The secret to surviving the winter

Spoiler alert: its butternut soup. At least in my opinion.

Now I know soup is sometimes a bit of a controversial subject, and some people don’t like it at all, but I like it a lot and my mom has been making butternut soup for us for a very long time and its very nostalgic for me. It has been so cold the past few days, so I decided to try my hand at making some of my own. Soup is actually surprisingly easy to make – the hardest part is chopping the vegetables (which could be solved by buying them pre-chopped, but I wouldn’t recommend this because of the unnecessary plastic packaging)

Ingredients

800ml vegetable stock (made to package instructions with boiling water)

600g butternut, peeled and chopped

1 clove of garlic or 1tsp garlic powder (or to taste, whatever floats your boat)

1 large onion, diced

1tsp curry powder (or to taste)

Oil

Method

In a large saucepan, heat up the oil on medium heat and saute the onions until translucent. Add in the curry powder and garlic and mix until the curry has coated the onions. Allow this to cook for a few moments before adding in the cubed butternut and the liquid stock.

Bring to a boil and allow to cook until the butternut is soft. When it’s tender, transfer the butternut and liquid to a blender (you might have to do this in a few batches depending on the size of your blender) and blend until smooth. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender and blend it in the saucepan.

Now that all your soup is blended and smooth, you can either heat it up again and eat it straight away, or store it in tubs in the freezer until there is another cold day where a warming and comforting soup is needed.

This recipe is quick to make and really easy, and you get a really delicious soup at the end!

 

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Muffins Done Right: Quick and Easy Vegan Treats

And I’m back! Quicker than I thought too. This morning was spent in the kitchen, trying to “vegan-ise” a recipe my mom has been making for years. The result: simple muffins that you can flavour in any way you’d like. Throughout my childhood, my mom often made us apple and cinnamon muffins early in the morning for our lunchboxes, which shows how quick and easy this recipe is.


Today I’ve made apple pie inspired muffins (similar to what my mom used to make) and yummy, fudgy dark chocolate peanut butter muffins.

Both muffins have the same base, which is really easy to make – just mix the following ingredients together thoroughly:

350g all-purpose or cake flour

150g sugar

15ml baking powder

250ml plant milk of your choice (I used almond milk)

2 chia eggs (30ml of chia seeds mixed with 90ml water – let it sit until the seeds become gelatinous and thick)

100ml coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the apple pie inspired muffins, finely chop one apple, a handful of pecan nuts or walnuts, and a handful of cranberries. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Grab yourself a big bowl, wooden spoon, kitchen scale and measuring jug. Weigh out all your base ingredients and mix them all together until well combined. Add in the apples, nuts and cranberries and fold them into the mixture.

 

Line your muffin tin and scoop mixture until them so that they’re three-quarters full. Pop them in the oven for just fifteen minutes.

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The chocolate muffins are slightly different – there are the added ingredients of 75ml of cocoa for a dark chocolate taste, plus extra milk to thin the mixture, and dark chocolate chips

Add the cocoa in with the flour and other dry ingredients so that it’s mixed in properly – you don’t want little pockets of cocoa when you bite into the muffin. Mix everything together – I found that the mixture was quite a bit thicker than the other muffins because of the cocoa, so add in milk until the mixture is thin enough. Once again, either line or grease your muffin tins and pour the mixture in. Bake for 15 minutes.

Drizzle some peanut butter over the top of the muffin once cooled (if that’s your thing) or enjoy them as they are – delicious and chocolatey, with a brownie-like consistency.

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I hope you enjoy making these recipes, they’re super easy and quick and a really nice vegan alternative to ordinary muffins.

See you soon!

Feeling Stuck

I probably sit in front of my laptop 15 times a week with the intention of writing a blog post. And every time, I turn away with nothing accomplished. I seem to be stuck, with plenty of ideas and no drive to take these ideas to completion. Motivation is hard to find, and I seem to have lost mine. The solution, I think, could be to start fresh, and give myself a clean slate. That doesn’t mean that I’m deleting everything and pretending that it didn’t happen, rather, I’m making the decision to improve upon my efforts, in many of the spheres of my life. More time to be spent simply writing, more time dedicated to doing my best in school, and more time spent being the best person I can be for myself.

If you know me, you know I’m quite bad at replying to messages and being on top of my social media. I can spend hours on my phone a day and completely ignore messages. It’s hard to explain, but sometimes I don’t have the energy to be social and engage with people. It’s so hard these days to cut off any form of social media, as we’ve become so accustomed to being engaged and being able to contact people at any time and expect a reply almost immediately. This is something I’d like to explore more on the blog in the next few months, as exams will be coming up sooner than we all think and it’s so easy to waste valuable time on our phones. Even easier is to become fatigued and overwhelmed by the expectation of being constantly available, to the detriment of your own mental health and your studies.

On that note, a to-do list:

  • Be more present – less time on my phone and more time reading or doing anything else
  • A blog makeover (things are looking a little pink and I’m not sure how that happened)
  • Make a conscious effort to reply to messages and be there for people

I’ve been at home for a week now, and I still haven’t been able to get my life together enough to post here. I’ve had tons of ideas and been in the kitchen almost constantly, but I’ve mostly been trying other peoples recipes and not trying my own creations. This week hopefully I’ll be trying out some of my own recipes and getting those up soon!

Where has the time gone?

It’s been a while since I’ve been down this neck of the woods, but I’m back (again). My second year of varsity is turning out to be much more overwhelming than I initially thought it would be. I always find myself generating ideas for this blog, and never finding the time to actually sit down and write. Assignments and literally hundreds of pages of readings have taken up a considerable amount of my time, and when I’ve finished that all I want to do is watch series, or listen to podcasts.

This shouldn’t be the case, but the last thing that I’ve wanted to do is write. Between essays and assignments (and my Netflix habit), I’m always in front of the screen. My sleep habits have gone out the window, and generally, I’m not being my most productive self.

I’ve spent a lot of time outside in recent weeks, and the changing season has meant that I’ve witnessed some really beautiful landscapes.

sunset with pink skies and windmills in the background

The sunset at the 1820 Settlers Monument, Grahamstown

mist rolls over hills with bushes in the foreground

A misty view stopped on the side of the road somewhere outside of Grahamstown

There are only a few weeks left of term, and I’m really thankful. it’s been a long few weeks and I’m ready to get back home to cook and do fun things! Being at home also means that I’ll have so much more time for this, and hopefully, I’ll be getting a lot more content out in the next month.

Until next time.

Being Aware: Eco-Conscious Alternatives For The New Year

This past year I’ve been becoming increasingly aware of the amount of waste I generate. Living in res means that I’ve seen exactly how much rubbish I create and throw away, and I was actually horrified. I’ve found that it’s really difficult to live a low waste lifestyle as so many things come in plastic packaging or non-recyclable packaging. I’ve been particularly lazy about recycling even though it’s something that I used to pride myself on and do consistently. Creating the amount of waste that the average person does is completely unsustainable, as our world cannot take this kind of beating for much longer. Small changes add up, and these are the small things that I’m taking into the new year to hopefully reduce my waste just a little, or use things that aren’t as bad for the earth or myself.


Lily Cup Compact

This first item is actually something that I’ve been using since 2014, and it’s a silicone menstrual cup. This is a really great alternative to pads and tampons, which are not only expensive over time, but not terribly good for the environment. Because people often flush them down the toilet, they end up in the ocean and on beaches, where they do not decompose. Even organic cotton tampons only biodegrade very slowly in landfills and don’t really help the landfill issues.

It takes a bit of getting used to, but I honestly can’t imagine using anything else anymore. There are lots of brands available, at varying price points. A menstrual cup might seem expensive at first, but if you consider the amount of money spent on sanitary products over a lifetime, it’s not much to pay. The pros far outweigh the cons.

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Palm Oil Free Soap

Palm oil is an incredibly controversial substance, due to the fact that it has a huge impact on the environment. Vast areas of rainforest are being cut down in South America and Asia in order to make space to grow trees, leading animals losing their habitats. It’s also a contributor to climate change, due to the rainforests being converted into plantations. It is incredibly difficult to avoid palm oil, as it is included in so many foods and cosmetics, from Nutella to Cremora to lipstick. The implications of using palm oil products are huge, and soap is something we all use, and can easily change. This Pure Soap has no palm oil and is my first step to cutting down on my use of unsustainable palm oil.


Shampoo Bar

I go through a huge amount of shampoo, so I decided that this year I would switch to shampoo bars, in an attempt to cut down on the amount of plastic waste my hair washing habits generate. I bought this bar from Faithful to Nature, and while I haven’t started to use it yet, I have great hopes for it. It is hand made in Cape Town and infused with rosemary to help with hair growth. A review will be coming later in the year, once I’ve used it for a few months and have really seen how it works.

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Bamboo Toothbrush

Basic eco replacement alert: the bamboo toothbrush is a solid choice. They last just as long as plastic toothbrushes, they are biodegradable, and bamboo grows really quickly to keep up with demand.

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Knitted Cotton Pads

My mom made these knitted cotton pads out of Moya Cotton, to replace my usual store bought disposable cotton pads used for removing makeup and nail polish. While these don’t really work for removing nail polish, they are really effective for makeup removal. Being able to wash the cotton pads and reuse them pretty much infinitely makes them so much more environmentally friendly, especially as cotton is biodegradable and doesn’t contribute to the build-up of synthetic fibres, which makes up the majority of the microplastic in the oceans.

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Reusable Coffee Cups and Steel Straws

By far the easiest change to make, a reusable coffee cup makes life so much easier. Not only does it mean that you cut down on plastic waste, but you might also score a discount at your favourite coffee shop. I have an eCoffee Cup, and I really enjoy using it. Steel straws, while some people complain of the taste, are a really useful thing to carry around to use when out at restaurants.


Cotton Market Bags

This is a market shopping bag that I crocheted for myself out of string. I’ve seen quite a few of these online and in the shops recently,  and couldn’t believe how expensive they were, especially as I thought I’d be able to make one for myself. Turns out I was right, and I spent all my evenings in the last week crocheting. For someone with only a little experience, this bag was surprisingly easy to make, and I only made one little mistake. It’s super sturdy, as it’s made out of quite a strong string, and I really love the natural colour. I think its perfect for groceries or veggie shopping, and I definitely see myself getting a lot of use out of it.

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I hope that everyone can find small ways to be more environmentally friendly this year _ our Earth needs us more than ever, and every small change adds up. Not everyone is in the position to make changes, it’s up to those with the privilege to do something to spark action.

New Year, Same Me: Setting Intentions

It’s over a week late, but here I am welcoming you to 2019.  It’s a new year. Wow. 2018 went by so fast and I can barely believe that it’s over already. So much happened this year, and to be honest it has been a lot to process. It’s so important to look back and be thankful for everything that happened, the good and the bad, as everything contributed to the person that you are today. 

But, more important is the year to come. The past is done, but the future is entirely in your own hands. My favourite part of the new year, something that I have done for the past few years, is setting my intentions. The new year doesn’t mean that we have all changed overnight. We are all still the same people at our core. Every single day is an opportunity for growth and development, and working on ourselves. 

My mindset and the feeling that I start the year can always be summed up with a quote. This year, instead of my usual sentiment, “always seek light”, I’ve decided to “be the light” this year. The most important thing this year is finding joy, and being a source of joy.

This year, I hope to focus more on my health – more yoga, mindfulness and running. I want to work harder to achieve my academic goals. I’m going to really persevere with this blog, and make a success out of it. I’m going to be more discerning with who I allow into my life. In order to really make the most out of this year, I’m going to say ‘yes’ to doing more exciting things, and be more open to new experiences. I’m going to be more positive, and look for strength and success.

I haven’t changed overnight, but the new year is an opportunity. New year, same me, new intentions. 

Today I Made: Vegan Lemon Bars

Hey there everyone! If you’re seeing this, it means you’re on catherineandcranberries.com – that’s right, catherineandcranberries.wordpress.com is no more, and we’ve moved on to bigger and better things! I decided to invest in my own domain, which was only possible because so many of you have shown your support, which I’m very grateful for.


Now that I’m back at home (at last!) I can really get back into making all sort of delicious foods, the first being these vegan lemon bars or cookies. The recipe is based on another favourite biscuit that I make often, but substituting for plant-based ingredients. 

Today’s recipe is one I created myself, and is accompanied by a video! It’s been a while since I filmed and edited anything, but it’s something to look forward to on Catherine and Cranberries as I hope to be able to put together more in the future.



Ingredients:

Bars:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 3 tablespoons almond milk

Glaze:

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon almond milk
  • 5 tablespoons icing sugar

Method:

First, you’re going to start by creaming the coconut oil and the brown sugar. Add the lemon zest and the lemon juice to this mixture.

Sift the flour and baking soda into the wet ingredients, and mix until a crumbly mixture forms. Add the almond milk, and combine, using your hands to help it form into a dough.

Wrap the dough in cling film and chill it in the fridge for ten minutes.

Use this time to make the glaze by combining the ingredients and mixing thoroughly. 

Press the mixture into a lined baking tray and bake for sixteen minutes. Let it cool completely before icing it. 

Here is the nutritional information for this bake! 

Morning Coffee: Trying to manage time at university

Hello! Before we get into today’s post, the first of my Morning Coffee series, I just wanted to say thank you for all the views and support this past month! I actually decided to purchase a domain – so goodbye to catherineandcranberries.wordpress.com, and welcome to catherineandcranberries.com!

Morning Coffee is a new series that I’m starting on my blog as an excuse for long, rambly chats about all sorts of topics. Buckle up, today we’re talking about time (mis)management and how to work on improving it, even just a little bit.

After spending a whole year doing half my assignments well in advance, and the other half at unearthly hours of the morning just before the hand-in time, I think I now have some authority on the topic of dealing with time, especially at university. I am in no way good at time management, but I have managed to hand in pretty much everything on time. Pretty much.

During primary school and high school, it was a lot easier to really maintain a proper routine. Unfortunately, the university day doesn’t finish at 2:45pm every day with three hours to do homework before dinner. My parents always made sure that I did my homework as soon as I came home, and it quickly became a habit. It didn’t necessarily work every time, especially as the workload increased, but most of the time I had everything under control. Now, it’s completely different – I have classes at all different times of day, sometimes with an hour or two in between, and finish at 5:00pm most days.

One: Aim for ten hours of work for each class

My university suggests spending ten hours per week on each course, including the time spent in lectures. I actually made little colour coded checklists for every week so that I can mark off every hour I spend on each class. I’ve made a much prettier version of this checklist that you can download here. You can download it from my Google Drive, print it out and use it to help you keep track of your time (all you need is four highlighters and a pen). I found it especially helpful for taking note of which classes I didn’t spend as much time on, and how my time was distributed. This really helped me because I was able to make sure that I was dedicating time to all of my classes. Ten hours may seem like a lot, but for me, at least three of those hours were spent in lectures, and another hour in a tutorial, leaving five or six hours minimum for working on assignments and essays. Obviously some weeks you’re going to have to spend more than ten hours on a particular class, but I think it was really helpful having a minimum number of hours to aim for.

Two: Do difficult tasks first

I know that my first instinct was to always focus on easier tasks, under the premise of getting them out of the way. Over this year, I realised that this wasn’t the best use of my time, as I left larger tasks for last, and didn’t always have enough time to complete them to the best of my ability. For instance, I had two tutorials on a Friday and would often have two essays due as well – one in the morning and one mid-afternoon. Completing the tutorials first meant that I rushed finalising my essays. Realistically, the tutorials can probably be done at the last minute if necessary, because they aren’t as heavily weighted in the scheme of things. By doing the essays first, even though they are larger and more daunting tasks, you complete the more important tasks first and have more time to spend on them. Granted, I didn’t always do this myself (sometimes you just want to complete a small task so that you feel like you accomplished something and then go to bed).

Three: Try to establish a routine

I always find this to be much easier during exams. I sleep in a little, complete my usual morning routine, then get to the library to study until lunch. Back to the library for a couple of hours after lunch, then a sneaky trip to the pool if the weather was good (which it was for most of the exam period), then dinner, then back to the library. Maintaining a particular structure to my day meant that studying in the library became habitual, and didn’t feel out of place in my daily routine. I didn’t manage to establish a proper daily routine during term time, however, I did make daily and weekly checklists for tasks so that I knew what I had to achieve every day. My main goal for next year is to have a real everyday routine so that I am as efficient with my time as I was in high school. Things come up though, and it’s impossible to stick to the same routine all the time. We’re only human, and some days you need more time off, or you have to dedicate your free time to a passion project and do something for yourself. If your work isn’t affected by taking some time off, then I don’t see why you can’t.

Four: Sleep is important

It is so easy to stay up working or watching series until the early hours of the morning. I use this website to work out my bedtime or wake up time on a day to day basis. If you know me, you’ll know that I never shut up about the sleep cycles, and this website is where I got it from. Basically, it works on the principle of sleeping for one and a half hour cycles and getting five or six cycles total. Even if I’m not able to sleep for nine hours, I always make sure that I set my alarm based on this, as it made me feel more awake and refreshed in the morning. I don’t know if it actually works or if I’ve just spent the whole year convincing myself that it does, but I stand by my support for the sleep cycles! It’s almost impossible to have a valuable and productive day if you haven’t had enough sleep, and this is probably the most important tip on this list. If you have enough sleep, you will be more productive and make considerably better use of your time. Plus, naps take up a lot of time in the afternoon. (I’m definitely just bitter because I was not born with the ability to nap in daylight.)

Five: Don’t leave tasks to the last minute

I am the queen of making this mistake, and it’s probably the only thing I regret about this year. The long and the short of it is that you should really start tasks as soon as they are assigned. By the time the due date rolls around, you’ve got four other assignments to do and then it all becomes a bit much. Do your work on time, so that you don’t have to write 2000 words five hours before the essay is due (true story, I speak from experience).


These are not just tips that I’ve picked up this past year, but also things I have to still work on myself. No one is perfect, but I know that I can work a bit harder, and I can definitely work smarter this coming year.

Let me know if you enjoy posts like this, and if you’d like to see more? If you have any suggestions for more Morning Coffee posts, tell me about them in the comments. Share your own time tips too!

Marmalade your day

Marmalade was never my favourite spread for toast. But, the strong influences of Paddington Bear and my dad meant that I slowly acquired a taste for this tart and delicious preserve. It reminds me of home, especially as my mom can often be found making another batch with whichever citrus is currently ripe in our garden.

My mom’s recipe is very easy to make and doesn’t take up too much time at all. The preparation of the fruit is the most labour intensive part of this recipe, but once everything is chopped up, all it needs is time on the stove.


Ingredients:

1 part Citrus of your choice

1 part Water

1 part Sugar


Method:

  • Start by washing the fruit of your choice. At home, we make our marmalade with a variety of citrus, including lemons, Rex Union oranges, grapefruit and Pamplemousse.
  • Slice the fruit into quarters and remove the pips and centre pith.  Squeeze the juice into a measuring jug before you chop the quarters into smaller pieces.  Slice the quarters thinly and place them in a large measuring jug.
  • For every jug of chopped fruit and juice, you will need a jug of water. Place the full jug of fruit and juice, as well as the jug of water into a large thick-based pot.
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  • Put the pot on the stove and cook slowly until the fruit is soft. You’ll know its ready when a wooden spoon can cut through the rind.
  • Then add one measuring jug of sugar for every jug of fruit into the pot. It’s important that you only add the sugar when the fruit is already cooked soft, otherwise, it won’t soften at all. Cook the fruit while stirring gently until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Continue cooking until the marmalade reaches setting point. To test this, place a spoonful of marmalade on a saucer in the fridge and check for when the mixture wrinkles when the saucer is tilted – indicating its setting point.
  • Now it is ready to bottle in sterilised glass bottles.


Thanks so much for reading! I hope you enjoy making some delicious homemade marmalade. If you don’t think that you like marmalade, do not despair – very soon there will be a recipe for marmalade cake! Yum!

Pin this recipe for later use!

Marmalade

A messy week

It’s Tuesday. My room is tidy, but my bed unmade and my mind is in disarray. But some of today has been good. I spent time with a good friend and felt so much better having spoken to someone who I know cares. My best friend and I spoke at length last night which always makes my day.

But I have a term essay due on Friday. Procrastination is inevitable. It happens more than I care to admit – I try my best to complete my work well in advance but somehow it becomes the day before the due date, and there is still work to be done.

It’s the middle of October, and it still doesn’t truly feel like the year has started properly. I still disjointed and unadjusted in my new space. As I look around my room, it feels like I’m in a strange place. It’s weird to be working at a desk in a quiet space when I’m used to our dining room table at home, and the sounds of my family all around me.

I think it’s clear that I’m homesick. Res food will never match up to my mom’s homecooked meals, and the constant smell of cake or jam or soup being made that floats through our home. Food is one of the things I miss most about home because it’s so much a part of our daily lives. If my mom and I go shopping in the morning, we know we have to be home for lunch. To me, it is some of the best time that we spend altogether when it’s so easy to do our own thing all day.

Study week is next week, and as I said, I’m not sure where the year has gone. It seems that it was just last week that I arrived in Grahamstown at the foot of a brand new, daunting opportunity. Now I’m preparing for the final exams of my first year and handing in the final few assignments of the year. It’s been a wonderful year, but nothing makes me happier than to know that the end is in sight. G-Vegas has been a treat for the past ten months, and I’m so glad that I chose to come here, but I’m definitely ready to head back to Pietermagicburg for a couple of months.

I’ve been very quiet over here for the past little while, purely because I needed time to focus on varsity and myself, but I’m feeling much more motivated to come back to Catherine and Cranberries with new energy. Lots of exciting things are coming up soon, and this holiday holds many new opportunities. Watch this space!