September 2015 Foodie Penpal reveal

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September brought me a ‘newbie’ penpal.  My name was given to Jana in Germany, and I pretty much gave her free rein to send what she wanted to.  She jumped straight on it, and within a week, she emailed to say her parcel was on its way, which really put me to shame as I only had to send mine to Birmingham, and I still hadn’t been shopping.

A few days later, this HUGE box appeared on my doorstep.

Huge Box

Huge Box

I put a small, 10 ml bottle of essential oils on the box so you’d get perspective.  This is definitely the largest parcel I’ve received yet! I suspect Jana had to take out a second mortgage just to post it here.

You will also get bonus points for guessing the shadow puppet on the box above.

The start of the reveal!

The start of the reveal!

It was absolutely stuffed full of things – I couldn’t wait to get everything unwrapped.

Contents unwrapped

Contents unwrapped

So this is a snapshot of what I got. What a fabulous array.

Clearly the bottle is what I reached for first.  I love getting bottles.

Dry white wine

Dry white wine

Before going any deeper into the box, this bottle went straight to the fridge where, like good pastry, it rested until consumed not long after.  It was delicious and was the perfect accompaniment to the next item that caught my eye.

Chili and Lime Nuts

Chili and Lime Nut

These peanuts were fantastic. You got the subtle hint of citrus first, and then a hit of heat.   They were extremely more-ish, and we couldn’t stop eating them until they were gone.  Good choice, Jana!

Next I pulled out this container of Muesli.

Honey and Coconut Muesli

Honey and Coconut Muesli

The brilliant thing about this is it’s a single serving, and it leaves room for you to add your favourite yogurt.  I added my favourite greek yogurt, and the bottom of the container came much too soon.   Just a touch of sweetness from the honey and coconut, but not that you actually tasted either.  It was delicious.

Then, something else caught my eye.  Something homemade.

Homemade pear pineapple jam

Homemade pear pineapple jam

I think there is something very special in sending something homemade.  It shows a lot of class and thoughtfulness.  It suggests that someone thought enough about you to actually make something for you.  I tried this first as a marinade for a couple of pork chops.  I just rubbed a bit on both sides, and melted a bit in the juices for a lovely  sauce.  It was delicious.  Jana – this was such an inspired item to send.  I really liked it.

And it didn’t take much persuading to get this bag of chocolates out.

Mini chocolates

Mini chocolates

Such a variety of types of chocolates here filled with things like nougat, marzipan, hazel nuts, etc.  There’s something here for every chocolate lover.  And each one is a nice bite-size, so you can try them all without feeling guilty.

And what do you have with chocolates?

Apple Fig Tea

Apple Fig Tea

Well, TEA, of course!  I drink a lot of tea, but have never tasted apple and fig before.  It is delightfully refreshing, and it makes the kitchen smell absolutely divine.  This really goes with everything.

And this jar came out next.

Vanilla Tomato

Vanilla Tomato

This is really interesting.  It’s a vanilla tomato chutney, and we’ve had it with cheese and biscuits.  It was a surprisingly good combination, and something we’ve never tried before.  This is definitely worth investigating, if you have the chance.

This was followed by a grinder.

Lemon Pepper

Lemon Pepper

This is a brilliant season tool for so many things.  It’s fresh ground pepper, but it has the addition of lemon zest as well.  It really gives things added zing.  I started using this sparingly, but now it’s the first thing I reach for. It seasons everything from eggs to steaks.  I love the freshness of freshly ground anything.  Another good choice.

And finally, spaetzle.  I just discovered a recipe for meatballs in a cream sauce, and I think this will go beautifully on top of these egg noodles.

Spaetzle

Spaetzle

A bit of boiling salt water and the contents of this bag, and I’ve got a great meal.  I can’t wait to try these.

So – as you can see, this was truly a fabulous parcel from Jana in Germany.  I have tasted so many unusual things, got some homemade things, and was able to have a drink at the same time.  Well done, Jana.  You’ve made your first venture into the Foodie penpal club a memorable one.  I hope your parcel was as good as the one you sent me.

 

 

 

 

August 2014 Foodie Penpal

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Because of work travels and vacation travels, I had to withdraw from the Foodie Penpal group for June and July. So I couldn’t wait for August to come around to get back into the swing of things.

This month, I was happy to break-in a ‘newbie’ to the group. This was the first month Bex has participated, so we exchanged a couple of pep talk emails, and when I knew she was ready, I cut her loose! And she did a grand job! I hope the first package she received was just as wonderful.

So here’s what I got.

The first thing I pulled out of my box was some tofu.

Tofu

What can I do with this?

And I have to hang my head in shame and admit now that I’ve never tasted tofu, but it’s in my house now, and Bex gave me several great ideas. I’d be happy to hear your ideas, too, if you’d like to drop me a note.

The next thing that I grabbed is one of my all-time favourites – cous cous.

Cous Cous

One of my very favourites!

And I love the Ainsley Harriet range, and this flavour in particular. So well done, Bex.

Next out of the box came an old friend. Chocolate truffles. I have to say that I read Bex’s note first, which explained everything she chose. I read that she sent me truffles, and my heart sank because I don’t like mushrooms . . ..

chocolate

The BEST type of truffles!

So I was really happy to see she sent me really the only thing that should be called truffles .. . chocolate! I can’t wait to tuck into those.

As Bex lives in Wales, she wanted to send something with a Welsh accent, so I was happy to find oatcakes with laverbread.

Oatcakes

Welsh oatcakes with laverbread

I know these are going to go well with some lovely cheese and a glass of red wine. I’ve got the weekend targeted to try those babies.

With two in-laws that were born and raised in India, you’d like I’d have made Gulab Jamun before. I’ve eaten it for sure, but never tried making it.

Gulab Jamun

These should melt in your mouth

Bex says she’s never made them either, so we’re going to compare notes after we’ve made them. My sweet tooth is going to love them.

Bex sent me some cornmeal, which I’m very familiar with, but I am always curious about the recent (past 10 years) interest in polenta, and how it seems that very few people realise they are one and the same.

Cornmeal

Cornmeal or Polenta????

I have a friend who won’t eat polenta because he doesn’t like the word ‘polenta’, but he’s fine eating cornmeal. Go figure!

And finally, breadsticks. Breadsticks really need no adornment. But when you go ahead and stick sun-dried tomatoes and olives in them, it doesn’t get much better.

Breadsticks

Fantastic breadsticks

And now that the weather’s just starting to brighten up a bit, I even have dreams that we can sit outside under the grapevine covered pergola, eating these breadsticks and chewing on a couple of gin and tonics. I might even turn the heat off in the house! Good heavens!

All in all, Bex should be very proud of her first efforts. It took me several months to really get the hang of knowing what to choose to send out. She seemed to nail it first time. Well done, Bex!
If you are interested in joining a Foodie Penpal club, please visit http://www.thisisrocksalt.com if you are European based, or http://www.theleangreenbean.com if you are based in the US.

April 2014 Foodie Penpal Reveal

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A day late, but still just as sincere, I wanted to tell you about my Foodie Penpal package that came to me this month from Giles.

Giles is one of three founder members of the “Our Honest Foods” company, and I sincerely urge you to visit their website by clicking here. It’s a most entertaining and valuable site, and I think perhaps many of you might benefit from their wares. I couldn’t possibly give them a better write up than they have done themselves, so I’ll let them do the talking, but please – visit them – even if it’s just to laugh at their antics.

But here is my package. The box it came in was neat and tidy.

The Box

The Box


But not only that, every single side of it had value. It even had a special Easter greeting! How cool is that?

So the front is as functional as you’d expect. But look . . .

Side 2

Their mission

How nice to have a mission you can print on your boxes!

But it’s not over yet. On the opposite side of their mission is this –

Their story

Their story

And if that wasn’t enough – just look what’s on the back!

The back

Games on the back!

I loved this box before I even opened it. And that’s really what you want in a foodie penpal box, right?

Nevertheless, and as entertained as I was by just the box, I did open it. And here’s what I found . . .

The contents

The best contents

I grabbed the corn nuts first as it was later in the day, and I needed something for my gin and tonic to wash down. They were fantastic.

The chocolate Cheeky Chunk was next. I have to be honest and say that my expectations were fairly low, as I’ve tasted some rank chocolate in my time. But this was excellent quality chocolate. I mean it was really, really good.

After that, the dark chocolate and ginger cookies bit the dust. It was a perfect size for munching with a cup of tea (clearly on a different day from the aforementioned gin and tonic.)

I then tried the Super-Seedy Sustain squares. Now these are goooooooooooooooood. These are really good. They’re a nutritional treat that don’t taste like they should be good for you. But they are.

Since plowing through the first handful of items so quickly, I’m saving the Rocky Road gluten free bar, and the fruity apple and pear snack.

The handful of Uncle Joe’s mint balls (which keep you all aglow) have been a big success after our meals. A real fresh take on the after-dinner mint.

All in all – this was a most excellent month for the Foodie Penpal for me. I love this company and I wish them all the best for their future, which I think will be big and bright.

Good luck, lads and thanks for the treats!

IF you are interested in learning more about joining the Foodie Penpal monthly event, and you live in Europe, find out more about us here. If you are in the USA, please check it out here.

January 2014 Foodie Penpal reveal

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With all the Christmas festivities behind us, I was so delighted to get the note from our Foodie Penpal fearless leader (and I DO mean she’s fearless!) reminding us that it was time to dust off our shopping skills and get cracking on the January Foodie penpal packages.  For those who aren’t familiar, please check it out.  It’s good stuff.

My penpal carer this month was Kate, and she did not disappoint.

Kate's card

Kate’s card

Kate sent me a great package that started with this card, which included this recipe for mini banana, pecan and cacao loaves.

The recipe

The recipe

 

Not only did she send the recipe, but she sent most of the ingredients as well.

 

Everything I need to make mini-loaves

Everything I need to make mini-loaves

 

And she sent the mini-loaves cases as well.

Mini loaf cases

Mini loaf cases

 

So there really is no excuse (unless, like me, you’ve eaten all the bananas).  But, unlike money, bananas DO grow on trees, so I know where I can get more.  I think this weekend will be the perfect time to try these babies out.

Kate also sent me coffee to have with the mini-loaves.  There really is no excuse now.  I love the name of Grumpy Mule for coffee.  It sums up so many mornings until that first cup hits home.

Coffee

Coffee

 

I mentioned to Kate that we like to do a bit of walking on the weekends, and she kindly threw in a couple of bars to tuck away into pockets to help get us up that last hill.  These were delicious.  They, unfortunately, didn’t make it past the first weekend.  And they were just what we needed.  Good choice, Kate.

Energy bars

Energy bars

Then I discovered a jar of Umami paste, which I can’t wait to try.  I’ve heard so many things about it, and now there’s no excuse not to get cracking with it. I will admit now that I had to google it, and I’ve got a couple of recipes I’m going to try it out in. However, if any of you have any suggestions, please feel free to drop me a line.  I’d be so happy to hear from you with your thoughts.

Unami paste

Unami paste

But here’s something that needs no extra flavour.  Kate sent me a chili kit for making a marvellous pot of chili – just right for this time of year.  I only need to add the ‘carne’ and let it simmer away.  Is there a better smell than this in your kitchen when you’ve been outside in the rainy cold?  I don’t think so.

 

Chili kit

Chili kit

 

And to take a break from having to make my own, Kate sent me this bag of popcorn, which I have to say barely hit the sides.  It was exceptionally good, and I shall be looking to get more of this for the next social gathering here.  But she had me a goats cheese.  I’d spread goats cheese on a rock and happily munch on that all day.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to.

 

Black Pepper Popcorn

Black Pepper Popcorn

 

And finally, I came to another something I’ve not seen before.  These chips are delicious, and perfect for dipping into hummus or cheese – anything really.  The beetroot flavour is very subtle and doesn’t hit your palate immediately.  The horseradish just warms it up a bit.  Absolutely a winner.  And also, the picture at the bottom of the box reminds me of Almira Gulch from The Wizard of Oz.  I’ll never be able to watch that movie again without picturing her bicycling down the road with Toto in her basket and a giant beetroot on her head!

 

Beetroot and Horseradish shards

Beetroot and Horseradish shards

 

So- thank you, Kate – I loved everything about this package.  It was so well put together, and I am grateful for the time you spent on selecting everything.  You did a great job!

October Foodie Penpal

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BOO!

Okay, okay . . . I know Halloween is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I happen to love it. I have so many fond memories of going Trick-or-Treating with my brothers in the freezing cold or pouring rain, but coming home with bags and bags of candy. Looking back, most of it was really cheap-o candy that you’d normally never buy, but still – the thrill was there.

My sender for October was Kim. I was very impressed when I got an email from Kim saying that the package was on it’s way, and it was only the middle of the month! When I got it and opened it, I wasn’t even thinking about Halloween that was still almost two weeks away.

Boy – was I in for a treat (and not a trick!)

Once I got through the postal packaging, I was greeted with this, and I could tell this was going to be a good one.

The complete package

The complete package

It was completely wrapped like a wonderful pressie under the tree at Christmas, but it was a Halloween themed wrapping paper, with a little note taped to the outside.

The Dare

The Dare

Who could resist that?

So I dared, and opened up the box, wondering if a black cat was going to come leaping out at me. . . But as much as I like cats, what I found was even better!

The box

The box


and it was full of cobwebs!
The Cobwebs

The Cobwebs


and spiders! EEEEEEEEK!
The Spider

The Spider


Every item was wrapped individually in either black or orange paper, just to keep the Halloween theme up. I got a lovely card inside the package, and I could hardly wait to delve in and unwrap everything like an excited 3 year old!

One of the first things I came to was a bottle of Vampire hot tomato relish.

Vampire Tomato Salsa

Vampire Tomato Salsa


Let me tell you what this is good on. EVERYTHING! It’s not burn-your-mouth-out hot – it’s just full of flavour and zing. You could have it on most things – it is delicious.

Then I grabbed this box of cheese thingies

The Cheese bits

The Cheese bits


Now you know by just looking at them that they’re going to be good. The kind of good that when you put them in your mouth, your eyes roll back in your head a bit. They are delightful.

Then I picked up the bag of gold. . . er . . . I mean honeycomb!

Whole lot of Honeycomb

Whole lot of Honeycomb


To my knowledge, we do not have this readily available in the USA where I grew up. So I find this particular sweet very appealing. I like it’s simplicity. I guess it kind of reminds me of Cotton Candy (Candy Floss), which IS readily available in the US. In any case, I love it and my dentist loves Kim for sending it, as it will keep her in business!

The next thing I reached for was this Chili making kit.

The Chilli-making kit

The Chili-making kit


Chili is one of our favourite household dinners, especially in the cooler weather, so this could not have come at a better time. I have seen these little kits in the shops, but have never had the nerve to try them. I have this one ear-marked for next Wednesday night. I can’t wait!

Next, I came to this very large, very smoked garlic.

Smoked Garlic

Smoked Garlic


Probably out of all the things in the box, this was one of my favourites because I have sent smoked garlic bulbs very similar to this in the past, but never had the nerve to try it myself. Now I get to! Maybe I’ll squish some in to the chili next week!

After that, I grabbed this ghostly character.

Ghostly Gingerbread

Ghostly Gingerbread


It was a lovely piece of gingerbread – still a bit soft and bendy, and the perfect gingerbread cookie – even if it was a bit scary!

Now came the surprise of the package.

Cheese and Onion Chocolate!

Cheese and Onion Chocolate!


This is a chocolate bar with little bits of cheese and onion crisps in it. Now before you turn your nose up at this and decide it sounds dreadful (which it does), you MUST try it. It is a case of the sweet chocolate being the perfect compliment to the salty crisps. This shouldn’t work together, but it does. I recommend every tries this once. Or maybe even twice.

And finally, I fished out these three little treats.

Little Treats!

Little Treats!


These are the perfect little pick-me-ups during my work day when I just need a little something sweet to wake me up a bit.

Kim, you did a fantastic job and should be commended on the amount of thought and effort that clearly went into this package. It was a delight to have from the very first layer to the last little item in the box. It was the most appropriate Halloween package, and I thank you. Well done!

June Foodie Penpal Reveal (what I sent out)

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As you can clearly tell, my blogging is still in its infancy. But I learn new things with every article I post, so I WILL get there – I promise.

This site wasn’t up and running in time for the last round of Foodie Penpal reveals, but I think we’re really good to go this month. This particular posting is about the package I gathered to send to lovely Lisa in Craigavon.

I have historically used all kinds of shopping sources to fulfil the penpal requirements. I would really like to use our Farmers’ Market that comes to Epsom every month, as more and more unusual vendors are selling their wares. And it’s all local stuff – which is kind of the point, right? But our once-a-month market shows up on the first Sunday of the month. And our new Penpal matches aren’t sent out until the 5th of the month, so unless that first Sunday falls on the 6th or 7th, I’m stuffed. So sorry Lisa – no local-to-Epsom products in your parcel this month.

I was lucky enough to visit the Lake District earlier this month, however, and I tend to picture all of the Lake District like a Beatrix Potter sketch. So with countryside that cute, I knew I could probably find at least a couple of items there . . . and I wasn’t disappointed. A combination of traipsing through Grange-over-Sands and Cartmel really provided me with a variety of things that I just wouldn’t find here in Surrey. So I did pick up a few things for the parcel.

But I knew I needed more items once I got back home, so I did the ‘farm shop’ google and found several within an acceptable radius. I chose one and went for it. Boy, did I strike gold! I found a place called The Larder, and it is a magical shop with local grocery items – and some very unusual things. It’s a quite petite shop, but it still took me about 20 minutes to walk around and see the whole thing. And this is where I did the rest of my shopping. Note to my future recipients: be watching for more items from here!

So here are a few things that went into this month’s parcel –

Ready for the goodies!

Ready for the goodies!

The first big decision, of course, is what box to use. I now tend to keep all the boxes that I get stuff in, just for the foodie penpal, so we might need to move house to incorporate the extra cardboard I’ve accumulated.

Chocolate handbag

Chocolate handbag

In Grange-over-Sands, there is the most delightful chocolate shop (I kind of feel like it’s more of a “ye olde shoppe”), and one of the things Lisa said she liked was chocolate. And what girl doesn’t like a handbag, so a combination of the two seemed appropriate.

Pretty pasta

Pretty pasta

Lisa also told me she likes pasta, and this was so pretty that I had to get this – also from Grange-over-Sands. I think it must have other flavours in it, but I just liked the colours.

Smoked garlic

Smoked garlic

The rest of the stuff came from The Larder in Cobham. This freshly smoked bulb of garlic was just so aromatic, and nice and light to post! So that went in – although I did double wrap it in two zip-lock baggies to try to contain the aroma.

Snacking Salami

Snacking Salami

Battered broad beans

Battered broad beans

I had send the snacking salami as it looked really nice, and then I happened upon the battered broad beans. I have to say that I glanced at it and thought the flavour said “Mojito”, which has to be great on anything, right? It wasn’t until I got home and was wrapping everything up that I realised they weren’t actually mojito-flavoured. Sorry, Lisa . . .

Ladybug!

Ladybug!


Lemon & Black Pepper chocolate

Lemon & Black Pepper chocolate

And finally – a few more sweet things, because you never can have too many – some lemon and black pepper chocolate and a lucky ladybug!

What a fun package this was to put together. I wonder what the next one will bring?

May Foodie Pen Pal reveal

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Okay okay . . . I know it’s almost mid-June, but it’s never too late to do a reveal, I think. This month, my Foodie Pen Pal was Rachella. Rachella is a fellow American living in London, so we compared a lot of notes – mostly on good Mexican restaurants in London. I might need to test them all.

Thai Tower

Thai Tower

But my parcel was so diverse, and it was a true joy to open up and wade through. I got so many goodies – some familiar and some very foreign, so it was a voyage of discovery. The first thing I got to was this tower of Thai, which gives me Thai oil, Thai seasonings and Thai paste. Boy, does this smell good. I think this won’t last long here. It might make it till tomorrow, but I’m kind of doubting it.

Chiles

Chiles

My next goodie was a can of jalepeno chilis. During my exchange with Rachella, she discovered that I really enjoy hot food, so chilis are always a good bet. I like that these are whole. I can do many more things with these.

Chili rub

Chili rub

Moving on through that theme, I came to this three chili rub. This, I know, will be a big hit in the household (apart from the cat). It smells wonderful, and I can’t wait to try it. It may have to wait until after I do the Thai dinner, but it won’t have to wait long.

Junior Mints

Junior Mints

The next item I grabbed just made me laugh out loud. Who doesn’t like Junior Mints? Although I appreciate the Big Bang Theory link, I think they will always remind me of Seinfeld.

Dried figs

Dried figs

I then grabbed a packet of dried figs, which I’ve never used before, so I am very excited about that. I love fresh figs, and I know I can incorporate these into something very yummy. Time to do some research.

See's candy

See’s candy

I also got a handful of See’s candies, which I believe come from the west coast of America, where Rachella is from. These are the perfect items to keep energy levels up while I’m working. I can’t wait to try these.

Twinings

Twinings

Of course no explanation is needed for Twinings tea. You can’t live in England without becoming a tea addict. And Twinings is definitely one of the better cups of tea you’re going to have. I think, as this is neatly packed in a sealed packet, I’ll put this in my bag so I can have a lovely cuppa on the go sometime.

Nutter Butter

Nutter Butter

Next came a tub (now near empty) of Nutter Butter bites. For those not familiar with Nutter Butters, they are a peanut shaped cookie sandwiched with peanut butter. So these are just the little bite size cookies that you can pop in your mouth without anyone noticing (unless they get close enough to smell your peanut butter breath). These are good with the aforementioned tea.

Chocolate Bears

Chocolate Bears

And finally, I’m not quite sure what to call these or where they actually came from, but they are just the coolest little chocolate cookies. When I looked at the outside, I thought they’d maybe be the equivalent of Animal Crackers, without that little box they used to come in with the little shoe-lace handle. But no – these are actually all little bears that are filled with chocolate. But each one of them is painted with a different personality. So one’s a nurse, one’s happy, etc. I kind of feel bad eating them. Well . . . not THAT bad.

Little Bears

Little Bears

All in all, I think I made out pretty well this month, and I thank Rachella for her efforts. You did a fine job.