Foodie Pen Pal Fun: February

I love to get fun mail! So often my mailbox is filled with circulars and bills to be paid. It’s a joy and a delight to get mail from friends and family. I don’t get fun mail too often, though, outside of the birthday/Christmas season or wedding/birth announcements. Imagine my excitement, then, when I happened upon the opportunity to be a part of the grand adventure of The Lean Green Bean‘s Foodie Pen Pals! Some might claim coincidence, but I know it was meant to be. 🙂 I followed Lindsay’s Twitter on Saturday morning, read her tweets about the program by noon, and was signed up by the deadline by bedtime. YES, PLEASE! This is certainly my cup of tea! Sign up, make friends, send packages of foodie treats, and receive foodie treats? This is so meant for me! Food and friends?? Do you know me?? Joy! 🙂

Lindsay assigned me to send a package of treats to Carly in North Carolina. I sent her some Tex-Mex SASS sauce and Blanco Valley Farm’s jalapeño salsa mix from the Farmer’s Market, some Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter, Italian seasoning blend from Penzey’s, a few chocolate treats from World Market, and a package of fun cupcake liners. I received a package from Sarah at The Smart Kitchen in Virginia. That Sarah sure knows how to send a package! I’m excited to share my foodie pen pal treats with y’all! Here is everything I got, minus the sweet note she included in the package.

Goodies from Sarah

Sarah asked me who I had a secret celebrity crush on, so I confessed my love for Will Smith. You know it’s true…he is a good-lookin’ man, and funny too! 🙂 She cleverly sent me “Gettin’ ‘Figgy’ Wit It” cookies. They are the most amazing (vegan!) cookies! They have figs, walnuts, and I’m certain cinnamon, too. I’ve never eaten vegan baked goods before so Sarah’s cookies were my introduction into that genre. Honestly, I was a little skeptical, and I’m still a little confused on how you make a delicious cookie like that without any animal products. I ate one immediately upon opening the package, just to see, and then had to sternly tell myself I was not allowed to eat the entire bag that night, even if it was Fat Tuesday. They are THAT good. I kindly shared one last Thursday with a coworker who also found them quite delicious. She, too, was impressed with the vegan nature of the cookie. Seriously, Sarah, how did you do it? Well done, ma’am. Well done.

         

I’ve also been scarfing down this crazy-good cinnamon honey-roasted peanut butter. It seems that nut butter is one of Sarah’s specialties. I’m hoping for a tutorial and the good word that homemade nut butter is not hard to make because this spread is rockin’ my world. Tuesday also happened to be Shrove Tuesday where folks eat pancakes as part of the Fat Tuesday celebrations. Boyfriend and I made pancakes to go with our “breakfast for dinner” on Tuesday, and don’tcha know? Cinnamon honey-roasted peanut butter goes reeeaaallly well on pancakes. Really well. So well that I had it for breakfast the rest of the week. It’s light, cinnamony, creamy, but not without a wee bit of texture. So delightful. Plus, Sarah clearly pays attention to the details with the color coordination of the jar to her blog, her stationary for her note, and her business card. Yep! Girlfriend has a card. I want one for my blog now, too. I do so love good attention to detail on cute little things.

Pancakes with Peanut Butter = GOOD!

All Gone....almost!

I haven’t used the rest of it yet, but I am looking forward to ways to use everything Sarah sent me. That salsa is going to be so good on some fish tacos on next week’s menu, along with just some chips one afternoon for a snack. Honestly, I’m not sure what Biscoff spread is, and checking out the ingredient list has only confirmed for me that it is some kind of spiced nut butter. A Google search result tells me that it’s a peanut-butter-esque spread made from cookies similar to gingersnaps. This makes me excited to try it because I love gingersnaps! I did tell Sarah I was an adventurous eater, as long as it wasn’t connected to mushrooms. I love that these are in little individual packages as well. That’s lovely for taking it in my lunch/breakfast to work. Spices and tea are always good choices for my pantry, so kudos there, friend. I’ll be sure to update you all along the way as the spices, salsa, and Biscoff spread get used. Check back for updates!

How cute is this??

It has been so fun getting to know Sarah through email and over Twitter. I am thankful that she and I were matched for my inaugural foodie pen pal experience. I think it is great that Lindsay thought of this program several months ago, and is willing to coordinate it every month. Thanks, Lindsay! If you are a foodie, blogger or not, and you want to participate, check out this page on Lindsay’s blog that has all the details. It’s low risk and high reward, so I really encourage you to give it a try. Here is a bit of housekeeping from Lindsay if you are interested in participating.
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If you’re interested in participating for March, 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 you get on the right list!

You must submit your information by March 4th as pairings will be emailed on March 5th!

***PLEASE NOTE: if you send an email, you WILL GET A RESPONSE within 48 hours. If you don”t….please re-send your email or contact Lindsay via Twitter (@LeanGrnBeanBlog). Last month we had a few emails get lost as spam so we’re trying to avoid that!
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I’ll be sitting March out due to conference travel smack dab in the middle of the shopping/shipping period (boo!), but I’ll be back for April. I’ve been eyeballing all sorts of neat treats to send someone in April though, so get ready, my next pen pal – it’s gonna be great! Stay tuned!

Update:
The Colorado spice blend is SPICY!! I was quite liberal with it on our fish tonight, and it had quite the kick! Thankfully the mango and key lime salsa is not so spicy, so it was a good pairing to bring down the heat. Quite delicious, overall! I’m really looking forward to using the spice on some beef as I think it might stand up a bit differently. I do like spicy foods, though, so this was a great treat in my package!

Foodie Penpals
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Roasted Garlic

Until recently, I thought everyone knew about roasted garlic. I’ve seen other bloggers post about roasting garlic and read through their posts to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Nope. We’ve all got it, so why are we continuing to post about it? Why am I here adding to the blogosphere with another roasted garlic post? Well, my friends, I’ve learned that not everyone knows what roasted garlic is or that they can make it themselves to avoid paying $8 for it at a restaurant. That is quite possibly one of the biggest restaurant mark-ups out there I’ve ever seen. So sweet food lovers, I’m happy to share with you the various ways I’ve made roasted garlic, what I do with it, and why I encourage you to make it at home instead of eating it out.


Roasted Garlic

Ingredients
Bulb of Garlic
1 teaspoon light olive oil
1 tablespoon water

Steps
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Slice off the top third of the head of garlic, and peel off a few of the extra layers of the papery skin. Leave the last layer or two. You won’t need the top third for the recipe. We’ll talk about what to do with it later.
3. Put your head of garlic in an oven-safe dish along with the tablespoon of water.*

Oven Ready Garlic

4. Drizzle the teaspoon of olive oil over the top of the head of garlic.
5. Cover the dish and put in the oven for 45 minutes.
6. Check garlic to see if the cloves are soft and if it’s starting to turn brown. It might need another 10 – 15 minutes. Your goal is soft, brown, and a little bit caramelized around a few of the edges.

Soft, brown, and caramelized (and the pan cleaned right up!)

7. When you take it out of the oven, let it rest for a few minutes so that it burns neither your mouth nor your hands.

*Alternatively, you can wrap your bulb of garlic in a piece of foil so it’s a snug little bundle. If you go this route, omit the tablespoon of water, and just go with the teaspoon of oil. I’ve also used this method. I like it as it reduces the number of dishes you have to wash. The dish/water method seems to keep the garlic from over-browning and reduces waste. It’s your kitchen so you can make the call for your preferred method. The water will evaporate throughout the cooking, and it will get brown in the bottom of your dish, but don’t freak out. This will wash off.

There have been times when I have wanted a few cloves of roasted garlic but didn’t want to roast an entire bulb of garlic. In these cases, I will take a few individual cloves of garlic, leave them wrapped in the skin, bundle them in a piece of foil with just a dollop of light olive oil and cook them in the oven along with whatever I’m baking or during my preparations for the rest of my dinner. As it usually takes me 35 – 40 minutes to make dinner, this is just about the right amount of time to roast the individual cloves. Again, you are looking for the cloves to be soft and browning at the ends. They might be oozing a little bit too; this is a sign of done-ness. For this to happen, your oven needs to be at least 350 degrees. If it’s higher, you should check on the cloves starting around the 25-minute mark.

Decisions…decisions…

When you chop off the top third, you are left with a decision. Many folks just toss it because it’s full of tiny little pieces of garlic that are difficult to do anything with. If you are like me, or have a grandmother like mine who has greatly influenced you, perhaps you feel badly wasting anything including tips and pieces of garlic. I tried once roasting the top third with the rest, but that didn’t end well, so I don’t recommend it. But you could mince it up to go into your meal, or save it to mince later. Just remember to mince it soon as the cut pieces don’t save for too terribly long. It’s also okay if you just throw it away. It’s your kitchen and nobody will know.

My spreader of choice

There is so much you can do with roasted garlic. As one of my dear girlfriends has said, you can start with smearing it on your face and go from there. It is that good. The last time I made it, I took all the cloves out of the head of garlic to put into an aioli. I’ve put roasted garlic on toast, then topped it with cheese or tapenade or bruschetta. I like to put roasted garlic in mashed potatoes or mixed in my baked potatoes. You can smush it through a garlic press into pasta, soup, omelets, or anything else that strikes your fancy. Because roasted garlic has a much more mellow flavor than raw garlic as well as being so spreadable, it can be used as a good substitute for butter. When I was eating my gallbladder low-fat diet last year, I did a lot of roasted garlic-substituting. I did try once leaving out the oil, but it didn’t roast quite as well. The oil helps its spreadability as well the browning of the garlic. Without the oil, the garlic is sort of a pale, anemic color and is difficult to spread.

I got all the cloves out!

Let’s talk about why I believe you should never order the roasted garlic appetizer in a restaurant. At the grocery store, garlic can be 2 for $1.00 or for a real deal, 4 for $1.00. I cannot think of a time when I’ve seen it be more expensive than $0.50 for a head of garlic. Most of us have a bottle of olive oil in our house. Yes, I want to encourage you to use light olive oil which may require owning 2 bottles, but regular olive oil could suffice if you just wanted to have the one. But once you’ve purchased the one bottle of oil for likely somewhere between $5 and $9, depending on brand preference, you can have so many heads of roasted garlic out of that bottle for the price of one appetizer of roasted garlic from your local eatery. There is a fancy-pants restaurant here in Austin where you can order roasted garlic bulbs with toast points for $8.95.  I do vaguely recall they are generous enough to give you two bulbs. Even so, at approximately $4.50 for a bulb with a couple of pieces of toast, it’s not a great deal. Y’all, make this at home. Take your $8.95, get two bulbs, a loaf of French bread, some yummy cheese, maybe some tasty meats or olives, and make a full spread of it. I like to do this regularly, and I highly recommend it.

Roasted garlic cloves for aioli

The reason why I encourage you to use light olive oil over extra virgin olive oil for roasting your garlic is because I have read that the smoke points for the different kinds of olive oil vary with the smoke point for light olive oil being higher than extra virgin. Bad things happen to oil when it reaches the smoke point. First, the oil begins to break down and create free radicals which are bad for your body. However, they are not nearly as bad as flames in your oven, which is the other concern of oil reaching the smoke point. The smoke point isn’t too far from the flash point where the oil could break into flames. Danger, Will Robinson, danger. At the same time, there is A LOT of data out there on the various smoke points for oils, and they don’t all say the same information. This website is all about olive oil and has good information about smoke points so you can educate yourself to make your own decision. One blogger doesn’t even recommend using olive oil anymore; you can read about that and using ghee instead, if you like.

Spread the good word about roasted garlic, y’all. I’ve learned that too many of my dear friends have never eaten it or don’t know how to make it at home. It’s just not right. We shouldn’t be paying $9 for it at restaurants. We can roast our own garlic to use in a plethora of ways! It even keeps in the fridge for about a week if you want to spread out using it. We have options and they are delicious! But do spread the good word so that others can know the joy of roasted garlic. Happy eating!