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Foodie Penpals April Reveal

If you follow me on Twitter you may know that some days I’m on there no stop. Just tweeting away about anything and everything.  And then other days I’m not on there at all. With an eight month old and a full time day job, finding time to tweet can be hard!  One of my favourite things about Twitter is that I get to know so many wonderful people – both bloggers and readers that I wouldn’t have ever interacted with otherwise.  

About six weeks ago I came across a tweet from Carol Anne aka @ThisIsRockSalt talking about Foodie Penpals.  I was intrigued…. I’d had a penpal when I was younger and loved writing letters to her, and sending and receiving packages.  It’s always nice to receive packages in the mail rather than the boring bills and junk you normally get.  I immediately tweeted her back, and just like that I had signed up to become a Foodie Penpal.

Let me give you a bit of background info – Foodie Penpals was started last year by American food blogger The Lean Green Bean.  Since then Foodie Penpals has grown from about 30 participants in the US and Canada, to over 600 participants in the US, Canada, the UK and Europe.  Carol Anne from the blog This Is Rock Salt now organises the UK & European side of Foodie Penpals.  So what is a Foodie Penpal you ask??  Well, let me tell you!  Basically, bloggers (and readers if they wish) are matched up together each month.  At the beginning of the month everyone is notified as to who they are matched up with (it’s someone different each month), and then they’re responsible for putting together a little foodie package for them.  How fun!

My first Foodie Penpal package was sent to me by Jules at Good Gobble Blog.  I had never “met” Jules before (ie: in person, twitter, or the general blogosphere), so before she put together my package we sent a few emails back and forth so she could get a feel of what types of things she might want to send me.  I told her that I liked “snacky” type things and things that I could use in my baking.  

Jules put together a fantastic package for me, and I was so excited when it arrived.  The first thing she included were some Caramel Callets from Slattery’s Parissiery and Chocolatier in Manchester.  I first read about Slattery’s on Jule’s blog post here when I had just found out that she would be my foodie penpal. This place looks seriously amazing!  You’ve got to check out the Chocolate Challenge dessert that her friend Doyle ordered!! OMG! Seriously drool worthy.  I have to go to this place when I’m in Manchester.  Actually – I have to go to Manchester just so I can go to this place!   I sampled a few of the Caramel Callets and they are delicious.  I’m still not too sure what I’m going to make with them, but when I do you can be sure to read about it here!

Jules also sent me shortbread mix in a jar.  All I have to do is add butter to the mixture and bake.  Simple!  I had planned on baking the shortbread on Saturday, but I was starting to come down with a cold and couldn’t muster up the energy to even attempt to bake anything. Next weekend!

She also included some sweet plantain chips – something I’d never had before, but were a favourite snack of hers while she travelled through Peru.  She just happened to find them here in the UK!  Jules recommended eating them with a salsa recipe that she included on the back of the package, but my husband and I just snacked on them straight outta the bag.  Yum!

Jules was also kind enough to make some things for me to snack on.  She made individual rocky road bars fully loaded with chocolate and marshmallows and as well as some delicious walnut free granola (I’m allergic to walnuts).  The rocky road bars were absolutely delicious and the fact that they were individually wrapped meant they were the perfect thing to throw in my lunch bag for an afternoon snack at work.  The granola was also just as delicious.  I’ve been munching on it by the handful rather than eating it with milk because I rarely have milk in my fridge unless I’m baking with it.  I haven’t been online much in the past few weeks, so I’ve not really been able to catch up on my blog reading.  I’ve just noticed that Jules has posted the recipes for the rocky road bars and the granola, so if you’d like the recipes please check them out on her blog.  I also must apologise for the complete lack of photos in this post – my camera was on the wrong setting and pretty much all of them turned out blurry except for a few.  **Smacks head!  Doh!**  I did manage to take a picture of a rocky road bar with my iPhone before I gobbled it all up!  You can also see more pictures of the rocky road bars and granola on her blog.

My Foodie Penpal for this month was Helen from Aardvark Cakes.  I have to be honest and say that I was a little intimidated at the fact Helen was my foodie penpal.  After all, she runs her own cake decorating business so she’s bound to either have everything or seen it before.  I had recently made a trip back home to Canada and the US just after I signed up for Foodie Penpals, so I bought a bunch of different things specifically for my future FP’s.  Whenever I go on holiday, and even when I’m shopping here at home I’m always on the lookout for different foodie things that I don’t see every day and can’t buy regularly.  I picked out a few things for Helen that I thought she might like, so hopefully she enjoyed them!  

I sent her a cute box of Lemon Whoopie Pie Mix, some buttery microwave popcorn (one of my favourite snacks from back home – traditionally popcorn here in the UK is either salty or sweet – not buttery), some maple flavouring for cakes and icing, a little packet of powdered cinnamon bun icing flavouring that I came across while in the US, and a Coffee Crisp Easter Egg – coffee crisp is a Canadian chocolate bar that as far as I know isn’t sold outside of Canada.  

Hopefully Helen liked my foodie penpal package as much as I liked the one Jules sent me.  If you’d like to become a foodie penpal you can sign up and find more information about it here if you’re in the UK & Europe, or here is your in the US & Canada.

Surprise Foodie Packages

I’ve had the pleasure of receiving two great foodie packages in the post recently.  The first package was my June Foodie Penpals package (I usually post about these on the first of each month) and was sent to me by Fay from the blog Food Fables.  I was Fay’s first Foodie Penpal, and she did a great job choosing the things in my package.  She sent me some pink strawberry flavoured candy melts that I’ll most definitely be using for some kind of cake pop or other creation.  Also included was some of my most favourite gummy candies that you can get at Asian supermarkets – the ones Fay sent me were Mango flavoured, but they come in loads of other flavours.  I used to get these all the time when I lived in Canada where they were more widely available.  How did Fay know I liked these???  Fay also included some other Asian foods – an instant noodle pouch – great for a last minute meal, and some chilli paste which I have to admit scares the crap out of me because it looks so potent.  I’ll definitely be using it in some stir frys and sauces, but I must make sure to use it sparingly!  Fay also sent some Strawberry and pepper vinegar that her mum’s friend made.  I haven’t used it yet, but I’m sure it would be delicious on salads.  Not sure what else it might be good for – any suggestions?

I sent my Foodie penpal package to Emily who runs the Bristol Bites website.  Emily said she preferred savoury things rather than sweet so I sent her one of my favourite finds.  It’s a packaged Pad Thai kit that comes with noodles, sauce and spices, and just requires you to add your meat of choice and an egg.  I discovered these Pad Thai kits recently and I think they’re great and can taste quite authentic with the addition of a tablespoon or two of peanut butter mixed in.  I also sent Emily a mini tub of roasted garlic sea salt (I also bought one for me because it looked so good – my husband’s tried it already and says it’s great on steak), and some sweet chilli Ryvita mini’s for snacking.  Finally I felt that I had to include one sweet thing, so I sent Emily some Jules Destrooper chocolate coated cookies that looked really good.  I haven’t tried them, but I wish I had bought myself a package as well!

The second foodie package I received were some delightful little hand decorated cookies in the shape of cupcakes.  These cookies were made for me by Rachel of the blog Blissfully Scrumptious, and were part of a bake swap organised by my friend Sarah of Maison Cupcake to celebrate the launch of her new book titled Bake Me I’m Yours, Sweet Bitesize Bakes. I love the idea of swapping baked goods centred around a common theme (mini bakes) and seeing what everyone comes up with.  The cookies that Rachel baked for me were a vanilla butter cookie that were decorated with white chocolate as the cupcake icing and then fondant bases, with perfect tiny cupcakes added on top which I think were made with royal icing.  The cookies are delicious, and I was so excited when I got home from work and noticed the box in the hallway that I couldn’t wait to unpack it.  Seriously – if you saw me trying to unwrap it you’d think I’d received a Gucci handbag or something!  I was so pleased to see that all the cookies arrived perfectly in tact – not a crumb/crumble to be seen!

As for my baked item, I sent Rachel some mini cupcakes I decorated with pastel fondant and mini sugar paste flowers and pearls.  It was the first time I made fondant covered cupcakes, and I was really pleased with the way they turned out.  I’ll be posting a tutorial on them soon, so check back for that.  Never in my life have I been so worried about sending something through the post.  At least with my foodie penpal packages, things are generally far less fragile, and I haven’t put a whole lot of time and effort into personal making each individual item.  I was dying to know if my cupcakes survived their journey to Dorset through the mail, and sent a tweet out to everyone on Twitter to see if they knew a potential food blogger by the name of Rachel who lived in Dorset – (we weren’t told if our bake swap mate was also a blogger).  Sure enough within a few minutes a response was tweeted to me, and Rachel and I were united via Twitter where we thanked each other for our baked treats and I was assured that my cupcakes did indeed arrive in tact.  Phew!  My packaging job had worked!

I really hope that the Bake Swap continues on a regular basis, as I had a great time making and receiving my mini bakes. Keep an eye out on the Maison Cupcake blog to see if there is another instalment of bake swap.

And if you’re interested in becoming a Foodie Penpal you can find more information and sign up through the Rock Salt Blog here if you’re in the UK & Europe, or through the Lean Green Bean Blog here is your in the US & Canada.

May Foodie Penpal Reveal

This was my second month as a Foodie Penpal, and I received a great little box of goodies from Fiona of the blog Fee Hates Rain.  I told Fiona how I liked snacky type stuff as well unique things or ingredients that I don’t come across in my regular mainstream supermarket.  Fiona did a great job selecting some unique products – none of which I’ve ever tried or seen before.  

Along with a pretty note card, Fiona sent me some Lap Snacks – these are roasted broad beans coated in a spicy batter, and they are delicious!  They’ve got just a hint of spice in them without being too hot,  They’re great to snack on at my desk – nice and crunchy!

Also included was some Scrummee brand Yorkshire Rhubarb, Lemongrass and Ginger dessert sauce.  I haven’t tried this yet, but it sounds absolutely amazing.  I can’t wait to try it – either in a recipe or on top of some vanilla ice cream.  

Fee also sent a really unique bar of chocolate – Madecasse Pink Pepper and Citrus Chocolate.  The label says it’s 63% cocoa with pink pepper and combava fruit.  I’ve never heard of combava fruit before!  I haven’t tried this yet.  It’s so unique I don’t know what to expect, but I love the fact that she managed to incorporate Pink into it! 

Last but not least, she sent a fancy little packet of Peri-peri chicken spice that I cannot wait to try!  My husband and I both love peri-peri chicken, and I’m saving this for a special meal when we can both sit down together and enjoy it – something we rarely get to do!

A huge thank you again to Fiona for sending me such a great package that was so thoughtfully put together!  

As for myself, my Foodie Penpal was Sarah from the Blog North West Nosh.  Sarah told me that she ate a lot of Eastern foods, and was really into spices like cardamon and cinnamon, as well as rose flavours, and also like snacky stuff too.

Sarah’s package suggestions gave me the perfect opportunity to explore the new Asian market that recently opened up near my office.  It was filled with so many neat products I hadn’t seen before and many that I’d used before, but needed to make a special trip to another store far away to find.

I bought Sarah some Moroccan spiced couscous, rose flavoured Turkish delight, several different types of nougat and 4 different flavours of sesame snaps.  

Waitrose had recently sent me a package filled with a selection of their Jubilee goodies, but I decided to pass some of them along to my Foodie Penpal this month as an extra little bonus because it was so near to the Diamond Jubilee.  I had been sent so much Jubilee product that there was no way I could ever use it all. Hopefully Sarah can have fun with it this weekend.  The Waitrose Jubilee items were: cupcake cases and toppers, 4 different tubes of festive icing and some street party Royal Trivia cards.

If you’re new here and haven’t heard of Foodie Penpals you can check out my first Foodie Penpals post here.

If you’d like to become a Foodie Penpal you can find more information and sign up through the Rock Salt Blog here if you’re in the UK & Europe, or through the Lean Green Bean Blog here is your in the US & Canada.