Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Despite my good intentions I always seem to be writing about my foodie penpal parcel of the month about five days after reveal day. Reveal day is usually on the last day of the month and the idea is that everyone who takes part in foodie penpals Europe and America posts a link to their blog on the Lean Green Bean site so we can all take a look at what everyone else has received. As a former journo I’m extraordinarily nosey so I love taking a peek at what everyone else has received in their parcels and it always incites inspiration and jealousy in equal measures (even if I have a fantastic present on my table at home). Moving forwards I’ve decided to be extra strict with myself to try to meet the posting deadline, in fact, I’ve decided to spring clean the blog in general over the Bank Holiday weekend and polish up part-written posts and semi-perfected recipes, as well as having a bit of a restructure.

Anyway, enough of my weekend world takeover plan, here’s a little look at what I received in this month’s foodie penpal parcel, which came to me all the way from the lovely Lina in Lithuania.

Lovely Lithuanian treats

Lina had a hard job as I’ve been trying (and failing) to diet this month – so she put together a parcel of authentic Lithuanian foods including Lithuanian crackers and  sweet vanilla biscuits (great for tea dunking), as well as some other healthy-ish bites. There was a lot of variety in this package, which included everything from meat marinades and oats to add to smoothies right through to a coffee bean lollipop! I’ve recently become semi-addicted to the chocolate beans from Hotel Chocolat and I’m pretty sure this lolly was a lot kinder calorie-wise. It was also a lot kinder to my pocket as at £3.99 a packet the beans are an expensive new addiction – does anyone have a good recipe/technique for making their own? The package element I’m dying to try is the dried mushrooms – I got really into mushroom consumption during meat-free March and I’m contemplating putting these into a pasta or risotto dish.

I sent a parcel to Stephen in Belfast he doesn’t have a blog and I unfortunately forgot to photograph the goods before I sent them over – but I went for a mix of sweet treats and Asian cooking ingredients, which I’m hoping hit the spot. If you’d like to get involved with foodie penpals, take a trip over to Thisisrocksalt and read up on the fantasticness that is Euro foodie penpals.

 

 

Parcels really brighten my day, which is why in addition to Foodie Penpals, myself and Bitsandbobsbecs set up a vegetarian/vegan recipe swap this month. As a result, it’s been a pretty busy month for our postie and a busy month for blog posts. With this in mind, I’ve decided to do a double whammy penpals post this month. Las month, my parcel  arrived a little late month so I didn’t have time to blog about it. The contents of my parcel from my partner  were so lovely I thought I’d share them this month along with my set of surprises from my partner this month Kathryn.

 

February's foodie penpal parcel

Tasty teas, mustard and szechuan spice

I’d told Rose that I’ve been getting into herbal teas to try and avoid caffeine and she sent me a lovely mix of really special teas along with a defuser to pop in my tea mug – such a thoughtful gift. I’ve really enjoyed the Thai style chai in particular. Alongside the teas she sent me some German mustard and a szechuan spice, though I haven’t yet tried these as they seem like natural partners for meat. I was paired up with Eeefke from the Netherlands who eats a vegan and gluten-free diet and blogs about it here and the pairing gave me some good insight ahead of Meat-free March. I sent Eefke some ras el hanout, chipotle chilli, dark chocolate drops, mojo sauce and crystallised pineapple for snacking

This month I was again matched with an overseas partner – this time based in Austria, Anette. I’m still waiting to hear if she liked the parcel I put together for her, which I’m hoping will add a little spice to her life. Annette unfortunately doesn’t have a blog or Twitter, but I put  together a parcel of currry spices, a latska kit, crumble fudge and popping candy as she said spices weren’t so easy to get hold of where she lives.

Foodie penpals Uk parcel march

My mass of parcel goodies for March

My March came courtesy of Kat who blogs about pretty and prestine lunches over at Sushisushibento , if you find yourself in a bit of a packed lunch rut you should definitely take a look at her blog, it made me up my lunch game! I nearly burst with glee when her parcel arrived. Not only did it contain a homemade condiment and a conserve, WHOOP! But it was really packed out. There were so many things packed into my parcel and all vegetarian – so I’ve been able to enjoy them throughout the month. I unfortunately started enjoying them a little too soon though, as what isn’t pictured among my amazing haul below is some toffee chocolate biscuit that Kathryn had made herself from TUC biscuits. I tried one piece and couldn’t put the tub down, so they missed out on being snapped. Kat really had everything covered in her parcel – my love of condiments (she sent homemade tomato chutney and damson jam), my love of snacking – crisps AND nut bars, and my new sweet tooth – the biscuits. She also included some mini eggs for Easter, which was a lovely thought.

If you fancy  getting your own selection of goodies through the post every month, click on the foodie penpals button at the bottom of the site.

One of the first things I did when I set up this food blog last year was to join Foodie Penpals, which was recommended to me by my friend Jules over at Goodgobble. It was one of my smartest moves of 2012 by far! There’s something really nice about having a personalised parcel delivered to your door every month and when the scheme took a brief hiatus last  month for Christmas I felt very bereft of parcel loveliness despite it being the month of Father Christmas!

The scheme works by matching you up with two penpals – one you send a parcel to and the other sends to you. This month I was very organised about sending my parcel because of the big move. I was also a tad excited to be back into the penpals parcelling after the month off, so I so sent if off within the first week to  Steph from Steph Loves Cake. She’d very kindly given me free reign over what to buy her so I got very excited and sent a mix of cooking and baking ingredients and naughty and nice things that could be eaten straight away. I included some cracked black pepper pretzels and bear-shaped biscuits with banana baked in (only alliteration can make tea-dunkers better). You can read about the things I sent Stpeh here. While you are there you should take a look at her recipes, she’s been doing some beautiful things with bagels recently!

I’m extra glad that Steph liked her parcel because I managed to injure myself in the rush to get it posted. After a heated debate with a queue jumper in the Post Office (I love a bit of British queueing outrage) I managed to topple over on my very sensible and lovely Cuban heeled shoes on my way back to the office. It was a proper CRASH! BANG! WALLOP! moment, which ended up with two burly men carrying me into a nearby Subway while I held a banana belonging to one of said gentlemen. Next, a carer for a wheelchair-bound man got a bit peeved that I wasn’t moving out of the way of the wheelchair and tried to queue rage me before he clocked my purple swollen foot now glowing like a sickly beacon. The eventual outcome was me spending the afternoon wandering around A&E sans shoes and tights (and thankfully with fake-tanned legs), accompanied by my pseudo mother for the afternoon, Becs from Bitsandbobbecs. It was all a bit ‘What happens in Kavos’, if you catch my drift and totally not what I had in mind for a Wednesday afternoon.

My parcel this month came courtesy of  Katie Lawes. Katie doesn’t have a food blog but she does have a site featuring her design work and her work on food and drink branding in particular gave me some major chuckles since I work in marketing. This digital work is very fun! Katie sent me a mix of healthy snacks and though I couldn’t eat the bombay mix (peanuts=food nemesis) my dad was over the moon to be presented with it and I bagged some daughter points. I’ve been munching my way through the rice cakes with soup at work and giving off a very saintly impression to my new co-workers. I’ve also been slathering the ridiculously hot but bloody gorgeous pickle on as many foods as possible. I cannot stress how much I love condiments. Send me more condiments foodie penpals! Send me all of the condiments! Also in the parcel was come goji berries, which I’m planning to add into some breakfast muffins and some carob powder, which I intend to use to make something special for another parcel I am sending this month as part of heart swap. This is a Valentines Day present swap that will guarantee I won’t spend Valentines Day without a gift for the millionth year in a row (pity me, send me stuff).

Here’s my super food(s) parcel from Katie

Foodie Penpals parcel January 2013

My parcel of niceness featuring bombay mix, liquorice, chilli pickle, rice cakes, goji berries and carob

Fancy being a foodie penpal?

If you like the sound of people posting you stuff and you brightening up other people’s days, (injuring yourself in the process is optional) you should check out the scheme. It is run by the very lovely Carol Ann over at thisisrocksalt, read more about it here. If you haven’t yet made a New Year’s resolution, or have quit yours already, I think receiving more fantastic food things in the post is a pretty good resolution to make and one that you won’t regret!

I seem to start many of my Foodie Penpal posts by explaining why my post is late – we are meant to post on the last day of the month all at the same time. So, as has become the tradition…this month my post is late because I’m away for the weekend visiting some lovely friends in London, so have only just had the time to get to my laptop.

Excuses over, if you haven’t read one of my penpal posts before, Foodie Penpals is a scheme that originated in the US and was brought over to the UK by the lovely Thisisrocksalt, to find out more about how it works take a look at her blog or click on the badge at the bottom of my page.

This month my parcel came courtesy of Rachel over at Foodnerd4life, who I was very impressed to learn has the envious job of inventing pie fillings for a living. Since my evening of pie at Asda HQ ‘pie maker’ is a job I’m much aspiring to. I told Rachel I was feeling very Christmassy, loved spice and warned her about my limited cow milk intake, but gave her quite a loose scope on what I’d like to see in my parcel. In the end, she sent a package full of sugar and spice and all things nice.  Here’s the beautiful food-inspired Christmas card that came in my parcel.

My festive foodie Christmas card courtesy of foodnerd4life

My festive foodie Christmas card courtesy of foodnerd4life

Inside the parcel was a real mix of ready-to-eat and quality ingredients. The diversity of this package blew me away and though I’ve not had a chance to sample much of it yet I’m very excited about doing so. The first thing I dived into was the homemade chocolate fudge, which I did share a little with my work colleagues (I’m nice like that). It’s always lovely when a penpal goes to the effort of making something for you and the fudge was delicious. I hope the fudge I’m making as part of my Christmas hampers turns out half as well. Rachel also include a mix for ;Joy the Bakers pancakes’, the recipe for which can be found on her blog (you should take a look, her blog is very pretty). The special thing about the mix is that it requires no eggs. Also in the sweet category was some Rabbit Candy from her local Chinese store.

Moving on the the spice, Rachel had included some fabulously fragrant Paprika from a recent trip to Madrid (it’s begging for me to make paella with it) and some Japanese  chilli oil. And for the nice, I had some freeze dried olives and some unusual squid ink. I think I’ll probably put the olives into some scones and if Santa brings me the pasta maker I’ve asked for, the squid ink could well be making it’s way into a pasta dish. Here’s my impressive haul..

 

My foodie penpal parcel November 2012

My foodie penpal parcel November 2012

I sent my parcel to Kimberley Stout fullasanegg Manchester, who is a fellow baker and a bit of a chocolate lover. Kimberley told me that she liked ginger (which I may have got a wee bit carried away with).  I sent her some festive chocolates from Bon Bons as I was feeling Christmassy, some chocolate coated ginger fudge – also from Bon Bons, lavender essence for baking and  some Alnwick Marmalade complete with more ginger and rum. I was a bit worried about it looking like quite a small parcel but I’d blown my budget a little in Bob Bons. This little boutique chocolate shop is one of my go tos when I get partnered with someone with a sweet tooth.

There’s no foodie penpals running in December, but I am taking part in another exchange specially for Christmas, which has been organised by moneysupermarket.com. As I love giving and receiving parcels I couldn’t really resist when I was asked, so expect more details on that over the next few weeks.

I was extremely excited when I found out I was paired up with foodie penpals organiser for Europe Carol Anne over at This Is Rock Salt as I’ve seen some of the wonderful parcels she sends. I’ve also been left in awe of her mega organisation as she whizzed my beautiful parcel over to me so quickly, I’ve sampled (or completely demolished) most of it’s contents already! In fact, I cracked open one item so quickly I had to photograph it separately with my phone because I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and eat it and that was the bitesize coconut snowballs….

Lees Mini Snowballs

Mini Snowballs perfect for snacking

I’d told Carol Anne I liked a mix of ready to eat and ready to use goods and like trying new things and she really went to town, I’ve no idea how she managed to pack so much into the box. I’d also told her my favourite foods are meat, Thai foods and all Italian foods. Armed with this information and what must have been a considerable snoop on my blog, she put together the parcel below…

Foodie penpal parcel October 2012

Delicious treats courtesy of This Is Rocksalt

After the gooey marshmallow snacks the gorgeous homemade goats cheese and olive biscuits were next to go, which I dipped indulgently into hummus. Can I have the recipe please? The item that was perhaps most perfect for me (If I can pick one out in such a brilliantly put together package) was the homemade cherry brandy (again, recipe?). I adore all things cherry flavoured but particularly cherry brandy and I’m not ashamed to say I drank this neat from a glass with ice, cherrilicious!

I received my parcel on a Friday, which meant I was given the perfect opportunity to try out my Scotch Pudding the next day. This is usually fried and served along with a full breakfast, which I couldnt quite brave, so I ate mine fried and with some sliced banana on top (I’m sure my stomach will thank me for that minor calorie reduction).

Anchovie stuffed olives were the next thing to be virtually inhaled. I ate half while watching TV and the rest went into a a tomato and chilli sauce to top some cod (mmm, fishy). The condiment-cum-flavouring that was the smokey mesquite BBQ flavouring  has so far found itself into chilli and atop some chicken. While the Italian sofritto paste, which I’d previously never heard of made its way into a beautiful low-fat courgette and tomato soup, which I’ve been feasting on at lunchtimes. I was surprised how much extra flavour the paste provided so I’m definitely going to be picking that up if I come across. Here’s what the soup looked like…

Low-fat courgette and tomato Italian soup made with sofritto

Low-fat courgette and tomato Italian soup made with sofritto

 

The only items surviving intact to date are the rock (a little extra from a local museum) and the Thai pancakes, which I’m saving for my next Asian inspired dinner party. This parcel really went a long way I’ve done some serious eating and drinking  over the past fortnight and for that Carol Anne, I sincerely thank you!