June Foodie Penpals

Great summertime treats!

Another month has come and gone — and with it another great round of Foodie Penpals! And it couldn’t have come at a better time, or with a better set of penpal partners. Being back home in the country is not exactly all it’s cracked up to be when it comes to my healthy eating plans — surprising, right?! Luckily this month I was set to receive my box of treats from Farrah of Fairy Healthy Life.

Not only is Farrah’s story amazing, but her love of running? Right up my reborn running self’s alley. I was pretty sure I could not only count on her for some yummy treats, but I was positive I’d end up with some useful, and healthy, pantry items as well.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love being right?! No? Well — I do. A lot.

Cooooooooookies!

Okay, I won’t lie. The first items I squealed over were the cookies. Farrah sent me two kinds — a package of fig cookies and a package of vanilla bean-green tea cookies. The first thing I thought was how PERFECT the fig cookies would be to shove down my throat at 4:45am, when I’m trying to get myself up and ready for a run. The second thought was how good the vanilla bean cookies would taste after said run. Again — I love being right!

Hot, spicy, and local — all great things in a Foodie Penpals box!

Next up were two spicy treats — a bottle of Cholula sauce and a package of dried chile peppers from a shop local to Farrah. Love, love, LOVE! I barely had these out of the box before I was thinking of ways to put them to good use. Farrah suggested using the peppers as a topping for soup — and I can definitely see that happening, at least once the temperature drops back below 80 degrees. In the meantime, they’ve been a perfect addition to steamed vegetables, marinades for fish and chicken, and even in omelets. And that Cholula? I can happily put that on just about everything.

From salad to dessert — a full meal right in the box!

I try not to play favorites when it comes to my monthly Foodie Penpals treats, but sometimes I just can’t help it. And this was one of those times. All three of these treats were huge winners for me — starting with the tabouleh mix. Once upon a time, in a land not so far away (the north side of Chicago, to be exact) I was introduced to this dish. And have been hooked ever since. So to have a box that I can make up on my own at home — that I don’t have to share? Sweet!

Next was the GoPicnic Ready-To-Eat Meal. I know, I know — what happened to my commitment to unprocessed foods? Well, when I’m working 6 to 7 days a week at a diner surrounded by fried potatoes, burgers, and danishes — I’ll take any reprieve I can get. And this made a perfect midday snack to hold me over between my morning smoothie (when I even remember) and dinnertime. I think I may need to keep a couple of these on stock for such emergencies.

And last, but definitely not least, was the sorbet — with Sicilian lemon juice. These adorable little cups came ready to be popped in my freezer before enjoying. And that’s exactly what I did. After I smuggled them away from my niece’s watchful eye. For some reason, she thought since there were two cups of sorbet she should be able to have one all to herself. I considered it for a minute. Luckily, her 6-year old attention span kicked in and before I knew it, she was licking my bowl of hummus clean. Small sacrifice, really.

And all it took was one late night run in 90 degree weather to make me extremely grateful she had forgotten about the magic cups of sorbet. Because I sure didn’t forget — shortly after wringing myself out from my run, I grabbed a sorbet and a fresh bottle of water and enjoyed every single bite. All to myself.

Thank you so much, Farrah, for such a great month of #FoodiePenpals!

Half of the fun of Foodie Penpals isn’t about what I get — it’s about what I get to send off to another person, and hoping they love their package as much as I loved mine.

Normally, I am sitting on the edge of my seat — waiting for the “yay” or “nay” verdict from the penpal to whom I sent a box. But not this month. I got to send my box to Shawn — a blog reader (for now…) — and quickly got the sweetest email response. What can I say? Spreading the #FoodiePenpals love makes me happy!

From Shawn…
“Thank you so much – you made my first FPP box fabulous! The assortment was perfect, especially the quinoa and the Tate cookies. Yum! And the bonus nonfood item was a great surprise. I’ve already put it to good use. But I especially appreciated the handwritten note talking about your selections and sharing your recipes. It made the connection so much more personal. My first experience has been great. I’m hooked and can’t wait for next month. Thanks Lena – you rock!”

A glimpse of the treats I sent off to Shawn!

Want to see what else I’ve gotten (and sent) over the past few months?

Want to join in the fun next month?
Lindsay of The Lean Green Bean organizes #FoodiePenpals, so in her word’s here’s what it’s all about!

  • On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
  • The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe … use your imagination!
  • You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
  • Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
  • Foodie Penpals is open to US, Canadian residents & UK residents. Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. So, I’m going to keep two separate lists and match US w/ US and Canada w/ Canada!

    ***If you’re in the UK, please contact Carol Anne from This Is Rock Salt at rocksalt@thisisrocksalt.com to get involved!

If you’re interested in participating for June, please send an email to Lindsay at theleangreenbean@gmail.com and include the following information:

Your full name
Your email address
Your blog name/address
Your twitter handle (if applicable)
WHETHER YOU ARE A US RESIDENT OR CANADIAN RESIDENT. – this is SUPER important so she can get you on the right list!

** Lindsay will need to hear from you by July 4th as pairings will be emailed on July 5th! *

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Keeping It Fresh — Savor the flavors

Ever since starting my Boston Organics deliveries back up, I feel like I have been more involved with my boxes than ever before. Whether it means making changes to the service because of my personal taste preferences, travel schedule, or challenging myself to try something new — I love the flexibility that is allowed!

Since I’m trying to cut back on my sugar intake, I’ve already bumped up my vegetable ratio in the box, but that isn’t all it takes to satisfy my different taste preferences. So now it’s time for me to experiment more with combining my vegetables with fruits to find that perfect blend of sweet and savory flavors. This week, I even managed to take advantage of the Grocery Add-ons service — allowing me to add everything from some extra vegetables to spices to coffee beans to snacks to my order. I don’t use this all the time because I have a weird obsession with being able to pick these items out in person, but once in a while it comes in handy. Like when I leave my shopping list at home on the kitchen table…

The savory:

The sweet:

The extras:

  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • 2 local chocolate treats — I had a hard time deciding what to send to my “Foodie Penpal” this month, so figured it was better to be prepared. I’m sure I can think of something to do with the one I don’t send… Yum…

It’s really so convenient being able to add certain random staples and treats — this isn’t the first time I’ve been saved from making a trip back to the store to get something I forgot from my shopping list. The only decision I’m weighing now is whether or not I make the leap to the “all vegetable” box. While I won’t let the fruit go to waste, I’m not grabbing fruit as my go-to snack anymore. Instead, I’m eating more vegetables, nuts, and homemade popcorn. Luckily, I have another 10 days to decide.

A couple of new things I tried from the last box:

  • Rutabaga — I didn’t come up with any crazy recipe, but instead opted to simply chop the rutabaga up and roast it. While it was a little sweeter than the turnips I have grown to love, it was a perfect along with some baked lemon-herb chicken for a light and healthy dinner.
  • Blood oranges and pea shoots — these were my two favorite, “novelty” items in my last box. And who would have known they would go so well together on top of salads?! Can’t wait until these make a seasonal comeback!

What recipe would you recommend that uses some of both the vegetables and fruits from this Boston Organics box? Please describe or link to your favorite recipes or tips in the comments below!

Black Raspberry Jam Tea Cakes

It has been a fairly mild winter in New England, so mild that I can count the number of times I’ve needed to turn on my heat on one hand. It also helps that I’ve been in a bit of a baking frenzy, and somehow managed to turn a small corner of my kitchen into my office.

All it really takes is a spark of curiosity, and before I know it I’m buried in a new cookbook with a notebook and pen in hand and my laptop less than an arm’s length away. And sometimes my experiments work out well, like these mini cakes — a perfect treat for a mid-morning coffee break.

Mini Black Raspberry Jam Tea Cakes

Adapted From: The Best Quick Breads by Beth Hensperger
Makes: 8 mini loaves, or 12 muffins
Oven: 350 degrees
Baking time: Approximately 20 minutes

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 – 2/3 cup black raspberry jam, preferably with seeds
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour your mini loaf pan, or muffin tin.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, almond extract, and butter. Carefully add this mixture to the dry ingredients and beat until the batter becomes smooth and fluffy.

Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Cover each loaf, or muffin, with spoonfuls of the jam, dotting it over the surface of the batter. Insert a butter knife straight into the batter and gently swirl a few times to distribute the jam slightly through the batter.

Bake in the center of the oven until a cake tester inserted into the cakes comes out clean, about 20 min. Rotate your pan halfway through.

Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the cakes and place them on a cooling rack. Sift the powder sugar over the top of the cakes.

The cakes can — and should — be served immediately.

Additional notes:
Because I had some extra buttermilk to use up, and the first batch went so well, I decided to make a second batch using some chocolate hazelnut spread I had hanging out in my cupboard. While this was a little bit more difficult to distribute through the cakes, the flavor was exactly what I had been looking for — warm, chocolatey, and not too sweet.

What jam, or other spread, flavor do you want to try in this recipe?

Baked Pears in a Chocolate-Riesling Sauce

It takes a lot to get me to turn on the oven in the summer, but when the temperature outside drops below 65 degrees it is a little bit easier to persuade me. Plus I really wanted something sweet, but healthy. And I had extra fruit and wine that needed to be used.

Baked Pears in a Chocolate-Riesling Sauce

Serves: 4
Oven: 400 degrees
Cooking time: Approximately 1 hour

Ingredients:
4 pears, washed with the bottoms sliced off so they can stand upright while baking
2 cups Riesling wine
1 tbsp dark chocolate vinegar
1/2 – 1 tsp honey to taste, remember there’s plenty of sugar in the fruit and wine as well
1 – 2 cinnamon sticks
zest of 1 orange

Directions:

Place the pears upright in a baking dish. Whisk the wine, vinegar, honey and orange zest together in a bowl. Pour over the pears.

Bake for approximately 1 hour, basting with the sauce every 15 minutes. Serve in a heat-safe dish, large ramekins work well, with a few spoonfuls of the sauce poured over each pear.

Additional Notes:
I also used apples in my first try – simply wash and core the apples, trimming the bottoms like the pears, if needed. Additionally, this dessert is also perfectly okay to be made in advance. I refrigerated the pears, covered in their serving dishes, and the sauce, in a separate container, overnight. I then warmed the sauce over a low-medium burner, whisking constantly, before spooning over the chilled pears.

I’d imagine a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream would also go well on the side of this treat, but I can’t actually testify to that.

ENJOY!

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