The Stuffed Gem Squash

by Anda Mtshemla

Like most people, I’m still working on improving my relationship with veggies. I could likely count on one hand the number of vegetables I actually eat for enjoyment rather than for nutritional value. Gem squash, I must say, is not on the “eating for enjoyment” list. In fact, I find it a little obscure and kind of an annoying vegetable. Okay, so you’re like, a tiny pumpkin? Congratulations on being the bland, underachieving member of the squash family.

Gem squash, I must say, is not on the “eating for enjoyment” list. In fact, I find it a little obscure and kind of an annoying vegetable. Like, okay, you’re a tiny pumpkin? Congratulations on being the bland, underachieving member of the squash family.

All squash comparisons aside though, even I have found a way to enjoy this veggie that always finds it’s way into my mom’s pantry and stares me in the face, practically daring me to love eating it.

You will need:

3 gem squash, halved

1 cup white quinoa

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 red onion, diced

2 cups vegetable stock

salt and pepper to taste

nutritional yeast (optional)

Method:

Scoop out the seeds of each half of gem squash

Season each with salt and pepper

Place each half, face down, onto a baking tray

Place into 180°C oven for 15-20mins

while those bake away…

Over medium heat, cook your onions  in a saucepan until translucent

Add mushrooms and stir until all is cooked

Set the onion and mushrooms aside

Add quinoa to saucepan along with half of the vegetable stock

Stir quinoa until stock is absorbed then add the remainder of the stock, cover and leave to simmer until fully absorbed

Spoon quinoa into gem squash halves and top each one with the onion and mushroom mixture

Sprinkle nutritional yeast over top if desired and serve

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Quinoa stuffed gem squash, which I dared to make delicious

 

 

How To Go Vegan In 6 Easy Steps

by Anda Mtshemla

vegan

noun veg·an \ˈvē-gən 
a strict vegetarian who consumes no food (such as meat, eggs, or dairy products) that comes from animals; also:  one who abstains from using animal products (such as leather)
(Merriam-Webster)

Since going vegan nearly a year ago now, I’ve seen so many positive changes in my life; my skin cleared up, my grades improved, I got a job– all, obviously, direct results of a plant-based diet. Since good health is trending, I figured I’ve done my share of stumbling clumsily through veganism so, I’ve turned my biggest challenges into a list that will help you in starting your vegan journey successfully.

1. DON’T GO COLD TURKEY

Despite this being bad for obvious vegan reasons, jumping straight from consuming animal products regularly to a completely plant-based diet might really shock your body. While I doubt the switch will actually negatively affect your body, it may make it difficult to curb animal product cravings in the future, should they come.

Start slow; a good start is, of course, cutting out all meat products and replacing them with imitations. Next, let go of the cheese and other dairy products. Continue to cut out and replace things from your diet like this until you have fully transitioned.

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via GIPHY

2. GIVE YOUR PANTRY A MAKEOVER

Unless you follow a meat and egg-dense paleo diet, I truly believe that any food cupboard can easily be transformed into a vegan paradise. You will be surprised how much of what you already have is perfectly suitable for vegan consumption so don’t go getting rid of everything in your pantry just yet.

Since we’ve decided on a slow transition into veganism, when say, your mayonnaise finishes, replace it with vegan mayo. Try a different bag of chips instead of the non-vegan variation you usually buy. Swap your honey for agave or maple syrup, opt for soy or almond milk next time you run out of dairy. The possibilities are endless!

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via GIPHY

If you need a little help setting up your pantry, click here.

3. LEARN HOW TO READ “VEGAN”

While there are the obviously vegan food products in stores like fresh produce and the few clearly marked items, there are a plethora of things in the store that aren’t necessarily marketed as vegan or labelled as such but perfectly fine for you to eat.

The best way to go about finding out if a food item is vegan is to turn it over and search the ALLERGENS first. If there is no milk, eggs or any of the obvious non-vegan ingredients, that’s one tick for it. Next, look for the “E numbers.” This one is a little bit trickier but easy to get the hang of since there aren’t that many that are animal derived. E22, for instance, is gelatine and should be avoided. E992 is beeswax which as a vegan, you’ll likely not want to eat. Once you’re clear on those two things, throw it in the basket!

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via GIPHY

Here’s a comprehensive list of all the E numbers that you can keep handy for uncertain moments. If you’re still unclear on whether something is vegan, you can always Google!

4. PLAN YOUR MEALS

Once you’ve got your pantry right, create a meal plan with what you have. This is not in a miserable, dieting kind of way but more a way for you to get into the vegan swing of things. Collect recipes you’d like to try and meals you know you’ll enjoy, and note them so you know what you’ll be preparing for every meal. Trust me, your experience is going to be far more enjoyable if you’re not worrying about what you’re going to make for dinner.

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5. BE CREATIVE WHEN EATING OUT

Food has become extremely social in our modern society; we eat to celebrate, you go out for a meal with friends to catch up and at times, you may even be eating purely to pass time. For this reason, when you become vegan, you may start to feel frustrated in social situations as vegan options are sometimes difficult to come by.

American rapper, Andre 3000 said in Esquire,  “I was a hardcore vegan for fifteen years. I’ve even done raw. But socially it became horrible. I was kind of just sitting at home eating a salad. You become mean. That’s not good for you,” which, I get, but I couldn’t disagree with the man more.

Don’t be afraid to ask what vegan options are available at a restaurant; some restaurants have entire vegan menus that are available on request, so you don’t have to be content with a salad or plate of chips. Alternatively, search Happy Cow for a vegan-friendly restaurant near you and suggest it next time you go out to eat with friends. Take your own snacks along to parties and events etc. Don’t be like Andre.

6. FOLLOW 24KARROTS

Yeah.

No, but on a serious note, the vegan community isn’t very well established, especially in South Africa so it’s important to garner inspiration from all corners of the Internet and align yourself with people that get it. There are a number of groups on Facebook where vegans share experiences, recipes, vegan finds and most importantly, memes.

vegnewsmeme

A little extra guidance…

Vegan-friendly products and restaurants in South Africa: Click Here
Vegan Society SA Facebook page: Click Here
The video that helped me quit dairy: Click Here
The most important documentary in vegan history: Click Here
Vitamins and deficiencies: Click Here
DISCLAIMER: The statements expressed in this article are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Readers should seek their own professional counsel for any medical condition before starting or altering any dietary plan.

 

The 3-Ingredient Apple Pie Pockets

by Anda Mtshemla

One of my favourite things about grocery shopping is finding accidentally vegan items. My latest “Not-Made-For-Vegans-But-Perfectly-Suitable-For-Them-To-Eat” discovery is ready-made puff pastry. The stuff famous for being packed with a tonne of butter to produce its flaky texture? Yup, vegan.

While most store-bought variations are vegan, there are some brands that contain animal products so make sure you read the ingredient list.

For this recipe, I’ve used this amazing accidentally vegan find as a shortcut to one of my favourite desserts at the moment and yes, you only need three things!

You will need:

1 cup applesauce

1 roll puff pastry (400g)

splash of soy milk (to be used as egg wash)

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 180°C

Roll and smooth out the puff pastry sheet

Cut the pastry sheet into equal sized rectangles (a sheet this size gets you about 12 rectangles)

Spoon the applesauce into the centre of half of the rectangles, leaving room around the edges

Place the empty pastry rectangles on top of the applesauce filled ones, gently pressing down the edges of each one

Secure the edges of each pie pocket by gently pressing them down with a fork

Lightly score each of the pie pockets and brush generously with soy milk

Place in the pre-heated oven to bake for 12-15mins

Serve warm and enjoy on its own or with a serving of vegan ice cream

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3-Ingredient vegan apple pie pocket

The 3-Ingredient Chocolate Mousse

by Anda Mtshemla

As a vegan, most chocolate products are pretty much out so you’ll find yourself consuming a lot less chocolate. The upside, I’ve found, is that you consume higher quality chocolate because, with the animal products omitted from the chocolate you’re eating, there’s a lot more room for that cocoa to shine.

This is an important thing to remember for this next recipe. Since we’ll be using a little bit of an unconventional ingredient, you need to make sure you find a good quality cocoa powder, or just one you know you enjoy, to use because that’s what’s really going to transform the flavour of this simple dessert.

You will need:

1/4 cup cocoa powder (sub for cacao if raw vegan)

2 tablespoons sweetener of choice (agave, maple syrup, granulated sugar)

SECRET INGREDIENT: 2 ripe avocados

If you prefer a richer, more chocolatey mousse, you can skip the sweetner in the recipe completely!

Method:

Scoop avocados into blender along with your sweetener

Blend until completely smooth

Blend again while gradually adding cocoa powder

Serve as is or refrigerate and serve chilled

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Delicious and Healthy 3-Ingredient Rich Chocolate Mousse

 

The No-Bake Carrot Cake Bites

by Anda Mtshemla

Ever since my month-long raw vegan journey in February, I’ve been loving incorporating more raw foods into my diet. Raw foods are not only said to be better for you, as you avoid cooking away the nutrients in your food, but I’ve personally fallen in love with this diet because it encourages me to eat more whole foods which, even as a vegan, I often struggle to do.

I particularly enjoy creating raw vegan desserts because, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, I have a major sweet tooth. And there is nothing more fulfilling than a dessert that satisfies your sweet tooth without experiencing any guilt!

You will need:

2 large carrots, grated

1 cup coconut flour

1/2 cup dates

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon ginger, minced

desiccated coconut, for coating

Method:

Puree dates with water then incorporate coconut flour

Add the carrots, spices, and ginger then stir until mixture is a cookie dough-like texture

Scoop the mixture and roll into bite-size balls

Coat the balls in coconut and refrigerate overnight or until firm

 

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Raw Vegan Carrot Cake Bites– and a great new way to repurpose your old egg tray!

 

 

 

 

 

The Homemade Applesauce

by Anda Mtshemla

Applesauce is one of those versatile ingredients that can be added to a variety of dishes and absolutely make it. Whether you use it as an egg replacer when baking, a sweetener for smoothies or just to add that classic apple-pie flavour to your morning oats, it’s a staple for every vegan pantry.

While most store-bought variations of this smooth, sweet stuff are vegan, they’re packed with sugar and preservatives and I’m of the belief that if you can make something at home healthily, cheaply and easily, you should.

My favourite thing about this recipe is that it’s a great way to put your overripe apples to good use– plus the natural sugars your ripened fruits have developed will make for an even better sauce!

You will need:

(for 1 cup of apple sauce)

6-8 small apples, peeled and cored

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup water

sweetener, optional

Method:

Peel and core the apples then place in a large pot over medium-low heat

Add lemon juice and stir until apples are coated (add sweetener now too, if you choose)

Pour in water and give a final stir before covering

Leave to simmer for 20mins or until tender

Drain and allow to cool before pureeing in a food processor or blender

Store in airtight container and refrigerate for up to two weeks

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Homemade applesauce, ready to use

 

 

 

 

The 3-Ingredient Quinoa Risotto

by Anda Mtshemla

I know. You’re probably rolling your eyes wondering what kind of click-bait I’ve led you to now, but this is not a drill. You really do only need three essential ingredients to create this creamy and flavour packed risotto.

We’re using quinoa, so you’re not going to need to slave over the stove as you would with regular risotto, and you get to reap the health benefits of adding quinoa to your diet!

You will need:

1 cup white quinoa

450ml vegetable stock

1 cup chopped mushrooms

Method:

Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat

Pour the quinoa into pan and stir gently for 1 minute

Add a splash of stock and stir until combined

Pour half of the stock in the pan and stir until stock has absorbed

Add the mushrooms and combine well with quinoa

Pour in the remaining stock and allow mixture to simmer for 8-10minutes, or until stock has absorbed

Serve immediately as is, or add fresh thyme to garnish.

 

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Creamy mushroom and quinoa risotto served with fresh thyme

 

 

The Hot Cross Cinnamon Swirls

by Anda Mtshemla

With my first Easter as a vegan around the corner, I wanted to create a recipe with the feel of any other Easter, while minimising time in the kitchen and maximising on the long weekend.

While I was never a fan of hot cross buns as a non-vegan, there’s just something about things that you can’t have. So I put my own vegan twist (or swirl) on the classic Easter treat, which combines the ease of a cinnamon roll, using a simple hack, and the unique flavour of a traditional hot cross bun!

You will need:

1kg bread dough (get this fresh from your local grocer)

3 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon nutmeg

1/2 tablespoon crushed cloves

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup sugar

for the “cream cheese” glaze

4 tablespoons icing sugar

1 tsp water

1 tsp lemon juice

pinch of salt

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C

Halve the dough to make it more manageable

Work the raisins into both sections of the dough

Roll out the dough to about 1-2cm thickness

Cut off the sides to make sure the dough is rectangular in shape

Combine coconut oil, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a separate bowl

Spread this mixture evenly onto the sheet of dough then roll the dough into a tight log

Slice the log horizontally into 3-5cm swirls

Pack the swirls into a greased baking pan of your choice, leaving space around the edges

Bake for 20-25 minutes

while the cinnamon swirls bake…

Combine the icing sugar, water, lemon juice and salt in a bowl until the mixture reaches a thick but pourable consistency

Once the swirls have baked, drizzle the cream cheese glaze over them and serve warm

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Vegan Hot Cross Cinnamon Swirls crossed with a “cream cheese” glaze

The Sweet Bean Chilli

by Anda Mtshemla

After a month of raw eating, I really craved something warm and hearty, and what better way to really get back into hot meals than making something spicy. This is one of my favourite meals to make because it’s flavourful and satiating but requires minimal effort—Perfect for the lazy chefs!

You will need:

1 can Red Kidney Beans

1 can Lentils

1 can Butter Beans

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon mustard

1 table spoon garlic

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

½ cup water

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

salt and pepper

Another great thing about this recipe is that its packed with protein and you can use any beans you fancy, but I recommend you do not skip the lentils!

Method:

Place a large pot over medium heat

Add a splash of water along with the tomato paste and garlic then stir until combined

Pour in the diced tomatoes and add water until they have cooked down

Add the mustard, sugar and apple cider vinegar then stir until combined

Thoroughly rinse and drain all your beans and add them to the pot along with the cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste

Stir until well combined then add the remaining water

Leave to simmer very gently for 10 minutes

Serve with your grain of choice, fresh coriander and sliced jalapenos

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Sweet Bean Chilli served fresh coriander and sliced jalapenos

 

The Pros & Cons of Going Raw

by Anda Mtshemla

Choosing lovely February, of just twenty-eight days, to go raw vegan was a very deliberate decision. I knew it was going to be a challenge as I’m still fairly new to the vegan lifestyle and didn’t want to take on too much. I just may have because on the 23rd day, I cracked and had a cooked meal, but this is beside the point. The weird thing about taking new things on, though, is that it’s always things that you didn’t expect to be challenging that test you and all the things you were expecting, well, they test you too.

Cold, Wet Food

Cold is expected. But wet? I was not expecting wet. Since you’re not getting to cook away any of the moisture in your food, a lot of your meals are going to be really, really wet. I’m not even going to get into the details of spiralised cucumber… I suppose an optimist would describe this as “juicy” but it was all just very wet to me.

It is E X P E N S I V E

I was inspired by the greats: Fully Raw Christina, Rawvana, Laura Miller, who, don’t get me wrong, are all fantastic. In fact, I watched all their videos about how to go raw cheaply. But if you’re being realistic, you need to eat large amounts of fruits and veggies to stay satiated while raw and buying huge amounts of anything ain’t cheap, baby. Every time I went grocery shopping, a Migos song played in my heart.

Eating Out is Going to be a Bust

I live in a tiny, purple town where vegetarian options are a difficult find, let alone vegan. Raw vegan is simply asking too much. It doesn’t help that I’m still not quite at that place in my veganism to enquire about every single ingredient used in a menu item—I would just rather not eat out. But it was difficult declining friends’ offers to catch up over lunch.

Alcohol

I’m not a big drinker but I am a university student so it happens from time to time. I was raw during Orientation Week at my varsity and that’s when all the really big parties happen (my mom follows my blog, I’m not gonna get into it). I could only drink wine and I went a little wild with it on a few occasions. All I can say is don’t go heavy on the wine. Your bowels will thank you for it.

You’re Going to Drop a Few Kilos

Now, I’m putting this right at the end of the cons and the beginning of the pros because it’s kind of both. I’ve dropped two sizes since going vegan ten months ago and only just got new clothes that fit. So you can imagine my disappointment when my clothes that fit me perfectly two weeks ago, were now sagging off of me like a 2007 Soulja Boy. You’re likely going to lose weight, so, be aware of that.

Summer Fruits on Summer Days

This one is to kind of counter the first con because on days when it wasn’t miserable and rainy, it felt really good to sip on a frozen fruit smoothie or a sit down for a cool salad. I don’t need to tell you anything about how well cold things go down in the summer time, but man, any raw vegan will tell you that the best time to do it is during the warm seasons.

More Life, More Energy

I am possibly the laziest person you’ll ever meet. Like, my favourite thing to do is nothing, so I was astonished when I had no trouble waking up in the mornings and got down faster than a baby on a bottle at night. Honestly, there truly is something about not cooking your food because I was a changed woman for (almost) 28 days.

Zero Cook Time

My favourite part about making food is not making it at all, actually, it’s eating it so skipping the step that stands between me and eating was amazing, to say the least. It’s just prep and eat: what’s not to love?