Sesame roasted Butternut Squash

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This quick and delicious roasted butternut squash recipe happened quite by accident I’ll admit, although I am so glad it did! 15 minutes in the oven and the result is a sweet and tangy cube of yumminess. I have been wanting to spice up our daily lunchtime salads and the hearty butternut came to mind, so first thing this morning I grabbed one from our veg basket, peeled it and sliced it into small cubes ready to be roasted. The butternut cubes where then tossed with paprika, salt and turmeric, and the sesame oil was a last minute decision which goodness I am glad I made!

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Overview:

Serves: 1-2

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

1 Butternut squash

Paprika

Turmeric

Pink Himalayan salt

Sesame oil

Method:

Preheat the oven at 220 °C.

Peel and cut the butternut into small cubes of about 1-2 centimetres in diameter.

Add the paprika, turmeric and pink himalayan salt to the butternut, followed by a generous drizzle of the sesame oil.

Mix together well until completely coated – I suggest doing this with your hands.

After 15 minutes, turn down the heat to 180 °C and place the butternut into the oven.

The butternut should start to turn black around the edges after 15 minutes, it is now ready!

To serve:

Throw the butternut over a green salad, mix through with couscous or simply serve as a side dish! Can be served warm or cold.

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Enjoy!

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Cacao & peanut butter smoothie bowl

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This is my absolute favourite new breakfast for a busy day! When I wake up in the morning my first thought will always include breakfast, and this cacao and peanut butter smoothie bowl gets me out of bed in no time! The rich chocolaty flavour and silky texture is simply the best way to start the day; topped with tons of texture which can be folded through or nibbled straight from the top! Here is the quick and simple recipe.

Overview:

Serves: 2

Prep time: 2 mins

Total time: 2 mins

Ingredients:

3 frozen bananas

2 tbsp cacao powder

1 tbsp natural peanut butter

1/4 – 1/2 cup of water

1/4 – 1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Method:

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and yup, you guessed it, blend.

To serve:

Pour your smoothie into a bowl and top with fruit, oats, muesli, coconut flakes, nuts or seeds (or all of the above). An added drizzle of nut butter will take this bowl to another level!

 

 

A super easy & delicious vegan inspired curry

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In my previous post, I told you all about my amazing adventure out to the Kogelberg Biosphere Nature Reserve where we lived in the most beautiful and minimalistic eco-cabins for a few days. Well, now it is time to share what we ate for our time away! A super easy and ridiculously delicious curry made simple thanks to a few tinned items (I’ll admit) – although easily adaptable to fresh produce (which will be my next agenda for sure!)

 

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All of the ingredients listed below can be swapped out for your favourite alternatives, the options really are unlimited! The chicken can be left out (vegan option which I prefer), beans can be varied or replaced for other legumes, the courgettes could be any veg you prefer, and even the Indian style diced tomatoes can be changed for a freshly made tomato sauce with a few added spices – I mean, could it be any more exciting? A ‘build a curry’ of sorts!

 

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Ingredients:
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Chicken (optional)
  • Black bean
  • Tomatoes
  • Courgette spaghetti
  • Indian style diced tomatoes (curry leaves & spices)
  • Coconut cream
  • Cous Cous
  • Coriander
  • Himalayan pink salt & pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil

 

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Method:

Slice the onions, garlic cloves & chicken into the desired sizes

Brown the onions and 4 cloves of garlic in olive oil

Add chicken pieces and par cook until the outside looks ready

Remove the chicken and add the tomatoes, black beans and a further 4 cloves of diced garlic

After 5 minutes add in one tin of the diced tomatoes and let it stew for 5 minutes

Add the chicken pieces back into the pot along with the courgette spaghetti, the second tin of diced tomatoes and the full tin of coconut cream

Season to taste throughout this process

Let the pot stew and stir every few minutes until you are happy with the flavours!

Add chopped fresh coriander to your pot and stir in (the more the better) & don’t forget to sprinkle a bit over the top

Serve with Cous Cous, brown rice, etc.

 

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This dish can take between 20-30 min cook time and 10 min prep (depending on your dicing skills). A 30-minute curry bursting with flavour, and you can trust that I wouldn’t post a recipe that doesn’t uuuurge me to share!

Thank you to my wonderful friend, Emma van Heyn, for sharing her original recipe with me which I have adapted above.

Enjoy!

 

 

Eco Living in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve

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Our cabin on the right! A four-sleeper with incredible views.

I have recently been so intrigued by the idea of sustainable and minimalistic living, so when an invite came around from close friends of mine asking Michael and me to join them on an eco-cabin getaway, you can be sure I jumped at the opportunity!

It was a two-night stay in the Kogelberg Biosphere Nature Reserve in the quaint Oudebosch eco-cabins.

The first indicator to our trip being one of a minimalist nature was the lack of reception we experienced merely seconds after entering the gates of the reserve. Straight away a feeling of panic surrounded me knowing we were cut off from the outside world, although little did I know it would be the reason for the best weekend away of my life.

Our driving trail took us deeper into the mountains and exposed a hidden beauty no photograph could capture. Finally, our cabins were in sight. An initial worry felt by most upon arrival is hoping the real matches up to the promised photos seen online, but boy did the photographs get it wrong – this place was ‘un-capturable’.

The minimalist simplicity of the eco-cabins was the perfect reminder of how little we actually need as human beings. All the necessities were in place and the surrounds made up for anything technological that may have seemed absent upon arrival.

The beautifully designed cabins are solar-powered, with fresh running mountain water which is perfectly delicious to drink, and not to forget the waterless toilet that really wasn’t as scary as it first appeared to be.

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The cabins are designed to one day be able to decompose and once again form part of the natural environment.

I am truly so glad that I didn’t manage to photograph much of the interiors, I’ll leave that as a surprise for you when you come around for a visit. What I will share is a few photographs of the surroundings, and I’ll tell you of the deafening silence of nature that forces one to stop and self-reflect.

The surrounding mountains ensured that not even one angle could be found that did not bring an overwhelming beauty.

“To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles.” – Mary Davis

The few days we had there involved multiple card games, lots and lots of eating and a scenic hike that even the unfit likes of me could enjoy. To put it simply, we merely had to exist and enjoy where we were for the time we had there.

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A sneaky snack prepared by myself. We ate so well on this trip!

If all I gained from this trip was not looking in the mirror even once, wearing the same outfit for 3 days (and being completely content with it) and the fact that I began to identify myself as ‘Amber the person’ instead of ‘Amber the appearence’, then that is what this time away did for me. If you ask me, we could all do with a little bit of this in our lives.

While away I was also able to realise that ‘switching off’ is near impossible when in the city, or merely when in an area with even a single bar of reception. We almost need to be forced to put it all away.

The silence was deafening at first, I can honestly say it was an adjustment to have spaces in-between conversations that were silent – we are so accustomed to turning to our phone screens when faced with these blanks. But eventually those silences became moments so worth appreciating, a moment to look around and listen. Soon we found beauty in them.

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Our little roof garden – so inspired to create my own sustainable home!

My visit to the Kogelberg eco-cabins opened my eyes to the possibilities of living amongst nature without harming it, being one with it all and appreciating what it has to give.

Take advantage of their special prices which last until the end of August – you will not regret it!

http://www.capenature.co.za/reserves/kogelberg-nature-reserve/

All my love,

Amber.

Bikinis and showing some skin

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On Thursday afternoon I was lucky enough to squeeze in a few shots with my incredibly talented photographer boyfriend. Between my study schedule and Michael’s full-time job and fast-growing photography career, finding time to shoot together can be tricky.

However, Thursday seemed to work for us perfectly. So off we went, car packed full of photography gear, my beach bag bursting with possible outfits, and accompanied by a keen excitement in our bellies – we were sorted!

Arriving at Eden on the Bay started off well until we were greeted with what could have easily been the windiest day we’ve experienced all year. Although this was not enough to deter us – hair blowing in all directions and cold down to the bone, we started shooting.

Having a photographer for a boyfriend seems to be part of the dream in this time we find ourselves living in. Visual stimulation is all that seems to satisfy our brains and having a photographer by my side at all times sure does help my Instagram look pretty cool. I won’t deny the perks, Michael is able to take a casual day and make it look as though I’ve had a full team running along behind me for makeup touchups, as if on a professional shoot. The moment he lifts his camera, well, I know the drill by now.

Although, with having such a talent at my disposal, I feel comes a great sense of responsibility. A responsibility to be camera ready at all times – stomach in, bum out, alluring gaze on. But let’s face it – how often do we really feel camera ready? What is especially difficult for me is having to make sure I am on par with all the other (absolutely stunning) girls he gets to shoot – no pressure.

This brings me to the point of this post, one I’ve recently had to deal with and work through myself. Getting myself ready for summer – summer-body and all.

Many of us have a terrifying wake-up call when the first day of sunshine graces us with its presence. It is on a day like this that we run to dig out last season’s bikini, squeeze it on and ask the mirror for some advice – well that’s my routine. After the long winter months, the lazy days and numerous helpings of comfort food undoubtedly take their toll, and if you are like me, gym seems to always feel just a day too early, and I am forever procrastinating the effort.

Back to our Thursday shoot on the beautiful beach at Eden. Once I was stripped down to just a bikini, I was quickly reminded of the past few months’ bad eating habits and I felt as though I could not be any more unprepared for a summer-body than I was. It was shortly after this realisation that I could truly admit something so important to myself.

I wasn’t worried about not being summer ready, I was worried about what others might think and say about my body, MY body when letting myself be fully exposed in a little two-piece.

This is something people from all walks of life are able to relate to – all body-types – even the lanky girl typing up this post.

I was then able to realise that a summer-ready body has little to do with the actual body, and everything to do with our acceptance thereof. A summer-ready body is an attitude you walk outside with – bikini on – and a decision you make to accept how you look and feel while showing some skin, and the ability to be okay with what others may be thinking. Although we tend to forget that, rather than looking at us and judging, it is highly likely that others are feeling just as insecure, if not more so than we do.

Being summer ready is a mindset, a decision made that you are okay with having the majority of your surface area exposed. It has much less to do with how ‘great’ you actually look, or how many hours you invested at the gym in a two-month-crunch before the sunny months.

If we can learn to fully embrace each dimple and stretch mark, allow the sun to gracefully dance on our skins and the beach air to rid us of our insecurities, a summer-ready body can truly be accepted as nothing more than a mindset.

Two Life Lessons of 2016

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Where to begin?

I am aware that this year is not yet over, although I feel that I am now truly able to take a good look at what this year has brought and reflect on the journey I have tread.

I tend to be the type of individual who struggles to function within environments which do not fully contribute towards my needs of the moment. This has been the greatest challenge for me for most of my life, as the environments we often find ourselves in aren’t always under our direct control.

This may have been the most difficult thing for me to overcome over specifically the past 3 years – hopefully, my lack of detail does not disappoint you.

Although, as the year began, I was so lucky to have been able to move in with a dear friend of mine, whom I have known for nearly a decade. This was the beginning of my journey towards a positive and balanced life. Being surrounded by people who truly have your best interest at heart is something I cannot accurately describe – the growth it allows is simply amazing.

So here I was, moving out of a state of emotional chaos which had kept me feeling utterly paralysed, to a serene space, oozing with positivity. Overnight I became one of those girls who would roll out of bed, stroll into the kitchen, pop the kettle on and shortly after, sit with her mug of steaming hot tea, admiring the awakening sky.

 

Lesson 1: Your environment is EVERYTHING.

 

Within this new space I could decide exactly how I wanted things to be, my schedule for the week, my meals, who I invited over – everything. My new independence threw me into a deep pool of water and I instantly became a world-class swimmer. What this helped me to realise, besides the fact that a good environment is freaken great, was that I truly was in control of much more in my life than I had previously thought. It’s crazy what a little space and time away from certain people can do for you. It just clicked.

From that aha moment onwards each day felt like a blank canvas I could slap a bunch of pretty colours onto, or not, but ultimately, the choice was mine.

With this new insight and excitement for life, I started realising who I wanted to be. If I was able to write my story, I’d for darn sure want a killer leading lady. One could say I started reinventing myself into exactly who I wanted to be.

 

Lesson 2: Be the best version of yourself, not a second best version of someone else.

 

Unfortunately, my new found freedom was not all dandy business. With it came a false sense of invincibility, a cockiness and a wicked drive to create the perfect version of myself which I believed would fit perfectly into the crowd I so longed to be a part of.

This is where things got a little ugly…

For many of us, finding ourselves isn’t easy. I have always known my core, although I have not always been confident enough to let it shine. I spent years of my life being the second best versions of friends whom I idealised – although all this afforded me was being left in the background, a dull backdrop to their journeys.

It took this year, in my own space, with the constant encouragement of those few true friends, for me to realise something of critical importance.

 

Perfection is not fun.

 

Once I started understanding how much easier it was to just be myself, quirks and all, I realised how much fun life could really be. I found myself having the same confidence I started my year off having, knowing that my life was mine to create, although now with the added excitement of not having to recreate myself, but to simply be myself.

And then, it happened… Life. Started. Falling. Into. My. Lap.

By life I mean: Friendships, determining what I truly wanted out of life, my goals being achieved, dreams becoming real – It was unbelievable.

2016 afforded me the most incredible journey, one I hope has inspired one or two of you reading this. A journey of self-discovery, learning to accept and let go of those things which no longer bring me happiness, and new friendships I could never have dreamed of.

 

So there it is. Two life lessons, two little life lessons that will completely, change your life.

All that is left to ask yourself is –

What are you waiting for?

 

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05.43am

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This ridiculous in-between. Stuck juggling being a full time student and wanting so badly to start my life, and more urgently, my career. I realise that life is happening around me as I type out these words. Sitting on my bed, at 05.43, unable to sleep, because I feel simply, stuck.

An English essay. The Feminist Revision of Fairytales. Lovely and all, but NOT, and I repeat, NOT what makes me tick.

What I’d really like to be doing, is waking up at an hour more reasonable than 05.43, gliding over to my kitchen, and flipping the switch of my kettle. After a cup of aromatic green tea, slipping on my gym pants – that hold it all in oh so well – hopping into my car and off I’d go.

Tea. Gym. and then back home to start my day, the way I’d want it.

An egg breakfast, made by myself for myself, because that is how I’d want it. Thereafter, sitting down at a desk that would put the pages of ‘Elle Decor’ to shame. Macbook open, radiating gleam on, and… begin.

The life of a blogger, instagrammer, vlogger and (insert some other dream job here that half the population would love to have).

In this new age, every second person is chasing a similar online dream. I am chasing the lifestyle. In my first degree, I was at least taught one incredible life lesson – not only a wasted year I guess – and this lesson was: “Don’t picture what you want to do as a career one day, picture the lifestyle you want, and from there find a career you would love and that will give you this lifestyle”.

Reading this back now I can see where a few problems could filter in. Let’s begin with this one; no… the lecturer giving this advice was not implying that we shouldn’t follow our career dreams, or that we should settle in a well paid job in order to afford a lavish lifestyle. What she simply meant was – we should delve deeper into who we are before making a career choice and by doing this, by truly knowing what we want out of life, the lifestyle we’d want to live and determining what career we would thrive in could be a little easier.

It worked for me. Funny enough, it was this lesson that made me stop thinking about money as an outcome of a career, and I began to focus more on the quality of life I wanted to live.

So here I am. Stuck. A student who is too ready for life, or rather not ready even one little bit, but excited – oh yes, excited is one way of putting it. Over-eager.

Eager to start, what I am not yet sure is the perfect path for me – my life.