Berbere Chickpeas and Chard with Farro | Naturally Ella

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

The first time I picked chard at the CSA, I was enamored with the beautiful color and the large, tender leaves. I had, up until that point, never encountered the greens. I researched, cooked, and fell in love with chard but over the years, I’ve found I don’t use it nearly as often. This year I planted two containers of chard. I’m hoping to have more of this beautiful chard in my life, hopefully in dishes like these Berbere chickpeas.

I typically like making my own spice blends but I also keep a select few pre-blended mixes on hand for quick meals. This Ethiopian Berbere blend relies on chilis, paprika, and a handful of warming spices- a perfect compliment to greens and beans. What I like about Frontier’s blend is that there’s still a kick but it’s not as spicy as other blends (or homemade versions) I’ve had before. Of course, start out with a smaller amount and gradually add more seasoning to suit your taste (and spice-level comfort!)

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Sweet Corn Couscous Salad with Arugula | Naturally Ella

After a few months of hot weather, it’s just now beginning to feel like fall in the valley. Leaves are starting to drop and I just opened our windows for the first time. And yet, I’m still making summer recipes. Summer always feels a bit longer in California but I’m okay with that. I’m not ready to see tomatoes leave the market quite yet.

If you still happen to have sweet corn, this couscous salad is for you. The sweet corn is left raw which highlights the sweet, delicious flavor. The sweet corn mixture is actually a component and is wonderful serve on grain bowls, added as a taco topping, or used in a quesadilla. If raw sweet corn isn’t your style, saute the sweet corn kernels in a bit of oil then toss with the scallion cilantro mixture once slightly cooled!

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Bosc Pear Harvest | Naturally Ella

Post sponsored by California Pear Advisory Board. See below for more details.

One of the greatest disconnects in food today is that of where our food comes from. Sure, it’s becoming more prominent to know your farmers thanks to CSAs and Farmers’ markets but what about the produce you buy at your local grocery store? A sizable amount is coming from California and usually has a good family story behind it. Pears are the perfect example. There are currently around 60 multigenerational family farms growing pears in Northern California.

The Delta is one of my favorite spots within 30 minutes of Sacramento. Once you get past city limits, you end up surrounded by vineyards and orchards. A place that almost feels a bit frozen in time but is amazingly alive with fresh produce (and some good wineries). I had the opportunity to tour one of the family farms/packing plants in the Delta region, seeing exactly where all those California pears are grown and harvested.

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Herbed Cucumber Salad with Farro | Naturally Ella

More often than not during the summer months, I have a cucumber rolling around in the crisper drawer. I buy a couple every week to use with our simple dinner salads and occasionally for quick pickles. More often than I like to admit, I wait until the last minute to use them and that’s when salads like this cucumber salad happen. I love tossing whatever grains and herbs I have around and that makes quick work of a salad like this. I prefer to use burpless cucumbers (like Persian cucumbers) but really any type of cucumber will work. Read more and see the recipe.

Green Summer Salad with Herby Hemp Dressing | Naturally Ella

Late summer/early fall is my favorite time for salads. It really is the best of both seasons. You have the fresh summer produce like cucumbers and tomatoes but the weather is cool enough that the crisp, fall greens are able to grow. This time, into the end of October, is peak salad time. This particular salad came when I looked in my crisper drawer only to see only green items. I went to work and ended up with this spectacular summer salad. The hemp dressing pulls everything together and this simple salad is perfect for lunch or as a side for dinner. Read more and see the recipe.

Smoky Beans and Polenta | Naturally Ella

I grew up actively avoiding baked beans. They were almost always at any family get-together but I was an avid bean hater (which is funny given how much I love them now). While I still don’t really eat baked beans, I love the idea behind them. Warm, smoky beans paired with salty bacon- it’s hard to go wrong. This is why I love these smoky beans so much. I took the idea behind Laura’s coconut bacon and used the flavor in these beans. Using smoked salt really brings the flavor together and this dish might just be my new favorite comfort bowl.

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Pecan Roasted Beet Dip with Sage | Naturally Ella

Post sponsored by The American Pecan Council. See below for more details.

Over the years, beets have become my go-to item to take to picnics and potlucks. I realize that might sound surprising but my goal is to make something with beets that everyone loves (even people who don’t get excited about beets). My first experience with this came with a CSA potluck and this beet cake (which I then turned into cupcakes). From there, I’ve made salads, dips, and mains with beets. Some are misses but for the most part, I’ve managed to spread the good word about beets.

This beet dip is nothing short of amazing. Beyond the beautiful color, the combination of beets and sage pureed with the warm, slightly sweet taste of pecans creates the perfect fall dip. Try this dip with crackers, toasted bread, or even some fellow vegetables like carrots and endives. I always have a stash of pecan halves in my freezer (helps keep them fresh) that I pull out and soak- no thawing needed! Pecans keep in the freezer for up to two years and can be thawed/frozen a few times without losing flavor. You can also put them in an airtight container in the refrigerator and they’ll keep for about nine months. Plus, with help from the pecans, this dip is loaded with good fats and protein (which is good because I ate about half this dip for lunch- it’s that good!)

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21 Weeknight Vegetarian Dinners | Naturally Ella

With kids starting back to school and life falling into a new normal, dinners often rushed (or on the road). I grew up in a family where both my parents worked until 5 and I often had after school activities. Dinners were never our strong area. Now that I have a child of my own, I put an emphasis on it. They’re not elaborate and often they are wedged in between toddler play-sessions. However, they are there and I make sure we sit down almost every night. The recipes below are the foundation to our quick, weeknight meals. I like to vary each meal but my focus is usually making something that is packed full of goodness.

Pasta

Summer Squash Pasta with Basil-Yogurt Sauce | @naturallyella

I used to frown on pasta because when I first turned to vegetarianism, I found pasta was about the only thing I ate. However, over the years, I’ve developed recipes that I love; full of vegetables and not as heavy as those pastas I used to eat. I find I make pasta when I don’t have a plan. Load it up with vegetables, toss it with a bit of sauce- you can’t get much easier than that!

 

Cakes/Fritters

Cauliflower Cakes with Brown Rice | http://naturallyella.com

These are my weakness. I love a fried vegetable cake and the cauliflower cakes linked below are what I make when I’m craving something unhealthy but don’t want to incur the money or leaving of the house. There are so many combinations but these are a few of my favorites.

 

Tacos

We eat tacos almost every week. It’s easy to whip together a tasty and healthy filling with just a few simple ingredients. If you’re not into cooking dried beans, I recommend keeping a can or two of black beans on hand. Add a few pinches of spices and you have a perfect taco filling within 15 minutes.

 

Pizza

White Bean Pizza with Arugula Salad | Naturally Ella

Pizza is a must in our house. We don’t live within any solid pizza delivery places and so homemade pizza has become our go-to week after week. I love experimenting with toppings and have found quite a few unique flavors we love. One tip: make or buy dough and keep in the freezer. Pull out the night before and let thaw for dinner the next day.

 

Odd and Ends

Spicy Peanut Sauce with Brown Rice Noodles | @naturallyella

This list is a mix of all my favorites. Noodle bowls and grain bowls: both are an easy place to start and are often a source of inspiration for other meals I make. Keep a well stocked pantry to make these meals when you’re asking yourself at 5pm what to make that evening!

 

Spiced Yellow Squash Salad with Chickpeas | Naturally ella

In the summer months, summer squash plays second fiddle to their zucchini cousin. It’s zucchini this and zucchini that but in reality, summer squash is just as good (and versatile in cooking!) One of my favorite summer recipes is this squash soup but the pesto bruschetta is a close second. This spiced squash salad is an older recipe but it’s a solid summer recipe. The squash soaks up the spice flavors and the tangy feta/lemon juice help round out the overall flavor of the salad.

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Herbed Zucchini Summer Rolls | Naturally Ella

I love cooked zucchini when done well. Grill it, roast it, or sauté it- there’s so many options. However, I often forget how great zucchini is raw, especially with herbs in a fresh summer recipe. These zucchini summer rolls really show this well. The zucchini is left in strips that are tossed in a wonderful herb mixture that’s finely minced and coats the zucchini/cabbage mixture. Perfect for a light lunch or road-trip snack.

Also, I didn’t specify a sauce for these but a few different ones would work. Try a simple soy/rice vinegar/sesame mixture or step up your game with a tahini sauce. The flavors work well with many different kinds so find which type of sauce works best for you!

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Black Lentil Enchiladas with Zucchini | Naturally Ella

Post sponsored by nuts.com. See below for more details.

In wrapping up my three-series post highlighting black lentils with nuts.com, I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes. It’s fairly obvious that I love making enchiladas but I just find something magical in a delicious filling nestled in a fresh corn tortilla and topped with flavorful sauce.

The combinations are endless but over the years, using black lentils has become a go-to. While it’s not traditional, I don’t always have cooked black beans on hand and my craving for enchiladas usually strikes an hour before dinner. Using black lentils makes a bit quicker work of the filling since the lentils cook along side the filling. Best of all, you can make/assemble these enchiladas ahead of time and freeze until ready to bake.

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Tomato Chutney Omelette | Naturally Ella

The slow decent into fall has started in our home. There’s been a couple nights with the windows wide open (a welcome relief), school is back in session, and my itch to can is in full-force. In the past few weeks I’ve managed a few different pear items and pickles. Up next: tomatoes.

This tomato chutney omelette is a perfect reason why you should can tomatoes. The chutney is a favorite of mine because it’s fairly easy but packs a wonderful slight sweet, slight tangy flavor. Pair that with a good amount of fresh herbs and it’s easy to have a meal. Tomato chutney is one of those rays of lights during the mid-winter grey.

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Sweet Corn Polenta with Roasted Tomatoes and Avocado | Naturally Ella

Post sponsored by California Avocado. See below for more details.

Even though we don’t have any little guys in school, Mack’s schedule is such that it feels like he is in school. I pick him up from care at 3:30 and from there it’s a long slide into dinner. He’s in the kitchen “helping” me but most of the time I’m throwing together something simple so that I can play with him. This sweet corn polenta takes a little prep and time but it’s so delicious this time of year, it’s worth every bit of time.

Using sweet corn for fresh polenta is nothing like using polenta from the bulk bin. The flavor is all summer corn. Add to that the tomato-avocado salad, it’s the best of summer in a bowl. For this polenta, I like to use just-rip avocados. They hold their shape a bit better when cubed and tossed with the warm tomatoes.

Read more and see the recipe.