21 Kid-Friendly Vegetarian Recipes | @naturallyella

One question I get often is, “What do I feed Mack?” Feeding a toddler can be choppy waters to navigate. We started out with a not-so-picky eater but as he gets older, he is becoming quite opinionated. And so I thought I would share a few recipes from the site that help bring us all together at dinner.

For most of the recipes, I leave the salt out until the end, use no-sodium vegetable broth, and am cautious about the spice level of things like chipotle and curry powder. Beyond that, he eats whatever we eat. Below are mine (and Mack’s) favorite kid-friendly vegetarian recipes. Can I guarantee your child will love these? No, but it’s worth a shot. I’m a firm believer that if you create a ‘normal’ that is full of grains, vegetables, and legumes- they will be more likely to choose them.

Kid-Friendly Vegetarian Recipes

Finger Foods

Lentil Meatballs with Burst Tomato Pasta | @naturallyella

Most meals end up as finger foods. And so, I try to work around that issue by making items that he can easily eat with his hands and foods that are awesome as leftovers. The lentil bites and the falafel are my top two favorites. They are perfect for Mack and also make for a substantial dinner for M and I.

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Rye Pancakes | Naturally Ella

In the opening of The Homemade Flour Cookbook, before diving into all the different flours, I share a pancake recipe. It’s a generic recipe but there’s a solid reason behind it: it’s one the best way to test the flavor of flours. Pancakes are forgiving and the perfect way to see how flour flavors will come together. These rye pancakes have long been a favorite, primarily stemming from my grandmother’s rye bread. I to do a 50/50 blend of rye and wheat as rye can be a bit overpowering.

Read more and see the recipe.

White Bean Gnocchi with Cauliflower and Cream Sauce | Naturally Ella

Post sponsored by La Crema. See below for more details.

At least once a week, I shoot for having a date-night-in type of dinner. Most evenings we eat with Mack but occasionally I wait until he’s in bed and cook a non-toddler friendly recipe. I pour myself a glass of wine (in this case, La Crema Monterey Chardonnay) and start to unwind. Typically I choose something that is also fairly hands on like homemade pasta or pizza. This white bean gnocchi is also on the rotation. I love a comforting bowl of gnocchi and while I typically use a ricotta version, this white bean is a fun way to sneak protein into a meal. Plus, the flavor isn’t too bean-heavy which means it’s great for even those who aren’t a big fan of beans.

Read more and see the recipe.

Cilantro Sweet Potato Tostadas with Mashed Black Beans | Naturally Ella

Ever since having a child, I’ve noticed small changes in the way I cook. For the most part, Mack eats everything that we do (sans most salt). He polished off these chili lentils, this barley risotto, and even this lentil pilaf (much to my surprise).

The small changes come in individual items, like mashed sweet potatoes. Mack loves sweet potatoes which results in a large quantity on hand, ready to eat. These sweet potato tostadas were born out of leftover mashed sweet potatoes. The combination with the crispy tortilla and spiced black beans makes for the perfect dinner.

Read more and see the recipe.

Vegetarian Comfort Food Recipes | Naturally EllaI like to think that the vegetarian comfort food I make is a direct mashup of my midwestern upbringing and my current California state of mind. They are meals that are (or feel) rich and are rooted in many recipes I knew as a kid. However, the recipes are heavy on fresh produce. The result is a list of vegetarian comfort food recipes that can please an entire family but pack a good amount of nutrients. Below is just the beginning of what’s in the archives. The good news? A lot of these are family favorites that even my little guy with eat.

Vegetarian Comfort Food


I have a major pet peeve when it comes to pasta served at restaurants. The bowl arrives only to see there’s just a speckle of vegetables lost among a see of pasta. My equation for pasta is usually 1/2 vegetables, 1/2 noodles. If you have the time, I recommend trying your hand at homemade pasta. There’s also a few companies making some lovely pasta from locally grown grains- look for these at your local Co-op or Whole Foods.



Cheesy Millet Polenta with Roasted Asparagus

I have a major weakness for a giant bowl of cheesy, creamy polenta. It’s a perfect base for a pile of roasted vegetables and occasionally a fried or poached egg. Polenta comes in different grinds of coarseness and I typically like a medium or coarser grind. The result is a polenta that has a bit more texture. One of my favorites is the organic polenta from Bob’s.

Read more and see all the recipes.

Cracked Einkorn Porridge with Stewed Blood Oranges | Naturally Ella

Having grains in your pantry gives you an arsenal of ingredients to use. One grain can be used in many different forms. For example, einkorn is a delightfully chewy whole grain that also makes a beautiful wheat flour. However, I like the in-between state. A state where the whole grain is pulsed in a high-speed blender until the majority of grains have cracked, like in this cracked einkorn porridge. The cracked grains bring the texture while the flour helps thicken the porridge. I use a similar technique to make polenta out of millet. Master cracking grains at home and you can have endless breakfast porridges.

Read more and see the recipe.

Tandoori Cauliflower Wrap with Feta-Yogurt Spread | Naturally Ella

Post sponsored by Flatout Flatbread. See below for more details.

I’ve not been shy about how important I feel vegetarian cooking and spice go together. While I love a simple roasted vegetable tossed with olive oil and salt, there’s also something to be said for a vegetable that is heavily spiced. This tandoori cauliflower is a good example. The tandoori spice mix relies on an equal mix of cumin, coriander, and paprika- all of which make a lovely companion for the cauliflower. Paired with the feta-yogurt and this could easily eat the cauliflower just dipped in the yogurt spread! Make a batch of the cauliflower on the weekend to use with eggs in the morning or this wrap for lunch.

Read more and see the recipe.

Butter Butternut Squash Pasta with Parmesan | Naturally Ella

Pasta is a weekly affair around our house. It’s always a bowl full of vegetables tossed with whole wheat pasta and a drizzle of some sauce. This butternut squash pasta has long been a staple during the winter months. It’s not a sauce-heavy pasta, but the flavor is so good, I never miss the sauce. The key is to have good pasta, whether homemade or store-bought. The warm, wheat flavor of the pasta balances nicely with the roasted squash and salty notes of the cheese. Read more and see the recipe.

Sweet Potato Polenta with Fried Eggs and Chili Oil | Naturally Ella

Some of my favorite dinners are ones that could easily be served for breakfast. In my mind, the act of putting an egg on something means it’s ready for breakfast. This sweet potato polenta is one of a couple recipes I’ll be sharing that uses sweet potato puree. It’s easy to make and can be a lovely base for other flavors. It also is a great baby/toddler food to always keep at the ready. Beyond the puree, you might be able to find chili oil but you can easily make it yourself.

Read more and see the recipe.

Black Bean Tacos with Avocado | @naturallyella

We have a dinner rhythm to most every week. Thursday nights are pizza night while Friday’s are often leftover vegetables tossed with pasta. Sometime earlier in the week is taco night. We make up guacamole and make homemade tacos or enchiladas. It may be one of my favorite dinner nights. These black bean tacos are an easy base when I need a quick dinner. These cooked black beans are a staple. I use them as I would refried beans, in everything from these tacos to black bean bowls. Just a few beans and spices- so quick and easy. Read more and see the recipe.

Sweet Potato Hash Egg Skillet | @naturallyella

It’s around the beginning of February that I start to lose interest in winter produce. I’ve been eating squash and sweet potatoes for months and in California, the weather is turning to spring. We still have a bit of time before spring produce hits the market which means more creative winter recipes. This hash egg skillet is simple. It’s perfect for breakfast or a light dinner and at the base you only need two ingredients: sweet potatoes and eggs. Jazz up the skillet with fun toppings or reach for different spices. Read more and see the recipe.

Quinoa Potato Cakes | @naturallyella

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

Our bottom drawer of our kitchen island is dedicated to potatoes of all kinds. At any given time I keep a handful of sweet potatoes, Yukon gold potatoes, and Russet potatoes on hand. I’ve found I can pretty much make any type of meal from a variety of potatoes. These potato cakes make for a nice base for fried eggs, a topping for salads, or even eaten by themselves. The quinoa provides an extra boost in nutrition- a perfect way to round out the potato cakes! Read more and see the recipe.

Spinach Fennel Pizza with Red Onions | @naturallyella

There are days I feel like I could solely blog about pizza and tacos. I find it beyond fun to come up with different combinations of toppings and fillings. The possibilities feel endless. This fennel pizza is a perfect example of what winter pizza looks like in our house. The flavor of fennel is uplifting when paired with the spinach and onion plus the fronds provide the right amount of freshness to the cooked pizza. Read more and see the recipe.

Dried Apricot Soup with Emmer and Potatoes

Cooking brings us together via recipes passed down through generations and different cultures. The act of cooking and sharing a meal can unite us, even in a virtual sense. That is, essentially, why this site exists. It’s a way to learn and understand through something we do every day. I’ve been struggling to stay connected to this space without bringing in current events because cooking, to me, is a way to bring everyone together, even during a time of division. To ignore politics in the realm of food feels too surface, too insincere.

The United States is a country continually shaped by immigrants and refugees. This is most noticeable in the food we eat and the recipes we make. The recipes I create are a melting pot of flavors and cultures. I find it important to keep this in mind, especially when we, as a nation, are beginning to literally and figuratively wall ourselves off. I urge, in this time, that it is all hands on deck. Educate yourself on the issues that matter to you.

Get involved. Join groups, call your representatives, donate to organizations like the ACLU, and help fight for rights of those whose voice may not be heard. We may not always agree on what we’re fighting for but my hope is that food will continue to bring us all together in a way nothing else can.

This particular recipe is from the Taste of Persia cookbook, a beautiful cookbook highlighting recipes from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan. Cookbooks can be a wonderful start to diving into a culture you might not understand. The stories in this book (along with others like Cooking a Home, Soup for Syria, and Delights from the Garden of Eden) have all helped in my journey. It’s a small start, but one that’s been extremely enlightening.

I’ll leave you with a quote, found in the foreword of Cooking a Home. It hit me fairly hard and one I think applies globally:

“Our challenge as Syrians, but also as fellow inhabitants on this planet is to turn our world into a large kitchen, in which we feed the needy, resolve conflict around tables with words and coffee –and not with grenades and bombs— and fill our pantries with tools and nourishment that would raise our youth— and not with chemical weapons and poison gas.”

– Afra Jalabi

Dried Apricot Soup with Emmer
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
50 mins
Total Time
1 hrs

A hearty wheat berry soup with a base of dried thyme, mint, and tart apricots. The soup comes from southern Georgia and is found in the cookbook, Taste of Persia: A Cook's Travels through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan.

Course: Soup
Servings: 6 servings
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced yellow onions
  • 1 cup emmer (farro) rinsed well
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups unsalted or low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups tart dried apricots chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes chopped into 1" cubes
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon sea salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, basil, and parsley chopped
  • Feta, for topping
  1. Heat a large cast iron or regular pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil followed by the onions. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until the onions are fragrant and translucent. 

  2. Add the emmer, stir to coat, and cook for a minute. Add in water and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Add the apricots to the pot, cover, and let cook until the emmer and apricots start to soften, 30 minutes or so (see note). 

  3. Stir in the potatoes along with the dried herbs, salt, and pepper. Continue to cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Taste and add more seasoning as desired. 

  4. Serve the soup with fresh herbs and sprinkle of feta. 

Recipe Notes

Tips & Tricks: As noted above, the recipe is from Taste of Persia but is written exactly as I made it. I recommend checking out the cookbook for all the possible options for herbs and toppings.

Also, I've made this with California apricots since they tend to be more on the tart side (and dried tart apricots can be hard to find).

Get the Taste of Persia Cookbook.

Dried Apricot Soup with Emmer, Potatoes, and Fresh Herbs