The Lean Green Bean, almost a year ago, this monthly (free) online social event is open to both bloggers and readers. Over 1000 participants signed up this month, in the US alone, committing to send a box of foodie goodies ($15 value cap) to a complete stranger; in the name of sharing great food, and meeting new people. Every month, on the 5th of the month, Julie sends out a spreadsheet with your randomly assigned match. The person you will be sending a box to is NOT the person you will receive a box from; so you get to meet 2 new people each month!
Once you have your contact information, it is up to you to reach out to your Foodie PenPal and request their mailing information, in addition to any food allergies/preferences. Then, you have until the 15th of the month to put together an array of store bought and/or home cooked goodies. Julie requires that each box contains something hand written, from an actual penpal letter to a simple explanation of what's inside. When you receive your box you're welcome to dig in and start enjoying all the wonderful treats. Then, on the last day of each month, all of the Foodie PenPals post a reveal of what they received. If your recipient doesn't own a blog, they can elect to write a guest post for your site and vice versa. This program was the inspiration for Time Out For Truffles new PetPals PenPal program, ran along a similar set-up, for pet owners. I highly suggest checking them BOTH out, they're great ways to take your social network offline, and even encourage social skills within families. Why not sign up the family and make it a monthly project?
This month my match was Julie from ROJ Running, active lifestyle blog. Just reading a single post on her blog is incredibly motivating; I don't know how she has such wonderful drive to complete some of the events I read about her training for. Her site is definitely a great resource for any runner or even the closet foodie (with her Friday Food posts). Just drooling over the Chicken Cacciatore with Creamy Mashed Potatoes recipe in her archives, I knew I was in for a treat with her as my Foodie PenPal. When her box arrived I couldn't wait to slice into it; it was substantial in weight. On top of a pile of peanuts was a nestled blue envelope, and some Emergen-C Blueberry Acai Single Serve Packets. I was in love with Julie already- as we are huge fans of Emergen-C, and this was a new flavor to me. These immune boosting supplements are easy on the tastebuds, and have gotten me through some sketchy times. The Blueberry Acai flavor is surprisingly tart, with a touch of sweet, for a flavor that reminds me of a berry lemonade.
Julie's note revealed that she was an ambassador for Marathon (energy bars), and she has included some bite sized samples for me. It's hard to imagine these little guys are chocked full of energy and protein, the Snickers inspired one eats just like a candy bar. Best of all, Marathon bars don't have that artificial aftertaste or cardboard chewy texture some other brands can have. In the middle of the peanuts was a bag of Sahale nuts; which we've reviewed on Momma Told Me before, to much praise. I'd never seen this flavor before, however, and was thrilled to try out the new to me Barbeque flavor, spiced with a hint of chipotle. These almonds have a very mellow build that isn't too salty, nor hot. There is a light heat that builds after a while, yet is intense in flavor, not palette. Also included was a package of Whole Wheat gnocchi, made from sweet potatoes. I love to switch up our pasta with gnocchi from time to time (it is so easy to prepare), and this potato based dish will certainly find it's way to our plates soon. Equally tempting visually was the jar of Chunky Ginger Preserves, with a golden apricot hue that begs to be spread across a layer of cream cheese on my morning bagel.
Perhaps the most unique, and pure fun, item from our box was Dr.Oetker's Mug Cake (chocolate). I've seen various versions of mug cakes on the Food Network, but never in box form at the stores. I was quite excited to try this out, though I substituted the suggested 1/4 cup milk for Rice Milk. It was as easy as pour and mix, then microwave for about 1 minute (our microwave took longer than suggested). In no time my boring coffee mug was transformed into a decadent desert. I'll admit- I burnt my tongue scarfing it down, it was that good! This particular flavor was very rich, yet had a malt flavor that reminded me of a dark chocolate malt or meal. The texture was fluffy, yet quick to moisten into a brownie texture when chewed. I intend on hunting this down and adding it to stocking this year!
I hope you've enjoyed reading about my first month with the Foodie PenPal program. Thank you to Julie of ROJ Running for the wonderful box of goodies, and Lindsay of the Lean Green Bean for organizing this month's event!
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