Friday

Lentil and Spinach Lasagne

Such a dirty plate! Sorry, no frills here...

I've been keeping a food diary lately to write down everything I eat and everything I make so that I can have a good overview of my eating habits over time, as well as truly record every recipe that I use because I often forget to write down my own creations or modifications that I have made to somebody else's recipe. I'm quite enjoying my food diary at the moment as it seems to contain plenty of fruit salad! I'm patting myself on the back right now, but I promise I'll stop being smug, because yesterday was a day filled with the most delicious junky food. Breakfast was Honest Raw Chocolate spread on my brother's homemade bread, toasted, with banana on top. It was scrumptious and I ate plenty of it, much more than necessary. I followed breakfast, without any pause, with a snack of Rosemary crackers from Woolies, fresh avocado and olive marmalade, my new favourite marmalade. I had ten of those crackers, while watching Clean House:New York. So lazy, so indulgent and so naughty! After getting myself off of the couch, my mother took my brother and I to have Chinese food in Cyrildene, at Mongkok. They make the most delicious Salt and Pepper Tofu and Garlic Pok Choi. I stuffed my face full of the Chinese yumminess and went scouting in the freezers of one of the many Super Markets. They have TONS of different tofu, meat alternatives and what seems to be vegan goodies. I'm going to see if I can get any of my Chinese speaking friends to come help me out in finding things that we can definitely eat.

LASAGNE

For dinner I decided to make Ryan something he would be very happy about, as work has been frustrating him this week, and I felt terrible sorry that he had missed all the great food I had eaten all day. He loves lasagne, it's something that we both have a great desire for after a long day. Comfort food and in every possible way, delicious. We make a different version of this dish every time we make it because we don't always have the same ingredients in the house, but this version was great!


Lasagne

Egg-Free Spinach Lasagne Sheets

Lentil and Tomato Sauce

salt and pepper for seasoning
1 tin diced tomatoes
1 tin tomato paste
1 tsp sugar (always add a little sugar to a tomato dish to neutralize the acidity)
1/2 cup dry beluga lentils (cooking time 7 minutes - remember to check if your lentils need soaking)
1 cup water to cook lentils in (but you can add everything to the sauce at once)
4 chopped cloves garlic
1 Bay leaf
1 heaped tbsp vegetable stock powder

Béchamel

2 - 3 Cups Rice Milk
Equal Volumes flour and margerine
1/2 tsp Marmite (Vegemite)
Nutmeg
Black Pepper

Mix everything but rice milk together until it forms a thick, well blended paste. Cook this paste over low heat until soft to release the gluten in the flour. Add rice milk slowly and stir constantly. Keep over heat until of the desired consistency and colour. Warning: it becomes even thicker if you turn the heat off and leave it for a while so use immediately.

Assemble all the layers as you wish in an oven proof dish, making sure that there is a layer of moisture on the bottom, and then a layer of pasta on top of it so that the pasta sheets cook thoroughly. End off with a layer of moisture, preferably a layer of béchamel on top so that it can brown and harden. Make double the amount of béchamel if you want really creamy, cheesy lasagne.

Bake in the oven on 180'C for 45 minutes to an hour.

Wednesday

Blueberry Pancakes a la Skinny Bitch

So this is what I've had both for breakfast and lunch today. My lovely friend Carly who writes her own blog Run Baby Run came for breakfast and tea. She's also writing her Masters thesis at the moment and also handing in in March, so it wasn't procrastinating if we were doing it together! Teehee! She bought me some beautiful kitchen things that I can photograph food in, so keep an eye out for some new crockery and an 80's cookie tin with a Toucan!

I suddenly had an urgent need for pancakes this morning at 9:30, uncharacteristically I hadn't had breakfast yet so I wanted something substantial! This is my second article that mention's Skinny Bitch this week, and it must be all the rain lately that has been leading toward this sudden pancake craving, albeit sunny and hot today.

Basic Pancake Recipe
(According to Skinny Bitch, although I have thrown in a few of my own ingredients as usual.)

This recipe makes about 8 pancake sized flapjacks. The first thing to remember is that Americans call thin pancakes crepes, and call flapjacks pancakes. The batter is runny enough for normal pancakes though, so you can spread them out thin if you prefer to do so. Also, I never measure my ingredients out properly for something like this, so if yours isn't runny enough add more milk in tiny measurements until you have the right consistency.

325ml Self Raising flour
2.5 ml salt (a pinch)
375ml Rice Milk
2 T refined coconut oil melted
1 T Agave Nectar (or Maple Syrup)
5 ml Vanilla Extract
2 ml Almond Extract

Add one cup of blueberries (you get them at Woolies fresh and there are also mixed berries in the freezer section. Thrupps has frozen boxes of blueberries).

Use a non-stick pan and a reasonably low heat so that it doesn't burn and that it has the chance to cook through. Flip when there are no wet patches left on the pancake.

Toppings

I topped my Blueberry pancakes with St Dalfour Wild Blueberry All Natural Whole Fruit Jam (my favourite jams ever! They have no added sugar, preservatives or artificial ingredients and always use fruit based pectin), cinnamon, sugar and generous squeezes of fresh lemon juice.

You could have these with chocolate spread, or just jam and margarine, with whipped Orley Whip. These pancakes have so many possibilities!

I can't wait to make these pancakes savoury with spices and curry! I'll write about it when I do!

Buy the Skinny Bitch books by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin if you can get your hands on them, they're awesome. There's even one for boys called Skinny Bastard if you can't look past the girly bits.

Monday

Pick 'n Pay's Vegan Products


Pick 'n Pay is a great store to shop at if you're Vegan! It has all sorts of wonderful products aside from some good produce. They've suddenly started to stock a whole new range of oriental vegetables. Time to learn how to make Lady Fingers! The following are some of the lovely things I've found at Pick 'n Pay since I've been Vegan, in no particular order of importance. I will also keep adding more photos and products to this list so keep checking in if you're curious.

LIFE PRODUCTS




Life products are imported from the United Kingdom which means it's not a particularly environmentally friendly choice but for every now and then it's great! I also like to support the efforts of retailers for stocking products that are Vegan friendly, as the less we buy, the less they stock! Some of those that I've tried and seen are the Life Worcester Sauce which is fish extract free, Life Ketchup, Life Parmazano (which I found with other grated parmesans in the cheese section - I always look in the cheese section in case I find vegan goodies!) and Cooking Sauces.

SOYA MILK AND DESSERTS

Pick 'n Pay doesn't stock any liquid Rice Milks yet but you can find them at Woolies.





Alpro stocks the following products at all of the Pick 'n Pay stores I have been to:

Alpro Soya Milks (All sorts of wonderful flavours)
Alpro Soya Desserts
Alpro Soya Custard




There are also a few local brands of Soya milk stocked, such as Good Hope Soya Milk which are much more affordable than Alpro, which is for special occasions in our house. Like dunking Vegan Oreos I found in Hong Kong. I am quite serious when I say that I check all the labels of my non-vegan favourites often, just in case!


It's very likely that you will find Vegan Chocolate Chips somewhere by the baking goods. I often find those.

The Killarney Pick 'n Pay recently had Barney (The Purple Dinosaur) Vegetarian Jelly in the Kosher section and they use natural colourants and flavourants which is pretty awesome!

NO NAME BRAND

Pick 'n Pay has labels on its No Name Brand foods that say whether something is Vegan or not. They don't always get it spot on so always check the ingredients, but it's great that they're trying! There are some surprises too, things you may not expect to be vegan!




VEGAN COOKIES

They have some Vegan cookies, which is very exciting! Their No Name Brand Lemon Creams as well as their No Name Brand Ginger Biscuits are labelled as Vegan with corresponding ingredients. There are also cookies called Merba Apple Pie Cookies. We go through a lot of those with our tea in the mornings. The Baker's Plain Digestives are also Vegan! They're great for cookie bases in desserts, a sweet and salty biscuit. There are plenty of others that I see every now and then, such as the Weigh Less variety and some varied others come across no more than once. The Weigh Less cookies are okay,  they taste a bit like cardboard, but kudos to cutting down on sugar in cookies.






VEGAN CEREAL

Many cereals are Vegan including lots of Kellogg's Cereals among others; Coco Pops and Strawberry Pops! I think that's one of the things that made becoming Vegan a lot easier for me was that I could still feast on Chocolate cereal without feeling too guilty.










Loads of Muesli is also Vegan and healthy so keep a look out for them and beware of honey if you're so inclined. Manufacturers love to put honey in cereals and especially muesli. The Vital Muesli range is wonderful and some of them are also wheat free.

NATURE'S CHOICE

Nature's Choice has an entire section dedicated to it in Pick 'n Pay now, so you can pick up your rice milk powder and chickpea flour as easily as cucumbers and tomatoes!

VEGAN PASTA

This may not apply to everyone, but I have somewhat of a wheat intolerance. My brother says that I'm making it up but I swear my body just hates me every time I let wheat or yeast anywhere near it! Pick 'n Pay stocks a whole lot of different wheat free pastas which makes me super happy! They have reasonably affordable Puccini Maize Pasta too, at under ten Rand a packet the last time I bought some. Those aren't gluten free though. There are also the more expensive and gluten free choices of Orgran and Sam Mills Pasta D'Oro maize pasta among others, but they have plenty of interesting egg free, Vegan pasta available.








VEGAN MAYONNAISE

Pick 'n Pay have several varieties of Vegan Mayonnaise available. The one we buy most frequently is All Joy. Always check the labels, but the one we buy has a bright, darker blue label and it clearly states that the mayo is egg free on the label. There is also Trim Mayonnaise which is egg free. I also came across a brand that is new to me called Tiger Tiger which had three varieties of flavoured mayonnaise. The last one that I know of is the Life Mayonnaise, but I haven't actually seen it in stock yet. Judging by the fact that Pick 'n Pay seem to have all the other Life products, I would like to assume that I will find the mayo at some point.










VEGAN CHEESE

I've mentioned in a previous post that there is sometimes Cheezly available at select Pick 'n Pay shops. Make sure it's well before it's sell by date, as I've bought it expired several times from Pick 'n Pay as well as Shoprite Checkers. They're very good at refunding you for foods that are no longer edible, but what a mission! Of course there are also the fake Parmigiano: Nature's Choice Mock Parmesan as well as the previously mentioned Life Parmazano which are both great.


VEGAN SANDWICH SPREADS

The Pick 'n Pay house brand Peanut Butters are all vegan to my knowledge. We always get the super large jar of the No Name Brand Crunchy Peanut Butter.


I mentioned it briefly earlier but Pick 'n Pay stocks some nut butters as well that you may want to try. They're rather expensive, as nuts are so ridiculously expensive, so use conservatively. It's an easy thing to make yourself with nuts and an oil of choice.

There is also Vegan Chocolate spread called Pralinutta on the shelves so keep your eyes open for it. I would skip the Pralinutta though if you can get your hands on a jar of Honest Raw Dark Chocolate Spread. It's the best I've ever tasted, and a million times better than Nutella. Who thought that it was possible?! The Honest people have a stand at the Neighbourgoods Market in Juta Street, Braamfontein every Saturday between 9 and 4. I would also advise that you try to make your own Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, for a while Pick 'n Pay had an Organic No Name Brand Dark Chocolate Spread that was both Vegan and delicious, but it disappeared after a very short while. There is also a Vegan Kosher Chocolate Spread on the shelf with all the other Kosher products which is pretty good, but it's cheaper to make your own.

INA PAARMAN PRODUCTS

Ina Paarman Chicken Flavour Stock is Vegan, so are most of her other powdered stocks. The liquid stocks are not vegan, but invest in a little pot of Chicken or Beef Flavour Stock Powder as they really add some wonderful veggie flavours to your food. There are also several Ina Paarman Sauces and Dressings that are Vegan if you want a quick pasta sauce to keep in your cupboard. Many of their pre-packed baking kits are also vegan, so you can just add your own wet ingredients to make biscotti or cake. As usual, check all the ingredients as companies can change them without warning!

NB: THE WHITE SAUCE POWDER IS NOT VEGAN - THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF PRODUCTS AVAILABLE
SEASONING



There's also this thing called JD's Bacon Salt - I bought it for a friend as a joke, the Peppery one is Vegan, but it's full of all sorts of chemicals and the 'Natural' one has whey powder in it so it isn't Vegan. It's a bit of a toss up, but smokey flavoured salt is something that's worth getting if you really loved smoked foods. It's a fun find, seeing as I'm yet to find the Liquid Smoke that is in so many of the US recipes that I read in Vegan cookbooks. The JD's website is a bit gross with their catch phrase 'Everything should taste like bacon', making my stomach churn as I was never that into bacon or smokey stuff, so you may also find it a little revolting. Even if you love the taste and smell of bacon the lip balm is a bit much.




TEXTURED VEGETABLE PROTEINS



Fry's, of course, is also fully stocked in almost every single Pick 'n Pay countrywide. There may be one or two variations that aren't in the shop but most of them will be there. Nature's Choice will definitely have soya chunks and soya mince, of which both are great. I bought some of Pick 'n Pay Soya Mince but haven't used it yet. Read the ingredients because these aren't all Vegan. The two I have posted photos of are suitable for Vegans. I stay clear of it, but Pick 'n Pay has Knorrox Soya Mince as well. It's too powdery for my liking, and it has all sorts of chemicals in it.


ICE CREAM

Some Pick 'n Pay stores stock Vegan ice creams from Bassets. The Victory Park Pick 'n Pay is a good bet for that, as I don't recall seeing it at many of the others. VeganSA writes: "Tofu Treats from Basset's Ice Cream Company is a non-dairy, low fat, soya based ice cream-style dessert, sweetened with sucrose, free of preservatives, additives, animal products, eggs, alcohol and gluten. It is smooth, 
rich tasting, and is Kosher and Halaal approved." The Craighall Spar also stocks Bassets.


TOFU

Tofu is also something you should be able to find in the section with Asian foods and spices, Moringa is the brand, should it be available but it's ridiculously expensive. Best to buy tofu from Cyrildene or Fresh Earth.

NON DAIRY CREAMER

Alpro has a soya cream that is stocked by Pick 'n Pay. It's sometimes on the shelf with the custard, sometimes with the baking stuff, sometimes with the soya milk - scratch around or ask the manager for it. Obviously it's rather pricey. (I'm saving this for my Woolworths article, but as a deviation, there is an Organic Soya Cream at Woolies that's similar to the Alpro.)

Nature's Choice has a powder Non-Dairy Cream but it's sickly sweet and it gets way too thick and slimey when cooked. I assume that it's for use with desserts and sweet dishes only. This won't work in a Chicken a la King (we tried) or a curry.

Coconut Cream or Coconut Milk are my favourite creams to use - you can use them to make almost anything you would have used normal cream for. My brother makes the most amazing vegan milk tart using coconut cream, coconut milk, corn starch and vanilla. It's just as good as the real thing, if not better because it has a mild hint of coconut in it. I use coconut cream for creamy pastas, for curries and for desserts. Savory and sweet, it always works. I've even used it in Lasagne instead of Béchamel.

Orley Whip is a non-dairy cream that is also available at most Pick 'n Pay stores. It comes in a little blue box in variations of Dessert, Unsweetened Cooking Creme and Lite Creme, as memory serves. The creamer is fantastic and you can whip the dessert version. The Orley whip expires quickly, and often long before the use by date, so buy it when you need it as it doesn't keep well. You'll find the Orley Whip in one of the fridges, probably with the Hummus.


VEGAN MARGARINE

Wooden Spoon is NOT Vegan anymore. That needs to be said first, because I know several vegans who religiously used white wooden spoon margarine for baking before they changed the ingredients. There is only one baking margarine that in any way resembles something Vegan, and that is the normal Blossom Baking Margarine. I am not sure though if it is truly Vegan or not. The only other margarine that are supposedly vegan are not for baking but they are Cardin and Ole. The others have vitamin D3 in them, an ingredient which has contested origins, so I just stay away from it.



VEGAN SOFT DRINKS
Frankie's Sodas needed a mention here. Ryan turned me onto Frankie's almost three years ago with their clear Original Creme Soda and their Fiery Ginger Beer and I've never since picked another soft drink brand over Frankie's when I could find it. Although I don't really like to drink sugary sodas for obvious reasons, I can't help buy a bottle or two of Frankie's for the fridge whenever I see them. They make the most wonderfully and sinfully addictive sugary soft drinks. A manufacturer based in the midlands, it may be a local company worth supporting, especially considering Woolworths who have all but copied the Frankie's range in every way except for the pinup girl on the label. (Refer to this IOL article for some information. I always have a soft spot for the underdog. Storify also has a breakdown of what is going on.)

[UPDATE ON FRANKIE'S vs WOOLWORTHS saga: ASA ruled that Woolworths must remove their products from the shelf by April 2012 as they cannot prove that it was a coincidence that their packaging was basically identical to Frankie's.]

BEAUTY AND HYGIENE PRODUCTS


FURTHER PRODUCTS











PESTOS


JAM AND MARMALADE



CHOCOLATE AND SWEETS



There are many other products available at Pick 'n Pay that you may find exciting, and I may have left them out. Always read the labels on things if they catch your eye. Most of the time they probably won't be vegan but I've found lots of surprises and awesome things to eat by picking up something unlikely off the shelf. As a disclaimer, I am not endorsed or sponsored by Pick 'n Pay or in any way related to employees of the company. I do not benefit financially from this post in any way. Ingredients in products and product availability can change at any time and I will not be held liable for any such changes.