Overhead shot of Chocolate Peanut Butter bites dusted in cocoa powder

I’ve found that I’ve occasionally forget to share some of the recipes we eat most in our house. One of the things we eat a lot of but rarely makes it to the site: snacks. We’re a huge snack family and the tradition seems to be continuing with our little guy. Sometimes our favorite dinner is a platter of snacks.

The peanut butter bites have been a staple of our sweet-tooth snack section. However, my version got a rather large overhaul once I started making Sarah Waldman’s version, from her cookbook. Over the past year or so I’ve been making small adaptions to the recipe, finally landing on the version below.

What I like most is that the recipe doesn’t have to be exact. I’ve made this recipe about 50 different ways, usually using up whatever we have on hand. However, it’s almost always guaranteed we have peanuts and peanut butters on hand, making these peanut butter bites quick and easy.

Read more and see the recipe.

Overhead shot of cracked spelt porridge topped with roasted blueberries and hemp seeds

If I had my way, my morning routine would be about a three-hour affair. I love quiet, leisurely mornings and most of the time they end in a filling, whole-grain breakfast. This spelt porridge takes a bit of time but it’s primarily hands-off cooking. If you’ve never tried spelt in the morning, it’s a favorite breakfast grain of mine.

Take for example these doughnuts, pancakes, dutch baby, and waffles. The key to a creamy porridge with spelt is the same method I use for making risotto: cracking the grain.

Unlike risotto, I crack the grain a bit smaller. I like the texture to be somewhere between steel cut oats and cream of wheat (a old family favorite). Best of all, you can make it as thick (or not) as you like. Simply watch the amount of liquid you add towards the end of cooking.

Read more and see the recipe.

Overhead shot of homemade breadcrumbs on a sheet tray.

I realize that of all the recipes I could share, breadcrumbs may seem like the least cool thing. Plus, do a search on the internet and there are thousands of different ways people make breadcrumbs. Yet, I’m sharing anyway. Primarily because it’s less important how you make breadcrumbs. It’s more important that you do it and you have a few ways in your repertoire to use them.

I’m really the only bread-eater in our house and while I try and freeze bread, I still end up with a stale, end-of-loaf piece. Of course, these breadcrumbs don’t have to wait until you have old bread. Make them with fresh bread- it’s just as good!

1: As a Topping

Pesto Asparagus Egg Skillet | Naturally Ella

I’d leading with breadcrumbs as a topping because I’ve been rather obsessed with this as of late. Homemade breadcrumbs can have such a wonderful flavor. They go perfectly with eggs, salads, and soups. I keep a container of breadcrumbs on the counter to sprinkle on my breakfast egg skillets and use in place of croutons in homemade salads.

Try them in:

Pan-Fried Turnips
Grilled Celeriac with White Bean Puree
Pesto Asparagus Egg Skillet

 

2. As a ‘Soaking’ Agent

Lentil Broccoli Bites with Lemon Cream Sauce

I’ve always heard breadcrumbs work as a binding agent. I could see how that could be correlated but breadcrumbs soak up liquid, which is especially helpful in vegetarian cooking. Think of you favorite vegetable cakes or lentil bites. The breadcrumbs help ‘beef’ up the texture and work with the eggs to be the foundation of most of those recipes.

Try them in:

Chickpea Fritters
Curry Chickpea Burgers with Coconut Cabbage Slaw
Lentil Bites

 

3. As a Crust

Potato Chickpea Croquettes with Garlicky Sunflower Dip | Naturally Ella

Finally, breadcrumbs make for a wonderful coating. While this technique is mostly used in meat, vegetables can benefit from a lovely coating of breadcrumbs. In fact, I’ve been making baked/breaded cauliflower for years as an easy/healthy snack. Breadcrumbs also work well as a crust/topping like in casseroles and cassoulets.

Try them in:

Root Vegetable Cassoulet
White Bean Chard Bake
Baked Cauliflower Bites

Homemade Breadcrumbs

variations

Herbs: Breadcrumbs are the perfect place to use dried herbs. Try adding dried thyme, rosemary, parsley, tarragon, and/or sage.

Gluten-Free: Pick up a loaf of your favorite gluten-free bread and use the same recipe.

Ghee: Instead of the olive oil, use melted ghee for a nice flavor-boost. I love using ghee-made breadcrumbs on salads.

Print
Overhead shot of homemade breadcrumbs on a sheet tray.

Homemade Breadcrumbs + 3 Ways to Use Them

  • Author: Erin Alderson
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 2 cups
  • Category: cooking component
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Easy homemade breadcrumbs. Perfect for making if you are trying to use up leftover/old bread.


Ingredients

2 large fist-sized chunks of whole grain/sourdough bread (ends work great for this)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt


Instructions

Heat your oven to 325˚F. Take the chunks of bread and grate them using a cheese grater. Alternatively, place smaller pieces in a food processor and pulse until the bread is in small pieces.

Place the breadcrumbs on a sheet tray and toss with the olive oil and salt.

Bake the breadcrumbs until browning and any larger pieces are crisp, 8 or so minutes. Take will all depend on how large your breadcrumb pieces are- starting checking around 5 minutes. Shake the tray occasionally during the baking process.

Let the breadcrumbs cool and store in an airtight jar at room temperature for up to two weeks (just make sure the breadcrumbs are completely dried).


Notes

Tips + Tricks: You can make breadcrumbs without the oil, I just prefer the flavor and texture of the breadcrumbs toasted with oil and salt.

Keywords: homemade breadcrumbs, leftover bread uses

Close-up, overhead shot of pan-fried turnips sprinkle with breadcrumbs

When spring hits, it’s easy to get excited about asparagus and strawberries. I get it, I do that too. However, there are some other items that deserve your attention. Take for example, the hakurei turnip. These turnips are a bit more mild in flavor compared to the larger variety- and that goes for both the roots and greens.

While you can eat hakurei turnips raw, these pan-fried turnips deserve a try. I don’t like to overcook them but with a nice char on the outside, the flavor is the best of the raw and the cooked flavor. I tried this recipe with and without shallots. You can certainly add a member of the allium family but I found no matter what I tried, the flavor overpowered the turnips.

Read more and see the recipe.

Side-angle shot of a light bowl containing curried chickpeas topped with feta

I’m sometimes hesitant to share these types of recipes on the site. It could easily be categorized as ‘too simple’ but I’m finding as a busy family, I crave the 20 minute meals. This recipe is a solid start for more involved meals but I find it perfect as-is.

A couple of notes. This recipe isn’t very saucy. I originally made it when I didn’t have coconut milk, only heavy cream. I love a bit of cream but after about 1/3 of a cup, I find things to feel a bit too rich. Of course, this recipe is also perfect with the coconut milk.

Finally, I’m sure I sound like a broken record but make or find a good curry powder blend. There is great variation among curry flavors from around the world. Use these chickpea bowls as an avenue to explore a few different ones.

Read more and see the recipe.

Saving the Season: 3-Ways with Strawberries | Naturally Ella

There is nothing quite as enticing as a flat of strawberries at the farmers’ market. The flavor of strawberries is amazing. However, I think a large part of my draw to a flat of strawberries is due to coming out of winter to this gorgeous red color. Plus, the price for a flat is usually too good to turn down.

So, if you’re like me and couldn’t keep away from all those strawberries, the question becomes: what do you do with all of them? While you might be able to eat through a flat in a week, below are three ways to preserve strawberries so you can enjoy that sweet, local-grown flavor year-round.

First Steps

Saving the Season: 3-Ways with Strawberries | Coring
Saving the Season: 3-Ways with Strawberries | Tops

Before diving in to any of the methods, there’s a couple steps to take to prep the strawberries. Be sure to wash them well (strawberries fall on the dirty-dozen list). Then remove the greens and the pith from the strawberry. There is a special tool you can get to help with this process but I much prefer my trusty pairing knife. Once you’ve rinsed and trimmed the strawberries, it’s time to choose your method.

Freezing

3-Ways with Strawberries | Freezing Strawberries
3-Ways with Strawberries | How to freeze strawberries

Starting out with the easiest method first: freezing. I love to have frozen berries on hand for morning oatmeal, yogurt snacks, popsicle making- the list could go on and on. Once you’ve cleaned your strawberries, freezing is fairly simple.

To freeze strawberries: place cut/top-side down on a sheet tray that will fit in your freezer. It’s fine if the strawberries are touching. Place in the freezer overnight. Once the strawberries are frozen, transfer to a freezer-safe container and use within the year.

Dehydrating

3-Ways with Strawberries | Dehydrating Strawberries
3-Ways with Strawberries | How to dehydrate strawberries

This method is for those of you who have a dehydrator or an oven that goes down to 140˚F or so. If you purchased a dehydrator and have been slow to use it, time to change that! For strawberries, I like to place the flat end on a cutting board and cut the strawberries into thin (1/16″ to 1/8″) slices.

Lay the strawberries on a tray and dehydrate at 135˚F. Between 6 to 18 hours, the thinner strawberries should be dry and chewy. Leave the strawberries in up to 18 hours for crisp dried strawberries. Just make sure the strawberries are dry to the touch! Turn off the dehydrator and let cool. Break a strawberry in half and check for moisture.

When stored properly, dried strawberries can last up to a year. This article has good advice for how to properly store all kinds of dried food.

Canning

3-Ways with Strawberries | How to can strawberries

Finally, one of my favorite items to make is this honey-sweetened strawberry jam. It’s perfect for nut-butter sandwiches, dessert crepes, and/or pancake topping. You can also do a simple sugar-strawberry canned mixture.

Canning takes a bit of special equipment but if you find yourself wanting to ‘save the season’ with many summer produce items- it’s time to invest! There are a ton of books to get you started. I also have a slightly older, brief guide to canning.

Romesco Potato Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese | Naturally Ella

Post sponsored by CA Grown. See below for more details.

When it comes to summer salads, I’m constantly pushing to explore different flavors and textures. This arugula salad happens to feature a favorite combination of mine: a romesco potato mix. The smoky sauce brings the party to this salad, both as a coating for the potatoes but also as a bit of dressing.

My favorite is to toss the salad together while the potatoes are slightly warm. The warm potatoes help to soften the goat cheese, creating an amazing coating for the arugula. Of course, if warm salads aren’t your thing, you could always mix the potatoes in when cool.

Best of all, this salad showcases so many of the items I love from local farms: arugula (Jayleaf), potatoes (River Dog Farms– one of my favorites), walnuts (Full Belly– also amazing), goat cheese (Laura Chenel’s), and olive oil (California Olive Ranch). What better way to showcase CA Grown.

Read more and see the recipe.

Spinach Millet Egg Bake | Naturally Ella

One of the things I love about running this site for so long is seeing how some of my favorite recipes morph. Outside of developing recipes, I don’t measure. I go based on whatever mood I’m in and never cook a meal the same way twice. This millet egg bake is the perfect example.

This egg bake started out in ramekins, topped with gouda cheese and various herbs. This updated version keeps the same feel but I’ve added dill and vegetarian parmesan. You can always use whatever you have on hand, but this is currently my favorite version of this recipe.

Read more and see the recipe.

Garlicky Pea Pasta with Cream Sauce

Post sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill. See below for more details.

Having a child drastically changed my cooking. Most drastically: the amount of items I make at home. Pre-child, I’d easily spend hours in the kitchen making homemade everything. I don’t have that kind of time anymore and occasionally I miss. And so, I’ve been trying to add some of these items back in. One of my favorite items to hand make: pasta.

Pasta is a fairly basic homemade item but it’s beyond worth it. The flavor and texture is unmatched by the dried pasta found in grocery stores. While I like to grind my own flour for the pasta, I wanted to share a recipe that didn’t involve that (and was a bit more friendly to people who might not fully be on the 100% whole wheat flour train).

Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose flour is a staple in our home. I use it in my sourdough starter and I use it when I’m making breads (because I’ve yet to nail a 100% whole wheat loaf that I’m in love with). This pasta is 50% all-purpose and 50% white wheat flour. The combination makes the most tender homemade pasta which is perfect in this garlicky pea pasta.

Read more and see the recipe.

8 Compendium Cookbooks to Have on Hand

As I approach the 11 year (!) mark for this site, I decided it was time to branch out a bit from sharing recipe after recipe. Over the years, I’ve amassed notes, ideas, methods, and books that rarely get shared (unless you happen to hold a conversation with me). And so, I thought it time to share some of my favorites from over the years.

I could have started with a different list because I realize this post isn’t going to be for everyone, but I wanted to share books that were my go-to. I have a huge cookbook collection but to be truthful, it’s rare I crack one open. Instead, I reach for the books that give me a bit of education.

These are the compendium cookbooks that have information I’d normally have to scour the library/internet for and spend time searching site to site or book to book. These compendium cookbooks that made me fall in love with vegetables more than I thought possible (and that’s a statement!)

Vegetable Literacy

Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom by Deborah Madison

Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom by Deborah Madison

In my collection, this is the mother of all compendiums. I adore Deborah’s writing and the warmth that radiates from the pages engulfs me in wanting to know more about the different plants. The book is split into different plant families and I think what I like most is her connection from the garden to cooking. If you only buy one book on this list, I’d highly recommend it be this one. Buy the book.

 

Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini

The Essential Reference by Elizabeth Schneider

Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini: The Essential Reference by Elizabeth Schneider

My first foray into the CSA world left me a bit overwhelmed. Whether it was a new variety or a vegetable I’d never tried, it was exciting but always left me searching for information. This book came in handy. It’s really a solid reference book and one I like to keep on my tablet for quick checks. Buy the book.

 

Roots

The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes by Diane Morgan

Roots: The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes by Diane Morgan

If you want to eat more vegetables, I recommend this and the following two books as solid reads. There’s so much more to grocery-store produce and these books prove it. In roots, you explore the well-known varieties (like potatoes) to the lesser-known varieties (like galangal). Is extremely informative and well worth a spot on your shelf. Buy the book.

 

Brassicas

Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables: Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More by Laura B. Russell

Brassicas: Cooking the World's Healthiest Vegetables: Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More by Laura B. Russell

As with the book above, Brassicas explores one of my favorite categories. I found this book as I was researching more into kale but fell in love with the approach of root to leaf cooking. Many of these vegetables are great to grow at home and this book is the perfect companion to harvest and cook. Buy the book.

 

The Book of Greens

A Cook’s Compendium of 40 Varieties, from Arugula to Watercress by Jenn Louis

The Book of Greens: A Cook's Compendium of 40 Varieties, from Arugula to Watercress by Jenn Louis

When I started the CSA, I was overwhelmed by the amount of greens. Every week, without fail, I’d bring home chard, kale, and arugula. While I got creative, I could have used this book. Best of all, Jenn covers varieties you might pass over because you’re not sure how to use them. If you find yourself with greens, all the time: get this book. Buy the book.

 

——————–

The following books are books I don’t quite put in the compendium category but are good, solid books for primers on legumes, grains, and general advice for food pairing.

 

The Vegetarian Flavor Bible

The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity with Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, and More, Based on the Wisdom of Leading American Chefs by Karen Page

The Vegetarian Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity with Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, and More, Based on the Wisdom of Leading American Chefs by Karen Page

I get asked quite frequently how I come up with the recipes I share on the site. While some inspiration comes from cookbooks, restaurants, and other sites; the majority comes from this book. More often than not I head to the market with a baseline idea, see what’s in season, and use this book to brainstorm solid pairings. If you’re looking for a cookbook, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for lists of flavor pairings: this book is for you! Buy the book.

 

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals

Mediterranean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries & More by Maria Speck

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals: Mediterranean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries & More by Maria Speck

No one has yet to write an solid compendium for grains (I’m sure it’s coming- I have a book proposal for that’s a story for another time). However, Maria’s book on these core ancient grains is a good start. In fact, it’s one of the first books that really got me into exploring a wide-range of grains. Best of all, Maria’s recipes are always wonderful. Buy the book.

 

Bean By Bean: A Cookbook

More than 175 Recipes for Fresh Beans, Dried Beans, Cool Beans, Hot Beans, Savory Beans, Even Sweet Beans by Crescent Dragonwagon

Bean By Bean: A Cookbook: More than 175 Recipes for Fresh Beans, Dried Beans, Cool Beans, Hot Beans, Savory Beans, Even Sweet Beans by Crescent Dragonwagon

Along the lines of grains, I’ve yet to see an all-encompassing book about legumes. This book is a start and I’d recommend seeing if your local library carries it before you buy it. You can also always peruse Rancho Gordo’s site for lovely bean inspiration. Buy the book.

 

Grilled Snap Peas with Hazelnuts | Naturally Ella

There are two ways I like my snap peas: raw or grilled. More often than not, snap peas become our spring snack. We eat them as is or they are the perfect crunchy companion for hummus or any other kind of dip. However, I always make sure to fire up the grill while we have snap peas on hand.

These grilled snap peas are eaten as a side in our house but I think you could easily turn this into a grain bowl or salad. The hazelnut crumb is a bit of a mash-up between a gremolata and breadcrumbs (but using hazelnuts makes this easily gluten-free).

Also, in terms of skewers, invest in a nice set of metal ones, preferably the skinniest ones you can. I don’t like the flat, bigger skewers. They tend to break apart certain vegetables and halloumi (which is a summer grilling staple!)

Read more and see the recipe.

Potato Chickpea Croquettes | Naturally Ella

I know I’ve mentioned before that I have a penchant for fried foods. It’s a once-in-awhile treat but there’s just something kind of magical about a crisp outside and a perfect inside. Given this love, it’s a bit surprising I’ve not shared croquettes before given the literal definition (bread + fried, made with potatoes). It’s easily a winner and although it takes a bit of time, I’d gladly make these for dinner.

This version is adapted from a classic potato version. In place of some of the potatoes, I’ve added chickpeas. Once the these chickpea croquettes are fried (or baked) up, the chickpeas are barely noticeable. Add to these, a delightful dip and you have yourself a perfect snack or if you’re me, dinner.

I will also say, the color and the crispness is much better when fried. However, I know this isn’t everyone’s favorite method so I’ve also included instructions on how to bake. You could also prepare these ahead of time, freeze, then bake/fry whenever you were ready!

Read more and see the recipe.

Berbere Roasted Pistachios | Naturally Ella

Post sponsored by Frontier Co-op. See below for more details.

One of the things I’m constantly in awe of is how big the snack market is (we’re talking a multi-billion dollar industry). Pretty much anything you could want, there is- even in the natural food space. However, I still like making most of our snacks at home. I can control exactly what goes into them and once you start, it’s really easy to feel inspired.

These pistachios are a family family. These roasted pistachios first came about when I developed a curry version for The Kitchn. We couldn’t stop eating them and from there, I’ve tried numerous spice blends and seasonings. This recipe is the perfect base that you can mix and match seasoning with different nuts (shelled or not). This version is Frontier Co-ops Berbere seasoning is the perfect balance of spicy and sweet.

Read more and see the recipe.

Spiced Pinto Bean Bowls with Avocado | Naturally Ella

It may feel like I’m phoning it in with this recipe but I assure you I’m not. I professed my love of these spiced pinto beans in my last post but I wanted to share how simple it was to use these beans. Enter these pinto bean bowls. The base is still rice and beans but these beans are so delicious, you don’t need much else. Of course, what’s a solid bean bowl without all the toppings?

Top these pinto bean bowls with avocado, salsa, hot sauce, onions, roasted vegetables, cheese, and/or a sauce. There’s so many different possibilities- all with these simple pinto beans.

Read more and see the recipe.