All posts by Mervin

A Guide to Vegetarian Cooking

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

Legumes-Stocking a Pantry

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

Avocado - Explore an Ingredient - Naturally Ella

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


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


  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
Coconut Kale with Turmeric Rice
African Curry with Chickpeas (Cape Malay Curry)
Vegan Spiced Summer Squash Soup | @naturallyella
Bulgur Vegetarian Chili

The post A Guide to Vegetarian Cooking appeared first on Naturally Ella.

31 Meals Cookbook: A Month of Healthy, Simple Dinners

31 Meals Cookbook: A Month of Healthy, Simple Dinners

Friends, we have exciting news to share! We are launching a NEW + IMPROVED version of 31 Meals eCookbook!

31 Meals is a digital cookbook with resources to help you make dinner simple, affordable, and delicious.

buy now – $29



  • Now 100% plant-based!
  • NEW slick design
  • NEW vibrant photos
  • NEW resources section
  • Updated meal plans + grocery lists
  • Updated nutrition information
  • More value for the price

We released this product in 2013 when we weren’t focusing entirely on plant-based food, so the original version had about 70% vegan-friendly recipes.

Continue to 31 Meals Cookbook: A Month of Healthy, Simple Dinners from Minimalist Baker →

Sweet Potato Barley Stew

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.

The post Sweet Potato Barley Stew appeared first on Naturally Ella.

Starting a Food Blog – A Free Email Course!

Hi friends! We’re excited to announce a FREE email course with tips and tutorials on how to start a food blog! Why? Because we love what we do and want to pass on our knowledge to aspiring bloggers.

We frequently share tutorials on our Blogger Resources page, but wanted to create something that was easier to follow for someone starting a blog for the first time.

Continue to Starting a Food Blog – A Free Email Course! from Minimalist Baker →

Sesame Brussels Sprout Soba Bowl

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.

The post Sesame Brussels Sprout Soba Bowl appeared first on Naturally Ella.

Pear & Cranberry Champagne Cocktails

Pear & Cranberry Champagne Cocktails

Friends, I don’t know how we got here so quickly, but we did.

2016 is nearly finished. Can we all agree it was a doozy? Let’s raise a glass to reining in the new year with a million possibilities ahead.

I have the perfect drink for such an occasion.

This cocktail is inspired by a mimosa served at one of our favorite brunch spots in Portland – Besaw’s.

Continue to Pear & Cranberry Champagne Cocktails from Minimalist Baker →

Sesame Delicata Squash Kale Salad

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.

The post Sesame Delicata Squash Kale Salad appeared first on Naturally Ella.

5-Minute Detox Salad with No-Mix Dressing!

5-Minute Detox Salad with No-Mix Dressing!

Whew. I don’t know about you, but we ate like kings this weekend, and now I’m in need of a healthy reset.

Solution? This salad.

This may appear to be just another salad, but don’t be fooled.

It requires just 5 minutes and 1 bowl to make, and the dressing doesn’t require mixing! Oh yeah.

It’s literally a lazy cook’s dream: Dump a bunch of ingredients in a bowl and call it a meal.

Continue to 5-Minute Detox Salad with No-Mix Dressing! from Minimalist Baker →

Roasted Broccoli Pasta with Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese Sauce

Roasted Broccoli Pasta with Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese Sauce | @naturallyella

As I start to balance our evening meals between what we would normally eat, versus what I should feed a toddler, I’ve started to find an intersection. This roasted broccoli pasta is one of those landing spots (minus the nuts for him). You may look at me crazy about my toddler eating goat cheese (he does) but I love that I can easily minimize the salt in this recipe but still have good flavor, thanks to the roasted garlic. I roast a head of garlic weekly and store it in a bit of olive oil to use throughout the week. Beyond this pasta sauce, the roasted garlic is great on pizza, in other sauces, or added to hummus. Read more and see the recipe.

The post Roasted Broccoli Pasta with Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese Sauce appeared first on Naturally Ella.

20 Vegan Holiday Dessert Recipes

20 Vegan Holiday Dessert Recipes

They’re here! They’re here! Dessert things! My favorite.

We’ve covered breakfast, sides, and entrées so far, and now, it’s onto sweeter territory. I’ve whittled down all the festive dessert recipes on the site to my top 20 favorites. Believe me – it was a task. But it’s a hard job and somebody’s got to do it. (That somebody is luckily me – also the taste tester).

We hope you’re celebrating the holidays with people you love and lots of delicious food.

Continue to 20 Vegan Holiday Dessert Recipes from Minimalist Baker →