When I first heard of Foodie Pen Pals, I immediately thought back to elementary school. I used to have a pen pal…actually I had TWO, and was always so excited when I would come home from school and have a letter waiting for me. Fast forward to today, and I almost never have a letter in my mailbox. Instead, it’s an e-mail, a facebook message, or a twitter mention that gets me excited. So, after reading about this monthly event on The Lean Green Bean (the brilliant creator behind this food exchange), I instantly sent in my information. What could be better than meeting TWO new fellow food bloggers, and giving AND receiving a box filled with food!
The basic premise is you receive your pen pal pairing via e-mail and then make contact to find out what would be on their food “wish list.” You then send them a box filled with delectable edibles (that costs no more than $15) and await your own box of goodies. And then…reveal day! Right where we are today.
I was so excited to send my package of food gifts to Kalee@Sorey Fitness and even more excited to come home to a large UPS box with my name on it. Diana@The Veggie Next Door sent me such an amazing box filled with a variety of new and old food favorites. It was also so exciting to find her blog and make a new twitter friend…we actually have a lot in common! We both love to cook and try new restaurants, have both traveled to Thailand, and Diana lives in Chicago…a city that I absolutely fell in love in when I visited last year and a city filled with amazing restaurants.
What was so nice about this box was the little notes on each of the food items…it added such a nice and personal touch. The kit kat bars were picked up at a China airport, the very interesting tasting mesquite candy was from her boyfriend on a recent business trip, and the tropical lara bar (which is a new to me flavor) is Diana’s favorite flavor.
Pop chips are a favorite snack food in our household and we actually were recently discussing the need to buy a bag of the sweet potato flavor. How perfect we got our own little taste tester…Diana was right, these are addictive! We will definitely be purchasing a larger bag in the future.
This green barley was the most intriguing item in the box. I love barley and had never even heard of this green grain before…needless to say I immediately began thinking of how I can use this new food find and came up with a very tasty green barley salad.
Green Barley, Squash, Sweet Potato Salad
1 cup green barley (you could use regular barley, wheat berries, farro, or brown rice)
1/2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cubed
1 small sweet potato, peeled, cubed
3 carrots, peeled, cubed
1/2 onion, chopped
handful of parsley, chopped
handful of spinach, chopped
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp honey
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse barley and soak in water for about 30 minutes. Place in a pot with boiling salted water and cook for 45-50 minutes until tender, but make sure it still has a nice chew. Drain and place in a large bowl.
Meanwhile, roast squash, sweet potato, onion at 400 degree in oven with some oil, salt, and pepper until tender. Add to barley with remaining ingredients and toss to combine.
This salad has such a nice mix of salty and sweet flavors and amazing textures. This barley is a lot chewier (in a very good way) than regular barley…more similar to farro or a wheatberry and I would definitely make it again.
Thank you Diana for introducing me to a new favorite grain and for the rest of the food gifts!! (although the sweet potato pop chips might have been a dangerous find!)