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

Masthead header

sweet and sour roasted cauliflower + cellar vegetables


Cauliflower is one of those more economically efficient and deeply satisfying cold weather vegetables, in the league of root veggies, onions and alliums, various other crucifers and tubers. Cellar vegetables. Stick to your ribs fare. I find, like most other winter veggies, the method of preparation is really important when you want to make it appealing. I could eat cauliflower roasted at a high temperature every day in the cold months with just a pinch of salt and pepper. Seriously. It gets all toasty, a bit crunchy and it develops some lovely colouring, ranging from pale golden brown to almost black little flecks on the edges. It’s beautiful and crazy affordable.

I do enjoy some of the more gourmet items here and there, maybe when I’m out or I’ve received a nice gift from a friend or something. A dab of truffle oil is sometimes appropriate, high quality vanilla extract is a generous gift to be sure or some rare heirloom vegetable variety at the farmer’s market is usually too cool to pass up. But all things considered, I mostly love turning a humble and unassuming vegetable into something delicious and hearty. I appreciate accessible food and what it means to others to try and make the most of it. The best way to eat and live well is to cook and share that wealth with everyone you know.

So I’ve taken a basic roasting method and classed it up a teeny bit with some add ins that you combine the beautifully browned cauliflower with: sweet chopped dates, briny green olives, a sour squeeze of lemon, earthy thyme and crunchy little sesame seeds. I was trying to evoke a bit of a za’atar flavour, thinking it would be a good match for the robust cauliflower. The sesame seeds hug the cauliflower as it roasts and a nice dusting of parsley flecks makes it colourful. I’m so grateful to still have parsley in the garden, a vibrant, nutritious and green patch sticking out of the mud and browned leaves. Great proof that with a little mindful tending and effort comes deeply nourishing results.


sesame and lemon roasted cauliflower with dates & olives
serves: 4
notes: Feel free to squeeze the lemon on top after, but I kind of like the slightly more caramelized flavour it develops throughout the roasting.

1 small to medium head of cauliflower, cored and cut into medium-sized florets
2 tbsp raw sesame seeds
1 sprig of thyme, leaves removed and chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried)
2 tbsp grape seed oil
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
3-4 dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 sprigs of parsley, leaves removed and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss the cauliflower florets in a medium sized bowl with the sesame seeds, thyme, grape seed oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Dump the bowl onto a parchment lined baking sheet, making sure to scrape out all of the little sesame seeds.

Roast cauliflower for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown and tender. Stir mixture a couple times throughout the roasting to avoid burnt sesame seeds.

Once removed from the oven, toss hot cauliflower with chopped dates, olives and parsley. Adjust seasoning if necessary and serve.

You might also like…

festive brussels sprouts + pomegranate seeds

There’s something about pomegranates and their tiny fuschia, jewel-like seeds that is so undeniably festive. TheyView full post »

cauliflower “couscous” salad + falling back in

Couscous! The food so nice, they named it twice. Except this isn’t couscous. It’s cauliflower in a funnyView full post »

fennel slaw + combinations

I used to intern at a restaurant where they would marinate giant containers of beautiful, ripe olives in extra virginView full post »

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

[...] Sweet and Sour Roasted Cauliflower – I’m a big fan of the sweet and salty combination, and I love the unlikely combination of the salty olives and sweet dates in this recipe. Seems like a really festive and flavorful side dish. Will be trying soon! [...]

Lysa23/01/2012 - 8:51 pm

This is a beautiful recipe, Thanks for sharing!!

[...] chickpea pancakes, one must make some veggies to roll up inside of them. I’ve been eyeing Laura’s Sesame and Lemon Roasted Cauliflower with Dates and Olives since she first published the post a bit less than two months ago, falling in love with the idea [...]

festive brussels sprouts + pomegranate seeds

There’s something about pomegranates and their tiny fuschia, jewel-like seeds that is so undeniably festive. They shine and sparkle so beautifully wherever they land. There is also something so inherently frustrating about their construction, webs of honeycomb-ish pithy rind gripping onto those gorgeous seeds for dear life, spattering hot pink juice everywhere when you try to extract them. In recent years I’ve figured out how to go about deseeding those iconic pink fruits without making a giant mess. Just a little plunge in some water, a cut here and there and voila! Instant glamour on everything: salads, granola, yogurt and more importantly, roasted brussels sprouts. Oh yes.

The tart juiciness of the pomegranate seeds is a nice match for the strong, cabbage-y flavour of the roasted brussels sprouts. Add some toasted hazelnuts, lime zest and juice to the mix and you’ve got yourself a lovely and incredibly easy holiday side dish. Although I’d say it’s perfectly appropriate to enjoy throughout all of the cooler months.

We never really grew up eating much of these cruciferous veggies. Any exposure I’ve had to them up until recently was in a rather blah and mushy steamed/boiled format. The first time I tried them roasted I was totally sold. Nice little salty crust on the outside contrasts the slightly tender leaves within just right. Aside from this method, it’s the only way I can really, sincerely enjoy them. I’ve specified a 1/4 cup of the pomegranate seeds. Now I know you’ll never find such a fruit that contains that amount, but here’s some lovely ideas from around the internets to use up those extras:

Pomegranate, Kale & Pearl Onion Orzo from Happyolks
Chick Pea and Lentil Curry with Pomegranate from Cook Republic
Poppy Seed Crusted Butternut Squash with Kale and Pomegranates from My New Roots

festive brussels sprouts with hazelnuts and pomegranate
serves: 4
notes: Wanna know the best way to de-seed a pomegranate? Look right here.

1 lb (454g) brussels sprouts, outer leaves trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
1 tbsp grape seed oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (or arils, if you will)
zest and juice of 1 lime

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the halved brussels sprouts in the oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Place on a lined sheet pan or oven-safe baking dish and roast for 20 minutes, tossing at the 10 minute point.

While brussels sprouts are roasting, place hazelnuts on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast in the same oven for about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, rub the skins off of the hazelnuts, chop them roughly and set aside.

Remove brussels sprouts from the oven and toss with the chopped hazelnuts, pomegranate seeds, lime zest and juice. Serve immediately.


You might also like…

kale salad + eating greens

We still have so many greens in the gardens! Chard, kale, spinach and lettuces, leaves of plenty. There’s a lot ofView full post »

cauliflower “couscous” salad + falling back in

Couscous! The food so nice, they named it twice. Except this isn’t couscous. It’s cauliflower in a funnyView full post »

roasted butternut and corn salad + garden herbs

So I was perusing the catering menu on Ottolenghi’s website (you’d be surprised how much time I spend doingView full post »

pin it subscribe tweet this post share on facebook email to a friend
Kelsey12/12/2011 - 2:22 pm

I have tried so many ways to prepare brussel sprouts… I must say, it’s been a tough sell over the years. I love the lime and the texture from the nuts and pom seeds though – I will certainly give it a go. Thanks for linking :)

Char @ www.charskitchen.ca12/12/2011 - 2:39 pm

Omg, I love brussels sprouts! I eat ‘em every day :) I love the sound of a sweet/crunchy combo with the pomegranate and hazelnuts! And they look so festive

Sian12/12/2011 - 4:57 pm

These look great. I may well be using the idea on the big day.

janet @ the taste space12/12/2011 - 7:15 pm

I recently had Brussels sprouts for the first time and loved them.. this is what I am doing when I buy them next. :)

Chelsea15/12/2011 - 9:39 pm

I made this recipe last night and it was absolutely delicious. The tip for getting all those pomegranate seeds out was a huge help. :) I had leftovers today for lunch and decided to add some avocado chunks in – it was a great combination!

Yolanda14/01/2012 - 3:14 pm

What an amazing recipe and what a great site I have just discovered. I am going to cook this salad tomorrow, blog it and have a link to your wonderful, delicious site. I am drooling :)

Yolanda16/01/2012 - 5:43 am

My take on Festive Brussels. http://lemonlovenotes.blogspot.com/2012/01/brussels-sprouts-salad-w-walnuts-zataar.html
Thank you for the inspiration. It was an amazing salad. love xoxo

Alyssa27/01/2012 - 11:06 pm

I just made this recipe tossed with coconut quinoa, and it was SO good. Your photos are beautiful and I adore all your healthy recipes! The pomegranate seeds added the perfect amount of sweetness. This is definitely a new favorite!

Laura28/01/2012 - 8:49 am

So glad you liked it, Alyssa. Love that you added quinoa too :)

[...] The second source was via Laura from The First Mess who wrote about her incredibly festive combo of brussels sprouts and pomegranates. Inspired, I decided to have a go at making something that was more than a side and this is what I [...]

[...] The second source was via Laura from The First Mess who wrote about her incredibly festive combo of brussels sprouts and pomegranates. Inspired, I decided to have a go at making something that was more than a side and this is what I [...]

Jeanie14/12/2013 - 10:45 pm

Made these tonight and loved them. It was a very simple dish, I had nearly all of the ingredients on hand, and it was festive to boot. People went back for seconds. Thanks for your wonderful recipes, they have never failed me.

[…] Festive Brussels Sprouts and Pomegranate Seeds: view the full recipe and images here […]

christmas cookies + sugar


Full disclosure: I am not an awesome cookie maker (but this recipe is killer, trust). They’re definitely one of my favourite go-to treats. Sweet little bundles of love that fit into a tin and can be made a million ways– what’s not to like? Ahem, when I’m making them, I could name a few things. Mine are usually too spread-y/greasy or too tight/remarkably sandy. Rare are the instances of the dreamy in-between state. I always prefer coconut oil as a replacement for butter in vegan cookie-making but jeez, that stuff is temperamental. In sum: I approach cookie baking with a… um, decidedly fearful and stress-y mindset. So naturally I thought it would be cool to sign up for a giant cookie swap with other food bloggers. Oh and the receiving date for the cookies was during my vacation. Perfect.

It all worked out fine though. The recipe was a success and they were made on time. I just hope they shipped okay (total cookie-sending first timer). I kind of took inspiration from some Christmas cookies that my grandmother makes every year. Pretty hard to go wrong when you have that kind of passed-down wisdom backing you up. She makes one sweet shortbread recipe and garnishes/rolls/cuts it a bunch of different ways. My favourite selection was and still is these cut-out rectangular ones with a nice smear of (surprise!) chocolate icing on top. Buttery and chocolaty. Very reassuring and cozy words in my vocabulary.

Not wanting to risk a messy frosting massacre in a packing box, I went for a ganache shell-like cover instead. I also slipped some orange zest into the cookie itself, recalling those fantastic Terry’s chocolate oranges that always pop up at Holiday time. These came out pretty adorable. Little chocolate covered domes with a sparkly dusting of sugar on top. Worthy of note: there’s a decent amount of sugar in this recipe. It has a pretty crucial role in cookie-making, providing a bulk of the structure. You do want well-structured cookies, right? Given my history with baking them, a little sugar is totally worth it.

Update! I exchanged with the lovely Courtney from C & C Cakery all the way in beautiful British Columbia (cannot believe there were only two of us specifying vegan!). She made me an amazing assortment of goodies that you can check out here.


festive orange-scented sugar cookies with chocolate ganache
ganache recipe from Post Punk Kitchen (aka all vegan baking woes answered) with one teeny addition of coconut oil to help it set
makes: 18-20 cookies
notes: From my experience, the cookies will not spread as much if you have the coconut oil in a warm, but not entirely liquid state. It should be easily scoop-able and similar in density to really soft butter. The baking time will vary based on the state of the coconut oil going into the dough. Anywhere from 13-20 minutes. Keeping an eye on them is a better strategy than setting a timer.

cookies:
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp soft coconut oil
1/2 cup natural sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup white spelt flour (or all purpose)
1 tsp baking powder
zest of 1 orange

ganache:
1/3 cup non-dairy milk
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp liquid coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 medium-sized baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix the coconut oil and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer (or hand mixer or vigorously by hand) until fully combined and kind of frothy looking. Mix in the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the whole wheat and white spelt flour with the baking powder and orange zest.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the coconut oil/sugar mixture with the mixer on low. Stop mixing when the dry ingredients are just absorbed into oil and sugar.

Take 1 tablespoon-sized scoops of dough and roll into balls. Space balls of dough about an inch apart on baking sheets. Bake cookies for about 15 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom and slightly browned on top. Set aside to cool.

Make the ganache: In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil. Lower it to a simmer and add the chocolate chips, maple syrup and coconut oil (a splash of Grand Marnier would be rather appropriate here). Whisk until chocolate is fully melted, about 3 minutes. Transfer ganache to another container and chill in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

Dip tops of cooled cookies into the ganache  and set on parchment lined sheets. Place sheets in the fridge to set the ganache a bit quicker.

You might also like…

spicy chai concentrate + holiday warmth

Aside from the odd book or kitchen do-dad here and there, I am a homemade gifts kinda girl to the hilt. I haveView full post »

everything cookies + sweetness

The sun just shines on and on. I always have to remember that. We’ve been having unseasonably warm and pleasantView full post »

chocolate + chai macaroons with chia seeds

I’m really, really happy I made these. A little while ago, I watched this charming little video and knew that IView full post »

pin it subscribe tweet this post share on facebook email to a friend
Char @ www.charskitchen.ca05/12/2011 - 4:09 pm

Yaayy for Christmas cookies! I love ganache on anything, but never thought to put them on cookies. Thank you for the recipe :)

C&C Cakery12/12/2011 - 12:43 am

These were the perfect little vegan sugar balls of joy – loved the coconut oil, orange zest, and the spelt flour! The perfect size for a little snackin’ too :) Thanks so much for everything! Can’t wait until the next Cookie Swap – maybe we’ll still be the only two vegans representin’. That would be fine with me ;)

[...] Orange-Scented Sugar Cookies with Chocolate Ganache [...]