Winter Warmers

Yes, I am still alive.

So much has happened since I have last written. I quit my job, completed a degree, started a new job and got promoted all in the last year! So I have been quite the busy bee.

We are fast approaching a very cold winter here in South Africa. Note, our winters are a high of 17°C, nothing quite like the bitingly ice cold 6 months of winter I suffered through in Boston. But hey, it’s all relative, right?

table mountain

So, just in case any of you are in search of some deliciously warming food on a chilly evening, that happens to be devoid of animal products, or if you just want to eat something delightfully comforting and equally nutritious, look no further.

In an effort to make up for lost time, I’ll be posting quite a few recipes over the course of the week, so keep your eyes peeled for something that tickles your taste buds!

So, of recent, my room mates kids have been living with us. The 2 boys are not fans of, let’s say, healthy food. They like creamy, meaty, curry-ish food. So, occasionally, I cook for the 4 of us. And of course, then, the pressure is on. Because kids can be brutally honest. They can’t hide their facial expressions and mask their disgust with a stiff smile and a “Mmm, it’s so good” and then quietly spit it out into their napkin.

I have a firm tried and tested family favourite that you simply have to try. It’s a tasty twist on a layered lasagna, but a secretly not so unhealthy version. I try to refrain from using the word healthy, or I may get the Jehovah’s witnesses of health knocking on my door.

You will need:

6 large sweet potatoes steamed and peeled
3-4 cups of liquidized tomatoes
1 pack of mushrooms, sliced
1 diced onion
4 tablespoons chickpea flour
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch of spinach
Soy milk
Salt, Pepper, Oregano, Nutritional Yeast, Dried Chilli, Garlic

I am a pro a multi tasking in the kitchen. I can prepare 3 seperate components of a dish, and wash up by the time everything is done. This dish involves 4 different parts. I’ll just give them to you, and you can do them in which ever order suits you.

1) Steam and peel your sweet potatoes. They need to be soft enough to mash. Once they are, mash 3 of the sweet potatoes and layer them on the bottom of a baking dish.

2) Prepare your napoletana sauce, by bringing your pureed tomatoes to a boil, adding in some chopped up dried chilli, and oregano.

3) Prepare your middle layer, which is the veggie mix. All I had on hand was mushrooms and onions, so I lightly sauteed them with a touch of garlic and pepper. I tossed in the spinach as well for good measure.

4) Prepare your white sauce. I use chickpea flour and olive oil to make a rue, and then add in some boiling water, and stir. I top it off with soy milk, and of course, it contains salt, pepper, and nooch! (If you don’t know what nooch is, you are probably still a beginner vegan. It’s nutritional yeast)

So, next, you layer your napoletana sauce over the mashed sweet potato.
Then your veggie mix.
Then your white sauce.
And lastly, the last 3 sweet potatoes get mashed to hold everything together.

Serve this yummy concoction, hot, with a side salad, and high expectations!

Vamos Vegan!

My sincerest apologies for being scarce lately. I’m finding it tough to juggle a full time job, part time studies in the education field, gym, and life in general. Something’s gotta suffer, and unfortunately it was my blog.

I’ve still been cooking, baking and eating amazingly delicious plant based, cruelty free, super nutritious food though!

Out of absolutely nowhere, I had a craving for Mexican food. So I succumbed by making this quick’n’easy Mexican salad. I wanted to keep it as nutritious as possible, and not just melt some vegan cheese on tortilla chips (even though there’s no denying that would be delicious)

You will need:

2 cups baby spinach or your choice of greens

1 red onion

3 – 5 stalks of celery

1 orange bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 cup corn

1 cup kidney beans (I couldn’t find black beans)

1 ripe avocado

About 5 tortilla chips

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp garlic

Salt, Pepper and herbs of your choice (I used basil)

1 tbsp vegan mayo

  1. Chop the veggies nice and fine, and toss them together with your greens.
  2. Add the corn and beans
  3. Cube the avocado and throw it over
  4. Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over
  5. Add salt, pepper and herbs and garlic to your liking
  6. Add your vegan mayo
  7. And lastly, crumble the tortilla chips over the salad to garnish

This recipe should serve 2 people as a main meal, or 4 as a side.

There are some variations and additions I want to try to change it up a little.

  •  Instead of spinach, try quinoa or brown rice
  •  Add cubed lightly fried sweet potatoes
  •  Add some vegan chicken style strips for added protein
  •  Add a teeny bit of salsa for a kick
  •  Use cashew cream instead of vegan mayo
  •  Serve with guac instead of fresh avo

I’ve made this salad twice this week, and it is fast becoming a favourite in our home. In order for it to remain healthy, I would probably opt out of serving it with vegan mayo if I make it more often.

See, even Mexican food can be veganized 🙂

Try it, and let me know what you think.

***Buon appetito***

mexican salad

Nuts about greens!

SALAD.

What does this word bring to mind? Lettuce, cucumber, tomato and feta cheese? EHH! Wrong! 

Let’s clear a few things up:

Lettuce is boring. Stop buying it. 

Chicken on a bed of spinach is NOT and never will be a salad no matter how hard it tries. 

Creamy dressing atop lettuce and feta cheese does not a healthy meal make. Stop lying to yourself. 

Now that you have accepted the above, let me teach how to transform your salad into a meal you won’t be able to live without. Trust me, you will thank me for it. Money back guarantee 😛 

I unashamedly LOVE eating an almost raw salad at least once a day. Someone once asked me to make her the exact same one as me, because I eat it like it’s chocolate. 

I happen to be pretty boring and a creature of habit, and I am happy to eat the same salad every day. Almost. But I want to help you keep it interesting. So, lucky for you, you will get some variety. 

Here is my guide to making the perfect salad! 

Base:

Choose your base for your salad by ascertaining your activites for the day as well as your other meals. If you plan to go out for Italian food, and you are having toast for breakfast, then choose a leaf base, like rocket or baby spinach

If you are going to gym, and/or eating fairly light for the rest of the day, opt for a grain or starch base, like cous cous, quinoa, or whole wheat pasta. 

Standard Veggies:

 Staples like onions, peppers, cherry tomatoes and cucumber are a must in my salads. 

Spiralised&Grated Veggies:

You might want to invest in a spiraliser. It is my most favourite kitchen utensil. 

I use it to spiralise up zucchini, or baby marrow as we call it in South Africa, which normally I wouldn’t eat raw. 

And who likes to eat big pieces of carrots anyway? No-one! Spiralise those too!

Grate some fresh beetroot too. Fresh beetroot is so very delicious, and it’s good for you! 

Optional Veggies:

If it isn’t month end, and you have some extra money to splurge on slightly more expensive vegetables, do yourself the favour of your life, and buy tenderstem brocolli, baby corn and mange-tout. If you are brave enough, you can even chuck in some fine green beans.

Don’t you think this sounds considerably better than your boring old Greek salad? We aren’t done yet, don’t worry!

Protein:

If you are vegan, I know this is probably your least favourite word. I hate it too. Because it always comes from the mouth of ignorant meat eaters, who want to desperately find something wrong with your chosen lifestyle of compassion and care. Ok, I am getting riled up now, so lets revert to food. 

Protein. Yes.A handful of chickpeas, cannelini beans, or any type of beans really, will make a great add to a salad, and ups the calories a little. 

If you have the time, you can even saute a few cubes of tofu, or even better, add tofeta.

Nuts:

I am a certified nut-a-holic. But a handful of raw cashews or pecans in your salad is normal. Almonds are nice too, but wouldn’t be my first choice. And macadamias – well those are reserved for irritating my boyfriend with my apparent loud crunching.

Seeds:

Seeds might be bird food, but don’t diss them. Even you were once just a little seed 😉 Sunflower and flax seeds are both high in nutrients and goodness in their own special way, and it won’t harm you to add a teaspoon to your food. 

And now for my favourite part ..

Dressing:

You are simply not permitted to add store bought salad dressing to my salad. Try a drizzle of olive oil, a half a teaspoon of garlic, salt&pepper, and basil. You will not regret it.

A teaspoon of hummus or cashew cream, along with some sliced avocado (if your stomach so desires and your calorie counter permits) completes this beautiful creation. 

Now obviously, you can (and should) mix it up a little. But try to actually keep your salad a salad please? And not a heap of oily, fatty food with a side of spinach!

“While I pride myself on trying to be creative in all areas of my life, I have occasionally gone overboard, like the time I decided to bring to a party a salad that I constructed, on a huge rattan platter, to look like a miniature scale model of the Gardens of Babylon” ~ Gregory Maguire

salad 1 salad 2 salad 3 salad 4 salad 5 salad 6 salad 7 salad 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aubergenius!

So on Saturday evening my boyfriend was coming to visit me, and he very sweetly asked, “Baby, are you cooking tonight?” After a month of excessive spending, I didn’t have the extra money in my budget to eat out, or to buy any more groceries other than what I had at home for my routine weekday meals. If I had to feed just myself, I would’ve been fine with a veggie burger and soup. But, I am obsessed with being a good host, à la Bree van de Kamp

ANYHOO! I went searching through my cupboard for whatever I could find, and managed to make a perfectly delicious lasagne. Containing only 1 vegetable. Stop judging me.  

Ingredients:

1 aubergine. Yes one!

10 Lasagne sheets that you bought yonks’ ago, and have never used :$ 

3 tbsp. chickpea flour

Vegan Butter (Canola, Earth Balance, Blossom)

Soy Milk

2 cups of liquidised tomatoes that you found in your freezer because your mommy taught you to always be prepared 🙂

Salt, Pepper, Nutritional Yeast, Cumin, Chilli Powder, Garlic, Basil (Duh, I shouldn’t have to tell you this)

Vegan Cheese (optional)

Parboil your lasagne sheets for about 5 – 7 minutes. 

For the filling:

  – Apparently aubergines need to “sweat” before cooking them. Gross, but OK. 

 – So slice up your big ol’ aubergine into thin slices, and salt them well. Wait for them to start perspiring like I do when I do burpees. Once they do, rinse them off. 

 – Set them on a baking sheet, and sprinkle some cumin powder and chilli powder over them. 

 – Stick them in the oven to bake for about 12 minutes

For the white sauce:

 – Make a rue with chickpea flour and vegan butter.

 – Add crushed garlic, some salt&pepper, and nutri yeast.

 – Add soy milk until it has reached the desired consistency

For the tomato sauce:

 – Bring your liquidised tomatoes to a boil.

 – Add a smidge of ketchup to thicken (if you don’t want to cheat, then let your tomatoes boil for like 7 days) 

 – When sufficiently thickened, add some fresh herbs & chilli powder. 

We had a bit of a debate when it came to deciding how to layer the lasagne. Since we were low on ingredients, this is how we did it:

    White sauce

    Lasagne sheets

    Aubergines

    Tomato Sauce

    Lasagne Sheets

    White Sauce

Make sure your oven is pre-heated to 180 degrees. 

Top with grated cheese, nutritional yeast and dried basil.

Chuck it in the oven for about 20 minutes.

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We found this dish surprisingly filling (excuse the pun!) It just goes to show that you can make satisfying, homely vegan food on somewhat of a budget, provided you have certain essentials on hand. 

*Serves 1 hungry vegan, 1 extra hungry meat-eater and a binging housemate*

 

 

lasagne1

 

 

 

lasagne 2

Veganecessities

Taking the leap towards veganism is not an easy feat. You need self-control, planning, patience and a brilliant food processor!

I renounced all animal products 20 months ago and haven’t regretted it once, not even for a split second. I’ve experimented with all the different types of eating plant based foods, from raw vegan to junk food vegan to soy vegan to healthy vegan. I have finally found a good balance that works for my body and lifestyle. 

I am all for the premise that we all need to go on own journey to find what works best for us. But I’d like to help you along the way. So I’ve come up with a few food items that are ALWAYS on my shopping list, and I simply would not be able to live without. OK maybe I could, but I’d be really depressed 😉

I’m not one of those super rich hippies. Just a regular one, with an average job, and a love for fashion so I can’t afford to break the bank on overpriced health foods. These key ingredients are great because they are easily available, cost effective, healthy in moderation, long lasting AND versatile. 

NUTS! These poor things will never see the light of day in my presence. They’re high in GOOD calories and fats. And if you listened to me like I said before, and bought a good food processor, you can make a delicious cream out of cashews and macadamias. And they are freaking delish, end of story. 

CHICKPEAS! Whether you have them in their canned form, in which case they make a great addition to salads, or curry, or if it’s been made into hummus, it makes a great addition to uhm, EVERYTHING! High in protein and iron, how could you not love em?

SPINACH! And no, not creamed spinach! Fresh baby spinach can be added to a banana and apple smoothie; used as a base for a salad, or as garnish for your creamy pasta sauce. (And yes, vegan creamy pasta is very possible and very yummy!) I bid adieu to my severe anaemia that I suffered with as a vegetarian, thanks to munching on spinach and other dark green veggies that are packed with iron. 

SPROUTS! If you, like my dad and I, love something crunchy with our sandwiches and soups, then sprouted chickpeas, lentils and mung beans are your lifesaver. 

TOFU! Scrambled. Grilled. Stir Fried. Pan Fried. Quiched. Egg Saladed. You get the point. Tofu is so eager to please, that it will be whatever you want it to be. If you are a gym bunny, then its 48 grams of protein per 100 grams will be the best plant based way to build those biceps 😉 Be sure to have a look at my Tofeta recipe here – it’s a winner 🙂

NUTRITIONAL YEAST! I think this product needs a new name, because most think that it is live yeast, like the kind you would use in bread. Or beer. But no. This yeast is de-activated dried yellow flakes of goodness that are fortified with B12 and give a cheesy nutty flavour to sauces, soups and pizzas. 

AVOCADO! There is more to this unsuspecting fruit than just guacamole. Avo on toast; avo chocolate smoothie; avo choc mousse; avo ice cream. Need I say more? 

SOY! I’ve never had the desire to eat a fake chicken schnitzel or a mock beef patty, purely because I have never eaten the real thing. I was born into a full on vegetarian family, and we sustained ourselves on lentils, beans, and various other vegetables. And the occasional samosa or three. My waist line 2 years ago will corroborate that! I digress. I have nothing against fake meats, from a vegan standpoint. No animals were harmed, and they don’t really taste like meat anyway (according to most meat eaters I have asked) they just provide a quick easy meal for those days you are too tired to cook, and are a decent source of protein. So keep a pack in the freezer, just in case! 

OATS! Whether you like steel cut oats, sugary sweet granola or jungle oats bars, this is a staple for most vegans as it is a super filling breakfast! Here is a hint to make your day – Dark Chocolate Jungle Oats bars are VEGAN! Hand me that and a cappuccino on a Monday morning and then we’re talking!

CHOCOLATE! No convincing necessary, I’m sure! Oreos, Aero Dark, Nikki Dark and selected Lindt’s are vegan. Go forth and indulge!

OLIVE OIL! I am a serious salad-aholic! I make a delicious and nutritious salad daily for lunch and gulp it down like there’s no tomorrow. And I am completely and totally against salad dressing. So I make a simple dressing with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and mixed herbs. 

CHICKPEA FLOUR! Who woulda known that generations of Indians had it right. Chickpea flour aka besan aka gram flour, is the main ingredient of bhajias, those delicious oily Indian specimens of deliciousness. But I’ve found it makes an amazing white sauce, and savoury pancakes, mmm 🙂 Its gluten free too, so if that means anything to you, give it a go. 

If you live in South Africa, and want to know where to buy some of these products to veganize your cooking, please contact me. I would love to help!

Every little bit makes a difference.

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”  ~ Albert Einstein

vegan pyramid

Faux Feta?!

When I was a kid, I’d come home from school and melt a pile of grated cheese on a plate until it was grilled to perfection and then eat it with a fork. AMAZING! My addiction was at the stage of an intervention.

As I grew up, I broadened my horizons and added feta cheese to my list of favourite foods. It’d go on pizza, salad, sandwiches, biscuits, on it’s own out the packet. You get the idea! My boyfriend did try (and fail) to get me to eat cheese that smells like old rotten feet, but I opted against it. Wise choice I’d say.

Giving up cheese was a tough decision to make, but I had reached a level of understanding that it wasn’t about me and my want, but about the animals and their right to live a free life. So I began the transition.

Buuuut it was easier for me than it is for most. Because at the time, I lived in the land of food – AMERICA! We had Daiya cheese, which is a company that makes non-dairy cheese exclusively. So think Cheddar, Swiss, Provolone, Pepperjack, Mozzarella. Grated. Sliced. Heaven for cheesies like me.

When I moved back home (to South Africa) I was whole heartedly disappointed to see that we had no decent, competitively priced cheese substitutes. The current one on the market here is Cheezly. First off, it’s ridiculously over priced for my shoe loving salary. Secondly, it doesn’t taste that great for the price. Thirdly, it doesn’t melt into a crispy oily oozy bubble. GRRRRR.

Alas, I don’t have a solution for that. Yet. Give me time my cheese-a-holic followers.

While perusing recipes last week (my favourite past-time ever) I came across a tofu feta recipe. Say what? Apparently you can just eat tofu as is. I know, I was a bit apprehensive too.

I decided to choose two recipes, make both, do a taste test and then share the better one with you. You lucky buggers!

One recipe was lemon juice based, and the other was red wine vinegar based. Now I love red wine. But that marinade was just too vinegar-y. Yuck. My housemate, however, professed undying love for that tofeta.

Anyway. Here is the winning recipe:

2 tbsp. lemon juice (I used bottled, cos I am way too lazy to be squeezing lemons)

1/4 cup olive oil

4 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 1/4 tsp salt 

1/2 tsp basil

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp parsley

1/2 tsp garlic powder

And don’t forget the tofu! You need a block of firm or extra firm, drained and cubed.

Place your little feta to be squares into your marinade and refrigerate for a day.

Now, you need to have an open mind. No substitutes will taste exactly as their “true” counterparts. I had it over my salad today, and it made for a really nice addition. And the bonus is that it’s actually good for you, and good for the animals! Yay!

When I make my next batch, I am going to add more salt and a dash more of lemon juice (you can tell I am a tequila drinker huh)

tofeta 2 tofeta 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tofeta 5

tofeta 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tofu feta 1

 

 

The carrot cupcake concoction

Who doesn’t love carrot cake? C’mon, it’s a vegetable in a cupcake! And these are cruelty free. Win win win situation 🙂

Here is my own concocted recipe for a dozen delectable, moist and addictive carrot cupcakes with a plain vanilla frosting topped with crushed nuts. I adapted a recipe I read online by adding in a few ingredients of my own, which I believe contributed to their fluffiness!

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder (thanks mommy for providing from your stocks)
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unflavoured olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp egg replacer mixed with 2 tbsp water
  • 3/4 cup unflavoured unsweetened soy/almond/cashew/coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
  1. Preheat your oven to 180 °C  (350 F)
  2. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners
  3. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt,  ginger, cinnamon & cardamom
  4. In another mixing bowl mix together the sugar, oil, apple cider vinegar, vanilla, soy milk and egg replacer
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix together well.
  6. Then fold in your shredded carrots, maple syrup and mix until combined.
  7. Fill each cupcake liner with about 3/4 batter and bake for about 17 minutes.
  8. Toothpick test 🙂

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup dairy free margarine
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/4 cup soy/almond/cashew/coconut milk
  1. Whisk the margarine until soft and fluffy
  2. Gradually add the confectioners sugar and continue whisking
  3. Then add the vanilla and milk and continue to whisk until it has reached the desired consistency

Frost cupcakes.

Add toppings.

DEVOUR!

“Everyone thinks that a girls dream is to find the perfect man and fall in love. Puhlease! A girls dream is to get thin while eating cupcakes” 

Carrot Cupcakes