Kiran Branch meets healthy cooking fanatic Erin Alderson to talk food philosophy, experimental recipes and future plans.

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California-based Erin Alderson is an author, photographer, website developer and most importantly, one of our favourite foodies. The hugely talented, self-taught queen of the kitchen is the brains behind one of our favourite food blogs, Naturally Ella , which delivers quick, easy wholefood recipes accompanied by superb photography. GTG’s Kiran Branch sat down with the ex fast food fan to talk about her journey to getting healthy, food philosophy and favourite recipes.

Firstly, what made you decide to start your blog?

I had greatly overhauled my diet and my initial plan was to share some of the healthier baked goods that I was adapting from other recipes. However, as my diet continued to change, I moved into sharing vegetarian wholefood recipes.

What’s your favourite aspect of blogging?

I really love the community blogging fosters, both with other bloggers and with readers. I love that with the growth of food blogging, the conversation around food and cooking is growing.

How much of a techie are you?

I’m growing into a techie. My husband is a software architect so technology is always part of the conversation in our house. I also run a design company that builds websites, so my life pretty much revolves around technology.

How do you balance blogging with other interests or jobs? Do you ever go offline?

I’ve tried hard to keep a balance. I love the outdoors so I incorporate a lot of hiking and snowboarding into my days. I work for myself so I’m able to control my schedule, which allows me to make sure I always have some time offline.

What is your personal food philosophy? Are there any food groups/types that you avoid?

I’m in Michael Pollan’s camp: ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’ I eat a wide range of foods and am open to almost everything - except processed foods.

How has eating healthily impacted on you personally? Do you ever find it difficult to stick to?

I grew up eating a lot of junk, so the change to healthy eating made me feel so much better both physically and mentally. However, even with all that great feeling, I still find it hard to stick with eating well when I’m busy and stressed.

How do you create new recipes? Is it a trial and error process?

I’m pretty free with recipe creation. I get inspiration from what’s in the pantry and what’s fresh at the farmers’ market. Sometimes the recipes don’t always work out, but I just move on and try something new.

Have you had any cooking disasters?

Plenty. Cooking has been a learning experience for me, with a lot of practice and quite a bit of failure. I’ve set off the smoke detector more times than I can count, burnt pots of rice and had plenty of ‘this is the worst thing I’ve ever tasted’ meals.

How do you decide which recipes to feature on your blog?

If the recipe turns out and photographs well, it heads to the blog.

What are your three favourite recipes?

This is a tough question. I love food and I really enjoy all the recipes I put on the site. It really depends on what I’ve craving on a particular day. However, I can always eat:

Sweet Potato and Guac Tacos

Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Ginger Potstickers

Garlic Soba and Zucchini Noodles

If you kept a food diary, what would a typical day look like?

Breakfast: Yogurt with granola, oatmeal with fruit, or eggs

Lunch: Randoms thrown together into a bowl with cooked grains or noodles

Dinner: Tacos, huge salads, or an egg skillet

Which ten ingredients do you use most often?

Chickpeas, sweet potatoes, soy sauce, garlic, cauliflower, avocado, brown rice, brussel sprouts, cilantro, cheese.

What five things are always in your fridge?

Eggs, greek yogurt, ginger, houmous, salsa.

Where are your favourite places to buy ingredients?

My local Co-op, hands down. I can usually get everything I need there.

Which three kitchen appliances could you not live without?

Food processor, stand mixer and my gas stove.

Where are your favourite places to go when eating out?

I hate to name favorites because I love to try new places and I live in Sacramento, California which has too many great restaurants to name!

What advice would you give to those considering a healthier lifestyle?

Make small changes that you can stick with - change one meal, eliminate one or two unhealthy things and find exercise you like (mine is long walks with the dog and yoga!)

What are your favourite cookbooks and/or books relating to health?

Anything by Nigel Slater, Heidi Swanson or Alice Waters, Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison and Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce.

Who are your favourite bloggers?

Oh boy, so many great ones to choose from and I have at least 100 in my reader. However, right now I’m really loving:

The First Mess  - amazing recipes.

Green Kitchen Stories  - love everything!

London Bakes  - awesome baking with different flours

The Vanilla Bean Blog  - great photography!

Turntable Kitchen  - my two loves together: music + food

What does the future hold for your blog? Are there any exciting developments in the pipeline?

I look at the blog one day at a time. It’s led to some great experiences and jobs with recipe development and photography. My first book, ‘The Homemade Flour Cookbook’, is due out this June and I have another book I’m working on now that revolves around vegetarian meals. It’s all pretty exciting!