January Foodie Penpals

Last month I came across a post (sorry I forgot where) and discovered this great exchange program called Foodie Penpals. I was nervous at first, it seems all the exchanges have weird guidelines or expectations. Imagine how delighted I was when I found one for food, where I didn’t have to be all “in the know”. Nope, all I had to do was be willing to ship a package. Something I made, something local I bought, or just something fun. In fact aside from the deadlines the only major requirement is to include something handwritten with the package…and c’mon is that so hard? No, in fact I think it makes it sweet!

Thus I signed up and excitedly gathered my package for my penpal, Miranda. You can visit her blog at Twenty-Something and Broke to read her reactions to her gift. My package arrived from Nicole of applesandarteries and I loved it! My treats traveled all the way from Madison, WI.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Apple Vinegar
Spices for chili and one for veggies (or other things)
Brochures included so I can order more! And a lovely hand written card w/ a recipe!

I haven’t used the oils yet, they’re just too pretty to mess with, haha, but I will. The spices I did get into last week. I used Mural of Flavor in my pork stir-fry. It was a bunch of veggies (snow peas, carrots, mushrooms, red & green peppers) and mixed them with the spices and olive oil.  SO GOOD! A perfect adjustment in flavor without killing the natural goodness of the veggies. The brochures are very tempting too and I hope to order some more goodies. According to her card, the oil and vinegar are from a local shop and the bottles are obviously hand detailed and include their own usage ideas.

Seem fun? Want your own package? Well here are the details for next month!

On the 5th of every month, you receive your penpal pairing via email. It is your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need (allergies or dietary restrictions).
You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something handwritten.
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers.

If you want in, email Lindsay at theleangreenbean@gmail.com and include the following information:

-Your full name
-Your email address
-Your blog name/address
-Your twitter handle (if applicable)

She will need to hear from you by February 4th as pairings will be emailed on February 5th!

Please consider joining in on the fun! It really isn’t too much money (I spent maybe $20 with shipping) and you get something fun, unique or personal in exchange. If you don’t really cook or bake, tell your penpal and they can send you things to just eat! Don’t be nervous, I promise it’ll be worth it when you see your package in the mail or at your doorstep. Plus, you could meet new blog friends. Side note: I am insanely excited about the February & April packages. My penpals are going to LOVE me.

A Day Late and A Dollar Short

Sometimes I feel anxious when I realize I’m the last to adopt a new trend or the last to express a well established idea. Most will recall I didn’t post any New year’s Resolutions. Now as we close out January I am left wondering why I was not inclined to jump on the bandwagon. It occurred to me this weekend, I was struggling with where I was in life and where I wanted to be by the end of 2012. No, I am not questioning my job or my personal life. Shock of all shocks, I was struggling with the SOTFU, State of the fitness union. Err. Yeah.

It’s hard to set goals, when for the last several years so much of one’s life revolved around fitness. Most trips, nearly all important decisions, all tied into races or training. It was a lifestyle for me in every sense of the word and more than I grasped. Looking into the future, not knowing if what I want can still be mine, made me not want to look out into the future. Thursday is the big day though, and after the whole ER trip, I am ready for answers and ready to put this behind me and hopeful it is all just one big hiccup.

What are goals for the new year then? Some of these have already been expressed, but I feel the need to talk about them today.

Ideally, I want to complete a 50 mile or greater race. Yes, I still believe I can do it. I completed Buckeye 50K after only 3-4  months of “serious” training. And that was serious by my standards, which are not too high. If I set my sights on Oil Creek 100K in October, I think it will happen for me.

I’d also like to do a half iron-man. SAY WHAT?! Yes, I want to do 70.3. I loved multisport when I first started working out, but I cut back due to the huge demand on time it requires and the little time and money I had as a grad student.  My hopes are on REV3 at Cedar Point. 1) It’s local 2) I hear wonderful things about it 3) It’s less expensive than the other 70.3 series 4) The Grunt Girls always have people there so I will have my team!

Speaking of teams. It’s time I did more than write their name on a profile and wear their colors proudly. Time I did more than post pictures and send tweets and write stunning reviews on my blog. That’s been fun and that will still happen. However, I want friendships, I want connections. I want to travel and meet people and know who I am meeting. I want to say “Hello and good-day” to friends from afar. When teams are local I want to go to trainings and go to parties and get to know the amazing men and women who share my passion. There’s a whole world out there and it’s not fair for me to want the attention, but not return it equally, or at least with an honest attempt.

I want to take this opportunity as a rest, not a set back. Sure, I’ve been doing this for several years and each year I find my own style. This is my chance to do it all “right” though. My chance to take everything I’ve learned from doing it “wrong” over the years. I get to take every piece of advice I’d give to someone just starting out and use it on myself. How lucky am I in that aspect? If I do this properly I will never know I was in this place come summer. Well at least come end of summer, huh?

And a final reminder: Sign up for the Valentine’s gift or card exchange. Names will go out on the first.

Friday Food : Stuffed Shells

Have you ever experienced deja vu, where you find out about a new product or buy a new item and suddenly it seems like that thing is everywhere? And it was probably already everywhere, you simply were not tuned into it? Well, those thoughts and feelings are exactly what is going on with me and cottage cheese lately.

Last weekend I had a cooking extravaganza in my kitchen. Which lead to a very happy tummy all week long. One item I made was stuffed shells.  I was apprehensive since I was going to use cottage cheese instead of ricotta, and thought the flavor would be off. Since then I’ve read up on it and found they are basically very similar cheeses. The difference? When cheese is seperated, the whey is ricotta while the curds are cottage. Interesting huh? They can be interchanged easily, but it is texture one should be cautious of if important in presentation. Cottage results in a runnier recipe and since I like my Italian dishes gooey, I had nothing to fear.  FYI, for those wondering, I am pleased to report, I did not taste a difference at all.

Stuffed Shells

What you will need:

  • 1container (16 oz.) Cottage Cheese
  • 1 pkg.  (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well drained
  • 1 cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 15-20 jumbo pasta shells, cooked, drained
  • 1 jar  (24 oz.) spaghetti sauce


  1. Heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Mix cottage cheese, spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella and Parmesan.
  3. Spoon into shells.  
  4. Spread half the sauce into 13×9-inch baking dish. Add filled shells; top with remaining sauce.
  5. Cover and bake for 25 min. or until heated through.
  6. Top with remaining mozzarella; bake, uncovered, 2 min. or until melted.

I can’t attest to how well these freeze because I ate them before I needed to learn! Ha! OK really I traded 4 with my Mom for something she made. My total was 15 shells, because as you can see I stuff ’em to the brim. If you’re not as generous with your filling you will need closer to 20 shells.

Do you you like the orange Rachel Ray spatula my sister gave me for Christmas? I think it brings out the green of the spinach.

If you need more kick in your version, try adding Italian species to the stuffing.

If you can’t decide between cottage and ricotta, why not do a mix? I say go with whatever is on sale that week.

My cottage cheese was also 4% milk fat if anyone is curious. When it comes to milk and diary products I go all out, oddly I have found this is easier on my stomach than the lower fat or skim versions.

Oh, and my pasta sauce? Thick and full of “garden veggies” feel free to cut up your own veggies for even more pizazz and added flavor.