Disclosure: I’m so happy to be able to give you all a peek into The First Mess Cookbook by Laura Wright. Thanks for letting me share this beautiful cookbook with you!
This past week I had to say goodbye to my beautiful, smart and sweet dog, Sheri.
I found Sheri (or “Dingo” as I liked to call her) at the Oakland Animal Shelter in 2010. Her previous owner had committed suicide and she was abandoned there by the other members of his family. She was melancholy, skittish and a little aggressive when I first met her, but I knew instantly that we were right for each other. Over the years, she developed into a happy, more relaxed dog. And because of her, I developed into a happy, more relaxed human.
Sheri was my trusty companion for almost seven years. We traveled across the country together three times. We walked over 10,000 miles. And we ate all the things.
She also healed my heart after countless breakups. And she gave me strength in more ways than I ever could have imagined. I knew that adopting Sheri from the animal shelter would improve (and ultimately save) her life. But I couldn’t have predicted how much she would improve mine.
I never treated Sheri like a person. And to claim her to be a domesticated dog even seemed like a stretch at times. She was wild to the core. And she was happiest when she was outside, running full speed and hunting anything that moved. She wasn’t keen on snuggling. And she preferred dog treats over peanut butter. But still, she was MY PERSON. And the sadness that I feel without her is profound. There is a crushing silence in my house and a void my heart.
The next few weeks are going to be all about being kind to myself (something I usually suck at) and getting into a new routine. There are no more walks to go on. No specific times that I need to be home. And no happy face to greet me at the door. It all feels very strange.
So right now I’m focusing on doing the one thing that I know how to do: cook.
Laura Wright’s cookbook, The First Mess Cookbook: Vibrant Plant-Based Recipes to Eat Well Through the Seasons, arrived at my doorstep back in February. As I opened the box and flipped through it’s pages for the first time, I audibly swooned. Because the photographs are THE MOST gorgeous and the recipes are THE MOST delicious.
I’m giving away one copy of The First Mess Cookbook. Scroll down to enter!
I also enjoyed a heightened sense of giddy-ness as I held the book in my hands. I’ve admired Laura’s blog for many years now, so it kind of felt surreal to be deemed cool enough to receive an advanced copy of her first cookbook. It was like I had achieved some level of food blogging greatness.
Laura has a magical touch in the kitchen. Her recipes are both luxurious and approachable. And she has a way of creating complex flavor profiles without the need for a long ingredient list or complicated cooking techniques. It’s nourishing, wholesome food that you can make and eat everyday. The fact that everything also happens to be vegan seems like a footnote. It’s not vegan food that’s trying to be something else. It’s just good food being good. And frankly, I can’t think of anything better than that.
I’ve made several recipes from Laura’s book so far (all winners!). And I even had a different one photographed and ready to share with you today. But then I made these Roasted Chili Basil Lime Tofu Bowls over the weekend and they provided me with so much comfort after the loss of my Dingo, that I knew this was the recipe that I should share instead.
I eat tofu fairly frequently when I’m out at restaurants. I always order it in my pho. And no vegetarian stir fry is complete without it. But as I prepared to make these Roasted Chili Basil Lime Tofu Bowls, I suddenly realized that I had NEVER actually cooked tofu at home. Shocking, right? But now I feel like a total tofu VIP, because with Laura’s recipe I nailed it on the first time (hooray for crispy edges!). And I didn’t even have to do any messy pan frying. That is a major win as far as I’m concerned.
The lime and oil mixture has three jobs in this recipe: it coats the tofu, it coats the broccoli and then you use the leftovers to drizzle over the final dish. I ended up making slightly more than the original recipe called for, because it was so tasty that I knew I wanted to make sure I had an extra dose for the end. If you’re a “sauce person”, I suggest you do the same.
Laura finishes this dish with sunflower sprouts, but I couldn’t find any in my grocery store so I used pea shoots instead. Any small, fresh sprouts or shoots that you can get your hands on would be lovely here. Grain bowls are usually pretty forgiving in that way. Which is why I love them so.
I’m thrilled to have The First Mess Cookbook in my kitchen. I feels like it could be the last cookbook I ever own and I’d be happy. So of course, I’d love for one of you to have a copy as well! So I’m giving away a copy of The First Mess Cookbook to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave me a comment below, telling me your favorite Spring vegetable. The giveaway will be open until April 3, 2017. After which I will randomly select a winner and notify them by email. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to me with their shipping address (United States and Canadian residents only, please) or I will select an alternate winner. Good luck!
Reprinted with minor adaptations from The First Mess Cookbook by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2017, Laura Wright.
Whether you’re a baker, math nerd or just a straight up hungry person, today is a day worthy of celebration. It’s Pi Day. The annual observance of the mathematical constant π (pi), who’s first three digits are 3.14 ( = March 14).
So of course, the best way to celebrate Pi Day is by making, eating and sharing actual pies. Right?
Did you know that I basically spent all of my 20’s in either a research laboratory or a classroom? Yup, it’s true. I was busy getting my PhD in Biochemistry, and then later completing a post-doctoral fellowship in Cancer Biology. And I was blinding men with my scientific prowess left and right (not really, but a girl can dream). Full on goggles and lab coat and all that good stuff. So as a bona fide science dork turned food blogger, Pi Day hits home for me on so many levels. Thus, it’s a day that I couldn’t let pass without some recognition.
As much as I love desserts, I must admit that pie is never really my go-to. I’m much more of a cake and ice cream kind of gal. So for my Pi Day inspiration, I asked my Mom for some help. She sent me a rhubarb and berry pie recipe that she had torn out from the pages of a 2001 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. It’s a recipe that she’s made successfully dozens of times over the years. And with some early season rhubarb in hand, I decided it would be a good one to adapt for today’s post.
The original recipe is for a full pie. But I flipped the script and turn it into individual hand pies instead. Because who doesn’t love cute little hand pies?!?!
Because these hand pies don’t take as long to bake as a full sized pie, I pre-cooked the filling ingredients on the stove top for a few minutes. This also helps to get rid of some of the excess juices from the fruits, so the hand pies come out with a wonderfully flakey crust that isn’t mushy at all. The filling is almost jam-like, and these Rhubarb-Berry Hand Pies with Chocolate kind of remind me of a Pop-Tart, which were a childhood favorite of mine.
The buttermilk pie crust recipe is from Joy the Baker. It’s hands down my favorite pie crust recipe ever. I can’t imagine ever needing another one. If you’ve ever made pie dough before, I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase “pea-sized pieces of butter”. This is the size of butter that most recipes will tell you to aim for as you work the butter into the dry ingredients. I actually find this to be misleading. You want the butter to be pea-sized by the END of making/shaping the dough. Not during the middle of the process. Because as you work the dough, the butter pieces will just keep getting smaller and smaller. So I aim for kidney bean-sized pieces of butter, which by the end will be reduced in size closer to that of a pea. Does that make sense?
To make sure all my hand pies were the same size, I actually created a template with a piece of paper and used that as a guide to cut out the rectangles of dough. You certainly don’t have to be that fussy, but I wouldn’t be my overly obsessive scientific self if I didn’t go the extra mile to make them all evenly sized. Using a 4 X 5-inch template, I was able to cut out 14 rectangles, giving me a total of seven hand pies. If you need more pies, just make and use a smaller template.
The final ingredient worth mentioning here is the chocolate. I added chopped dark chocolate to the filling, which melts into deliciously decadent little pockets of goodness during baking. And for the finishing touch, I channeled Jackson Pollock and drizzled some melted chocolate over top. Personally, I LOVE chocolate paired with fruit. But if you’re a purest either way, you can leave it out.
Happy Pi Day! I hope you all get the chance to celebrate!