I remember being two weeks into my “plant based cleanse” five years ago so vividly. After a year of some serious tummy turmoil, a friend had recommended following a plants-only diet for a month to give my system a break. After two weeks of eating more vegetables than I had in a year, grilling tofu for the first time, and exploring new-to-me foods like hummus and lentils, I had never felt so healthy and energized in my life. I remember Scott coming home from work that day, I had just watched Forks Over Knives and looked at him declaring “I’m going plant based for life”. His response exactly was, “but what about chicken?”. I shook my head, and here we are five years later.
Were my health issues solved? In short, no. My body became stronger and more in-tune with itself, revealing to me all of the (figuratively speaking) holes and broken down roads I had been circling around for years. It’s been a winding journey to where I am now, but throughout it all I have leaned primarily on plant based nutrition. Have I been perfect? No. In the midst of a myriad of health issues this past fall I caved and ate eggs for a few months to see if it would help. It didn’t, I felt worse, and it turned out I was allergic (whoops!). I happily returned to my plant-centric lifestyle after this, and am still in the process of healing a host of health issues. We’re all trying to figure out what work’s best for our individual bodies and minds, and for me there isn’t really a destination, only the journey.
Five years ago “veganism” had yet to hit the main stream. It was rough at first, having to learn to live in the bubble of people I knew with a different perspective on food. There was, however, a sweet girl I worked with at a cafe who introduced me to my first blog. I had never heard or visited one before, and was opened up to (at that time) a small world of ladies cultivating a plant based community. In need of a sweet treat for a movie night, I stumbled upon a certain chocolate cake with speculoos frosting by, the one and only, Laura Wright. I remember thinking who in the world needs butter and eggs when something this good exists. And that is when I began following this special girl, who would in turn change my experience with plants for life.
Whether you have a love/hate relationship with veggies or are a green juice guzzler, I think you would find yourself hard-pressed to not fall in love with the cozy, approachable, and exciting flavor combinations Laura seems to pull together so effortlessly. Everything she creates looks like it “feels good”, for the lack of a better way to describe the sensation I get when scrolling through her blog or flipping through her cookbook’s pages. As you read through Laura’s story in the beginning of the book you learn about her father’s farm, her past education in culinary school, and her work at a restaurant – and it becomes clear – creating produce filled meals wasn’t something Laura discovered later in life, it was (is) something that has been interwoven in her existence from the beginning. Her connection to the seasons inspires you. The way she plays with flavors and textures entices you. And if you can get yourself not to drool while flipping past her date shake and brownies, I will applaud you (or scoff, not sure where my judgement lies there ;) kidding!).
I knew the moment I saw the word “sunflower” in this recipe title that it would become my new favorite dressing. I almost always have a sauce that was drawn up by Laura in our fridge. She has a way of knowing exactly how to balance the sweet, salty, and tang our taste buds are craving. Here I didn’t have the sunflower oil the recipe called for, so I altered it a bit to use whole sunflower seeds instead. The result? So rich and creamy, with an extra vitamin boost. I hope you enjoy this salad combo too, I love the earthy beets and creamy avocado with the tang of this dressing and crunch from the fresh greens. Don’t skimp on the herbs either, the chives and dill positively make this salad. And if you haven’t popped over to order Laura’s book yet (which you should), I have a copy to give away too! Read below the recipe for the details, and let’s celebrate this genuinely amazing human and her generosity in creating this gorgeous cookbook for us all, yes?! – xx
CIDER & SUNFLOWER DRESSING
Adapted from The First Mess Cookbook.
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 – 1 cup filtered water
1/4 teaspoon gluten-free tamari soy sauce
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1 clove garlic, chopped
salt & pepper, to taste
3/4 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked for 4 hours
Make the dressing:
Drain the soaked sunflower seeds, and add everything to a blender (preferably high-speed). Puree until silky smooth, taste, and adjust salt and pepper to taste (I used 1 teaspoon of pink salt). Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. Drizzle over salads, grain bowls, pizza, everything.
Build the salad:
I used chopped romain and micro greens for the salad base. I then topped the greens with a sliced beet that had been boiled and cooled, cannellini beans, diced avocado, and fresh herbs (chives and dill, they are amazing with this dressing!).
Reprinted from The First Mess Cookbook by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2017, Laura Wright.
GIVEAWAY: Enter to win a copy of The First Mess Cookbook (open to U.S. and Canadian residents only) by leaving a comment below telling me your favorite plant to eat. I’ll kick it off by sharing mine: brussel sprouts! Preferably steamed or roasted ;). Contest is open through March 7th.