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 ...