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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
serves: 
a large onion’s worth of rings (like 20ish)
notes: 
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.

rings:

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.
-L

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 :)
-L

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!

[…]   I have a hankering for these kimchi tacos, these bok choy dumplings, this egg roll, these quinoa crusted onion rings, these black energy bars, these cucumber noodles, this black rice pudding, this vegan coconut ice […]

[…] with salty snacks, as I don’t understand football): Vegan, gluten-free and nut-free onion rings for party noshing sound delicious. And […]

[…] Tomato Avocado Tarts Sweet Potato Chili Fries Homemade Salsa Baked Black Bean Taquitos Quinoa Onion Rings with Horseradish Dip Loaded Sweet Potato Rounds Corn and Cotija Cheese Dip Quinoa Sausage Balls Avocado Goat Cheese […]

DIY Weekend, sewing projects01/02/2014 - 7:09 am

[…] these as a healthy twist on a super bowl dish, that’s not […]

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 […]

[…] vegan recipe, this horseradish dip has some spice. Pair it with quinoa onion rings for protein! (via The First […]

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
-L

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

sweet potato soup with coriander + blood orange

sweet potato soup with coriander + blood orange // the first messsweet potato soup with coriander + blood orange // the first messsweet potato soup with coriander + blood orange // the first mess
Let me start by telling you that in extreme weather and more relaxed periods of time, I always turn to really pared down food. Meals and bowls that have a borderline ascetic kind of vibe. Steamed vegetables with olive oil, roasted squash with a squeeze of lime and pepper, avocado eaten out of its peel with a bit of salt etc. Sharpening of temperatures and some much-appreciated slack times always seem like good opportunities to re-focus on my body and what it’s trying to communicate. Essentially, I know in my heart of hearts that my personal food program needs a bit of cleaning up. Most of the major renovation stuff is over and done with at the house (there’s a kitchen floor now!), I’m in a very relaxed pocket of time with work, and yep. All those desperation/hangry pizzas ate in paint-splattered clothing on the living room floor have taken their toll.

So a bit of a meditation on paring it all down, food and otherwise, is an ongoing thing right now. I’ve been really inspired by 5-7ish ingredient preparations and just trying to find the best way to coax flavour out of various foodstuffs. I’ve been making notes with all of the ideas and successes and I can’t wait to share more of this kind of thing with you here. I find it’s really easy to make food/meal time/life in general rather complex. So finding a wellspring of inspiration in the pursuit of simpler (but still very full) living has been really welcome. So yeah. More of that kinda stuff ’round here for sure. Hope you’re all game.

So the soup! I find soup/stew is a nice go-to when you’re cleaning things up, so to speak. It’s nice to calmly hover around the pot, it’s an economical meal strategy, and soup is also really easy to make healthy and totally delicious. With this one, it’s hard to believe that so few ingredients could be luxurious and satisfying in that deep-warming kinda way, but seriously. So silky and rich. I slowly cook the onions, garlic and aromatics in a hefty slick of oil to bring out the sweetness and to remove any speck of raw spice. I always employ this strategy with soup–kind of stewing the onions + flavour-y bits in oil before I add the larger components. When you see that slick of oil mingled with herbs, spice etc. on the top of the pot, you know you’re doing it right.

And a note on that slick of oil: I was a grapeseed kinda gal through and through until I read Winnie Abramson‘s book One Simple Change, which is a completely excellent, no-nonsense companion to living a brighter + healthier life.  I reserved my olive oils for salads and general drizzlin’ because everyone was saying that it wasn’t fit for heated contact. So grapeseed oil became my thing because of its neutral taste and ability to handle high heat, but in her segment on fats and oils, Winnie mentions its tendency to originate from genetically modified crops, so I’m slowly moving away from it/seeking out a more trusted source (holler if you got one). In the meantime, I’m using standard, organic olive oil (not extra virgin), which can be had for a reasonable price at almost any establishment that sells food. Winnie notes that bringing up the temperature slowly is crucial, so I’m taking her advice and loving it big time. It’s been nice to bring olive oil back into the circle a bit more. Anyway, hope all of youse in the midst of polar vortex round II (electric bugaloo!) are snuggled up this week. Make soup! :)

sweet potato soup with coriander + blood orange // the first messsweet potato soup with coriander + blood orange // the first messsqueezed // the first messsweet potato soup with coriander + blood orange // the first messsweet potato soup with coriander + blood orange // the first mess

sweet potato soup with coriander + blood orange
Barely adapted from GP’s It’s All Good (Yes, I get to call her GP).
serves: makes 2 litres
notes: Juice from a regular orange or a splash or sherry vinegar would be just as nice as the blood orange. Also, I garnish this with some little quickie sweet potato chips: just sauté some thin slices in olive oil over medium heat, remove when lightly browned, and then dust them with a bit of salt or spice (I used Old Bay seasoning).

2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, small dice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chili flakes
juice of a blood orange
2 sweet potatoes, peeled + diced
5 cups vegetable stock
salt + pepper

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, coriander, and chili flakes to the pot. Lower the heat until the sizzling sounds a bit lighter. Stir and sauté this mixture until the onions are stew-y and soft, but not browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add more oil if necessary.

Add the blood orange juice to the pot and stir. Add the sweet potatoes and stir again. Season everything with lots of salt and pepper. Add the stock to the pot and increase the heat. Once everything’s boiling, bring it down to a simmer. Cook the soup until the sweet potatoes are really tender, about 12-15 minutes. Purée the soup in batches in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve the soup hot with little sweet potato chips and a sprinkle of sesame seeds if you like.

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Kathryn23/01/2014 - 7:43 am

Oh yes, I remember those hangry pizzas so well especially during the month or so that we didn’t have any kind of kitchen and had a weird messed up crazy diet. It was so good to get back on an even keel. And I’m all for simplicity and paring down. There’s nothing like a gigantic list of ingredients to put me off a recipe; it just seems like you’re trying to hide something. This soup = perfect.

Supal {chevrons and éclairs}23/01/2014 - 9:10 am

The addition of the blood orange juice right after browning the onions a bit is a brilliant idea! Will have to try this for future soup and perhaps other fruits too :) x

Abby @ The Frosted Vegan23/01/2014 - 9:39 am

I’m with you sister! Sometimes it’s easy to make things/recipes too complicated and miss out on the simple flavors. I have everything I need for this, so be gone polar vortex! Also, can these vortexes pleaseee be over??

Tessa | Balancing Active23/01/2014 - 9:40 am

I was wondering what to do with the two sweet potatoes sitting in my fridge that are about to go bad. Then I realized I also have all the other ingredients for this soup in my house (minus the blood orange, but I’ll take your word on the substitutions)–problem solved! Thanks for the simple recipe. Your photos are stunning–especially that last one.

Amanda23/01/2014 - 9:42 am

This is a favourite in our house; I love how much body this soup has considering it is made up of so few ingredients. Last weekend I made a double batch to freeze so we’ve got sweet potato soup for days! I love the idea of adding orange juice!

Sini | my blue&white kitchen23/01/2014 - 10:05 am

Wow! Absolutely gorgeous. It’s like having sunshine in your bowl. Can’t wait to make this.

Belinda@themoonblushbaker23/01/2014 - 10:20 am

I praise you that you only get hangry pizza during kitchen renovations; I get them even when I am re doing any part pf the house. I am a fan of grape seed oil too; I have never relaly been in to olive oil as the flavor is way too strong for me.

it is wonderful you are being inspired by short list recipes; they are naked recipes were the best produce makes the best meals and you can focus on your cooking skills. Love this soup; and the colour is so bright and cheerful for the blue cloudy days.

Emma Galloway23/01/2014 - 10:27 am

I too have moved away from grapeseed (and rice bran oil) in the last year or so, after reading about the process it takes to make the stuff (using chemicals!) Ekk. I now only ever use olive oil, ghee and coconut oil.
ps-love that you call her GP you rockstar. Lovely soup!

shanna mallon23/01/2014 - 10:37 am

goooooorgeous. and ps Winnie’s book! I love it, too.

Amy @ Parsley In My Teeth23/01/2014 - 10:55 am

I thought the blood orange juice would turn this a shade of pink, but the yellow color is gorgeous! Definitely the kind of hearty soup we need in the Frozen North right now!

Michelle23/01/2014 - 12:45 pm

This looks amazing, I really wish I liked sweet potatoes!! The pictures make me want to be brave and try it again in a new way.

Golubka23/01/2014 - 1:18 pm

It’s my favorite soup in that book. Can’t wait to try it with blood orange juice next time.

Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward23/01/2014 - 1:23 pm

This soup looks so balanced, fresh and flavorful! And the color – wow. Any vegetarian or meat eater would enjoy it. Thank you for sharing! Best, Shanna

Eileen23/01/2014 - 2:06 pm

That soup is the most beautiful color. I love the idea of punching up sweet potato with citrus!

Kankana23/01/2014 - 2:31 pm

I am in love with the color of the soup, so warm, like sunshine in a bowl. Perfect for the season.

Lindsey23/01/2014 - 3:02 pm

YES! I am so with you on the simple ingredient thing! I’ve been making a veggie stew with little more than 6 ingredients, it leaves me super full and warm, totally essential during these months. I am so intrigued by the blood orange juice, I am totally adding it next time I make sweet potato soup! GP for the win!

Chelsea//TheNakedFig23/01/2014 - 3:30 pm

This looks so delicious! Nothing beats a creamy soup on a cold day. And I love the addition of blood orange. Can’t wait to try!

Amy23/01/2014 - 3:41 pm

I love when something that looks so beautiful is made with all the stuff hanging out in the bottom of my fridge at this very moment. Perhaps a swirl of cilantro oil for party purposes?

Laura Wright23/01/2014 - 3:45 pm

That sounds pretty bang-on, Amy! :)

Dawn23/01/2014 - 4:15 pm

Try macadamia nut oil, it has a pleasing buttery taste. I use it for shallow frying and in baked goods. Or sesame oil.

Dawn23/01/2014 - 4:16 pm

I don’t use the sesame oil in baking, just for frying.

Medha23/01/2014 - 4:36 pm

Your gorgeous pictures brighten up my day in this chilly weather. I moved away from olive oil little bit and start using ghee and coconut oil in cooking, I love the taste and smell of these oils.

Kate23/01/2014 - 5:36 pm

This soup looks beautiful and the flavors sound like exactly what I need to unclench my shoulders on these subzero days we’ve been having in New York City. Thanks for the idea!

Nicola | Homegrown Kitchen23/01/2014 - 10:01 pm

Regarding using olive oil in cooking: I am of the belief to use food how we have for centuries. Olive oil has in fact been used for ‘gentle’ sauteing in Mediterranean style food for as long as the olive groves have existed. However, and here is a tip I learned while studying natural nutrition, always add chopped onion and/or garlic when cooking with olive oil over a low/ medium heat. The sulfur in onions and garlic is a powerful antioxidant that protects the oil for oxidising. If you think about it we generally always add chopped onion and/or garlic when we make soup or sauce or a casserole, right?
Happy cooking with olive oil Laura, love your recipes :)

kw24/01/2014 - 4:19 pm

I made this today. It was really good. It hit the spot during this cold snap we are having. Instead of the sweet potatoes I fried Yukon potatoes in with oil, rosemary and sage that I added at the end.

Really good stuff. Thanks for the recipe

Sandy24/01/2014 - 5:43 pm

You take such beautiful pictures. How does someone take red onion peels and make them look like flowers? Well done! Also I love sweet potato so I need to make this soup.

[…] 2. Sweet Potato Soup with Coriander + Blood Orange  from The First Mess […]

Helen @ Scrummy Lane28/01/2014 - 11:33 am

This is such an interesting and tasty-sounding twist on a simple soup. Still seems like it would be easy to make though. Delicious!

Shelly @ Vegetarian 'Ventures02/02/2014 - 9:43 pm

I always struggle with what oil to use as well – there are so many contradictions out there! Lately, I’ve been using ghee (per my yoga / hippie reading: http://www.yogajournal.com/health/56) as my choice but who knows if it’s just another trend oil or could be the answer.

[…] van zoete patat met koriander en bloedappelsien! Ik kan er niet aan weerstaan. Ik zag het op The First Mess en die dame maakt echt heerlijke […]

Ileana19/02/2014 - 6:50 pm

Such spectacular photos! I’ll have to keep your soup tips in mind next time I’m cooking up a batch.

[…] Sweet Potato Soup with Coriander and Blood Orange / The First Mess […]

farro breakfast bowl w/ turmeric + scallion scrambled chickpeas

farro breakfast bowl w/ turmeric + scallion scrambled chickpeas // the first messflipping through "Whole Grain Mornings" by Megan Gordon // the first messfarro breakfast bowl ingredients // the first mess
Lately, I’m really into daily devotion, as opposed to yearly resolutions. Also, I didn’t make that up myself. I saw it on the sign outside of a church down the road from my house last week, all covered in snow and ice.  Mark was driving, and I read it as we whizzed on by, everything a blur except for that sharp line of guidance in neon. “Oh! That’s really great.” I made a note of it.

There weren’t a lot of spare moments for contemplation or general downtime in the four months leading into the eve of this year. There are lines of reasoning for that harried period of time, a few of them more ridiculous than others now that I have a shred of hindsight. But I caught a bit of a break over the holidays and legitimately spent one of those days shuttling to three different Target stores on the hunt for highly specific Christmas decorations that were now 70% off. You know, for our festive aesthetic enjoyment an entire year from now. I am awesome at self-crazy-making and as much as I recognize this dumbfounding capability, this is going to be the year that it stops.

On new year’s eve, we thought it would be fun to spend the night at the house, our house. We have an operational heating system, running water, a beautiful plant from a lovely friend, and a bed in its right place with cozy sheets (but not much else at this point), so it seemed like the right way to greet a new calendar year. I got some beers from the brewery down the road from my parents’ place, packed my favourite pyjamas into the overnight bag, and we were on our way as the sun began its exit. The mature trees were all stark against the reds, oranges, creamy yellow, and cold, deep-sea blue when my favourite Tom Waits song came on the radio. Whenever the stereo shuffles onto it, the smile of distinctly felt ease creeps up on my face, I lean back a bit, and stare out the window with a new glance, one of truer awareness for what surrounds. Then Mark starts doing his best Tom Waits impression and I laugh so hard/start yelling “Noooooo!” half-disapprovingly because he’s co-opting my moment of car travel serenity.

This time, my eyes started misting up at the end, the relevance and surprising weight of it all. The notion that you can build up your own personal hell with ease, taking the path of no surrender to madness despite knowing better, the startling transience of our lives here, and that you can find refuge and stillness by finally seeing the love and varied semblances of “home” that are all around you. It was a moment of clarity that caught me off guard.

There was no well-planned dinner or restaurant reservation, no champagne, not a stitch of sequins in my wardrobe that night, and no grandiose proclamations or gestures either. We stepped out for some Tsingtao’s and noodles, and then followed that up with more beers in our jams watching Parts Unknown. We barely made it to midnight before passing out, but it was perfect. Amidst the boxes and mess, our work-in-progress home was flooded with warm light and laughter. Those moments of relief were arrived at with surprising ease too.

So I’m working on greater appreciation and overall life improvement on a day-to-day basis now. I don’t poison myself with guilt over enjoying a coffee (or three) in the morning like I used to. I’m mentally pumping myself up on the idea of saying no to anything that diminishes a self-determined value of my work. I’m trying to communicate better with the man I have the privilege of sharing a life with. I’m listening, like really listening, with less pre-conceived notions. I’m valiantly trying to use less paper towels. And I’m making time for breakfast.

Megan Gordon’s book, Whole Grain Mornings, arrived in the post around Christmas time and I loved it as soon as I took a 3 minute glance through its pages. I’ve always appreciated the calm and grounded tone of her blog, A Sweet Spoonful, and she drives home the importance of mornings with her granola guru ways. The book’s arrival at my doorstep in the crush of the holidays was rather timely to say the least. It’s all laid out by season and the varying paces of life–the mornings that flash by on the way to work, the brunches that see us entertaining loved ones into the afternoon, and the days to slow down and savour every drop of that quiet early light. Simply put, it’s my kind of book. It’s personal in a way that’s relatable, all tying back to those deeply felt seasonal shifts. I’ve been eyeing the banana walnut baked oatmeal, the pear hazelnut oat muffins, the nutty millet breakfast cookies, and the whole grain gingerbread. For now, I’ve been playing around with the savoury inspiration. This bowl is a mix of her greens + grains scramble and the California barley bowl with lemon yogurt sauce. Farro is one of my favourite grains because of the delightful chew. I add some “scrambled” chickpeas with scallions + turmeric, and top the whole heap of it off with some pickled jalapeños, ripe avocado, sesames, and a creamy lemony sunflower-based sauce. Along with the myriad of daily devotions going on, it’s my new favourite thing. Maybe make it yours too?

Wishing everyone all the good things for this year. Thanks, as always, for your kindness in this space. xo

farro breakfast bowl w/ turmeric + scallion scrambled chickpeas // the first messturmeric + scallion scrambled chickpeas // the first messfarro breakfast bowl w/ turmeric + scallion scrambled chickpeas // the first messall done // the first mess
farro breakfast bowl w/ turmeric + scallion scrambled chickpeas, avocado, and sunflower lemon sauce

Inspired by Megan Gordon’s Whole Grain Mornings
serves: 2
notes: I take a pasta-ish approach to cooking farro–I just rinse it under cold water, drop it in a medium saucepan and cover it with a bunch of fresh water. I bring it to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes or so, or until it’s cooked through, but still slightly chewy. You can add more water as it cooks if necessary. Once it’s done and I’ve drained it, I pour a good bit of extra virgin olive oil on top and coat all the grains in it to keep them from clumping up.

1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked for at least an hour
juice + zest of 1 lemon + extra for serving if you like
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
4 scallions, sliced, white + green parts separated
1 1/2 cups cooked farro (using the cooking method described in the notes above)
grapeseed oil (or other heat-tolerant oil)
3 cups cooked chickpeas
1/2-1 tsp ground turmeric
sesame seeds (optional)
1/2 ripe avocado, peeled + diced
pickled jalapeños
salt + pepper (I like Vege-Sal or Herbamare for this)

In a blender, combine the sunflower seeds, lemon zest, juice, dijon salt, pepper and a splash of water to get the blade moving. Mix it on high until a smooth sauce-like consistency forms. Add as much water as you like to make the sauce veer towards thick or thin, depending on your preference. Check it for seasoning and scrape the sauce into a jar or small bowl. Stir in a fat pinch of the sliced scallion greens and set aside.

Portion the cooked farro into two bowls.

In a sauté pan, heat the grapeseed oil over medium. Mash the chickpeas up with a fork, leaving some of them whole. Add the sliced white parts of the scallions and the turmeric to the pan. Stir them around until the scallions are slightly soft and the raw edge from the turmeric has faded. Add the mashed chickpeas and season the mix with salt and pepper. “Scramble” the mix in the pan until everything is hot. Stir in some of the scallion greens at the end.

Divide the chickpea scramble between the two bowls of farro. Top bowls with the sunflower lemon sauce. Garnish both with the extra scallions, diced avocado, pickled jalapeños, sesame seeds, and some extra ground black pepper.

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Kathryn08/01/2014 - 5:04 am

I’m so excited for this book to arrive – I can tell it’s going to be my favourite thing ever. I love this savoury take on breakfasting too; I never thought I’d be the kind of person to want anything other than a muffin in the morning but I’m finding more and more that the idea of proper grains + veggies is appealing. Happy new year Laura, looking forward to seeing what 2014 has in store for you xo

Melissa08/01/2014 - 5:51 am

What a wonderful take on a savoury breakfast. I will be bookmarking this recipe to make. Gorgeous photography too.

Brianne08/01/2014 - 9:43 am

I have to get a hold of this book. Everything I’ve heard about it sounds great! After a crazy holiday apart, my husband and I stayed in on New Year’s Eve. We, too, went out for noodles without any sparkle. Afterwards we watched some movie at home in our sweats while drinking champagne. I fell asleep at 11, but he woke me up at 11:50 so we could ring in the new year together. It was wonderful. I love your outlook on the new year; it’s so inspiring. Best to you!

Ali @ Inspiralized08/01/2014 - 9:44 am

This is absolutely incredible! I want this for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Karolina08/01/2014 - 9:51 am

OMG!! I am doing this for my tomorrow breakfast. I have a whole jar of farro sitting on my kitchen shelf and I never knew how should I use it. I like your version very mush. Can I make it in advance? (say in the evening, to take it to work the next day?)

Tessa08/01/2014 - 10:42 am

I love your use of the avocado skin (peel?)with the lemon as a little garnish/prop–very creative.

shanna mallon08/01/2014 - 11:22 am

daily devotion. YES. I want that, too.

la domestique08/01/2014 - 11:27 am

I’m a breakfast-loving person and this bowl looks like a great way to start the day! Here’s to a mega-fantastic 2014!

Christine08/01/2014 - 1:34 pm

This all sounds delicious, and I think you’re a genius with the sauce. Thanks for the reminder to savour those quieter moments and take a step back perspective-wise :)

Laura Wright08/01/2014 - 1:53 pm

Hi Karolina, You could definitely assemble the bowl the night before and just heat it up in the morning and top it off with your avocado, sesames and sauce. And if you’re cool with a room temperature kind of thing, by all means throw everything together the night before.
-L

Ashley08/01/2014 - 4:48 pm

So lovely, in thoughts, words, and pictures. As your posts always are.

Sherrie | With Food + Love08/01/2014 - 8:14 pm

Laura –

Super gorgeous photos on this one. I actually own that same vintage red + white pot! I have a blue + white too, they’re the prefect props.

So much love!
SHERRIE

Lindsey08/01/2014 - 8:18 pm

I totally hear you on the whole not making resolutions thing. Sounds like you and yours had a quiet and lovely celebration together – those are the best!

This scramble is super! I love the idea of making a breakfast with chickpeas + turmeric + scallions! I’m also all over the sunflower cream,that’s def going on the must-make list!

sara forte08/01/2014 - 8:45 pm

first off, your writing is so sweet and wonderful. Love all of it, but especially the day at a time sort of devotion. I find that to be way more practical and worth sticking to as opposed to larger, vague goals that I seldom revisit until I return to that same binder the following Dec. 30thish. I’m on board. Also. You never cease to amaze me, Laura. Scrambled chickpeas. Of course. I love eggs HOWEVER this is genius and I am so impressed with your continued creativity, my friend.

Sally - My Custard Pie09/01/2014 - 12:30 am

Hopped over here from My Darling Lemon Thyme and so glad I did. Love your photographs, writing and recipes but most of all your approach to life. Balanced…and a bit messy. Will be visiting often.

Claire (Eat Well. Party Hard.)09/01/2014 - 8:10 am

“The mature trees were all stark against the reds, oranges, creamy yellow, and cold, deep-sea blue when my favourite Tom Waits song came on the radio. Whenever the stereo shuffles onto it, the smile of distinctly felt ease creeps up on my face, I lean back a bit, and stare out the window with a new glance, one of truer awareness for what surrounds. Then Mark starts doing his best Tom Waits impression and I laugh so hard/start yelling “Noooooo!” half-disapprovingly because he’s co-opting my moment of car travel serenity.”

This. Just, this.

We’re on a hella similar musical plane, and that just makes me smile.

Amanda09/01/2014 - 1:56 pm

I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while now, but this post resonated so much with me I had to comment. A) I love that Tom Waits song and B) the line about creating your own personal hell with ease despite knowing better just is so true. It’s amazing how we can recognize the false starts and sometimes choose not to mitigate the damage. But things have a way of righting themselves, as you felt and saw. This meal is a great reflection of that. Thanks for showing such a true reflection of yourself here on your blog. Best, A

Megan09/01/2014 - 2:25 pm

This looks just lovely, and I am liking your outlook resolutions or lack thereof. We all could use a break from our own judgment from time to time :)

I made resolutions but smart ones. There are two not that east- visiting Wild Wild West and seeing bridges from The Bridges of Madison County. But so far so good, I do it day by day and it seems to work. Thank you for the tip about book, I am always looking for morning inspirations :) Happy New Year!

Amy09/01/2014 - 6:48 pm

Gorgeous photos per usual! I love a good savory breakfast. Curious, why do you soak the seeds?

Jenn Radford09/01/2014 - 7:50 pm

This looks amazing. I’m hugely into breakfast, so this book sounds right up my alley! Looking forward to seeing what you have in store for us readers in 2014. All the best

Laura Wright10/01/2014 - 12:25 am

Hi Amy! I soak the seeds just to soften them up a bit before they hit the blender. Makes for a creamier dressing in the end.
-L

Megan Gordon10/01/2014 - 12:40 am

Such a beautiful post and I’m so glad you’re making the recipes your own — I think this savory bowl really lends itself to that. Leftover grains + little bits you’re excited about in the fridge = new breakfast inspiration. Gorgeous photos, as always. Happiest of weekends to you! ~Megan

Emma Galloway10/01/2014 - 4:04 am

Your New Years eve sounded absolutely perfect. As does this bowl of goodness, scrambled chickpeas?! Brilliant xx

Jacqui10/01/2014 - 12:23 pm

Scrambled chickpeas! Such a great idea! I love a good savory breakfast, but it usually includes eggs, this will be a nice switch. Here’s to a less “creating personal hell” year ; )

[…] about as sexy as oatmeal ever looks, folks. Then I’ll probably have to try Laura’s spin on the farro bowl and prepare some saucy tomato poached eggs for brunch once I’m settled into my new house. I. […]

hannah10/01/2014 - 9:45 pm

This looks DELICIOUS, I’d actually love it as a cosy dinner. I’d love to see you veganise some of those recipes linked above – would you just add a flax egg to the cookies?
Also, do you fancy sharing that persimmon smoothie? I Loooooove persimmons but have never blended one, do you just throw it in with some dates? do you peel it?
Thank you for sharing and wishing you such a happy new year, I love your blog and every word that you write and look forward to following your adventures!

Teri11/01/2014 - 11:19 pm

um, the list of ingredients doesn’t seem to have farro. (not that I have any, what is it and what can I substitute, please) and thank you for the second paragraph of your essay. I needed that… very very much.

Megan12/01/2014 - 1:39 pm

As someone who can rarely handle a sweet breakfast but is getting a bit sick of eggs and bagels w/ cream cheese, this looks AMAZING. And the further I got in the pictures the more I realized: I have almost all of these ingredients in my pantry right now, but never would have thought of combining them. It was as if you knew and were writing just for me!

On that note, though: one of the things I’m missing is dijon mustard. Would you have any recommendations for a substitute/alternative cream sauce? Last time I had a similar problem I made a maple chili curry yogurt, but I feel like that would be too heavy for this.

(Note: I’m very much a beginner homechef. I’m still learning a lot about flavor pairings, often through a lengthy trial and error process, as I over-zealously make things up as I go. I was quite surprised when the aforementioned yogurt turned out semi-decent.)

Laura Wright12/01/2014 - 2:22 pm

Hi Teri, sorry about that confusion. I added the amount of farro into the recipe, and just to let you know–it’s a grain similar in body/texture to wheat berries or whole grain spelt. You can use any cooked grain you like in its place (quinoa, millet, bulgur etc)
-L

Laura Wright12/01/2014 - 2:24 pm

Hi Megan, in the cookbook I was working from, the author actually recommends a simple sauce of yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice and chopped chives/green onions for this bowl. So maybe you could do something like that?
-L

Steph13/01/2014 - 3:18 am

That bowl of goodness looks so vibrant and inviting, I have never tried farro, but think I should :)

Emily | The Guest House13/01/2014 - 10:56 am

I am always, ALWAYS, looking for new good savoury breakfast ideas. This is one I’ve never thought of before so thank you!

Brian @ A Thought For Food13/01/2014 - 11:38 am

Well… this is going on my must make list. What a wonderful way to start the day.

Laura Wright13/01/2014 - 1:04 pm

Hi Hannah,
For the millet cookies, I think I would sub mashed ripe banana for the egg and up the baking powder in the recipe to a full teaspoon. And for the persimmon smoothie, I just used a chopped ripe persimmon (peel and all), a couple chopped figs, 3 pitted dates, some vanilla, the juice of a couple oranges and some coconut yogurt. The pectin in the persimmon made it pretty thick so just be aware of that if you make it :)
-L

Allyssa14/01/2014 - 12:22 pm

That breakfast looks delicious! I love your blog, by the way. :)

Kristie Eccleston15/01/2014 - 8:42 pm

I’m new here and WOW! I can’t get over the photography of the food. I mean I can’t wait to try some of these recipes but I was drawn in by the photos!

The Rose Journals17/01/2014 - 1:36 am

Every time I come on your blog I’m swept away with the originality. Seriously, you be killin it. So blessed for you! :):)

T18/01/2014 - 3:52 pm

Beauty. I am going to try think with black rice to make it gluten-free!

SouthernSpoonBelle19/01/2014 - 12:35 am

Savory breakfasts have unexpectedly become one of my favorite weekend habits– really looking forward to trying this combination. Happy 2014 to y’all, and, as always, thanks for sharing your thoughts and beautiful food!

Monica21/01/2014 - 6:03 pm

Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe! It’s already become a favorite. Made exactly as written, the only change we made was adding fresh serrano chiles as garnish. The sunflower butter was a great surprise — excellent vegan ‘yogurt.’ Thanks for the great tips for cooking farro.

Georgia09/02/2014 - 8:30 pm

There is no way I’m not making this

Lindsey17/02/2014 - 10:17 pm

I have been a bacon and eggs for breakfast kind of girl for a long time. And even though I won’t be giving up bacon and eggs for good anytime soon, this has become my new everyday breakfast. So easy to throw together in the morning when everything is made up ahead of time, so satisfying and feel good. The jalapenos just send this over the awesome edge for me.

Kayla01/04/2014 - 12:10 pm

Scrambled chickpeas with greens has been my go-to lunch lately thanks to this post! I absolutely love it. I add a big spoonful of tahini right before taking the scramble off the heat and stir it around so it binds a little – adds just the right amount of creaminess.

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