Monday, March 13, 2017

The First Mess: Cookbook Review and Giveaway

Wow! When the publishers at Avery offered me a copy of The First Mess Cookbook, by Laura Wright, I had never heard of Laura's blog (The First Mess), so I went to check it out. What a lovely surprise! After checking out her blog for a while, I was pretty sure that I would enjoy her cookbook, and I was right! As you'll see, I've already made so many dishes from this gorgeous book, and I look forward to making many more.



The book is beautifully designed and laid out. The fonts are easy to read, and the ingredients and instructions are listed side-by-side in a very user-friendly way. Each and every recipe has a beautiful color picture (almost always full-page). There is a great index (I appreciate this so much, why is it so hard for so many cookbooks?!), and a great list of every chapter and recipe at the beginning of the book.

The First Mess Cookbook isn't gluten-free, but many many of the recipes are gf. Each recipe also features a series of icons at the top for nut-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, etc. The recipes are healthy, but not in an oppressive way! ha ha. If you know what I mean. I also didn't find the recipes to be overly fussy or difficult to make - it's quite practical and appealing in that way.



Tofu Noodle Soup with Coconut Lemongrass Broth
from Soups & Stews chapter

Yum! We loved this beautiful soup - visually enticing, and full with a great array of flavors and textures. The broth is stewed with the lemongrass in it (and is later strained out), which was a great technique to give the soup a great hit of lemongrass flavor and aroma. It's also got some heat and pungency from ginger and a hot pepper... plus the fresh flavors of broccoli & snow peas. I roasted my tofu cubes in the oven while I was preparing everything else, so that they would have a little more crunch and chew. I loved this soup and how good I felt after eating it too. In fact, that's true for everything I've made from this book, which is pretty cool.
perfect moment with perfect bowl of soup is perfect




Smoky Saffron Chickpea, Chard, and Rice Soup
from Soups & Stews chapter

Another beautiful dish full of colors and veggies and goodness. This nutritious soup gets its smokiness from a hearty dose of smoked paprika (yum!), and is packed with chickpeas, rice, chard, and a few other veggies. We've had a cold, wet, and rainy winter and this soup was a perfect dinner during those dark nights. It was robust, but not heavy -- and warming, but not overbearing. It was also simple to make and provided great leftovers, a feature I always appreciate in a recipe!!



Broccoli Caesar with Smoky Tempeh
from Salads & Dressings chapter

This was a fun spin on combining familiar flavors in unfamiliar ways! Steamed broccoli is drizzled with caesar dressing and some smokey tempeh crumbles... such a fun lunch. I tried it also with roasted broccoli, but I found the roasted broccoli to be a little too dry for my tastes. I like the caesar dressing in this book - but be warned, it is *super garlicky.* I had garlicky dragon breath all afternoon! ha ha. Even though I am a devout garlic fan, next time I'll dial it back a little, just for the sake of my poor yoga students.

watch out for garlic breath!



Roasted Chili Basil Lime Tofu Bowls
from Hearty Mains & Big Plates chapter

I love how "bowl" meals combine all the parts of a complete meal into one dish: protein, veggie, sauce, and starches. This bowl is a great example: roasted marinated tofus and broccoli, with some rice and fresh sunflower sprouts and a sprinkle of roasted sunflower seeds. It comes together easily and the component parts compliment each other nicely. I really loved the simple marinade and wished there was even more of it, so I think next time I'll double it! More is usually better, right? Ha ha.



Vegetable and Bean Pot Pies with Potato Crusts
from Hearty Mains & Big Plates chapter

I loved this idea! I had been thinking about pot pies for a few weeks, but didn't feel like dealing with making crusts and all that. These "crusts" made with thinly sliced potatoes &/or sweet potatoes were fun and beautiful. It always looks so cute when people prepare things in individual ramekins, but I don't own any (note to self!), so I used mini pie pans and mini loaf pans. That worked pretty well actually! The beany stew in these little pies was just lovely, perfectly seasoned enough to enhance the beans and veggies without overpowering them. The potato crusts are significantly "lighter" than a bready crust, so these feel lighter than traditional pot pies. I loved making these and eating them and how they were easy to create but also felt special and festive.


Roasted Cauliflower with Green Tahini
from Vegetables & a Couple of Grains chapter

This is technically listed as more of a side dish, but we had it as a light dinner on a night when we had already eaten a lot during the day and didn't need a big dinner. The cauliflower florets are lightly seasoned with za'atar (one of my favorite and under-used spice mixes!), and then roasted. The Green Tahini sauce is a great blend of tahini, fresh herbs, and seasoning. It calls for agave nectar, which I reduced, and will probably omit entirely next time, just because I don't generally like sweet flavors mixed with savory flavors. But this is purely personal taste, and not a fault of the recipe in any way. In fact, every recipe I made was absolutely clear to follow, behaved just as described, and held no confusion or unexpected surprises. It seems that these recipes were well-tested and are well-written, which really helps me build confidence in trying more and more recipes.


this recipe makes extra Green Tahini Sauce, which is excellent because then you can put it in a squeeze bottle and put it on salads and veggies and toast and other good things! 


Chocolate Chunk Ginger Cookies 
from Desserts & Small Treats chapter

I made these cookies for dessert when we had some special pals over for dinner. Our friends E&M had been in town for six months, and were about to head home to the Netherlands. We had such a nice good-bye dinner and I knew that cookies would be necessary. They look dark, so it's easy to think that they are chocolate cookies, but actually, they're dark with molasses and full of ginger and warming spices, as well as chocolate chips and chopped up candied ginger. What a great combo! I love candied ginger, and I love chocolate-covered candied ginger, so I guess it's no surprise that these are also great. The whole recipe also only has 2 tablespoons of oil, which is a nice feature. These cookies call for whole spelt flour, an ingredient used in several recipes throughout the book. We had 6-7 cookies left after our dinner party, and so I packed them up in a ziplock baggie for our pals to enjoy on their flight home. 


sharing cookies with your pals is the best!


As you can see, I've already made (and loved!) lots of recipes from The First Mess Cookbook
and I have so many more that I still want to explore and make:

Savory Ginger Green Onion Crepes
Toasty French Toast Bake
Meyer Lemon Romanesco Salad
Brussels Sprouts with Lime & Miso
Spaghetti Squash Noodle Bowls with Lime Peanut Sauce
Creamy Winter Vegetable Stew with Mustard and Lemon
Thanksgiving Panzanella Salad with Delicata Squash
French Onion Lentil Pots with Onion Cream Toasts
Cauliflower & Pine Nut "Ricotta" Toasts
Mustard-Roasted Broccoli Pate'


The First Mess Cookbook Giveaway
Great news! The publishers (Avery / Penguin Random House) have also offered to let me host a giveaway for a copy of The First Mess Cookbook to one lucky reader in the U.S. To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this blog post and include an email address or blogger contact so I can notify you. Tell me a story about something yummy you ate this week, which recipes in this post caught your eye, or your favorite way to make a big mess! 





40 comments:

  1. This week I made a pretty fabulous pizza with pepperoni-style beers!

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  2. Yum, everything looks and sounds delicious! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this beautiful book. Love your garlic breath drawing. :)
    Last night I made some very yummy crispy roasted potatoes with olive oil, rosemary, garlic powder, and salt & pepper-- i.e. possibly my favorite food ever.

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  3. The time change has made my family really sleepy this morning so we ate a really late breakfast of spiced scones from Vegan Brunch and they were super yummy! My email is beckysekeres at gmail dot com

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  4. Wow, all of your photos of the dishes you made look fantastic and makes me want to get my hands on this book!

    This week I made harira and had friends over to share it with me (the recipe makes a lot!). It was really yummy and filling.

    I also tried my hand at making homemade challah using aqua faba (my first aqua faba foray) and I was proud at how beautiful and tasty it came out.

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  5. I roasted a bunch of veggies and added turmeric, cayenne and smoked paprika, then ate them on top of a green salad! It was delicious!

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  6. I love your pretty pot pie pinwheels! (Say that three times fast ;). This week I roasted up some broccolini, butternut squash and golden beets. I also ate the last of my blood oranges I got from the farmers market. *cries* Citrus is so good right now! beverleerichmond@gmail.com. Thanks!

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  7. I discovered this blog earlier in the year and just bought the cookbook a couple of days ago. I have many of those same recipes marked, so I am excited to see your successes! I made the Easy Gluten Free Waffles this weekend, as I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand - they turned out perfectly. And yes, totally agree with the "healthy but not oppressive" assessment - that's what drew me in to the blog in the first place.

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  8. Laura C.3:14 PM

    This cookbook looks really great! I really want to make those cookies. Also, that cauliflower with tahini sauce. I've been very strict about acquiring more cookbooks, but this one makes me want to break my rules. Lsc803@gmail.com

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  9. Even tho it's decidedly spring-like here in Albquerque right now, both soups really appealed to me, and the first one even looks good for this season of sprouts and blossoms.

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  10. I just got this book (so I'm not entering the giveaway) and I am so excited about it! I agree about the recipes being healthy, but not oppressive. I also think there is something unexpected or unique about many of the recipes that makes them seem special, but without using expensive or hard-to-find ingredients. I am looking forward to cooking so much from this book!

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  11. My favorite way to make a mess is our Friday night pizza nights- and it makes something yummy too!

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  12. My favorite way to make a mess is our Friday night pizza nights- and it makes something yummy too!

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  13. Great cookbook! I really want to try the French Onion Lentil Pots with Onion Cream Toasts recipe. Yum!

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  14. It all looks so good! I'm most excited to try out more bowl recipes, I've just recently got into making bowls for dinners and I love them!

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  16. I'm making my favorite casserole this week and luckily it's not too messy!
    lydia dot greenfield at gmail dot com

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  17. I love the idea of putting the tahini sauce in a squeeze bottle!
    I usually make a mess fussing with those, so I'm keen to try this.
    This looks like a lovely book. ☺️

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  18. omg I'd love to try that green tahini sauce!!

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  19. Wow! I thought I had subscribed to every vegan recipe website out there, some how I missed the First Mess!Yesterday for dinner I made sweet potato fries seasoned with paprika, cumin, and chili powder, topped with roasted tomatoes, red pepper and green onions, and then dolloped it with some refried beans and bbq sauce. Sooooooo good. Would love to check out this cook book! jackiebug1@gmail.com

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  20. I had not heard of this blog either but now I'm hooked! Her recipes look great, and her cookbook looks awesome too. I'd definitely love to make the broccoli Caesar salad - I love anything Caesar and anything garlic!
    My favorite thing I ate this week was spicy grilled cheese and tomato soup! It's been snowy so it was the perfect warmup.
    laurenrose825@gmail.com

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  21. I got a review copy too (so don't enter me in the giveaway), but I just wanted to say that I'm loving this book! I made the tandoori-rubbed portabellas with cilantro sauce, and they're soooo good. Can't wait to try some more things! Those cookies sound amazing. And that broccoli caesar!!!

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  22. oh how I wish I had those cookies now!

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  23. pretty much every recipe you posted caught my eye! This sounds like a really good cookbook for me and my family--healthy food that's easy to prepare and tastes great. This week I made and ate the mango tofu curry from Vegan Richa. I think it's one of the best things I've made and eaten in my life!

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  24. I would love to get messy with toasty french toast bake. blainewilkes@yahoo.com

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  25. I remember making some recipe from this website, and I think it was good XD I make so many recipes things blur together. XD But that tahini sauce looks super tasty!

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  26. Terri Cole12:43 PM

    Oh my goodness, that Thanksgiving panzanella salad sounds amazing!

    gaia at cinci dot rr dot com

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  27. I am looking to get healthy and fit this year. I really do believe that a vegan diet can help me obtain my goal!

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  28. Wow, Amey, thank you for such an enticing review! Everything you prepared looks and sounds so delicious. I especially like that the recipes aren't super complicated but look like they would be excellent to serve to company. The cookies sure sound good. I wasn't familiar with the blog, so am happy to discover a new source of recipes!

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  29. Anonymous3:43 PM

    I'm dying to try that Smoky Saffron Chickpea, Chard, and Rice Soup!

    jackydlt at gmail

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  30. i collect cookbooks! This is looks like a great addition!

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  31. I like the sound of this Tofu Noodle Soup with Coconut Lemongrass Broth

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  32. We ate at Veggie Grill yesterday and it was delicious!

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  33. This book is now on my to-buy list, and it's also nice to have another blog to read. Thank you!

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  34. I made seitan corned 'beef'. Came out very good.

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  35. that book looks fabulous. would love to participate in the contest...Millie
    from= http://frugaliciouschick.blogspot.com

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  36. oh my food blog is http://nuestracena-vegancuisine.blogspot.com

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  37. This totally looks like my kind of cookbook, everything looks delicious. The cauliflower and green tahini caught my eye; I'm a sucker for anything tahini flavored, and on top of cauliflower sounds heavenly.

    leesterine@yahoo.com

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  38. I found two new dishes this week that I plan on keeping in constant rotation! Ravioli and enchiladas. How I love stuffed food. <3

    xo
    kittee

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  39. I just learned about this book and did a search and your post came up! Awesome! It looks different enough, that Tofu Noodle Soup with Coconut Lemongrass Broth looks beautiful!

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  40. Kimmy Ripley1:40 PM

    I had a yummy spicy Moroccan chicken soup! Wonderful on a chilly day in Michigan!

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