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Sweet Cinnamon French Toast & Caramelised Banana

24 Feb 2014
French toast (or eggy bread to some) is incredible. But after years of sticking to the same old standard white bread and beaten egg recipe, I decided to branch out and opt for something a little sweeter. As a result, an array of sweet cinnamon and caramelised banana French toast was created.

Now the secret for me is the use of brioche, a sweet French bread. I've tried this recipe with a normal white loaf before, and it just doesn't seem to fit the bill because there's a lack of sweetness.

You can omit or add ingredients as you please, this is just the recipe I use:

1 egg
3 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp sugar
1 banana

Add all your ingredients to a fairly shallow bowl, and beat using either a whisk or a fork.

Now it's time to prepare the bananas; cut them into whatever shape and size you desire, and cover each side with sugar. I find the simplest way to do this is to sprinkle some sugar onto a plate, and simply roll them in it.

Once the bananas are prepared, dip each side of the bread into the egg mixture, heat some oil or butter in a frying pan at medium heat, and place the bread into the pan.

Either add the bananas to the same pan, or use a separate one. These should take a minute or two on either side, so be careful as they burn easily!

 Once both the bread and banana are browned on both sides, remove from the pan and serve.

This is my favourite breakfast recipe, and so incredibly easy but effective! I've also adapted the recipe to include a drizzle of honey, or golden syrup on the top.You could even go wild and melt some chocolate!

Cielo Blanco, Trinity Leeds

21 Feb 2014
My friend Georgie was dying to visit the Mexican Cielo Blanco in Trinity Leeds for her birthday, so we all hopped into a taxi and away we went to what is my new, favourite, Mexican restaurant.

 As it was a special occasion, cocktails were essential to start off the night, and they definitely did not disappoint. I ordered a Strawberry Daquiri as a treat, seeing as I haven't had one since the summer! It was deliciously refreshing, and I love how substantial it was in size as well! Other wonderful concoctions ordered included a Strawberry Kiwi Margarita, a Pink Grapefuit and Pineapple Magarita, and a Classic for the birthday girl herself!

Extra brownie points are scored for the decoration of the place; everything was presented in such a vibrant and colourful way that it made the food look even more enticing! We also ordered a little snack of tortilla chips (which were warm and therefore especially tasty), with dips including guacamole, chive sour cream, and an incredible array of salsas.

We then ventured into the main restaurant, where we examined the menus for a ridiculously long time before we finally decided on our dishes. We ordered two of the Mexican Street Food plates each, including Tiger Prawn Toastados, Butternut Squash & Black Bean Chilli Tacos, and Rump Steak, Grilled Cheese & Jalapeno Ketchup Toastados. All twelve of our dishes arrived promptly, and before we knew it there was a feast in front of us.

Chicken will always be my one true love, so I went for the incredible Chicken Tinga and Smoked Tomato Salsa Quesadillas, which were just the right amount of hotness for me. I also shared some Chicken Empanadas with Beth and they were quite possibly my favourite of the lot. Corn dough, deep fried? Yes please.

I'm obsessed with pulled pork right now, and anything with pineapple is always a hit with me, so I also ordered the Pulled Pork and Grilled Pineapple Tacos which were to die for.

I think aside from the brilliant music and the wonderful atmosphere, one of the best things about Cielo Blanco is the way in which you can try so many plates so easily. The girls and I loved the fact that we could share our little delights, and weren't restricted to just one! This proved very useful when four pulled pork tacos were just too much for me in terms of spice (I'm a total wimp when it comes to that), so I swapped one for another chicken quesadilla!

The service was also brilliant, and my only regret is not ordering Churros for dessert. I will definitely be visiting again to try out more of their amazing street foods, and maybe an Enchillada or a Burrito or two!

'The Excess': A Rocky Road Style Chocolate Cake

20 Feb 2014
What is better than a chocolate cake, but a chocolate cake that is marbled AND with a Rocky Road style topping?

It was my housemate's birthday on Wednesday, and I was told that she would be extremely disappointed if I didn't make her a cake, so even if I didn't want to bake (which I always do), I was forced to oblige. As it's a birthday, I wanted to create something special, and Georgie loves everything chocolatey so I decided on this incredibly chocolate cake. I've named it 'The Excess', because there is so much going on, on top that it's almost too much, almost, but not quite.

Marble Cake (recipe from BBC Goodfood)
225g butter, softened to room temperature (leave out for 45 minutes)
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
225g self-raising flour
3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp cocoa powder

400g icing sugar
100g softened butter (I can't stand unsalted so used salted)
25g cocoa
1-2 tablespoons of cream/milk

1 Bag of Mini Marshmallows (alternatively, you could chop big ones into smaller pieces)
2 Small packets of Malteasers
White stars
100g Dark or Milk Chocolate
Anything else you can think of

If you are using a mixer, then I would go for the all-in-one method where all cake ingredients go in at once. This creates a wonderfully light texture, but unfortunately I don't own an electrical mixer, so I here is how to mix by hand:

First, you need to preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Next, cream the butter and sugar together into a somewhat smooth texture. Then add the eggs one by one, and beat into the mixture, (you can beat them beforehand, but I always forget this part).

Once you have a smooth texture, fold in the flour, followed by 3 tbsp of milk and 1 tsp of vanilla extract.

Separate your mixture into two bowls, with half in each and add your cocoa powder to one. Your mixture should now look like the pictures above.

Now for the fun, marbling part! This is incredibly easy, you just have to spoon the mixture into your greased tin (ideally use greaseproof paper, I had none unfortunately), alternating between chocolate and vanilla. Once that's done, take a skewer or something of that sort (I used the bottom of a spoon because once again, I didn't have the correct equipment). Using this, create a swirl pattern with the mixture. Finally, place the cake into the oven for 45-55 minutes, at 180 degrees. (Fan assisted oven).

Once your cake is cooked (if you pierce it with a skewer, it should come out completely clean), leave it to cool on a cooling rack. During this time you can create your butter icing! Now, I sliced the cake in half once it was out, but it would be easier to use sandwich tins if you are using butter icing in the centre. To make the icing, you simply need to sift your icing sugar into a large bowl, and add the softened butter (make sure it is room temperature, or you will have lumps!) Add the cocoa powder and milk, and mix this continuously until you have a smooth texture. If you need more water or milk, just add extra and be patient as it will take some time to create a smooth consistency!

Once the cake is cool, layer about a third of the butter icing in the middle of the cake, just so the two halves fit together. Then add the rest to the top of the cake.

Using a sharp knife, very carefully cut up your malteasers, marshmallows, and any other goodies you choose for your topping. Add them all to the top of the cake, on top of the icing. Now you could finish here, but I like to add an extra decoration of melted chocolate. I simply melted 100g in a saucepan, and using a spoon, I created a zigzag effect on the top. As a final touch, I added some white stars!

Et voilà! A cake that some might say has an excess of chocolate, but is nonetheless fantastically delicious.

An Instantly Uplifting Playlist

18 Feb 2014

To me, music will always have the power to enhance, or to destroy my mood. Sometimes it's a wonderfully delicate, soothing acoustic that transforms me, but usually it's an uplifting, fast tempo melody. Anyway, I was feeling particularly upbeat this morning, and decided to compose a list of my favourite elevating and inspiring songs, and just why they are so great. Some are incredibly predictable, but others are less well-known, so please do read on as you might find a few you've never heard of!

PS. All the songs are at the bottom of the post in my Spotify playlist; have a listen!

1. On Top of the World Imagine Dragons

The melody and general feel of the music reflects the lyrics and the title perfectly,  and it's a great upbeat song to walk to. The band were actually playing in Leeds a few months ago and somehow I managed to miss it. Tragic.

2. Rather Be - Clean Bandit

You know when you find a song, and it's just so good that you go completely over the top and listen to it on repeat all day, everyday? That definitely happened with Clean Bandit's latest hit, and I found this brilliant acoustic YouTube cover of it that should definitely have more views.

3. Safe and Sound - Capital Cities

No, not the Taylor Swift song which features in The Hunger Games and is definitely not uplifting. This is not to everyone's taste, but I absolutely love it and have no idea why it's not a more well-known song.

4. Move on Up - Curtis Mayfield

Ever since I came across this song in Bend It Like Beckham (great film if you don't already know it), I've been completely obsessed. That is all.

6. High Hopes Kodaline

What an incredible song, it's not upbeat at all, but the gentleness of it certainly creates a relaxing and calming atmosphere. I found this wonderful cover by Leah Louise on YouTube.

7. Good Day - Ron Pope

I feel like this guy doesn't get enough exposure for his wonderful music. The melody is less upbeat and 'fun' than others in my list, but it's still my go to when I'm feeling particularly negative. 'Not living without hope' is the key theme, which is so true, and such an integral part in making sure your day is the best it can be.

8. Happy - Pharrell Williams

The name says it all, and the fact that this song features in Despicable Me 2, the best and the cutest film ever, means it must be a pretty good.

8. Life is a Highway - Rascal Flatts

This is what I would call a 'dancey' tune, that is to say, it's so catchy and easy to sing to that it's impossible not to feel slightly more optimistic and raring to go after listening to it.

9. Baby I'm Yours - Breakbot

This song holds lovely memories for me due to the person who introduced me to it, but if I took away the memories, it'd still be a great song.

10. Beautiful Day U2

Perhaps the most predictable of them all, but I refuse to leave it off the list. I put this on in the morning when the day is looking particularly dull and dreary, and it never fails to lift my mood slightly and help me to feel positive.

11. You've Got The Love Florence + The Machine

I've seen Florence live quite a few times, and the atmosphere is just incredible when this song is performed.

Adorable decor items (with a little touch of DIY)

14 Feb 2014
Living in a student house restricts my freedom somewhat with regards to decoration and colour schemes. Fortunately however, landlords seem to love the red and white theme, which coincidentally happens to be a favourite of mine. I adore cute items for your bedroom, and am always on the lookout for new ideas, so I decided to pick out a few of my favourites for you.

Apologies for the below average photography; unfortunately my student budget does not extend to a DSLR camera, so I am sticking with the iphone/compact digital camera for now!

I recently received this little gem in the post from my cousin, and it is simply adorable. When people are buying gifts for me, even if they don't know me that well, they always seem to get the colour scheme spot on. I have come to the realisation that perhaps the combination of my pale skin and dark hair points everyone in the same direction, which is pretty handy! The addition of a tiny label saying 'warmth' adds extra cuteness to this for me. I have no idea where it was purchased, but I am forever coming across them in unique gift shops. There may even be a blog post coming soon on how to make your own...

Here is an amazing canvas that my very own sister made for me as an extra birthday present! She has her own in her room and I loved it so much, but never thought that she might make one for me! I love any pictures that are centred around a city in the night-time, so this was perfect for my room. My artistic skills are nowhere near hers, but she's actually written a blog post on how to create it here, so go check it out! 

This is one of Urban Outfitters 'tapestries', which means it isn't restricted to a bed cover. I think it's gorgeous, and the perfect red for my room. They're pricey, but not too much, in my opinion, at around £30-£50.

This is a white set of drawers purchased from Next, over a year ago. You can absolutely find them everywhere though! Many have cute vintage extras on them, but I bought this plain white one so that I could customise it easily. All I did was cut out petite hearts from my favourite paper (from Paperchase), and stuck them on! Simples.

Sometimes life just gets too stressful.Work is too much, money is tight, and the only thing left to do is to open a few bottles of wine (with the last of your cash), and relax with friends. That is why I thought placing this on my door was a brilliant idea. 

Check out this adorable cushion that my housemate Georgie made me for my birthday! She is a very talented Fashion and Design student and she made this and one for another housemate in a day! It's adorable and she knows me well enough to be sure that I love sweets.

And there we have it, a small look into my bedroom. As you can tell, my style is very 'cutesy', as a lot of people put it. Let me know if you have any favourite stores to find things for your room like these!

Who says adults can't go to Disneyland?

13 Feb 2014
My sister turned 18 last September, and as it was a special birthday, my parents and I decided on an extra specially magical idea.

Now I'm a Disney fan, a huge Disney fan, but my sister is also a film fanatic in general, and is obsessed with anything Disney related. There were numerous talks about her working in Disneyland on a gap year, or going for a summer trip with her friends for years, but it never worked out. So in January 2013, when I was participating in a daily browse of the Disneyland Paris website, an idea suddenly dawned on me: what if Tash and I took a surprise trip there for her birthday? The prospect of this filled me with excitement, and it wasn't even for my birthday. I told my parents; they loved the idea, and for 8 months I had to keep the secret.

8 months later...

And there we were in Disneyland Paris. We set out to the park at 9am (before gates even opened!), ready to behave like children in the dreamland that is Disneyland. As you can see from the picture, we visited around Halloween, which I thought was a shame as orange and black are not colours I enjoy usually, but it was still incredible!

Although the weather was grey and dreary, it didn't affect our mood, and the park was just as magical and beautiful as we'd imagined. 

Of course we couldn't miss the afternoon parade, as you can see here the park was packed!

The little Mad Hatter's Tea Cups ride was adorable, and the lanterns when switched on at night were mesmerising.

On our last night in the park we were caught in a hailstorm, and ran to Planet Hollywood for a very pricey, but very delicious meal. It was pretty 'cool', and full of musical memorabilia. The staff were lovely, and it was a great end to a wonderful two days in the park, (what a shame we didn't have more time!)

We went to Ladurée on our last day on Les Champs-Elysées, and I can honestly say that I have never tasted such delectable macarons in my entire life. I only ended up having one and it was raspberry flavoured, but ever since I have regretted my decision not to buy more. If you ever visit Paris - go there!

Some of you may be thinking wait a second, I'm not sure about visiting Disneyland as a 20 year old? Well this trip answers that question very simply; you are never too old for Disney. The rides were not as thrilling as the UK theme park rides I usually go on, but they were so enchanting and so beautiful that it was hard to fault them. Tasha's favourite was the Rock n' Rollercoaster and Peter Pan's Flight, but mine would have to be either Big Thunder Mountain, or Obitron. Obitron was nothing more than boring in the daytime for me, but with the park is open till 10 o'clock, we tried it in the nightime. Flying around in little spaceships with a view of all the wonderful colourful lights across the whole park was nothing short of amazing. 

The whole park was magical, especially in the dark, so I would highly recommend it to anyone in need of a little sprinkle of pixie dust in their lives...

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