Friday, August 30, 2013

Foodie Pen Pals - August

What an amazing pen pal package!

Another great month in Lean Green Bean's Foodie Pen Pal program! This month my pen pal is Myra from Itago Sa Bato. She's really sweet and seems like one of those people who is just do passionate about life! She lives in Alberta but has lived here in Vancouver and I think she's planning on coming back eventually  (and really who wouldn't - British Columbia is one of the most beautiful places in the world!).

Myra sent a fabulous package to me. She was thoughtful enough to include things that my whole family would enjoy. There were Angry Bird gummies and granola bites that the kids gobbled up. The hot sauce is fantastic - especially on eggs! The bison bites were a first for me. I kept the chocolate for myself - it was delicious ;) I can't wait to try the soup mix - I'm waiting for the first crisp fall day to make it. I also love the idea of the spice mixes which I've seen but haven't tried. The Yiabar and the Thinaddictives are going in my gym bag for those days I need a little extra energy.

Myra, thanks for such a great Foodie Pen Pal package!


PS - I forgot to post about my July Foodie Pen Pal package :( so I want to apologize to Lindsey because I absolutely loved the package! Thank you so much Lindsey.

The Lean Green Bean

And now it’s time for some details about Foodie Pen pals.  In case you’re a new reader, here’s a reminder of what the program is all about:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your pen pal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your pen pal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like 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 from your pen pal!
-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 written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Pen pals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your pen pal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
-Foodie Pen pals is open to US, Canadian & European residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Same with Europeans. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 
If you’re from the US or Canada and are in participating for September, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions. 

You must submit your information by September 4th as pairings will be emailed on September 5th!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Swimming Pool Party and Pool Cake

Birthday Pool Party!

My daughter decided to have a swimming party at UBC pool to celebrate her 9th birthday. So we made that the theme of the party.

If you are in Vancouver, I recommend UBC pool as a place for a kid's party. The cost was just under $100 for 10 kids, a party room, and a pool leader. The leader joined them in the pool for an hour as they played games and jumped off the diving boards.


The kids spent most of their time in the pool so we kept decorations to a minimum. I found an "under the sea" roll of bulletin board paper at Michael's that we placed on a wall. I also found these pool party cut-outs on Etsy. I printed them on card stock and taped them to wood dowels. The kids LOVED them. We took pictures in front of the poster of all the kids. We also had balloons and blow up beach balls.

We served cake and a few snacks. I put the snacks in beach pails and the kids served themselves using little shovels! I also had a few shell shaped plates for other snacks. We made a balloon bouquet by simply throwing a bunch of balloons on a stick in a bucket! We also had a container of "pool water" as a drink (raspberry Kool-Aid).

Loot Bag

For the "loot bag", I found a great deal on a beach towel that turns into a backpack - normally $22 but on sale for less than $6 at Michael's! I even kept one for myself!

I made cookies for the kids to take home. One was a wave. It's a simple sugar cookie with a design I found on Glorious Treats (see her step by step tutorial) and the other one was going to be a life preserver but I couldn't get the red right so I made them "inner tubes" lol. I cut them out with a doughnut cutter I found at a dollar store.
Wave cookies -


The cake was pretty easy compared to my son's Plants vs Zombie cake! After looking on the internet for ideas, I combined my faves for this swimming pool cake!

The figures and slide are made out of fondant. The slide is held up with two straws. The cake itself is  three Texas sheet cakes - vanilla, chocolate, and "strawberry" (ok - vanilla with pink colouring!). My plan was to make a strawberry white chocolate ganache as the filling but sadly it didn't set properly (too thin). It did however, taste amazing! I didn't want to waste it so I "painted" the ganache between the cake layers and then used a vanilla buttercream as the filling on top of the ganache. The strawberry flavour really came through and made this cake a winner. I plan on perfecting the ganache and posting the recipe as soon as I can!

I "fenced" off the cake with Kit Kats!

To work off some of the sugar, we put on the kids' favorite music and let them dance until they went home.

My daughter said it was her best party ever!

Here is the sugar cookie recipe - it's my grandmother's recipe. It has shortening in it which helps the cookies keep their shape as they bake.


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  • Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • In bowl; whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to combine. Set aside.
  • In another large bowl beat butter and shortening
  • Beat in sugars until light and fairly fluffy
  • Beat in egg and vanilla.
  • Mix in flour mixture.
  • Divide dough in half; flatten each slightly.
  • Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
  • On lightly floured surface, roll out dough, 1 piece at a time, to 1/4-inch (5 mm) thickness
  • Using 3-inch (8 cm) cookie cutters, cut out shapes.
  • Press scraps together to reroll.
  • Bake in centre of oven for about 12-14 minutes or until light golden on bottom and edges.
  • Let cool for 1 minute on baking sheets.
  • Transfer to racks; let cool completely.
  • Decorate as you like.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Coconut Rice

Coconut Rice:

Coconut Rice

I don't make coconut rice often but when I do I really enjoy it. The coconut flavour is very subtle but seems to pop a bit more the next day. It complements curries, seafood, and chicken dishes. 

Lots of recipes will dilute the coconut milk with water but to be honest I just use straight coconut milk because I don't want to waste the can of coconut milk when I don't need a tonne of rice! The key is to watch the rice - the coconut milk will burn! As soon as the rice/milk starts to boil turn the heat down to minimum and then take it off the heat completely to rest.

I usually use jasmine rice but any type of white rice will work.


1.5 cups lite coconut milk
1 cup rice
2 tsp sugar
pinch of salt


  1. Place all ingredients in medium size sauce pan over medium high heat. 
  2. Bring to a boil. 
  3. Immediately reduce heat to minimum and cover for 12 minutes. 
  4. Remove from heat but do not remove pot cover. 
  5. Let sit for 15 minutes. 
  6. Fluff with fork and serve.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mango-Fennel Salad

Mango Fennel Salad - Within the Kitchen

Mango Fennel Salad

This salad is one of my new favorites. The sweetness of the mangoes, the hint of licorice from the fennel, crunch of pistachios and the sweet/saltiness of the dressing is an explosion of flavours. It is perfect with my tandoori chicken and coconut rice (recipe coming soon).

  • If you don't like fish sauce, I think you could substitute soy sauce.  
  • After serving this as a salad, I will often mix the left overs with rice for lunch the next day - I reheat the mix in the microwave a completely different feeling and delicious dish.

Serves 4-6.


4 mangoes, julienned (cut in thin strips)
1 red pepper, julienned
1 medium size bulb of fennel, grated
1/2 cup toasted pistachios (I use salted ones from Trader Joe's)
2 limes, juices
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp honey
cilantro (optional)


  1. Place mangoes, peppers, and fennel in a medium sized serving dish.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together, lime juice, sugar, honey and fish sauce.
  3. Add to mangoes and veggies and combine.
  4. Sprinkle with cilantro and pistachios.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Grilled Tandoori Chicken Recipe

Tandoori CHicken -

Let me be very clear - I am not a tandoori chicken expert...not even an amateur.  But I know chicken and I know what I like. I like this recipe. A lot.

The thickness of the Greek yogourt means the marinade will really stick to the meat. The lime juice permeates the dish. If you don't like lime juice you could use lemon for a more subtle flavour. But trust me use the lime. After you've made it once you'll be able to play with the quantity of spices. You can cut down on the chili or up it, same with the curry and cumin.

I serve this with coconut rice and a mango-fennel salad (recipes to come soon) as in the pictures.

Easy Grilled Tandoori Chicken Recipe

Tandoori CHicken -
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tsp tumeric (optional - mostly for colour)
1 tbsp curry powder (I used a medium hot curry powder)
1.5 teaspoons salt 
1/2 tsp coriander
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil - more for the grill
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 limes, juiced
1.5 cups regular or nonfat greek yogurt
boneless, skinless chicken thighs (but any cut works - thighs are hard to screw up though) - about 10 large, 12 medium or 16 small thighs)
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons chives, chopped

What to do
  • Mix spices together in a medium bowl. 
  • Heat the oil in a skillet over low-medium heat.
  • Stir in the spices and heat until they bubble and become fragrant (30- 60 seconds). Note: You heat the spices because who knows how long your spices have been sitting there - heating them coaxes them back to life, back to reality... and it makes your kitchen smell fantastic!)
  • Return the spice mix to the bowl and stir in the vinegar, lime juice and yogourt.
  • Add the chicken and toss to coat evenly. Let them sit 1-12 hours (I usually throw them in the fridge in a zip lock overnight).
  • Grill on medium-high-ish heat - 5 to 6 minutes per side for large thighs, 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium and small thighs. 
  • Move chicken to a platter and let rest for about 5 minutes (this is important before it lets the juices redistribute through the meat).
  • Sprinkle with cilantro and chives before serving.