws a party for his people, a party with the richest food and the best wine. It’s a feast incomparable to any we could enjoy in this life, but one we can look forward to with longing and expectation. 

As we feast now, as we celebrate the mundane or extraordinary moments of our lives this side of glory, may we do so remembering what is yet to come. As new creation people, this is why we’ll gather at the table on Thursday. Our feasts are a glimpse of the joy we have in salvation and joy yet to be revealed when we’ll sit at the table with Him and say, “This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” 

So eat and drink. Enjoy the turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie. Celebrate with everything that you have, and welcome others to your table. Let your laughter and fellowship be a joyful celebration that points to the ultimate feast we long for in the new creation. 

Roasted Squash + Kale Salad with Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette-6.jpg
Roasted Squash + Kale Salad with Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette-6.jpg
Roasted Squash + Kale Salad with Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette-7.jpg
Roasted Squash + Kale Salad with Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette

Roasted Squash + Kale Salad with Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette
Yields about 6 servings

2-3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup pecan halves
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar (omit for paleo)
10 ounces chopped kale, hard stems removed
1 cup pomegranate arils (requires about 1 pomegranate)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the squash to a sheet pan and drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and a couple grinds of black pepper. (Don’t worry too much about measuring here. Just eyeball it.) Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until the squash is tender and slightly browned. 

Meanwhile, make the candied pecans. Add the pecan halves and the sugar to a small pan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar melts and coats the pecans. Keep a close eye on it so the sugar doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Put the chopped kale in a large bowl. Drizzle on about half of the Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette and toss well. Let the kale sit for about 5-10 minutes, allowing the leaves to soften. Toss in the roasted squash, candied pecans, and pomegranate arils. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste and serve with the remaining dressing. 

Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette
½ cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 clove garlic, very finely minced

Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Refrigerate until needed. Shake well before using.