The FBC The First Mess Cookbook review!

The First Mess Cookbook**This post contains affiliate links. In plain English that means that when you click on the link and make a purchase, we receive a small commission.  It does not alter the price you pay but it helps us run this site and support the work that Canadian food bloggers do. **

The First Mess Cookbook: Vibrant Plant-Based Recipes to Eat Well Through the Seasons is by Laura Wright, author of The First Mess blog. After attending culinary school, she worked in one of Canada’s farm-to-table restaurants where she learned how to develop plant-based recipes. In her debut cookbook, she shares over 125 plant-based nourishing recipes for seasonal cooking.


The Stocking Your Pantry for Success chapter lists essential ingredients for a well-stocked pantry for a plant-based diet, from healthy fats and oils, natural sweeteners, proteins, and more.

The equipment listed in Kitchen Equipment for Eating Well is broken into three categories: necessary, nice to have, and deluxe commitment.

The over 125 plant-based recipes are spread throughout the following chapters:

  • Morning & Breakfasts
  • Soups and Stews
  • Salads and Dressings
  • Hearty Mains and Big Plates
  • Vegetables and a Couple of Grains
  • Energizing Drinks and Small Bites
  • Desserts and Small Treats


The recipes are well written and easy to follow with the list of ingredients on the right and the instructions on the left. They are preceded by a headnote and contain symbols that offer clarity about dietary designations and restrictions such as:

  • Gluten-free
  • Nut-free
  • Oil-free
  • No added sugar
  • Cane sugar-free

The recipes also list serving suggestions and notes when a recipe requires additional time for prep or to soak ingredients. Beautiful, vibrant colour photos accompany each recipe.

Sample Recipes

  • Fluffiest Multigrain Pancakes; Eggplant Bacon; Mega Cup Granola (Mornings and Breakfasts)
  • Cozy Lentil Soup; Bloody Caesar Gazpacho; Smoky Saffron Chickpea, Chard, and Rice Soup (Soups and Stews)
  • Caramelized Onion Potato Salad; Shaved Root Salad with Crispy Lentils (Salads and Dressings)
  • Vegetables, Chickpeas, and Dumplings; Rice and Bean Veggie Burgers (Hearty Mains and Big Plates)
  • Roasted Balsamic Beets; Roasted Carrots with Ginger Maple Cream (Vegetables and a Couple of Grains)
  • Salted Caramel Date Shake; Overnight Iced Tea; Cauliflower and Pine Nut “Ricotta” Toasts (Energizing Drinks and Small Bites)
  • Pumpkin Mousse Parfaits; Earl Grey Tiramisu; Dreamy Lemon Curd (Desserts and Small Treats)

Tested Recipes

For this cookbook review, I chose to test recipes that are the vegan counterpart of the recipes I make at home to find out how much they differ in taste.

Eggplant “Bolognese” Pasta (Page 151)

I make pasta with eggplant often at home, especially at the end of summer when there is an abundance at the markets. This is an easy and quick dish to prepare. While the diced eggplants are roasting in the oven, you make the tomato sauce, cook the pasta and it all comes together within an hour.

It tasted so good that my husband didn’t notice at first that it wasn’t my recipe. He did mention that the addition of olives adds more flavour and then he asked me for the Parmesan cheese as we always sprinkle Parmesan cheese over our pasta (except for seafood pasta). I ate it without the cheese and after a few bites; I didn’t even notice the difference.

Red Peppers with Herby Breadcrumbs (Page 196)

I used to make stuffed peppers with sausage and rice. Then when we decided to cut down our meat consumption, I stuffed them with rice and vegetables.

In this recipe, you roast the quartered peppers in the oven and then fill them with warm breadcrumbs. One of the ingredients mixed in with the breadcrumbs is nutritional yeast. This was the first time I used this ingredient and couldn’t really taste it in the mixture. Overall, I found this dish very flavourful and will make it again.

Vegetable and Bean Pot Pies with Potato Crusts (Page 161)

Vegetable and Bean Pot Pie Image

I have made pot pies with either chicken or turkey, but this Vegetable and Bean Pot Pie is the best I ever tasted. The white bean/zucchini filling is seasoned with fresh rosemary, thickened with spelt flour and vegetable stock and then topped with thin slices of sweet potato. It makes a delicious, nourishing meal that can be served to anyone that loves vegetables.

My husband told me that I have to make this recipe again. Yes, I do.

Vegetable and Bean Pot Pies with Potato Crusts
I find vegan pastry particularly hard to master without the use of vegetable shortening, vegan margarine, and the like. I stay away from these ingredients, and an oil-based crust can be a tricky, messy beast. I skip the whole thing here and just slice sweet and regular potatoes into thin coins, fan them out on top of this vegetable and bean pot pie, and roast them until crispy and crust-like. The result has all of the effect of a traditional pot pie with much less effort.
Serves: Serves 5
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, small dice 1 medium carrot, small dice
  • 1 stalk celery, small dice 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) minced fresh rosemary (about 1 sprig)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) tomato paste
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into ½-inch (1 cm) cubes
  • 1½ cups (375 mL) cooked white beans, such as navy, cannellini, or butter beans
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) dry white wine
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) whole spelt flour
  • 1½ cups (375 mL) vegetable stock
  • 1 medium sweet potato or 6 to 7 mini new potatoes, thinly sliced, or a mixture
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Place 5 ramekins or ovenproof dishes with 1 cup (250 mL) capacity on a baking sheet and set aside.
  2. Heat half of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, and sauté until the onions are slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, and tomato paste, and stir. Add the zucchini and white beans to the pot. Stir to combine. Pour in the white wine, and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Season the stew with salt and pepper.
  3. Sprinkle the spelt flour over the vegetables and beans. Stir until the flour is moistened and is starting to get slightly pasty. Pour in the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.
  4. Divide the stew among the ramekins. Arrange sweet potato slices on top of the ramekins in a fan or layered pattern. This will form your top crust. Gently brush the sweet potato slices with the remaining oil. Season the crusts with salt and pepper.
  5. Slide the pot pies into the oven, and bake until the filling is bubbling and the sweet potato slices are tender and lightly browned on the edges, about 30 to 35 minutes.
  6. Serve the pot pies hot.
Nut-free, no added sugar

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Bookshelf Worthy?

The First Mess Cookbook is a must-have cookbook for vegans and anyone who wants to make the transition to eating a plant-based diet. Although we have cut down our meat consumption, we aren't vegans, but I've still bookmarked quite a few recipes to make from this cookbook. Regardless of our diet preferences, we all want to make nourishing, healthy meals for our family.

The First Mess Cookbook: Vibrant Plant-Based Recipes to Eat Through the Seasons
Author: Laura Wright
Publisher: Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited
Hardcover: 286 pages
ISBN: 978-0-14-319484-6


Excerpted from The First Mess Cookbook: Vibrant Plant-Based Recipes to Eat Well Through the Seasons. Copyright © 2017 Laura Wright. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.          

A review copy of The First Mess Cookbook was provided by Penguin Random House.     

The First Mess Cookbook review was written by Liliana Tommasini, author of the aptly named blog My Cookbook Addiction. Her passion for baking and cooking began at an early age. Liliana grew up in an Italian household where each meal was made from scratch with fresh ingredients and Sunday family lunches were always a celebration. She has a passion for collecting cookbooks and believes that every recipe tells a story that must be shared to nourish your soul and feed your belly. You can connect with Liliana on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


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