We chatted with UK-based entrepreneur Ella Mills of Deliciously Ella for some advice on how to stay healthy while hosting your friends and family this holiday season, as well as must-try recipes from her latest book, Natural Feasts.
Canadian Living: Firstly, congratulations on your latest book, Natural Feasts! The photography is gorgeous, and the recipes look so delicious. What's your favourite thing about creating new recipes for your bestselling books, as well as your popular blog and app?
Ella Mills: Thank you! I love the calming experience of cooking—especially when you have the time—and the creative element, too. There's something about taking a humble ingredient, like a chickpea, adding spices and herbs, and turning it into an incredible chana masala, for example. It's amazing!
CL: What's your go-to recipe for everyday cooking? On a busy weeknight, for instance, what do you like to make?
EM: From Natural Feasts, I love to make easy one-pot meals like the chickpea chilli and three-bean stew. Both are so full of flavour and only require a few fresh ingredients, so they're inexpensive, too. They also freeze well, and the leftovers are perfect for a work lunch. For breakfast, try the sweet potato rosti with the herby guacamole.
CL: What about for a dinner party?
EM: The chana masala that I mentioned earlier, served with aloo gobi and coconut rice. The spices in the aloo gobi are amazing—there's turmeric, ginger, coriander. It's just so great. This is such a warming, comforting meal, especially in the wintertime.
CL: That sounds so lovely to serve for a holiday dinner.
EM: Yes! One of my favourite things about plant-based eating is bringing veggies to the centre of the table. You know how, typically for Christmas, you'll have meat as the main dish. But with vegetables as the showpiece, you can really create so many wonderful dishes.
CL: Vegetables are so colourful—they make for a beautifully presented meal.
EM: They bring so much colour, flavour and texture to the table. When the food you serve looks really beautiful and tastes amazing, your guests will love it.
CL: What's your number one tip for staying energized during the busy holiday season?
EM: During my busiest times I make sure to incorporate at least one easy, healthy thing into each day. I'll make a smoothie in the morning, especially when I'll be running around between meetings all day or going to a Christmas party in the evening, then at least I know I had plenty of veggies and fruit at breakfast. It's also important to take each day as it comes, and to simply enjoy the holidays for what they are.
CL: I'd love to chat about food guilt, and problem with categorizing foods as good or bad, clean or dirty. How do you suggest people change their mindset when it comes to food to adopt a healthier, more positive outlook?
EM: Deliciously Ella is about making healthy eating vibrant, delicious and approachable. I don't love labels. When people try to categorize their diets, it's just not sustainable. Remember that you're you, living your life, so what works for someone else might not fit into your lifestyle. If people are looking for a change, I recommend starting by incorporating more fresh foods and eating less processed foods, which is not only enjoyable, but also easier to keep up in the long-term than a more rigid diet.
CL: I love that you and your husband (and dog!) walk to work everyday—what a calm yet invigorating way to start the day!
EM: I absolutely love it! It's the best way to start the day, and it's really important for my husband, Matt, and me, as we know we have this time together every day.
GET THE RECIPE: Ella Mills' Chana Masala
GET THE RECIPE: Ella Mills' Coconut Rice
Thank you so much, Ella! We look forward to cooking our way through Natural Feasts.