Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Katie's Christmas 2015 - Nut Roast

Here it is, the main part of your vegan Christmas dinner - the nut roast!  This recipe is brought to you from The Vegan Society and for someone like me, who is definitely not very good at complicated and long recipes, this one looks rather easy for a main meal.  Apart from a couple of DIY posts, there'll be no more food posts until Friday 8th January 2016, so I can work on both my coursework for uni and on some other ideas, so I wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

1 medium-sized onion or 1 small leek, chopped
1 fl oz or 30ml vegetable oil
2 teaspoons or 10ml yeast extract in 1/4 pint hot water
8 oz or 225g chopped mixed nuts
2 tablespoons ground almonds
4 oz or 100g wholemeal breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon sage
a pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 degrees Fahrenheit / gas mark 4.
  2. Sauté the onion or the leek in the oil until soft, not browned.
  3. Combine all the ingredients together, then turn into an oiled ovenproof dish and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.

Katie's Christmas 2015 - Sticky Carrots with Thyme and Maple Syrup

This is the last of the vegetable idea recipes for making Christmas dinner this Friday, and it's a recipe for maple syrup-glazed carrots.  The original recipe, found on a UBU Green Thursdays recipe sheet, called for the carrots to be glazed with honey, but we're going to substitute the honey with maple syrup to make it more vegan-friendly!  I'll be back very soon with a recipe for the main part of the Christmas dinner, the nut roast!


1kg Chantenay carrots, unpeeled, larger ones halved
25g vegan margarine (such as Pure)
a few sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon of maple syrup


  1. Tip the carrots into a deep frying pan with the margarine, thyme and maple syrup.
  2. Cook for 5 minutes until they start to brown.
  3. Pour in 250ml of water, bring to the boil and cook until the water has evaporated and the carrots are tender.
  4. Turn down the heat and cook the carrots slowly, stirring, until glazed.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Katie's Christmas 2015 - Roasted Red Peppers stuffed with Fennel

This week, I've been both watching Christmas DVDs, helping at a shop in Leeds, and writing about Christmas DVDs.  I've often felt like I'm catching up with my own checklists, which I actually find so difficult even though I make weekly checklists.  I don't know how to take a break from it because it keeps me at least semi-organised.  A proper break might not happen until May.  In the new year, I think I will try to make a post on how I make checklists, but just remember that I keep them really flexible.

I think this will be the last vegetable part of my ideas for what to have at the table for Christmas Day, as I should really think about main courses.  Additionally, since I normally post about food on Fridays, I'll have to write next week's post a bit earlier than usual (Tuesday or Wednesday) because NEXT FRIDAY IS CHRISTMAS DAY!!!  Therefore, you'd need to know the recipe for the main course beforehand, wouldn't you?  In the meantime, I found this recipe for roasted red peppers stuffed with fennel in Delia's Happy Christmas by Delia Smith.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

4 large red peppers
1 x 400g tin Italian plum tomatoes
2 small bulbs fennel
8 dessertspoons good-quality olive oil
1 rounded teaspoon mixed pepper berries
3/4 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
salt flakes
the juice of half a lemon


  1. Slice each pepper in half lengthways, cutting right through the green stalk and leaving it intact (although it won't be eaten).  Remove all the seeds and place the pepper halves on a baking tray.
  2. Drain the tomatoes (you don't need the juice) and divide them into eight equal portions, placing each portion inside a pepper half.
  3. Remove any brownish bits of fennel with your sharpest knife and cut the bulbs first into quarters and then again into eighths, carefully keeping the layers attached to the root ends.
  4. Put the fennel in a saucepan with a little salt, pour boiling water on them and "blanch" them for 5 minutes.  Then drain them in a colander and, as soon as they're cool enough to handle, arrange two slices in each pepper half.  Sprinkle 1 dessertspoon of olive oil over each one, using a brush to brush the oil round the edges and sides of the peppers.
  5. Lightly crush the pepper berries, coriander seeds and fennel seeds with a pestle and mortar or rolling pin and bowl, then sprinkle these evenly all over the fennel and peppers, and finish off with some salt flakes.
  6. Bake the peppers for approximately 1 hour on the top shelf of the oven until they are soft and the skin is wrinkled and slightly browned.
  7. After removing them from the oven, sprinkle the lemon juice all over and cool.
NOTE: If you want to make the peppers ahead of time, cover with Clingfilm after cooling, but don't refrigerate them as this spoils the fragrant flavour.

    Thursday, 17 December 2015

    Katie's Christmas 2015 - My Top 5 Christmas/Holiday TV Specials

    It's now the first few days of my Christmas break, so before I return to my coursework, I've settled into my navy blue Christmas onesie and snuggled up in bed for a few days for my annual Christmas marathon.  This is a series of my favourite Christmas specials and films from throughout my childhood and adulthood so far, so even though some of them are aimed at children, they are ones I've grown up with and love.  This post can be used as a resource if you need to find something to entertain small children with, apart from the episode of Glee.

    1. Barney - Waiting For Santa (1990) - This is the 4th video in the original Barney and the Backyard Gang video series which ran from 1988 to 1991 before the television series started in 1992, and I just realised while rewatching it that it's 25 years old this year.  I didn't actually see the full series until January 2014 when I watched it on YouTube, but this is still my favourite.  With wonderful original songs such as Waiting For Santa, Winter's Wonderful, Jolly Old St Nicholas and The Elves' Rap (led by Michael, played by the talented Brian Eppes), as well as traditional Christmas classics such as Jingle Bells, Up On The Housetop, Deck The Halls and We Wish You A Merry Christmas, you'll be sure to be singing along (cos I definitely was).  My favourite quote from this video was "The best Christmas gift you can give someone is yourself.  Being a good friend and helping others."

    2. Barney - Barney's Night Before Christmas (1999) - Coming from the opposite end of the 1990s to Waiting For Santa, the modernisation of an extended Santa's office and toy factory is definitely noticeable.  Another new technology that Barney uses is the snow globe portal, using which Barney and the children travel to the North Pole following Baby Bop's realisation that there's nobody to fill Santa's stocking and that they should fill it themselves.  Santa and Mrs Claus show the children around the Santa's office and the toy factory via a train ride, and the children help to finish wrapping presents before Baby Bop is presented with a music box  that has a ballerina dancing to an instrumental version of Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy from The Nutcracker.  With traditional Christmas songs included similar to those in Waiting For Santa with the additions of Oh Christmas Tree and The Twelve Days of Christmas, new versions of Winter's Wonderful and Jolly Old St Nicholas, new appearances of Look into Santa's Book, Christmas is our Favourite Time of Year and Wrap It Up, and instrumental versions of Joy to the World and Silent Night, this video is also sure to have you singing along.  Although their are only four of the children included as main characters in this video, most of the rest of the children from season 5 are seen in a cameo of carol singers and handbell ringers who are visiting Hannah's house.

    3. Glee - Extraordinary Merry Christmas (2011) - From the opening All I Want For Christmas Is You led by Mercedes (Amber Riley), to the duets of It's An Extraordinary Merry Christmas by Rachel (Lea Michele) and Blaine (Darren Criss), Let It Snow! by Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town by Finn (the late Cory Monteith) and Puck (Mark Salling), and My Favourite Things by Mercedes, Rachel, Kurt and Blaine, to Brittany, Santana and the Cheerios' rendition of Christmas Wrapping to the full New Directions singing Do They Know It's Christmas?, the season 3 Christmas special is even more full of popular Christmas songs than the season 2 special, A Very Glee Christmas.

      Characters break the 4th walls with addresses to the viewer in the black and white Judy Garland and Star Wars-inspired Christmas special (with Finn and Puck dressed up as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo) that New Directions has filmed for cable TV.  In a way, this is a Christmas special within a Christmas special, and this ends with Irish exchange student Rory (Damian McGinty) reciting the biblical Nativity story from the Gospel according to Luke to remind his friends of the true meaning of Christmas.

      Unfortunately, Rachel Berry does act a bit high-maintenance and spoilt for much of this episode, but this is rectified slightly later in the episode with some charitable giving.  Another unexpected act of charitable giving in this episode is Sue Sylvester's (Jane Lynch) volunteering at a Salvation Army homeless shelter and encouraging the members of New Directions to join her.

    4. Winnie the Pooh - Seasons of Giving (1999) - This collection of three stories is not solely Christmas-related, but rather covers the period from mid-November through Thanksgiving celebrations to preparing for Christmas itself.

    5. Lizzie McGuire - Xtreme Xmas (2003)

      NOTE: This is not a fully comprehensive resource.

    Tuesday, 15 December 2015

    Katie's Christmas 2015 - My Top 5 Christmas/Holiday Films

    This is the last part of my Top 5s for Christmas, and it's some of my favourite Christmas/Holiday films.  Tomorrow or Thursday, I'll be posting the last of my recipes to prepare food for Christmas Day, so watch out for those.  Later today, I'll be watching the original Star Wars trilogy in preparation for seeing The Force Awakens with my family tomorrow (I've already watched the prequel trilogy).  I will not discuss the film further on this blog though.

    My Top 5 Christmas/Holiday Films

    1. Miracle on 34th Street (1994) - So much Mara Wilson being little and adorable, and also very wise for a 6 year old.
    2. The Snowman (1982) - I'm including both the introduction with Father Christmas and the introduction with David Bowie here.  This is a truly magical short film, and so is its sequel, The Snowman and the Snowdog.


    3. A Christmas To Remember (2001) - This is a Bob the Builder film that my brother received for Christmas when he was 3 years old (while 6 year old me received Barbie in the Nutcracker).  As well as all the usual Bob the Builder crew, we also have Bob's twin brother Tom who lives in the Arctic Circle, Elton John voicing Lazers member John, Chris Evans voicing Lennie Lazenby himself, and Noddy Holder voicing roadie Banger (which explains why he yells "IT'S CHRISTMAS!!" like you're listening to Slade's Merry Xmas Everybody.
    4. Home Alone (1990) - Before a few weeks ago, I somehow did not think of this as a Christmas film, but it most certainly is, but just not as much as Miracle on 34th Street.  Also, have you seen Just Me In The House By Myself, the brand new first episode of The Moldy Peaches' Jack Dishel's new web series, in which Macaulay Culkin reprises his role as Kevin McCallister in a rather sinister and creepy look at Kevin's life as an adult following his experience as a child of being left home alone over Christmas.

    5. Home Alone 2 (1992)

      Sunday, 13 December 2015

      Katie's Christmas 2015 - Potato Gratin

      I may be a couple of days late with this post, but it's because I've just finished uni until after Christmas.  This time last week, I was in the middle of trying to finish my Engaging the Audience project by only taking a few well-timed naps of between 20 minutes and 2 hours in length.  I must point out that I wouldn't recommend having as little sleep as I did in 2.5 days (possibly less than 8 hours).  Anyway, after my other deadlines, I spent Tuesday and Thursday night at the first BUSOM rehearsals for Back to the 80s after auditions, Wednesday night at our Christmas party where we ate at Brewhaus before seeing two of our members in a pantomime of Aladdin at Kala Sangam, Friday at the uni Christmas fayre and a friend's house (covered in my first This Is Not A Book post), and Saturday night at the Gledholt Male Voice Choir's Christmas concert with the Lindley Band.  So after a busy few weeks, I'm looking forward to relaxing with some Christmas videos, crafts and foods for a few days, before doing some holiday work and writing a couple of reflective essays due in January. 

      Potatoes are probably my favourite vegetables, especially jacket potatoes or roasted potatoes with herbs.  It's something about the crispy outside and soft middle that I really like.  Mum's recently started making roasted potato with herbs slices as parts of meals, and I always seem to miss going for extra slices after I've finished the rest of my food.  I found this recipe on Superfood Siobhan's website.  It's fairly easy, healthy and vegan-friendly, so if you're wanting a vegan Christmas dinner or just like potatoes like I do, you can add this deliciousness to it!

      Ingredients (serves 4 people)

      500g white potatoes
      75ml / 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
      1 tablespoon water
      2 large cloves of garlic
      2 tablespoons mixed herbs
      salt and pepper
      1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
      1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional)


      1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.  Wash and peel your potatoes, and cut them into slices of about 1/2 a cm thick.
      2. Arrange the slices on the bottom of the tray, stacking the slices in flat and even layers across the tray.
      3. Place the garlic, olive oil, water, herbs, salt/pepper, mustard and nutritional yeast (optional) in a blender or food processor and blend until it makes a smooth paste.  Pour this over the potato slices, spreading evenly.
      4. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the centre of the potatoes are soft when a knife is inserted.  Serve with other vegetables or anything else!

      Saturday, 12 December 2015

      This Is Not A Book - 1. This Is A Recording Device

      On Wednesday this week, we had our annual Christmas party at BUSOM.  We went to see a couple of our members in a local pantomime of Aladdin, which was very funny and we were noted as bringing the energy to the audience participation.  We also had our Secret Santa present-sharing.  I received (from one of my friends but I don't know which) a book called This Is Not A Book by Keri Smith.  This is a type of journal which provides the reader with different tasks which often involve the book itself, which prove that it is not a book and finds innovative ways of using it for other purposes.  I then had the idea of documenting my experiences with This Is Not A Book in the format of a vlog on YouTube for each different task.  Unfortunately, I'm not that much of a person for being filmed on camera and I don't feel confident that I'd be able to keep going with a vlog.  Meanwhile, I find writing blog posts much easier, so I want to now try to document this new adventure here as part of this blog as regularly as I can.

      Without further ado, this is the first challenge:

      "This is a recording device.  Record the events of your day in point form here:  Make a mark for every time you enter a room."

      I'm not going to make a new point for every time I enter a room as I will be entering a lot of rooms today, but these were the events of my day on Friday 11th December 2015:

      • I started my day VERY early in the morning with finishing off my posters and bookmarks for the Christmas Fayre at uni today.  I then organised my music folder for carol-singing and my pocket money for anything I want to buy at the Christmas market.

        Mickey Mouse poster made using a Mickey Mouse drawing
         tutorial and adding a hat!

        Reindeer and sleigh poster made using stencils!

      • My best friend and I explored Waterstones and the new Broadway Shopping Centre for a couple of hours.  We discovered glitter spray in The Body Shop, clothes in a variety of sizes at Marks and Spencer, and lots of Terry Pratchett books in both Waterstones and WH Smiths.  I think it definitely woke us both up and cheered us up.
      • The BUSOM (Bradford University Society of Operettas and Musicals) stall is full of handmade Christmas cards, hats, scarves, Christmas decorations, candles, mice, posters and bookmarks.  For group photos, we have all been using the hats, and some of us have also been buying the hats.  I've bought five Christmas cards, most of which have buttons on them, one of which is of a female same-sex couple kissing under the mistletoe.  Other stalls include Heather's Jewellery, The Art of Conversation by the chaplaincy team, a Prince's trust stall that is selling adult's colouring books called Don't Judge A Book By It's Covers, and some food stalls too!  We also sang a selection of Christmas carols at both 1pm and 3pm and drank warm, spiced apple juice.

        The BUSOM stall, including Christmas decorations, homemade candles,
        bows, bookmarks and earrings.

        Christmas cards, mice, posters, scarves and hats!

        Warm, spiced apple juice

      • I watched some of Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog with both of my two best friends from uni, but we had some problems with the Internet connection and buffering, so we played The Hobbit: Love Letters card game and talked for a while.
      • The evening ended with a BUSOM mini-Christmas party for eight, at which we ate food, sang along to You Can't Stop The Beat from Hairspray, Natalie Imbruglia's Torn, Skid Row (Downtown) from Little Shop of Horrors and Take Me Or Leave Me from Rent, amongst other songs, and found out that two of our members have just got engaged!

      This was my haul from our stall, which cost me a total of £5 (£2 for any 5 cards and £3 for any 3 Christmas decorations)!  The card with two girls kissing under the mistletoe is part of a set of cards designed by Zainab Ojulari to support LGBT couples, which is something I fully support!

      Christmas cards

      Christmas cards by Zainab and Elina

      Christmas decorations by Zainab, Elina and others
          So that is now my first task complete.  I'll update you with task 2 in the next few days, once I've caught up with writing some other posts!


        Friday, 4 December 2015

        Katie's Christmas 2015 - Pan-Fried Sprouts with Toasted Pine Nuts

        As promised in the first of my Christmas posts on Wednesday, I have a Christmas-related recipe for you today (Friday).  I think one of my aims over the next few weeks is to provide a few recipes for a vegan Christmas dinner.  Now, I know that a lot of people aren't keen on Brussels sprouts, which is personally not something I particularly understand.  Why is there mass hate against Brussels sprouts?  I don't love them, but I don't hate them.  I think they're a Christmas dinner staple, especially when you're trying to have a vegan-friendly Christmas dinner (I wish I was), and this recipe from the December 2015 edition of the Tesco Food Family Living magazine adds toasted pine nuts to give you a bit more Christmas spirit because I have eaten Brussels sprouts at times other than Christmas before.

        Ingredients (serves 8)

        600g (1 lb) Brussels sprouts
        3 tablespoons pine nuts
        40g (1 1/2 oz) vegan margarine (such as Pure)
        1 lemon, zested


        1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Add the sprouts, bring back to the boil and cook for 3 minutes.
        2. Drain then plunge the sprouts into cold water to halt the cooking process.
        3. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a large frying pan until golden.  Remove and set aside.
        4. Melt the margarine in the frying pan, add the sprouts and cook for 2-3 minutes until tender.
        5. Toss with the pine nuts and lemon zest before serving.

        Wednesday, 2 December 2015

        Katie's Christmas 2015 - My Top 5 Christmas/Holiday Songs

        It's 2nd December!  This post was originally planned for 1st December so I could get really excited about it being December, but I was busy yesterday with coursework and then auditions for BUSOM's production of Back to the 80s (there were some really good auditions yesterday and I'm really looking forward to seeing more people audition both tomorrow and on Sunday).  I'm spending today at home in pyjamas, attempting to concentrate on coursework, but right now, I'm listening in to my friends Lauren and Chloe doing The Yes/No Show and the Coffee House Sessions interview on RamAir, so I thought this would be a good time to write the first of my Christmas posts for this year.  So on around Tuesday or Wednesday for the next few weeks, I'll be posting some Top 5s (like how I did my Top 5s while in America in July), and on Fridays, I'll be posting a recipe as usual but I'm going to try to make it a bit more Christmassy.  So the first of my top 5 series for the Christmas 2015 season is my Top 5 Christmas/Holiday Songs!

        Top 5

        1. The Pogues - Fairytale of New York ft. Kirsty MacColl - DEFINITELY planning on singing this with somebody at karaoke at uni either tomorrow or next week!

        2. Band Aid 20 - Do They Know It's Christmastime? - Yes, I know this isn't the original version and there'll be different opinions as to which one is the best (the original Band Aid in 1984, Band Aid 2 in 1989, Band Aid 20 in 2004, or Band Aid 30 in 2014), but the Band Aid 20 version in 2004 is the version that I have heard a lot.  I will be playing both this version and the original version during my Christmas shows on RamAir over the next 8 days, so listen in tomorrow (Thursday at 11am) and next Thursday at the same time.

        3. Michael Bublé - Cold December Night - Some people seem to have the impression that now it's December, Michael Bublé has suddenly come out of his Christmas lair for us all to hear his music.  I've had his Christmas album in my Christmas music rotation for about 4 years now and I still love it.  In fact, the second I stepped into the main building at uni yesterday afternoon (1st December), I heard Michael Bublé's duet of White Christmas with Shania Twain playing through the speakers.  Cold December Night has always been my favourite.

        4. Slade - Merry Xmas Everybody - Tomorrow (3rd December 2015) is the 10th anniversary of one of my 11+ entrance exams and also my first concert with the Huddersfield Choral Society Young Voices junior choir.  It was Countdown to Christmas at the Huddersfield Town Hall and the second of about 8 times I sang there (the first being with school for the Mrs Sunderland competition when I was 8 in 2004).  Amongst our well-used Disney and Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat medleys, we had a selection of Christmas songs including Bob Chilcott's Can You Hear Me (which we learned some sign language for) and, much more excitingly, Slade's Merry Xmas Everybody!

        5. Barney - Happy Holidays Love Barney - Okay, this is actually a Christmas/Holiday album rather than just one song, but including classics such as Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, The 12 Days of Christmas and Deck the Halls, as well as more Barney-specific songs such as Habari Gani (Swahili for "How are you?", a common greeting for during the 7 day Kwanzaa celebrations), Hey Santa Claus, It's Twinkle Time and a magical Christmassy version of I Love You, it's just a fun and at 36 minutes and 21 tracks, quite a quick Christmas album to listen to as a whole.  Even though I'm now 20 and a half, this is what I'll still listen to during car journeys with my mum and brother during the last week of term.  Having it on my iPod as well means I can listen to it while doing stuff at uni, but don't tell anyone that ...

        Friday, 27 November 2015

        Super Salad Sandwich

        Last Thursday, for the Wellbeing Week Festival at uni, a couple of people from Jamie's Ministry of Food came to do some cooking demonstrations and tasting.  Unfortunately, I was busy doing my show at RamAir while they were doing the demonstration, but I picked up a Get Food Smart recipe booklet from their table in Student Central during a song break.  This top-ranking recipe is for a sandwich full of colourful vegetables and is perfect for lunch any time of the year and especially with friends.  Next week, I'll be starting with ideas for Christmas dining and will also be giving a few top 5s, so look out for those!

        Ingredients (serves 4)

        4 radishes, halved
        5cm piece of cucumber, halved lengthways
        1/2 small carrot, halved lengthways
        2 cauliflower florets
        1/2 small red pepper
        1/2 small apple
        1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
        1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
        4 sprigs of soft herbs, such as dill, flat-leaf parsley or basil, or 2 sprigs of fresh mint, leaves picked
        1/2 punnet salad cress or sprouting herbs
        a handful of peas
        1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
        4 seeded wholegrain rolls
        2 tablespoons hummus


        1. Using a table knife, cut each radish half into three pieces on a chopping board and place them in a large bowl.
        2. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the watery seeds from the cucumber, and discard them, then slice each cucumber half into four pieces and add to the bowl.
        3. Cut the carrot into 8 even-sized pieces, then snap apart the cauliflower florets into bite-sized chunks and place both veggies into the bowl with the others.
        4. Pull out the pepper's stalk and scoop out the seeds and pith with a teaspoon, discarding all.  Cut the pepper into four long slices, then cut each slice into four segments and add to the bowl.
        5. Place the apple half, flat-side down, on the board.  Cut into six even pieces, discarding the core.  Add to the bowl.
        6. Place a clean tea towel on the chopping board and pile the veg and apple in the middle.  Fold over each corner of the towel so your ingredients are wrapped up like a parcel.  Squash with a rolling pin to break the ingredients into little pieces.
        7. Measure the vinegar and olive oil into a large bowl and blend into a dressing.
        8. Tear the herb leaves into small pieces (if using dill, snip it with scissors), adding them to the bowl as you go.  Snip the cress or sprouting herbs into the bowl, then add the peas, seeds, squashed veg and apple.  Using your fingers, carefully toss all the ingredients with the dressing until they're nicely coated.
        9. Halve each roll horizontally and spread the insides of each one with hummus.  Divide the vegetable mixture between the base of each roll.  Place the lids on top, press down lightly, and enjoy!

        Friday, 20 November 2015

        Stuffed Peppers

        Yesterday was BUSOM's winter showcase, Meet Tony and Olivier, which was very fun but I'm now very sleepy and stressed about coursework, so check in with me next week when I have a special post planned.  Here's an awesome starters idea from the January 2015 edition of the ASDA magazine!

        Ingredients (serves 4)

        4 large peppers, any colour
        100g giant cous cous
        350ml vegetable stock, made with 1/2 a stock cube
        50g sultanas
        50g sundried tomatoes, drained and chopped
        25g pine nuts, toasted
        300g can haricot or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
        salad, to serve


        1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C, 170 degrees C with a fan oven, or gas mark 5.  Cut the tops off the peppers and scoop out the seeds and pith.  Put the peppers and lids on the tray and bake for 15 minutes.
        2. Put the cous cous into a pan and cover with the stock solution.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 8 minutes.  Add the sultanas and tomatoes.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes, before taking off the heat and mixing in the pine nuts and beans.
        3. Leave the cooked peppers to cool slightly, then fill with the cous cous mixture.  Put the pepper lids on top, then cook in the oven for 12 minutes.
        4. Serve with salad.

        Friday, 13 November 2015

        Winter Veg Minestrone

        In the past week or so, the weather here has really changed dramatically.  On Monday, I had to walk between buildings at uni to go to yoga at the gym and then go back to editing my project, and the hood of my coat got SOAKED!  Meanwhile, I'm spending my evening cosy in bed with pillows and a good catch-up on Red Dwarf.  I've been talking to Saph Joy, who I met last month at one of the BBC Radio 1Xtra Academy Q&As (which I still need to complete my post about), and she's recently been considering going vegan after seeing Food Inc., and I told her to go and read the wonderful Ally's page on vegan meal ideas and that although I'm not currently a vegan myself, I have lots of vegan-friendly recipes on my blog.  When she said she'd look for my blog for food inspiration though, I realised that I'm so much more of a smoothies and desserts person, rather than a main meal one, so this is an area that I think I'll start trying to up my game in.  I found this recipe for winter veg minestrone in the January 2015 edition of the ASDA magazine, and being low in fat and containing 2 of your 5 daily portions of fruit and veg, it sounds like a pretty good idea for families to eat this winter to keep bugs away!

        Ingredients (serves 4)

        1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons for the bread
        1 medium onion, finely chopped
        1 stick celery, diced
        1 small butternut squash, peeled and finely diced
        390g carton chopped tomatoes with herbs
        3 tablespoons tomato puree
        2 x 300g cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
        600ml stock made with 1 vegetable stock cube
        100g spaghetti, broken into small pieces
        160g baby spinach, washed
        200g baguette
        1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half


        1. Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the onion and celery and cook for 2-3 minutes, until soft.  Add the butternut squash and cook for another 8-10 minutes, until it starts to soften.
        2. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, cannellini beans and stock.  Bring to a mild boil and cook for 5 minutes.
        3. Add the spaghetti and stir.  Boil gently for 10-12 minutes or until pasta is cooked.
        4. Stir in the spinach and boil for 1 minute until wilted.
        5. Preheat the grill.  Slice the baguette and drizzle the remainder of the olive oil over the bread, then rub the garlic halves over one side of each slice.  Grill until golden brown and serve hot with the soup.

          Friday, 6 November 2015

          Spiced Pumpkin Cake

          This recipe for spiced pumpkin cake is one I found on the recipe card I collected at the UBU Green Thursdays pumpkin-carving event from last week!  I've adapted the original recipe a little bit to have dairy-free margarine and mashed bananas instead of the 2 eggs, just to see if it's ok.

          Ingredients (makes one 23x33cm cake)

          110g vegan margarine (such as Pure)
          220g dark brown soft sugar
          135g bread flour
          1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
          1/2 teaspoon baking powder
          1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
          1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
          1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
          1 teaspoon vanilla extract
          175g pumpkin puree
          1 1/2 bananas, mashed

          Vegan cream cheese frosting (2 cups)
          1 cup icing sugar
          108g vegan margarine, cold
          2 tablespoons non-dairy milk (such as almond or hazelnut milk)
          1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
          1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
          1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
          1/4 teaspoon salt


          1. Use a bit of margarine to grease the inside of one 23x33cm or similar sized baking dish.  Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius or gas mark 4.
          2. In a large bowl, combine the margarine, dark brown soft sugar, flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, pumpkin puree and bananas.  Mix until smooth.
          3. Spread the mixture evenly in the baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.  Frost with the cream cheese frosting recipe shown below once cooled, if desired.
          4. For the frosting, process all the ingredients together in a food processor for about 1 minute.
          5. Scrape down the sides of the food processor and continue to process for another minute until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
          6. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

          Here are some photographs of what I got up to over the Halloween weekend:

          1. Carving pumpkins with UBU Green Thursdays.

            My pumpkin at the beginning.

            The unscooped insides (including seeds) of my pumpkin.
            Scooping the flesh out of the pumpkin was very messy!

            My finished carved pumpkin!
          2. Archery's Halloween session, for which I dressed up as Jafar from Aladdin (there was a long black skirt)!

          3. Singing with BUSOM at the university's Red Ribbon Society's open mic night. This was my costume for being a magic broom from the Sorcerer's Apprentice in Fantasia.

          Friday, 30 October 2015

          Pumpkin Risotto

          Fun fact: this year is only the second time I've celebrated Halloween.  Last year, I went to my university's media areas Halloween social in the bar of our local theatre.  I was supposed to be dressed up as a naughty fairy princess (legitimate thing.  She's called Esmeralda.  I also dressed up as a younger version of her when I was 5 and a half for a school disco), but when I arrived at my friend's house to get changed for the social, I couldn't find my necklaces and headband in my bag.  Panicking that I had lost the black and gold sequin necklaces and headband that my mum made for me when I was 5 forever, I quickly rang her and much to my relief, I'd actually left them in my pencilcase on my bed.  I still went as a very unglamorous naughty fairy princess (black top, black tights and gold skirt) though.  This year (tomorrow) for Halloween, I'm going to archery in the morning, and then to a friend's to watch a couple of films (much like I did 2 weeks ago, and this week's choices are Repo! The Genetic Opera and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, both also being musicals).  We're then going with our friends to perform at the Red Ribbon Society's open mic night, where we will sing songs such as This is Halloween from The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Time Warp from Rocky Horror.  Finally, we're going to another friend's house for a little Halloween social.  The plan for my costume is a magic broom similar to the ones seen in the Sorcerer's Apprentice sequence of Fantasia, but if I don't manage to borrow a yellow skirt, I'm going to go as Jafar from Aladdin!  What/who is anybody else dressing up as for Halloween?  If you're hosting a Halloween party, maybe you need something savoury to serve to your guests before you eat all the chocolate.  I found this pumpkin risotto recipe on the BBC Good Food website and it seems easy enough for me!


          1 small pumpkin or butternut squash - after peeling and scraping out the seeds, you need about 400g/14oz
          1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a drizzle for the pumpkin
          2 garlic cloves
          8 spring onions
          25g vegan margarine, such as Pure
          200g risotto rice
          2 teaspoons ground cumin
          1 litre hot vegetable stock, plus an extra splash if needed
          small handful coriander, roughly chopped


          1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius OR 160 degrees Celsius when using a fan oven OR gas mark 4.  Chop up the pumpkin/squash into 1.5cm cubes.  Place the cubes onto a baking tray, drizzle over some oil, then roast for 30 minutes.
          2. In the meantime, to make the risotto, put the garlic into a sandwich bag, then crush lightly with a rolling pin.
          3. Cut up the spring onions with a pair of scissors.
          4. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil with the margarine in your pan over a medium heat, but ensure it does not get too hot.  Add the spring onions and garlic.  Once the onions are soft but before they begin to brown, add the rice and cumin.  Stir well to coat in the buttery mix for about 1 minute.
          5. Add half a cup of the vegetable stock, and stir at intervals until it has all been absorbed by the rice.  Continue to add the stock and stir it in until you have used up all the stock - this should take about 20 minutes.
          6. Check that the rice is cooked.  If it isn't, add a splash more of the vegetable stock, and continue to cook for a few more minutes.  When the rice is soft enough to eat, gently stir in the chopped coriander and roasted pumpkin.

          P.S. I managed to go to the UBU Green Thursdays pumpkin-carving event after my RamAir show and a group project meeting, and carved a pumpkin for the first time.  I soon found that it was a very messy affair once I started trying to scoop the flesh out with my fingers.  I didn't do a particular specialised design on my pumpkin, while one of my friends (Emma) did the face of Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas on one side of her pumpkin, and the Deathly Hallows symbol on the other side (she's a big Harry Potter fan).  Rachel from archery did a bat on one side of her pumpkin and a witch riding on her broomstick past the moon on the other side.  I'll be bringing a few more pumpkin-based recipes from my new recipe cards soon!

            Friday, 23 October 2015

            Oreo Chocolate Cupcakes

            A few weeks ago at RamAir's 35th anniversary party, unknown to me at the time and the guest of a friend of a friend, was Yasmina Magdy.  I later learned via good old Twitter that she is the vegan and cruelty-free lifestyle Newcastle blogger of The July Journal.  Having a peak through her blog, I found some posts on food, most recently including a recipe for vegan-friendly chocolate cookies, a guide to a vegan barbecue, and the below recipe for vegan Oreo chocolate cupcakes, which Yasmina adapted from a recipe posted by Sarah from The V Nice Life.  A lot of the time, I want to try recipes but struggle to find time to gather together the ingredients to make one of them or I just don't quite have time.  Luckily, it didn't take me too long to be able to try this recipe as I decided to (almost secretly) make a batch to take to a friend's house for a lazy Saturday afternoon of watching Rent and playing card games.  My family also tried a few and actually liked them, despite being surprised at the lack of eggs or any other animal-derived ingredients!

            Ingredients (to make 12 cupcakes)

            100g vegan margarine, such as Pure
            100g caster sugar
            1 banana, mashed
            75g self-raising flour
            25g cocoa powder

            For the frosting:
            225g icing sugar
            100g vegan margarine
            4 teaspoons cocoa powder
            1 teaspoon vanilla extract
            5-6 crumbled Oreos


            1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.  Line a tin with medium-sized paper cupcake cases.
            2. Whisk together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.  Use a fork to mash up a banana, and whisk in the mashed banana with the self-raising flour and cocoa powder.
            3. Divide the mixture into 12 cupcake cases and bake for 10-14 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.  Transfer the cupcakes onto a cooling rack.
            4. For the frosting, whisk the margarine and icing sugar together.  Add the cocoa powder and vanilla extract and whisk until the mixture reaches a smooth, buttery consistency.
            5. Once the cupcakes have cooled, spread the icing onto the cakes and crumble the Oreos over the cakes.

            Friday, 16 October 2015

            Homemade Cocoa Delight Nakd Bars

            On Monday morning, when I arrived for my 9am lecture, I realised that I had completely forgotten to check if I had a water bottle in my bag or not, and found that there wasn't one.  At first, I thought I'd be fine without one for a day, but then I changed my mind because I like feeling hydrated and ran at 8:53am to the main building to buy myself a bottle of water.  I've also been feeling pretty tired lately, especially having had 24 hour show last weekend, and so when I saw the display of Nakd bars in the shop, I instantly picked up a bar in the Cocoa Delight flavour for a snack to eat on top of my own sandwich and fruit.  Nakd bars are a range of raw vegan, gluten and wheat-free wholefood snacks made with minimal ingredients.  This one contained only dates, raisins, cashew nuts and cocoa, and a couple of the other flavours contain things like orange or mint extracts or strawberries.  The sugars in Nakd bars are naturally-occurring from the fruit, and they taste pretty great too.  Unfortunately, they were being sold at 80p each, so if I want to eat them often, it's probably best that I make batches of them at home to eat whenever.

            Ingredients (to make about 12 bars)

            2 cups of dates
            1.5 cups of cashew nuts
            2 tablespoons of cocoa
            1/2 a cup of raisins


            1. Use a blender or food processor to mix all the ingredients together for a few minutes until quite dry and crumbly.
            2. Press mixture into a Clingfilm-lined baking tin, spreading evenly and making sure it is well-compressed.  Refrigerate for an hour.
            3. Remove baking tin from the fridge and cut mixture into 12 bars.

            Tuesday, 13 October 2015

            DIY Chocolate Body Scrub

            This week is National Chocolate Week, so I have a couple of posts this week to do with chocolate.  The first of those was inspired by a chat with Yasmina from about making a vegan and cruelty-free gift pack inspired by chocolate.  We were both sent an up-to-date list of vegan-friendly products by The Body Shop for reference at a future time.  Then I remembered this morning that I have a recipe for a DIY chocolate body scrub that also uses vegan and cruelty-free ingredients that you can easily find in your kitchen.  I found this recipe in The Great Big Glorious Book for Girls by Rosemary Davidson and Sarah Vine.  I've been pretty tired over the past few weeks due to uni coursework, stress over my health, and worrying about friends, so this would be a good thing for me to use to relax and finally unwind when I've finished my project proposal later this week!


            5 tablespoons sunflower oil
            4 tablespoons soft brown sugar
            1 heaped tablespoon cocoa (NOT drinking chocolate)


            1. Mix ingredients thoroughly in a bowl.
            2. The chocolate scrub will be quite runny, so it's best to use it all over your skin while in the shower and to be careful when applying.
            3. Wash it off thoroughly with your favourite soap or body wash for very soft skin!

            Friday, 9 October 2015

            Mint Chutney

            So a week after the BBC Radio 1Xtra's Academy workshops, I think I'm finally back down to Earth (and lectures).  I loved spending two days having the opportunity to both learn tips from those in the social media, blogging radio and other industries as well as network with other young people.  I exchanged social media details with two girls called Vanessa and Saphire, who are both trying to get their music (both originals and covers) out into the world.  The workshops also gave me plenty of inspiration for blogging and led me to my decision to change the name of my blog to Rainbow Sunshine Blogs.  The reasons behind this change are that I'm wanting to blog more than just about food (for example, on Monday, I posted about the 1Xtra event, and I did the travel series in August), and I'm wanting to post more often and limiting myself to a Friday just won't cut it anymore because so much is always happening.  Fridays will always be about food though.

            This evening, I'm heading to the Bradford Playhouse for the 24 hour show.  A 24 hour show is a musical where before the night before the show, only the production team know what the musical will be.  Participants arrive on the Friday night with sleeping bags, food, etc. (but no caffeine is allowed) for 24 hours, and are told what musical they will be performing on the Saturday night.  During the 24 hours, all auditions, rehearsals and set-designing and building take place.  Last year, we did The Rocky Horror Show, which was brilliant.

            For this week, I'm going to share another of the recipes from the card I picked up at the UBU Green Thursdays stall 2 weeks ago, and this one if for mint chutney.  The recipe originally called for natural yoghurt, but as usual, you can use dairy-free yoghurt to make the recipe vegan-friendly!


            3 tablespoons mint leaves, about 10g
            1 teaspoon caster sugar
            150g tub of low-fat dairy-free natural yoghurt
            a squeeze of lime or lemon


            1. Blend the mint leaves, sugar and yoghurt with some freshly-ground black pepper until well-blended.
            2. Add the lime or lemon juice before serving.

            Wednesday, 30 September 2015

            UBU Green Thursdays and Apple & Blackberry Crumble

            Last week, as I was settling in for my first RamAir show at the new time of between 11am and 1pm on Thursdays, I found that there was a rack in Student Central that was full of herbs like chives, rosemary and others as well as plums.  I looked at the What's On at the university sheet for that day, and found that this was the launch of UBU Green Thursdays Presents -, an initiative by the University of Bradford to encourage students and staff to grow their own fruits, vegetables and herbs (such as on the university's very own vegetable patches), buy food from local producers, and generally be "greener".  Today's launch was the Edible Campus Showcase, which included trying these foods harvested from the campus for free, taking an edible campus tour around the university to find the places where these fruits, vegetables and herbs are grown, and buying food from the main Richmond building canteen that was prepared using ingredients harvested on campus.  Events coming soon for Green Thursdays include a 1 Hour Love Your Campus Challenge on Thursday 1st October (yesterday) in which whichever team picks the most waste in 1 hour wins £200, a Sustainable Transport Festival on Thursday 8th October led by the Bradford Bike Hub which will include a how many people can you fit in a car challenge, an organic honey sale and cooking across campus on Thursday 22nd October, and a pumpkin cooking competition and carving, apple-bobbing, pies and peas event for Hallowe'en on Thursday 29th October.  During my RamAir show last week, which was during the Edible Campus Showcase event, I spoke on-air to Michael Allhouse from Cycling 4 All about the Green Thursdays initiative, and I've written up our little conversation below!

            Interview with Michael Allhouse from UBU Green Thursdays

            Katie: Can you tell us what this initiative is about?

            Michael: Hello, I'm Michael Allhouse from UBU and I'm running a stall here giving away free fruit and vegetables grown on our campus.

            Lavender grown on the University of Bradford campus.

            Katie: There's potatoes here, there's apples, there's blackberries, there's lavender, which I actually helped to put into bunches last week for Fresher Fayre.  And then there's a big, green - what is that?

            Michael: I think it's a marrow, but I'm not entirely convinced that I'm correct.

            Katie: Is the marrow heavy?

            Michael: It's extremely heavy, but we do want somebody to come and take it.  It's heavier than my 2 year old son, so it's pretty heavy.

            Katie: Do you know of anything you can make with marrow, to encourage people to take it?

            Michael: We do have some recipes right here, things you can make with our produce here that we are giving away, so we do have some recipe cards.

            Katie: Is there anything with marrow in those recipes?

            Michael: You had to point that out, didn't you?  No, there isn't.  I don't know anything to do with marrow.  I was trying to get out of that question.  But just so you know, the edible campus is something we are very proud of here at the University of Bradford.  All around the campus, you can find food which is grown here and we want students and staff to take it.  It's scattered around the campus.  As I said, you can take anything you can find.  You can take it, you can eat it - cook it first perhaps.

            Katie: I'm eating one of the apples now and it's quite nice, and I've had a plum and some blackberries. 

            Michael: Super!  So just to let you know, the Green Thursdays initiative - every Thursday, there's going to be a new, different event.  For example, next week we are going to be promoting sustainable transport.  We're going to be doing some trips to local beauty spots on the train.  We'll also be doing a led ride to a nearby spot.  And that will be happening every week, every Thursday there'll be some kind of green and sustainable event.  Hopefully, it'll be fun and interesting for students to get involved with. 

            Katie: There's some herbs there?

            Michael: There are indeed.  We have various things.  Dill, other herbs, again grown on campus for people to take.  They need to go so please come and take them.  The herbs are actually in Student Central all the time, so you don't just find them here today - you'll find them on other occasions too.

            Katie: So can you identify any of these herbs?

            Michael: Yes, I can.  We've got chives, thyme, rosemary, mint, sage, parsley, dill, all kinds of stuff.  We've already had a number of people point out to me that all of this stuff costs a great deal of money in Tesco, in the supermarket, so there's big savings to be made by taking this free stuff and please do.  Please encourage students to do so.

            Katie: So this is in Student Central.  Are you here until a particular time?

            Michael: We'll probably be here until about 2 or 3pm, or at least until the marrow goes.  So one HUGE marrow is left.  We've already had one huge marrow taken and there's one to go, so please come and take it.

            Katie: I've seen on your leaflets that you have tips for being greener.

            Michael: Yes, we do.  There's a lot here about saving water and saving energy, so please come here and get our tip sheet.  Another thing we have been promoting is that we actually have free allotments here at the University of Bradford, so if anybody wants an allotment, just contact the Students Union.  They're free to students for you to do with as you wish - y'know, for food, that is!

            Katie: Do you think it's difficult to be sustainable and green as a student?

            Michael: Umm, no?  But it might not be at the top of anybody's priority list.  And we understand that, but of course any little effort you can make is a good thing and most students have got a sort of commitment to that sort of thing.  We're giving away little 2 minute timers for people to use in their showers, challenging people to shower for 2 minutes to save water, save energy, but hopefully still get clean.

            Katie: I'd find that difficult, I think.  So do you have any recommendations of where else to find information about this?

            Michael: Yes, we have all these leaflets and the herbs will be in Student Central all the time, so just come to the Students Union reception any time and pick up our advice leaflets as well.  Get involved with Green Thursdays.  We're here every Thursday doing something sustainable.

            Katie: Will you have the smoothie bike around?

            Michael: The smoothie bike will be on in about 2 weeks, so it'll be here in Student Central in a couple of weeks.

            An orange, grape and apple smoothie, produced using the smoothie bike!

            Katie: Thank you for talking to us.

            Michael: Thank you!

            Apple and Blackberry Crumble

            At the stall, there was also a recipe sheet containing dishes that incorporated items of the foods and herbs grown on-campus.  This apple and blackberry crumble incorporates both apples and blackberries, which could both be found on-campus!


            For the crumble topping:
            120g plain flour
            60g caster sugar
            60g margarine (such as Pure) at room temperature, cut into pieces

            For the fruit compote:
            300g apples
            30g margarine
            30g demerara sugar
            115g blackberries
            1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
            vanilla ice cream, to serve (you can use vanilla banana nice cream)


            1. Heat oven to 190 degrees Celsius / 170 degrees Celsius with fan oven / gas mark 5.
            2. Tip the flour and sugar into a large bowl.  Add the margarine, then rub into the flour using your fingertips to make a light breadcrumb texture.  Do not overwork it or the crumble will become heavy.  Sprinkle the mixture evenly over a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until lightly coloured.
            3. Meanwhile, for the compote, peel, core and cut the apples into 2cm dice.  Put the margarine and sugar in a medium saucepan and melt together over a medium heat.  Cook for 3 minutes until the mixture turns to a light caramel colour.
            4. Stir in the apple and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the blackberries and cinnamon, and cook for 3 minutes more.
            5. Cover, remove from the heat, then leave for 2-3 minutes to continue cooking in the warmth of the pan.
            6. To serve, spoon the warm fruit into an ovenproof gratin dish, top with the crumble mix, then reheat in the oven for 5-10 minutes.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.

              Friday, 25 September 2015

              Lime and Chilli Aubergines with Peanuts

              It's now the end of my 2nd week back at uni (well, my 3rd if you count volunteering the week before Fresher Week) and I already feel like I might drown in my final year.  My current extra-curricular activities are BUSOM (musical theatre), RamAir (student radio) and archery (I finally started this last week and I'm very excited), but I'm scared about having to give anything up to fit in more studying.  In my ideal world, I set out on a piece of paper which lectures or activities I need to attend each day, add in things like what I want to watch on TV at home or read, and then I add in the generic task "do uni work".  I don't set myself specific targets of what coursework I do each day, but I just try to make sure to do some, and until I feel like I've done enough work, that task won't be checked off.  In March is BUSOM's production of Back to the 80s, and I'm already panicking a little bit about that because I'm on the production team (I volunteered to do this because it sounds like a fun musical to do) and I'll need to be concentrating on BOTH that AND my final project after Christmas and not just my final project.  I also want to separate myself from all my to-do lists a bit because I feel bad about not having done everything on time and I feel like I'm not "free" enough, but I also need all those reminders to function properly.  I guess that next semester, I just have to get a routine going and make sure that I've done enough work before Back to the 80s to leave a few days without too much work, but leave time to relax as well.  It's going to get complicated ... Meanwhile, it's getting a bit cooler and wetter as we enter the autumn months (and in mid-September as well - I started asking the universe for sunshine and warmth during Fresher Fayre last week through some solo dance parties, and it kinda worked), but if we're lucky, we might still get a couple of days where it's warm enough for a barbecue.  You can even do this one if you're a student, so if it's warm enough, grab your new/old friends for a barbecue and have a go at this recipe for aubergines stuffed with lime, chilli, coriander, spring onions and peanuts that I found in the 2015 edition of the Tesco Food Family Living magazine!

              Ingredients (serves 6)

              3 aubergines, halved lengthways
              2 tablespoons sesame oil
              3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
              2 limes, juiced
              3 spring onions
              2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped
              oil, for brushing
              50g (2 oz) dry roasted peanuts, roughly chopped


              1. Using a sharp knife, deeply score the flesh of each aubergine in a diamond pattern.  Squeeze to open up the cuts.
              2. In a small bowl, combine the sesame oil, 1 tablespoon coriander and the lime juice.  Brush the mixture over each aubergine, pushing it into the cuts.  Scatter the spring onions and chilli over the aubergines.  Wrap each aubergine in oiled foil and barbecue, among the coals, for 30 minutes.  If not using a barbecue, grill at 180 degrees Celsius for 20-30 minutes, or until softened and cooked through.
              3. Unwrap the aubergines and arrange on a serving platter.  Scatter the remaining coriander and peanuts over the aubergines.

                Thursday, 24 September 2015

                Katie's Summertime Foodie Adventures Summer 2015!

                As well as a recipe (to be published tomorrow), this week, I've decided to share a few food photos from restaurants I've been to between April and August 2015.  This isn't a definitive snapshot (I've left out that gorgeous Pianta pizza from Pizza Express, for example), but there were a few pretty good dishes.

                1. Oreo Slice at the Pavilion Café Bar, Bradford - this is just a short walk away from my university, so I'd come here one day in late April for my lunch between my final lecture (well, it was actually a lab session, in which I was doing a website presentation) for 2nd year and going to get ready for Colours Ball.  I'd had jam on toast for my main course, followed by this Oreo slice.
                  Oreo Slice

                2. Artisan Romaine Salad at California Grill, Disney's Contemporary Resort in Florida - this was my starter when we ate at the California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort for my dad's birthday dinner.  Our dinner reservation was at about 9:20pm, so this was what I was eating when the truly magical Night-time Spectacular fireworks display started at the Magic Kingdom.  I therefore abandoned this dish for about 10 minutes so I could take 50 photographs of the fireworks.  NOTE:  This dish is supposed to have boquerones (fresh anchovies) in it, but I asked not to have them.
                  Artisan Romaine Salad
                3. Toasted Goat’s Cheese with Roast Butternut Squash Mousse, Ginger and Pumpkin Seeds, English Watercress,  Almond Quinoa with Roast Squash and Beetroot, Summer Courgettes, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Crumbled Goat’s Cheese and Pomegranate Dressing, and Iced Blackberry Parfait, Vanilla and Orange Granola, Poached Blackberries at Eric's in Huddersfield  - we'd come to this restaurant to celebrate my brother's GCSE results.
                  Toasted Goat's Cheese with Roast Butternut Squash Mousse,
                  Ginger and Pumpkin Seeds and English Watercress.

                  Almond Quinoa with Roast Squash and Beetroot, Summer Courgettes,
                  Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Crumbled Goat’s Cheese
                  and Pomegranate Dressing.

                  Iced Blackberry Parfait, Vanilla and Orange Granola, and Poached Blackberries .

                Friday, 18 September 2015

                Shortcake Cookies

                Now that I've finished my Adventures in the USA series and it's now time for uni to start again (final year), there's several recipes that I want to share.  For the next few weeks, I'll be sharing recipes I've found in the June 2015 edition of the Tesco Food Family Living magazine.  The first of these recipes will be for shortcake cookies.  The original recipe includes a double cream, yoghurt and strawberry filling, but I decided to leave that bit out because my brother doesn't like strawberries (I love them though) and because I wanted to make this recipe vegan.  To do this, I swapped butter for Pure, a dairy-free vegan margarine that was recommended to me a few months ago when I was experimenting with recipes for chocolate Rice Krispie nests for a "Ladies Tea Party" at uni just after Easter.


                (makes about 12 small cookies)
                150g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
                40g plus 1 tablespoon caster sugar
                100g vegan margarine, such as Pure


                1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 160 degrees Celsius if using a fan oven / gas mark 4.
                2. Measure out the sugar and margarine into a bowl and use an electric whisk to beat the two until smooth.
                3. Work in the flour to make a dry dough.  Wrap in Clingfilm and chill for 20 minutes.
                4. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a long baguette-like stick.  Divide the dough into 12 approximately equal portions.
                5. Use your hands to flatten each portion of dough to about 5mm thick.  Use an approximately 7cm/3 inch diameter cutter to cut a round cookie out of each portion.  Re-roll the scraps if needed.
                6. Cook on a lined baking tray for 12-15 minutes until golden.
                7. Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
                8. Serve with strawberries or banana nice cream.

                Friday, 11 September 2015

                Adventures in the USA part 8 - Magic Kingdom, Disney World Florida

                On our final day at the parks, we were at the Magic Kingdom.  The Magic Kingdom is usually the first park we visit, but this time, it was the last.  We visited the Magic Kingdom on Friday 17th July 2015, the day of the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Disneyland Resort in California, and also coincidentally my dad's 60th birthday.  Therefore, he was the one who wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom for his birthday.  My favourite of the Disney World theme parks has always been the Magic Kingdom.  There's Cinderella's Castle, so many Disney characters to meet, some of my favourite rides and attractions, and they have the spectacular firework display, Wishes Night-time  Spectacular, every night.  As a result, it's quite difficult to pick top 5s, but after some VERY careful thinking, I think I have my list of my top 5 rides and top 5 attractions at Disney's Magic Kingdom:

                Top 5

                • Mickey's Philar Magic - This attraction in the Fantasyland section of the Magic Kingdom is the only thing my family and I did twice (well, my brother didn't, but he was on Space Mountain at that time, and the rest of us don't like Space Mountain), and it's probably been an absolute favourite since we first went to Disney World Florida in August 2004.  Mickey's Philar Magic is a 3D spectacular that follows Donald Duck as he travels through scenes from classic Disney films such as Beauty and the Beast (Be Our Guest), Fantasia (The Sorcerer's Apprentice sequence), The Lion King (I Just Can't Wait to be King), The Little Mermaid (Part Of Your World), Peter Pan (You Can Fly!) and Aladdin (A Whole New World) in pursuit of Maestro Mickey's sorcerer hat after he touches the hat against Mickey's orders.  Expect pies, plates, champagne bottles, Flounder, jewels and flutes to be in very close proximity to your faces as the 3D effect brings everything to life!  Obviously, this isn't anywhere near as good as seeing it in person and isn't of the best quality, but if you want to see Mickey's Philar Magic outside of the park, I found a video of it to watch here!
                • Tomorrowland Speedway - I may not be able to drive on real roads yet (although I am more than old enough, I'm only now about to try to start learning to drive again), I can just about manage a car on the speedway race track.  Well, slightly.  I find it difficult to steer around curves in the track, so it feels a bit bumpy, but it's less stressful than a real road.
                • Splash Mountain - As someone who is definitely scared of heights (amongst many other things), Splash Mountain and its steep 50 foot drop is probably an interesting option to be on my top 5 list.  When I was 11 years old, I had my eyes squeezed shut when it came to the drop, so I look funny in the photograph we have from it.  However, while I'm still scared of heights, I can still tolerate Splash Mountain it has the lighting element that Space Mountain lacks (Space Mountain is very dark and has far too many sudden rises, drops and turns) and it also depicts animated segments from Song of the South, telling the story of Br'er Rabbit.  The drop represents Br'er Rabbit's fall into the Briar Patch.  Also, you'll get wet and also possibly soaked on this ride!
                • Cinderella's Castle
                  Cinderella's Castle from a bit closer.
                  A statue of Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse.
                • It's A Small World - I think this is another ride to have changed in the past 5 years, and it now includes the famous It's A Small World song being sung in different languages as you see the puppets throughout the boat ride.
                • Wishes Nighttime Spectacular - Normally, we see this from the actual Magic Kingdom, standing near the Walt Disney Railroad at the entrance to Main Street USA.  This time, we saw my favourite fireworks display ever from behind Cinderella's Castle, from our table at the California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort.  Before now, we didn't realise how far behind the castle the fireworks were actually set off, and it was interesting to see it from a new and different angle.  We even had the restaurant lights dimmed and soundtrack to the display playing in the restaurant, so we could hear what viewers in the park itself could hear.  In fact, I stopped eating my starter at the restaurant to grab my camera and take 50 photos of the fireworks, my favourites of which are below!
                • Cinderella's Castle at night from the California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort.

                  Wishes Night-time Spectacular.

                  In case that's difficult to see, it's a golden firework shower.

                For my dad's birthday dinner, Mum tried to secretly make a reservation for the California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort, which is only a short monorail ride away from the Magic Kingdom.  However, this reservation appeared on the My Disney Experience app that Dad had downloaded onto his smartphone (this app is useful for booking Fast Passes in advance), so it was no longer a secret.  Something I have discovered recently is that I find eating 3 course meals very difficult and I can get bad tummy ache.  Instead of having a heavy starter and a heavy main course, I opted for the House-Made Potato Gnocchi Salad for mains and the Artisan Romaine Salad for starters, for which I have recreated the recipe below!


                4 large romaine lettuce hearts per person
                sun-dried tomato pieces
                roasted garlic dressing (recipe below)


                1. Wash and arrange the four lettuce hearts on each plate.
                2. Scatter the sun-dried tomato pieces and croutons amongst the lettuce.
                3. Drizzle with roasted garlic dressing and serve.

                Roasted Garlic Dressing Ingredients (to make 1/2 cup of dressing)

                1 large head or 2 small heads of garlic
                4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
                2 tablespoons balsamic or red-wine vinegar
                1 tablespoon lime juice
                1/8th teaspoon salt
                freshly-ground pepper, to taste


                1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius or 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
                2. Rub off the excess papery skin from the garlic without separating the cloves.  Slice the tips of the head (or heads), exposing the ends of the cloves.
                3. Place the garlic on a piece of foil, drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and wrap into a package.
                4. Put in a baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes to 1 hour until the garlic is very soft.  Unwrap and let the garlic cool slightly.
                5. Squeeze the garlic pulp into a blender or food processor (discard the skins).
                6. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper and blend or process until smooth.
                7. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

                Artisan Romaine Salad

                This post marks the end of my Adventures in the USA series, so we'll be back to normal in the next few weeks.  This week, I've been volunteering with packing Team Bradford bags in preparation for Freshers week, so there's been a couple of achy arms and trying to avoid papercuts from putting all the paper into bags.  I'll be starting my final year of university on Monday (well, next week is Freshers week and lectures start the Monday after that, but I'm volunteering during Freshers week) and some other very exciting things will be happening this year as well, so stay tuned!

                Friday, 4 September 2015

                Adventures in the USA part 7 - Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney World Florida

                Day number 8 (Thursday) of our 10 days in Florida actually started with my observation that my bow-drawing arm (my right arm, seeing as I'm right-handed) hurt.  To actually see if it was still aching at various points during the day, I actually positioned my arms as if I was holding a bow and drew my right arm back as if preparing to shoot an arrow at an imaginary target.  You can probably see how excited I was already to start properly going to archery at uni in September!  Anyway, although I didn't encounter any Disney character who was experienced in archery (such as Merida, Robin Hood or even Mulan) while I was there, my day at Disney Hollywood Studios was actually the first day that I'd really encountered characters in the parks (although I'd briefly seen Pluto while entering Epcot on Monday).  This was the day of many Frozen sing-alongs as various areas of the park were struck by Frozen fever!  In light of this, Frozen attractions will appear in my top 5 for Disney's Hollywood Studios.

                Top 5

                • For the First Time in Forever: A "Frozen" Sing-Along Celebration - Before seeing this show, my brother had managed to avoid seeing Frozen or really hearing the story of it.  Obviously, he'd heard Let It Go and Do You Want To Build A Snowman multiple times (like on the radio or from my iPod or from me just singing them), but for the times I'd seen it, he'd been a) at school when I first saw it in cinema (I saw it the day after finishing my first set of uni assessments in 1st year), at home while I saw it at my uni's student cinema with my friends, or just in another place in the house when I'd watched it on DVD at home.  He has now watched Frozen since coming home from Florida, but this 30 minute abridged version of the most recent film in the Disney Princess franchise was actually his first experience with it.  This version told the story of Frozen in 30 minutes using two narrators, the newly appointed historians of Arendelle, actors playing Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Elsa, and was punctuated with a screen that showed clips from the movie for each song and had the lyrics of the songs for the audience to sing along.  Of course, my brother was not happy to have me sitting next to him as I excitedly sang along to Let It Go, Love Is An Open Door and the other songs.  In the evening was "Coolest Summer Ever" Dance Party, a DJ-led mini disco which included Uptown Funk and YMCA, followed by the Frozen Fireworks Spectacular accompanied by even more singing along to the songs from Frozen!
                Grass sculptures of Elsa and Anna.
                • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular - This show based on Raiders of the Lost Ark invited volunteers from the audience to learn a few low-level stunts and participate in an Indiana Jones stunt show that included falling from building into soft beds, acrobatics from a Cairo marketplace set, staged fight sequences, a giant boulder chasing Indiana Jones, explosions, and fires.
                • Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show - There are little changes to this ride between times of seeing it, but the premise stays the same - cars do stunts including flying through the air off a ramp, driving across the roof of a "fruit stand", high-speed car chases, cars changing behind the scenes (ssshhhh), motorbikes driving through a line of fire and the cyclist being extinguished, and a remote control being handed to a member of the audience so that they "control" a seemingly empty car.  On a previous visit, the well-known Disney car that visited in this show was Herbie (The Love Bug, Herbie Rides Again, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, Herbie Goes Bananas, and Herbie Fully Loaded), but this time it was Lightning McQueen of the Disney Pixar film Cars.
                • Walt Disney: One Man's Dream - I think this is a new attraction in the past 5 years, because I don't recall having seen it before.  It's an exhibition of both original and replica artefacts used by Walt Disney himself (including a school desk) or clips and items used in landmark Disney films, short films and television shows, including new camera and motion techniques, the development of Mickey Mouse from an earlier version of his appearance to the appearance that we know and love today, merchandise, the Mickey Mouse Club, and the promotional programmes surrounding the opening of the Disneyland Park in California (which celebrated its 60th birthday on 17th July 2015, while I was at the Magic Kingdom park in Florida instead).  The exhibition actually charts most of Walt Disney's life, as well as plans for the developments of the parks after his death (including the different parks at Disney World Florida, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, and Shanghai Disney Resort (due to open in 2016).
                • Fantasmic! - This fireworks display is a story told through the colourful imagination of Mickey Mouse as the Sorceror's Apprentice (as seen in Fantasia).  The audience sees scenes from Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Aladdin and The Little Mermaid through Mickey's imagination, but when Mickey encounters Disney villains including Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Cruella De Vil and Scar, his dreams quickly turn into a nightmare.  Disney's animations projected onto walls of water, fireworks and laser lights bring this show-stopping performance to life as Mickey fights against the villains of Disney films past.

                It's very dark, but a statue of a 1930s movie director
                 using the viewing scope on his camera.  More information here.

                Long have I heard about smoothies or homemade juices with carrots in them, but I've not tried it in person before.  This may be about to change.  In the past year, you've probably seen me go from only drinking water (and the irregular cup of coffee or tea) to really getting into my smoothie recipes, which is thanks to Ally Sheehan and the smoothie bike at uni.  This time, I have found a smoothie recipe on the Disney Mickey Check website that I found while in Florida, and it's probably sure to leave you with plenty of orange energy as it has both carrots and oranges!

                Ingredients (serves 2, but may only serve 1)

                1 cup orange juice
                2 cups strawberries
                1/2 cup carrots
                1 orange, peeled
                1 medium banana


                1. Cut up strawberries, carrots, orange and banana.
                2. Pour orange juice into the blender and then add the cut up fruit.
                3. Blend until the smoothie reaches your desired consistency.