Local food blogger balances nutrition with indulgence

Local food blogger balances nutrition with indulgence

Local food blogger Taylor Ellingson lives a healthy lifestyle but also loves a daily does of chocolate. Her life has undergone some transformation over the past few years with a growing family and a recent move to Edina, but her kitchen routine remains much the same. It’s still a place where healthy cooking meets sinful indulgence. 

Originally from Iowa, Ellingson is a physical therapist by training. She’s always enjoyed reading food blogs and when she met a food blogger for the first time in real life, she discovered these home cooks are regular people just like her. That’s when she decided to give food blogging a try and first created her website called Greens & Chocolate. The initial format for Ellingson’s food blog was to provide recipe inspiration for other broke graduate students like her. Since then, she’s finished graduate school, acquired a husband and a dog, moved to Minnesota and had two children. Her husband is an emergency room physician at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis where the couple lived up until recently when they bought a home in Edina’s countryside neighborhood. 

“We moved from a tiny starter home in Minneapolis to a home with more space in a suburb with great schools and terrific access to the Twin Cities,” she says of their new location. 

Greens & Chocolate has evolved to now include recipes for families with a little more disposable income than most college students. And with a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old in demand of mom’s attention, she does most her writing at night and photography during daytime naps when the natural light required for food photography is best. 

The food blogging environment has also grown up with Ellingson. She says, “The standard years ago was more like recipe testing for your friends and family. Now, [food bloggers] need to develop their own recipes for an larger audience of people who want unique things.” 

Ellingson plans out at least a week of meals at a time. “We eat all the food I make,” she says about her many recipe trials. “And the baking gives me something to share with neighbors.” She typically prepares a dish at least a couple of times before posting the final recipe online. This is especially critical with baking since baking times can vary. Right now, many of her one-skillet meals are most popular with followers, which makes sense because many Edina moms are too busy to fuss with complicated recipes.

The business of food blogging requires more than just great recipes and quality writing. Ellingson is also a self-taught food photographer. “Eight years ago, I’d take a nighttime picture with a point and shoot camera,” she says with a shudder at the thought. Today, Ellingson uses a Canon EOS 6D and has read many books and online food blogging tutorials about food photography as well as participated in online food photography courses. One tip she’s learned is that for recipes that taste terrific but don’t necessarily photograph well, “garnish helps,” she says.

Then there is the aspect of building an online following. That piece of the business can be a full-time job for many food bloggers with the ever-expanding world of social media channels and the need to get your content on a variety of platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest so the posts get seen by the most people possible. Ellingson currently focuses her efforts on Instagram since she finds the medium to be the cleanest and easiest for both her and her followers. For most social media posts she leverages a scheduler tool to plan recipe posts in advance. She also has an email newsletter that’s delivered to subscribers two times a week or whenever she posts a new recipe to her website. There is also a lot of time spent researching social media insights since most platforms and search engines regularly change the rules for what gets seen online. 

But all the effort seems to be paying off for Ellingson. She recently finished her first cookbook titled 30 Minute Cooking for Two, set to be published and released this month. Some of the focus in the cookbook spotlights what’s she’s mastered in her seven years as a food blogger including things like cooking for two, 30 minute meals with eight ingredients or less and recipes best suited for couples, singles, empty nesters and busy home cooks who want to reduce planning time and waste associated with over preparing. 

We imagine her next cookbook might encompass some of what’s she’s mastering these days–cooking for kids. She says cooking for her kids can be a challenge since her 3-year-old eats very little meat. But the youngsters enjoy her bowl style meals and anything that can be dipped! As for her husband, “He will try anything,” she says. “We like to eat a lot of Thai food and my Thai style recipes can be adjusted to accommodate varying spice levels.” 

Ellingson still works one weekend a month as a physical therapist but it’s clear she still truly enjoys creating recipes for the masses online. Like many creative types, she keeps walking through open doors of opportunity to make the most of her talents and gifts. That has recently also included a stint as a guest blogger for local grocer Lunds & Byerlys. Ellingson creates two recipes a month including photos for the Lunds & Byerlys’ Good Taste blog. The opportunity came together when Ellingson discovered that a friend of hers worked for Ingredient, the company behind the Lunds & Byerlys food blog. She suggests others who are attempting to create a food blogging platform define what their strengths are and find ways to leverage those strengths on the periphery of the food blogging world for expanded income opportunities. For example, if you’re really good at food photography, try to get hired by bigger bloggers who’ve become more consumed with other aspects of running their business. Or connect with restaurants that might be interested in collaboration. There seem to be a variety of sources of income available to foodies with the right mix of talent and business savvy. 

As for this writer, I sure appreciate all the great recipes available online. You can usually find me gobbling up all of this goodness—especially the part about a daily dose of chocolate!

 

RECIPE FOR AUTUMN NOURISH BOWL WITH MAPLE ALMOND DRESSING:

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked whole grains, such as millet, brown rice, quinoa, wheat berries, freekah, farro, etc. I used Bob’s Red Mill’s Whole Grain Medley

For the squash:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

For the brussels sprouts:

  • 1 lb. brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

For the chickpeas and kale:

  • 1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 cups kale, roughly chopped

For the Maple Almond Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • dash of salt

Instructions

  • Cook your grains according to package directions. Meanwhile, make the rest of the bowl.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  • Toss butternut squash with olive oil, paprika, and salt.
  • Place on baking sheet and bake for 40–45 minutes.

 

For the brussels sprouts:

  • Cut each brussels sprout in half.
  • Toss with coconut oil, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, garlic and salt.
  • Place on second baking sheet and place in oven when there are 25 minutes left for the squash, and roast for 25 minutes.

 

For the chickpeas:

  • In a medium-large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add chickpeas, cumin, chili powder and salt, and toss to combine.
  • Saute for 10–12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add chopped up kale and cook another 4–6 minutes, stirring often so kale gets mixed around, until kale is bright green and cooked.

 

To make the dressing:

  • Add all ingredients to food processor and puree until smooth.

Assemble bowls by adding your desired amount to each bowl and drizzling with maple almond dressing.

  • Enjoy!