Cauliflower Steak Sandwiches with Garlic-Lime Aioli

Cauliflower is, as they say, “having a moment.” More accurately, it’s having a decade. Everywhere you look, cauliflower versions of food products have cropped up in the last few years, whether it’s cauliflower rice, cauliflower pizza crust, or cauliflower cake. (Yes, really.) Apparently our national fear of carbs and/or gluten has driven us to conclude that cauliflower is the miracle vegetable that will save our dietary souls. I’d say this tweet I saw this morning pretty well sums it up:

 

I haven’t jumped on the cauliflower bandwagon (I still think bread and potatoes have their own nutritional benefits), but cauliflower does boast plenty of nutrients of its own, including fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. So bear with me as I add to the Cauliflower Conversation with these Cauliflower Steak Sandwiches with Garlic-Lime Aioli. I think you’ll forgive me when you taste them.

Cauliflower steak sandwiches have actually been on my mind for about six months. Back in February, our family took a trip to Disneyland. At the Red Rose Taverne in Fantasyland (formerly the Village Haus pizza restaurant) I was trying to be healthy and ordered the Enchanted Cauliflower Sandwich.

And it ROCKED. MY. WORLD.

As described on the menu, it’s a “grilled cauliflower steak, spicy lime aioli, tempura-battered green beans, lettuce and tomato on a toasted roll.” But the description doesn’t do justice to the amazing combination of flavors and textures this plant-based dish had to offer. It was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. Ever since, I’ve wanted to re-create it at home, but couldn’t find any copycat recipes online.

Sooooo I had to make my own. I started with roasted cauliflower steaks (I don’t grill; it’s my personal cooking Waterloo)…and seasoned them with lemon juice, olive oil, and red pepper. These cauliflower cross-sections emerge from the oven crispy and sandwich-ready.

From there, whipping together a chili-garlic-lime aioli wasn’t too complex. Added to a toasted ciabatta bun with lettuce, it totally fulfills my Fantasyland-inspired craving. (I will admit, though, that I haven’t gone to the trouble of making tempura-battered green beans like the Red Rose Taverne. I do enjoy putting Snapea crisps on top, however!) Now I don’t have to go all the way to Disney for my favorite sandwich.

But I think I’ll keep going anyway. 😉

Print Recipe
Cauliflower Steak Sandwiches with Garlic-Lime Aioli
Inspired by the Enchanted Cauliflower Sandwich at Disneyland's Red Rose Taverne, this copycat makes a tasty plant-based lunch or dinner.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
For the cauliflower steaks:
For assembling the sandwiches:
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
For the cauliflower steaks:
For assembling the sandwiches:
Instructions
Make the cauliflower steaks.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice cauliflower head lengthwise through the core into 4 slabs. (It helps to leave a bit of the core on to hold them together.) Place on greased baking sheet.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Brush this mixture on the upward-facing side of the cauliflower. Roast for 15 minutes.
  3. Flip cauliflower steaks and brush the other side with remaining olive oil mixture. Continue roasting another 20 minutes or until browned around the edges.
Meanwhile, make the aioli.
  1. In a measuring cup, combine all aioli ingredients and mix with an immersion blender (or whisk vigorously) until well combined.
Assemble the sandwiches.
  1. Assemble to your liking with cauliflower steaks, aioli, lettuce, and tomato on the toasted ciabatta rolls.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food original recipe, cauliflower steaks adapted from Allrecipes.com.

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Blueberry Picking at Bartlett’s Blueberry Farm

When our family decided to stay at a farm in rural New Hampshire as part of our New England vacation, I immediately took to the internet to research the area around Newport, NH where we’d be staying. Among the historic buildings and covered bridges, one listing caught my attention: Blueberry picking! Whatever else we did, I knew this topped my list of options for a family activity. Blueberries are my all-time favorite fruit. In fact, at my former job at the American Heart Association’s Children’s Museum, every employee’s name tag stated their favorite fruit or vegetable under their name, so mine said “Sarah Blueberries”–which always led kids on my tours to ask if “Blueberries” was my last name. I wish! Wouldn’t that be perfect for a nutritionist? Maybe I can convince my husband we should consider a name change.

As fruits (and foods in general) go, you can’t get much healthier than blueberries. They’re packed with antioxidants, vitamins K and C, and contain a surprisingly high amount of fiber. (Check out this post of mine over on Brit + Co to read more about berry health benefits!) I also find them super versatile and delicious–as you may have realized from the many blueberry recipes on this blog!

Bartlett’s Blueberry Farm came highly recommended by the owners of the farm where we were staying, and it happened to be the closest place to pick blueberries, so we set off on our outing on a beautiful sunny day. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the lovely lady who runs the farm at a tented stand featuring tons of blueberry-based products.

The owner explained that we had access to the farm’s enormous swath of blueberry bushes, with our choice of picking to fill either a large bucket or smaller buckets. Since our stay in New Hampshire would be brief, we chose the smaller buckets, which adorably (and conveniently) hung on strings around our necks while picking.

With that, we were off to picking!

Embarrassingly, before this experience, I couldn’t have told you what a blueberry bush even looked like. They’re not exactly springing up on every corner in Phoenix, where I’ve lived almost my entire life. Actually, I’ve only ever known one person who succeeded in making them grow in the desert, and he was a horticulturist. So I was pleased to learn that blueberries grow in bunches on pretty, thorn-less, eye-level bushes.

Bartlett’s Farm boasted several varieties of blueberries. At the end of each row was a marker designating its variety, such as Duke, Nelson, and Earlibue. We tasted several and did notice a difference–some were sweeter, some tarter. To me, blueberries have always just been blueberries, so it was interesting to learn that there are subtle differences between different plants.

Picking the blueberries proved to be a very simple task (not nearly as arduous as apple picking, with all the reaching and pulling and spiky lacrosse stick-like plucking tools). With plenty of ripe berries in easy reach and no thorns to poke us, the berries practically fell off the branches into our buckets. We all just kept our eyes peeled for the bluest fruits, knowing they’d be sweetest, and avoided any green or magenta-colored ones.


Sometimes they even popped off in perfect little clusters, like this..


All in all, we probably spent 45 minutes picking before we got our fill (well, more than our fill) of blueberries. I don’t actually recall the price per pound, but I do know that for the amount pictured–I’m guessing at least two pounds–we paid only $6.60. A pretty stellar deal for fresh, local blueberries, even if we picked them ourselves.

If you’re ever in western New Hampshire, check out Bartlett’s Blueberry Farm!

And for more blueberry inspiration, check out these recipes:

Red, White, and Blueberry French Toast Casserole

Fresh Blueberry Ice Cream

Easy Blueberry Jam

Whole Grain Blueberry Orange Muffins

Lighter Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Blueberry Scones

Pajama Party Breakfast

When enough time goes by without throwing a party, I start to get a little antsy. Opening my home for entertaining is one of life’s greatest pleasures for me, but this past school year when I was working quite a few hours outside the home, my usual flair for party planning necessarily fell by the wayside. Now that I’m home freelance writing, however, and my kids are home for the summer, hosting events is finally a possibility again. So I was super excited this past week to have friends join us for a Pajama Party Breakfast.

I’m enormously blessed to be a part of a circle of friends who are all moms of kids at the same school. For three years now we’ve made time to hang out monthly (including the In-Home Yoga Ladies’ Night on the blog). During the summer we also regularly get together with our kids. It’s been wonderful to have a built-in group to go swimming with, exchange babysitting with–and invite over for parties!

This Pajama Party Breakfast was the perfect casual get-together for summer vacation. Everyone was instructed to come in their PJ’s bright and early for a big meal and some fun and games. About a dozen kids ended up coming, and judging by the fact that everyone stayed until lunchtime, I’d say it went over well!

Even though our version was a kids’ party, you could easily adapt this party idea for just about any group. Here are the details of our morning!

The Food

I wanted the food at our PJ party to accommodate all our guests, some of whom have food allergies, so I was careful to create a menu with gluten and dairy-free options…as well as both healthy and just-for-fun choices. Our menu included:

Red, White, and Blueberry Overnight French Toast

This bursting-with-berries, deceptively easy overnight French toast made for smooth sailing the morning of the party. Recipe here.

Apple Cinnamon Overnight Steel Cut Oats

When guests are arriving at 8:30 in the morning, overnight prep is where it’s at. In addition to making French toast ahead of time, I put these apple steel cut oats in the crock pot the night before the party and woke up to their amazing cinnamon-y smell the next day. This recipe is one I’ve used for ages from The Yummy Life–gluten-free, dairy-free (made with almond milk), and a delightfully nourishing bowl of comfort.

Fruit Trifle

Because it’s healthy, and because I make one of these at basically every party I ever throw.

Milk jug donut treats

Why, thank you, Pinterest, for such a whimsical idea for serving milk and donuts! These adorable treats were a huge hit.

Bacon

With nine boys in attendance, this breakfast meat disappeared in SECONDS.

And, obviously…

Ain’t no way we’re having breakfast without coffee. (And orange juice.)

Decor and Activities

Fruit vases

At an event centered around eating, I always love incorporating food into decor. The appealing look of citrus stacked in glass lends a pop of bright color and a sense of freshness to any breakfast spread.

Newspaper coloring

When I think of the classic hallmarks of a leisurely breakfast, I think of lounging over coffee and the newspaper. (Though I’m sure kids in this day and age probably won’t have memories of comics in the Sunday paper, or Saturday morning cartoons, for that matter.) In the spirit of perusing the Sunday paper, I thought it would be fun to cover my dining room table with newspaper, especially the comics, and let the kids color all over them.

I mean, hey, when do they ever get the chance to draw all over the table?

The newspaper also served a double purpose as a tablecloth. (A much-needed one, as it turned out, when my son spilled a full cup of orange juice.)

Custom Crossword PuzzleContinuing the Sunday paper theme, what else is fun in the newspaper? The crossword puzzle, of course! For our party we had not just any crossword, but a custom one created on Education.com. To go with the theme of both breakfast and our kids’ school, I made sure to include clues they would know the answers to, like the name of our neighborhood pool and what grade a certain teacher teaches.

The girls about to start their puzzles.

Toothbrush to take home

Since after breakfast most people feel the need to brush their teeth, toothbrushes seemed like a most sensible take-away from this party. (I happen to brush my teeth before breakfast, but I know I’m a weirdo.) If nothing else, it’s always nice to have an extra toothbrush lying around, right?

 

With this event behind us, I can say I would totally host another Pajama Party Breakfast in the future. For a birthday or special celebration, it offers the sleepover feel without the hassle of an actual sleepover.

I’m pretty sure these kids would do it again, too. 🙂

Red, White, and Blueberry French Toast Casserole

As far as food goes on the Fourth of July, it’s always the cookouts and barbecues that get all the glory. We think of char-grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, bright yellow corn on the cob, and wiggly-jiggly Jello salads served at lunch or dinner. Rarely do we think of breakfast as an opportunity to make (and eat) something patriotically themed. Well, it’s time to change that! This Red, White, Blueberry Overnight French Toast features a mix of raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries in a sweet-but-not-too-sweet custard that will start your Independence Day off right.

I served this up yesterday at a fun pajama party breakfast (soon to be blogged) that my kids and I hosted for a group of friends. As one item on a menu of several breakfast dishes, it was so nice to know that I could put this French toast casserole together quickly the night before and not stress on the morning of our event. All it really takes is a loaf of French bread, cubed and layered with frozen berries in a baking dish like so…

Then, whisk together a quick milk-and-egg mixture with a bit of brown sugar and a hint of cinnamon, stash in the fridge, and pull out to bake when you’re ready!

Our young guests–a dozen or so elementary-aged kids–certainly approved. And with just a half cup of sugar in the whole 9 x 13-inch pan, I felt pretty good about feeding it to them, too. For a special occasion breakfast treat, this comes in at a surprisingly modest 240 calories per serving (before maple syrup, anyway).

So if you’d like to spruce up your Fourth of July festivities by starting early in the day, don’t forget to whip up your Red, White, and Blueberry French Toast Casserole the night of the Third.

Have a wonderful Independence Day!

Check out these other Fourth of July recipes from A Love Letter to Food!

Red, White, and Blue Berry Cheesecake Parfaits

Dysfunctional Family Recipe Salsa

Fresh Blueberry Ice Cream

Garlic Herb Potato Wedges

Mexican Street Corn Dip

Pavlova with Fresh Berries

Mediterranean 7-Layer Dip


Print Recipe
Red, White, and Blueberry French Toast Casserole
Bursting with berries, this French toast casserole is a special occasion breakfast that takes next to no time to prepare!
Course breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
Course breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
Instructions
  1. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Slice French bread into 1-inch chunks and spread half of them in the pan. Sprinkle half the berries on top. Repeat with the remaining half of bread chunks and berries.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, and brown sugar until smooth. Pour over bread, pressing down the top with a spatula to help bread soak up the milk mixture.
  3. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours (overnight is preferable). Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50-55 minutes. Serve with maple syrup.
Recipe Notes
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How I Started Freelance Nutrition Writing (And So Can You)

You may have noticed that things have slowed down a bit here on the blog over the last several months. The reason behind this actually has to do with something really good–and something, in a sense, blog-related. See, I’ve been doing freelance nutrition writing, and a lot of it. Since I’d rather post quality than quantity on the blog, that means my posts here have gotten fewer and further between. Here’s a little bit about how it all came about, along with some tips for other nutrition professionals interested in getting into the world of freelance writing. (And to my handful of regular readers: Don’t worry, I’m still keeping the blog going with recipes and down-to-earth nutrition info!)

Some backstory:

Last August, our family spent almost three months in Germany. During this time, I wasn’t working (unless you count steadily “working” my way through innumerable varieties of German beer–oh, and I was also looking after my kids). Being very new in my career as a nutrition professional, I still hadn’t really determined what path I wanted to take. When you go through any traditional dietetics education, the party line from your program of study is that you have three options for employment: clinical, food service, or community nutrition. (Can I get an amen, RDs and DTRs?) While I knew I didn’t want to work in the clinical or food service settings, I wasn’t exactly sure what my career in “community” (aka public health) nutrition would look like. I did know, however, that my first position out of school would be temporary, that I wanted something part-time, and that I had always loved to write. My English minor back in college meant I had at least some education in doing so reasonably well.

Returning home from Germany, I decided to take a stab at freelance writing to see how it went. Initially, it barely even crossed my mind to start writing nutrition content. Instead, I began with something even closer to my heart: my own journey as a Catholic Christian. My cousin, who is a freelance writer in New Mexico, had turned me on to a couple of websites primarily aimed at Millennial Catholics, Busted Halo and Amendo. Armed with my backlog of blog content and one lonely article I wrote for my church’s Women’s Ministry page, I pitched Busted Halo’s editor, calling myself a freelance writer. I asked if they’d like to publish the story of a foolish decision I made as a young adult. I didn’t really expect to hear anything back–I mean, who was I kidding with this whole “I’m a freelance writer” pose?–but much to my surprise, the editor emailed me back with an acceptance!

And how I got to now…

After the success of my first pitch (and the thrill of seeing my first article in print), I craved more. Here and there, I’d send off a pitch, often into the echoing void of a general submissions inbox, never to hear anything again, but sometimes to a “yes” from a real human being. Pretty soon I made a pact with myself: Every day I wasn’t working–which was one to two days a week–I would pitch a new publication. I read a quick e-book called Make Money as a Freelance Writer, which encouraged new writers to make a list of all the topics you’re an expert in, as well as topics you merely have an interest in. I decided I could comfortably focus on nutrition, general health and wellness, parenting, and spirituality…and maybe some other random topics I just find fascinating, like forensic investigation and 19th century German poets. But, you know, less often.

Over the next few months, I pitched like a mo-fo. Setting aside my deep distaste for unsolicited social interaction, I rattled off cold pitches to dozens of magazines and websites. I emailed local dietitians to see if I could write their newsletters or other content for patients, and I sent out an ad for my services on my local Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics chapter’s email listserv. The mornings I didn’t work, I’d go for a walk or a bike ride to clear my head and generate story ideas, then sit down to research a good publication to send to, and off my pitches would go. From September of 2017 to the end of that year, I sent out 40 pitches and received 8 rejections, 14 no-reponses, and 18 acceptances that turned into publications. When I read somewhere that new writers often have around a 10-20% acceptance rate, I felt my hard work had paid off (but those 8 rejections still definitely stung!).

How I get my gigs

At the end of 2017 came what I think of as my big breakthrough: Paid regular work. That December I was offered a weekly contributor position for the women’s lifestyle website Brit + Co’s Health section. Shortly thereafter, a dietitian hired me at a respectable rate to write her monthly newsletter. And in May of 2018 I was hired on to contribute regularly to fitness guru Chalene Johnson’s blog on her 131 Method website. Between these ongoing projects, a monthly kids’ cooking class I teach, and a few other articles every month or so, I was able to quit my in-person job–and am now making double to triple the hourly rate my job paid, while working fewer hours.

So how did all that happen?

Once again, I really have to give my cousin credit. She referred me to numerous Facebook groups where editors post calls for pitches–which I often answered and sometimes ultimately landed. (I also asked others in these groups for editor contacts when I couldn’t track them down). Then a couple of dietitians told me about even more Facebook groups where I found work. For awhile, I also regularly searched through Craigslist and Upwork for writing gigs–getting one decent food-related copywriting assignment–but have since decided pitching my own content is the better route for the type of work I’m looking for.

If YOU want to get into freelance nutrition writing

Maybe you’re a dietitian or DTR interested in getting started with writing, like I was less than a year ago. Judging from the responses I got when chatting with other nutrition professionals at a conference just last week, I believe many RDs and DTRs are drawn to this relatively obscure area of dietetics practice. After all, why shouldn’t we be the ones to give the public reliable health information? Journalists may have great skill in reporting on food and nutrition, but they don’t have the kind of in-depth knowledge a licensed nutrition professional can offer.

Here are my top pieces of advice if you’re looking to start freelance nutrition writing:

  • If you don’t have a blog, create one–even a lil’ dinky one–so you have a landing place for editors to see your writing.
  • Create social media pages for your blog and invite friends to like them. Post often, whether it’s your own blog articles or anything you find intriguing in the realm of food and nutrition. If you post interesting stuff, your following will grow.
  • If you’re in private practice, write your own monthly newsletter. Or offer to write one for a dietetics practice to build up experience and content.
  • Offer to blog for free (for awhile) for local food, nutrition, or restaurant websites.
  • Get into Facebook groups about general and nutrition-specific freelance writing (email me for examples!) These are where you’ll find editors issuing calls for pitches.
  • Search Craigslist and Upwork for nutrition-related writing gigs.
  • Pitch like a pitchin’ fool! And, if possible, don’t pitch to the general submissions email address you find on a publication’s website. Do a little more digging to get the email of an actual editor. (Try Twitter, LinkedIn, or ask in Facebook groups.) You’re much more likely to get a response from a real person.

The work is out there. And with your experience as a nutrition professional, YOU can be the one most qualified to get it. I can tell you, it’s a pretty sweet deal when you do!