Foodie Tales: Maca Root

Our gatherings and dinner parties cater to a diverse group of people and lifestyles. But, what brings all of us together undoubtedly is our love for food. With prominent (health and wellness) culinary and lifestyle shifts in the world, like clean eating, trendy green smoothies, paleo diets, and more, you may have heard of the maca root. But, just in case you haven't I wanted to share a couple of ingredients that I've been using for quite some time, along with new ways that I've recently incorporated them in my cuisine.

This month's ingredient spotlight from the FT Kitchen is actually two: maca powder and goji berry powder. It's a pleasure to partner with Navitas Naturals, a brand dedicated to producing certified organic and ethically processed foods. Navitas Naturals has a wide range in food products that contain heavy nutrients, including protein, essential fats, and vitamins.


Maca is a Peruvian root that has been used and cultivated by natives for ages. It's mineral rich with magnesium, phosphorous, amino acids, and also helps with your body's equilibrium.

I was introduced to the maca root in 2011, when a friend and I were cooking. She actually had maca flour. The maca flour had a nutty taste, which we used in baking at the time. But, even though I grew up knowing about the goji berry, I had not used either of these ingredients in powder form.

The ancient Chinese plant, Goji berry (also known as the Wolf berry) is a drought tolerant and exuberant fruit that's rich in antioxidants, amino acids, and vitamin A, and vitamin C. This particular fruit being in a freeze-dried fine powder made it accessible to use in recipes for both sweet, and savoury creations. I like to put it in my yoghurt and oatmeal, however I also used it in a plantain dish that I made recently (more recipes coming to the blog soon, I promise). You can actually grow goji berries yourself, I found this helpful video to get started.

Maca is quite a special plant that can grow in severe climate in high altitudes, (growing in the Andes mountains) grown up to 4300 metres above sea level.

Some of the benefits of maca include calming hormonal stress, increase in strength, boosts energy, and even enhances libido. Fun fact: there is a large amount of calcium in maca as well, even more than milk!
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Great Uses:
Cooking/Baking: making shakes/smoothies, salads, yoghurt, energy bars, etc.
I loved using maca powder, but it affected my stomach a bit. I used the powder in a number of recipes during my testing process. Then, I cooked with it using heat (in a fig, onion and goat cheese galette), instead of using it raw, and had no problems.

Later, I actually decided to use smaller doses of the maca powder in my smoothies and morning green-juice mixes, and took another friend's advice of getting the gelatinised version of maca powder for better digestion. There's so many benefits in using maca root and goji berries.

Using both ingredients, I made a variety of truffles: peanut butter and dark chocolate, with cacao almonds, and a pan-fried crust using cacao almonds and cacao butter. The natural chocolate butter makes the truffles taste rich. The best part is that you're getting plenty of fatty acids (omega-6, and omega-9).

The maca cashews tasted good on their own and aren't too sweet at all. They have a great crunch with a nice hint of maple as an aftertaste. I crush them to sprinkle atop my acai yoghurt bowl in the morning. I also made a frozen dessert with them, and of course I'll share pics soon.


Have you tried goji berries or maca root in any form?  

The goods: Maca Powder, "Superfood + Maca Cashews," Cacao Butter, "Superfood + Cacao Almonds," and Goji Berry Powder-Courtesy of Navitas Naturals. Great info. on goji berry here. Other references here. For more information visit www.navitasnaturals.com

Shop the products here for USA customers, and here for UK/EU customers. Canadian residents may locate stores here.


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Lovable Layers with Joules

For all-weather type of road trips and weekend excursions it's always a good idea to take a few essentials. You've probably heard me say many times that I personally always carry a scarf in my handbag, because of its versatility. Outfit transformations can happen within moments with a scarf, but there's also my favourite pieces, such as a cross body bag that helps to keep your hands free if you're exploring by foot.

With summer coming to a close it doesn't mean that you have to forgo your outdoor style. We're actually planning a camping trip soon, so packing an umbrella, wellies, and a few other essentials will be on the list.

Joules, is a well-known British brand, namely for their colourful wellies, and even adorable children's wear. They've been producing family apparel, and quintessentially British lifestyle clothing and accessories for just over 25 years. Many of their classic items are still being adored today.

UK retailer, Outdoor and Country carries a wide variety of Joules' pieces, including saddle bags, rain jackets, and cosy jumpers. I know that I'm looking forward to bringing out a couple of tweed blazers and favourite vintage coats for autumn. So, I've put together a few of my top selections from the Joules brand.

Here are some of my top picks: inspiration for travelling style, in addition to weekend favourites that will suit your day glamour itinerary, or a mere casual evening.

Above: Wolfson canvas purse, Marnie beaded jersey top, Leather saddle bag, Parade tweed navy blazer, Glossy fields wellies, Field coat, Laverton leather cross body bag, Avelyn cable knit sweater. 
*This is a sponsored post. All opinions expressed are my own. 

*There's plenty of time to grab weekend essentials for autumn-winter. Shop Joules outlet stores in teh UK, and view more Joules clothing or other affordable pieces like the Field coat or cross body bag at www.outdoorandcountry.co.uk

Have you shopped at Outdoor and Country? What is your favourite Joules piece?


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Style Files // Floral Romance

I remember when I was younger, the only kimono that I actually had was one that my parents gave me  family friends that travelled a lot in Japan would bring back gifts for each one of us, my parents did the same on their journeying as well. But, my kimono wasn't exactly like the styles that you see today. This particular one that I'm wearing reminds me of a modern version of the kimono that I used to have with peachy colours and royal blue accents.


I wore this a while back for a weekend look, and I'm just getting to posting it. I love the seventies fashion elements like fringe, so I paired a fringe shoulder bag with this kimono-style cardigan. I didn't have my straight-legged denim or high-waisted skirt that I wanted to wear with this on-hand, so I went for a rolled hem.

Although, there is no actual purple colour in this print I liked the contrast with the handbag, and it still worked in my opinion.



Style Revamping
I could not put my finger on what it was that I wanted to change on this fringe bag until I carried it to the art store. Then, a great idea struck me like lightning  metal embellishments will liven up this purple tassel concoction.

I used metal eyelet fasteners and dispersed them on the front and back of my bag. Otherwise it looked like this. Since the fringe is actually in two rows on my handbag, I put two eyelets on the second row, and one in the centre, this way when the light hits the metal eyelets you can see it peeking through the fringe.

After I finished knotting the fringe strips on the bag I'm much happier with it, and it makes me miss doing more DIYs, so hopefully a few more in the works. Apologies for the quick/blur detail on the photos of the bag, I was in a rush. Of course, there will be more to display in the future, and I'll take other shots of the bag.



What do you think of my revamped handbag and outfit? 
Do you have any kimonos? 

The goods: Tank-H&M, Faux suede fringe handbag, and Floral and lace kimono-c/o Rosegal, Denim-Express, Leather boots-Vintage, Gold bangles-Consignment shop, Feather necklace-H&M. 
*Linking this post up with Colour and Grace's Fashion Link Up. View more blogger's here.


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Style Files // Fall Details

Although summer is not quite finished, I must admit that I've been slowly getting excited for autumn to arrive. It might just be me, according to my friends, as most of them are still embracing the hot rays of summer weather.

I love certain elements of summer, but it's actually my least favourite season, only specifically regarding the weather. Don't worry, there's plenty of time to enjoy poolside cocktails and sleeveless ensembles.

Last week involved a massive virtual browsing session, and at least one or two window shopping trips. I'm inspired and ready for the change in season, so these are several items that are on my current "favourites" list.



1.  And, speaking of autumn … 
These pumpkin candle holders above are small enough to fit anywhere, and will casually add a hint of fall to your home décor.

2. Wall décor with character:
This is a simplistic way to hold photographs in your home on this birdcage frame; it would make a fun DIY as well. But, firstly, I'd have to figure out where this will go in our home, unless parting with it to give as a gift. Buy it here.

3. Olive:
I never found the perfect tangerine orange coat last year (that wasn't exorbitantly priced), so I am transitioning the wish list to an olive green coat or jacket. Something similar above (not a utility style) would be greatly appreciated. I am travelling at the moment, and hoping to dive into a few vintage and charity shops along the way. Perhaps, if I dream hard enough, find a great mac in olive.

4. Lace, lace, lace ... oh, how I love thee … 
I really want a version of these. That is all.

5, Six, and VII: 
These inspired sweet treats, and golden jewellery pieces from Wolf and Badger will not get you in any trouble! The acorn necklace, and tiny shell earrings also caught my eye. The "play with your food" selections include everything from doughnuts to chocolate necklaces. They're adorable, and make indulging quite easy, because you're wearing your dessert with no mess. Buy it here, sans the calories.

Have you scored a great item lately, or purchased something recently for the cooler months?  


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Family Dinner With Blue Apron

Weeks ago, I was fortunate to be apart of a surprise getaway with friends of ours. There was a fun agenda planned, and each of us had a responsibility. My part was food and decorations, so of course I had to think on my feet and plan easy options that would either travel well, or that I could get upon arrival. Day one: the décor was easily sorted.

Day two: I knew that the surprise couple would be quite tired from their hike (which was an intentional distraction conjured by the friend who planned this getaway), and since the rest of us were helping out with other scheduled events those left behind would do the finishing touches on the prepping, and I'd cook a meal one of the days.


What To Expect:
Instead of heading to the grocer, Blue Apron was nice enough to send some gourmet family meals for us to try out. They provide seasonally motivated two-person meals at $59.94 (3 meals delivered per week), and family style meals (serves 4 each meal) at $69.92 delivered twice per week. There's also a family option for four meals per week.

Every week you can choose what will be delivered to your doorstep with free-shipping, or you can skip the weeks you don't want deliveries. It's pretty simple. I usually don't do home food deliveries these days, but I have used three different ones in the past in London and San Francisco for fresh delivered produce, and gourmet lunches.

Blue Apron worked great for this specific occasion. I was also impressed at the quality of the kits --the boxes were packed well, cold items carefully separated from produce with Nordic Ice packs, and thankfully included everything necessary to cook the meals. The only thing needed additionally was olive oil, salt, and pepper. With the step by step guide and recipe cards, anyone can prepare these pre-portioned meals, which can all be cooked within 35 minutes, but we got seafood which doesn't take long. There's also interactive videos to help you with cooking.

From the cooking novice to the seasoned chef, there really is something for everyone. You're able to select your meals from a curated list for carnivores, and even vegetarians. We decided on the gourmet fish meal with yu choy and Romano beans, and then the tomato-basil fettuccine. I've partnered with Blue Apron, and they are offering two free meals with your first Blue Apron box for FT readers here.



The Dinners
My favourite was definitely the Thai Basil Salmon cooked to perfection. The French lentils cooked with coconut powder were also surprisingly wonderful.

Others at the table enjoyed the pasta, but that was my least favourite, as mozzarella is not my first choice of cheeses, especially melted ...  I know, I'm weird about my cheeses. I also felt that I needed to add something: more herbs and spices to the pasta or a bit of sauce, but only two of us foodies felt that way. Fresh romaine for a Caesar salad also came with the pasta kit, so when I made the dressing, I added a touch of Dijon, and anchovy fillets for an authentic taste which was absolutely amazing.

Ratings: the pasta gets only 3.5/5 stars, and the salad 5/5 stars. The entire salmon meal gets 5/5 stars! Overall, both meal selections worked for us. Above all, it was a great time spent with friends.

I think this would be good for a couple like my brother and sister-in-law, since they have two little ones, and are busy professionals, but not for someone like me who travels often. Having easy-to-prepare and planned meals for the week would seem ideal if you're up for the cooking challenge.

It also makes it fun if you want to cook together with your significant other, and if you're as much as a gastronome as we are, then you might even try to outdo the other one in presentation and plating ... but I digress.

Have you tried Blue Apron or any food delivery service before? 
The goods: Family meal packages-Courtesy of Blue Apron. For more information visit. www.BlueApron.com *All opinions expressed are my own.

Thinking about trying Blue Apron? Redeem here if you'd like 2-free meals. *Special thanks to Blue Apron for the scrumptious dinners and prompt service.



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Midday Nosh: The Travel Deluxe

As a savvy foodie, I like to travel in style, but sometimes having the proper cookery and cutlery is not always easily transported. After spending a large portion of the morning at the farmer's market (buying new inventory of fresh herbs and spices), a light and tasty lunch was next on the agenda.  


When it comes to wanting a gourmet lunch on a (humid) summer day or having an intimate picnic in the park, it's often a challenge to keep it simple. The last thing that you want is to have shoddy kitchen tools. There's nothing like having an excellent cheese platter or bottle of wine ready to enjoy whilst lacking the corkscrew and proper cutlery.  

We packed homemade French baguette sandwiches, cucumber-basil flatbread for smoked salmon pizzas, honey dipped baby carrots, and peaches with blue cheese, amongst other succulent edibles.  

In collaboration with WÜSTHOF, the abundantly renowned producer of premier knives, it was a pleasure to review a few essential pieces from their collection, the CLASSIC 7-Piece Traveler Set. 

Firstly, when you see any WÜSTHOF design there's an unequivocal precision and aesthetic in a glance — the weight, blade quality, and well-made triple riveted handle comfort — sets them apart from other knife brands. But, their commitment to sustainability and environmental awareness is all the more reason to understand why they have been at the top of their industry and in the business for over 200 years.  

To put it mildly, saying, "A knife is just a knife," is like saying that a shoe is like every other shoe, and we all know that soles have dimensions and various calibres of greatness. 

Putting this set to the test in the kitchen myself made a lingering impression as it didn't take much to cut crisp veggies and fruits beautifully, even as a lefty.  

These German-made knives are credibly the best blades in the kitchen business. This traveller set made it effortless to carry some of the most important and most-used cutlery pieces, which in fact was suiting for a packable blanket-style lunch. However, this set would also be great for an outback foodie enthusiast or travelling epicure. From the campfire to the kitchen, all occasions are welcomed. 


Bonus: The knives are forged with exactness from one blank of high carbon stain-free steel. This particular set includes a 6" cook's knife, 5" serrated utility knife, 3 ½ " paring knife, waiter's corkscrew, kitchen shears, travel-friendly knife sharpener, and zipper-closure travelling case. All of the essentials needed to slice, dice, and open your favourite foods. 

What do you think of our lunch? Have you used Wüsthof knives?
The goods: CLASSIC 7-Piece Traveler Set #8857-Provided by Wüsthof (Buy it here), Eco-printed paper napkins-c/o Gudrun Sjoden, Wicker and leather basket-Vintage (Buy similar), Plastic stemware-(Buy similar), Silver tray-Vintage. Travel mat-Interior Warehouse, Mini cutting board. Affiliate links enclosed. *All opinions expressed are my own. Vegan baguette w/cashew cheese: we used cucumber, butter/romaine lettuce, broccoli sprouts, truffle oil, cashew cheese, and avocado (similar recipe).  

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