Turmeric Chickpeas with Coconut | Naturally Ella

I talk quite a bit about pantry-inspired meals. I firmly believe if you keep a well-stocked pantry, you are never without a solid meal. These turmeric chickpeas are a perfect example of pantry-inspired. Each ingredient for the core recipe is an item I always keep on hand, including the shallots and garlic. These chickpeas are easy to whip together and make for a solid dinner base. My favorite part? It’s easy to bulk up the recipe with greens, squash, and/or sweet potatoes. Read more and see the recipe.

Sesame Kabocha Squash with Tahini Sauce | @naturallyella

Every new year starts with a buzz of produce excitement. I spend the cool fall months with cozy recipes that help to settle into a long winter. The new year is all about lighter recipes packed with flavor. I love winter squash because it plays in both spaces well and is easy to store throughout the months. This sesame kabocha squash is my march to spring. One quick word about the squash: when roasted for long enough, the skin can stay but if you’re concerned or don’t believe me, peel it before roasting.

Read more and see the recipe.

30 Minute Vegetarian Dinners | @naturallyella

30 minute vegetarian dinners are my core meals. With a toddler running around, I don’t have a lot of time to relax in the kitchen in the evening. I’m fairly certain ‘relax’ and ‘toddler’ are two words that don’t go together. I’m usually waiting for M to get home and then running to the kitchen to whip something up for three very hungry people. While I still love making gnochhi or leisurely cooking through a long recipe, most weeknights are fast dinners. Below are my categories for fast dinners with a few ideas to get you started.

 

The Grain Bowl

Roasted Broccoli Bowl- 30 Minute Vegetarian Dinners

Not all grains are created equal when it comes to fast cooking. If you find yourself needing quick meals more often than not, I recommend keeping millet, quinoa, freekeh, and bulgur on hand. All these grains cook in 20 minutes or less. I also love to make longer-cooking grains ahead of time and store to use throughout the week- makes dinner even quicker.

 

The Egg Dishes

Curried Eggs with Spinach | 30 Minute Vegetarian Dinners

These dishes are some of my favorite. Eggs take such little time to cook and can really add to many types of vegetable dishes. Beyond the recipes listed below, I recommend making sure you know how to make a good fried and/or poached egg. Even recipes that don’t call for eggs can benefit from the addition of this protein booster.

Click to see more 30 minute dinner ideas.

Turmeric Sweet Potato Soup with Coconut and Coriander | @naturallyella

There are spices in my cupboard that I buy monthly while others hang around, waiting to be used more. Turmeric is the main spice in this recipe but the real flavor, and what I think makes the soup, is coriander. I love coriander because it adds a beautiful citrus undertone that compliments the lemon. And while I typically pair coriander with cumin, this spice can easily be the star of a recipe.

Read more and see the recipe.

Roasted Sweet Potato Cabbage Summer Rolls | @naturallyella

Cooking is my creative outlet. I look for challenges in the kitchen, usually as a sort of Chopped episode. I have X ingredients on hand- what can I make? I’ve started doing something similar with my newsletter with help from subscribers submitting three ingredients they currently have in their kitchen.

These cabbage summer rolls were a recent recipe from a submission of sweet potatoes, cabbage, and garlic. I obsessed with roasting vegetables and these cabbage summer rolls make for a solid lunch or light dinner. Want to influence the recipes I make? Subscribe to my weekly newsletter and send me three ingredients you have in your kitchen right now!

Read more and see the recipe.

Roasted Carrot Sandwich with Smoked Paprika Sunflower Cream | @naturallyella

I feel that sandwiches are easy to overlook when thinking about vegetarian lunches. However, I love the endless possibilities of vegetables, greens, and sauces. A solid sandwich in my book can be as simple as fresh summer tomato, mozzarella sandwich to a cheese and pickle sandwich with mustard (and no, I’m not pregnant). This carrot sandwich stems from this hummus sandwich with pickled carrots. I love the slight sweetness that comes from roasting the carrots and the smoked paprika sunflower cream may be my new favorite condiment. Read more and see the recipe.

Vegetarian Lunches for the Work Week | @naturallyella

While I don’t work in an office, I’m always helping my husband pack his lunches. It took some time to get into a routine (that we’re still working on) but he always does better during the day when I send him out the door with lunch. Below are a few of my favorite vegetarian lunches we use throughout the week. A couple of recommendations: plan and prep. Planning ahead and prepping a few items helps to make quick work of lunches so you’re not scrambling 10 minutes before walking out the door!

Soups

Curried Carrot Soup | @naturallyella
Broccoli Soup with Ginger and Lemon
Five-Spice Parsnip Pumpkin Soup | @naturallyella

Soups are high on my lunch list. They are usually easy to assemble and are better the next day. Even better, I’ll make a couple of large batches of soup on the weekend and freeze in individual portions for a grab and go lunch. Having a stash of soup in the freezer means you’re rarely without a solid vegetarian lunch!

 

Sandwiches/Wraps

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Olive Tapenade, Arugula and Hummus Stuffed Pita
egg_salad_sandwich

Sandwiches are the old standby for lunches and while we eat our fair share of peanut butter and jam, there’s a wide array of wraps, sandwiches, and stuffed pita. A lot of these recipes are quick and can easily be assembled the day of (egg salad is one of my go-to, make in the morning recipes!)

 

Grain/Bean Bowls

Sumac Spiced Chickpea Cucumber Salad
Ginger Brown Rice with Carrots and Hardboiled Eggs
Sorghum Tabouli

Most of the grain bowls that get packed in lunch aren’t recipes. They are a mix of whatever grains, sauces, and vegetables I might have already prepped in the refrigerator. The combination is endless but a large grain bowl can be very satisfying in the mid-day rush.

 

Noodles

Sesame Soba Noodle Bowl with Edamame
Chili Spinach Pesto Noodle Bowl | @naturallyella
Cold Soba Noodle Bowl | @naturallyella

I love a good noodle bowl. I’ll often make a quick peanut sauce and steam broccoli for a bowl that’s ready in about 10 minutes. Noodle bowls are also great after they have sat for some time and are often just fine when eaten cold (perfect for when you don’t have a microwave!)

 

Salads

Turmeric Tahini Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Lemon Dressing | @naturallyella
Avocado Chickpea Salad
Black Bean Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Next to sandwiches, salads are the other lunch standby. However, I’m not talking about a simple, lettuce + dressing salad but rather hearty vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. Quite often I’ll also use leftover roasted vegetables and grains to help bulk up the greens. Salads are great for using up leftovers!

 

Leftovers

Peanut Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach
Spinach and Red Lentil Masala | @naturallyella
African Curry with Chickpeas (Cape Malay Curry)

I think there is no better lunch than a dinner recipe that develops more flavor as it sits. Making extra curries and creamy dishes is a no brainer because it’s an easy lunch and I think taste better the next day. Often I’ll make these meals on Sunday night and eat the leftovers for lunch for the next three days!

Grilled Celeriac with White Bean Puree | @naturallyella

This recipe is in partnership with California Olive Ranch. See below for more details.

One of my marks for a good chef is how they can transform a meat-based dish into a vegetarian meal. When I’m in a group setting and request vegetarian, there are usually two outcomes: the chef used what they were doing anyway or served a completely different meal. While I understand the different meal for some dishes, I’ve had the occasion of longingly looking at my meat dish and thinking that it could have easily been vegetarian. This grilled celeriac was inspired by a chef that simply shifted the meat dish (fish atop celeriac puree) and turned it into a celeriac steak on top of the puree. I wanted to recreate something similar but with a bean puree for a bit of protein boost. Read more and see the recipe.

Butternut Squash Toast with Pistachios and Sage | @naturallyella

I like a solid, savory breakfast. Eggs, some form of vegetable, and a thick slice of toasted wheat bread. This butternut squash toast is all of that combined. The original recipe, from the Easy Vegetarian Cookbook, is one of my variations for bruschetta. It’s a fairly loose bruschetta but the herbs and squash find a good companion in the crunch of the pistachios. The squash mixture could easily be made ahead of time leaving the toast and egg preparation during breakfast.

Read more and see the recipe.

Halloumi Salad with Spinach and Quinoa | @naturallyella

I often receive questions along the lines of, “how do I start to eat healthier/more produce/vegetarian.” I often feel that people expect a step by step process from me but the truth is, it takes finding your own rhythm. Two things I do suggest though: start small and find ways to balance the healthy/treats. This halloumi salad is a balance for me. It’s loaded with good ingredients and balanced with one of my favorite treats: halloumi. You can’t go wrong with fried cheese, even in salads. Read more and see the recipe.

A Guide to Vegetarian Cooking | Naturally Ella

I receive quite a few emails questioning how one dives into the world of eating vegetarian. It can seem a bit foreign, especially if you grew up like I did in a very meat-for-almost-every-meal lifestyle. This is why Naturally Ella is here. My goal for this past year was to build an arsenal of resources to help you on your way and I’m excited to say they are fairly well done/ready for you to use! On top of those resources, I’ve included below a few of my favorite recipes, four sample ‘week in meals’ plans, and links to the resource section.

Whether you’re trying to add a few more vegetables to your diet or want to dive into the vegetarian lifestyle, I hope that I can inspire and be a source of excitement about learning to cook vegetarian!

The Pantry

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Legumes-Stocking a Pantry
spices-7

If you take anything away from reading this, make sure it’s this: find your pantry happiness. I’m obsessed with telling people about how to stock a pantry because it’s the backbone for nearly every recipe I make. Having go-to items in your pantry can make the difference between making dinner and ordering pizza. If you find the items you use most and always keep those on hand- your weekly shopping and planning becomes about the produce.

There are 21 different pantry sections to explore that cover everything from Asian noodles to vinegars. Start on the pantry page or explore a few of my favorite to get you started: legumes, grains, and spices. Each section includes how to buy, store, and use each ingredient- never let anything go to waste again!

The Ingredients

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Avocado - Explore an Ingredient - Naturally Ella
cauliflower

One of my biggest suggestions when it comes to vegetarian cooking is to lead with the produce. Look for what looks the freshest or what sounds the best in any given week. Find recipes to match then add pantry items to help round out the meal. The ingredient area on the site has over 50 items of produce to explore with information about cooking, storing, buying, and of course lots of recipe inspiration!

 

30-Minute Recipes

There’s a constant struggle between cooking and time. More often than not, we forgo cooking because it’s easier to eat out or heat up something prepackaged. I have a solid base of 20 and 30 minute recipes that I find are perfect for avoiding takeout. Planning ahead and the occasional store-bought item are both time-savers too!

See all the 20-minute recipes >
See all the 30-minute recipes >

Garlicky Kale Pizza
Sesame Soba Noodle Bowl with Edamame
Curried Eggs with Spinach | @naturallyella
Garlicky Halloumi Tacos | @naturallyella
Kale and Chickpea Stew | @naturallyella
Cabbage_ginger_noodles

 

4-week Sample Meal Plans

Every Sunday, I write up a quick meal plan for the week. Most times it’s rough, things like Thursday night pizza or Tuesday night pasta. From there, I use what’s on hand with what looked best at the store. Other times I like to try out a new recipe or throw an old favorite back into the rotation which means things are planned a bit more.

Below are 4 weeks of ideas. Each week contains three breakfast recipes, three lunch, and five dinner. The recipes are all linked to recipes on the site. You can easily swap out for recipes that better fit your diet such as vegan or gluten-free. If you would like meal plans every week, you can also check out my Plan your Meals page!

Vegetarian Meal Plans | Week 1 | Naturally Ella
Vegetarian Meal Plans | Week 2 | Naturally Ella
Vegetarian Meal Plans | Week 3 | Naturally Ella
Vegetarian Meal Plans | Week 4 | Naturally Ella

 

My Favorite Kitchen Tools

Walk into any kitchen store and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the gadgets and cookware lining the walls. I take a fairly minimal approach: A solid cutting board and knife are a must as well as a solid set of cookware. I keep a few small gadgets on hand but I like tools that pull double duty. A few of my favorites:

Kitchen Tools | Naturally Ella

Pictured:

  1. Microplane Zester/Grater: This is my number one tool in the kitchen. It’s small but is perfect for citrus zest, grating cheese, and finely mincing garlic/ginger. I use my microplane with almost every recipe.
  2. Weck Jars: Peak inside my pantry and you will see it lined with weck jars. They are functional, beautiful, and the perfect way to store grains, legumes, spices, and many other pantry items.
  3. Wood Spatulas: These spatulas are my go-to cooking utensil. They are like a wooden spoon but way better!
  4. Cast Iron Pans and Dutch Ovens: My kitchen wouldn’t be complete without solid cast iron pans and a dutch oven. I love Staub, Finex (pictured), and if you’re on a budget, Lodge.
  5. Chef’s Knife If you were to invest in only one nice thing in your kitchen, make it a good knife. Vegetable-heavy recipes take a lot of chopping- just one good knife can make all the difference.
  6. Flour Ginder: A flour grinder, whether a hand grinder or a powered grinder, is such a great addition to your kitchen. Freshly milled flour tastes better and keeps more nutrients in your flour. If you want to get started milling your own flour, be sure to check out The Homemade Flour Cookbook.
  7. High-speed blender: This is one of the more expensive investments but I’m a complete convert. If you love soups, sauces, or smoothies- a high speed blender is for you. Better yet, most of these blenders will also grind flour! Vitamix also sells, grain-milling ready, dry containers.
  8. Baking Dishes: Generic but indispensable. I keep an 8×8, 9×9, and 9×12 pan on hand for casseroles, gratins, and roasting vegetables.

Not pictured but also heavily used in my kitchen:

  1. Timber + Main Cutting Board: These boards are made (locally to me) in Sacramento. The quality is wonderful and I love the look of the live edge.
  2. Kitchen Tongs: Tongs are a cheap, easy kitchen tool to have on hand for turning vegetables, checking noodles, or flipping that fried halloumi you are cooking.
  3. Kitchen Scale From weighing flour for baking to squash for cooking- a scale is a must-have in my kitchen.
  4. Bee’s Wax PaperPerfect as a replacement for plastic wrap- it’s great for covering bowls, wrapping cheese, and storing items in the refrigerator.
    Natural Parchment Paper: I like to use either my silpat or parchment for roasting vegetables or lining bakeware.
  5. Freezer-Safe Ball Jars: The pint-sized freezer-safe jars from Ball® are perfect for freezing cooked legumes and grains in 16oz portions without using plastic.
  6. Vegetable peeler: Also an important tool! I like to make sure I found a solid peeler by peeling a butternut squash. If it does it with ease, you’re good to go.
  7. Stainless Steel Pots and Pans: While I find myself cooking in cast iron more often than not, having a set of pots and pans is also great (especially the pans).

 

Most Popular on Naturally Ella

Black Bean Burrito with Guacamole
Black Bean Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Red Lentil Masala with Spinach | @naturallyella
Ginger Bok Choy Soup with Noodles
roasted_cauliflower_soup-1
Coconut Kale with Turmeric Rice
African Curry with Chickpeas (Cape Malay Curry)
Vegan Spiced Summer Squash Soup | @naturallyella
Bulgur Vegetarian Chili

Sweet Potato Barley Stew | @naturallyella

Post sponsored by Crock-Pot® Brand/Mirum Shopper. See below for more details.

While I hate the idea of ‘resolutions’, the start of the new year is a good time to start change, no matter how small. This change can come with cooking at least one dinner a week, adding more vegetables to your meals, or experimenting with ingredients you may have never tried. This barley stew can knock out (potentially) all three. It’s easy to prep, just a bit of chopping, then everything goes into the Crock-Pot® slow cooker. Start it in the morning on low and by dinner you have a delicious homemade meal that is full of sweet potato goodness. Plus, if you’ve never tried barley- this is about as easy as it gets!

Read more and see the recipe.

Brussels Sprout Soba Bowl | @naturallyella

In our house, my husband eats all the grains I prepare without complaint even though they are not his favorite. In particular, he isn’t a big rice fan. Noodle bowls are my bowl compromise. Sure, noodles aren’t as nutritious as grains but they still allow me to load the bowl up with lots of vegetables and flavors. It’s a perfect way for us to meet in the middle. This soba bowl recipe is great this time of year. It’s simple enough on ingredients but makes for the perfect lunch or light dinner.

Read more and see the recipe.

Sesame Delicata Squash Kale Salad with Black Lentils | @naturallyella

It’s easy to overwhelm yourself with sweets and rich foods during the winter months, especially during the holiday season. And so, I like to offer a few solid lunch options that can help bring balance. I don’t eat a lot of kale salads but with the sesame delicata squash and the spicy dressing, it lends a nice texture to the overall salad. Of course, if you don’t want to use kale, spinach or baby lettuce would also be great. Read more and see the recipe.