Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (no tahini)

I am afraid to admit this to all my vegan friends out there, but I have to be honest. Apart from making salad dressings and hummus, I haven’t really found more uses for tahini. If you are a tahini junky, I know you’re sitting there and reading this in disbelief. I’ve seen tons of tahini recipes from the usual ‘roasted vegetables salad with tahini dressing’ to recipes as extravagant (well, in my opinion at least) as ‘tahini chocolate brownies’. But I am still not sold.

So instead of buying a jar of tahini and having it go to waste in my fridge, I decided to use peanut butter to make my hummus instead. The peanut butter adds the same nutty flavour that you would get from the Middle Eastern condiment, just without the price tag. Try this recipe out and let me know what you think?

Hot tip: There are two secrets to good hummus, the first is whipping your lemon juice and tahini or peanut butter. I don’t know why but it works! The second is adding the liquid from the canned chickpeas or water, if using dried chickpeas.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) peanut butter
  • 1 cup chickpeas
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and cut in half
  • 1 tsp (5ml) cumin
  • 75ml olive oil
  • 45ml water
  • 1/2 roasted red pepper
  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) salt

Method:

  1. Whip the lemon juice and peanut butter together by stirring vigorously with a spoon.
  2. Add the whipped lemon juice/peanut butter mixture and the remaining ingredients to a blender.
  3. Blend to desired consistency (*add more water if necessary).

Quick Yoghurt Flatbread

Sometimes you really don’t have the time to wait for your bread dough to rise. Enter, this flatbread recipe!

This recipe is by no means an original recipe. Flatbreads were the earliest type of processed foods made by man. They come in several forms, such as chapati, roti and parotta. The majority of flat breads are consumed in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent*. According to ‘Flatbreads of the world’ by K.J. Quail, an estimated 1.5 billion people consume traditional flatbreads as a food staple, and many people throughout the world are also consuming newer forms of products based on flatbread technology, such as pizzas or sandwich wraps.


For this particular recipe, feel free to replace the yoghurt with milk or maas (soured milk), both work just as well. This recipe makes 8 flatbreads. I enjoyed mine with a delicious lentil, butternut and cauliflower stew.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp (22.5ml) baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 200ml plain double cream yoghurt
  • oil for frying

Method:

  1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt together.
  2. Add in the double cream yoghurt and combine until you form a dough.
  3. Knead the dough and allow to rest for 10-15 min.
  4. Heat a pan on high heat.
  5. Cut dough into 8 equal sized pieces, roll out each piece using extra flour and brush on the oil.
  6. Grill or pan fry flatbread on one side until bubbles start to form, before flipping to the other side.
  7. Cover the flatbreads with a damp cloth while you make the rest.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

I know what you must be thinking, every food blog has a peanut butter bar recipe so how is this original? To that I say, not every peanut butter bar recipe is as delicious as this one! And what’s great is that it uses everyday pantry ingredients. Try making these bars at home and let me know what you think!

*Use vegan chocolate for a vegan take on these bars.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup dates, chopped
  • 1/4 cup boiled water
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • a pinch of salt
  • 120g dark chocolate, melted

Method:

  1. Soak dates in boiling water for 15 min.
  2. Add soaked dates to food processor or blender, blend to smooth consistency.
  3. Combine blended dates, peanut butter, rolled oats, shredded coconut, chia seeds and salt. Stir through until well combined.
  4. Transfer to a lined baking pan and smooth out the top using a spatula.
  5. Pour over the melted dark chocolate. I garnished my bars with some salted peanuts.
  6. Once cooled, cut into rectangular bars and store in the fridge. Enjoy!

4 Hacks to save money on your houseplants! | Houseplant survival in a recession?

I was scrolling the internets a few days ago and came across a YouTube video titled “How to prepare for a recession – tough times ahead”. As I watched the video, I realised that, although I knew that a recession was bad, I did not understand what it actually was. So I went digging.

What is a recession? A recession is defined as a significant decline in economic activity that lasts for months or even years. According to a Forbes Advisor article, “Experts declare a recession when a nation’s economy experiences negative gross domestic product (GDP), rising levels of unemployment, falling retail sales, and contracting measures of income and manufacturing for an extended period of time.” The article mentions that a sudden economic shock, such as the Covid19 outbreak, and too much inflation, as seen in rising interest rates, are examples of the main drivers of a recession.

So what does it mean for you as a South African houseplant mama or papa? From a South African perspective, we have already been through a recession in 2019-2020 (Read this article here) but we know that when America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. And with the continuing oil price hikes, a global recession is mostly likely looming. A recession may mean that you are made redundant at work or your investments and assets lose money. This may result in you having less money to spend on luxury purchases like houseplants. And even if a recession is not looming, it’s always a good idea to save a few rands for a rainy day. So here are my 4+ hacks for saving money on your houseplants! Let me know which hack you will be trying at home.

Hack #1: Propagate plants from cuttings

If you like a plant you see from a friend or family member, ask if you can take a cutting and propagate the plant instead of going out and buying it.

Remember that not all plants are water propagated so you may need to get your hands dirty and separate the roots like I did with this Chinese evergreen Maria or Aglaonema Maria plant.

Chinese evergreen Maria or Aglaonema Maria plant cutting
Queen marble pothos water propagation
Use old jam jars as propagation stations
Use a plastic bottle as a pot plant tray

Hack #2: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Although plastic nursery pots are not as expensive, terra cotta pots and decorative pots can set you back a few rands. Here are a few ways to save money on plant pots and propagation stations:

  1. Use old saucers and plastic bottles as plant trays
  2. Use plastic cups or takeaway cups to plant your houseplants (just remember to make drainage holes at the bottom)
  3. Use old jam jars as propagation stations instead of buying a propagation station
  4. Plan your repotting to ensure that as one plant moves up a pot size, there is a smaller one to replace it and a bigger one freed up for you to use

Hack #3: DIY basket or hanging planter

Why not try your hand at some DIY by making your own hanging planters? Hanging planters and woven baskets can cost anything upwards of R200-R250. While macramé material costs R85 or more, depending on the type of material. But it can be used for various projects. Just find a great tutorial online, and get DIY-ing!

Hack #4: Keep your plants alive

This might be a tall order but try your best to keep your plants alive. Having to buy new plants to replace dead plants is probably the most expensive part about being a houseplant owner. I know some people may ask, why not stop buying the plants altogether? I completely disagree. Growing houseplants is a skill that will take time and some trial and error, so don’t give up if you kill a few, but try not to kill too many.

There are many ways to keep your plants alive. Here are my top picks:

  1. Do your research before going out to buy a plant. If you are a beginner, it is best to avoid buying exotic plants as these require more intensive care.
  2. Scout for pests regularly, especially if you fertilize and over-water your plants.

I hope we all remain calm through these tough times ahead. Leave a comment if you have other money saving houseplant hacks. Happy growing!

Sorghum Flapjacks – more than just mabele!

Did you know that sorghum was a staple grain before maize was brought to Africa?

Sorghum is the fifth most important grain crop in the world. It is one of the indigenous grains to southern Africa, together with pearled millet and groundnut. Sorghum is grown widely in semi-arid and tropical regions in Africa and Asia. It is traditionally used to make beer, breakfast porridge and animal feeds. Some sweet varieties are also used for processing into biofuel. The grain is preferable to high sugar grains such as bread wheat. Its good health properties and ability to grow under drought conditions makes it an ideal crop for overcoming food insecurity in a growing African continent with limited water resources.

I think it is fitting to celebrate sorghum, or ‘mabele’ as it is locally called, on Freedom day! This recipe for sorghum flapjacks comes from Eat-ting, a weight loss/recipe book written by Mpho Tshukudu and Anna Trapido. I read the book a few years ago and it honestly changed the way I cook and helped me see traditional African cooking methods in a new light. One of my biggest takeaways from the book is as follows:

Fermenting starch increases acidity and thus lowers its GI (glycemic index). Traditional African porridges such as a fermented sorghum or ‘ting’ have lower GI ratings” thus keep you fuller for longer and aid in weight loss.

Eat-ting, pg 64

The original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon sugar, I used 2 instead and I opted for double cream yoghurt instead of amasi (soured milk) because that’s what I had lying in my fridge.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups fine sorghum meal
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 cup double cream yoghurt (or soured milk)
  • Splash of water to loosen the batter

Method:

  1. Combine dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients.
  3. Mix wet into dry.
  4. Drop spoonfuls of batter into a greased pan on medium heat.
  5. Cook for 3 minutes on the first side to avoid flapjacks cracking in the middle.
  6. Serve with your favourite condiment. I served mine with a blueberry compote and a drizzle of honey!

Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soup

The first 2 weeks of December in the Cape always feel like winter. The evenings are cold and windy, with the occasional light rainfall. Our wedding day was no different and neither have the anniversary dinners thereafter. Last anniversary, Mr L surprised me with dinner at Steffanie’s Place in Somerset West. I was obviously grumbling all the way there because it was so cold and a long drive from home, but the amazing food made it worth it. I had a broccoli and blue cheese soup for starters and I have been trying to recreate the recipe ever since!

I feel like winter has decided to come around early this year so I am sharing this yummy soup with you all. The recipe is divided into two components, steaming the broccoli and making the blue cheese sauce, to get the best flavour from both ingredients. The honey is a key component in mellowing the strong flavour of the cheese and broccoli, so please don’t leave it out. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Ingredients:

  • 1 head broccoli, rinsed and cut into florets
  • 3 Tbsp (45g) butter
  • 3 Tbsp (45ml) cake flour
  • 500 ml milk
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 50g blue mould cheese
  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) honey

Method:

  1. Steam broccoli until bright green in colour. (Be careful not to over steam as this may cause the broccoli to have a cabbage-like taste and smell)
  2. While the broccoli is steaming, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Once butter is melted, add flour and stir to cook the ‘roux’ (fat and flour mixture).
  4. When the roux is light and golden in colour, slowly whisk in milk on high heat.
  5. Once the sauce thickens, turn off the heat and season.
  6. Crumble in the blue cheese and whisk to melt.
  7. Blend broccoli in a blender with some steaming water to a medium consistency.
  8. Combine blended broccoli with the blue cheese sauce and add honey for sweetening. Add more honey, if needed.
Broccoli and blue cheese soup served with flatbread

How to get your orchid to flower again?

We have all been there. You bring home your beautiful orchid that cost you an arm and a leg (mine is usually gifted, so thanks Charles!). You place it as a centre piece on your dining table or on your kitchen window sill for all to admire its beauty. Sadly, in about two weeks, you start to notice one petal fall off. Your heart sinks because you know, it is the beginning of the end. Before you know it, all you’re left with are two green leaves and a dry stalk.

I have recently discovered a way to bring an orchid back to its former glory and stretch that R189.99 spent, a little further than just 2 weeks!

11 June 2021 – removed potting medium and transferred orchid into jar with water

I cannot claim to have found this method on my own and I am sure there are others who already know this method. But I was advised by my former employer to transfer my orchid out of the potting medium and into a glass jar or vase, and it blew my mind :0 I have added photos with date stamps to give you an indication of length of bud formation and days to flowering again after the orchid’s initial bloom.

Here are the steps I followed:

Step 1: Remove the potting medium and clean roots by running them under a tap

Step 2: Transfer roots into glass jar and change out water every week

2 August 2021 – flower and leaf buds developing well

14 September 2021 – orchid flowers fully in bloom

6 December 2021 – old flowers starting to die off and 4 new buds present on secondary stem

Flowering a third time?

The orchid grew a secondary stem with buds in early December. I was looking forward to a third bloom. But it was around the same time that we started with renovations. The orchid was severely neglected and to make matters worse, it was only left with one leaf for ‘food generation’ (photosynthesis). I think if circumstances were different, we might have been lucky and seen a third flowering.

17 January 2022 – orchid leaf, new bud and secondary stem die off

I recently watched a short documentary on Business Insider on how much waste is generated by the house plant industry in America (watch it here). It was shocking to see that the majority of waste was generated by consumers and novice plant parents in their homes. In South Africa, our house plant industry waste generation has not yet been quantified but I hope this blog post will save a few orchids from the bin.

– Happy growing!

Coconut blueberry caramel slice

Today I have no stories or life lessons to share, just pure deliciousness. The coconut base in this recipe was adapted from an old peppermint crisp tart recipe in my trusted Snowflake too fresh to flop recipe book. Please try it at home and let me know how it goes!

Ingredients:

Coconut base

  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut

Filling

Topping

  • 2 cups frozen blueberries
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp water

Method

  1. For the base, cream butter and sugar together.
  2. Sift flour and salt and add to butter mixture with the coconut.
  3. Press into greased pie dish. Bake in preheated oven at 180 °C for 20 minutes or just until golden brown. Allow to cool.
  4. Place a pan over a medium heat. Add blueberries, sugar and water to pan and bring them to the boil.
  5. Stir until all the sugar dissolves and bubbles start to appear on the sides of the pan.
  6. For the filling, empty caramel can into mixing bowl and whip until smooth. Pour over onto coconut base and top with blueberries.

On dealing with loss

It’s been just over 10 years since I have had to deal with the loss of a close family member. In 2004, I lost my older sister and my paternal grandfather within a week of each other. In 2006, I lost my aunt and later in 2009, we lost my cousin’s 3 year old boy. In that space of time, I developed a thick skin to feeling the pain of death. It was just something that happened, to both young and old. Even as the Corona Virus hit and some of my friends lost their family members, I empathized with them but I don’t think I fully remembered the feeling of loss.

About a month ago, we had friends over for a light Sunday afternoon lunch. I made lentil nachos and served them with steamed green beans. Mr. L had to rush to see his aunt off at the airport so I was left alone with our guests. That’s when I received the call from my mom. She had been trying to call all morning but naturally, she couldn’t get hold of us. She told me that my aunt, her older sister, had passed on. I told her I did not believe her. (My mom and her sisters like to joke around so I thought this was one of their practical jokes.) She responded in a calm voice and said that it was true, she had fallen sick and passed away when she got to the doctor that day.

I remember going back to the living room dumbfounded. I couldn’t spoil the afternoon for everyone so we just continued chatting. The next day, we packed our bags and drove up-country to be with my family. The entire drive up, I just kept praying that I would find my parents alive. Thankfully, we made it home to find my parents alive but not well. Later, that week my mom was rushed to hospital and diagnosed with pneumonia. My parents and my mom’s sister’s had all tested positive for COVID19.

Although this past month has been tumultuous, I did a lot of thinking. I thought about our primary school music teacher, Dr Johan Cromhout. I thought about how he would play us music by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Bach and Beethoven. He would tell us stories about their lives and what inspired their compositions. Even though they lived in the 1700s and 1800s, they were alive and remembered through their music in 2006.

Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture – read about the history behind the composition of this symphony here.

It is true that not all of us will make music like the classical greats. But I am writing this blog post to remind myself (and maybe to remind you?) to continue to create. Record videos of family gatherings, write down family recipes, store photos on your Google drive (not in a photo album :p)… do everything possible to remember your loved ones and the good times you have shared with them. Life is short and this virus has made life even shorter, remember to live fearlessly and to the fullest!

Growing together – a succulent’s tale

I received this Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving cactus) in early April and I immediately propagated the cutting in soil and placed it in bright light. My assumption was that it would thrive in bright light, like all cacti but I was wrong. It started to ‘wilt’ and turn slightly yellow.

I remembered that in university, our lecturers used to say that plants release hormones in their roots? I wasn’t sure I was remembering correctly but I decided to pop the cutting in the jar with my well-rooted Sansevieria or Snake plant (don’t ask why it hasn’t been potted since my last plant blog post *eye roll*). I placed the jar in our bathroom which receives more diffused light. Within a week I started to see little roots forming at the bottom of the cutting.

I felt like I was learning yet another lesson from my plants and I thought I should share it with you. There is something so powerful in working and growing together, whether it be in a group project, in a business partnership or in a marriage. Not only are your previous misconceptions challenged and your weaknesses exposed but your ideas are refined. In the right environment, a good partnership (like the one between the Snake plant and Thanksgiving cactus) can result in beauty and growth. The words in Ecclesiastes 4 sum it up well,

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12

I did further research on the plant this week. I discovered that it usually grows on trees or rocks and prefers a high humidity, shaded environment. So my rooting hormone theory may not be completely correct :p but I hope that you will be encouraged to find a supportive friend, mentor or life partner to help you grow!