Friday, August 31, 2012

My First Foodie Pen Pal with a bonus Guest Post

This was my first month of the Foodie Pen Pals and I couldn't be happier I signed up!
I received my Foodie Pen Pals Package, stocked full of Trader Joe's goodies from Amanda. It was like a Foodie Christmas morning.  I don't know how she knew I was starved for a Trader Joe fix, but she sure hooked me up! Being in southeast Florida, there is no easy way to stock up on TJ's goods, so I was thrilled to get some new finds. 
Thank you, Amanda!!

Who doesn't love Tortellini?? I was excited to try these and they didn't disappoint (just make sure to cook them thoroughly). In a dinner pinch, these are great to have on hand. The possibilities are endless as to what you can do to play up the flavor. I mixed in some fresh mozzarella and tomato-basil sauce, topped with freshly shaved Parmesan. 

The Chile Spiced Mango is a flavor combination I had never seen before. If you like sweet spice this is for you! It has good flavor and not too much heat. I would like to try these mixed in with perhaps some chicken, maybe in an entree. Or you could go the other direction and dip them in chocolate! 

Mushroom Rice Noodle Soup Bowl looks tasty! I love mushrooms and noodles so I'm thinking this will be another winner!

Fire Roasted Diced Green Chile - I haven't had the pleasure of trying these yet. I am thinking I will take Amanda's advice and try an Albuquerque Turkey sandwich- which consists of avocado, tomato, Swiss cheese, turkey and green chile. She recommends it as a grilled sandwich. Yum! 

Raspberry Fudge, yes please!! This is as delicious as it sounds. A rich, chocolaty flavor, with a hint of raspberry- and neither flavor overpowers the other. I have only tried a smidge of this and I can't wait to play around with it more. I think it would be incredible on a brownie or some vanilla bean ice cream.  

Part of the fun of the Pen Pal program is putting together the goodies you send to your pal. I had my fingers crossed my pal Lena would like the treats, as I tried to include some of my favorites mixed in with things I thought looked neat.  
Lena was kind enough to write a guest post about the package I sent to her. 

I’m Lena and this month I received a package from Anna, the host of annaDishes, as a part of the foodie pen pal exchange!  She kindly invited me to write a guest post since I don’t have a blog of my own.  She sent me some awesome stuff, so let’s get into the food!

This was Anna’s first food swap, so she sent me things that she likes or that she’s been wanting to try – an excellent approach!

Upon first opening the package, my attention went straight to the coffee.  I was psyched!   I love trying coffee from local coffee roasters and coffee shops when I travel.  I’ve never been to Florida, so it was like having the local experience come to me!  This particular blend is an Anna original: Fresh Market’s salted caramel and coconut crème flavored coffees mixed together.  I have to say, it’s a great combination.

The next thing that caught my eye was the bag of Lemonade cookies.  How did Anna know I love lemon flavored baked goods?  I had one later that day and it was just as she described:  “deliciously tart and refreshing.”  The best lemon desserts have that bright, lemon flavor and this lived up to my expectations.

Rummaging through the box some more revealed coconut patties, a packet of almond butter, and a chocolate peanut butter quinoa bar.  I have to admit, out of the entire package, I ate the coconut patties first.  I love coconut and these were chewy and chocolate-y and yummy.  I’ve seen the packets of Barney’s Almond Butter in cafes before, but never had the chance to try it.  In a world where allergens are public food enemy no. 1, it’s nice to have the option of adding your own nuts to whatever you want.   The Two Degrees bar is intriguing to me, as quinoa and chia seeds are popping up everywhere and I have yet to try them in a bar.  What makes Two Degrees even better is that for every bar sold, they donate a meal to a hungry child.  Nothing tastes better than a meal shared.

Last but not least, how could a foodie pen pal package from Florida not include a little bit of the beach?  Anna found an adorable, vibrantly colored (mini!) beach set, complete with a pail, shovels, lollipops and candy sand.  I’ll have to try to get to Revere Beach before the season ends so I can eat some lollipops and make tiny sand castles.
All in all, I’m greatly enjoying my foodie pen pal package this month!  Thank you again, Anna, for such a wonderful and thoughtful package.

For my tweets, follow @DarthFormal

If you are new to the Foodie Pen Pals idea, here is some information for you- in case you are interested in joining. It isn't just for bloggers. 

-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 September, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions. 
You must submit your information by September 4th as pairings will be emailed on September 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!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Grammy's Hermits

Growing up we spent part of our summers on Cape Cod with my paternal Grandparents. We had the most wonderful Grammy who loved to bake and fill the house with love and comfort. So many of my childhood memories are centered around her and the fun we had with her. She would spend summer days braiding our hair, teaching us how to knit, making homemade play-dough, and showing me how to make goodies in the kitchen.  

There are so many things that make me lovingly think of her and our time on the Cape. One of the sweets that goes hand in hand with my memories of Grammy, are her hermits.

They are made of sugar and spice and everything nice, just like she was. 

Me and my sister Lucy with our Grammy at the cottage. 
Everything about her was sweet, loving and so comforting. 

I had thought of making these a few times and shuffled through the recipes I had. I thought it was in there somewhere. It's been years of me going back and forth, looking once again to see if it's maybe in there and I didn't see it the time before. 

I knew I could go online and print out a recipe for hermits, but that wouldn't be the same. It didn't seem right, it wasn't hers. Luckily, I finally thought to ask my father if he had her recipes. He did! He sent me this and the recipe for her Blueberry Cake, which is another one of my summer favorites that I will be making soon.

I'm really not sure where she ever got the recipe, it was typed on a recipe card with no notes of where it came from. 
1/2 Cup Shortening
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Molasses
1 Egg
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Clove
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
3 Cups Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Cup Lukewarm Water
1 Cup Raisins
1/2 Chopped Walnuts

Preheat the oven to 375.

Why not now?

In a large bowl, cream the shortening and the sugar, then add the molasses and the egg. Mix well and add vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift together the the dry ingredients except for the baking soda. Mix the baking soda with the lukewarm water. Stir until completely dissolved.

Add the flour mixture alternately with the baking soda and water, beginning and ending with the flour. Then add raisins and nuts.

Spread in a greased pan. Bake 8-10 minutes (could go up to 15 min.) but watch carefully as anything with molasses burns easily.

About half way through cooking, when the batter is still tacky but not totally wet, sprinkle raw sugar on top.

You could even make a simple frosting with confectioners sugar, but I prefer them without.

**I didn't have an 15 1/2x 10 1/2 x1 pan so I used a 13x9 pan and it took about 15 min because they were thicker than they should have been**

 Let them cool in the pan. Cut into squares with a serrated knife.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Lemon-Strawberry Glazed Bundt Cake

Lemon is one of my favorite summertime flavors yet, I somehow never use it enough when baking. This weekend, I was craving something sweet, yet slightly tart and refreshing. I try to keep organic strawberries on hand and thought they would marry well with the tartness of the lemon I craved.

Although there are several ingredients, the steps are simple and in the end it is an easy cake to make. It would be a great dessert to bring to a dinner party as it would could go with almost anything. It will travel well and you don't have to worry about any icing melting in the heat or rushing it into a refrigerator.

2 Sticks of Butter (room temperature)
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
4 Extra Large Eggs
1/2 Cup Grated Lemon Peel (zest of 4 large lemons with some left over for glaze)
3 1/2 Cups Cake Flour
3/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
1 1/4 Cup Buttermilk
2 Teaspoons Vanilla
1 Cup Thinly Sliced Ripe Organic Strawberries (You can use more)

1- 1 1/2 Cup Confectioners Sugar
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Lemon Zest
1 Tablespoon Water
Splash Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour bundt pan.

In a large bowl using hand mixer (or in stand mixer) combine butter, olive oil and both sugars. Beat until smooth- light and fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time and then the lemon zest.

In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients. Stir together with a fork. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, vanilla and lemon juice. Stir to distribute evenly.

Alternating with the flour mixture and liquid ingredients, add into the sugar and butter. Mix until well blended. Then fold in strawberries. Make sure to do this at the end, otherwise the strawberries can break apart.

Pour batter into bundt pan and smooth with spatula.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick/skewer comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10-15 minutes and transfer to cooling rack for additional 30 minutes, at least. You want the cake to be cool when you go to glaze it.

Make sure to glaze the cake over parchment paper or a plastic cutting board. It will drip trough and you don't want it to make a mess on your cake plate or serving platter. (I scoop the drippings off the paper and re-drizzle it on the cake, you wouldn't want to waste any of that tasty glaze!)

To make the glaze, pour water and lemon juice into a bowl. With a whisk, blend in the cup of confectioners sugar, 1/3 at a time. Combine until smooth, with out lumps from sugar, then add lemon zest and vanilla. The glaze should be the consistency of a thin paste. You don't want it to be watery, but you want it to be thin enough to drizzle. If it is too thin, add more confectioner's sugar. If it is too thick, add more water or lemon juice. You can adjust to your desired level of sweetness and tartness. With a large or soup spoon, drizzle over the cake.

As delicious as this cake was if you are looking for a little extra something, you could also serve it with some vanilla bean ice cream or a dollop freshly whipped cream.

**As a caution if you see the sides getting too brown, try turning the temperature down. The cake was delicious and very moist inside but I would have like the outside to be a bit more golden and less browned.**