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some snacks for winter brightness

cumin roasted chickpea + eggplant lettuce wraps with mango jicama shreds + mint // the first messcara cara orange with yogurt, zaroasted pineapple spice shake // the first mess
vanilla coconut whipped chia mousse w/ tart raspberries + bee pollen // the first mess

“Everyone I know is looking for solace, hope and a tasty snack.”
-Maira Kalman

prep for snacks // the first mess
Just the quickest of hellos today. It’s very true, as it may be for many of you, that this winter is beginning to drag and gnaw a bit. Life is somehow still faster and fuller than ever, so inventive snacks have been popping up more often than the well-planned meals with creative side dishes and desserts that require a speck of forethought. So it goes. I find splurging on some of the more exotic bits of produce helps to brighten up the sometimes too vast-seeming bleakness of the chill in the fields ’round here. A pesky cold finally managed to grab me this season (after I spent a whole week bragging to almost anyone how miraculous my immunity had been–womp womp), so these snacks have vitamins, spice, sharpness and other superpowers lurking within. There’s a roasted pineapple shake with turmeric, nutmeg and cinnamon, simply filled out with almond milk and ice. Another sweet is the coconut vanilla whipped chia mousse with smushed raspberries at the base and a happy sprinkle of bee pollen on top. There’s a butter lettuce wrap with cumin-y roasted chickpeas and eggplant, all livened up with a mango jicama tangle and some cool mint. Lastly there’s a segmented orange that feels savoury once plated with a swipe of yogurt, some toasted pine nuts, olive oil and za’atar. Sending warmth and a little extra hope for spring this week :) xo

some snacks for winter brightness // the first mess
1. roasted pineapple + warm spice shake
serves: 2
notes: I add ice to mine, but if you have the patience to freeze the roasted pineapple first, it probably wouldn’t be necessary.

2 cups diced fresh pineapple
1 tsp neutral oil
1 tsp + 1 tbsp maple syrup, divided
grated nutmeg
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
splash of vanilla extract
big handful of ice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheetpan with parchment paper. Toss the pineapple with the oil, 1 tsp of the maple syrup, a tiny bit of salt and nutmeg. Roast the fruit until slightly caramelized and soft, about 20 minutes. Allow pineapple to cool.

Once cool, blend the pineapple on high with the almond milk, cinnamon, turmeric, vanilla and ice. Pour into two glasses and enjoy immediately.

2. coconut vanilla whipped chia mousse w/ smashed raspberries
serves: 4
notes: I just thaw frozen raspberries from the summertime and use them as a tart foil to the lusciousness of the mousse. I imagine plenty of things would be nice with this though, like cacao nibs, chopped almonds, slices of mango, spice roasted apples etc.

1 can full fat coconut milk, stirred
1/4 cup chia seeds (white or black)
2 tbsp maple syrup
seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean (or a hearty splash of extract)
2 tbsp coconut butter
salt to taste
splash of almond or other milk (optional)
thawed frozen raspberries
bee pollen (optional)

Whisk together the coconut milk and chia seeds and let them sit for about 15 minutes or until they’ve noticeably thickened. Once thickened, scrape the coconut milk and chia seeds into a blender and add all of the other ingredients except for the raspberries and bee pollen. Blend on high until you have a creamy and smooth consistency, adding splashes of almond milk to thin out if necessary. Scrape mousse into a bowl and cover with cling film, pressing the film onto the surface of the mousse. Chill the mousse thoroughly.

Once ready to serve, smash up some thawed frozen raspberries in the bottom of your serving vessels. Divide the coconut vanilla chia mousse amongst the servings. Sprinkle the tops with bee pollen if you like and serve.

3. cumin-roasted chickpea + eggplant lettuce wraps with minted mango jicama slaw
serves: 2-4
notes: Any lettuce for wrapping is fine here, I just like the sturdy richness of butter/Boston/bibb lettuce. Also, if you can’t find jicama, shred up any other crunchy and lightly sweet fruit/vegetable you like. Carrots, apples, celery root, radishes etc.

1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 small eggplant, small dice
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp ground cumin
salt + pepper
1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated
1 mango, peeled + finely shredded
1/2 small jicama, peeled + finely shredded
juice of 1 lime
fresh mint leaves
chipotle powder (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the chickpeas, eggplant, oil, cumin, salt and pepper together and spread them out evenly on the baking sheet. Roast the mixture until the chickpeas are crispy and the eggplant is browned, flipping them about here and there, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the shredded mango and jicama in a medium bowl with the juice of the lime. Season the mix with salt, pepper, and chipotle powder if you like. Serve the slaw with butter lettuce leaves, roasted chickpeas + eggplant, mint leaves and more chipotle powder. Assemble all components together within butter lettuce leaves. Eat immediately.

4. a simple sorta savoury orange w/ yogurt, olive oil, za’atar + pine nuts
notes: I used a cara cara orange here, but any kind of orange would be fine–maybe even a segmented grapefruit could be nice.

1 orange, peeled + segmented
3 tbsp – 1/4 cup plain yogurt of your choosing (goat, sheep, cow, almond, coconut etc)
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp za’atar
little handful fully toasted pine nuts

Place the orange segments on a plate. Spoon the yogurt onto the side of the plate and drizzle the olive oil on top of it. Sprinkle the yogurt with za’atar and top the whole thing with the toasted pine nuts and a little pinch of salt. Eat immediately.

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Kathryn20/02/2014 - 6:20 am

A much needed blast of sunshine + life this morning, thank you Laura. This gives me hope that there is an end in sight to the unrelenting gloom of this time of year.

molly yeh20/02/2014 - 9:29 am

can i come over to your house for snack time?

Emma20/02/2014 - 9:41 am

Wow, gorgeous! I will be trying the pineapple shake this weekend for sure.

Lindsey20/02/2014 - 9:42 am

Read mah mind! These winter snacks totally kill it. I love the vibrant and flavorful combo of ingredients. Each snack is super thoughtful and super fresh! And I totally hear you on the cold-front, I thought I was immune from colds after not having one for over a year, and then BAM! I got hit the most epic of colds. Glad you’re on the mend, friend!

kw20/02/2014 - 10:49 am

You are truly gifted with your recipe creations and the beautiful photography…still my favorite food blog hands down.

Aleksandra20/02/2014 - 11:31 am

Just lovely! I have been craving something as vibrant and delicious as these snacks. How do you do it? Everything seems so effortless and inspired. Congratulations!

maja20/02/2014 - 11:42 am

Bright, gorgeous photos as always. That whipped chia mousse is on my to-do list for the weekend – amazingly creative!

Sini | my blue&white kitchen20/02/2014 - 12:05 pm

The coconut vanilla whipped chia mousse – WOW! I think we all really need these colorful snacks during the last winter months when we long for spring to come already. A beautiful, highly inspiring post.

Amy (parsley in my teeth)20/02/2014 - 12:09 pm

So sorry to hear you were bitten by a bug! I, too, thought I had super immunity, just to get hit over the head with a triple combo virus — while on vacation no less! Will definitely be trying your snacks. They all look delicious!

Caitlin20/02/2014 - 12:14 pm

what a fun post! i love all of these snack ideas. i have the same sentiments about this weather and the fullness of life. i really appreciate all of these delicious options, particularly the whipped chia pudding!

shilpa20/02/2014 - 12:56 pm

This seriously brightened my day! Oh what a winter it has been! I love the addition of nigella seeds on top of the warm spiced shake. I can’t wait to try them all!

Leigh T Wetzel20/02/2014 - 1:20 pm


Ashley20/02/2014 - 1:51 pm

Gorgeous + delicious enough for all four to snap me out of a winter funk. Amazing photography and writing, as always.

Elizabeth20/02/2014 - 2:55 pm

Yes! This was the week I think everyone was like, WTF winter (or maybe the past six)? And I so agree about searching the corners of the produce aisle for wintertime cheer. It’s warm somewhere, right? Can’t wait to dig into all three of these great snacks.

mardi20/02/2014 - 3:42 pm

what if i don’t have coconut butter…is there a good substitute?

Laura Wright20/02/2014 - 4:41 pm

Hi Mardi, you can substitute some dried, shredded coconut or a dab of extra virgin coconut oil.

cheri20/02/2014 - 7:03 pm

Hope your feeling better. Thanks for sharing these snacks, they are the best!

Grace20/02/2014 - 9:51 pm

So much beauty and brightness in this one post – I can hardly deal.

Harriet20/02/2014 - 9:56 pm

Dude – these look like vibrant and magical snacks. All of the flavours seem to sparkle. Especially that roasted pineapple – delish x

Mimi21/02/2014 - 9:39 am

I’m sorry but I can’t get past the photos. Incredible.

Sam22/02/2014 - 4:27 pm

I was wondering where all of these photos were coming from on Pinterest. Sure enough, they’re from your blog! You have a wonderful imagination!

Lily (A Rhubarb Rhapsody)22/02/2014 - 6:25 pm

Such beautiful photos. That pineapple and warm spice shake sounds sublime.

Hilary23/02/2014 - 12:42 am

All these yummy looking snacks just *brightened* my day ;)

Question: You live in Ontario, correct? Where the heck did you get za’atar? I’ve looked just about everywhere I can think of!

Thanks for your inspiring food :)

Laura Wright23/02/2014 - 9:06 am

Hi Hilary! I prefer the za’atar from a shop in Toronto called The Spice Trader. Here’s their site: However, I did purchase the one from the PC Black Label line at Loblaws recently and was fairly impressed with it–if you have a Loblaws/Superstore/Zehrs etc in your area. If all else fails, Heidi has a recipe for making your own as well:

Brian @ A Thought For Food24/02/2014 - 1:54 pm

I often like to eat dishes that are refreshing this time of year. Citrus is always something we keep around (for cocktails, but for other recipes… but mostly for cocktails). That savory orange dish with the za’atar and the yogurt. Yeah, I need that in my life.

Chelsea // The Naked Fig24/02/2014 - 6:03 pm

How amazing to get so many recipes in one! Citrus has been the main thing brightening up winter for me this year. Thanks for all the other suggestions! Nutmeg with pineapple is ingenious! Why didn’t I think of that!?

Millie26/02/2014 - 6:39 pm

These all look delicious! You’re definitely right about a few more exotic things brightening up the season – I’ve been throwing mangoes in my smoothies this week to try and do just that. I’m really keen to try a recipe with chia seeds soon so this might just be the one :)

Jessica's Dinner Party26/02/2014 - 9:58 pm

Been needing a little pump up to get me through the last bit of winter! Inspired by all the recipes up here.

Marion28/02/2014 - 5:35 pm

MY GOD ! I would be so so puzzled if I was in front of those de-li-cious snacks… Its so beautiful that It would be a shame to eat them…. but not to eat them would be a shame too ! AAAAHHH DILEMMA :D

Anyway, I clap my hand for this beautiful recipe :)

Come by one day :) bye !

Jo (yummyvege)14/03/2014 - 11:38 am

Why don’t I ever have such original snacks? I’ve been meaning to experiment with chia seeds for a while now- lets see if this is the push I need!

[…] 1 Tarocco-Orange schälen und filetieren. Orangenfilets auf einem Teller anrichten. 2 EL Labneh oder gekauftes Griechisches Joghurt dazugeben. Mit 0.5 TL Za’atar bestreuen, 1 EL Olivenöl darüber träufeln. 1 gehäufter EL geröstete Pinienkerne darüber geben. Servieren. Quelle: The First Mess […]

[…] Roasted pineapple has been ruining everything I thought I knew about pineapple. How could something so delicious take it to the next level? Its natural sugars caramelize, deeply intensifying the flavour, while the hint of salt and pepper act to balance out the sweetness. It is not even fair that nature grows something so ridiculous and then allows you to make it crazy ridiculous with barely any effort. […]

[…] Roasted pineapple has been ruining everything I thought I knew about pineapple. How could something so delicious take it to the next level? Its natural sugars caramelize, deeply intensifying the flavour, while the hint of salt and pepper act to balance out the sweetness. It is not even fair that nature grows something so ridiculous and then allows you to make it crazy ridiculous with barely any effort. […]

grapefruit roasted beets, greens + white beans with pistachio butter

grapefruit roasted beets, greens + white beans with pistachio butter // the first messbeetspistachio_FINAL5grapefruit roasted beets, greens + white beans with pistachio butter // the first mess
Well hey there, lovely. Wanna talk beets and self love today? I kinda do, so let’s hit it.

Cherubs and chocolate treats are cute and all, but identifying and seizing opportunities to love yourself are about a thousand times more crucial in the greater scope (ahem, DUH). I used to think that even a mere reflection on self-love was a waste of time because I could be doing work and accomplishing real, tangible things that I would probably love more. As I get older, my line of thought on this has veered to the other side. If you want to go after the things you want, it seems you also have to be mindful enough to give yourself the strength to take it all on first. There are plenty of opportunities to build yourself up and now, I find these moments in all manners of ways.

Food and nourishment are pretty obvious avenues. My current mode of life allows me to choose beautiful whole foods as a regular part of my weeks, and for this I’m very grateful. It’s nice to look into your fridge after a grocery day, see the different colours and textures, and then remember that it’s all for you and the wellbeing of those you keep close. It’s equally nice to look into your fridge, see nothing but various hot sauces and lightly wrinkled scraps of vegetables, turn to your pantry and somehow make a meal out of the whole mess. In the realm of cooking at home, that’s when I love myself the most. It feels like sorcery to serve up a full plate out of nothing.

Other ways of self love? Lately they’ve taken the form of learning how/when to say no, washing my face with manuka honey (one of my favourite parts of the day for real), taking a breather from the renovation happenings (we’re getting closer though!), keeping pineapples on the counter/in my face as a giant eff you to winter, giving into vulgar humour here and there, and marathoning this unbelievably good series in my sweats when I should have been working (oops). I guess the overarching theme here is finding little bits of peace and rest, which is a natural gravitational pull in the depths of winter. If you work in creative endeavours, some decidedly aware moments of pause seem to offer a whole lotta grace later on.

And then there’s these beets with pistachio butter. I bought the bunch at my fave local grocery shop and the cashier asked me if you could eat the tops/greens. I was so pumped that she even asked me that! Of course I gave her an enthusiastic yes! and of course I was overzealous in my explanation as to how one would cook them. Anyway, those greens flopped out the top of my canvas bag and just the sight of that was enough to make my day. I knew I wanted to pair them with citrus and pistachios. Some winter brightness vibes with deep roots.

A couple years ago, Mark and I had a warm and fuzzy spring dinner at Lupa in NY. We started with this big plate that had a little bit of each vegetable-based antipasti they were serving. There was one simple heap of boiled beets with a bit of balsamic vinegar and a dollop of pistachio butter on top, and do I even need to qualify this any further? Crazy good. I had been meaning to do a little remix of that tasty bite for a while, and here we are. I roasted my beets with grapefruit juice and sherry to brighten up that earthy-ness. I lightly sauté the beet greens, finishing them with even more grapefruit juice before chopping them up and adding them to a hearty base of white beans. Then there’s that cozy blanket of pistachio butter and a sprinkle of crushed pink peppercorns to finish–they offer a gentle heat that I always enjoy with citrus and sweeter vegetables.

So yeah, tons of pinks and reds–grooooan. But it’s out of self-lovin’ so shall we embrace it? :) xo

grapefruit roasted beets, greens + white beans with pistachio butter // the first messgrapefruit roasted beets, greens + white beans with pistachio butter // the first messgrapefruit roasted beets, greens + white beans with pistachio butter // the first mess
grapefruit roasted beets, greens + white beans with pistachio butter

serves: 4-6
notes: The pink peppercorns aren’t totally necessary. Just finish it with some fresh black pepper or a sprinkle of za’atar, or even a nice fat pinch of salt. Also, some kind of briny, pickled component wouldn’t be out of place on top of this–like some capers or pickled red onions if you’ve got them around.

3-4 beets with greens, peeled + greens separated
splash of sherry vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
juice from half a grapefruit
olive oil
salt + pepper

pistachio butter:
1 cup raw + shelled pistachios (+ extra for garnish)
olive oil

beans etc:
2 cups white beans
olive oil
the beet greens
the juice from half a grapefruit
salt + pepper
1-2 tsp pink peppercorns, crushed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the beets into 1 inch wedges and place them in a glass baking dish. Add the splash of sherry vinegar, grapefruit juice, a nice slick of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat the beets evenly. Cover the dish with foil and roast for 30 minutes or until the beets give when pierced with a small knife. Uncover the beets, toss them around and roast them for 5-10 more minutes, just to evaporate some of the juices.

While the beets are roasting, make the pistachio butter. Place the raw pistachios in a food processor or high speed blender. Gradually pulse or blend until you have a smooth paste, scraping down the sides here and there with a spatula. I had to add some olive oil at one point to get the motor of my blender moving a bit. Once you have a smooth paste, scrape the butter into a small bowl. Stir in a pinch of salt and a little extra olive oil to get it to a slightly runny consistency. Set aside.

Heat some oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the beet greens and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Squeeze in the grapefruit juice. Keep tossing them until all of the greens are lightly wilted. Remove from the pan and chop them up. Toss the chopped greens with the white beans, some extra olive oil, salt, and pepper. Lay the beans + greens on the base of your serving plate. Arrange the roasted beet wedges on top and finish the plate with some spoonfuls of pistachio butter. Garnish with the pink peppercorns and extra chopped pistachios. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Harriet06/02/2014 - 6:59 am

This looks stupidly delicious and beautiful. Your topic today is also so heartwarming – I’m totally with you on loving yourself first so you can accomplish things – a nice reminder, especially this time of year when there’s such a focus on expressing external love (which isn’t so bad either!). I always love how genuine your posts feel – it’s always easy to connect with your words and recipes xxx

Kathryn06/02/2014 - 7:25 am

I’m all for self-love. I’ve not been very good at it recently so probably need to take a leave out of your book. This = ace.

Mimi06/02/2014 - 9:15 am

I’m sorry but I can’t stop staring at your photos.

thelittleloaf06/02/2014 - 9:18 am

These photos are just incredible. Plus pistachio butter? Favourite thing ever.

Teffy06/02/2014 - 9:34 am

That looks insanely delicious.
Never thought to add grapefruit to my beetroot. Sounds so good. I’ve got some blood oranges lying about, do you think I could use them instead?

Laura Wright06/02/2014 - 9:46 am

I think any citrus would be delicious, Teffy :)

Ileana06/02/2014 - 9:58 am

I’ve never seen pistachio butter anywhere else. What an idea! I bet it’d be great swirled into ice cream, too.

Ashley06/02/2014 - 10:39 am

you had me at pistachio butter. Oh my!

Ashley06/02/2014 - 10:43 am

THIS — “If you work in creative endeavours, some decidedly aware moments of pause seem to offer a whole lotta grace later on.”

SO true. Sometimes I feel so crazy busy and all over the place and without a moment to breathe. But then I take a break or meet up with a friend for coffee and it’s like a new world. Fab post, lady. Self love, FTW. <3 <3 <3

shanna mallon06/02/2014 - 11:42 am

“If you work in creative endeavours, some decidedly aware moments of pause seem to offer a whole lotta grace later on.” YES YES YES

Trisha06/02/2014 - 12:40 pm

Beets and Self Love are both awesome! these photos are just amazing… this is a must try recipe for me and my new health kick. thanks! x

Ashley06/02/2014 - 1:29 pm

Wow. What an inspiring and stunning recipe. I think pistachio butter may quickly become my new weakness. Gorgeous photos and marvelous writing, as always.

Daria06/02/2014 - 1:30 pm

I was just thinking about beeting myself up! Another unbelievable coinsedencd – pistachio butter was on diy wish list. Then you post this and everything comes together.
It looks too good to be true. On my way to get these goodies!

Katie @ 24 Carrot Life06/02/2014 - 1:48 pm

What a beautiful and fresh looking salad! All of my favorite things in one dish. Can’t wait to try it!

Eileen06/02/2014 - 3:38 pm

This salad needs to get on my plate ASAP! That pistachio butter is calling my name. Hooray!

Emma06/02/2014 - 6:05 pm

If eating a giant plate of this = self-love than I love myself a whole lot :D
Simply gorgeous. I am a beetroot fanatic and with all those other goodies too this dish has got to be wonderful.

Allyson06/02/2014 - 6:14 pm

Your writing is so lovely. I’ve been working like crazy recently and those words are like a balm to me- so often it’s been just a check list of things to get done and powering through the moments that could give me a little more sanity. I need to remember to pause more often.

And this looks beautiful. I’m a beet disliker who is trying very hard to like beets, and I love everything else in this recipe. I might have to give this a spin.

Gwen @SimplyHealthyFamily06/02/2014 - 9:22 pm

Bam! No more necessary qualifications needed. I’m 100% sold and in l.o.v.e. Pinned and dreaming of this.

Tereza07/02/2014 - 6:28 am

Love the freshness of this salad with the grapefruit!

Chloe07/02/2014 - 7:21 am

made this for dinner tonight and everybody loved it! so simple but delicious and satisfying AND good for you. I didn’t have any pistachios (much to my disgust) so thinned out a bit of tahini with juices from the braised greens and it was yummy.
delicious food is definitely the way to go on the self-love train. sending more warm and fuzzy’s your way :* xx

Ondina Maria07/02/2014 - 11:27 am

This week one of my veggie dinners was boiled “farmer” beans with boiled beets and cabbage sautée in olive oil and garlic. Simple but delicious. I can’t wait to try this recipe with the pistachio butter (I love pistachios)

amy07/02/2014 - 2:14 pm

This looks gorgeous and delicious as always! I meant to write and say that I mentioned you in an interview for Get the Gloss here’s the link.

WOW!!!!!!!!!!! I love the look of these!!!!! I love the grapefruit – beetroot combination!!! :)

yp08/02/2014 - 5:02 pm

Lovely! Trying this week for my meal prep ! So hearty for winter and easy to make

Megan08/02/2014 - 8:26 pm

Made this tonight, and now I never want to eat beets any other way. The variety of textures and flavours (like the pop of pink peppercorns!) was awesome. Plus I have lots of leftover pistachio butter! Life is good. Thanks for your wonderful recipes!

SouthernSpoonBelle11/02/2014 - 6:57 am

This looks divine, and just the kind of food I’m feeling at the moment. The hubs will love it too with all those glorious beets– I’m going to make up the recipe and take it down to the beach for our Valentine’s Day picnic on Friday. Thanks! And happy day of love to yourself and your Mr.

[…] portobello mushrooms / broccoli and pistachio soup / smoked salmon and herbed goat cheese tartine /grapefruit roasted beets, greens + white beans with pistachio butter /cripsy quinoa and sweet potato tacos / creamy pasta verde with garlic brown butter breadcrumbs / […]

Hannah13/02/2014 - 3:10 am

How it has never occurred to me to combine beet with grapefruit I don’t know but, man Laura, I can’t WAIT to try it. So much goodness. And love too.

Jennifer13/02/2014 - 1:02 pm

I made this last night and it was delicious! But I may have had the juiciest grapefruit ever, because my beets were swimming in it, rather than ‘coated’.

A Gluten Free Love Story14/02/2014 - 12:55 am

This dish looks really yummy and the photography is gorgeous! I wish I could eat this food right off the page. I got to try this sometime.

[…] These Grapefruit-Roasted Beets, Green, and White Beans with Pistachio Butter. Umm… yes, this is the second grapefruit and beet dish on this list. Yes, I may have a problem. But the pistachio butter, though! […]

Brian @ A Thought For Food16/02/2014 - 10:24 pm

Amen to all of this. First of all, I’m glad there’s someone else out there who is totally in love with True Detective. I don’t know many people who are watching it… which is a shame because it is incredible. That last episode. Wow.

Now, I’m totally in love with this recipe… I’m obsessed with both grapefruit and beets and will often pair the two, but never had I thought to roast the beets in the juice. Just brilliant.

[…] Grapefruit-roasted beetroot, greens & pinto beans with homemade cashew butter and pink pepper: adapted from The First Mess […]

Chelsea // The Naked Fig18/02/2014 - 10:05 am

Pistachio Butter! SWOON

[…] I took inspiration from here and squeezed half a grapefruit on my beets before roasting them. Sliced beets + high heat tolerant […]

IAmJ03/09/2014 - 12:55 pm

Just wanted to thank you for this recipe. So delicious! I didn’t like beets until a few months ago and this might be my new favorite way to have them. And the pistachio butter is fantastic.

quinoa onion rings with horseradish dip

gluten free + vegan quinoa onion rings with horseradish dip // the first messgluten free + vegan quinoa onion rings with horseradish dip // the first messgluten free + vegan quinoa onion rings with horseradish dip // the first mess
I inadvertently made you a recipe with a detectable “game day” vibe this week. How crazy is that?! Mark and I went to our first ever NFL game with these lovely people when we were in Denver last year and the atmosphere kinda threw/took me. I’m usually pretty chill at any and all sporting events, partaking in more of the social drinking/deep fried snack-related aspects, but the tendency to veer from complete elation to total effing outrage was decidedly acute in that environment. But did I mention it was also awesome? Anyway, it was amazing to see the Broncos win when we were there and we’ll be steadily summoning up the good juju for the big win this Sunday, even if it means eating a quinoa burger that tastes like a dirty old tree branch.

But obviously I won’t be doing that because I have these golden delicious little orbs of crunch to snack on. I’ve been working on this recipe since I developed a version for a magazine a while ago (which wasn’t vegan or gluten free). These are, admittedly, a shameless rip on my favourite onion rings of all time from a Toronto vegetarian restaurant (this one if you’re wondering). Their rings were very obviously fried and for that reason, very obviously delicious. I knew I could make some baked magic happen without any major sacrifice.

To start, I went classic on the battering steps: a toss in flour, a swipe through a wet mixture, and then a final coating in some crumbs and other tasty bits. I used a GF all purpose flour for that first step. Generally eggs are employed as the glue for crumb coatings on nuggets, onion rings etc. But heavy life truth? You can make any coating stick to any food with a little unsweetened almond milk, a fat pinch of salt and some flour. I whisked some dijon into mine for extra flavour, but you could use herbs, chili sauce, lemon zest, whatever you like. The puffed quinoa makes for really light and beautiful bits of airy crunch along the outside. I mix the puffs with heavily ground up GF crackers (Mary’s Gone Crackers are my fave), lots of Old Bay seasoning, some little sesames and lots of pepper. You could use smoked paprika, za’atar, curry powder… lots of options.

I’m not saying these are exactly like deep fried rings, but they are crunchy and golden and salty, which basically covers all of my pleasure points. They don’t really have that moist slick-of-oil-upon-biting thing, so a tasty sauce to smooth things over is somewhat necessary. And also, I love sauce in most applications of most food. Since I was already in deep with mustard and celery salt flavours, horseradish stirred into a creamy mayonnaise kinda scene seemed natural. I point out a few methods of achieving this in the notes–veering from simple to only slightly complex.

gluten free + vegan quinoa onion rings with horseradish dip // the first messorings_final3gluten free + vegan quinoa onion rings with horseradish dip // the first messgluten free + vegan quinoa onion rings with horseradish dip // the first messgluten free + vegan quinoa onion rings with horseradish dip // the first mess

vegan + GF quinoa onion rings with horseradish dip
a large onion’s worth of rings (like 20ish)
It is crucial that you let these hang in the fridge for an hour once they’re coated. It helps to pre-soften the onion and it also helps to adhere the coating that extra bit more. Also, I basically used my pine nut mayonnaise recipe and added a tablespoon of fresh grated horseradish and a little squeeze of lemon, but if you vibe to Vegenaise (which I sometimes do) or regular mayo, you could certainly just stir some fresh/prepared horseradish into some of that. Even some sheep’s milk yogurt or sour cream could be nice.


1 large spanish onion, peeled + cut into 1/2 inch thick rings
1/2 cup GF all purpose flour
salt + pepper
an oil spray of some kind

wet mix:
1 cup unsweetened almond or other non-dairy milk
1 tbsp dijon mustard
small handful of GF all purpose flour
salt + pepper

quinoa coating:
1-2 cups gluten free bread/cracker crumbs (I ground up Mary’s Crackers in the food processor)
1-2 cups puffed quinoa
handful black sesame seeds (optional)
1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning (or whatever spice you like)
salt + pepper (keep in mind that Old Bay already contains hella salt)

horseradish dip:
1 cup mayonnaise/creamy base of your choosing (see notes)
squeeze of lemon juice + some zest
1 tbsp finely grated fresh horseradish (or a prepared variety)
ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

Combine the cut onion rings, 1/2 cup of flour, salt and pepper in a large Ziploc bag (or bowl). Toss the rings to evenly coat them in flour and seasoning. Set aside.

In a pie plate, combine the almond milk, mustard, flour, salt and pepper. Whisk this together with a fork until combined. Set aside.

In another pie plate or large dish, combine the GF bread/cracker crumbs, puffed quinoa, sesame seeds, Old Bay, salt and pepper. Toss lightly to combine.

Set up an assembly line like this: flour coated rings, almond milk mixture, quinoa + crumb coating and then the lined baking sheets. Take a few rings out of the Ziploc bag and toss them into the almond milk mixture, coating them evenly and completely. Transfer the almond milk-soaked rings to the quinoa crumb mixture. Toss the rings in the quinoa crumb mixture, really pressing the coating onto the rings. Once the rings are adequately covered, place them on the parchment lined baking sheet, ensuring that there’s a bit of space around each one. Repeat with remaining onion rings.

Place the onion rings in the fridge to firm up for at least an hour (I once left a tray of these in the fridge for a full 24 hours by accident and they were totally fine).

While the onion rings are chilling, whisk the horseradish, lemon juice/zest and pepper into your dip base of choice. Keep covered in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

When you’re ready to bake them, spray the coated rings lightly with oil and then slide them into the oven for 20-25 minutes or until firm and golden brown, flipping them halfway. Serve hot with the horseradish dip.

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thecitygourmand29/01/2014 - 7:54 am

A slightly quirky twist on a classic. I saw a polenta version the other day, but these look tasty!

Shelly @ Vegetarian 'Ventures29/01/2014 - 9:20 am

Such a wonderful idea! I’ve been making Isa Chandra’s baked onion rings for years and although the texture is different than deep fried ones, it’s still totally delicious and kicks that ‘junk food craving’ when it surfaces. I can’t wait to try your version next time – puffed quinoa + a pint nut mayo? I’m in.

Kate @ The Endless Pursuit29/01/2014 - 9:34 am

Even at 8:30 in the morning I’m drooling for some of these right NOW! Holy goodness. I’ve always stayed away from cooking foods like these at home since I rarely deep fry… but baking these looks like they come pretty damn close to tasting like deep fried! Great for game day!

Emma Galloway29/01/2014 - 10:07 am

These look and sound amazing Laura! Especially love the little puffed quinoa action. Yum.

Ashley29/01/2014 - 11:00 am

Mind blown. Love all your little tips + ideas. It’s always fun to read about more of the nitty-gritty process that is oftentimes left out. Also, I MUST HAVE that white/blue mug/cup the onion rings are in. Obsessed.

These look so, so good. I don’t really like fried onion rings, but am really digging the idea of these.

PS: Not sure I’ve ever seen puffed quinoa before. Basically toasted, right?

Laura Wright29/01/2014 - 1:25 pm

Hi! Puffed quinoa is sold in the cereal aisle with the puffed wheat, millet etc. I’ve seen it at some local general grocery stores and at health food stores. I use it for these, but also to top yogurt, salads, anything that needs a little light crunch essentially.

Lydia29/01/2014 - 2:40 pm

Any way to use regular quinoa for this?

Ashley29/01/2014 - 2:41 pm

Mmm, I’m a saucy one myself. Most foods are drenched in whatever sauce I can find. These baked onion rings look incredible! I can’t wait to try and to play with the spice flavorings! Go Broncos!

Laura Wright29/01/2014 - 3:00 pm

Hi Lydia,
If you want to try using regular quinoa, I would use less of it in the coating mixture. An equal ratio of it to cracker crumbs might be TOO crunchy, like break your tooth-kinda crunchy. A little handful of it might be pleasant enough, but I will highlight that the puffed quinoa has more of an airy crunch, like puffed wheat almost. No harm in trying though :)

Eileen29/01/2014 - 3:23 pm

I can just imagine the super-strong crunch that quinoa must bring to these onion rings. So good. Hooray!

Kathryn29/01/2014 - 6:12 pm

I thought for years that I didn’t like onion rings. Then I tried one and was totally smitten. These are total genius.

dishing up the dirt29/01/2014 - 6:37 pm

I need to get my hands on some puffed quinoa. These onion rings sound fantastic!

Kris29/01/2014 - 9:05 pm

Whoa! I was literally just thinking today that I wanted to make some quinoa onion rings this weekend, but I didn’t (yet!) have a recipe. Laura to the rescue!! Also, stunning photography, as per usual. xo

cheri29/01/2014 - 11:17 pm

Never heard of puffed quinoa before, sounds tasty. These onions rings look delicious!

Alysa30/01/2014 - 10:03 am

I can’t even begin to tell you how DELICIOUS these look. Whoa. Love that you’ve taken the onion ring to a whole new level.

Thanks a million times over for this recipe.

Lana30/01/2014 - 12:05 pm

GIRL! These remind me of the ones at Fresh in Toronto… Except, you know, way less greasy. Love the choice of dip.

Lana30/01/2014 - 12:10 pm

(Ha! I totally pulled a fast one and commented before reading the text. And for the record, I’m so jealous you got to hang with Kelsey!!)

Chelsea//TheNakedFig30/01/2014 - 2:53 pm

OH MY GOD, YES!! These look amazing. I love onion rings and nothing goes better with them than horseradish sauce. Can’t wait to try this out. And thanks for the tip about refrigerating them. I can never get baked onion rings soft enough!

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Ananda Rajashekar02/02/2014 - 5:11 pm

Laura, your pictures are stunning! can’t take my eyes off….and onion rings are just AMAZING!

Brian @ A Thought For Food02/02/2014 - 5:38 pm

You don’t know how excited I am to see this recipe… my mom’s best friend is vegan and gluten-free and I know they’re always struggling to find fun recipes to try. This looks like so much fun. Just passed it along to her and I’ll let you know when they make it.

Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl03/02/2014 - 3:50 pm

These look so delicious,and love the twist with the quinoa, major yum. Your photos are pretty to add!

sara forte03/02/2014 - 5:05 pm

sweet heavens you are so damn creative. and pine nut mayo? What? Girl, you are too good. These look incredible.

Peter VandenBerg03/02/2014 - 10:00 pm

I’ve been a Vegetarian for over two years now and it has already had a distinct effect on me being willing to cook. Before I was vegetarian eating somewhat healthy was very easy without really doing any work. There are lots of frozen options out there that although not really great for you do in the end have what you need to maintain.

Right now I’m at the stage where just putting a bunch of stuff into a skillet is cooking for me, but I’m hoping to progress towards something a little more eloquent and rewarding. I definitely like the idea of being able to cook for my friends that eat meat and them enjoy it. It shows them that it’s possible to enjoy food while not destroying valuable life on this planet.

Nat @ the Apple Diaries04/02/2014 - 6:41 am

I literally have not had onion rings since my teenage years of eating fast food! I never even thought to make a healthy version! Awesome idea :)

Lauren Anne04/02/2014 - 3:54 pm

I love your site! Subscribing asap (:

Kasey06/02/2014 - 12:08 am

You consistently wow me with your creativity, lady. I loooove onion rings (usually, the fried kind) but I am so pumped to try this. I am one of those Americans who could care less about the Superbowl, but I’m all for the food. :) x

[…] photographers. I’m thinking of it as a win-win since I’ll be munching on Laura’s Quinoa Onion Rings if The First Mess wins and this Orange Chocolate Tart if Happyyolks is sent to […]

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Judee@ Gluten Free A-Z Blog07/07/2014 - 3:00 pm

Looks like a wonderful recipe that I am sure everyone in my family would absolutely love, but I am most impressed with your bowl. Is it from Turkey?

Laura Wright07/07/2014 - 5:35 pm

Hi Judee! It was made in Portugal

[…] This is one of those dishes with quinoa that proves nearly anything can be made healthily! Get the recipe here. […]