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!


(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.


Dairy-Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices

Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser

My husband and I just finished a Whole30, and I’m trying to ease into other foods gradually. While I don’t have any food allergies or severe sensitivities, I know that diving right into chocolate cake or pizza after having avoided grains and dairy for a month probably wouldn’t be the best decision! (I have to admit it’s tempting, though.)

That being said, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner—which means I at least need a little chocolate. We don’t typically make a big deal about Valentine’s Day, mostly because for the last four years we’ve been too tired or too busy with the kiddos. But, we do enjoy a good date night in at home, a bottle of wine that’s a bit better than what we’d normally buy, and something special for dessert.

This pudding is perfect for just that! It only requires a few ingredients, it’s dairy-free and vegan, and you can make it in advance. (I actually suggest making it in advance since it has to firm up in the fridge and the orange slices have to dry out.) The dark chocolate pairs perfectly with a hint of orange, and the candied orange slices add a fun, creative twist.

I will tell you, too, that this pudding is rich. It may look at first like the recipe doesn’t make very much, but a little goes a long way. You can also add a bit more maple syrup for a slightly sweeter version. (I love really dark, bittersweet chocolate.)

What do you do for Valentine’s Day? Or Galentine’s Day? Do you head out on the town or have a quiet evening in? Let me know in the comments below! I’m always looking for new ideas!

Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser
Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser
Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser
Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser
Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser
Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser
Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser
Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser
Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser

Dairy-Free Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices
Yields 2-3 servings*
Adapted from Paleo Running Momma

⅓ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup coconut cream (the hardened cream from a can of coconut milk)*
3-4 Tablespoons maple syrup (plus more to taste)
1 Tablespoon Cointreau (optional)
Coconut whipped cream
Zest of 1 orange
Candied orange slices (see note below)

In a small bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, arrowroot powder, and salt. (Sifting helps prevent lumps in the pudding.)

In a small saucepan, add the coconut cream and maple syrup. Heat over medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until the coconut cream melts. LIttle by little, add in the dry ingredients, whisking after each addition until smooth. Add in the Cointreau if using (it’s optional but adds the perfect bit of citrus flavor to the pudding. Skip this, though, if adults avoiding alcohol or kids will be eating the pudding!) Add additional maple syrup if you want a sweeter pudding.

Whisk the pudding constantly for 3-5 minutes until thickened. Turn the heat off and transfer the pudding to containers for serving. (Ramekins, small mason jars, and other types of dishes work great for this.) Refrigerate until cold and firm, at least a couple hours. To avoid a “skin” at the top of the pudding, cover the top in plastic wrap so that the plastic lays directly on top of the pudding.

Top with coconut whipped cream, orange zest, and a candied orange slice (see below).

*This recipe is very rich, so a little goes a long way!

**Put a couple cans of full fat coconut milk in the fridge for a few hours. The cream will separate and hardened at the top of the can, so you can easily scoop it off with a spoon.

Candied Orange Slices

For the candied orange slices, I followed this recipe from Taste of Home, but I cut the recipe in half. After the slices dried overnight, I dipped them in granulated sugar.

Make sure to keep the orange simple syrup that’s leftover. It’s perfect for cocktails and other fun recipes!


Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!]

Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser

Last year about this time, a few friends hosted a shower to celebrate the birth of our third. I gave birth to him in July, but with summer schedules and newborn exhaustion, we decided to wait until the fall for a baby shower—and I loved it!

Celebrating three months into his life forced me to stop and practice gratitude in a way I couldn’t necessarily do during pregnancy. It allowed me to step away from the diapers and spit-up and appointments. It created space to gather with friends and family and look back on what God gave us in this sweet, little boy—while still looking forward to his life ahead.

My friends know me well, too, because that evening, they made it a point to serve home-cooked food and sit around the table together. We passed baskets of bread, poured glasses of wine, and savored spoonfuls of soup. We chatted and laughed, talked about birth stories, and commiserated with each other about sleepless nights. I remember thinking how grateful I was for my new son and the loved ones who took the time to celebrate him with me. What a gift.

Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser
Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser
Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser
Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser
Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser
Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser

My friend who hosted my baby shower ladled soups into small glass jars. I thought it was a great idea, and it made it easy for people to try both soups she offered that night. Not only do jars work well for serving smaller portions to a group, but it makes it easy to snag a cup for lunch to go alongside a salad or sandwich.

This Butternut Squash Soup is dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo, and Whole30, so it works for all kinds of diets! You can also omit or serve the bacon on the side for a vegan option. Enjoy!


Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon
Yields about 10 cups

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 medium apples, cored and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
3 ½-4 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
⅓ cup full fat coconut milk (from a can, not a coconut milk beverage)
8-12 ounces bacon
2-3 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and apples, and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook for another 4-6 minutes until the onions are translucent.

Add the white wine vinegar, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 1 more minute. (Add about ¼ cup of stock if the mixture starts to stick to the bottom of the pot.)

Pour in the broth and add the squash. Turn the heat to medium-high, cover, and bring to a boil. The reduce the heat to low and simmer (covered) until the squash is tender, about 20-25 minutes.

While the soup cooks, fry the bacon until crisp, and chop into small pieces.

Turn the heat off the soup. Stir in the coconut milk. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, allow soup to cool for a bit and then transfer to a regular blender in batches to puree.

Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to bowls for serving. Top with crisp bacon pieces and chopped rosemary. Enjoy!

Note: This pairs really well with Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary!