Recipe: Vegetarian Stew & Dumplings for Really Hungry Students

One of my favourite meals is a stew, casserole or hearty chunky soup. They are easy to cook, freeze really well, and are comforting and relatively healthy. They don’t have to take forever to cook up to – yes, a good beef stew takes a day in a slow cooker, but I can generally whip up a sausage casserole, chorizo soup or vegetarian stew in under an hour after work. A chop of veg, a shake of various seasonings, a splash of whatever I can find, quick stir and then it’s ready to simmer whilst I get on with whatever else I have to do. It sits virtually unattended, filling the kitchen with delicious smells, and is ready to go with just a bit of veg, some bread, or perhaps some mash if I’m feeling up to a little more prep.

 photo 8eb920f9-190a-4501-bd12-c499cd158fae_zps0da92cb2.jpgWhen I was offered a copy of The Really Hungry Vegetarian Student Cookbook to review, I was initially a little dubious. I’m far from a vegetarian. I don’t actually eat a lot of meat, but I do tend to throw a little bit in most meals to add flavour. A bit of chorizo in a stew makes it (to me) seem far more special. Some bacon sprinkled in a Mac’n’Cheese just finishes it off. I also like to use meaty stock in any ‘veggie’ dishes I do make as I think it just works a little better. But anyway, I challenged myself to cook a recipe strictly from this book. Or as much as I could, as vegetarians do like their tomatoes! I went for this veggie stew, as I had everything in my kitchen already. Bar veggies sausages, which I just omitted.

 photo baa46a0e-84ce-44de-bfbe-8221bf830138_zps71e5ed45.jpgThis stew is actually pretty amazing. Filling, super hearty, super healthy, and the gravy is pretty damn good considering there’s no meat involved. But it wouldn’t be cheap to make. As a student I wouldn’t tend to cook with wine, and I also only have balsamic vinegar in because I’m on placement year and thus earning a good wage. I found this a regular problem with this book, recipes seemed to require a few expensive additions, or some complicated cooking (too much deep frying, the idea terrifies me!). Having said that, it has some lovely breakfast ideas, some great sandwich combinations, and I’m working towards adapting their baked beans recipe to be tomato-free.

 photo db90df76-cb13-491f-9b3d-e188189e3c92_zps9a4b77d6.jpgI’m not going to repeat the recipe on here (for fear of copyright legalities!) but I will hint towards it. It’s super easy, frying off onions, adding seasoning and wine, boiling off the alcohol, adding other veg, stock and simmering away in the oven. Dumplings are made from butter (not suet, as is my usual) and flour, with plenty of herbs. Add salt and pepper too, which the book omitted. Then plop into the stew and bake until golden. The dumplings needed longer cooking in my opinion, but the ratio of double the flour to butter was spot on. It made a heart meal, that needed nothing else apart from some green veg. I felt super virtuous eating it, and knowing I had five portions of the stew ready for quick dinners and microwaved lunches in the coming weeks.

 photo 255218db-f225-47a7-8b8a-16b8a33170aa_zps7b5db913.jpgIf you’re a vegetarian bored of your meals, or simply want to get more veg into your diet, then I highly recommend this cookbook. If you’re looking for a budget option, it’s probably not for you. But its a cookbook I will continue to refer to you for a good few years. Despite having far too many of the things…

Do you eat vegetarian food? What’s your favourite veggie recipe?

What’s Occurring Wednesday: Blogs I’m Loving

I tend to go through stages over which blogs I love. I actually follow over 1200 blogs on Bloglovin’ – enough to have been accused of following just to get followers. I will freely admit I don’t read every single post in my feed. At around 200+ a day I’d spend all my time reading if I did! However I do read every post that appeals to me (title and first image is a biggy!), regardless of blogger.

 photo Blogs_zps968f0717.jpgAnd I go through stages where I will pretty much stalk certain bloggers, obsessively reading every single post. Generally because they are bloggers I aspire to be, maybe they are doing a series that I find really interesting, or because I just love their writing style. Today I’ll share with you my current favourites…

 photo LittleMissKaty_zps9aedce38.pngLittle Miss Katy is a relatively new blogger, and I’m fairly sure I was amongst her earliest followers. I came across her on a Twitter chat, found her blog, and loved it immediately. Her humour is great, it feels like chatting to a friend, and I know that after a bad day, curling up with a cuppa and catching up with her blog is going to make me feel better. She’s done amazingly well for someone who’s only been blogging for a matter of months, and I imagine her blog being hugely, hugely successful. I know who has my vote in the 2015 Blog Awards Lifestyle Category!

 photo CiderwithRosie_zps922a07bf.pngCider with Rosie is another blog that I know will instantly improve my day. I’m utterly jealous of this girls seemingly perfect life. A stunning place to live, countryside, an absolutely lovely proposal (I can’t begin to imagine how wonderful her wedding will be), and a cute spaniel that almost rivals my dog’s cuteness. This blog has the best mix of lifestyle and recipes. Her photography is gorgeous too.

 photo EmTalks_zps90c8f3d3.pngEm Talks is yet another blogger I’m jealous of. All of a sudden she’s jetted off to Canada, and is also spending lots of time across America. I was green-eyed reading her New York posts, and now she’s had a trip to Cuba?! I’m sure there’s room in her suitcase for little ol’me! I’ve not been one to get into travel blogs, but this one has just enough balance between beauty, reviews and travel to mean I’m not too jealous to unfollow.

 photo Gh0stparties_zps57161011.pngOnto a more beauty based blog now; this was really hard for me. I follow a lot of beauty bloggers, but typically only read posts about products that appeal to me. Gh0stparties is a blogger who doesn’t just stick to beauty, there’s a lot of interior and lifestyle posts. But when she does do beauty, she does it well. And again, stunning photography which is always a winner in my Bloglovin’ feed. I only wish my own photos matched up to my expectations!

 photo Ginevrella_zpsf8690b4a.pngGinevrella is a blog I came across when Jennifer entered and won my giveaway. I couldn’t have wished for a more lovely blogger to win, especially after the comp was annoying posted across a certain forum and so resulted in lots of non-reader entries. Grrr. Ranting over, I’m so glad to have come across this blog. Chatty, friendly style, simple design (mine really needs an update!) and yet another cute dog. I may have only been a follower for a few days, but I’ve read all her old posts. That’s the sign of a great blog!

 photo LittlePaperSwans_zpsde277542.pngAnd finally we have Little Paper Swans. I love this for the sheer variety of posts, and again the photographs. The recipes are pretty lovely sounding, and I have bookmarked many of them to make. Not a blog I’ve known for long, but again I’ve read through all posts.

It was so difficult to write this post. I love so many different blogs, so many different bloggers. Writing a definitive list was impossible, and I know I’ve missed so many off! Who are your favourite bloggers? Any recommendations for me?

Beauty: DIY Brightening Face Mask

I’ve always been slightly averse to chemicals. I hate using bleach and strong cleaning chemicals. One, they hurt my nose (it’s a lot more sensitive now, despite being 15+ months post surgery). Two, I just don’t think they are necessary. There are nicer things that do just a good a job. Same with cosmetics. Obviously I do use chemicals, the majority of things I do use are still high-street bought. But I do try and use natural alternatives where possible. Coconut oil for body moisturising. Deep conditioners of egg, honey and more coconut oil. And now this face mask.

 photo de9eb07c-573d-4495-bbc7-e235a89d129b_zps28cf9bf9.jpgThis is a real weekly treat for the skin, I’ve found its making a visible difference now I’ve used it for a while. The honey moisturises (and is also great for blemishes). The turmeric brightens and adds subtle and gentle exfoliation. Rosewater is a great natural toner, refreshing, as well as adding a lovely scent. I use Steenbergs Organic Rose Water* from Real Foods (a site I love for natural buys!), and I reckon this is the best value I’ve found.

 photo f795e6af-9c29-4fb6-a316-9d2262c8d030_zps4501dddd.jpgMixing up is ridiculously simple. Half a teaspoon of turmeric, a teaspoon of honey, and rosewater to thin slightly. Mix together, apply, and leave for 5-10 minutes. Wash off well. Alternatively, leave the rosewater out and sweep some over skin with a cotton pad after washing the mask off. Be warned though – don’t use this wearing nice clothes. Turmeric stains like hell, which is another reason why you don’t want to leave this mask on too long.
 photo ce1dc4f8-704e-4f77-9982-9f9e327a2a5b_zps94085404.jpg

That’s it. Quick, easy and no nasty unpronounceable chemicals. Do you make your own beauty products, or prefer more natural alternatives? 

Lifestyle: Tea & Cake at Beckworth Emporium

Or rather, hot chocolate and cake…

 photo cca63e43-51cc-429b-a5fd-cd1a150c39bd_zps797b6b1b.jpgTrying to make the post of our weekends together is getting a little more difficult for myself and boyfriend. He’s entering a busy period at university, lots of project deadlines, lots of group meetings, and I’m undergoing a relatively large project at work. If we know we’ve got a busy weekend, we’ll agree to go out for just a few hours with no distractions. The time means we focus on each other rather than anything else (an important thing in a long distance relationship!), and generally pack those hours with fun and (usually) yummy food.

 photo 2014-11-08170536_zpsca28f49e.jpgLast time I saw him we decided to head into the countryside (along with our good friend Howard) for a little afternoon snack at a local ‘garden centre.’ Beckworth Emporium is so much more than a typical garden centre, with a pretty cool farm shop, lots of gifts, the usual plants, and an impressive eating area. I’m desperate to go for afternoon tea one day, but they look huge. I struggled with the relatively small one I had earlier in the year, so I reckon this would defeat me!

 photo 2014-11-08170436_zps7dead638.jpgI ordered their Ultimate Hot Chocolate with Cream and Marshmallows, alongside their Chocolate & Salted Caramel cake. It might have been chocolate overload, and I might have been on a sugar high for the next few hours, but I have no regrets. Their hot chocolates is one of the best around. Not too rich, but chocolatey and none of the powdery nonsense in the bottom of the cup. The cake was pretty special too. Moist, rich, with a sweet icing just offset enough by the saltiness of the caramel. A huge and generous slice too, you certainly get your monies worth at Beckworth!

 photo 2014-11-08170502_zpsc394d724.jpgThe boys had tea and scones. I’m not really a scone person, but they had no complaints. There was the usual debate over whether to jam them cream, or cream then jam – any advice on this?!

 photo 2014-11-08170747_zpsdfe810c4.jpgI’m hoping to head back to Beckworth Emporium closer to Christmas – they have an ice rink, with incredibly pricing skating lessons. I’ve always loved ice skating, but have next to no confidence, so I’m thinking of going for a lesson or two in the hope of stopping me from holding onto the side. Ice skating followed by hot chocolate, sounds good to me!
 photo 2014-11-08170736_zps9e8a1a45.jpgNow a cheeky request- I’d love it if you could vote for me in the 2015 UK Blog Awards. I’m lucky enough be in the Food, Young Bloggers (not too sure where this entry is) and Lifestyle categories! And if you vote for me I’ll post out cake… ;)

Where’s your favourite place to go for ‘tea’ and cake? 

What’s Occurring Wednesday: Body Image

Sunday night’s #lbloggers chat topic set my spark off, and I couldn’t help but write this post. It was all about body image, about how blogger shouldn’t be “thin and pretty.” And to an extent it was lovely, it wasn’t judgmental. I find the girls who take part of these chats are genuinely lovely girls, I’ve made some great friends who I hope to meet in person, and I love my cosy Sundays/Wednesdays taking part.

 photo 2014-09-13150145_zps6a3c57b6.jpgHowever it is true there are bloggers out there who do judge. But even worse are the people who you know in real life, you know, those “friends” who you just know talk about you behind your back? I’m luckily (I hope!) shot of people like that now, but I will admit much of my teenage years was pretty much ruined by behaviour like that.

 photo 10464251_10201833358628057_7137741447011300528_n_zpsda2dc99f.jpgI went to an all-girls school until I finished my GCSE’s. There was the general nastiness all the way through, but a couple of horrendous incidents still make me want to cry even now. The time when one of my best friends accused me of something I didn’t do when we were thirteen? We haven’t spoken since, though luckily the friends she tried to steal away mostly came back. The time I was rather ill, and off school for week? Yep, you guessed it, the rumours flying around were unreal. Pregnancy, drug use, suicidal, and then the backlash of ‘faking it.’ They were my major incidents, but there were so, so, so many others in my form group. I’m not going to go into details, but there was a lot of bullying. I’d say I suffered every single school year from bullying of some kind, some years worse than others, and I’m sure I probably hurt people too, in an effort to fit it (and I’m sorry if I did). Sure, we all had a laugh some of the time, but in reality I’m in regular contact with one, perhaps two, out of these thirty girls. I saw an old classmate on the train a few weeks ago and felt physically sick. It was then that I knew how much those years had affected me.

 photo 2014-09-13150222_zpscf8356a1.jpgYes, I was bullied some of the time. It wasn’t particularly bad bullying, but it was enough to knock my confidence, enough to make me doubt myself. I straightened my hair until it fell out as I wanted to fit in. I hid my (curvy but slim size 10) body in baggy clothes. I started refusing to go out. More than a few lunches went uneaten. Even now I can feel extremely self-conscious around a group of girls. Living with my amazing housemates last year helped loads, as did my lovely maths friends, but I sometimes wonder if I will ever not feel a little bit of regret over my school years.

 photo 2014-11-09162706-1_zps6fa069e9.jpgI was lucky enough to move schools, get great A-levels, meet my soulmate, and make some amazing guy friends (and they do wonders for your confidence – 8 dates to the prom?! Hell yeah!). I went to university and made friends for life on the first night, then again in the first lecture. I have the confidence to wear the clothes I like, slick on a bold lipstick and head out in public. I even (finally) had the confidence to post a full picture of myself on here last week, and that was terrifying! Yes, some of the time I get anxious, but at the moment I’m strong enough to overcome it. I know some people aren’t as lucky, and still struggle now. But I want to tell you this; it will get better. You are lovely just the way you are, so please don’t let those people get you down!

And that is my little rant over. Now look in the mirror and repeat five times ‘I am beautiful’, then head out with a smile on your face. And let it all out – has anyone ever damaged your confidence?

Beauty: Benefit Concealer Dupe

A scary four years ago, Glamour (I think!) ran an issue which included a free Benefit stick. There were 3 offers; Bad Gal liner, Eye Bright and It Stick. I’m not too sure which of these are sold anymore, but I’m pretty sure It Stick isn’t. And that’s the one I’m going to talk about today.

 photo 0d6575df-7ab4-4a4d-8737-d7f5e25d2c59_zpsc687ad71.jpgIt Stick was my first experience with a concealer, and I loved it. Pale enough for me (how rare), cream and easily blended, and it stayed put pretty well. Used on top of a more liquid concealer (Seventeen Stay Time is the only one pale enough so far) it virtually cancels out my under-eye shadows. I’ve used it well, and still have it now (every few months I sharpen well to get rid of germs). I knew it was coming to an end so started looking for an alternative.

 photo 4d3f2a98-198d-40ee-973b-d4020038b7fd_zps29ea003d.jpgI honestly didn’t expect to find one so quickly, or so cheaply. I was just browsing the MUA stand, trying to find a free third product (I do love 3 for 2 deals) and noticed this. Swatched and was surprised on two counts. It was pale enough. It was extremely creamy and easy to blend. Sold, it came home with me. Since then it has replaced my It Stick for daily use. It has perhaps slightly less coverage, but sticks around for most of the day. Neutralises dark shadows relatively well, and all in all is a damn good bargain. I just hate the packaging (it looks so cheap!) and the product itself appears to be smashed inside as it keeps falling out.

 photo 25b4b024-6832-43c9-b4e6-d085fc873098_zpsffbee396.jpgIf you’re looking for a creamy stick-based concealer (ideal for travelling!) then I’d highly recommend MUA’s Pro-Based Argan Plush Concealer. The shade ‘fair’ is incredibly pale, and the stick is fool-proof. If I can apply it in the dark, pre-morning cup of tea, then anyone can!

Now a cheeky request- I’d love it if you could vote for me in the 2015 UK Blog Awards. I’m lucky enough be in the Food, Young Bloggers (not too sure where this entry is) and Lifestyle categories!

What’s your favourite concealing product?