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
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Garlicky Pesto

Truth be told, I’ve only ever made pesto myself twice: once about 5 years ago and tonight. Five years ago I followed a recipe probably from Food Network and I thought it tasted like grass. I was grossed out and decided it was worth it to me to purchase my own from here on out. Here’s the thing, though. Store-bought pesto is kind of expensive. At least I think it is. But buying basil in those cello packages also seems expensive so either way it was costly. But then! Then came the summer of owning a basil plant. This basil plant has grown like nobody’s business. I seriously gave thought to getting a tomato cage for it because the stalks were getting tall and quite leafy. What do you do when you have a ton of basil? Well, you suck it up and make pesto again! So I did. Aside from quite the garlicky punch that might could catch you off guard, I think this one is a winner. Now – as with all cooking, sometimes things don’t quite go as planned so one has to regroup and come back for round two. I’m going to give you the original recipe I used, tell you how I’d modify the next time, and then tell you what I had to do to tone down that garlic. I do love me some garlic, but raw garlic has quite the kick, yes?

Garlicky Pesto

Ingredients – Round 1
2.5 cups of basil leaves – not packed
.5 cup of grated Parmesan cheese – the powdery kind – and feel free to add more, you can never have too much cheese
.5 cup (2 oz) of pine nuts
3 med-lg cloves of garlic – smashed (yes, I know that’s a LOT of raw garlic!)
.5 cup of olive oil

Steps – Round 1
1. Wash and dry basil leaves. Toss into your Robot Culinaire.
2. Add cheese, nuts, and garlic.
3. Start the Robot Culinaire and drizzle in the oil while it processes and blends.
4. Turn off the Robot Culinaire and taste. Watch the edge of the blade, now.

It was at this junction that I realized I’d gotten carried away with the garlic. It was quite pungent and not particularly good eats, to be honest. So I would recommend 2 small to medium or 1 large clove of garlic to start. You can always add more. It is far more difficult to work in the other direction. However – when one has a prolific basil plant it is a little easier.

Ingredients – Round 2 (in addition to above)
1 cup of basil leaves – again, not packed
.5 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
.5 cup walnut pieces
medium pinch of salt

Steps – Round 2
1. Wash and dry basil.
2. Put everything in the Robot Culinaire.
3. Whiz away until it’s all incorporated. Stop once or twice to scrape down the sides and check for chunks.
4. Taste again. Be relieved that the flavors are more balanced.

Cooking for One Caveat
Now – this is kind of a lot of pesto for this single gal – even if I do dearly love it. (It made 22 tbsp!!) So I have portioned it out into an ice cube tray so it can freeze into little tablespoon portions for easy usage at a later date. This is one of those ways that I make the food work for me. If I left the bowl of it in the fridge, it would likely go bad before I used it all. I don’t care for wasting food as it feels a bit like throwing money away. So now I can snag a cube or two to add to salads, pastas, seafood, bread, etc.

The 3 larger cubes are 2 tbsp each. The rest are just 1 tbsp.

Tonight, I mixed two tbsp of the pesto with a diced roma tomato and diced fresh mozzarella, then put it all on top of half a ciabatta roll and put it in the oven to broil while I cooked my salmon patty. Hello! It was so good. Warm, melty a bit, and so many delicious flavors. Plus, when there are other ingredients, that also helps to balance out the garlic quite well. I was quite pleased with it, in the end. I hope you are too! Happy eating!

Nutritional Information – Per 1 tbsp
Calories: 93
Fat: 9 g
Carbs: 1 g
Protein: 2.6 g
Calcium: 7.5%

Deliciously tasty!