The First Mess // healthy vegan recipes for every season »

Masthead header

roasted carrot, chickpea + harissa dip

roasted carrot, chickpea + harissa dip // via @thefirstmessroasted carrot, chickpea + harissa dip // via @thefirstmessthe vegetarian flavor bible // via @thefirstmessroasted carrot, chickpea + harissa dip // via @thefirstmess
Oh hey there. I posted this on Instagram last year around this time and you know? I’m not as much of an absolutist on that front anymore. There WERE some big answers, but also some surprisingly mountainous questions put forth this year. All one big whirlwind now that I’m tracking back. I think when you get yourself in deep with that distracting, non-intentional mindset of “uuuugh so busy” you forget that you’re a real human accomplishing cool things and making mistakes along the way. It’s a satisfying way to live and whoa, it’s taken me a while to get there.

We settled more into home life, with some frustrations over the pace at which things seem to get done (that was predominantly on my end). I mostly realized that I need to make a sincere effort to relax and not worry so much. It’s okay if some walls are empty and I’m also not the most negligent person in the world if I buy Dawn dish soap out of last-minute necessity vs. Seventh Generation brand. I’ve just accepted the incompleteness and I repeatedly tell myself that I’m waiting for the right piece of art, effective ecologically-friendly product, piece of furniture, vibe etc. to just grab me/make sense at the time. Houses can be nice but homes are built up and filled over years. They’re also lived-in with rough edges.

My career changed quite a bit with certain opportunities that popped up this year. There are some really exciting things on the horizon for next year and quite frankly, I’m shaking in my boots. But also, I really can’t wait for it all to unfold and to just stretch my patience/abilities a bit. I barely work at the restaurant anymore, but I know in my heart of hearts that I could never totally give it up, no matter how much other stuff I have going on. That interaction and the necessary, frenzied sensation of things happening in real time is too important to me. Also, I got a test-batch sticky toffee pudding for dinner during my shift the other night and I mean, how could anyone pass on that?

So also, my eating patterns and scheduled exercise bouts were admittedly all over the place. In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, I think I’m actually in the worst shape I’ve been in for a while. I feel great in a day-to-day sense, but sometimes a few extra stairs has me feeling a little flushed in the cheeks. My sleep schedule has been especially wonky the last 6 months or so. I’m just going to chalk it up to irresponsible freelance scheduling and call it a day. I’ve read that some of the most productive and really well people build habits/routines around the start of their day as well as their winding down time. So! Some overhauling is necessary, but I’m not waiting until 2015 to get on that. I’m gonna drink some greens (with frozen pineapple, cinnamon, and fresh turmeric yummm) tomorrow morning and hopefully conquer my corner of the world by noon.

Lastly, I have a new guiding mantra for negotiating work and life: If it doesn’t add, it subtracts. Cue the power. Actually though? I stole that line from a chef I used to work for, and he was talking about filling out a scallop-centric appetizer. I do think that it speaks to building yourself up to the fullest potential, while also nodding in the direction of learning to say no. Mostly, I’m just in this thing of life to see, create, love and build something that feels/is bigger than just me alone. Having that basic idea in mind makes it a hundred times easier to cut away the bullshit. It’s seeped into my life with possessions too, so now I really can’t wait to read this book.

And today I made up a little recipe from an excellent book that is adding to my life big time. I think you’re all well-aware of how much I love The Flavor Bible, so when Karen and Andrew sent me their just-released Vegetarian Flavor Bible, it might be a touch predictable to say that I got lost in it for a few hours. A short rundown: this is a thorough examination of which naturally occurring flavours and foods combine best for delicious results. Under each alphabetized ingredient, there’s a list of other vegetables, proteins, spices, herbs, general flavour groupings etc. that just work with that ingredient. There are no definitive recipes, but it’s easily the most useful cookery book I own, and not just in a recipe-development sense. It’s waiting to be used when there’s scraps and dregs left in the crisper or when I have to satisfy a picky eater along with everyone else at the table. Where a traditional cookbook is more of a HOW, this is decidedly an adventure in WHY. It’s required reading for the plant-inclined as far as I’m concerned.

So when I looked under the section for carrots, I read cumin, coriander, citrus etc. and thought about mixing the gentle, sweet creaminess of roasted carrot into a dip with fiery harissa, savoury chickpeas, and fresh lemon. Totally delicious and easy results. The carrots and chickpeas make this so smooth and, combined with the harissa flavours, make it gorgeously bright orange. I love a textural, almost salad-ish mix on top of dips for visual interest and flavour contrast. With this one I did a little tart pomegranate, parsley, buttery pine nuts, and crispy, highly addictive roasted brussels sprout leaves. It’s recommended! (duh, captain obvious). Anyway, going to send this one off by wishing you all happy holidays and peaceful gathering. I just might be back next week with something good :) Big hugs.

the vegetarian flavor bible // via @thefirstmessroasted carrot, chickpea + harissa dip // via @thefirstmessroasted carrot, chickpea + harissa dip // via @thefirstmessroasted carrot, chickpea + harissa dip // via @thefirstmess
roasted carrot, chickpea + harissa dip recipe
print the recipe here!
serves: makes almost 2 cups
notes: I used about half a chili with the seeds, but please moderate the level of heat to your liking. Also, I kind of just threw harissa components into the food processor for this, but if you have some prepared harissa on hand, you could just spoon a couple hearty dabs of that into the food processor along with the carrots, chickpeas, tahini, lemon, salt and pepper. It’s even faster that way! :)

for the dip:
4-5 medium carrots, scrubbed
1/4 cup + 2 tsp olive oil, divided
salt + pepper
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground caraway
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled + chopped rough
rough diced fresh chili, to taste (I used 1/2 of a standard red chili)
zest and juice of half a lemon
1 tsp tomato paste
2 tbsp tahini

garnishes to top the dip:
pomegranate seeds
toasted pine nuts
crispy brussels sprout leaves (quarter brussels sprouts and try to separate the leaves, toss with oil, salt + pepper, then roast in a 400 degree F oven for 15 minutes or until crsipy and browned)
chopped flat leaf parsley
extra drizzles of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment. Trim the ends off of the carrots and place them on the baking sheet. Toss the carrots with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil and some salt and pepper to taste. Slide the carrots into the oven and roast until tender and lightly browned on all sides, flipping them over at least once. This took about 25 minutes for me. Cool the carrots thoroughly.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the “S” blade, add the cooked chickpeas, ground cumin, coriander, caraway, garlic, diced chili, lemon zest, lemon juice, tomato paste, tahini, salt, and pepper. Chop the carrots into smaller pieces and add them to the food processor as well. Pulse the mixture a few times until you have a coarse mixture. Scrape the bowl down with a spatula and put the food processor on “high” while you drizzle the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil into the bowl via the feed tube. Once you have a smooth purée, check the dip for seasoning. Adjust the seasoning level to your liking and then scrape the dip into your serving vessel of choice. Top the dip with suggested garnishes and serve with crackers, endive leaves, rough cut veggies etc. (I heart Mary’s Crackers big time)

You might also like…

mustard roasted broccoli pâté with leeks + lemon

Hypothetically speaking, if I had some sort of restaurant or space that served food to people that were A) willing toView full post »

spicy red lentil spread

When I was in culinary school, I did a co-op at an up-market vegan restaurant. The experience was interesting (um, mostView full post »

za’atar roasted carrot salad with cashew labneh, avocado + frisée

It felt like it had been a while, so I made you a salad. With fragrant za’atar roasted carrots, curly + gorgeousView full post »


pin it subscribe tweet this post share on facebook email to a friend

ginger sweet potato dal with coconut leeks

ginger sweet potato dal // via @thefirstmessginger sweet potato dal // via @thefirstmessginger sweet potato dal // via @thefirstmessginger sweet potato dal // via @thefirstmess
I’ve been making this recipe forever. Sometimes I change it up with other spices or different types of lentils/pulses, but the core remains as one of my weeknight dinner go-to’s. I love how it checks off all of those crucial boxes: easy, quick, economical, comforting and so, so good for you. I think there’s just the right amount of things to keep it interesting too. The little cubes of sweet potatoes still have a bit of bite. The leeks are sweet and bring that fragrant hit of coconut oil (I love drizzling a bit of the extra oil from cooking on top as well). Some juicy lime and a couple hits of something hot keep it all in balance. It’s a vibrant and easy thing to keep us in the light this time of year.

I have a hunch that a lot of us are thinking about changes and things we want to take on, either over the holiday break or into the new year. I know there will be some major ones in my house, all of which you’ll probably hear about in good time. I’m not really a juice fast kinda gal anymore, but my man and I have both acknowledged that we need to focus-up some of our tendencies in terms of health and self-care. We do eat well, but sometimes I just worry that we need to be a bit more intentional and selective with our choices. Protein-heavy bowls of food like this one definitely help. I’m going to turn 30 this winter and with that, there’s a lot of considerations coming into the circle nutrition-wise. I’m excited to explore those things and work some of them out here in this space.

So in the arc of self-care and intentional choice-making (and spreading holiday cheer!), I’m partnering up with the generous folks at Wine Country Ontario for a giveaway. I’m a passionate supporter of Ontario wine–I grew up in the birthplace of Canada’s wine industry after all. I’ve worked in farm to table joints and a few winery restaurants over the years. I’ve also been lucky enough to do tastings with wine makers and sommeliers, see production facilities and gain insight in terms of how the land and climate effects what goes into a bottle of VQA certified wine.

So naturally, when they asked me to partner up with their 12 Days of Wine Country Ontario promotion, I was all in. I got to hand pick the $150.00 prize from a variety of Ontario wine country businesses. I eventually settled on the gorgeous 4 diamond Oban Inn, Spa and Restaurant right in the heart of my hometown. It’s so quaint and gorgeous. I remember my first-ever fancy dinner was spent in their restaurant on my mother’s birthday when I was around 5 or 6 years old, and I was just so excited by the sugar cubes that they brought out for her post-meal coffee. Also, my mom’s birthday is this week so the timing of this is just too sweet for me :)

Full disclosure: for hosting this giveaway, I’ll be receiving the same prize from Wine Country Ontario and I’ll tell you right now that I plan on using it in their very chill spa for some optimum self-care. Fancy lady time!

To enter for your chance to win one (1) $150.00 gift card for the lovely Oban Inn, Spa and Restaurant in Niagara On The Lake Ontario, you can leave a comment on this post telling me how you practice self-care in this busy time. For me? It takes many forms: sometimes it’s my favourite turmeric shake as an afternoon snack, or taking an afternoon off to visit my parent’s dog, a bath with my hippie lavender bubbles, and sometimes it’s a glass of wine on the couch when I have a million other things to do. For a bonus entry, snap a photo on Instagram of your self-care in action and tag me (@thefirstmess) + Wine Country Ontario (@WineCountryOnt), using the hashtag #12daysVQA. This contest is open to Canadian residents only and you have until Sunday night (December 14th) at midnight to enter! Giveaway is now closed!

Last little notes: those sweet potatoes in the photo up top are stored in my new favourite thing: washable paper bags by UASHMAMA. I’ve been using them for plants, little trees, bread, storage, produce etc. They’re so handy and blissfully reusable. I really do recommend them. I also did an interview on Get the Gloss this week AND participated in a major cookie party on BAKED with some of my favourite Canadians. Lastly, I collaborated with Pure Green Magazine, Lindsey, and Claire for a holiday Pinterest board that focuses on celebrating in a way that’s kind to the earth and our bodies. Hope you dig! xo

ginger sweet potato dal // via @thefirstmessginger sweet potato dal // via @thefirstmessginger sweet potato dal // via @thefirstmessginger sweet potato dal // via @thefirstmess

ginger sweet potato dal with coconut leeks recipe
print the recipe here!
serves: 4
notes: Every recipe I’ve read for dal tells you to add the salt at a different time (to avoid toughness or the lentils breaking down too soon etc). I add a solid pinch at the beginning when I pour the water and then adjust it at the end to my liking.

dal ingredients:
2-3 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of chili flakes
1 cup red lentils
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced small
1 two inch piece of ginger, peeled + minced
1 one inch piece of fresh turmeric, peeled + minced (or substitute 1 tsp dried turmeric powder)
3 1/2 cups filtered water + extra if necessary
salt to taste

coconut leeks ingredients:
2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
1 leek, white and light green part julienned
squeeze of lime juice
pinch of salt

to serve:
cooked, warm rice (I used black japonica rice from Lundberg)
chopped parsley, cilantro or mint (or a combination)
black sesame seeds (very optional)

Place a large pot over medium heat. Heat up the coconut oil in the pot and add the ground coriander, mustard seeds and chili flakes. Stir about until the mustard seeds start to pop just a little bit.

Add the lentils, diced sweet potato, ginger, turmeric, and a pinch of salt. Stir the whole mixture to combine/coat in oil. Add the filtered water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the mixture is creamy and soupy, stirring occasionally. The sweet potato pieces should still be intact with a tiny bit of bite. The lentils will be broken down, filling out the mixture. Add more water if you need to. Keep it warm while you sauté the leeks.

Heat the coconut oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the leeks to the pan and sauté until leeks are soft and very fragrant. Season with salt. Add a squeeze of lime if you like. Remove from the heat.

To serve: divide the hot dal over 4 portions of rice. Top the dal with sautéed leeks and a few dribbles of the coconut oil left in the pan. Garnish each serving with the chopped herbs and black sesame seeds.

You might also like…

simple grilled sweet potato + black bean burrito bowls (with spicy cumin garlic drizzle)

Today’s post is another episode of “things we actually eat all the time.” I was stumped last week onView full post »

roasted carrots + rice w/ zingy turmeric broth

This simple bowl reminded me of why I actually started this site in the first place. With the emails, sorta sillyView full post »

favourite lentil soup + just food

When I was going to culinary school, one of our instructors would frequently remind us that all of the fuss, the immenseView full post »

pin it subscribe tweet this post share on facebook email to a friend
valentina - sweet kabocha11/12/2014 - 5:09 am

This plate is sunshine in a winter and grey day! Sweet potatoes are not so common here in Italy, but luckily they are almost alway present in my organic food store…and I love them so much!

Liz S.11/12/2014 - 5:44 am

During this busy time, I practice self-care by granting myself daily “me time” (exercise, meditation, and reading a good book).

lynsey // lynseylovesfood11/12/2014 - 7:42 am

There is so much goodness in this post that gives the means to practice self care – warming comfort to, easy go-to meals to take the stress off, cookies, and of course wine. with the snow this morning this is all i want to eat! xo

Michelle @ Vitamin Sunshine11/12/2014 - 7:53 am

What an incredible combination of flavors! I always think dal looks so good- but I am allergic to lentils! Anything you can think of that would make a substitution?
Laura: Hey Michelle, Can you eat dried split peas? That would be the easiest one-for-one substitution. Otherwise, some par-cooked little cannelini beans might be do-able. You would have to adjust and play around with the water amount though.
-L

Carol11/12/2014 - 8:45 am

This looks perfect for dinner any night! One question…the “carrot” bit of the recipe is missing? Thanks!

Laura Wright11/12/2014 - 8:49 am

Hey Carol! That was a teeny mistake. I originally planned to do this as a sweet potato AND carrot dal, but changed my mind last second. All fixed now. Good eye on that :)
-L

JESSIEMARCEL11/12/2014 - 9:06 am

Wow… i often make dal w/ red lentils, so comforting and warming and filling. But I’ve never thought of adding sweet potatoes to the mix!!!! Think i got dinner covered! My self-care these days is subbing herbal teas istead of my morning coffe durring the week(coffee makes me go nutts in so many ways its not even funny! But sooo good!!!) and treating myself to one single delish flavored (hommemade coconut milk creamers!) on sunday mornings!

Bianca @ Sweet Dreaming11/12/2014 - 9:46 am

a nice calming morning coffee or a refreshing run!

Meg11/12/2014 - 9:52 am

I’m a pediatric nurse, so self-care is hugely important, and sandwiched in between 12 hour shifts and all the other things I have on my to-do list. It usually involves a long run or yoga, but equally as often, a glass of wine and a netflix marathon. Plus I never say no to a little chocolate!

Nik@ABrownTable11/12/2014 - 10:09 am

Isn’t dal the best and red lentils are delicious! I love the flavors you used in this recipe, it reminded me of all the good things that make it so comforting. By the way, where did you get that little bowl, it is beautiful?
Laura: Hey Nik, thanks so much! The bowl is from a Canadian book/gift store chain called Indigo. Although I’m not sure if they sell that particular one anymore. Link’s here anyway!

Nicole11/12/2014 - 10:30 am

What a fabulous giveaway! My husband grew up in Ontario’s wine country also and my in-laws still live there. I would love to win this prize and spend a night at the Oban Inn!

This time of year, it’s essential for me to practise self-care by sticking to my exercise routine – that means making it to the gym as much as possible, even if it means stopping there on my way to a family get-together. It makes a world of difference both physically and emotionally.

Happy holidays!

liz11/12/2014 - 10:54 am

I do tai chi and draw. I also bake bread.

Ashley11/12/2014 - 11:26 am

My simple, go-to meals never look quite this pretty. Definitely need to try this!

Jillian Fontes11/12/2014 - 11:27 am

Looks delicious! This time of year, I’m taking care by slowing down and cooking something everyday (the soba noodle soup was great). I used to waitress in NOTL, so this giveaway sounds fantastic!!

Lynda D11/12/2014 - 11:36 am

Thanks for this yummy recipe!

How do I practice self-care? By sitting on my cushion as often as I can to meditate, whether for 3 or 30 minutes, no matter. I also just signed up for a 3-day silent treat over NY’s. A gift to myself where I create space to reflect on the past year and let it go, and ground myself for the year ahead. Yum. :-)

Patricia Gaudet11/12/2014 - 11:47 am

What kind of rice was prepared in this recipe?
Laura: Hi Patricia, I used black japonica rice from Lundberg, which can be found here. I bought a big bag at my local Costco.

Erin11/12/2014 - 12:06 pm

Making time for daily exercise and making lots of the recipes from your blog helps keep me trued this time of year! And the occasional jacuzzi tub beer doesn’t hurt either. ;)

Abby @ The Frosted Vegan11/12/2014 - 12:19 pm

Diggin this so hard! Girl, your photos are always on point annnd I need some of those reusable bags, stat. Self care usually comes in the form of pizza, cat cuddles and lots of tv.

Jaime R11/12/2014 - 12:37 pm

I practice self-care by getting a CSA box most weeks which encourages me to eat whole, healthy foods and experiment with new recipes without even having to head to the grocery store…plus it feels good to buy local and eat seasonal foods!

Alex11/12/2014 - 1:29 pm

Taking time to cook, go for extra long walks and getting some solid cardio!

Shawna Green11/12/2014 - 1:39 pm

My favorite self care routine is to attend my Pilates class regularly! I always feel centred and energized after a work out. I adore the Oban Inn!

Saniel11/12/2014 - 1:46 pm

Food looks very yummy and easy to assemble.
I practice self care by standing on my porch and taking deep breaths Inhale-taking in all the world is offering me and Exhale out all negative thoughts I put on myself. Curling up with a good book and calming tea helps too. Thanks great giveaway getaway.

Marlee11/12/2014 - 2:11 pm

The store was out of leeks. Do you think Bok choi would be a fine substitute?
Laura: Hi Marlee, I just use leeks because I like the mild, sweet onion-ish flavour they provide. I would go for thin slices of a sweeter onion, such as vidalia, and just sauté them a bit longer in the coconut oil. Just until they’re a bit soft. Shallots would work too! Or even some chopped up green onions/chives sprinkled on top of the dal at the end would be fine.

Christina11/12/2014 - 2:23 pm

There are so many ways I practice self-care as we near the holidays; hot tea, freshly baked snacks, and relaxing on the sofa. I think the most important one for me (which is harder to actually do) is getting in that cardio as well!

CdnSyl11/12/2014 - 2:28 pm

Eeek! I was just recipe dreaming about sweet potatoes and lentils but hadn’t yet figured out how to go about it. So excited to give this a try! I’m Niagara-bound for the holidays so I’ll put in my two cents on self-care: cooking, playing piano, curling up with a good book, and getting as much as exercise outside as possible!

Colleen (@905Foodie)11/12/2014 - 3:01 pm

Thank you for that recipe. I am starting to experiment with legumes. It looks really good!

Self care can be tough. I took an unusual twist on it this year. I am completing tasks super early. All my shopping and wrapping is already completed. I still need to clean and decorate – and that will be done tomorrow.

That means I get to relax in the lead up to Christmas – it’s a pretty amazing gift to me! LOL

I will be enjoying glasses of wine on the sofa with a kitty on my lap. I will borrow my BFFs dog and take her for walks. My hubby and I will go for a drive out to our favourite cidery for drink, dinner and convo and we simply won’t be stressed! Who knew this could be possible?

SUMMER PLEWES11/12/2014 - 3:31 pm

I am actually not taking very good care of myself right now. I am mentally exhausted. I try to take baths though and read and I just recently bought a relaxation meditation for mindfullness cd that I need to be listening to.

Ania11/12/2014 - 3:38 pm

I get together with friends and family as much as possible, because being together is what really makes this season festive!

Rebecca@Figs and Pigs11/12/2014 - 3:46 pm

What amazing colours just beautiful.I need to use more fresh tumeric.

Michelle11/12/2014 - 4:04 pm

Sweet potato dals have always been one of my favourite base recipes; thanks for a gorgeous variation.

Self-care for me is returning home to St. Catharines, waking up before the rest of my family, brewing a pot of coffee and heading out for a run in the Escarpment. And then warming up with a cup of said coffee and chatting with my mom on the couch upon return :)

Riley11/12/2014 - 4:07 pm

That recipe looks deeelicious! During this time of year I try to maintain my physical and mental health by getting good rest, fitting snuggle time in with my man and guinea piggies, and by going to the gym regularly. Bean and veggie soup is also a great pick-me-up. :)

Jessie11/12/2014 - 4:21 pm

This post is gorgeous — and I especially loved all your links at the end, you’ve been busy girl! That interview was fun to read through, I love your philosophy and outlook and overall personality, and wish I could go grab a cup of coffee with you! Have a great weekend – xo

Margaret Brady11/12/2014 - 4:24 pm

I would love to win

Brooklynn11/12/2014 - 4:34 pm

I love to bake for self-care. Following the structure of a recipe when everything else around me is hectic helps to calm me down.

Mary Ann11/12/2014 - 4:35 pm

I am so looking forward to making this dal! But first, time on the floor with my 7 collies, that’s right, just 7 and then, why of course, a bubble bath, then more time on the floor with our collies. Bliss, sweet bliss!

Matt11/12/2014 - 4:37 pm

I practice self-care through my woodworking. I love getting lost in the details.

Brittany11/12/2014 - 5:23 pm

This past year I’ve been struggling with eczema and trying a bunch of methods to soothe my skin, one of them being eating better. I find it very rewarding to spend time alone in the kitchen or at my computer, search for and discovering new recipes or new takes on old recipes. I’ve really cleaned up some of my favourite foods and I love discovering new ways of making a food I’ve always eaten even better for me!
For me this kitchen-therapy has been a two fold for self-care, feeding my body and my soul=)

Eileen11/12/2014 - 6:33 pm

This dal looks so blissfully orange and warming! You have to love it. Also, as the proud owner of something like six leeks, I am looking forward to the coconut leeks especially! I’m not Canadian, so best of luck to the winner!

Susi Brust11/12/2014 - 6:46 pm

I will definitely try this dal recipe very soon. During stressful times, I try to get outdoors for a run or at least a brisk walk. Healthy eating helps as well. Susi.

Kimberly11/12/2014 - 7:07 pm

I like to sit back with a glass of red wine for a little self care and relaxation.

Marlee11/12/2014 - 7:55 pm

Made this tonight and I licked the bowl clean. Don’t be afraid to try this- it’s officially a weeknight regular on my meal planner. This dish is good for the soul. Thank you!

Rachel Brown11/12/2014 - 9:01 pm

At this busy time of year, I make sure to go to a weekly yoga class, as well as putting aside a little time every night to read the novel on my bedside table!

Carol Cormier11/12/2014 - 9:01 pm

For self care I’ve been starting my mornings with a smoothie made from kale, frozen berries, almond milk and a bit of protein powder. I’ve been trying to walk more and have been keeping track of my steps and sleeping patterns with my Jawbone Up.

Leahanne Alexander11/12/2014 - 9:06 pm

I schedule time for Christmas movies on the couch with the hubby. Gets us in the spirit, while keeping us from being Grinches. ;)

Elena11/12/2014 - 9:44 pm

I made this for dinner tonight :) Exactly what I wanted! Bonus – picked up some naan from the indian restaurant to make it even more comforting for this freezing cold night! Thanks!!!

Linda11/12/2014 - 11:24 pm

Self care I go to hot yoga or take a relaxing epson salt bath with candles & soft music.

Jess R.12/12/2014 - 3:00 am

The best self-care for me has to involve laughing – I sometimes need call my sister for some giggle/self-care therapy. Thank you for creating this wonderful blog!

Teffy @ Teffy's Perks12/12/2014 - 7:28 am

Oh wow this looks so delicious! Just showed this to my partner and we are both drooling! This has to happen in my kitchen soon!!

{Teffy’s Perks} X

I’m not eligible for the giveaway, but I’ll chime in anyway. I can identify with eating healthy most of the time (like, really healthy in comparison to most people I know), but feeling like it’s not focused or conscious enough (maybe because I broke down and ordered a pizza this week?). Looking forward to more posts on that, as I turn the big 3-0 this year as well!

Dillon Tisdel12/12/2014 - 10:09 am

This is my kind of meal. It looks absolutely perfect.

Stephen12/12/2014 - 11:32 am

I like to go for a run at night when all is quiet and peaceful for self care

Erica B12/12/2014 - 12:44 pm

exercise!

Sheila Lavell12/12/2014 - 1:07 pm

My self care routine now includes your Green Drink. I find if I know i have a busy, stressful calendar I have the ingredients in the house to do a wonderful favour for myself. It energizes me and reminds me that I need to take care of myself. As a proud Niagara native too I love your wine country give away and enjoy seeing all your well deserved success.

Suzan12/12/2014 - 1:31 pm

On days when I would like to relax, I practice self-care by creating my own home spa at the end of the day (facials, manicures, meditative music, etc.).

jennifer12/12/2014 - 8:47 pm

The sauteed leeks are brilliant!

Siren12/12/2014 - 9:14 pm

Why must you tempt me with the chance of winning fancy lady time? If only Boston were in Canada. My favorite thing to relax with this season is making paper. I collect flowers and leaves over the fall to make them into greeting cards. I love the feeling turning what would be trash into something beautiful.
The dal looks amazing though. I love the contrast between the dark purple rice and the sunshiny lentils. I’m so making that tonight for dinner.

Cristina12/12/2014 - 10:20 pm

Beautiful recipe.
When in feeling super indulgent I take a bath with a bath bomb from Lush.

Craig Green12/12/2014 - 10:34 pm

Self care over the holidays involves running outdoors- fresh air and some daylight always raises spirits! Love the recipe!

Bonnie13/12/2014 - 9:21 am

Christmas self care – watching a classic movie (or two or three)….

Yemie13/12/2014 - 10:10 am

I practice self care, with my yoga practice. Pranayama, Aasana, and then Meditation. This balance my body and mind and soul.

Laura13/12/2014 - 11:00 am

I get some fresh air….snow shoeing, hiking, etc. :)

mar13/12/2014 - 12:23 pm

I will make myself a cup of organic hot chocolate and spices :) i’ll try this recipe sounds delicious

jodye @ whole pure recipes13/12/2014 - 8:26 pm

It’s a good thing I have plans to go to an Indian restaurant tonight, because I am seriously craving these flavors! The photos are beautiful but, I’m sure, don’t even do justice to how wonderful this dish must be!

Marisa Coyne14/12/2014 - 1:16 am

I head over my local self-care studio for a sauna. Love the recipe!

Sini | My Blue&White Kitchen14/12/2014 - 7:36 am

This is such an unbelievably beautiful dish, Laura! Comfort in a bowl without being loaded with fat and sugar. Love it!

Justyna14/12/2014 - 10:55 am

Beautiful recipe, a must-try for me. Practicing self-care involves taking the time each morning to prepare a tasty breakfast and enjoy it while counting my blessings and being eternally grateful for what I have.

Kaitlin14/12/2014 - 11:16 am

Love Ontario wine country!
My self care this time of year includes saying no, getting enough sleep, going to yoga and eating the extra cookie.

Kris14/12/2014 - 11:52 am

Exercise is my go-to self care strategy. It has the amazing benefit of making you feel good in the moment and keeping the stress lower over the long-term. Add to that the occasional glass of wine, lots of veggies every day, lemon water in the mornings, big belly laughs, and 8 hours of sleep on the regular, and it’s a dream life.

Jillian Christine14/12/2014 - 6:25 pm

I practice self-care a few different ways. I eat well – smoothies almost every morning. I like to mix it up using various fruits and vegetables. And I like to add turmeric to my smoothies like you do! :) I also do yoga – I find it both relaxing and rewarding. And my favourite – massages! I love pampering myself at the spa with a swedish or hot stone massage!

TOva14/12/2014 - 9:24 pm

Reflective…and significantly important…thank you for sharing. I too, am working to improve my self care and I find that keeping it at the forefront, on a daily basis has been instrumental in helping me to staying on track. Although it may sound boring, I choose to take a bath/have a quick shower every evening. While bathing, I always reflect on my day, and remind myself of my goals, focusing on my intentions and behaviours on the past day, and the next. I think about and visualize my next day, and set little goals that help me achieve self care. Some days it’s intentionally planning my menu, or focusing on ensuring I make an exercise class. Having a daily shower/moment of reflection helps me stay focused and intentional.

Sherry15/12/2014 - 12:15 am

Laura – what a lovely post (well, as always from you!), and an amazing giveaway too: I can’t resist entering with a comment – my husband and I spent a couple of nights at the Oban Inn last fall for our wedding anniversary and it was so delightful! You’re right about the potential craziness of this time of year, and also about the means for making it all go a bit better: for me it’s taking time to spend with important people – always the right thing to do, but it can still slip by the wayside when the mentality of that “busy” thing takes over. My husband and I hopped the train to visit my family for a couple of days last week, and last night he and I sat down to a film together (first time in a while!) … these small things (or not so small sometimes) can really give us back our perspective, can’t they? Thanks for the wonderful spirit your blog always conveys.

Leanne15/12/2014 - 11:05 pm

this was amazing. i just made it. it is exactly my style of meal. you’re great and i will be back again and again for more of your words and combos. thank you for dinner. :)

Austin Bay17/12/2014 - 6:53 pm

Love this recipe! I need another week night meal to add to my list + the idea of sweet potatoes + coconut oil sounds delicious to me. Thanks for sharing :)

Mahee Ferlini17/12/2014 - 9:08 pm

This looks colorful and delicious!

Kim17/12/2014 - 9:24 pm

Made this a few nights ago – simple and delicious! Thanks for sharing.

garlic pepper soba with chili-roasted tofu + my vegetable stock method

garlic pepper soba w/ chili-roasted tofu // @thefirstmessgarlic pepper soba w/ chili-roasted tofu // @thefirstmessmy vegetable stock process // @thefirstmessbay leaves // @thefirstmessherbs tied up // @thefirstmessmy vegetable stock process // @thefirstmess

If you can believe it, this bowl was inspired by a packet of instant ramen we picked up at Whole Foods a couple weeks ago (along with some non-dairy, non-denominational holiday nog). The flavour pouch from that crinkly package with the crimp-y noodles was really good at providing a top note of salty. There’s a certain appeal to that for sure, but I knew I could do better with some noodles swimming in homemade broth. I have a couple methods for making delicious, hearty vegetable stock/broth, but the one I’m going to share here today is my most utilized for sure. It’s also the most versatile. Then, we’re going to salt that broth, pour it over soba noodles, puréed garlic and thin wisps of lacinato kale. We’ll top it all off with chili-roasted tofu, some sliced scallions, lots of black pepper, and lime juice.

I don’t want to wander into the territory of utter preciousness talking about vegetable stock, but my method is pretty exact and I stand by it. I’ve read a few things on the internet that go along the lines of: “Just save all of your vegetable scraps in a Ziploc, freeze it for now and then dump those trimmings into a pot of boiling water when you’re ready for soup. ” I would not encourage this strategy. Good stock can become the base/backbone of soups, sauces, risottos etc. You can just sip it too! I would never utilize true scraps unless I wanted my food to taste like concentrated, simmered down waste bits. Sometimes I have half an onion in the fridge, a couple rubbery carrots, and I do save leek tops for stock-making as a general rule, but these are selective additions that are only scrap-like.

My point is that there is a certain advantageous vegetable combination to aim for when you’re making stock, and I would definitely recommend sticking to it for maximum diversity in usage. This is the closest I’ll ever get to being absolutist in terms of a food. You wanna make pizza crust with cauliflower? Yes, go for it. I’m fine with calling that pizza. Tiny bits of vegetables fronting as rice? Sure. Let’s even call it pilaf if we mix it with something. Vegan mayonnaise? Without eggs?! YES TOTALLY. Stock though? I refuse to mess around with that. Building blocks, dude.

The base of mine is onions, carrots and celery. Of that base, fifty percent should be onions with the papery skin left on (mostly for colour), followed by equal parts carrots and celery to form the whole. From there, I use leeks (white + green parts), a parsnip if I have one, smashed garlic cloves, black peppercorns, thyme sprigs, bay leaves, parsley stems, and maybe a fresh dill stem or two if I have them (but I mostly do this because Ina does it too). (also this) With the parsley and optional dill, you’re only adding the stems. The leaves of both have too much chlorophyll (normally the best thing ever), which will only contribute a damp, funky taste over time. A few black peppercorns and that’s the end of that. I don’t salt the stock because I know I’m going to be liberal on that front with whatever food I’m adding it to.

The onions get a good 7-8 minute browning for extra depth of flavour before the other vegetables are added. I drop everything else in one by one, sautéing for a good 20 minutes before any filtered water is added. Also, filtered water is important because consuming chlorine is never cool in my books. I simmer the whole works for an hour maximum. I know with meatier broths, the longer you can simmer it the better. But I don’t find vegetable-based broths really benefit from extra time, which is perfect because we want soup, like, yesterday. I make broths with shiitake mushrooms and ginger if I’m feeling kinda meh. Or ones with lots of different mushrooms, shallots, star anise, and a bit of tamari to season if I want something with extra heft. But this one that I’ve outlined above and below is the go-to. I hope it can be yours too.

And these noodles! Once you have the broth, you’re in business. Just an easy, slurp-y bowl of noodle soup with lots of feel-good ingredients. Quick, nourishing comfort for full days. My favourite cooking method for tofu is roasting because the pieces get kind of crunchy/crisp-like, making a nice foil to the softer parts of this bowl. I slice kale thin, grate fresh garlic and grind tons of pepper into the bowls before pouring the hot, salted broth in and giving it all a stir. Deep immune power! You could make this your own in a number of ways: fine shreds of different vegetables, rice noodles, little dabs of miso dissolved in the broth, some chopped cilantro, cooked beans, or whatever you have on hand honestly. Just make sure your broth game is lined up first :)

my vegetable stock process // @thefirstmesstofu // @thefirstmessgarlic pepper soba w/ chili-roasted tofu // @thefirstmessgarlic pepper soba w/ chili-roasted tofu // @thefirstmess
garlic pepper soba with chili-roasted tofu + kale recipe (+ my vegetable stock method)
print the recipe (for noodles) here! // print separate vegetable stock instructions here
serves: 2 (with extra broth)
notes: As noted above, this recipe is fairly customizable just so long as you shred any additional vegetables fine enough to “cook” upon contact with the hot broth. Also, check the label of your soba noodles to ensure there is no presence of wheat if gluten is an issue. If you have a tofu press, using it prior to roasting the tofu would make for a nice, chewy texture.

stock ingredients:
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium cooking onions, rough diced (with skin left on)
2 medium carrots, scrubbed and rough diced
2 stalks of celery, scrubbed and rough diced
1 large leek, cut lengthwise down the center
3-4 cloves of garlic, smashed lightly
5-6 sprigs of thyme
3-4 parsley stems
3 bay leaves
6-7 whole black peppercorns
2 litres/8 cups filtered water

soba + chili-roasted tofu ingredients:
1/2 block firm-extra firm tofu, dried off with a paper towel
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp chili flakes
zest of 1/2 a lime
1 tsp lime juice
salt + pepper
2 servings-worth of dry soba noodles
3 cups vegetable broth
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 scallions, thinly sliced
4-5 leaves of lacinato kale, thinly sliced
salt + lots of black pepper
lime wedges + extra chili flakes

For the stock: heat the oil in a large stock/soup pot over medium heat. Add the rough diced onions and sauté until you start to see deep brown marks on some of the sides, about 7-8 minutes. Add the carrots and sauté another 4-5 minutes, or until the edges seem a bit softer. Add the rough diced celery and stir.

Run the split leek under water to remove any grit, then chop it roughly and add it to the pot along with the smashed garlic cloves. Stir the vegetables until the leeks are bright, bright green and noticeably softer, about 4 minutes. Add the thyme sprigs, parsley stems, bay leaves and black peppercorns to the pot and stir. Add a good splash of water and loosen up some of the brown bits in the pot with your spoon.

Slowly pour the filtered water over the vegetables. Raise the heat to medium-high and cover the pot. Bring the stock to a boil, remove the lid, and then simmer stock for about an hour.

Allow stock to cool slightly before straining and storing in containers. Stock will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 5-6 days and in the freezer for 6 months.

For the soba with chili-roasted tofu: preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a small baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

Once you’ve dried off the tofu, cut it into 3/4 inch cubes and place the cubes on the parchment lined sheet. Drizzle tofu with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil and top with the chili flakes, lime zest, salt, pepper and lime juice. Toss to combine and slide the tray into the oven. Roast tofu until brown edges appear and there’s a detectable crispy-ness, about 25 minutes. Flip and toss the tofu cubes about halfway through.

Meanwhile, cook the soba noodles according to package directions. Once cooked, drain noodles and set aside.

Heat the 3 cups of vegetable broth in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add a fat pinch of salt to the broth and bring to a boil. Keep at a medium simmer until ready to serve.

Very finely mince or microplane the garlic cloves into two separate soup bowls. Top the garlic with the chopped white parts of scallion, and ground black pepper to taste

Divide the soba noodles, sliced kale and roasted tofu among the soup bowls. Pour the hot broth over top. Garnish the soup with remaining chopped scallions and more salt and pepper if you like. Serve with lime wedges.

You might also like…

the soup that heals

Happy new year to you! Sending all of my big hugs. The time for personal betterment is upon us (as always). But first,View full post »

sweet potato soup with coriander + blood orange

Let me start by telling you that in extreme weather and more relaxed periods of time, I always turn to really pared downView full post »

roasted tofu and kale with pine nuts + delicious surprises

Inspiration and big change is always floating around in the back of the mind, in the atmosphere, everywhere really. LikeView full post »


pin it subscribe tweet this post share on facebook email to a friend
valentina - sweet kabocha04/12/2014 - 4:30 am

I love soba so much, especially in broth! It is time I buy a packet of soba, oh yes

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar04/12/2014 - 4:50 am

This looks like such a comforting meal! I just love this.

Abby @ The Frosted Vegan04/12/2014 - 7:17 am

I love your eyes of making broth! The times I have made it with scraps it ends up tasting like dirt, gross. As always, your words and photos are hella awesome : )

Tori@Gringalicious.com04/12/2014 - 7:51 am

Gorgeous photography and the soup looks amazing!

yum! looks incredible! I just started making my own veggie broths and there are so many different takes on it! I’ll have to try yours

Aleksandra04/12/2014 - 9:08 am

I love your in-depth approach to making broth. I think its these steps that we often forget in cooking and which can make or break the end result.I will definately be trying this very soon. I reflected recently on making Polenta and how simmering it slowly and stirring it for a long time made it all the more delicious. In the end you can feel all the love that went into it. You described it so well. Thanks for sharing!

Grace04/12/2014 - 9:20 am

This broth is liquid gold! I would love a mug full, straight-up to sip on!

Ashlae04/12/2014 - 9:31 am

GRRRRRL. <3 This is fucking awesome. I've only recently started making my own broth (shaaaaame on me) (but it's not from frozen scraps so THERE) and it blows the 365 stock outta the water. NO GOING BACK. We have all the ingredients for this in our kitchen, so I'm going all in for dinner tonight. But with rice noodles because soba would require a trip to the store and I'm so damn lazy these days it's pathetic.

Maryna04/12/2014 - 10:45 am

It looks so damn good!!!

Liz @ Floating Kitchen04/12/2014 - 10:51 am

This looks so warm and comforting. I’m ready to dive right in! And agree…homemade stock is a must. I just save little scraps of vegetables in freezer bags and then when I have enough stock-piled, I go for it!

Ileana04/12/2014 - 11:07 am

You make vegetables look so gorgeous. :)

Vijay from NoshOn.It04/12/2014 - 11:32 am

Love these tips for a good veg stock. Mine always come up super bland and boring!

Kari @ Cooking with Toddlers04/12/2014 - 11:49 am

This looks so yummy! Perfect for cold winter days. And I’m in love with your cutting board…so beautiful!

Kris04/12/2014 - 11:52 am

I love your stock game!

Julie04/12/2014 - 1:57 pm

This looks amazing!

Have you ever added prunes to your stock? I’ve started to based on a “Plenty” recipe and there is no going back! It adds such a beautiful color and sweetness to the stock. I love it.

michelle04/12/2014 - 3:02 pm

So beautiful! You never know where inspiration will strike! I love soba but with soba I gotta have wakame and edamame…

renee (will frolic for food)04/12/2014 - 3:39 pm

well this is perfect in every way. i love making stock at home. your recipe sounds just so delicious. and is there anything better than a steaming noodle bowl like this on a cold night? i.e. i’m gonna be making this soon. thanks for the recipe (and oh man, could those photos be any prettier?!).

cynthia04/12/2014 - 4:16 pm

So dreamy. This sounds like the perfect winter meal, Laura. And I second others — your stock game is on point!

Elizabeth04/12/2014 - 9:41 pm

I love me a little kitchen dogma, and your stock principles are right on. I do almost the same thing for my veg stock, but had never thought to add the onion skin. As it happens, I’m broth-ing the frozen remains of our Thanksgiving bird (totally not the same thing, but still), and your advice came at the right time –– onion skins added.

Riley04/12/2014 - 10:17 pm

This recipe has my mouth drooling and I just ate dinner, so that’s saying something. I can’t wait to try this broth too! It’s also nice to see another vegan out there appreciating the glory of Ina Garten. Seriously, classiest woman ever. :)

kristie {birch and wild}04/12/2014 - 11:12 pm

If I want a stand out vegetable broth, I make a version like this. Otherwise, I use vegetable scraps (totally freeze them in a ziploc)and seaweed to make a mineral broth, which I sip in the morning. Those scraps are full of minerals! This soup looks lovely. I am always impressed at your ability to construct a dish really well with lot’s of different elements. And you take insanely good photos, too!

Lynsey04/12/2014 - 11:29 pm

Good stock is heaven in all it’s slurpy goodness!! Thanks for sharing yours. xo

Ana @ The Awesome Green05/12/2014 - 6:16 am

I have a similar way of preparing the veggie stock, but I always add celeriac, parsnip and root parsley to enhance the flavors. Your way of preparing the vegetable stock reminds me of the Italian soffritto which gives that fabulous taste to minestrone soups. I bet yours tastes fantastic too!

Kathryn05/12/2014 - 7:58 am

You’re so right – stock is such a fundamental ingredient that it makes absolutely no sense to use the crappy odds and ends from the bottom of the fridge. Onion skin = perfect.

[…] I die. 4. Christmas in a cookie. 5. This is a galette I’d like to eat at a wedding! 6. This noodle bowl looks absolutely dreamy. (It’s gluten free and vegan to […]

Mary05/12/2014 - 9:38 am

Such beautiful photos and such a delicious recipe – a perfect soup to cheer up this dreary cold weather – thanks!
Mary

Kathryne05/12/2014 - 1:16 pm

Dang girl. Fantastic post! I’ve actually NEVER made my own vegetable broth, in part because I’m lazy but also because I doubted that simmered bits of bad vegetables would produce anything tasty. Thanks for confirming my suspicion! This soup looks marvelous.

Wow! This looks SOO good! I love that it was inspired by a packet of ramen :) Cannot wait to try this!

[…] veg stock recipe/method is top notch. Plus did you see that soup?! It’s on […]

Jessie05/12/2014 - 6:05 pm

Tucking this recipe away for a cold snowy day when I’m feeling extra patient ;) your broth method is legit!

[…] garlic pepper soba bowl. […]

Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy06/12/2014 - 9:06 pm

oh my gosh this looks SO GOOD!!

Hannah @ eating with alice07/12/2014 - 3:29 am

I’m feeling a little bit under the weather tonight and this looks like exactly what I need!

[…] Garlic pepper soba. Yessss! […]

Aysegul - Ice07/12/2014 - 10:07 pm

Great information about making vegetable stock. You are so right about it. Since I started making my stock, I now know that nothing compares to the depth of flavor that it adds to the dish.
I can only imagine how tasty this soba and tofu dish must be with your homemade stock.

Brian @ A Thought For Food07/12/2014 - 11:20 pm

I need a whole pot of this stock in my life. Full of soba goodness, of course.

Hope you’re doing well! Have a great week!!!

Re08/12/2014 - 6:24 pm

Your photography is so beautiful! Do you use Photoshop to edit?

[…] Mon amour pour la cuisine asiatique ne tarit pas. Surtout quand je vois cette recette. […]

Laura Wright09/12/2014 - 8:25 am

Hi Re, Thank you so much. I use a combination of Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom to edit the photos. I have several versions of VSCO film installed onto Lightroom, so I play around with that as well.
-L

Ella09/12/2014 - 6:21 pm

Every time you post a new recipe I am so grateful for you! Thank you for taking the time to stun us with your beautiful pictures and yummmyy recipes! You make my day each time I see somethin new.

Anita10/12/2014 - 12:04 am

Wow this recipe has changed my veg stock game for good I think! Was perfect and restorative on a snowy night.

erin {yummy supper}10/12/2014 - 4:28 pm

Laura, I am so feeling this. Everything about this recipe speaks to me. Yum!
xoxo
E

Weekend Links and Inspiration13/12/2014 - 7:45 pm

[…] ~  From now on, I am making my vegetable stock with Laura’s method. […]

Sini | My Blue&White Kitchen14/12/2014 - 7:48 am

Love this post; your description of the process of making your vegetable broth and, obviously, this soba noodle soup recipe. Feeling so inspired now. Thanks for sharing. xx

Oh Ina–everything is so easy for her! I imagine it would be when you have a staff of 13, haha. Thanks for sharing your stock method, especially the freezer vegetables everyone swears by. I have to say, I’ve had success using close to your vegetable mix, but frozen, BUT I also always include fresh garlic, onions, and parsnips.