As much as I adore my vegan junk food snacks and processed plant meats, I'm also all about balance. And sometimes, I crave nothing more than hearty, whole foods-based meals that are nourishing and complete. But it's easy to fall into health food ruts that are limited to the same-old bean and grain bowls and salads.
That's why cookbooks like The First Mess Cookbook: Vibrant Plant-Based Recipes to Eat Well Through the Seasons are so important. They help break me out of predictable patterns and make healthy eating more fun! I received a review copy of Laura Wright's new book, inspired by her blog of the same name. And I think I'm in love.
Flipping through this book, I seriously want to make every thing. EVERY. SINGLE. THING. All of her recipes are made with seasonal produce, nuts, and wholesome grains. And they all sound and look very gourmet in the full-color pictures, but the recipe instructions are so simple. Laura makes it clear that you can make delicious, healthy meals that seem very fancy but are actually fairly no-fuss.
One of those meals is these Tandoori-Rubbed Portabellos with Cool Cilantro Sauce.
I'm not typically one to gravitate toward mushroom recipes in cookbooks. Especially portabellos. As a vegan, I think I've just been burned out on portabellos as stand-ins for burgers at, like, every single non-vegan restaurant ever. But this recipe just sounded so good! Maybe it was the tandoori spice that drew me in. Maybe it was the cool cilantro sauce. Whatever the case, this was delicious and way better than most preparations I've tried with portabellos.
The mushrooms were rubbed with a spicy, Indian-inspired seasoning and then grilled on my indoor, countertop grill. Each bite is dipped into this creamy, garlicky, green cilantro sauce that's made with raw sunflower seeds and fresh herbs. Such a great combo! The cilantro sauce really adds a complex richness to the juicy, charred mushrooms.
I was also drawn to the recipe for Broccoli Caesar with Smoky Tempeh Bits because it just sounded so interesting!
Rather than use the traditional romaine lettuce, this caesar has lightly steamed broccoli florets. They're tossed with a cashew-based caesar dressing and tempeh bits that are made bacony with smoked paprika and other spices. It's so simple, and yet the flavor is so unique. The creaminess of the dressing coats all the little broccoli flowers, and it's just perfect. This would make a great side salad, but I had a big ole bowl on its own for dinner.
I'll be making more recipes from this book soon for sure! I've bookmarked about a million things, especially from the breakfast chapter. There's a recipe for a homemade Vanilla Coconut Coffee Creamer using coconut milk and dates and a Miso/Turmeric Tofu Scramble on my list. From the soup chapter, the Bloody Caesar Gazpacho (inspired by the Canadian Bloody Caesar brunch drink, like our Bloody Mary) with tomatoes, hot sauce, vegan Worcestershire, and soaked raw almonds (for creaminess).
You won't find any boring old green salads in the salad chapter. Instead, you'll find the Caramelized Onion Potato Salad, the Brussels Sprouts Salad with Lime and Miso, and the Pepperoncini Lentil Crunch Salad. Other meals I can't wait to try: BBQ Mushroom Toasts, Crispy Avocado Tacos, and Burrito-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes.
The dessert recipes are made with wholesome ingredients, so they're healthy but yet still decadent and inspired. I've got my eye on the No-Bake Salted Peanut Butter Cookies (made with almonds, peanut butter, and dates) and the Beet Velvet Slice with Tangy Citrus Frosting (a raw cake made with almond meal, dates, and coconut oil).