Tag Archives: guest post

Foodie Penpals in Reverse!


I interrupt this Subscription Box Saturday to bring you

Foodie Penpals in Reverse!

This was my first month with Foodie Penpals where the person I shipped to shipped to me. It was so much fun getting to know Brandi! You can see what she sent me here. I asked Brandi, since she doesn’t have a blog, if she’d like to post about what she received. She happily obliged! {I love that she wrote this like a letter to me, too. 😉 }


I opened my very first Foodie Pen Pal box! How absolutely fun.

Thanks Carrie for your amazing gifts!

The box itself was adorable.

photo 1

As packaging can sometimes make or break a gift, it was clear this one was packed with care and attention, giving more value to your thoughtful choices!

photo 2

Inside, was a handwritten note as well as a typed explanation for each item chosen! It was super fun opening the letter and reading about your choices for me! I love words. I love reading. I loved opening something “just for me.” Having 4 kids, being chauffeur, nurse, teacher, mommy, wife etc . . . limited the time I had to write such a nice letter to you! Please accept my chicken scratchin’ and read between the lines as much as possible! I really TRIED. But you put me to shame here. {Carrie’s Note: SO NOT TRUE! It was uniquely you and I loved it!} Just know, your words were much loved and appreciated!

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Now for the goodies!

Pop’d Kerns: I love crunchy snacks and this one is no exception! What made this extra special was that it is uniquely Minnesotan. I’ve been warned they are addicting!

Highlander Grog Coffee: Coffee is my favorite drink! I can’t wait!

Wild Rice Soup: This soup is distinctly Minnesotan . . . I can’t wait to get it warming on the stove on a cold, windy, Kansas day. Which will be soon!

Creole Seasoning: I told you I love spices and seasonings so this was such a fun addition! I’d never tried this particular mix . . . until I added it to a Mexican/Chicken style dinner the other night. It was fantastic! I loved the slight change in flavor!

Assorted Chocolates: No comment necessary. Except, YES! YES! YES! Mmmmmm.

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Thanks again, Carrie, for your yummy gifts! How Fun!


I am so glad, Brandi, that you loved all your goodies! If you would like to participate in Foodie Penpals, please click here for more information.


Bin Wine Bar {Closed}


Happy Wine Wednesday!

Today’s post is a guest post from my friend Jared, who lives in St. Paul, has also posted about Meritage and works over at Urban Olive & Vine. I’ve been to Bin Wine Bar a couple of times, but only because he introduced me. So it is only fitting that he writes this post!


Bin Wine Bar!!

What can I say about Bin?  It is an amazing little place on 6th and Selby in St Paul.  On Thursday nights, in Mears Park, there is live music.  You can sit outside at Bin and enjoy some music and an amazing wine and food in the summer.

What do I like about Bin?  Where to start….  The staff is very friendly.  Brian is the manager and always a great guy.  Todd is the bartender, also very friendly and ready to help.  And the waiter that we usually get, Jacob, is fun and always fun to joke with.  Todd, the chef and brother to the owner, is AMAZING.  He has amazing ideas and a great palate.  Rebecca, the owner, is always friendly and a social butterfly.  She loves her patrons and her staff!

They have an amazing wine list, great food, and they even offer beer and hard alcohol.  The menu is a bit variable.  They have small plates, street tacos, main dishes, and desserts.


(Click to enlarge. Click again to zoom in.)

One of our favorites are the Canoas!  AMAZING.  Baked plantains filled with cheese and spicy meat!


The wines they have are really varied.  They also have 3 different prices.  You can go for a taste, a glass, or a bottle. The taste, if you pick 3, will come in a small tray with descriptions of the wines.

We always have a great time at bin.  The Eos is a perfect (dessert) wine accompaniment to the Mexican rum cake!  MMMM  CAKE!!!

They were AMAZING to us a few weeks ago.  My amazing husband Matt and I got married on September 7th and had our reception there.  We used the wine cellar and had Champagne tasting with passed hors d’oeuvres for our reception.  The staff was amazing and the food was outstanding!

Bin-Matt & JaredWe had a wonderful group of friends that joined us.  I also include the staff and manager in that category.  Brian even made a little speech when he brought out the dessert for us.

This is an amazing place to go for a special occasion or just for a night out!


Thank you, Jared! That’s an incredible tribute to a great place. I had forgotten how much I love the ambiance there! It makes me happy and relaxed. It was the perfect setting for reception. And the Champagne food pairings… of course that comes only from the guy who will always share a bottle of bubbly with me. 😉

Congrats again to you and Matt!

What is your favorite pairing with sparkling wine?


Foodie Penpals Encore {A Guest Post}


Yesterday, I posted on what I received from Terri in Georgia, the Foodie Penpal who was assigned to me. I enjoyed some great breakfast goodies! Today, you will hear from the gal I was assigned to shop for and ship to! Jillian doesn’t have a blog. And you don’t have to have one to participate in Foodie Penpals! However, I invited her to do a post, if she so desired. {Again, not a requirement, so don’t let that hold you back from becoming a Foodie Penpal yourself.}

Thank you, Jillian for writing this guest post!


Hi “Season It Already” readers!

Carrie has already filled you all in on the basics of Foodie Penpals –  this January was my first time participating.    I live in New England, I am a wife and a mom of 2 young boys, and I love all things related to health, fitness, cooking, and eating!

This past December I finally took the plunge and joined Twitter, mainly as an outlet for posting about the Tone It Up lifestyle (see below), and that is how I learned about The Lean Green Bean and Foodie Penpals.   Put together a small box of yummy goodies, send them to someone else, and get one in return?   Sign me up!

 Here is a photo of the items Carrie sent in my package (sorry for my horrible photography….):


She included Pampered Chef Rosemary Herb and Seasoning Mix, Wildtree European Dipping Oil, San Franola Granola, and a few dark chocolates and Werther’s Originals candies.   Most importantly, she included a little note explaining to me how she likes to use each item, and why she chose to include it in the package.

To be honest, it took me quite some time to get around to taking photos of all the items, and I didn’t dare use anything until after the official photo shoot!  Last night after I took the picture, I immediately tore into the dark chocolates. Loved every single one, especially the Sea Salt and Caramel.

This morning I was anxious to try the San Franola Granola. After trying a few delicious little granola nuggets right out of the package, I added the rest to a bowl of greek yogurt, and it was heaven.  The granola looks chocolatey, but it is actually a slightly crunchy version of a homemade oatmeal raisin cookie.


For lunch I had planned on making a tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad drizzled with the Wildtree dipping oil, but after starting to make the salad I realized that the mozzarella I had in the fridge was no longer good.   It became a romaine and tomato salad with walnuts and blue cheese, to which I added a small drizzle of the dipping oil.   A little bit definitely goes a long way, and it was delicious.   I can’t wait to try it on chicken, for dunking crusty bread from the bakery, and to eventually get some fresh mozzarella to try it on a Caprese salad.

The only item I have yet to try is the Pampered Chef Seasoning Mix, but I can guarantee that will not last long in our house.   We roast vegetables numerous times per week in our house, and the container also recommends using it as a rub for poultry.   Roasted chicken and veggies will definitely be in the menu one night this week.  Carrie also suggested tossing it with some popcorn along with a little parmesan cheese- sounds perfect, huh?

Before putting this foodie care package together, Carrie asked if I had any allergies, food restrictions, etc.   I am not allergic to a single thing, however I explained that I have been focusing on eating less processed foods and following the Tone It Up nutrition plan (oh, and I also mentioned that I don’t like mushrooms or olives, although I wasn’t expecting anyone to send those along!).   If you have never heard of Tone It Up or Katrina and Karena, please visit their blog, ToneItUp.com.  They offer an entire range of work out videos, recipes, nutrition information, and most importantly, a community of incredibly supportive and positive women who believe in challenging yourself while being kind to your body and fueling it with natural foods.  It has truly changed my life!

Thank you Carrie for allowing me to try my hand at blogging for a day – I have such respect for those of you who do this on a regular basis.   I really enjoyed participating in Foodie Penpals and I’m excited to keep cooking. J


I’m so glad you loved your goodies, Jillian!


Top 10 Fries in the Twin Cities {A Guest List}


*This List was updated on 2/26/14*

My husband is a burgers and fries guy. I guess that just happens when you are allergic to anything with fins or feathers. This year, I asked him to give me a list of his Top Ten Burgers and Fries throughout the Twin Cities metro. He gave me the lists separately, because very rarely will the fries and burgers both be extraordinary. They deserve to stand on their own. This post is the edition on fries, as you may have guessed from the clever title.

For me, when it comes to French fries, I can take ’em or leave ’em.

Let me rephrase that.

If the fries are there, I will eat them. And I will eat too many of them. But I don’t ever crave fries. I don’t say to myself, “Oh… I sooooo want some fries tonight.” But if I did {and maybe you do}, I’d want them to be the best stinkin’ fries ever.

I’d want them to be worth it.

While I’m working on losing weight, ordering something at a restaurant sans fries is the way I tend to go. If I’m feeling that rare “need” for fries, I will steal a few of Rob’s. {I find it much easier not to eat too many if the fries are not mine or if it wasn’t established up front that I’d be sharing them with someone.}

When I received back the list of Rob’s Top 10 Fries in the Twin Cities, I got this as the number one answer:

Pops for Champagne – Chicago

“Words cannot do them justice.  Firm outside, soft inside, brown buttery, boiled goodness.”

Um… I’m sorry, honey. We can’t just get in the car and go there for dinner. I know you loved them beyond anything you’ve probably ever eaten, but they just don’t count! Still, I guess you win because they made it into the blog post anyway!

So here are my husband’s Top 10 favorites {with his descriptions!} within dinner-driving-distance of those of us in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro area. If we’ve written a Restaurant Impression on the restaurant, I’ve linked to it. Feel free to add your comments if you have enjoyed {or didn’t enjoy} fries at any of these establishments.

Rob’s Top 10 Fries in the Twin Cities – 2/26/14

2/26/14 – To be fair, restaurants with an * indicated that we haven’t had these fries in the past year.

1 ) Red Stag Supperclub* Minneapolis | Great local potatoes and the olive oil/rosemary seasoning works wonderfully.

2) Burger JonesBurnsville | Served in a cute tin, and not a small order, these are wonderfully cooked fries.  A side of chipotle aioli doesn’t’ hurt.

3) Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant*Minneapolis | Perfect pomme frites served with bearnaise.

4) Harry’s CafeLakeville | A multi-stepped fry, Harry’s Angela Fries are terrific with their mozzarella drippings. A side of ranch dressing (the only fries on my list benefitting from ranch) sets them off!

5) Barbette*Uptown/Minneapolis | Wow!  FRENCH fries.

6) Groveland TapSt. Paul | Parmesan Garlic Fries…yummy slender little spuds.

7) Mosaic CafeMinneapolis | If you would have told me that I would have enjoyed BAKED Rosemary & Garlic Fries, I would have laughed at you. But then I did. We couldn’t finish them, so we actually took these home and rebaked them. Not kidding.

8) Vincent* Minneapolis | Funny. A French restaurant with fries patterned after McDonald’s. These are quite tasty.  But, not quite as good IMO.

9) Relevé Champagne Lounge Minneapolis | 🙂

10) Cavé Vin*Minneapolis | Happy fun time shoe-strings.


What makes the perfect French fry for you?

At which restaurant in your neck of the woods would we find your favorite fries?


Carrie & Rob

Running for Beginners (A Guest Post)


As you all know, I have a hard time considering myself a runner. However, sometimes I forget that we have to start somewhere. As part of this year’s bucket list, I’d like you to join me!

When I first started to run, I read a lot of blogs by people who never thought they would be runners, just like me. They are a world of inspiration. That’s how I found Racheal! She’s graciously agreed to write a post on how you, too, can run. Thank you, Racheal, for taking the time to share your story with us!


Hi Season It Already! readers.  I’m Racheal, and I blog over at Running with Racheal.

Like you, I love reading Carrie’s blog and drooling over her food reviews.  A few weeks ago, Carrie wrote a guest post on wine tasting for my blog, and I was so appreciative of her expertise.  I was excited when she asked me to return the favor as she enjoys her vacation and write about a topic I love – running for beginners.

You can be a runner.

Even though I don’t know you, I know that to be true.  How?  Because I have the athleticism of a sloth combined with the speed of a turtle and if I can do it, anyone can do it.

No one hated running more than me.  I used to have nightmares about running at basketball practice during high school.  I despised the cute little cross country girls with their bouncy ponytails, short shorts, and sculpted legs.  I knew I couldn’t be like them, so I assumed I couldn’t be a runner.

Then, I started college and moved into a dorm with a track right next door.  One day, I decided to go jog 1/3 of a mile.  I don’t know what motivated me that day (I am betting it had something to do with being surrounded by beautiful blond sorority girls), but I am so thankful for it.  That day changed my life. Fast forward a few years later, I finished my first half marathon.

I didn’t follow any sort of schedule or plan, I just slowly added distance or time as I felt comfortable – 5 minutes here, a half a mile there.  It took me over a year to build up to a 5K, but I did.  However, if I knew then what I know now, I would have executed the Couch to 5K program.  I have seen so many people become kick-butt runners with this schedule and go on to bust out half marathons and sometimes more.

Why should you start running?  The list doesn’t stop but here are my Top 5 reasons:

  • The rush of endorphins – there really is nothing like the feeling of after giving it all you’ve got.
  • Having some alone me-time (I know for some of us that is pretty rare)
  • Having the ability to blow off steam another way besides punching someone in the face.  This has come to my rescue more than once.
  • Improving my health, particularly my cardiovascular health.  Lower blood pressure, lower resting heart rate, etc.
  • Being able to eat more calories ( I usually prefer those in the form of ice cream)

There are times when I take breaks (like right now during my third trimester of pregnancy) but I still consider myself a runner and fully plan to jump back on the treadmill after I recover from my delivery.

My dream is to run a full marathon.  Why don’t you join me?

The Journey to Finding Success and Friendship (Guest Post)


Today’s Guest Post is by my friend Penny in Iowa. It’s only appropriate that it’s on Wine Wednesday. We met all because of wine…

Carrie and I “work together” as independent wine consultants for The Traveling Vineyard.  Our President, who prefers to be called our “Chief Grape Stomper and Head Cheerleader”, describes the 5 F’s of our business – Fun, Friendships, Fulfillment, Flexibility, and Financial Reward.  One of my favorite things about our business is the friendships you make along the way.  I count Carrie as one of my favorite people on the planet…and I met her because of this “gig”.

I remember hearing about Carrie.  She was the “go to gal” when you needed support or advice.  The one who provided information freely, who trained anyone wanting guidance, who followed all the rules, who had the right language to use, the one willing to give of her time to help someone else.  Always.  The Heart of the Company.

In the early days, Carrie and I grew our teams and our customer bases, and checked in with each other for support and encouragement.  We earned trips together, traveling to Puerto Vallarta, Tuscany, and the Napa Valley.  Over time and a mutual passion for wine, we got to know each other on a more personal level and shared in each other’s accomplishments, as well as the day-to-day frustrations…whether they were business objectives, fitness goals, or even recipes!

Through all of this, I’ve learned that it’s impossible to put a value on the personal friendships gained through a direct selling business.  Financial Reward is nice, but many of the accomplishments leading to those rewards is possible (or at least more probable) through support and encouragement by those who understand the business and each other.  Carrie and I share ideas, brainstorm solutions, hold each other accountable, and are “big fans” of each other.  How often do you find that kind of friendship at a corporate job?  In a lifetime?

Penny (left) with Joanne, Carrie and Debbie - forever friends all because of wine...

Penny Fitzgerald is a Director and Independent Wine Consultant with The Traveling Vineyard.  To learn more about Penny, visit www.myttv.com/winechick; or find her on facebook at www.facebook.com/TTVWineChick.

Meritage – St. Paul (A Guest Post)


I’d like to introduce my friend Jared, who is a regular over at Meritage in St. Paul. I asked him to do a post on his impression of the place. (He obviously likes it if he goes there often.) I have been there with him on occasion, but thought he could give you more insight and details than I ever could!


Meritage – The French Restaurant with the American name.

“Meritage”, —a combination of merit and heritage  This was a name created in California for American wine in the Bordeaux style.

I think this name fits very well for this wonderful restaurant in the heart of Saint Paul.

Dining Room

Sidewalk Patio

This small French restaurant is very laid back.  The staff is very friendly and professional.  The food here definitely follows Carrie’s Quality over Quantity rule!  I love to patronize this restaurant on Sunday evenings.  They have a wonderful menu that changes with the season, but on Sunday they have the ‘Recession Recovery Sunday’.  What is this?  Well, it is a list of wines that are half price.  That is an amazing start, but they then throw in a beautiful 3 course Prix Fixe meal for $28!

This meal consists of a salad or starter, followed by a main dish that could range from a fish stew to a braised short rib dish to a crispy chicken.  After that, you also receive a wonderful desert!  This sounds like a ton of food, but usually ends up with me being comfortable.

Above is a typical Sunday Prix Fixe meal!

I have also discovered the joy of Brunch at Meritage!  I sat in the Oyster bar, yes they serve AMAZING oysters on the half shell, on Sunday and enjoyed a wonderful brunch.

I had a wonderful blueberry muffin,

Scrambled eggs French style (cooked on a double broiler for a long period of time) I had it with some peppers and smoked salmon as well as some breakfast potatoes,

and what is brunch without a little mimosa!

I had a mimosa Meritage or in other words, a blood orange mimosa!  Soo delicious!

During the summer it is great to go down on a sunny Sunday and sit on the patio for some wine and relax until dinner for the Prix Fixe!

If you are looking for a quick bite over lunch, they also have an amazing crepe stand Monday thru Saturday with one savory and one sweet crepe!

A wonderful place to check out!

You can find Jared working at the Urban Olive & Vine in Hudson, Wisconsin on Saturday nights. If you stop by to say, “hi”, mention you read his post on Season It Already!