What do a brownie, tarter sauce and tomato jam have in common?

I have no idea. My friend Joanna would find a way to make them work, though.

I met Joanna of Midwestern Bite last year.

Well, not really met, per se.

I had written an article for the paper about the foodie penpal program which, thanks to the powers of the Internet, her husband found. He read it and sent me an e-mail saying how much his wife enjoyed the program. Joanna does this cool this in which she uses every edible item in her monthly foodie penpal gift to create a recipe.

(Wow. I mean, seriously. Everyone has recipes they’ve made up, but to find a way to incorporate all these crazy ingredients into something great? And to do it every month? I just snack on my gifts individually, eventually using up the non-snacking items — spice mixes, sauces, etc. — in other recipes.)

I spent an hour or so stalking Joanna’s blog before writing her husband back to say thank you — complimentary e-mails are hard to come by in the newspaper world, so I treasure them. I also e-mailed Joanna and the two of us exchanged e-mails back and forth for a few weeks, talking about the program, food, living in the Midwest, etc.

Juicing was big on my mind at the time when we first started communicating. I wanted a juicer, but wasn’t sure how Scott would react to another kitchen utensil. Joanna tried to warn me that buying a juicer would be a waste of money — she has one and said it was a pain to clean and that she rarely uses it — but I went ahead and bought one anyway.

I’ve used it once. Back in October. It’s been sitting in the pantry ever since. I don’t think I ever admitted that to her. Until now.

You were right, Joanna! 🙂

I stopped participating in the foodie penpal program after my October exchange. I had received an awesome box of food — as usual — and I was proud of the box I had sent, but life was getting busy and I had to let something go. Joanna and I still communicate every now and then via e-mail or twitter, but that was it for a few months.

Then February — the longest, grayest, coldest month of the year — rolled around and the two of us reconnected on twitter. A back-and-forth conversation, in 140 characters or less, led to use deciding to be each other’s unofficial foodie penpals this month. Our theme was local eats, so I sent her a package containing some of my favorite Iowa goodies and she did the same.

It was fun putting together a box for a friend, although I’m not sure my items did make her personal challenge of using all of them in a recipe any easier. I just wanted to show off my part of the state. I wasn’t even thinking about how everything would work together.

You can read what she came up with here. I’m haven’t read it yet — I told myself I need to get my blog written first — but I did look at the photos and she did it again. I want to live at her house and eat her food.

My package from Joanna arrived days before our self-imposed deadline and, for future reference, all forms of chocolate will be accepted and are greatly appreciated.

Foodie pen pal -- joanna

Isn’t that a lovely box of goodies from Ohio? Personally, I prefer foodie penpal boxes that have a little of everything instead of a couple bigger items. Let’s discuss each item, shall we?

Tartar sauce: I laughed when I unwrapped this. We had just run out and it was on my grocery list. How’d she know?

Chocolate: Joanna sent this amazing Esther Price salted chocolate caramel and I cherished every bite, then got sad that there was no more. Luckily, she included an Esther Price chocolate sample pack, too.

(I’m not going to admit how long that DIDN’T last. I’m not ashamed, especially since the peanut butter cream chocolate egg is still in my freezer. It likely won’t be by the end of the day — because I forgot about it until I saw this picture — but I can do whatever I want in the comfort of my won kitchen. Except juice. I apparently don’t juice.)

The Killer Brownie from Dorothy Lane Market: The name is not a lie. So freaking good! I brought it to work and shared it with a couple of colleagues (That was stupid; why did I do that?) , which led to a discussion about supposed food allergies to walnuts. (My friend doesn’t have an allergy, but she thinks she does even though her parents and doctors say otherwise.) As someone who is usually anti-nuts in any baked goods, they worked with this brownie, which also had chocolate chips and caramel surrounded by an ooey-gooey fudge brownie.

I wonder if Joanna and I will ever exchange food packages again. And if we do, if she’ll just send me brownies.

Cupcake cookie: This claimed by E, who celebrated her birthday that week. When I asked if it was good, she said yes. I’m going to take her word for it.

Barbecue sauce: This will come in handy if it ever gets warm enough for Scott to grill again.

Photo of onions: This picture is at my desk at the office. I will find a better place to display it once we move to the new newsroom.

Tomato jam: This is a puzzler. I had never heard of tomato jam before. (I’m a bad food writer.) I used to be anti-tomato. I still avoid having them on burgers and sandwiches, but I make homemade pasta sauce, with whole tomatoes, all the time and will enjoy lots of bruschetta once fresh basil is available at the farmers market. Tomato jam, though? Hmm. Joanna says her grandmother used to make it all the time, so how can I not find a recipe to use it in support of her memories?

If you have any suggestions, though, I’m all ears!

Thank you, Joanna! I love, love, love my box!

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2 responses

  1. I’m glad you liked everything! The tomato jam needs no fancy recipe. Smear some on a piece of buttered toast or English Muffin and you are good to go. It doesn’t taste like tomatoes, I promise.

    I’d be happy to send more chocolate your way one of these days. I still think an all-chocolate Foodie Pen Pals would be a huge hit.

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