The Orange Almond Chocolate Cupcakes

by Anda Mtshemla

If you’ve been following this blog for any period of time, you may have noticed that I love to bake. I can confidently tell you that I bake almost weekly and there is nothing that brings me more joy than sharing my love with friends and family in the form of baked treats.

If you’ve ever baked, you know that baking is a science so as a regular person and not a scientist, my kitchen experiments sometimes flop. There are a number of other things that can go wrong in the kitchen when you bake from a temperamental stove (quite literally) giving you hell to the disaster that ensues when you over-bake your treat. It’s important to have a back-up plan for moments when you need to produce fresh baked goodies, fast and I have just the trick.

YOU WILL NEED:

1 4pk Vegan Cocoa & Goji Berry Muffins (Woolworths)

160g Beacon Orange Almond Dark Chocolate

1 cup milk alternative

1 tsp orange zest (optional)

Method:

Transfer milk into a pot and heat it until just before it boils

Remove milk from heat and add chopped chocolate

Swirl pot gently to ensure all chocolate is covered

Allow to sit for 5 minutes

Whisk the chocolate and milk until mixture is smooth and glossy. This is your ganache

Refrigerate ganache for 30 minutes or until hardened

Remove almonds from the tops of the muffins and spread ganache over your muffins

Garnish with the almonds you removed and orange zest as desired

 

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3-Ingredient Orange Almond Chocolate Cupcakes

 

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The Eggless Quiche Cups

by Anda Mtshemla

Can breakfast still be breakfast without eggs? Of course it can! There are a number of vegan innovations that have made it possible to enjoy traditional breakfasts that incorporate egg replacements, from crushed tofu to powders that can be transformed into delicious egg scrambles (see full article on egg replacements here).

Quiche can be tricky to master with egg however, this eggless recipe takes away all the difficult parts, is ready to enjoy in 40 minutes or less and while I used a spinach and onion topping, it can be personalised with the toppings of your choice.

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups chickpea flour

500g sheet of shortcrust pastry

1 tsp baking powder

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons vegan mayo

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 cup milk alternative

2 tablespoons sauerkraut liquid (optional)

1 cup spinach, chopped

1/2 cup white onion, finely diced

 

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 180°C

Grease muffin tin with olive oil

Spread pastry sheet and cut 12 circles with a scone-cutter or jar lid

Gently press circles into muffin tin ensuring the pastry is pressed to all edges

In a bowl, add chickpea flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and paprika and mix

Add milk alternative, lemon juice and sauerkraut liquid and mix until well combined

Add 1 tablespoon of vegan mayo into the mixture and gently fold until combined. Repeat for the 2nd tablespoon. The mixture should be thick but pourable

Add toppings into the mixture and stir in gently

Begin filling the pastry cups with the mixture, making sure not to fill each cup more than half-way

Place muffin tin in oven bake for 35 minutes, or until firm and lightly golden

Serve warm and enjoy

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Eggless Spinach and Mushroom Quiche Cups

 

 

 

 

 

The Creamy Chicken-Style Spaghetti

by Anda Mtshemla

Anyone with tastebuds will agree that pasta is the greatest invention on this green earth. It’s simple to prepare and can be mixed with pretty much anything and still taste amazing. While pasta is easy to make, there are a few things to keep in mind if you really want to elevate your dish, like making sure to salt your water. And finishing your pasta in your sauce.

This recipe is perfect if you’re looking for a quick meal with very few ingredients. And I’ll show you a simple trick that’ll give you delicious, creamy pasta without having to add any complicated or expensive ingredients.

You Will Need:

250g spaghetti

1/3 cup salt

1 cup brown mushrooms, sliced

1 tsp garlic, minced

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 cup vegetable broth

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups spinach

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Bring 4cups of water to a boil and add 1/3 cup of salt

Cook your spaghetti in boiling water for three quarters of the recommended cook time on the packaging, or until al dente

As the pasta cooks, add the oil to a saucepan then add your mushrooms and allow them to brown. Do not overcrowd the mushrooms

Once mushrooms have browned, add the garlic and stir it through

Sprinkle the flour evenly over the mushrooms and garlic then stir until everything is well coated

Add the broth slowly, making sure to continue stirring as you go

Add spinach to the sauce and stir until wilted

Lift your pasta noodles directly from the water and bring them to the sauce, making sure to add some of the pasta water into the sauce

Stir pasta through sauce and allow it to finish cooking in the sauce

Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately

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Saucy Spaghetti ready to enjoy

 

 

The Vegan Picnic

by Anda Mtshemla

While I would never describe myself as the “outdoorsy type,” I love the occasional hike to witness a magnificent view and most of all, a relaxing afternoon picnic. The best thing about picnics, of course, is the food. The trickiest part about picnics? Also, the food. The food needs to be packable, you should be mindful of it getting soggy or cold but it should still be enjoyable. I’ve packed a simple and delicious picnic basket to give you some ideas for your next al fresco meal.

Sarmies

Sandwiches never fail to make a great takeaway lunch and can be personalised to your taste. Be mindful, though, to skip the tomatoes or any other juicy ingredients that will threaten the moisture level of your sandwich. For this picnic, I packed a mock tuna mayo sandwich on toasted brown bread.

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Drinks

Drinks are the easiest thing to add to your picnic basket because whether they’re alcoholic or not, they’re pre-packed or can be easily transferred and ready to go. For this picnic, I chose a refreshing lemonade and some sparkling Pellegrino to wash down the sarmies.

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Salads

Another picnic basket must-have is a delicious salad. Salads are great on-the-go meals because you can enjoy them cold and if you’re in a rush, you can pop a few ready-made ones into your trolley rather than make your own. Luckily, my dad actually spotted a lovely vegan-friendly pasta salad at Woolies, which was the highlight of our picnic.

Treats

My sisters arrived back from school with an abundance of apples, for some reason, which were becoming a bit too ripe to eat so we bought ready-made puff pasty and turned our nearly spoiled apples into delicious apple pies. These were so easy to make, in fact we made them the morning of the picnic, and made the perfect, light sweet treat after the refreshing meal. I also packed along some fresh fruit I had on hand for anyone still feeling peckish.

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The Fried Falafel

by Anda Mtshemla

Chickpeas and Falafel are synonymous to me– it seems to be all I want to make when I have chickpeas on hand and thus, I’ve learned my way through the art of falafel-making.

My falafel fails have taught me that no matter how you prepare it be it baked, fried or seared, the true test is flavour and once you master that you can only go up from here, my friend.

You Will Need:

1 tin chickpeas drained

1 handful coriander, chopped

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour/chickpea flour

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp cumin

Method:

Add chickpeas, coriander, onion, garlic and spices to blender and blend until roughly combined, not entirely smooth

Transfer mix to bowl and add flour

Stir in flour until well combined

Use tablespoon-worth of mix to form balls and place them on a lined baking tray

Place tray in freezer and allow balls to set for at least 30 mins

Heat a deep pot with sunflower/canola oil

Once oil is medium/high heat, place falafel balls and fry until firm and golden

Place on paper towel to drain excess oil and cool

Once cooled, add to sandwiches, pitas or simply serve drizzled with tahini or your favourite sauce

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Vegan Falafel with fresh coriander

 

 

 

Restaurant Review: Veganising ‘Kream’

by Anda Mtshemla

Walking though the restaurant-lined aisle of Mall of Africa’s outdoor court area, a row of bold, black and white sculptured chairs with mask-like faces moulded into their backs stopped mine and my sister’s hungry hearts as we stepped in. Completely distracted by the hip decor, we were blissfully unaware that our vegan selves, were walking into a restaurant called called Kream with a “K.”

We were welcomed by a warm hostess who managed to seat us almost immediately despite the buzzing restaurant being near capacity. We were then offered a selection of fresh breads to choose from, served with a quartet of spreads which included a biltong butter, garlic butter and olive tapenade. We enjoyed our ciabatta slices dry.

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Fresh slices of ciabatta with butter, biltong butter, garlic butter and olive tapanede

A quick look through the menu and we quickly realise this stylish, modern atmosphere is matched by equally stylish and modern cuisine; boasting dishes like Foie Gras and Gourmet Sushi as well as an established wine list and specialised drinks menu with a wide variety of cocktails.

After getting to know the menu, we were approached by yet another host, who ran us through that Saturday’s Chef’s Specials, which included a chargrilled steak and other meats, which of course weren’t dishes that suited our taste. Upon asking about what he would recommend for vegans, the host mentioned an array of salads as well as a thai curry which wasn’t on the menu, but could be made as per our request.

After a few minutes, my lunch date and I decided on a poached pear and walnut salad, which we veganised by requesting that they leave out the goat’s cheese; and created a little sushi platter for ourselves from their selection of vegetable sushi rolls. While I’m not big on salad, the salad we ordered was so fresh, luscious and perfectly dressed, my sister and I considered sending compliments to the chef.

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Port-poached pear and Walnut Salad alongside vegetable sushi rolls

While we did ask that our sushi be made with no mayonnaise my sister noticed some oozing out the sides of the fashion sandwiches we ordered. We made our waiter aware, three members of staff came to apologise for the mix up and brand new, mayonnaise-less fashion sandwiches were brought to our table.

We spent a cool R400 (including tip) which I felt was reasonable, considering the fact that this is a fancy-pants kind of spot. While there weren’t a bunch of vegan options on the menu, Kream’s willingness to cater for us, their exceptional service as well as the modern decor and trendy atmosphere, means this restaurant will definitely be getting another visit from me.

Food:  

Service:  

Ambience: 

The World’s Best Vegan Pancakes

by Anda Mtshemla

Seeing that it’s been three months since my last post, it was going to take something very special to bring me out of my uninspired state. And it seems that a little weekend away from my fast-paced life as a vegan mogul (lol, what?) did the trick.

I don’t think I can take credit for this recipe as I’m sure I’ve seen many ones like it online. However, I will take credit for putting my family and all of you on to this as the BEST vegan pancake recipe in the world. I mean, how can it not be, with only 4 ingredients used to achieve the perfect mixture of sweet crispness and light fluffiness? Not to mention, I made these while on a weekend away at an Airbnb, so you can imagine my resources were limited but they still came out spectacularly.

As someone with an affinity for pancakes (because dessert for breakfast), I’ve tried many versions vegan pancakes. In an earlier version of this recipe I used sunflower oil instead of bananas as I wanted to achieve a more neutral flavour. I used bananas for the first time a few weeks ago and fell in love with this version. Unless you’re highly allergic to banana, I would strongly urge you to try this recipe– you will not regret it!

EDIT: If you are strongly opposed to the banana flavour of these pancakes, substitute the bananas in this recipe for 1/3 cup of vegan mayo.

You will need:

1 1/2 cups milk alternative

2 ripe bananas

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

Method:

In a large bowl, mash bananas with a fork until they form an egg-like consistency

To this, add milk and whisk until well combined

Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just combined (its going to be lumpy, thats okay)

Heat up non-stick pan to medium-low heat

Spoon about a quarter cup’s worth of the mixture into the pan for each pancake

Once bubbles have formed on the surfaces of the pancake and the edges appear dry, flip the pancake and allow about 30seconds for the other side to cook

Serve warm with syrup or whichever toppings you prefer

 

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Vegan Pancakes served with golden syrup

The Sweet Potato Brownies

by Anda Mtshemla

It’s become a bit of an obsession of mine to incorporate fruits and veggies into as many dishes as I possibly can– especially desserts. Adding veggies to a vegan sweet treat makes something that already feels guilt-free (since you’ve eliminated the animal products) actually feel good for you, not that I needed any more reasons to eat dessert!

I add sweet potatoes to every variation of brownies that I make (see here), but I especially love it for this baked version because it creates an unreal, fudgy texture that I love in brownies.

You will need:

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup almond milk

1 cup all-purpose flour/almond flour if you’re GF

1 cup brown sugar (add more if you prefer a sweeter brownie)

Method:

Preheat oven to 180°C

Line 20cm square baking tin with baking paper and set aside

Boil sweet potato until tender

Drain and puree sweet potato

Add oil and sugar into sweet potato and blend until well combined

Add flour and milk to mixture and blend until combined

Add cocoa powder and blend mixture until smooth

Pour brownie mixture into baking tin and bake for 30-35mins

Once baked, allow to cool, slice into squares and serve with a light dusting of confectionery sugar

 

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Vegan Sweet Potato Brownies made with almond flour and dusted with icing sugar

 

 

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.

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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.