Petal Pizzazz

This time in the FT Kitchen atelier, the ingredient spotlight is edible flowers: full of splendour and rich in colour from Marx Foods, a family-owned company. Based in the Emerald City (Seattle), the online retailer provides quality fresh and fine food products—lofty ingredients for exalted restaurants, chefs and even home cooks.

There seems to be a resurgence in floral embellishing in the culinary industry. Perhaps, it's a dash of classic garnishing that never really left to some degree, but it has made heavier impressions in modern creations. As the daughter of a caterer and fine cook, I know that I have fond memories of watching my mum use flowers in cooking and baking (pan-fried dandelions, and jasmine cake comes to mind amongst many others).

Whether you're a pastry chef, home baker, or any berry bowl connoisseur, you already know that flowers just make everything prettier! But, let's be honest, you can't compromise with taste, so I've put together a few favourites that we tried during this particular shoot. You may be surprised to know that some edible flowers can not only be used for its allure and petal glory, but there are actual health benefits in some as well.

Spring has made an entrance and, with summer's awaited arrival, there are days when your wants may outweigh your foodie needs. Wanting a cold smoothie, and other days when you might need an indulgent treat due to climate conditions. Don't fret, we covered most all of these cravings below for your spring entertaining.  Take a look at some of the ways I've incorporated flowers in this presentation.

From homemade doughnuts to a flourless butterscotch brownie cake, if you're in a time crunch, there are plenty of easy ways to garnish foods that you can prepare for any group of friends in no time. Additionally, vanilla chia pudding and chilled Mediterranean salad are just couple of ideas I started with. I used flowers to garnish these recipes to brighten up our dishes, adding a refining element to the whole aesthetic.
By the time you're comfortable with using blooms in your cooking and baking, you will find various calibres of exploration and ways to decorate. Marx Foods sent some of our favourites from their edible range: Micro Dianthus and Pansy Blossoms.

The pansies are quite mild in taste, namely the soft yellow coloured petals had an almost buttery taste, in addition to their natural semi-sweet flavour. The other colours were milder and none altered the taste of the dishes or beverages.

The Micro Dianthus are redolent of carnations, and were a bit tricky to work with initially, as they're delicate in scale. They are slightly bitter in taste, and come in rich purplish-red hued petals with small rumpled edges. The dianthus flowers were the perfect epicurean accompaniments to a simple or decadent dessert.

So, instead of eating your regular boring porridge, spring salad, or scrambled eggs, next time give your plate some vitality and style with a touch of floral. I added a few pansy blossoms to the hibiscus and cinnamon iced-tea that I made. It's refreshing and full of brilliant colour to make a statement by the glass. More importantly, it will get conversations started and will bring pleasant smiles to your guests.
How to decorate with Edible Flowers - Food Trends

What do you think of these spring creations? Have you used edible flowers?


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The goods: Pansy Blossoms and Micro Dianthus flowers-Courtesy of Marx Foods, Stemware, Flatware, and Hostess set-Shop Reed & Barton, Kitchen linens: “Agda”/”Kackel” kitchen towel in eco-cotton, and cardinal and “Agda”/Kackel eco-printed napkins-c/o Gudrun Sjoden. View recipes here. More coming soon. *Special thanks to Marx Foods, and a shout out to Veronica for providing ace customer service! Shop and view the edible flower range here.

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Kitchen Scrapbook

This has been long overdue, but before New Year's holiday I was online shopping for a birthday gift for a foodie friend and stumbled across The Food Journal, "a scrapbook for food lovers." I had seen something similar months before, and thought this book was the exact one that I was looking for. Instead, it turned out to be a different food journal, but far better than the one that I was seeking.

In the end, the result of my gift shopping mission was acquiring this book, The Food Journal by Magma and Marco Donadon. Enthused, as I was flipping through the pages, and nodding along as I read the text full of insightful information, I knew that I had to eventually purchase this book for myself as well. I did exactly that!

A Look Inside:
I've been using this book now for a few months and love it! There's helpful content regarding seasonal foods, cooking tips, special butcher cuts to know, and learning the difference between rennet and mesclun, amongst heaps of other useful terms. This book is especially helpful if you're looking to sharpen your culinary chops at home. Even if you're rather seasoned in the kitchen, it's great for keeping all of your own recipes in one place.

One of my favourite parts of the book is the space, plenty of pages (88 pages to be exact) for one to jot down original recipes, and keep recipe clippings. A small section dedicated for restaurant reviews, napkins, and souvenirs, etc. is ideal for creating a collage of impressions and tokens of remembrance. 

Extras: 
There's a back pocket folder for extras: recipe cards, special wine labels, favourite restaurant cards, and other foodie-related tear sheets that you prefer to tuck away for future memories. I usually keep restaurant cards when we're travelling if it's from a special place where we dined on holiday, or one where I had an unforgettable meal that was excellent. A restaurant card or mini-leaflet certainly saves space a lot more than picking up a restaurant branded matchbox.

I'm essentially using this 136 page book as a scrapbook! I wasn't initially going to use it that way because I have another recipe book with handwritten papers (although busting at the seams) in scrapbook form. But, I love the practical concept of a cut and paste (food) art book, which is synonymous to most of my recipe books, be it sketch books or travelling journals.

Fellow foodie and author, Marco Donadon, a London based chef has created a wonderful compilation for the home cook, fellow gastronome, and the baking enthusiast. Both books, The Food Journal, and The Baking Journal can be purchased here. In The Baking Journal you will also find favourable information (pertaining to baking), such as pastry tips as well bread techniques, and measurement conversions, etc. I actually just purchased the baking book as a surprise for my sister!












Above: "Kackel" printed paper napkins, "Agda/Kackel" kitchen towels in eco-cotton, Printed oven mitten-c/o Gudrun Sjoden. Shop the Parisian inspired Eco-spring collection here
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Maté Mornings

I remember during family holidays, we could always count on my mum to bring plenty of tea on-board—she's an avid tea drinker, primarily of Earl Grey, and now various blends such as lavender infused Earl Grey. Of course, during those days it seemed a tad embarrassing, but little did I know that she was far ahead of the game.

With age comes wisdom, and after my collegiate years I found myself also carrying favourite teas along with me as I travelled. Whether going away on business or for leisure, it's often difficult to find loose teas within reach. Well, at least this is the case if you're without the fortune of having a lot time at your disposal. Enjoying a proper cuppa in minutes can sound too good to be true.


Blackbird Tea Co. (BTC), a fairly new tea brand, provides a range of certified organic teas for casual tea drinkers and tea connoisseurs. I recently tried their Mocha Maté blend, an Argentine and Uruguayan (South American) staple that's traditionally enjoyed in a cured gourd by using a metal straw. You have likely heard of maté if you've had Paraguay tea or yerba maté, as these are synonymous. The Quechua people actually called it “mati."

This version of maté is smooth and rich with subtle cocoa notes in taste that's not overpowering. In a mere sip you can also taste the slight earthy flavour with hints of cinnamon spice and a kiss of vanilla flavour. It's not heavily flavoured with cinnamon to impart a shock effect, just a complementary addition to the finish. If you're a rooibos tea, and cinnamon fan, then you will like this tea. I am not usually a mocha type of person when ordering tea, so this was an interesting first encounter. I could taste more vanilla and cocoa in the aftertaste, which was a nice comfort. This is a good tasting tea that I will like to use on-the-go with my self-filtered thermos!

Packaging: Tea comes packed in a simple cylinder branded cardboard tube that is compact enough to carry with you most places, and the tea is stored in a bag inside.

Check out the range online or if you're ever in the Seattle area stop by in person to support the family-owned business (these are the same owners of Seattle Seed Company). Some of BTC's other tea offerings include Chai Rojo, Duke of Earl, and Marrakech Mint amongst others. Save with the voucher code below, and view the tea collection here.

What is your favourite tea to drink?  

The goods: Mocha Maté Tea-Courtesy of Blackbird Tea Co., Patterned Tablecloth-Lenox, Sheffield china teacups and saucers-(Buy similar). *All opinions expressed are my own. Learn more about this type of tea and its origin here

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"We believe in promoting connection, joy and health through tea, and that the process shouldn't be mysterious or intimidating."  
                                                                      -Blackbird Tea Co.


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A Sugarless Review

Having downtime usually means doing something anti-stressful, which for me can involve reading, sewing, and sometimes cooking. I recently read The I Quit Sugar Cookbook by Sarah Wilson. I actually wanted this book for a few newly vegetarian and paleo foodie friends who have tried to quit white-refined sugar long before their dietary experiments. Although I bake quite a lot, I actually grew up without added refined sugar in my diet, and I could not have all of the indulgent treats others children would (more on that topic later), so I am used to it. In fact, I only recently tried chocolate for the first time in my life several years ago. I know, go on and pick your jaw up ... I'll wait! 

In 2008, the former editor of Australian Cosmopolitan magazine was diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune diseaseshe's dedicated to seeking ways to live more healthily. This book is informative, entertaining, and in some areas reminiscent of a scrapbook, only it's filled with worthy scribbles that will help you along your sugar-free or semi-sugarless journey. 

Details:
There are plenty of recipes to capture just about every dietary style, and others that you've seen before. Some recipes you may have even made yourself, but Wilson gives her personal perspective, and modern take on it with sugar alternatives. 

The Verdict:
Overall, I think it's a helpful cookery book for beginners to learn more about certain foods, like leafy greens and how to store foods properly, but also a good book for seasoned home cooks. Additionally, there's a wealth of other knowledge: what to actually buy organic, how to remove grass stains from clothing, and even how to make home made paneer. It's a fully packed book with all the special features, just as you'd expect in a new DVD, in HD, obviously!

 Pros & Cons: 
 You get a real sense of who the author is the further you delve into the book,  and I like the fact that it's quite evident that this project was entirely a team  effort.  

 Wilson provides a plethora of recipes, three-hundred six to be exact; although  given the title you'd expect most occupied pages to be desserts. Instead, it's  filled with a variety of main dishes, snacks, and morefrom sweet to savoury.



Even though I don't have a heavy sweet tooth, I do enjoy baking savoury and sweet foods quite a lot, especially for dinner gatherings and I would've liked to have seen more desserts in the book, since it is about quitting sugar. In my opinion, there were some pages that were filler pages, recipes that you wouldn't typically use a sweetener in anyway. She's truly passionate about cooking and it's apparent in every section. The photography throughout the book is creative, effective, and beautifully shot. 

This would be a lovely investment for anyone who loves to cook, bake, and/or is looking for alternative recipes with sweetness. On the contrary, if you have a real sweet-tooth, you'd likely find some recipes on the far less sweet side generally until you get used to having less sugaryes, it's a process. I did make four recipes so far (unaltered) and served them to my sugar-toothed mates, and got varied feedback, the chocolate lovers were happy, but the others (cake lover's and heavy dessert lovers) wanted a tad more sweetness regarding taste. 

I will likely find a satisfying medium for them, which for any longtime home baker is easy to do if you are used to making things from scratch. Let's be honest, sometimes in baking there are some things that you really cannot substitute, whether for texture, caramelising, or actual taste. But, this comes close, and brought so much happiness to my kitchen. At the very least, it's a mighty source of inspiration with a diverse collection of cuisines, especially with recipes like carrot bacon, and "Nomato" sauce! 

Have you heard of Sarah Wilson or read any of her books?


The goods: The I Quit Sugar Cookbook by Sarah Wilson.View more information about the author here. I received this book for an honest review from Crown Publishing Group via blogging for books. All opinions expressed are my own. Purchase this book here.


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Glowing Garden Style

Having your own garden has immense benefits, and the beauty of creating a garden is that you can start small, even indoors. I grew up with a garden, as both my parents were very keen on producing their own herbs and vegetables. Even though we have only started a garden a few years ago of our own, we have been able to reap the benefits of harvesting our own produce and garden herbs.

In collaboration with PlowBox, we received a lot to get started with for the spring season of planting. PlowBox is a subscription service by Seattle Seed Company (SSC), and delivers one-hundred percent organic seeds, and eco-friendly or garden related gifts each season.
The boxes they create are packed with the proper sachets and instructions to help you understand where, when, and how to grow your own seeds. The company sends out their seed and garden boxes four times a year, and a special gift is also included.

You may tailor your subscriptions, and the boxes are not only by season, but by climates as well. For example, depending on what you want to grow and/or your locale, you might choose between Arctic, Cool, Mild, Warm, Hot, or Tropical climate specific boxes.

The spring box came with an eco-friendly notebook by Good Nature Publishing Co. (with garden quotes inside the front), a welcome card with instructions, blank recipe cards, an expandable pod to help germinate a tomato or pepper before planting, and ten sachets of seeds: Nasturtium (an edible flower), tomato, peas, lettuce, carrots, and spinach amongst others. All garden seeds are non-GMO, certified organic.

SSC buys their seed from certified organic farms and cooperatives, and then select diverse seeds of high quality and value before selling them. By the time they get into your box and are welcomed in your home, rest assured in knowing that the seeds you plant are safe. And, by subscribing to one box or a box every quarter, you are also supporting a family-owned business.


"We are dedicated to the health and sustainability of our local and global communities and by encouraging people to buy locally and eat organic, we feel that we can make a difference in the world around us." -SSC  

Price: 45 USD/ quarter
Packaging: Everything came carefully packaged in branded printed cardboard box.

In the spring box, apparently Nutscene twine, and a versatile brush is also included, but I didn't receive them and cannot honestly review those. All items in our PlowBox sent were of great quality, and considering the uniqueness of the box, quality, and what is prepared for you with the instructional, it's a good value. It's also a great way to introduce gardening to your own littlelings; educating and introducing children to the world of gardening can be a lot of fun.

Thinking of growing your own garden? For US readers, try the PlowBox yourself with 20% off your first box. Just use the code: GCPLOW20. Visit: www.organicseedclub.com


Have you started growing your own herbs, fruits, and veggies? 
What do you think of PlowBox's concept? 



The goods: Spring Box-Courtesy of PlowBox, Eco-printed table runner-c/o Gudrun Sjoden (Buy). All opinions expressed are my own.



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