Foodie Penpals: October

This was my second month participating in Foodie Penpals and this time both the person I was sending to and receiving from were located in Texas.

My box contained:

Sadly, I forgot to take a picture since I tore into the box. Things were a bit crazy around here since I was on vacation in NYC around the time of the delivery date. I went shopping for my FPP with my sister. I sent the duplicate Cookie Butter I received last month and received another one! Is this like the Christmas Fruitcake? ^_^

I have mixed feelings about Larabars. I like the fact that there are no unnecessary ingredients and I can count them on one hand. The apple pie one had: Dates, Almonds, Unsweetened Apples, Walnuts, Raisins, Cinnamon. Doesn’t get any simpler than that. They were a good snack without being too sweet or heavy. I don’t typically like chocolate with fruit (and I don’t like bing cherries), but the cherry torte bar was also decent. I ate them but I wouldn’t buy them again.

I was also confused about the “Wholesome Junk Food”. I liked eating them, but after seeing the nutrition facts, was wondering what was healthy about them? I make my own oatmeal cookies which contain only a few ingredients. These were very moist, almost like eating un-cooked dough and had a strong citrus taste. But, they still tasted good because I ate the whole container by myself.

I have yet to sample the butters and tea. The tea will most likely be drank by Dan since I don’t drink too many tea bags. The butters are great because I’ve been wanting to try them and with the hurricane coming soon, will be great shelf-stable snacks. The fruit blend I will have to approach carefully. I tried rehydrating some of them in cocktails but that didn’t seem to work well. I’ll try them in oatmeal for breakfast or baking them in oatmeal cookies with macadamia nuts. I can’t give them to my sister unfortunately since it contains strawberries.

Here is my sister’s Foodie Penpal:

This month I got my first foodie pen pal package! Thanks Jessica for sending me these treats. My mom and brother ate the chips and salsa up and the granola thins are a great pick me up for an afternoon snack! I appreciate that you made me granola too! I’m eating the oatmeal right now while braving out the storm. Thanks for the thoughtful note too. I hope everyone liked their packages too!

To see what my sister sent to her Penpal, head on over to Beyond Frosting and see what Julianne got!

For more information on Foodie Penpals, follow the link below.

The Lean Green Bean


Fuego Cocina y Tequileria

It seems that it was only a short while ago that Harry’s Tap Room, er-Market Tavern was down the street in Clarendon. In record time, a new restaurant has taken over the space and opened with a Mexican kitchen and bar. Fuego is the newest addition in the Passion Food Hospitality Group, which is the umbrella other restaurants such as Ceiba, Passionfish, and Acadiana fall under.

I don’t like tequila too much, but I do like the amount of choices they have as well as the nice red library-style tall ladder leaning against the bar for all those hard to reach places.

Our first bites consisted of: chips and salsas, Queso Fundido (cast iron baked chihuahua & oaxaca cheese, blistered peppers, fresh corn tortillas, chorizo), Al Pastor Tacos (spit roasted marinated pork, pineapple serrano salsa), Birria Tacos (jalisco style roasted goat), and Platanos Machos (tequila glazed ripe plantains, latin crema).

The house-made tortillas had a good flavor to them, but were a tad too thick. The pork tacos were great and juicy, but the goat tacos were so dry they needed a generous dip in salsa to help choke down. Both tacos came on interesting plates with three compartments on the side – we were warned not to sample the middle sauce since it was extremely spicy. We trusted our server.

The queso fundido was nothing special to write home about. It was greasy and too firm to dip into easily (unlike the delicious queso fundido at Ceiba). The sweet and warm plantains solved our urge for dessert so we’ll have to return another time to sample that portion of their menu.

Though Fuego had just opened, the staff was very knowledgable and friendly. They seemed to know every aspect of the menu and had recommendations for all sorts of palettes. This would be a good spot for a happy hour in Arlington, but there aren’t food specials and at $7 per tiny taco order, I’d have to have a few drinks before indulging too much.

Rainbow Bridging Cupcakes (& Cake Push Pops)

With Hurricane Sandy approaching, I thought it might be a good idea (while we have power) to post about these rainbow cupcakes.  I’m not sure that there will be a rainbow after Sandy, but you can make your own with these cupcakes!

I made these cakes for a Girl Scout Ceremony where a troop was bridging from Cadettes to Seniors. As a result, they get a rainbow-bridge patch to signify their “bridging”.

I used light color liners so that the colors would show through. If I had to do this again, I would omit the white swirl in the rainbow and keep it to only colors. The addition of the white swirl made it look more like paintball or graffiti cupcakes instead of a true rainbow.

I used Duff Electric Color Gels that my Mom gave me as a gift a while back. Because they are “electric” colors, they are a bit off compared to primary colors which are much deeper. For the red, orange, and yellow I used Williams-Sonoma Vivid Food Pastes. If you don’t want dyed skin, wear gloves. I didn’t care so ended up with rainbow fingers.

Mixing the food coloring into the batter was tricky because of the cake recipe I chose. I used the simplest White Layer Cake recipe I could find from Martha Stewart and I did not like the taste or process at all. I was wondering why everyone that made rainbow cakes started with a box mix; I figured that making a white mix from scratch and then coloring it 7 different colors and then swirling it wouldn’t add too many steps. Sadly, the cake I picked required folding in of egg whites at the end which just made it bake weird. The worst thing? After baking it tasted like box mix!

But, these cupcakes weren’t really about taste. It was about presentation. I went to a local drugstore and picked up some rainbow strips and mini-marshmallows. I dyed a simple cream cheese frosting blue to simulate the sky and cut the strips. You’d think that over 8 feet of rainbow strips would be enough, but I ran out and soon had to improvise. I cut some mini-marshmallows in half and fashioned hearts out of them. I had to cut all the mini-marshmallows in half anyways because un-cut they would not cooperate with the cupcake tops.

This was also my first time ever making cake push pops! I bought the containers from The Baker’s Kitchen, but am not sure I would buy them again in hindsight. At over $1 a piece, you better believe I was going around to all the kids and collecting them for wash and re-use.

To make these cakes, I made one 9″ cake by dropping in white and colored batter and swirling it together. After baking and cooling, I cut it in half. Some of the cake was overdone and some was still gummy. This was probably because of the pockets of egg whites that the recipe had me fold in. I then used a 1⅞” cutter to cut rounds of cooked cake, plopped them in, and layered with icing.

I tried to keep the icing to a ring just around the outside of the cake when layering because I did not want them to get too sweet. Since the main audience for these cakes was children, I didn’t fret too much over the disappointing flavor of the cake. I made extra for my office, which unfortunately, has been spoiled by the quality of my previous baked goods.

Everyone loved the novelty of the push-pops and asked where they were purchased from. My home, silly!

Foodie Penpals

This is my first time participating in Foodie Penpals! I heard about it from Not Exactly Bento and was immediately intrigued and signed up. A little bit later I was paired with 2 people – one to send me goodies and one to send to. I was assigned to Jenn from Odds and Ends with JJ — head over there to see what she got from me. Sara from Run Around Sara sent me my box.

My paint-splatter-decorated box arrived in the mail and I tore in to it.

My box contained:

  • Trader Joe’s Organic Stone Ground 70% Cacao Extra Dark Chocolate
  • Nestle Abuelita Authentic Mexican Style Instant Chocolate Drink Mix
  • Trader Joe’s 100-Calorie Pack Oatmeal Cookies
  • Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter (one of my faves!)
  • Trader Joe’s Thin Mini Edamame Crackers
  • CLIF Carrot Cake Bar
  • CLIF MOJO Trail Mix Bar
  • A Snack-sized Tupperware
  • Lovely Handwritten Note

I enjoyed reading the note from Sara and her reasons for choosing each item to send me. Before sending me a box, she asked me a lot of good questions like: Any dietary concerns/restrictions or food preferences I should be aware of? Do you prefer sweet/spicy/salty or “I like it all!”? Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate? If you could eat one cuisine every day for the next year, what would it be? Do you do more baking or more cooking? Are you an adventurous eater? Favorite candy and/or type of chocolate? Something you’d like to try from Boston?

The tupperware is the perfect size for snacks without being too big so that it takes up a lot of space in my apartment. The edamame crackers have already been opened and are halfway gone. I’ve only tried one (my boyfriend is a cracker-hound!) but it tasted surprisingly very much like edamame! I could see it going well with tons of different types of dips and cheeses, though they’ve been devoured so far naked.

Everything else I’ve had before FPP except the Mexican Drinking Chocolate, Stone Ground Chocolate, and the 100-Calorie pack Cookies. I’ve never  seen the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies at my Trader Joe’s and am munching on them now as I type this. I can’t really taste the chocolate chips in the cookies and they’re a bit salty, but you get a good deal of the cookies and they taste much better than other 100-calorie packs.

I’m saving the Stone Ground Chocolate and Mexican Drinking Chocolate for a rainy day. Trader Joe’s has such a great chocolate section that it can be overwhelming. Our Trader Joe’s has the chocolate where you wait to check-out so there is never time to look at all the options.

Thanks for a great box Sara!
Check out Sara’s Blog and Jennifer’s Blog.

I took my sister with me to shop for Jennifer’s box and she loved the idea so much that she’s signed up for next month’s! The great thing about Foodie Penpals is that you don’t have to have a blog to participate.

For more information on Foodie Penpals, follow the link below.

The Lean Green Bean