October 2015 Foodie Penpal reveal

2 Comments

This month, I sent my parcel off to Alice in London, and in turn, I got my parcel from Rachel in Liverpool.  It’s probably one of my first all-British swaps in a long time.

Rachel was assigned to me as her very first foodie penpal experience.  I started thinking back to a couple of years ago when it was my first time.  I remember it being very nerve-racking, and in hindsight, knowing what I know now, I’d love to do the first couple of people again.  However Rachel seems to have skirted the ‘nerves’ issue, and she produced a most wonderful box of goodies for her first time out of the gate.

In honour of Halloween, I received a pumpkin orange parcel.

Square pumpkin?

Square pumpkin?

Of course it was just a Sainsbury’s plastic carrier bag (other supermarket bags are available) protecting the box, and I did ask if she wanted me to refund her 5p for the bag, but she declined my offer.  But I thought how appropriate it was to have a Halloween orange box this week.

So after carefully peeling the pumpkin box, I reached layer number two.

Pink polka dots

Pink polka dots

This was looking interestinger and interestinger.  And like the most exciting game of ‘Pass the Parcel’, I peeled off this pink film to find . . .

Blue polka dots

Blue polka dots

I finally got to the prize!  But it was so fun to have layers to get through first.

The box revealed

The box revealed

And this is what greeted me when I took the polka-lid off.  My heart started racing immediately.  See that magical looking red ‘f’ there in the middle of the box?  I KNOW WHAT THAT MEANT!  And if I had a heart condition, it I would have been in trouble as I also spotted some familiar cookies in the box, too.  But more on that later.

Marshmallow fluff

Marshmallow fluff

Of course my hands went straight for the fluff.  For those of you who have never experienced a fluffernutter, you don’t know what you’re missing.   I’ve already decided to make fudge with this.  Marshmallow fluff makes the most delicious fudge. I seriously encourage you to explore this opportunity (after you make a fluffernutter, of course).

And because the human mind always goes to the familiar first, I reached for these next.

Oreos

Oreos

I so rarely buy these here, so I was delighted to have them provided to me without any effort.  Before I open these though, I need to buy more milk.  You just can’t have Oreo cookies without a lot of very cold milk.  It’s the best.

I next reached for this large box of tea.

Chocolate tea

Chocolate tea

So I have this theory in my head that trendy ‘green tea’ that is sooooooo good for you, will taste awful, as most things that are ‘good for you’ do.  But how on earth can a tea named “Fudge Melts” taste bad, I ask you?  I am really looking forward to brewing this up.  I am picturing it enveloping the entire house in a blanket of chocolate scent.  What could be better?

I next spied a familiar logo.  Rachel had included a package of Guinness mini caramels, wrapped in chocolate, and they taste like Guinness.

Guinness caramels

Guinness caramels

Now’s the time that I confess that even after living in this country for almost 30 years, I have never tasted Guinness.  I love the way it looks.  But I really want it to taste like a root beer float.  And I suspect it’s not going to.  So as not to dispel my imagery, I have avoided tasting it.  However, I feel mixing it with chocolate and caramel would be fine.  It would be like tasting it, without having to compare it to a root beer float.  Those will be open tonight after dinner, I think.

Ahhh . .  and finally something I can claim has a ‘healthy’ label . . .

Perkier bar

Perk!er bar

I have had Perk!er bars, but haven’t tried this one.  However, I love quinoa AND goji berries and cranberries.  So it’s a winner all ’round, right?  This looks packed full of goodness.

Next, I found these two packages.

Garlic seasoning

Garlic seasoning

and

Chilli seasoning

Chilli seasoning

I cook with fresh chilli and fresh garlic ALL the time, so I was very excited to see these.  What a great way to always have these things on hand, especially if you’ve just run out of the fresh stuff.

And finally, the last pouch I pulled out was one of my favourite flavours of all time.    I love Nandos chicken, and now I can do it at home without having to put up with having to go up to the counter to order my food.  I even have (pretty much) unlimited soft drinks here, too!

 

Nandos sauce

Nandos sauce

So Rachel – your first parcel was outstanding.  I hope yours was as spectacular as this one was.  You really couldn’t have picked out better things for me, and I thank you for that.  Well done, Rachel.  A gold star for your first time!

If this has piqued your interest in foodie penpals, please, please RUN – do not walk – to this website below to sign up for Foodie Penpals. Go to http://thisisrocksalt.com/foodie-penpals

September 2014 Foodie Penpal

Leave a comment

As my September foodie penpal, Zoe, pointed out – it’s hard to believe it’s the end of September already. But the leaves are golden and deep red now, the air is much more crisp, and all of my husband’s cricket gear is put away. That’s always a sure sign that summer is over. Well that, and the fact that we’ve had the heat on for a couple of weeks. Sigh . . .

I got my September package early in the month, which was great. It also spurred me on to get my act together and get Sabine’s on it’s way to Germany, so thanks for that, Zoe! Here’s what Zoe sent –

This bottle of smoked paprika came at a perfect time. I’ve been trying a lot of recipes that call for smoked paprika over the last year, and my supply was running low. I had it on my shopping list, but I’m pleased I can take it off now.

Delicious on everything!

Delicious on everything!


Smoked paprika really gives a really rich flavour to so many dishes. I pretty much add a dash to almost everything I make now from eggs to casseroles.

I love these little kits. But oddly enough, although I see them in the shops, I never get them for myself. This is a Thai green curry kit.

Dinner made easy!

Dinner made easy!


I love going out for Thai food, but have seldom made it, so to have one so neatly delivered to my door is truly a sign. I can’t wait to try it.

Whoever invented a way to cook things in a bag should get a knighthood, or maybe something even higher (is there such a thing?). I think they’re brilliant.

Dinner in a bag!

Dinner in a bag!


Zoe sent me a lemon and dill packet for seasoning salmon cooked in a bag. What could be easier than this? And you don’t have to worry about basting or ensuring your food doesn’t dry out. The bag does all the work without any effort on your part. I’m all for that.

I also got this chips spice. I made oven-baked chips all the time, and I think I am most excited about this. I’ve never seen it, and I usually just try to hash something together with whatever spices I have to hand.

My oven's already heating up.

My oven’s already heating up.


I’m not sure this packet is going to see tomorrow, because I think there are some chips with my name (and this Smokey BBQ spice) on them. I’m thinking lunchtime . . .

And finally, Zoe sent me red lentils. I love lentils – red ones in particular. My in-laws were raised in India, and when I first moved to the UK, I learned quickly how to make tarka dhal. But Zoe sent me a recipe for a spiced lentil soup, which I can’t wait to try.

One of the best things to help get you through winter.

One of the best things to help get you through winter.


This is definitely the start of soup season, and I think I’ll kick it off with Zoe’s soup recipe.

Thank you, Zoe, for putting together such a thoughtful package. I love everything you sent, and I hope you were as fortunate as I was.

If any of you are interested in joining this fantastic group, please visit Carol Anne on http://thisisrocksalt.com/foodie-penpals. It’s way more fun than ironing. . . .

August 2014 Foodie Penpal

2 Comments

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

Leave a comment

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.

A very tardy February Foodie Penpal reveal (sorry Helen!)

Leave a comment

I hang my head in shame for the tardiness of this post.  I want to blame it on the dog.  But I don’t have one, and it would take even longer to acquire one so I could assign blame elsewhere.  Sadly, the fault lies with me and a bit of ill-timed travel.  I hope to make it all right now though as I wish to lavish Helen, my most recent Foodie Penpal, with high praise for the package she sent me last month.  IF you are reading this right now and are wondering what this is about, please click here if you are located in the USA, or here if you are in Europe.

I was delighted to receive this parcel from Helen, my February Foodie Penpal. I feel like I’m already good friends with Helen, as I had the privilege of being her Foodie Penpal last year. So this was like getting a special gift from a friend.

The package

The package

As you can see, it was chock-full of goodies, and I couldn’t wait to delve in and investigate all my new goodies.

The first thing I came to were these Sweet Potato Crisps.

Sweet Potato Crisps

Sweet Potato Crisps

These did not last long, I can tell you! They were really, really good. Probably the best sweet potato crisps I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a lot!)

Then came the most unusual bottle of plum sesame seeds.

Plum Sesame Seeds

Plum Sesame Seeds

I’m sure I’ve not even scratched the surface with these, but I’ve tried them on a couple of things, and they really add such depth of flavour. I never would have thought to buy these, but this will be a staple in this house from now on.

I also got some Japanese 7 spice.

Japanese 7 Spice

Japanese 7 Spice

I tasted this, but haven’t used it yet. It’s ever so slightly different than it’s Chinese twin, and I think it’s going to be a nice addition to my spice rack.

As I work from home, I often am looking for a quick cup of . . something. I often don’t know what I want, but Helen sent the perfect solution.

Soup Packets

Soup Packets

These are little packets to make up soup with the simple addition of hot water. I’ve had two already – they are quick and easy, and really hit the spot.

In an effort to get me to convert to Vegen, Helen sent me some vegan chocolate.

Chocolate

Chocolate

Although it was never anything I’d reach for at the store, I have to say it was very, very nice chocolate. I might not convert to become a vegan this week, but I wouldn’t mind more of this chocolate.

And tea . . .

Apple and Cinnamon Tea

Apple and Cinnamon Tea

I’m sorry, but you really can’t go wrong in sending ANY kind of tea. But this was different. It’s apple and cinnamon, which is really lovely for chilly evenings, but also refreshing enough for a bright, sunny day (and I’ve had both over the last two weeks).

Helen also sent me some Tamarind.

Tamarind

Tamarind

I’ve been in love the idea of Tamarind ever since I saw the movie “The Tamarind Seed” with Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif (Ok – so the movie’s 40 years old – don’t judge me). I’ve tasted things with tamarind in, but have never cooked with it. So now I’m going through all my recipe books to find the best recipe for this. I can’t wait to use it! I think I’ll pretend to be Julie Andrews while I’m making it . . .

And now – probably my best item of the pack. (Future) home grown chillis.

Chilli pot

Chilli pot

Growing chilli plants are SO my thing, and I just haven’t been out to get my chilli seeds yet. How did Helen know? I can tell you that these seeds have already been released from their little foil packet and are nestled in the little cup, sitting on my kitchen window ledge, where every real foodie starts all their chilli plants!

So, albeit very late, I thank you, Helen! You did such a good job. It was a delightful package, and I loved everything you sent. Well done!

January 2014 Foodie Penpal reveal

Leave a comment

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!

September Foodie Penpal

4 Comments

What a fantastic month September was. Hard to believe it’s almost over and we’re nearing the time where I start to panic to ensure all my holiday shopping has been done.  But it was a bumper month for my Foodie Penpal activity.  If you are interested in joining this group (and it’s really big fun), get in touch with Carol Anne – she’ll sort you out!

My foodie package came from Greece this month.  Lovely Evangelia sent me a huge package of goodies. And it arrived here about a week after the spreadsheet was sent out, so I think she must have gone out right away and selected everything so it would get here in time.  So thoughtful . . . .

The whole package

The whole package

I got the most delicious crackers – they are rich and buttery, and no matter if I pile lots of good things on them, or just eat them plain, they are fantastic.  I especially like the packaging where the writing is all in Greek (of course) with the occasional English word stuck in there.

Basil and Tomato Crackers

Basil and Tomato Crackers

Although I didn’t mention it to Evangelia, one of my favourite flavours is cinnamon, so you can imagine my delighted surprise when I found she had included this round tub of little cinnamon candies.  They are small, but they pack a fabulous punch.

Cinnamon pastilles

Cinnamon pastilles

I then got to the nougat, which is a household favourite here.  This one, in particular, is really tasty, and I’ve had to hide it so there would be some left for me.

Nougat

Nougat

And she sent chocolate!  But not just any chocolate – the best bitter sweet chocolate ever.  It was so good, so rich, and now so gone!  But it was very good.

Bitter Sweet Chocolate

Bitter Sweet Chocolate

This sesame bar with honey has always been a favourite of mine.  It makes me think I’m eating something healthy!  And that’s always a very good thing.

Sesame Honey bar

Sesame Honey bar

This is a bag of what I can only describe as pretzel-like biscuits covered in cinnamon and sugar. I’ve never tasted anything like them, but I’m wondering now if I can figure out how to make them.  They were SOOOOO good.

Cinnamon Sugar 'pretzel'

Cinnamon Sugar ‘pretzel’

Then, being American, gum is always welcome!  I like that I have real Greek gum.  I like that I can offer it around and people are impressed that I import my gum!  Makes me feel very important!  Ha!  It’s very nice gum!

Chewing gum

Chewing gum

But finally – and probably my favourite part – the Greek Trachanas.  I think I like this the best because Evangelia sent a couple of recipes as well.  I made up one batch already, and it was delicious, and I can’t wait to experiment with the rest.

Trachanas

Trachanas

Thank you so much, Evangelia, for your thoughtful gifts this month.  You do the Foodie Penpal club, and your country, proud!