Foodie Pen Pal Reveal – Guest Blogger!

The tiiiime has arriiived! The April Foodie Pen Pal reveal is finally here! I will go into the details of the Foodie Pen Pal program and tell you where you can find all of this months reveals as well as sign up to join the program… in a little while. (Actually – if you can’t wait for my explanation and just have to go sign up right now then The Lean Green Bean will have the details.)

But FIRST – my very first guest blogger Shelby is going to share with you! In an e-mail from Shelby she said, “I started to write you a thank you and then I turned it into the guest post for SFF…”

I’ve left her thank you/guest post just the way it is… except my computer is trying to mess with the pictures…

Dear Lorna,

I’ve struggled with where to start in reply to my box o’ Foodie Pen Pal goodies from you. So pardon my bluntness, but I’ll begin by saying that the box was totally mind-blowing and extremely perfect.

So almost-eerily perfect, in fact, that my roommate asked how much about myself I had shared with you. How did you know I prefer sea salt to table salt? Or that coconuts are my favorite and I love tea? Or that I use vinegar on the daily?

Now I’m getting ahead of myself. Dear readers of Orange Is A Good Color-turned-Salt For Flavor, Lorna received me as her randomly-assigned Foodie Pen Pal (I, in turn, received someone else). She contacted me for my preferences and avoidances in regards to food, and then I waited in anticipation for a box of Pacific Northwest goods (no more than $15 worth, as stated in the rules). With each day that passed, I got more and more excited for the prospect of my big mystery to arrive in the mail… and each day I’d check the mail feeling hungrier and hungrier! I satisfied my appetite in my kitchen, conjuring fantasies of opening a box full of tasty goodies to throw into my usual mix of nutrition.

And then it happened.

On Saturday, I was preparing to go out and shoot photos of Record Store Day’s various events throughout the city for Brooklyn Vegan Chicago. I had just picked up my camera early in the morning and was about to leave when my the box appeared! I just had enough time to open it up and gaze momentarily in jaw-dropped awe before having to dash to catch the train. I did have enough time to grab a Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif bar and two Trader Joe’s Organic Fruit Wraps, which were great to fuel me for the day’s rushing around!

When I got back to my apartment after a long day of vinyl and live performances, sidewalk sales, packed public transportation, and lots of general goodness, I immediately sat down to view the rest of the box. Everything was so packed so lovely (as Lorna wrote on her note: “We’re going with Easter colors since it’s that time of year…”), between the pastel tissue papers and the perfectly recycled cardboard “tubing” made just for the bottle of Trader Joe’s White Balsamic Vinegar. I was surprised (and relieved) that everything made it so well – it looked like I had just packed this box down the street at the market and carried it over. You’d never guess it traveled two thousand miles!

Leftover from the snacks I had grabbed that morning were two more Clif bars, Trader Joe’s Naturally Smoked Sea Salt (umami flavored – “umami” being Japanese for, essentially, “pleasant savory taste”) with a built-in grinder for extra ease, two packs of Trader Joe’s Seaweed Snacks (the total ultimate, one original and one wasabi!), a pouch of Trader Joe’s Just Mango dried slices, and a bag of Vanilla Coconut loose leaf tea from Lorna’s personal favorite shop out in Washington.

I had written to Lorna describing myself as a “health nut” who stays away from refined sugars, white flour, heavily processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, etc. I panicked that I sounded too picky and perhaps a somewhat impossible foodie pen pal to deal with (it wouldn’t be very easy to ship, say, fresh raspberries) so I hoped I wasn’t more of a problem to shop for than I bargained to be. Whether or not difficult, Lorna chose all my favorites. Like I said, it was a little shocking, but nonetheless pleasant, to find so many goodies I have picked up in the market, only to put back while on budget, thinking to myself that I can get it next time I go shopping (and then the same thing repeats). I now had dried mango. Clif bars (which Lorna was far too tough on herself about including, but will be extremely useful during these days as I plunge into my finals) and seaweed snacks to pack, white balsamic for my cooking and salads, that sea salt to add savoriness to my meals, and delicious vanilla coconut tea to relax to at the end of the day (I had a cup last night with a dribble of almond milk and it hit all the right sweet spots).

With all of that, I leave you with the following that I have already tested and approved:

Throw in a handful of torn seaweed pieces (wasabi flavored if you like the kick) with a cup of spinach and an egg, cooked in white balsamic vinegar. Add ground black pepper and sea salt, top with pine nuts or flax seeds.

Slice sweet potatoes and beets, lay on a baking sheet, brush a little white balsamic vinegar on and sprinkle with sea salt – bake around 350 degrees F until crispy. Also can be done with kale leaves (but massage the vinegar into the leaves before laying out to be salted and baked).

Salt and vinegar popcorn sounds good, right? I thought so, but couldn’t get the kernels to pop in the vinegar until I added some olive oil. Pop your own popcorn first using olive oil in a covered pot on the stove (try to stay away from pre-packaged microwave bags that contain chemicals in the sealants), let cool a bit, then drizzle a salt and vinegar concoction.

If in need of a sweet and filling, but need-it-fast fix, open a Clif bar, place in a microwave-safe bowl, add 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil and a teaspoon of any seasonings such as ginger, cinnamon, allspice, or unsweetened cocoa (which we all know isn’t a seasoning). Microwave for a minute but keep your eye on it (from a distance!) so as not to let it burn. Eat with a spoon.

I can’t thank Lorna enough for her thoughtful and incredible package. I am so glad my first Foodie Pen Pal experience was with her, I’m hooked and recommending it to all my family and friends. That being said, dear readers, you should all A) sign up for your own Foodie Pen Pal and B) stick around for this lady here’s food thoughts in the future. I look forward to more Salt For Flavor, which reminds me I’ve got an egg cooking on the stove that needs some seaweed and sea salt right now.

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