Thursday, October 31, 2013

October Foodie Penpals Reveal Day

I was paired with Andrea from Pennsylvania.  I told her that my favorite foods are dark chocolate, oatmeal, peanut butter and quinoa.  I also told her that I'd prefer it if she could send me local foods that I cannot find in my area.  And boy oh boy, did she deliver!

My Box of Goodies
She must have done her research about me by reading my blog or Yelp reviews since she picked up on my enormous sweet tooth! 

She sent a honey graham and dark chocolate vanilla sea salt caramels from Valos Chocolates which is based in Arnold, Pennsylvania.  I read about the company and the founder began his chocolate making career in Chicago!  That made me smile reading that.  The honey graham was a nice treat work, but the stars of the chocolates definitely were the caramels.  They were absolutely divine with the right amount of sweet and salty making it a perfect after dinner treat to keep my sweet tooth at bay.  Can you believe that I still have two pieces left?

She also sent over two packages of Nicholas Coffee & Tea Co. Gourmet Ground Coffee from Pittsburgh in the Scandinavian Morning Blend and Graham Cracker flavor.  They have been in business since 1919!  Unfortunately, I do not have a coffeemaker so I will have to buy a filer so I can make the coffee using my Keurig!  

Included in the package was Biscotti Brothers Bakery Granotti made with chocolate chips and sea salt.  I have never tried whole grain biscotti before.  My taste buds were pleasantly surprised when I took a bite.  Again, the sweet and salty flavors were awesome.  They are good to eat with breakfast and a cup of tea or coffee or as a snack.  They have whole grains so you can feel good eating them!

Lastly, she sent Ciciarelli Brothers salad dressing.  They have been in business for over 50 years.  However, it's not just a salad dressing.  It can be used as a marinade, in pasta salads and on white pizza.

Overall, excellent box and it has been wonderful having Andrea as my foodie pen pal this month!  I sincerely appreciate her efforts to put together a box filled with local goodies.


Andrea's Box of Goodies
One day last week, a colleague asked me how my day was going.  “I had the best oatmeal for breakfast that I’ve ever had,” I replied.  He was a bit taken aback.  Not quite what he expected to hear!

But really, it was true, and it came to me courtesy of Jen, my October Foodie Penpal.  Jen is in Chicago, and she sent me a box of incredible local foods—this is perhaps the best package I have received in all of my months in this food exchange—definitely in the top tier. I was treated to a tour of Chicago in small bites, and it has me excited to visit there in January, when I’ll head in for the Modern Language Association convention.

The oatmeal was a perfect serving-sized pack from Milk and Honey, which is a restaurant I’d like to hit when I’m in town.  It’s their Cherry Almond Toasted Oatmeal, and it beat the heck out of anything I ever make for myself in the morning!  The fact that the oatmeal is toasted, I think, makes the difference, as well as the coarsely ground almonds.  There was flavor and texture there that was truly amazing.  Extra benefit:  I follow Weight Watchers, and so sometimes I can be afraid of packaged foods, even healthy ones, due to added Points Plus values, but this serving of Best Oatmeal Ever came with only 8 PP, which is not much more than a typical breakfast for me.  Score.

I’d told Jen that I try to eat healthy, and she sent a range of tasty things that have allowed me to treat myself without overdoing it.  Good flavors don’t need to come in big bites, and the many local sweets that were a part of my package provided me with a couple of weeks of indulgences.  Three caramels from Katherine Anne Confections—Rosemary Sea Salt, Banana Lemon, and Maple Bacon (ohmygoodnessyum)—were just wonderful, and the tiny Askinoise dark chocolate bar was excellent one night after dinner.  Just enough.  OK, I could have had maybe one more of those maple-bacon caramels, but still.

There was also some loose maté tea from David’s Tea, and that is a gift that I’ll be enjoying for weeks.  I get a little obsessive about teas when the weather gets cooler, and I had heard many friends say how much they like maté, so I’m glad to finally get a chance to enjoy some (this one is “Simply the Zest” with a nice citrus flavor).  I probably won’t give up my morning coffee, but the maté will add something to my afternoon repertoire when I need a little something-something but can’t add any more caffeine to my day.

Another healthy snack was a Mark Bar, which is made from quinoa and full of protein.  It says you can eat it before a workout, but I indulged midday.  And last, but not least, are some pepperoni sticks that we’re still enjoying—my eight-year-old daughter has found them, though, and so who knows how long they’ll be around?

I live near, but not at all in, a city, and so I forget sometimes the fun involved in shopping small producers and discovering neighborhood gems.  I not only found out about some of the places to go and things to eat when in Chicago (especially thanks to Jen’s lovely note that explains all of the places that these treats came from), but I have some renewed interest in getting out more and into my own nearby city of Pittsburgh, to which I moved not too long ago.  Maybe I can start out on a PA quest for some oatmeal that rivals what I got to try out this month.

Thanks so much to to Jen, and thanks to Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean for keeping this exchange going.  It’s so much fun!


For more information about Foodie Pen Pals and to sign up, see Lindsay's blog for more details!

1 comment:

  1. It is very difficult to select the best food items for you when you are sensitive to some food materials so take the time decide the best for you.

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