A Week of Dinners: Erin Alderson of Naturally Ella
Welcome to Kitchn's new series A Week of Dinners where we show you how people put dinner on the table for their family, thanks to the five weeknight recipes they rely on.
Erin Alderson, one of our favorite bloggers, lives in Sacramento, California, with her husband, Mike, and their 2-year-old son, Mack. She's the mastermind behind the gorgeous vegetarian food blog, Naturally Ella, and she also has her own business, Grove Haus Studio. She is the author of two cookbooks (The Easy Vegetarian Kitchen and The Homemade Flour Cookbook) and is currently working on a third. Oh, and she's also developed a bunch of awesome recipes for Kitchn (which you obviously need to check out.) When she's not puttering around in her kitchen or playing with her camera, she enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, and drinking lots of coffee.
Today Erin is going to let us in on her strategy for weeknight vegetarian cooking, how she works around the different diets in her household, and the five recipes that help her put dinner on the table.
What's Your Dinner Strategy?
We live in a split household. My husband is the meat eater in the house and I'm happiest with my vegetables and legumes. We often meet in the middle. My philosophy is to start with a vegetarian-based meal and find a way to add the meat last without having to make two separate meals. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part it works well and is easy for us.
As for my son (who is 2), we decided early on that he always eats what we do (to the point of where he gets upset if he thinks our meal is different). For the most part, he's an adventurous eater but we do occasionally miss. I don't shy away from herbs and spices and I let him try everything. He's always in the kitchen when I'm making dinner and I'm always letting him try what we're making. I'm sure we'll go through cycles, but we try and keep things fresh and flavorful.
A Week of Dinners from Erin Alderson
Here are the five recipes that Erin relies on to keep her family well-fed on your average busy week.
1. Olive Pizza
We have a homemade pizza night once a week. It's an easy win with a toddler and simple to have both vegetarian and meat (although, most of the time we just do vegetarian pizza). This olive pizza is a staple in our house, usually with spinach or these garlicky greens added before baking.
Our weeknight meals wouldn't be possible without grain bowls. A bed of grains tossed with roasted vegetables, legumes, and a simple sauce is what I turn to when I'm not sure what to make for dinner. Plus, it's another easy one to just add meat.
One of the family favorites has been this halloumi burrito bowl, but if my husband is working late, I'll usually make a curry for my son and I (my husband isn't the biggest fan of the spice combination I use, but my son loves it.) I also always have a batch of my favorite multigrain mixture on hand, which helps to make these dinners fast!
My life wouldn't be complete without tacos. We love our taco nights and it's a great way to use whatever is in season at the time. These spiced black beans are my favorite base for these black bean tacos, but I'm not above throwing fried halloumi into a taco (as long as I can find veg-friendly halloumi!) Plus, it's easy to grill fish or steak for the meat side of the meal.
One of the first things my husband and I started making at home many years ago was fries. We spent so much time testing oven-baked fries, primarily so we could have it to go with burgers. I'm a bit obsessed with veggie burgers, but I finally perfected one that I can't live without. I make a large batch and freeze so that they are fast to make. Plus, it's an easy way to let my son have a classic without all the grease from fast food. By making my burgers ahead of time, it doesn't feel like I'm having to make two separate meals.
I've always had a thing for pasta, and it's another easy win with a toddler. I don't mess around, though — it's usually an equal split of pasta and vegetables. I usually just toss together whatever we have on hand, but this vegetable pasta with chickpeas got us through summer and is a perfect produce-heavy meal. I usually cook a bit of chicken sausage on the side and toss it into my husband's bowl before serving.
Thanks so much for sharing your week of dinners with us, Erin! Want to start meal planning for your family? Here's our handy guide.