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chocolate hazelnut torte with salty date caramel + coconut cream {vegan + GF}

chocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first messchocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first messchocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first mess
I used to subscribe to a lot of weekly emails from life coaches, wellness gurus, motivational speakers and the like. I found some of the tidbits they offered lightly inspirational on a good day, but on a bad one…ooof. the pitches that involved a $1500++ investment disgusted me when I thought of all the decent people just trying to take control of the inevitably volatile parts of life. I removed myself from those lists a while ago because I’ve realized that in terms of age and personal progression, if you’re trying hard enough and your mind is right, everything is relentless forward and upward motion. But more importantly, and in a more everyday sense, the spaces/tones of feeling, commitments, the places we go… it’s all pretty circular.

I turned 29 yesterday and it’s true that the layers of our human existence become more defined as time rolls on. Bits of the past inform us in the here + now, and we grow or lie still in the ways we push or allow ourselves to. Our minds and postures shift as we learn and do more. The spots where we stall, deliberately or by accident, help us to be here now in a more defined way too I think.

I used to have this thing where I thought it might be advantageous, in some way, to get my nails done, wear some eyeliner, or to get a professional haircut for once. There’s a whole aura around grooming and personal maintenance that screams of having one’s shit together, right? I’d get a couple days off and and just when I had psyched myself up enough to call a salon or whatever, I’d see a little patch of redness on my hand from a burn or any number of calluses, scratches, deep wrinkles and rough spots. I enjoy working my ass off and eventually realized that reminders of that, in whatever form, were more important. Having the privilege to plug away at something that was meaningful enough was every indication that I had my shit together.

So there’s that, and the billion other ways of realization and growth. And there’s also cake because what would a birthday be without it? Pretty sure I’m taking liberties with the designation of “torte” here, but whatever. I’m pretty jazzed on chocolate and hazelnut together in almost anything, so I started with an incredibly dense brownie base and layered it up from there with a hazelnut mousse-ish cream and coconut whip. The date caramel has a tiny pinch of tang from some fresh lemon and I find it really makes all the flavours work together instead of the whole thing just being this overly rich experience. A hearty pile of toasty chopped hazelnuts on top and all’s good. Really, really good.

chocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first messchocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first messmaking coconut whipped cream // the first messchocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first messchocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first mess

chocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel + coconut cream
serves: makes one 9 inch torte/cake
notes: I give the mousse + brownie/cake base a full 24 hour wrap-and-chill time. I figured the longer the setting time, the less possibility of heartbreak from a runny mousse or too-warm-in-the-middle cake. Also, I know that certain brands of coconut milk tend to be better than others for forming solid layers of cream at the top–this one has been consistently good for me.

chocolate brownie/cake base ingredients:
1 1/2 tbsp ground chia seeds + 1/4 cup water
3/4 cup almond meal/flour
3/4 cup hazelnut meal/flour (you could do another 3/4 cup almond meal if you don’t have hazelnut)
3/4 cup GF oat flour
2 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup maple sugar (or natural cane sugar)
1/4 cup coconut or almond milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup semisweet vegan chocolate chips

hazelnut mousse ingredients:
1/2 cup toasted + skinned hazelnuts
1 400 ml can of full fat coconut milk, stirred
1 (scant) cup cashew butter (raw or roasted)
1/4 cup maple syrup
pinch of fine sea salt
2 tsp fresh lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup melted coconut oil

salty date caramel ingredients:
7-8 soft pitted dates + boiling water to cover
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
fat pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
big splash of coconut or almond milk

to serve:
coconut whipped cream (1/2 of this recipe)
chopped toasted hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan with coconut oil and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the chia seeds + 1/4 cup water. Stir and set aside so that it can all gel together.

In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, hazelnut meal, oat flour, arrowroot powder, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and to that add the maple sugar, coconut milk and vanilla extract. Add the chia gel to the bowl as well. Don’t stir it yet. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the chocolate chips and coconut oil. Melt the two while you stir constantly to avoid burning the chocolate. Once it’s all melted and smooth, add it to the dry + wet ingredients. Stir it all together until you have a stiff and unified batter.

Press the batter evenly into the prepared springform pan. Place the pan on top of a cookie sheet and slide it into the oven. Bake for 30-33 minutes or until the top is firm. Remove and allow to cool completely. At this point I wrap the cake tightly in cling film and place it in the fridge to totally set overnight.

Make the hazelnut mousse: soak the toasted + skinned hazelnuts in the coconut milk for about 20 minutes–just to soften them slightly and to perfume the milk a bit. Once they’re ready, pour the whole mess of it into your blender or food processor. Add all of the other ingredients to the blender pitcher/food processor bowl as well. Blend/process until you have a very smooth mixture. Scrape the runny mixture into a bowl and cover it with cling film, pressing the film onto the surface of the mousse/liquid. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or until the mousse has firmed up considerably, preferably overnight.

Make the date caramel: soak the dates in the hot water for about 15 minutes, drain them (reserving the soaking water) and place them into your blender/food processor. Add the lemon juice, salt, vanilla, and coconut milk. Blend this up a bit just to break everything up. Add reserved date soaking water as needed and blend the mixture again until you have a runny, caramel-like consistency. Scrape into a jar and seal with a lid until you’re ready to use it.

Assemble the torte: place the brownie/cake base on your serving plate. Whisk the hazelnut mousse up a bit and scoop it onto the cake base, smoothing it out or fluffing it up however you like. Top the torte with coconut cream, date caramel, toasted chopped hazelnuts etc and serve immediately. Leftover torte can be covered and kept in the fridge for a couple days.

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Stefanie27/02/2014 - 3:39 am

Oh my goodness. This looks INCREDIBLE! Happy birthday!

cristina27/02/2014 - 3:48 am

oh i do hope your birthday was nice. and this cake, is marvelous

Harriet27/02/2014 - 4:31 am

Happy Birthday Laura! Cheers to being present, and eating cake, and all of the wonderful things that a birthday brings!

Danielle Wynne27/02/2014 - 5:22 am

Wow that looks amazing! I love your idea of date caramel, I have been trying to think of a way to make a vegan/healthier dulche de leche and I think this may be the recipe. How long does it last in a sealed jar?

Jessica's Dinner Party27/02/2014 - 5:33 am

Happy Birthday!!! I turn 27 in a couple months and can totally relate to what you’re talking about. The refinement that comes with age is not always the prim, make-up perfect person everyone thinks that word reflects.

The torte is absolutely beautiful!

Melissa27/02/2014 - 6:01 am

Oh wow this looks absolutely fantastic. Can you send me a piece please :-)

autumn27/02/2014 - 7:28 am

Happy Birthday, Laura! What a stunning treat.

Laura Wright27/02/2014 - 7:42 am

Hi Danielle, I’m honestly not sure on the lifespan of the caramel because I always eat it up so fast. 3-5 days in the refrigerator I would guess.

Caitlin27/02/2014 - 8:29 am

happy 29th birthday to you! i completely understand what you mean about the false dichotomy between grooming and having your shit together. i go through periods of that, too, but i come back to the same conclusion as you. similar with never taking the time to cover the dark circles under my eyes. i’m kind of proud of them. i know that’s weird.

beautiful cake/torte and i’m excited to learn more about your experiences and feelings in the upcoming year ;)

Anon27/02/2014 - 8:39 am

Happy Birthday dear Laura!!!! That cake looks staggeringly good!!

Have you ever come across J Krishnamurti? He is none of those sorts of people you mentioned above, you might find him refreshing!

Lisa @ Simple Pairings27/02/2014 - 9:09 am

Wow. Your photographs are absolutely breathtaking! This torte looks like it is to die for! The hazelnut mousse looks incredible, too. What a fabulously indulgent cake! :)


Emma Galloway27/02/2014 - 9:52 am

Crap this looks SO good!!!!!! This is exactly how I’d like to celebrate my next birthday! Enjoy your last year in the 20′s :-)

Katie @ 24 Carrot Life27/02/2014 - 10:03 am

Not only are these pictures beautiful (as usual) but I NEED this cake. It looks so good and it won’t make my stomach hurt from lots of dairy and sugar. Happy birthday!

Lindsey27/02/2014 - 10:31 am

Wow, yeah, totally understand your disgust w/ hustle-hungry gurus; there seem to be quite a few people who prey on people’s weaknesses. Anywho, I totally thought my 20s were my trial, that I’d have figured shit out by 30. It turns out (in my case) that even at 30, life is still a continual assessment of shit-togetherness! 29 was a rad ride for me, and I hope this (and every year) brings you clarity, questions and good times! HB, Laura!

thelittleloaf27/02/2014 - 10:35 am

This looks all kinds of amazing. I could eat the hazelnut mousse stuff by the spoon. Is there a reason you use cashew butter rather than hazelnut? Hazlenut overkill perhaps? Happy belated birthday too by the way!

lynsey27/02/2014 - 10:47 am

the perfect treat for celebrating life, birthdays, and having your shit together. xo

Laura Wright27/02/2014 - 10:47 am

Kate, you nailed it! Sometimes toasty hazelnut has a bitter edge, so I thought I’d just temper it with some fatty cashew butter to help carry + enhance the hazelnut flavour and not overwhelm the whole thing with nuttiness. Thanks for your kindness too :)

cynthia27/02/2014 - 11:01 am

Happy birthday!!!! I’m so in love with this cake (so many flavors that I love, all in one!) and your phenomenal photos — beautiful.

Ashley27/02/2014 - 11:02 am

Happy Birthday! Love your photos and way with words, as always. They always make me think. Plus, I’m positively drooling over this cake and am seriously debating how soon I can get some arrowroot powder to make this….then NOT tell my husband it’s not from a box (his fave).

molly yeh27/02/2014 - 11:11 am

gahh this is GORGEOUS! and i hope you had a very very happy birthday!!!!!

Mandy27/02/2014 - 11:37 am

This sounds AMAZING!

Question- Do you HAVE to use a springform pan? Or would it turn out okay in any other sort of pan?

Stacy27/02/2014 - 11:44 am

Such smart thoughts on life, getting older and being okay with the reflections of that. I know exactly what you mean about being tempted to question yourself (and the scars and lines, etc.) and then realizing that these are good reflections of life well lived, things to be proud of. And: what a cake! I hope it was the happiest of birthdays! You deserve only the best, and I hope this new year is a beautiful one for you.

Grace27/02/2014 - 12:10 pm

Happy birthday! This torte looks and sounds incredible. I’m hoping someone close to me has a reason to celebrate soon so I can bust out this decadent dessert. After college I went through the same thought thinking if I regularly got my nails done, got “real professional lady” haircuts and the right clothes I’d feel like a real adult. Some years later now I rush to work after sweaty yoga with no time for makeup and feel more put together than ever. It’s good to find the things that drive us and give us the irreplaceable sense of self-worth and ultimately make us happier than any superficial sense of self ever could. Cheers to you!!

sandra27/02/2014 - 1:05 pm

this cake looks delectable. so rich and creamy AND vegan. Love it.

Laura Wright27/02/2014 - 1:23 pm

Hi Mandy, You don’t have to use a springform pan at all, I would just recommend greasing your pan up real proper and maybe using some parchment so that the cake de-pans cleanly once it’s totally cooled.

Alanna27/02/2014 - 2:29 pm

Oh wow. This is an amazing work of art, and just look at that beautiful ingredient list. A dream come true. Thank you for sharing, and happy happy birthday. :)

Chelsea//TheNakedFig27/02/2014 - 4:04 pm

Whoa, girl. You just took it to a new level! This looks INCREDIBLE. Sending birthday wishes your way. So grateful that your birthday means me getting my hands on this recipe. So generous of you!

sarah27/02/2014 - 5:18 pm

Happy Birthday Laura! And, thanks for this post. I have so many days of feeling like the worlds biggest mom-slob, glancing around at well-groomed souls that seem to hold perfection in their grasp. But I feel the same – I like my scars and unpolished nails, laughter wrinkles and long un-fancy hair. It’s how I’m most comfortable, anyway. But sometimes I forget. xo

Emma27/02/2014 - 5:24 pm

Holy cow!! This looks incredible! That hazelnut mousse looks so pillowy I want to dive into it.
Happy happy birthday. I love your attitude.

Katie @ Produce on Parade27/02/2014 - 6:28 pm

Oh my dear lord. This is incredible. Period. Hazelnut and chocolate are the best together!

cheri27/02/2014 - 8:10 pm

Happy Birthday to you. Beautiful cake. Love your pics.

jade27/02/2014 - 8:20 pm

Happiest of birthdays to you Laura!
Can I just say, you have absolutely floored me with this one. I have a very good (vegan) friend’s birthday coming up, and as usual I am chief birthday cake maker. I had already planned exactly what I was making – UNTIL I SAW THIS! Whoa!
And your photographs! Jeepers!
Gold stars everywhere.
Thanks for the amazingness.
Jade. X

hannah27/02/2014 - 9:20 pm

Happy Happy Birthday Laura!

I hope this year brings you as much joy as your recipes bring me :)

Lisa | Je suis alimentageuse27/02/2014 - 10:02 pm

Happy Birthday! I love hazelnut and chocolate together, and that coconut whipped cream on top? Jackpot.

It’s true, even people who look well-groomed don’t necessarily have their shit together. Screw looking refined, just continue being awesome =P

Sonja27/02/2014 - 10:02 pm

All I can say is WOW.

[…] vegan chocolate hazelnut torte with salted caramel from another excellent vegan food blog, The First Mess, looks incredibly […]

Kasey28/02/2014 - 2:25 am

Happy birthday, beautiful lady! Those marks are worth being proud of, I agree. 29 is a big year!! Bring on the cake! xo

[…] Not one for a sweet tooth, but man, this hazelnut torte looks so inviting. Bonus, it’s […]

Kathryn28/02/2014 - 6:02 am

I really think the last couple of years of your twenties/beginning of your thirties are the best years filled with moments when you realise that you know who you are better than you ever have before. Happy belated birthday lady, this cake looks like the best (and only) way to celebrate.

Michelle28/02/2014 - 6:22 pm

I have GOT to share this with my GF friends, this looks incredible. Oh he!! I’ll share it with all my friends!

Irina @ wandercrush28/02/2014 - 7:45 pm

Stunning textures, as per usual. Happy belated 29th and thank God for rough spots, deep wrinkles, and date caramel.

Hannah28/02/2014 - 7:48 pm

Oh my, this looks insanely good!!!!!!!!
Just a question before I rush out to make it — is there anything that can be used instead of the oat flour? I know oats can be gf but they contain a similar substance that a good percentage of coeliacs react to, my boyfriend included.
Can you think of any replacements??

Laura Wright01/03/2014 - 8:19 am

Hi Hannah, you could certainly use brown or white rice flour instead of the oat. I’ve made the brownie base before using both and it was great. Also, I think any GF all purpose flour mix would be suitable in this too. Hope this helps!

Harvest and Honey01/03/2014 - 12:48 pm

My goodness. This looks wonderful. So happy to have found your site, btw. The flavor combo of Hazelnuts and Chocolate makes me sort of crazy, like in a good way. Always looking for fun new ways to put them together, and I’m itching to try this one! Thanks for this :)

Heather01/03/2014 - 3:21 pm

Happy Happy Birthday Laura! This cake is a real stunner. I love how you have captured the beauty in these photos – the colors and stunning light. Fancy-face personal grooming is so overrated. Once in a while, my sisters or friends will convince me to get my nails done, and the next day bits of nail polish begins to chip away, possibly in my dinner. Who knows? Three weeks ago I had the worst haircut ever, so that was a real waste of time. And whenever I put on a bit of mascara for fancy occasions, it seems to stay put for weeks even with a diligent scrubbing. It all seems a bit unnecessary. This cake is absolutely necessary though, and a perfect way to celebrate a birthday. Cheers to you!

Jacqui02/03/2014 - 6:31 pm

Hey, happy belated birthday Laura!! This torte looks incredible! I’m starting my list of b-day dessert ideas early for my 30th this year and this one’s made the list for sure!

Sarah03/03/2014 - 2:52 am

This is seriously the most delicious looking thing I have ever seen! I dont own a springform pan though… Can I use a pie dish??

Laura Wright03/03/2014 - 11:21 am

Hi Sarah, you could use and 8 or 9 inch cake pan if you want. Just make sure you grease it real good and allow the cake to cool totally completely before de-panning it.

dervla (the curator)03/03/2014 - 12:24 pm

happy birthday, Laura! I’m on a new non dairy quest, so this cake looks perfect :))

ATasteOfMadness04/03/2014 - 3:15 am

Holy moly, this is gorgeous!! I have a whole bunch of hazelnuts ready to me used, and I would love to use them on something this beautiful ;)

Tamara04/03/2014 - 8:15 am

Ohhh, I am so making this for my birthday on Monday! Was opting for a classic orange-chocolate raw cake until I saw this gorgeousness. Thank you for sharing. And belated happy birthday from almost-springlike Slovenia! :)


Tamara04/03/2014 - 10:47 pm

Oh, another thing. Can I use honey or agave (not my favourite) instead of maple syrup? I usually replace it, but you never know… and I want this “torta” to be just right. Thanks.

Laura Wright05/03/2014 - 12:59 pm

Hi Tamara, any liquid sweetener (except for stevia drops) you like would be fine! So brown rice syrup, agave, honey etc. are all fair game.

Kathryne05/03/2014 - 6:13 pm

Laura, your posts kill me. In the best way possible. Love your reflections on growing older. I doubt that you have calluses on your fingers from your camera shutter button or keyboard, but it’s abundantly evident that you work your ass off in this space, too. This dessert looks stellar. I’m on a homemade brownie high right now but my brownies aren’t so redeeming. Here come the jitters.

phi05/03/2014 - 7:36 pm

some time ago after some convincing from others, i went in for a “real” haircut that came out looking like the worst shoulder pads since the 80′s. since then, i’ve been growing my mane to the floor just for fucks – i’m going to be that old woman on the porch one day and if i get grumpy, i am going to cut it all off and use it as a weapon. don’t let them take away your weapon!

happy birthday dear.

[…] finally, I can’t wait to try out this recipe. Scary, scary […]

Sophia09/03/2014 - 5:41 am

This torte looks and sounds so so so wonderful. Love the flavours you combined here and the texture looks out of this world!

Tamara11/03/2014 - 2:53 am

Ok so I made this for my birthday yesterday and was simply the best cake ever. Honestly. I ate it for breakfast today without feeling un-healthy (as a nursing mom), even gave my thumb dipped in the caramel to my wide-eyed five month-old, and even my family who are humungus sceptics when it comes to health foods… adored it. Thank you, will be on a cake priority list from now on. ;)

[…] Wright from The First Mess has pretty much ruled Pinterest since uploading the photos from her Chocolate Hazelnut Torte […]

Catherine McCord24/03/2014 - 1:13 am

Be still my heart! This looks unbelievable. I can’t believe it’s gluten free and vegan. Must try! I wonder how it would be with almonds?!

[…] (inspired by this recipe from TheFirstMess) Ingredients: 9 big pitted medjool  dates (soaked 15min in boiling water […]

Margaret Burnett11/05/2014 - 6:40 am

Could I use flax seed instead of chia seed? I live in India and haven’t seen chia seed locally. We don’t have hazelnuts either, but a friend just brought me back some from Australia.

Laura Wright12/05/2014 - 7:26 am

Hi Margaret, I believe flax seeds would sub in just fine for the chia. They might make for a nuttier taste as well, which would be great here.

Penny20/05/2014 - 5:15 pm

Wow I made this for my husbands birthday party in the weekend and everyone went crazy for it! Everyone thought it was the best cake they had ever tried and they demolished it! Thanks so much, your awesome!

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 […]