Recipe Testing: Chocolate Banana Muffins

Chocolate banana muffin recipe | Hello Victoria

So I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect banana recipe – banana bread or banana muffins, I’m not picky. I’m always buying bananas, in an effort to get my 5 a day, but they keep ripening too fast!

Richard thinks I’m crazy, but when a banana has more than a few spots, I sort of lose interest in eating it. I like my bananas more on the green side. Speaking of which, when I was in Nepal, they had the best bananas (and they were always super green)!! As the food in the orphanage I worked in was dal bhat twice a day (gets a bit monotonous) the piece of fruit as dessert each evening was most enjoyable. And one of the best fruits I found, was the humble banana! It might have been the lack of variety in my diet, but those bananas were like the equivalent of candy over there.

Chocolate banana muffin recipe | Hello Victoria

I’ll eat the ones on the right, but the other ones are only good for baking IMHO

So in an effort not to waste my spotted bananas, I’ve been baking with them! Unfortunately, lots of the recipes just aren’t quite as good as I’m hoping for. I want something decidedly more-ish, but kept ending up with dry or bland, and certainly not banana-y enough. Like all my made up words there?

Chocolate banana muffin recipe | Hello Victoria

After all those failed attempts (okay, two), I decided to rework a banana muffins recipe that I had. I could vaguely remember a good recipe from an old job that I had loved, and used it to alter my current one. I increased the banana amount considerably, added some chopped chocolate, and a bit of cinnamon. It’s still not quite perfect yet, but good enough to share. (more…)

Homemade Pizza Dough

Home made pizza dough recipe | Hello Victoria

Every pizza is a personal pizza if you believe in yourself

A couple of years ago I found myself working at a little cafe in Victoria. It was a great job, as there were only two of us in the kitchen, and we had plenty of freedom in terms of our hours etc. One of the other great perks of this job was the lunch! Most restaurants etc. have free food as part of the job, but from my experience it’s almost always unhealthy! Pasta, pasta, pasta… pretty much cheap carbs every day. But here we could make our own lunches with salads, sandwiches, and the occasional pizza!

They would make these individual pizzas for lunch each day, with different toppings. And boy, were they good! They would also sell the pizza dough for people to make their own at home.

Home made pizza dough recipe | Hello Victoria

Easy pizza dough recipe | Hello Victoria

As the baker, it was my job to make the pizza dough in large batches, and then we would defrost a few each day. These small balls made perfect thin crust personal pizzas – so you can imagine I decided to make them at home! I adjusted the recipe a little bit for myself (I’m not super into whole wheat flour), and then would make a batch and freeze them. Then, all you need to do is pull a couple little pizza dough balls out, and let them prove/defrost for a couple hours. You can even bring them out first thing in the morning, and let them defrost in the fridge. (more…)

Kitchen Progress: Demolition + Repairs

Demolishing our tiny kitchen | Hello Victoria

welcome to demolition!

Okay, so I’ve given you an overview of our plans for this kitchen, and what we’re hoping to accomplish. We thought it would be a relatively straightforward couple of days, but boy… were we wrong! Once we started demolition, we realized we had created quite the mess for ourselves.

Let me try and break down where we went awry.

Demolishing our tiny kitchen | Hello Victoria

oh look! It’s Richard’s hand!

So on our first day of demolition, we removed all of the upper cabinets, which also meant moving everything in those cupboards to our living room. Let me tell you, living in a kitchen/living room for about a week isn’t fun. Bleh. We also had to remove the range hood, IKEA GRUNDTAL pot racks off the wall, as well as anything living on the counter tops. We kept stuff in the lower cabinets, and didn’t bother removing the fridge etc., as none of that was changing besides paint.

Demolishing our tiny kitchen | Hello Victoria

range hood and stainless panels removed

Demolishing our tiny kitchen | Hello Victoria

Once everything was out of the room, we contemplated the tiling. Before we could paint or start putting up our new METOD cabinets, we would have to remove all the existing tiles. This was precisely the moment that things went wrong… (more…)

Two Days in Brighton

Artist Residence in Brighton | Hello Victoria

For a while now, Richard and I have been talking about spending a couple days down in Brighton. It’s so close by, which makes it perfect for a quick little weekend, or even a day trip by train! And of course, ever since watching the original A&E Pride and Prejudice as a kid, I’ve wanted to go. Just like Lydia!

A little bit of sea bathing would set me up too, Mrs. Bennet. 😉

But other than seeing the ocean (I miss that), I wanted to go because Brighton is a smaller, younger feeling city. It’s got the sort of hippie-meets-hipster vibe that you find in places like Seattle or Portland, with lots of small businesses. Most of them are centered around a few small streets, called the Lanes. They can be quite busy and a bit touristy at times, but still lots of fun. In a weird way it reminded me of Coombs, if Coombs was a proper city with a university et al.

Two days in Brighton | Hello Victoria

Richard had been wanting to take me there because it’s where he went to University! He mostly wanted to show me where he used to live, and have a pint in an old pub down the lane, but it was closed when we tried to go. Darn.

Now, I mentioned that you could take the train down and do Brighton in a day, but when we tried to book our tickets a few days before, they were so expensive!! We did the math, and it would be only £20 more to drive down and get a hotel room for the night than the train! Of course we decided to choose that option, as it would give us more time to explore Brighton.

Artist Residence in Brighton | Hello Victoria

isn’t that brick wall and tufted headboard gorgeous?

Artist Residence in Brighton | Hello Victoria

Not only would this option give us more time in Brighton, it would also give me the option to stay at the Artist Residence!! I first heard about this chain of boutique hotels when we were traveling around the UK in December. We were looking for a cool place to stay in Cornwall, but unfortunately, they were fully booked for new year’s. Ever since then, I have been looking for a reason to stay at one of their locations in Cornwall, London, or Brighton (with more opening soon). (more…)

To Perm or Not to Perm

We take a break from our regularly scheduled DIY/recipe/lifestyle blogging to talk about something on my mind…

When I was about 16 or 17, I discovered that with a little help from some product and a diffuser, I could get my hair to curl! Well, maybe more of a curly wave, but curly nonetheless! I had always been jealous of my sisters who had natural curls (shout-out to Bethany and Julia!) and was so excited to realize that there was this texture hidden in my hair.

Can modern perm techniques recreate long lost curls | Hello Victoria

Oh wow, 18 year old Amy in all her no-makeup, no-eyebrows glory…

For a while, when I had the time, I would diffuse my hair – figuring out all sorts of tricks to get it to curl the way I wanted. But the problem with diffusing a full head of long hair? Time! When diffusing curly hair, you need your hair dryer on its lowest speed, with high heat, to get the best result.

Low Speed + High Heat = Eons of Drying Time

I hate wet hair, so would never just let it air dry; which meant that when I was short on time, I had to go straight.

Then, a number of years back, some genius with a straightening iron discovered she could curl hair with it! Like most people, it took a bit of practice to get the hang of, but once I did, I could dry my hair and curl it with my straightening iron far faster than I could dry it with a diffuser. This method wasn’t just fast, but flawless! The problem with diffusing natural texture is that the hair doesn’t always cooperate. And so began my 2+ year love affair with straightener curls, which morphed into curling wand curls… etc. (more…)

Increasing Storage in Our Tiny Kitchen

Okay, I promised a proper kitchen post with before photos and all… so here goes! If you’re following me on Instagram (and check the stories) then you will see we have already begun work on this space.

Increasing storage in a tiny kitchen | Hello Victoria

welcome to our tiny kitchen!

When we had just moved in, we discussed how we could make the kitchen space work best for us. First up, would be to add some hanging storage on the wall, for all of our pots and pans. I don’t have any photos of the kitchen before we put them up, but you can see below how we’re currently using it. We installed two rows of IKEA’s GRUNDTAL rail system, using the top row for pots and pans, and the bottom for pantry goods. One basket contains bread, another potatoes and onions, and the third is a fruit basket.

Those three baskets took me ages to find (it’s hard to find an open weave basket that’s fairly flat) and are actually beach bags that IKEA was selling in their limited HEMTRAKT collection (I just cut off the handles). And yes, we bought waaay more hooks than we need, but we still have to buy more pots.

Increasing storage in a tiny kitchen | Hello Victoria

After adding some hanging storage, we needed to address the cupboard situation. The ceilings are high enough to accommodate another row of cabinetry, so we thought – why not double our storage? (more…)

Afternoon Tea at Sketch, London

Afternoon tea at Sketch London | Hello VictoriaBefore moving to London, I started following a couple bloggers, to see where the good places to eat, shop, and visit were. One of those bloggers is Rosie at The Londoner, and she’s pretty much a go-to resource for places to eat around London, as well as other cities around the world (she travels A LOT!) A place she’s mentioned a few times, and that I have been dying to visit, is Sketch in Mayfair, and especially their afternoon tea in the gallery.

I’m definitely not a girly, girl… but there’s something quite awesome about this room. Almost every surface is pale pink, including the plush velvet booths, and even the bar ware (in rose gold). It’s pretty much like Instagram heaven for the social media generation, no? I like the dichotomy of the decor – it’s all pale pink and girly, but then has these strange mordant sketches lining the walls, with matching ceramic serving ware.

Afternoon tea at Sketch London | Hello Victoria

the drawings on the wall are unusual to say the least – we found a few that made us laugh while we enjoyed our tea

So this past Easter weekend, we finally managed to book a table (thanks Richard!!!), and it was definitely worth it! I mean, afternoon tea is quite pricey no matter where you go (and I mean priceeey), but it’s an experience – and we made sure to milk it. And I mean that literally, as we’re both huge fans of the ol’ ‘builder’s tea’, with plenty of milk and sugar…

Afternoon tea at Sketch London | Hello Victoria

The afternoon tea we picked started with an introduction by one of their staff, as to how the afternoon would unfold. It began with someone explaining all the teas to us (four pages of options) and we would each pick a pot of tea. As the stuff is unlimited we tried to make a dent in all the options. I think by the end of our time there we had tried a combined 7-8 teas, but we could definitely have tried more. If only our bellies could have handled more of the hot liquid… (more…)

Paska Two Ways: Ukrainian Easter Bread

Paska two ways: Ukrainian Easter bread | Hello Victoria

Are you lucky enough to find yourself with an excess of lemons and oranges this Easter? Looking for something to make with them all? This was the bounty that I had the other weekend, and I was quite keen to use them all.

Paska two ways: Ukrainian Easter bread | Hello Victoria

The other day I posted about the more unique take on Paska that I made this past weekend, and I promised more. I decided to try making a regular paska recipe that my aunt gave me, as well as using a challah bread recipe to make a paska flavoured challah. I had remembered paska dough as being quite wet, and wanted something I could braid into shapes. However, after making my Aunt’s paska recipe, I realized it wasn’t as wet as I thought. I could have easily braided it into wreaths etc.

But you want to know what this huge amount of paska means, besides being something Richard can take to work? Paska French toast!! Awesome Easter breakfast… if I do say so myself.

Paska two ways: Ukrainian Easter bread | Hello Victoria


Paska Doughnuts: A Modern Take on Ukrainian Easter Bread

Paska doughnuts: Ukrainian Easter Bread | Hello Victoria

The bakery that I work at in London, is quite well known for its doughnuts. When I first tried one without any filling, just the doughnut, I could only think of one thing. PASKA! They use lemon zest in the dough, and the combination of yeast and citrus just brought back memories of paska. It’s not really strong enough to come through when there is a filling in it, but on its own it’s like warm memories of my childhood.

For those of you who don’t know what paska is, it’s a yeasted Ukrainian Easter bread, flavoured with lemon and orange. It’s usually served with sweetened cream cheese – or at least that’s what my grandma always made with it. And if you grew up in a Mennonite family, then you’re probably used to seeing paska with some simple icing on top, sprinkled with rainbow sprinkles… like this!

Ukrainian Easter bread inspiration | Hello Victoria

paska photo via Natasha’s Kitchen

But I wanted to make something different this year! So with those doughnuts as my inspiration, I decided to make paska flavoured doughnuts! Using a recipe from Justin Gellatly’s cookbook Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding – I adapted it to include the paska flavour. All it took was increasing the amount of citrus zest exponentially, and changing the water to citrus juice. (I also used active dry yeast instead of fresh, as it’s kind of hard to find.)

Paska doughnuts: Ukrainian Easter Bread | Hello Victoria (more…)

The Allotment Garden: Before

Before photos of the allotment | Hello Victoria

Well, it’s mostly before. To be exact, by the point I started taking pictures we had already ripped out almost all of the weed strewn landscape fabric barrier, old overgrown lavender, blackberry brambles, and 2-3 rows of raspberry bushes. So it doesn’t do justice to what our little plot was like when we took it over, but it’s sort of the clean slate we created.

Last weekend, Richard and I both had Saturday off, so we spent the morning on the allotment. First up, we went to our local garden center, Ruxley Manor, for some seeds, hand tools, and rhubarb plants. We had hoped to get our shed delivered this weekend, but it won’t come until mid April. Instead, we decided to try and get the rest of the clearing and pruning done in preparation. As a lot of the plants are going around the shed, we decided to only buy the rhubarb that day. The little rhubarb patch is in the other half of the plot, so we don’t have to worry about moving anything.

Before photos of the allotment | Hello Victoria

apparently this is two plum trees planted together – one purple, and the other green!

Our allotment plot was in rough shape when we got it. None of the trees had ever been properly pruned, nothing was cut back or well trained, and most of the soil was covered with landscape fabric to prevent weeds (which just grew through it). It meant a few days of back breaking work for Richard (I kept having to work weekends) and lots of pruning and tidying up for me. However, it already has three apple trees, 2.5 plum trees (one tree is apparently two growing together, different kinds), and enough raspberry plants to salvage a row.

Before photos of the allotment | Hello Victoria

our solitary row of raspberry canes – also, how immaculate is our neighbor’s plot?

But this last weekend, I decided to start documenting our progress! I’m not sure if this is interesting to anyone but me, but I want to be able to see how far we’ve come when it’s done. Side note – Richard has to go away for work for 6 weeks in May, and I asked him if he wanted me to send him weekly allotment update photos. He thinks he wants to be surprised by how much it has all grown when he gets back… which I used to love seeing after summer holidays when I was a kid.

Allotment plan | Hello Victoria

this is our current plan for the allotment – although it changes every time we are down there (in fact, it has already changed from what it shown here!)

So first up, we have the front half of the allotment. We keep calling it the ‘raspberry section’, as it used to contain mostly rows of overgrown raspberries, but we need to come up with better names. Perhaps one half is Canada, and the other Northern Ireland? That way I can say things like, “let’s put the beans in the Northwest of Canada!”.

Before photos of the allotment | Hello Victoria

Here we are stalling the most due to the shed, as it’ll go in the bottom corner of the plot. Richard spent a day ripping up all the landscape fabric (rolled into piles) and random bricks. Now we just need to properly turn the soil and we can begin planting! Hopefully we’ll plant beans, peas, carrots, cucamelons, chillis, tomatoes, herbs and some flowers here. We’re going to try and plant some pretty/fragrant things around the shed as we’re building a mini patio out of reclaimed brick. A nice little place to sit and have a cup of tea while we’re at the allotment.

We’ve already changed our plans from what my plan shows above, as we’re now thinking about moving the carrots and lettuce greens to this section, and putting them in raised beds. We may even include the cucamelons in with this plan, and create an archway between the two beds!

Before photos of the allotment | Hello Victoria

In between the two growing sections, we have two trees. One is our weird mixed plum tree-and-a-half, and the other is an apple tree. There were three rose bushes placed around these, but they were getting in the way in terms of picking and pruning, so they had to go. We are giving them to a friend of Richard’s, so at least they will be planted somewhere. Just not somewhere that involves me constantly getting pricked by thorns when trying to get at the fruit in the trees.

As I do like flowers, I am replacing the thorny roses with a bank of edible flowers. My goal is to cover the ground between the trees with flowers, that can then be added to salads. You can see my little tray of violas ready for planting, and there were already tons of primrose around. We’ll also plant marigolds, cornflower, and violets. I just need to get them sprouting first. Maybe in a year or two we’ll have lots of pretty, yet edible, flowers?

Before photos of the allotment | Hello Victoria

The second half of the allotment, is larger than the first. It’s where most of our rows of vegetables will go, along with a few randoms. As there was already a rhubarb plant here, we decided to keep it where it was, and create a patch. We’re introducing a couple varieties that we bought, so we’ll hopefully get rhubarb at different times of the year.

There was also a thornless blackberry variety, to the right of where Richard is majestically posing. Again, we’re keeping it as is, but will try to train it better. We’re creating a little brick border, and will mulch on top of the existing landscape fabric, as it was too difficult to remove in this area, and will help with weeds. You won’t even notice it once we’re through with it.

Before photos of the allotment | Hello Victoria

And seeing as how there it a bit of room in this little section, we’re going to add a tayberry plant! I have never tried one before, but it seemed like a good fit beside the blackberry, as they both need similar support and training. Oh, and there is another smaller plum tree in this section, but it doesn’t divide the space up like the other trees, as it’s on the edge of our plot.

Before photos of the allotment | Hello Victoria

apparently this is a purple plum… which makes me a bit sad as yellow plums are my absolute favorite!

Before photos of the allotment | Hello Victoria

the little rhubarb plant we inherited

At the far end of our little plot are three trees – one cherry, and two apples flanking it. I’ve already pruned them back, so now we just have to devise a plan for protecting our cherries from birds! We’ve heard from our neighbors not to expect any cherries, as the birds get them all. Not this year birds! Although, to be fair, I’m not sure what to do yet to prevent that.

As with the previous tree section, we’re going to plant a bunch of flowers under the trees. In this case, however, Richard wants to plant tons of spring bulbs! Not going to do much for us this year, but come next spring, there will be a huge boom in daffodils, crocus, and snow drops under these trees!

Before photos of the allotment | Hello Victoria

And that’s that! It’s kind of a boring post, not going to lie, but I wanted to let you all see the blank slate we started with. That way, when I start posting amazing photos once it’s all established, you will be even more impressed! Now if you need me, you will find me sitting on the grass, trying to mentally encourage my plants to grow…