Cumin Zucchini Salad with Pinto Beans and Roasted Red Peppers | @naturallyella

I will be the first to admit that pinto beans are a bit underutilized in my kitchen. One of my favorite lunch spots that serves up vegetarian tacos overflowing with vegetables and pinto beans has encouraged me to branch out more. This zucchini salad is my start and I feel the perfect companion for these tacos (and as you might already know, I’m a fan of the cumin and zucchini combination). This salad works well as a summer side dish, picnic salad, or packed in a lunch with a few tortilla chips. Read more and see the recipe.

Fried Polenta with Tomato Salad

There are two fried pleasures I have: halloumi and polenta. Fried polenta is a treat in my book but something that’s easily made (even from leftovers). I’ll make extra polenta just so I can fry the leftovers the next day and smother it with vegetables. This version is an easy summer side and best of all, you can grill the polenta for a meal that requires zero oven time. If I’m not working with leftovers, I like to make the polenta up the night before so that it’s ready to go when I need it the next day. Read more and see the recipe.

Garlicky Halloumi Tacos | @naturallyella

In the grand scheme of vegetarian tacos on Naturally Ella, most, if not all, revolve around using legumes. This is great but I felt it time to share one of my favorite, extremely quick tacos that involved zero beans or lentils. Enter halloumi tacos. I shared these on instagram some time back and since then, I’ve been making them quite often. These tacos, along with a salsa and two salads, encompass my favorite taco party recipes. I like to keep these halloumi tacos simple: a few greens, the fried halloumi tossed in garlic and cilantro, and topped with a sprinkle of onion and hot sauce. Read more and see the recipe.

Coconut Bread Pudding | @naturallyella
No get-together would be complete without dessert (which may seem strange given the low amount of desserts on this site). Sometimes these desserts are on the elaborate side (like a cheesecake) and sometimes they are like this coconut bread pudding; easy to throw together and full of summer fruit. This particular base for bread pudding is from my cookbook and while it’s not the super rich recipe, I find it perfect in texture and flavor. The book calls for using multigrain bread but I used a simple peasant loaf for this variation, letting the coconut flavor really shine. Read more and see the recipe.

Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Roasted Tomato Sauce

When it comes to summer cooking and summer parties, I am a big fan of making recipes that can easily be multiplied enough to feed a large crowd. This stuffed shell recipe is up there as one of my favorites. Since I posted this recipe in 2011, I’ve made it for countless parties and get-togethers. It’s hearty enough that people don’t miss the meat and the homemade tomato sauce is perfect for all those summer tomatoes. Yes, it takes turning on your oven but in my mind, it’s well worth it. I’ve given notes in the recipe but the large shells are not readily available in whole wheat and so if you want a substitute, I recommend brown rice pasta (like these shells) or using rolled up whole wheat lasagana. Read more and see the recipe.

Tahini Cabbage Slaw

It wouldn’t be a picnic or backyard celebration at my house without a twist on the traditional. Coleslaw is one of those recipes that I could never get behind because most of the time, it’s this strange limp cabbage base drowning in mayo dressing. This tahini cabbage slaw is my answer to that. Not only is it vegan but using tahini gives it a nice sesame spin. I also like to use the black sesame seeds for a bit of contrast but feel free to use whatever sesame seeds you have on hand or can find easily. Read more and see the recipe.

Sumac Spiced Chickpea Cucumber Salad

The next set of recipes is for what I like to call the ‘backyard gathering.’ It’s the type of event when people come over for a leisurely dinner and yard games in the cool of the evening (one of my favorite gatherings). I like to do a mix of make-ahead and hot dishes for these types of gatherings and while this cucumber salad can be made ahead, I really love this as a warm, served-fresh salad. The chickpeas are cooked with sumac until golden then tossed with the fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. It’s the perfect blend of hot and fresh. Unfamiliar with sumac? It’s a lovely, tart spice that is a main ingredient in za’atar and also fattoush salad. Read more and see the recipe.

Vegetarian Meal Plan with Real Plans

Over the past couple of years, I had toyed with the idea of creating a custom weekly vegetarian meal plan as a service on the site. It can be a struggle to know what to cook, let alone trying to actually prepare the meal. Of course, planning meals for the week takes time and I was never able to add it to the site. So I let the dream go, until now.

I’ve partnered with Real Plans which now has a database of over 250 of my recipes, along with hundreds of others, ready for you to plan your next week of meals. Not 100% vegetarian? That’s cool too- Real Plans started with primarily traditional and paleo recipes which means you can have a weekly meal plan that fits anywhere from meatless Monday to 100% vegetarian. Find out more below or get started.

It’s probably no secret scrolling through the archives of this site that there are two ingredients in the vegetarian diet that I don’t use that often/really like: mushrooms and tofu. With Real Plans I can move those items into an excluded group so that I know my meal plans won’t include any recipes that feature these ingredients. Have a whole food group you want to exclude (like soy or corn)? You can do that too.

Excluding ingredients in Real Plans - Vegetarian Meal Plan

I think one of the features I love most is the ability to change your plans based on how you’re feeling any given week. Don’t like a recipe that’s in your vegetarian meal plan? You can search the recipe box for a replacement featuring an ingredient you might want/have already. Or, you can use the roulette feature to randomly select another option. You can also add your own recipes/ingredients for those days you just want to throw together something or use a recipe you already have in your repertoire. Furthermore, you set what days you want to cook/want recipes and the service will do the rest.


Not sure on where to start when it comes to prep? No worries, Real Plans has you covered. There’s a schedule that helps remind you when to prep, soak those grains overnight, or plan your big day of cooking to ready your meals for the week.

Real Plans Prep Schedule- Vegetarian Meal Plan

I’m guilty, on a weekly basis, of forgetting things that I needed for the week. Before planning, I was at the store almost on a daily basis but having an interactive shopping list takes the guesswork out of your shopping. Easily see what you need, check off what you have on hand, and plan the different stores you need to hit.



I like to use Real Plans as a base then update based on what I find at the market, what I have on hand already (as to not waste ingredients), and add those random meals that might not be a full recipe (like my morning oatmeal). It’s a great platform to help you organize your weekly meals all in one place! Even better- there’s an app so that you can keep your plans/shopping list with you everywhere you go! I highly suggesting checking out the video tutorial then diving into the interactive dashboard. Not sure if it’s right for you? There’s a 30-day money back guarantee.

Ready to start planning?

Sign up now >

White Bean Dip with Roasted Garlic and Herbs

In the grand scheme of beans, I think chickpeas are slightly overrated. Don’t get me wrong, they are one of my favorite ingredients (just look at all the recipes that use chickpeas on my site) but when it comes to legumes, there are many options for many different uses. More and more, I’m turning to the broad range of white beans. I love these easy-to-use beans in salads, soups, and especially in the form of dips. These beans have a creamier texture which translates into a perfectly smooth white bean dip. For this particular version, the addition of roasted garlic and herbs creates the best game night addition. Read more and see the recipe.

Olive Pizza with Red Onions | @naturallyella

No game night is complete without pizza. It is one of the perfect grab and sit foods. It’s still good when it’s cooled, you can satisfy any flavor craving, and it’s the perfect late-night, end of game snack. This particular olive pizza combination has been my favorite for a couple years. We typically always have a jar of kalamata olives stashed in our pantry, so this pizza is in heavy rotation. Don’t like olives? See below for a few other of my favorite pizza combinations. Read more and see the recipe.

Roasted Green Beans with Romesco | @naturallyella

With summer here, I thought it would be fun to focus on one of my favorite summer activities: get-togethers. It’s the perfect time of year to whip up food and enjoy time with your favorite people. In honor of this, I’ve created four different menus, for four different occasions, that I’ll be sharing over the next month. First up, one of my favorite get-togethers: game night! We love playing strategic, night-long games which means good food is a must. I have four recipes to share over the next week (sneak peak on instagram) including these roasted green beans:

Olive Pizza with Red Onions
Curry Popcorn
Herb White Bean Dip

One of my favorite pizza places has an entree of garlicky green beans and I decided to take it a step further and toss roasted green beans with romesco sauce (which may look familiar from this pizza I just posted). The green beans make for a perfect pizza side dish and it’s a bit different from the traditional salad that I usually serve with pizza. Read more and see the recipe.

Chocolate Teff Porridge

I’m rather surprised I haven’t shared a similar teff porridge recipe on the site as it’s a staple in our house. Teff’s unique nutty flavor and ability to cook up creamy makes it the perfect porridge grain. If you’re unfamiliar with teff, it’s akin to quinoa in that it’s actually a seed but typically consumed as a grain. Teff has a natural undertone akin to chocolate which makes it the perfect partner. This porridge feels a bit on the indulgent side but a quick look at the ingredients will show that it’s a wonderful way to start your day. Read more and see the recipe.

Romesco Potato Pizza with Red Onions | @naturallyella

One of my personal beliefs is that life is too short to eat boring pizza. There’s a pizza place in my home town where every week, the special is a pizza combination that always makes me stop and think. I’ve yet to try one I don’t like and it’s always a treat for the times I’m back in Illinois (it’s how this curry cauliflower pizza came to be). I think this is part of the reason I share so many flatbreads and pizza recipes- because you can never have too many in my book. The romesco sauce I make is easy and perfect as you start to get red peppers in the summer. The best part, this potato pizza is rather quick to whip together if you already have dough. Read more and see the recipe.

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes

Post sponsored by Cascadian Farm. See below for more details.

Whenever my parents are in town visiting, we find ourselves eating breakfast out quite a bit. One of the places we hit serves their own version of blueberry cornmeal pancakes that are as large as the plate. While I like them, I’ve found I can make a similar variation at home that I love a bit more. I enjoy using frozen blueberries in place of fresh because they create a juicer pop when eating. The secret, I’ve learned, is to toss the blueberries with a bit of cornmeal then let them slightly thaw before adding them to the pancakes. The cornmeal soaks up juice which helps the pancakes to set better while cooking. Read more and see the recipe.