May Foodie Penpals: The Reveal!

When I was in middle and high school, I had many pen pals scattered around the world: Ukraine, Sweden, United States…and probably more. I wanted to learn English so badly, I would search and search for those youngsters who were looking for the same thing I was: a listening ear in a foreign language. I would share with them thoughts about life, about my family, my pets (Lola and Puffo, my two cats and Suomi, my loving dog); I delved into the music I listened to (mostly rock, highlighted by my passion for Nirvana) and asked more questions than it was probably acceptable.

Forward that 15-20 years later and I have found the perfect 21st century exchange experience: Foodie Penpals – an amazing program created by Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean. It’s exactly what it sounds like: You are matched with another foodie around the U.S. and you have about 10 days to send them a box of goodies (either store-bought or home-made) along with a nice, written note.

I was matched with Colleen from Michigan, to whom I sent a box to, and with Connie, a great mom from Boscobel, Wisconsin. When her package arrived, I was completely unprepared. It was sitting on my front porch, staring at me. I was so giddy inside. The feeling I felt as a child when I saw a letter from my pen pal in the mailbox came back, times 100.

Connie outdid herself –and put my box to shame!

Everything in her box was delicious: Apple Jelly (homemade!), Asparagus Spinach Dip Mix (insane!), canned tomatoes and zucchini (unbelievable!), chocolate chip cookies, crackers, honey (one of my favorite things on the planet), dry chocolate mint for brownies (!!!) and a brochure of Boscobel.

What I absolutely loved about this program was getting to know Connie: everything she works hard for on her farm turns up in the kitchen, and by the small garden I try to maintain, I can attest that it is hard work! The flavors of her canned deliciousness were and are (I am savoring all of them so that they don’t run out too fast..) incredible: it almost feels like I am in her garden, picking tomatoes and zucchini with her. And that’s the beauty of cooking from scratch.

So thank you Connie for this unbelievable box of goodies!

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If you are interested in participating in the program, here are some details about Foodie Penpals directly from Lindsay:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 

If you’re interested in participating for June, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.

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

*If you’re from somewhere besides the US, Canada or Europe and want to participate, send me an email and I’ll see if we get enough interest this month!

The Lean Green Bean

Guest Post: Foodie Penpals, the receiver

Guest post by Colleen Aiello:

Hi Everyone!!
My name is Colleen and Chiara has graciously allowed me to write a guest blog for her site! I am super excited but please bear with me, this is the first time I have ever done something like this.Chiara and I met through a program called Foodie Penpals. If you aren’t familiar with Foodie Penpals….each month you are assigned a name to send a small package to and another person gets your name. Chiara sent to me this month and the penpal I sent to was in California. I thought the best part was going to be thinking about and collecting everything to send to my foodie penpal….that all went out the window when my package arrived!!

I swear Chiara and I must have been BFFs in a past life, she couldn’t have put a better box together for me!!

Photos by Colleen Aiello
Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies?!?! Are you kidding me?!?!? I.Am.In.Love. Those cookies were seriously the best thing I have ever put in my mouth!!

Chiara asked me a little bit about myself and I told her that I loved sweet and salty combos and that I was currently training for my first 5K. Included with the BCC Cookies was a huge Hazelnut and Milk Chocolate Bar! She also included a package of SuperFood and Fruit Leather. So So Good after a good training session!!
My favorite by far (well, except for those darn cookies!!) was the can of Home Cooked Virginia Peanuts (I had to rip them from my husband’s hands!)…don’t even get me started on the Carrot Chips she sent. I’ll admit I was leery of them at first but I honestly had to tear myself away from them!!
Thank you so much for the amazing package Chiara!! I loved everything!!!

Roasted cauliflower and white bean soup

I’ve always thought that cauliflower and white beans were meant for each other. If you ask why, however, I cannot answer you. Cauliflower strikes me as a sophisticated vegetable, whose flavor pleases a strictly learned palate. White beans, on the other hand, are my kind of vegetable: clear and direct. What you see is what you get (in terms of flavor). Marrying the two could go either way: happily ever after, or a painful divorce.

So, on a stormy night, I opened my fridge and looked in. Staring at me was a head of cauliflower….passed its prime. Since Francesco is away on business, I decided to try something new. I grabbed the few ingredients and made up a recipe as I went along. This is how the love story unfolded.

INGREDIENTS:

1 head of Cauliflower

1 can of white Cannellini beans

1 shallots

3 cloves of garlic

1 cup of chicken stock

1/2 cup of milk

1 teaspoon of nutmeg

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

First things first: the head of cauliflower shouldn’t be massive. A nice, medium size will do the trick.

To give the soup a little depth of flavor, I decided to roast the cauliflower before cooking them. Turn on the over to 400F and, at the same time, oil an oven pan. Chop the head of cauliflower into small pieces, wash them thoroughly and place them in the oven pan. Drizzle more extra virgin olive oil, add some salt and pepper to taste and roast them until light brown and tender (about 30 minutes)

Next, open a can of Cannellini beans (my personal favorite) and wash them a couple of times. Set aside.

Next, finely chop 3 cloves of garlic (or less…I love garlic and I tend to go overboard with it) and a shallot. You can use a yellow onion, but I think shallots are sweeter and perfect for this soup. Oil a pot with extra virgin olive oil and add the minced garlic and shallots. Cook them for 4 or 5 minutes or until golden.

While the cauliflower is in the oven, add the beans to the pot (with garlic and shallots) and cook for a couple of minutes. Once the cauliflower is tender and golden brown, add it to the pan with the beans, garlic and shallots. At this point, taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Once the ingredients are added to the pot, let them cook for 5 minutes. I added 1 teaspoon of nutmeg to increase the depth of flavor and because, to be honest, nutmeg is my ultimate favorite spice. You can add as much or as little as you wish…or leave it out altogether. I have to say it was a perfect addition.

After the nutmeg comes the liquid. I added 1 cup of chicken stock and 1/2 cup of milk to the pot. You could add butter for a creamier soup. Cook the ingredients and the liquid for 25 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally. 

Once the soup is the consistency of your choice, puree it with a hand blender until silky smooth. Add a touch of extra virgin olive oil and serve it hot. Buon Appetito!