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.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Stonewall Kitchen. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting brands and companies that help to keep my little kitchen afloat!
It’s no secret that I love appetizers. Just sit me down in front of a spread of bite-sized foods and I’ll be pretty happy. I can easily skip the main event all together. Cocktails, finger foods and desserts are where it’s at, in my humble opinion. No need to go to all the trouble of roasting up a whole turkey just for me!
And you know what? I kind of have an inkling that you all might be feeling exactly the same way. So today, I’m bringing you these adorable Polenta Bites with Crispy Brussels Sprout Leaves, Ricotta and Chutney for all your snacking pleasures. You’re welcome.
My go-to appetizer is usually some kind of toasty bread piled high with cheese and ALL THE toppings. But this year, I really wanted to create something gluten-free. And while I certainly could have just used gluten-free bread, that seemed like a bit of a cop-out. Then I remembered my friend Sarah’s polenta bites from the Summer, and I decided to try my hand at creating a festive Fall/Winter version that would be appropriate for Thanksgiving and Christmas Holiday entertaining. My rendition has whipped ricotta cheese with fresh herbs, a flavorful chutney, a few crumbles of bacon and everyone’s favorite seasonal vegetable – brussels sprouts.
There are a few separate steps required to make these polenta bites. But none of them are particularly taxing or time consuming. The polenta gets baked in the oven (no stirring required!), and can be prepared up to a day or two in advance, which is a huge time saver. And you can even separate out the brussels sprout leaves ahead of time as well, storing them in your refrigerator until you’re ready to crisp them up.
I should warn you that these crispy brussels sprout leaves are highly addicting. Once you start munching on them, it’s hard to stop. You’ll be amazed at how quickly an entire pan can disappear!
But the real star of the show is the Holiday Chutney from Stonewall Kitchen. With it’s blend of fruits (including pears, cranberries and rhubarb) and warming spices, it provides the perfect tart-sweet balance to offset the other savory-salty ingredients in this recipe. Which ultimately makes these polenta bites one heck of a well rounded appetizer.
Both literally and figuratively. You know, because they are round.
Ugh. I’m the worst. Sorry.
Stonewall Kitchen’s Holiday Chutney is also a great addition to any charcuterie or cheese plate (these Simple White Crackers are my favorite!). And it’s a wonderful topping for baked ham, pork or chicken. I like to keep a jar on hand at all times, because it totally helps me bring my A-game to the table around the Holidays!
Recipe inspired by The Kitchn