Foodie Pen Pal Fun: Carbs of Pennsylvania

I’m back in the Foodie Pen Pal saddle this month with a splendid box from my new friend, Julie from Philadelphia. Julie and I have had great fun writing/tweeting back and forth about culinary delights in Philadelphia. If you’ve never been to Philly, you should definitely put it on your list of places to go! It’s a wonderful city with lots of history and tremendously tasty food options. One of the beautiful foodie joys of Philly is Reading Terminal Market. Julie got the treats for my box by wandering around the market and letting her “hungry guide her.” She said she sent me the “carbs of Pennsylvania.” I do enjoy me some carbs! Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of what I got! Here’s the overview of everything.

Philly Foodie Pen Pal package

The sweets are up first. Yes, please, and thank you. The Red Laces were an impulse buy for Julie, but a total WIN for me. I love strawberry Twizzlers, and these are WAY better. The boyfriend is also a fan, and together, we’ve been making our way through the generous container. These are so fun. They stretch and are bendy so you can do fun things like tie them in a bow. The fruit flavor is intense, and gets you in the back of your throat just a little bit. It’s a no-joke strawberry taste that I adore. Nom nom nom.

They are so long and stretchy!

They are so long and stretchy!

They make it easy and fun to play with your food.

They make it easy and fun to play with your food.

Goldenburg’s Peanut Chews are also a delight for me. They are dark chocolate, peanuts, and caramel. It has a very distinctive bittersweet flavor from the dark chocolate and caramel.There is a touch of salt from the peanuts, and because it’s a bite-sized piece of candy, it’s all just the right amount. It is possible that Julie kept some of these back for herself, but I ain’t mad at ya, girl. I have plenty for me without being out of control. 🙂 I eat one after lunch and it’s just perfect.

The stick candy is so nostalgic and fun. I haven’t eaten them yet, because I’m waiting for the right opportunity. Boyfriend is also excited about them so I expect that I’ll have to share. But I believe that good flavors will abound.

Y’all, I got some legit Amish sticky buns! They were cinnamony and yeasty, and a total delight to have for breakfast several mornings in a row. I warmed them up in both the microwave and the oven, and every time they were so good. I’m not one for frosting on my cinnamon rolls because I think it hides the cinnamon flavor and all you end up tasting is sugar. These buns were frosting free, and thus full of every flavor I could want in my cinnamon rolls. Thanks, Julie!

sticky buns
Sticky Buns!!

Julie also sent me a bag of extra dark split pretzels. To be honest, I thought the pretzels were covered in dark chocolate when I first saw the bag. That’s how dark they are. These pretzels are dark because they are “nicely burnt” (according to the bag) as part of the creation process. Back in the day, the burnt ends of pretzels were split off and sold. Eventually they became a favorite staple for so many that now they are made and sold as such. These are Julie’s favorite so I very much wanted to like them. Alas, these did not fall into my favorite category quite like the Red Laces or the Peanut Chews. But I do appreciate the exposure to them and knowing a little more about pretzel making in Philadelphia now.

pretzel history
dark pretzels

What Julie had no way of knowing when she sent the box, because we never talked about it, was that growing up popcorn was a staple in my home. It might as well have been its own food group. I pretty much love popcorn. So good. Blue popcorn is quite intriguing to me! I was a little disappointed to discover that the kernel does not stay blue when it is popped. Nonetheless, these small kernels had just the right crunch and burst of corn flavor for me.

blue corn

Popping corn is serious business in my kitchen.

Popping corn is serious business in my kitchen.

popped corn
The hand scrub smells like an herb garden and will be fabulous to use when I’m trying to get that garlic or onion smell off my hands or if I’ve got pesky pepper juice on my hands. The granules and pieces of herbs in the scrub will help remove unwanted oils or smells, for sure. So handy!

hand scrub

What a great “welcome back” box to get this month! I’m glad to be back in the program. If you are interested in joining up with us, head over to Lindsay’s blog at The Lean Green Bean. She has all the details you need to sign up. Like any good project, there are a few rules and guidelines to help everyone be successful. You must sign up by February 4th to receive your match. You have a spending limit of $15 per package/month. After shopping for your partner, you mail the lovely box on or before the 15th of the month. If you are a blogger, you post about the box you received on the last day of the month. And you agree not to send things to your partner that will make them sick. It’s pretty simple. 🙂 It’s a lot of fun to be a part of the whole swap, and there is a link-up party on Lindsay’s blog at the end of the month so you can see what other folks got as well. I hope you’ll join us.

Many thanks to Julie for her thoughtful purchases. Check out her awesome blog, What Julie Ate, and make some of her great recipes! She doesn’t disappoint! Until next time, happy eating!

The Lean Green Bean

Rogue Food Pen Pal: Jedi Max

This month, despite taking a leave from the official Foodie Pen Pals exchange due to travel, I sent a package to a very special pen pal with a story that I hope will touch your heart. Jedi Max is the eight-year-old son of a high school friend of mine, Jay, and her husband, Scott. In high school, Jay and I were in theatre together so we have lots of crazy stories! I don’t have too many close friends from my youth anymore, so the few who I do have are quite precious to me, as are their families. Max and I even have a history. 🙂 Once, I visited Jay over Valentine’s Day weekend, and Max declared himself my boyfriend. He was quite the sweetheart all weekend long.

With permission from his mama, I sent Max questions about food allergies and preferences, just like I would for any other pen pal and waited for his response. I’m pretty sure that Max wins the award for fastest response time for any of my pen pals so far as I had his answers back in under 30 minutes! His questions were a little more kid-friendly, but still centered around likes/dislikes/information-gathering for my shopping purposes. When his answers came back via Jay, one thing was clear: the boy has a sweet tooth!! I also appreciated that he said he was willing to try new things.

Here is what Max and Jay had to say about the treats Max received. They also took great pictures with some of the most hilarious faces ever!

Dried Pineapple: “It smelled okay. It looked interesting.” He didn’t like it. “I like my food with more moisture.”

Dried Apple Rings: He was scared when he saw it. He tasted it and disliked it. He said “It tasted like a bad frozen yogurt.” (He and Katie both tried the fruit).

Katie's thumbs down           Max's thumbs down
(Yikes on Max’s face, huh? Kinda feel sorry for him just a little bit!)

Julio’s Chips: “They looked good. The bag was bright!” He said they were “okay” but disliked them more than he liked them. He had more fun feeding them to me b/c they are GOOD! 🙂

Mom LOVES Julio’s, even if Max isn’t a fan.

Jr. Mints: They were melted in the box. 😦 He said it smelled “nice and minty.” He said, “They didn’t taste like I thought they would.” He was hoping they would taste more like the ice cream.

Green and Red Apple Jelly beans: “The red ones were the best… they were sweeter.”

jelly bean and jumior mint collage
Blueberry Oatmeal: “Kind of okay.” He said it “looked good” but there was “too much blue and not enough berry.”

Green Apple Soda: By far his favorite! “It was green and delicious!”

green soda face

What is this??

close up with soda

Love the soda!


Everything Max (and Mom!) got.

If you take a minute and look up at the tabs across the top of my blog, you’ll notice a new tab titled “Jedi Max.” There you can find more details about what I’m fixing to share with you and how you can make a difference, but I wanted to introduce it to you in person. At the beginning of May, Jay took Max to the doctor several times over the course of two weeks for not feeling well, and it culminated in a trip to the ER and emergency transport from their town to Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin because Max had a mass on the right occipital lobe of his brain. In under a week, he had surgery to have the mass taken out, and while he was slated to be in the hospital for at least a week, he was released in 4 days. Now he’s just finished radiation with chemotherapy soon to follow. They travel 800 miles a week, total, for his medical appointments which are all in Austin where they do not live, but the doctors do. It has gotten difficult financially for them and will continue to get even more so as Max’s medical bills come in over time. At this point, it’s unclear if Jay will be able to return to her job in the fall or not.

Getting radiation in his Star Wars face mask.

Just a boy and his Legos.

A friend of theirs has started a donation site at Give Forward where folks can donate to help cover their expenses. I’ve read through the site, and it seems legit. What I did notice is that the site takes 7% of funds raised (“a small processing fee”), so if we want to give Max and his family $20,000 in September, we really need to raise approximately $21,500 (if I did the math right). If you feel led to help a little boy and his family, or even just to learn more about his story, please click on the “Jedi Max” tab for links to the original blog of his story, the current blog, and the donation site. If every pen pal and friend who visited my blog over the next few days was willing to donate $15 (the cost of the average pen pal package), we could nearly double the amount they currently have raised. Can we do that? I bet we could! I feel confident about the difference we can make.

In the mean time, enjoy some pictures of Max! He’s a great kiddo with a big heart who is going to beat this cancer and go on to make a difference in the world. Love this kid!

Mmmm…turkey leg!!

miami vice max

Miami Vice Max! He’s got charm, for sure!

Yowsa! Bless his heart for trying! 🙂

Did I mention he has a sweet tooth?

Foodie Pen Pal Fun: Inbound from Florida

Holy heat wave, batman! How did we get to the end of June? The good news about being at the end of June is that I get to share with you the delightful treats that my pen pal from Florida, Adriana from Foodie Be Fit, sent me. These refreshing treats help me forget the triple digit action outside, so I recommend you go right out to get some of them for yourself, too. This month, it’s hard to pick my absolute favorite treat from the box because they’ve all been so great. Adriana asked me great questions and really did a fantastic job of broadening my horizons. Here is the full bounty, minus one poor sacrifice to the mailing gods.

foodie pen pal box

Not included in the photo was a mango that Adriana sent me from her backyard. How stinkin’ cool is that?! I love that she sent me homegrown produce. It would have gone great in my latest summer salad obsession. If you love mango and avocado, you should definitely check it out. I was out of town when the package arrived, so it pretty much baked in my apartment package pick-up area for several days at 100+ degrees. Poor mango, it just didn’t stand a chance. Fellow Foodie Pen Pal Stacy composed an obituary haiku for my homegrown Florida mango:

Sweet, juicy mango
Austin was unkind to you
The thought is what counts.

In every package, I appreciate snacks that I can take to work, and this package certainly delivered.
Snack Bars
I’ve been noshing on the bars and crackers all week, much to my taste buds’ delight. Lara Bars certainly make the Pen Pal rounds, but I’ve not seen an Über Lara Bar before. Last month, I had a comment conversation with another blogger about how she doesn’t like Lara Bars because she likes to see the ingredients in what she eats, and that can be tricky in a typical Lara Bar. Well, my foodie friends, if that is your stance, then the Über Lara Bar is for you. The fruits and nuts in the bar are larger and more identifiable. There are more ingredients in these, it seems, but I’m okay with that. It was crunchy, sweet, and fruity. I’ve never had a Clif MoJo bar either. I’ve seen them in the store, but never committed. Well, I’m committed now. This was nutty, chocolaty; also, you can see all the ingredients in this as well. It has a fair bit of protein and fiber, which is nice. Plus it is 70% organic which goes a long way for a lot of you.

Lara Bar front

Lara Bar front

Lara Bar Back

Lara Bar back

Clif MoJo Bar

Clif MoJo Bar

These crackers have been a staple in my lunch this week.
Pumpkin Seed and Cheddar Crackers
I’ve only had Dr. Kracker once before, and I wasn’t a huge fan because they were so thick that it sort of gave me a headache eating them. These, however, are not obscenely thick and crunchy. They have a nutty and slightly salty flavor between the roasted pumpkin seeds and the cheddar that is baked on. One cracker sheet is a serving and is pretty healthy. I *might* be eating two sheets now and again…don’t judge. 🙂 They are THAT good. There are a bunch of flavors which gives me lots of exciting choices to try.
Dr. Kracker box
Dr. Kracker varieties

The salad dressing has been good on my salads this week and in my snacks for dipping cucumber. I’ve not had a super ton of Green Goddess dressing before, so it’s pretty new to me. It’s quite herbaceous and lemony. I think it will be excellent with some seafood and pasta, perhaps even together. I’m really looking forward to finding ways to use this. If you have tips or suggestions for me, let me know!
Salad with Green Goddess dressing

Y’all, she sent me the cutest gummy pandas! Her pen pal last month sent them to her, and she has continued the chain of goodness.
Gummy Pandas
These are delightful. I like gummy candy now and again, but really my favorite part of these is the grapefruit part. I was slow to come to love grapefruit, but indeed I have come to love this controversial fruit. These sweet pandas are tangy, but not sour, and somehow I am compelled to eat at least two small handfuls every time I open the bag. I will be sad when they are gone, so hopefully I can find more in my neighborhood. These are also certified organic so you can get excited about that!
Grapefruit Gummies

Lastly, the honey-roasted peanut butter was freshly ground at her farmer’s market which I think is so great.
Farmer's Market Peanut Butter
I also received some flavored, homemade peanut butter in my first pen pal box which was tasty too. This peanut butter has a different texture than my nut butter from Sarah. Sarah’s peanut butter was smooth, and had more flavors added into the butter. This nut butter is crunchy, but not chunky-crunchy like store peanut butter. The nut pieces are plentiful throughout which makes it almost like a paste. It is a thicker-spreading peanut butter with far more peanuts to butter, so to speak. I put it on my breakfast toast and immediately fell in love. I scraped clean the container I brought it to work in and then immediately had a large spoonful when I got home. After all this exposure to non-store bought peanut butter, I will be exploring more fresh, homemade nut butters, for sure.
Chunky Peanut Butter

This month, I sent my box o’ goodies to Alexandra over at Healthy Life, Happy Wife. Go check out what great Texas delights I sent her. The tweet I got when she received the package indicated I did a pretty solid job of selecting goodies. That makes my heart happy. 🙂

Foodie friends, if you are not signed up to be a pen pal yet, then let’s get you on board. Visit Lindsay’s blog (The Lean Green Bean), to get the expanded details from the master organizer. The abridged version is that you sign up before day’s end on July 4th so you can get your pairings from Lindsay on July 5th. Then you have 3 days to contact them, find out their food allergies, preferences, etc., and then with a $15 spending limit, you are off to the grocery store. Ship the tasty treats by the 15th, and wait on your own box of goodies to arrive. If you are a blogger, you post on the last day of the month. If you are a reader, you just sit back, eat, and enjoy. It’s pretty much the best food choice you could make, so just pop on over and sign up already. Seriously. All the cool foodies are doing it.

Happy eating!

The Lean Green Bean