Thanksgiving Grain Bowl

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving food? I’m not sure I could pick just one. If truly pressed, I might say mashed potatoes, but there are SO many other tasty options: green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, and more. (And let’s not even START on desserts.)

Fortunately, this healthy Thanksgiving Grain Bowl offers the flavors of several turkey day favorites all in one! This easily modifiable recipe works well for throwing together a bowl full of leftovers–or for when you just want something a little lighter. Roasted brussels sprouts and butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and feta come together with high-fiber, protein-packed quinoa and a sweet-and-tangy olive oil dressing.

Sounds just about right for the day after Thanksgiving, yes?

And while we’re talking Thanksgiving, let me pull out my nutritionist hat with a little dietary advice. It’s all too easy to overdo it at Thanksgiving dinner, but this year, try to remember that how much you eat is up to YOU. Just because it’s a tradition to down every single item in the family buffet, it’s not actually required. You can enjoy a great meal without getting to the end of it feeling like you’re about to burst. Choose what you really want to eat and let the rest go. And just say no to food pushers! If Grandma or Aunt Carla says you absolutely must eat her marshmallow-sweet potato concoction, indulge her with a bite, not a giant scoop. It’s your body, your meal, your decision.

Here’s to a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! And check out my post on 10 Ways to Have a Healthy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Grain Bowl

All your favorite flavors of Thanksgiving in a healthy grain bowl! Great for day-after-Thanksgiving leftovers or any time you want a satisfying vegetarian meal.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Servings: 4 as a main dish

Ingredients

For the grain bowl:

  • 1 c. brussels sprouts, sliced in half
  • 2 1/2 c. butternut squash, diced into small pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 c. quinoa
  • 3 c. vegetable broth
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 c. pepitas

For the dressing:

  • 1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 c. olive oil

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet, spread brussels sprouts and butternut squash in two separate groups. Drizzle both with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle butternut squash with nutmeg and thyme. Roast about 30 minutes, stirring once.
  • While veggies roast, cook the quinoa. In a medium pot, bring quinoa and veggie broth to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
  • Make the dressing: In a small measuring cup, whisk together all ingredients, or blend with an immersion blender.
  • Assemble the whole thing: In a large bowl, combine roasted vegetables, cooked quinoa, cranberries, feta, and pepitas. Stir in dressing and toss to combine.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

Green Bean Casserole {No Soups, No Mushrooms}

There was a time when I thought condensed cream soups were God’s gift to the home cook. I specifically recall a Crock Pot chicken recipe I used to make that involved cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soup (and maybe Velveeta cheese?). Yes, it was creamy, and probably tasty, but also crazy high in sodium and pretty highly processed.

I’ve come a long way since those days. Now, whenever I can, I prefer to make sauces for casseroles, meat, or pasta dishes myself. I’ve found doing so cuts back on mystery ingredients, reduces sodium, and honestly just results in better quality food.

Enter this condensed soup-free Green Bean Casserole.

If you’ve ever made green bean casserole with a traditional recipe, I’ll bet it called for cream of mushroom soup. I know the recipes in both my Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks start this way. But now that I’m a fan of homemade sauces–and since I’ve never been fond of mushrooms–when I wanted a green bean casserole to go with a grilled chicken dinner recently, I thought I’d try my hand at a 100% from-scratch version. (Except for the fried onions on top. Those I’m happy to outsource to good old French’s.)

This recipe came out full of savory flavor, thanks to shallot, sage, and thyme. And thanks to a vegetable broth base, it’s totally vegetarian. Even though Thanksgiving may be several weeks off, I’d make this again for a veggie side dish any day!

Give this one a try if you’re looking for something a little less processed, or if someone in your family has the good sense to not like mushrooms. 🙂

Green Bean Casserole {No Soups, No Mushrooms}

Not crazy about mushrooms? Prefer not to use condensed soups? This delicious from-scratch Green Bean Casserole is for you!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time45 mins
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 24 oz. frozen French-style green beans
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • generous 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. dried sage
  • 1/4 + 1/8 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 1/4 c. vegetable broth
  • 6 oz. crispy fried onions

Instructions

  • Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Add green beans and cook about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Wipe out the pot and melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour, salt, pepper, sage, and thyme and whisk about 1 minute.
  • Add milk and vegetable broth and whisk to combine. Increase heat to medium and whisk occasionally until sauce thickens. (It's ready when the whisk leaves a defined trail.) Remove from heat and stir in green beans.
  • Spray an 11 x 7-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Pour in green bean mixture and smooth. Sprinkle with fried onions.
  • Bake 20-25 minutes or until heated through.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

Butternut Squash, Apple Cider, & White Cheddar Soup

According to my husband (and various news outlets) this October has been the rainiest on record here in Phoenix. And we are not mad about it. Rain, rain, do NOT go away! While I think I would get sick of overcast skies and waving windshield wipers if I lived somewhere like Portland, where it’s constant, I’m happy to soak it up while it lasts here in the desert. After all, rainy weather is SOUP weather, and who doesn’t love a warm-you-up-from-the-inside-out bowl of comfort? Especially when that bowl contains the magical mix of butternut squash, apple cider, and white cheddar?

Seriously, the combination in this delicious soup is like if someone held a contest for a meal that represents the Ultimate Flavors of Fall. Earthy with squash, rich with sharp white cheddar, with a hint of sweetness from the cider–oh, and did I mention pumpkin ale goes into the mix, too? Mm-hmm. Even my nine-year-old, who claims to hate butternut squash, grudgingly admitted this soup was goooooood. And unlike some soups that need to simmer for ages before they’re ready, this one doesn’t take long to cook. To make it extra quick and easy, start with a bag of pre-cut squash from the produce section of your grocery store. Rounded out with cheesy toast and a side salad, it’s the perfect dinner for a rainy day.

As for me, I’ll just be over here enjoying my soup weather as long as I can…

Butternut Squash, Apple Cider, & White Cheddar Soup

Cozy up to a bowl of this unique soup with the perfect blend of fall flavors!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 5 c. diced butternut squash
  • 1 c. diced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 12-oz. bottle pumpkin ale
  • 1 c. apple cider
  • 2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 c. extra-sharp white cheddar, grated
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Instructions

  • Melt butter over medium heat in a large stock pot. Add butternut squash, onion, garlic, and salt. Saute until squash has softened slightly, about 8 minutes. Add pumpkin ale, apple cider, and broth. Simmer another 10-12 minutes or until squash is totally softened. Using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth. Whisk in white cheddar until melted, then stir in nutmeg.

Notes

Adapted from Cooking For Keeps.

Mediterranean Baked Eggs With Croutons and Tomatoes

Do you eat eggs at dinner?

Though I almost never eat eggs at breakfast–I’m more of a grains gal to start my day–I am weirdly, unaccountably loyal to them at dinner. I suppose it’s partly because I grew up eating dinner quiches on a regular basis, but partly because eggs have so much going for them. They’re cheap, first of all, and relatively easy to purchase locally. Then there are all their nutrition benefits. With 6 grams of protein, a sizable dose of vitamins D and B12, and only around 70 calories, a single egg packs plenty of nutrition.

Also, the health concerns that used to plague most consumers about eating too many eggs have been shown to be largely unfounded. Whereas in decades gone by, the medical establishment believed that high intake of dietary cholesterol led to high blood cholesterol, we now know that saturated fat and fiber play a far more important role in blood cholesterol levels. So the days of avoiding eggs for the sake of your HDL and LDL are past.

Which is really good news for this amazing Mediterranean Baked Eggs with Croutons and Tomatoes.

This delightful breakfast-lunch-or-dinner dish comes from America’s Test Kitchen’s Complete Mediterranean Cookbook, a fabulous resource I’ve been working my way through since receiving it for my last birthday. If you like Mediterranean flavors (or dig the health perks of a Mediterranean diet), you’re going to love this unique combination of crunchy croutons, garlic-herb roasted tomatoes, tangy feta, and baked eggs. Something about the match of blistered, tender tomatoes against the crunch of croutons and the heft of the eggs has made this one of my new favorite meals.

Made step-wise by baking the croutons and tomatoes at the same time, assembling, and baking again, this recipe may look slightly daunting at first, but ultimately is quite simple once you get the hang of it. Plus, the baking time involved gives you a few extra minutes to toss a light salad–True Food Kitchen’s Kale Salad, perhaps?–to complete the picture of an unforgettable Mediterranean-style meal.

Bring on the eggs for dinner!

Mediterranean Baked Eggs With Croutons and Tomatoes

A breakfast-lunch-or-dinner standout full of Mediterranean flavor: crunchy croutons, garlic-herb roasted tomatoes, tangy feta, and baked eggs--yum!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Main Dish, vegetarian
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 5 c. French or Italian bread, sliced into 1/2-inch chunks--preferably a savory loaf like rosemary or garlic-infused
  • 4 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 20 oz. cherry tomatoes
  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the bread chunks with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and spread the bread into it in an even layer. Set aside.
  • In the same large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil, minced garlic, oregano, tomato paste, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add cherry tomatoes and stir to coat. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, pouring any additional olive oil mixture over tomatoes.
  • Place both the dish of croutons and the baking sheet of tomatoes in the oven. Bake the croutons for 10 minutes and the tomatoes for 20 minutes.
  • Once both tomatoes and croutons have baked, pour tomatoes over the croutons and gently stir together, adding an additional 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Using a large spoon, make six shallow indentations in the mixture. Crack one egg into each indentation. Season with salt and pepper. Return the baking dish to the oven for another 12 minutes or until eggs are just set.
  • Let cool for about 5 minutes, then sprinkle crumbled feta over the top and serve.

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. 😉

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 Time10 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time45 mins
Servings: 4

Ingredients

For the cauliflower steaks:

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the aioli:

  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder

For assembling the sandwiches:

  • 4 ciabatta rolls, sliced in half and toasted
  • 4 large leaves romaine lettuce
  • 1 tomato, sliced

Instructions

Make the cauliflower steaks.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • In a measuring cup, combine all aioli ingredients and mix with an immersion blender (or whisk vigorously) until well combined.

Assemble the sandwiches.

  • Assemble to your liking with cauliflower steaks, aioli, lettuce, and tomato on the toasted ciabatta rolls.

Notes

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