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


  • 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


  • 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.


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


  • 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


  • 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.


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


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


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.


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

Naan-chos with Gazpacho Salsa

In a perfect world, every culture would have its own version of nachos. I can see it now: German nachos with a crispy potato base and sausage crumbles on top, Indian nachos with lentil crackers and chicken tikka masala… the list goes on. But since we don’t live in a perfect world, sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands, nacho-wise.

Since I’m such a fan of the Mediterranean diet, and that region doesn’t exactly have its own native nachos, I’ve been meaning to make something like these “naanchos” for ages, especially after coming across Rachael Ray’s version years ago. I’m so glad I did! These made the perfect light lunch for my day off yesterday.

With a naan flatbread base, hummus swirl, and gazpacho-flavored salsa, this twist on the usual nachos takes your tastebuds on a tour around the Mediterranean. The gazpacho salsa on top (a riff on my regular gazpacho), is a refreshing pico de gallo-style dip, with manly chunks of red pepper, tomato, and cucumber. Put together with chewy flatbread, cool hummus, and salty feta, I could also see this combo serving as a unique appetizer for entertaining or a nutrient-packed afternoon snack.

Like their namesake, these naancho nachos might just make you go…


Naan-chos with Gazpacho Salsa

Nachos with a healthy Mediterranean twist!
Course: Appetizer


  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 English cucumber, cut into chunks
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 8 mini naan flatbreads
  • 1 8 oz. container plain hummus
  • 2 oz. crumbled feta cheese


  • Make the gazpacho salsa: Place garlic cloves in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a chopping blade. Process for a few seconds until garlic is minced. Add the chunks of cucumber, tomatoes, red pepper, and red onion and process another few seconds until the mixture reaches a pico de gallo consistency.
  • Pour the mixture into a large bowl. Stir in olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
  • Toast the naan in a toaster/toaster oven. Spread with a layer of hummus, then slice into wedges.
  • Place wedges on a serving dish. Top with gazpacho salsa and sprinkle with crumbled feta. Serve immediately, and store any extra salsa tightly covered in the fridge.


A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

Lemony Green Beans with Almonds and Feta

Three ways you know you’ve found the best green bean recipe ever:

  1. You make it more than once.
  2. When you serve it at Thanksgiving, it disappears to the last bean.
  3. You actually sneak it out of the fridge to snack on it at night.

Or, perhaps all of the above…because all of these things have been true in our household with these Lemony Green Beans with Almonds and Feta. Who’da thunk a green bean side dish could be so appealing?

I featured this recipe on A Love Letter to Food’s Facebook page during my annual Healthy Thanksgiving Countdown as an alternative to the usual green bean casserole. To take my own advice, I decided to make it for the Thanksgiving dinner we attended with friends. It turned out better than I could have hoped, the beans pan-steamed to crispy crunachability and the feta and toasted almonds soaking up the lemony, garlicky dressing. When everyone was served at dinner, nary a bean was left.

On the heels of this success, I served this again at Christmas dinner. Even my 6-year-old fought me to eat the leftovers–cold. That’s a good sign.

Is it weird that eating this makes me think of the Gollum quote from The Hobbit:

“Is it nice, my preciousss? Is it juicy? Is it scrumptiously crunchable?”

Because yes, it is. And that beats green bean casserole any day, if you ask me.


Lemony Green Beans with Almonds and Feta

Crisp-tender green beans tossed with a lemony dressing and sprinkled with toasted almonds and feta make an incredible side dish!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Side Dish
Servings: 4


  • 1/3 c. sliced almonds
  • 1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed and sliced in half
  • 3 Tbsp. water
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese, divided


  • Toast the almonds one of two ways: either bake them for 3 minutes at 325 degrees or heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook almonds, stirring occasionally, until toasted. Set aside.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add green beans, water, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cover and cook 7-10 minutes, stirring periodically. Uncover and increase heat to medium-high. Continue to cook another 3-5 minutes or until water has evaporated and beans are crisp-tender and bright green. Remove from heat.
  • Meanwhile, make the dressing: whisk together olive oil, dijon, lemon juice, garlic, red pepper flaked, and black pepper.
  • When beans are done cooking, toss with toasted almonds, lemon dressing, and half the feta. Spread on a platter or serving dish and sprinkle with remaining feta. Serve immediately.


Adapted from Cookie and Kate.