Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tuna Quinoa Cakes

As mentioned in my previous post, I made these the same time I made the Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers. Both contain sweet potatoes and quinoa, so it was easy to prep and make them together. It was nice to only have to heat up the oven once in this summer heat, too!

The original recipe and photos can be found here, my alterations are below:

1 medium sweet potato, cooked and mashed
2 cans tuna, drained (I use white albacore in water)
3/4 cup quinoa, pre-cooked
1/4 cup onion, chopped (I used yellow, you could use green)
 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 egg. beaten
1/4 cup low fat sour cream (could use Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, etc.)
1 tsp yellow mustard
dash cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Mash the sweet potato in the bottom of a medium mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients, and mix well.

Form into 6 cakes and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake in a 400° oven for about 20 minutes, flipping once.

Each cake is 199 calories, 27g carbs, 4g fat, and 14g protein.

In the future, I might put more onions or celery in these. They were a little one-note in the texture department. They reheat well in the toaster oven and I enjoyed mine with a sprinkling of low sodium soy sauce over top!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers

I pinned these from Debbi Does Dinner Healthy, and made them the same time as another recipe, Tuna Quinoa Cakes, that I'll share next. Both have sweet potato and quinoa, so it was easy to prep and make them together. It's been busy around here, so I'll take a little convenience where I can.

The original recipe and photos can be found here. My version is below:

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium sweet potato, mashed
1/4 cup corn (I used frozen)
1/4 cup onions, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup quinoa, pre-cooked
3 Tbsp oats
1 Tbsp cumin
dash of cayenne

Remove the skin from the sweet potato and place in a medium sized mixing bowl. Drain and rinse the can of black beans, and add half to the sweet potato. Using a stick blender, mix them together, until they form a play-dough like consistency. Add the remainder of the black beans and the rest of the ingredients, using the back of a spoon to incorporate everything and slightly mash the whole beans.

Heat the oven to 375° and grease a baking sheet. Form the mixture into small patties and place on the sheet. Pop into the oven for ~30 minutes, flipping once.

I formed mine into 9 patties. Each were 92 calories, 17g carbs, negligible fat, and 4g protein.  

I brought some of these to work to heat up for dinner with some frozen peas, and they reheated nicely. They had a bit of a kick and were full of flavor. I'm not sure I'd like them on a bun, it might be a little dry, but on their own, they were good. Debbi served hers with a big dollop of guacamole on top!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese

I have to thank the lovely Kristina for this genius idea of her's!

Johnny and I love jalapeno poppers, stuffed jalapenos, or whatever you choose to call them. They go by many names, but the premise is the same: a seeded jalapeno, stuffed with ooey gooey cheese. This is them- but in sandwich form.

Begin by spreading a couple Tablespoons of cream cheese on bread. Add shredded cheese to the other side.
I seeded and roasted our jalapenos in the toaster oven for a few minutes, to give them a charred flavor. 

Sandwich the jalapenos in between the 2 slices of bread and grill (or use a panini press) to cook your sandwich and melt the cheese.

Slice and enjoy! Feel free to swap out your favorite cheese flavors, or even vegan cheeses, as Kristina did!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Homemade Crunchwrap Supreme

I pinned these a few weeks ago, and they finally made it into my meal plan this week!

I was thinking these would be so much healthier than their Taco Bell counterpart, but honestly, they aren't. There isn't that much you can do to improve the recipe when you're using a lot of tortillas - they're just really caloric.

I used:
1 pound lean ground beef, drained
1 package taco seasoning
6 burrito sized flour tortillas
3 taco sized flour tortillas
6 corn tortillas
1 cup shredded cheese of choice
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup shredded lettuce

Brown your beef, drain the fat, and prepare according to the taco seasoning label. While the meat is cooking, you can wash and chop your tomato and lettuce, and shred your cheese. It helps to have a little assembly line of ingredients set up for easy preparation.

To assemble, toast your corn tortillas until crispy and lightly browned in your oven or toaster oven. Warm the flour tortillas in the microwave to make them more pliable. Spoon a small amount of the meat into the center of your burrito sized flour tortilla. Add some shredded cheese. Top with the crispy corn tortilla. Spread some sour cream, then top with some tomatoes and shredded lettuce. My large tortilla was not large enough to cover the entire packet, so I had to use part of a smaller tortilla in the center.

Fold the edges, as pictured, until you have a neat little packet. Place seam side down on a hot skillet, or in my case I used my Cuisinart Griddler, so there was no need for flipping. If you need to flip, do so carefully after a few minutes once your seam is toasted and sealed closed.

 Serve immediately, but be careful- they will be very hot!

These were really delicious! A lot less greasy than the Taco Bell ones, but just as flavorful and satisfying. They were very filling, too. I just had 1 for dinner and was completely full.

Taco Bell Crunchwrap supreme stats: 540 calories, 21 grams of fat.
Homemade Crunchwrap supreme stats: 503 calories, 15 grams of fat.

Oh! And Beth, I keep forgetting to post this. I put out those oranges for the orioles, that you recommended back in May! Mine didn't attract anything :( They sat out there a couple of weeks, until they got dried out and black, so I threw them into the woods. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Egg Roll Stir Fry

I love egg rolls. Love them. 
When we get Chinese I not only eat mine, I also I eat Johnny's.  
Sometimes I can't even wait until we get home to enjoy them with my meal, I just devour them in the car, over the take out container, like some savage beast that hasn't eaten in 4 days. 

However, they aren't incredibly healthy. A quick calorie look up and they range from 150-200 calories each. And I just treat them like a little appetizer before I dig into the real meal. Not a good habit.

That's why I was really, really excited when I saw Debbi's healthy and low calorie take on egg rolls - in a stir fry. Sans wonton wrapper, and without the trip into the deep fryer. I pinned them for future reference, and immediately had 10 repins!

With my new work schedule, I've been trying to cook a larger meal at 1 or 2pm, that way I can pack some up to take to work, and leave some for Johnny to eat for his dinner when he gets hungry. It takes more planning than usual, but this was really simple and came together in less than 30 minutes. 

I used: 
~1 pound ground beef
1/2 head green cabbage, sliced thin
3 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1" hunk of ginger, minced
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup soy sauce (I used reduced sodium)
onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, to taste


Begin by browning your beef in a high sided skillet. Once browned, drain the grease. Add the vegetable oil and all of the veggies. Pour the soy sauce over, put a lid on, and let cook for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times, until the vegetables are cooked to your preference. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Serves 4.

This was really very tasty. Like Debbi said, it wasn't exactly like eating an egg roll, but it definitely hit a lot of the same notes, enough to satisfy a greasy take out craving for awhile.

Plugged into My Fitness Pal, each serving is 276 calories and 13 grams of fat.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Palm Plate Review

Happy Memorial Day weekend everybody!

Marx Foods sent me these cool palm plates to try out and review. I was instantly intrigued because they just sound really unique and fun.

The plates are made from the leaves of the Adaka palm tree. As they grow, they discard their old leaves, and these are what are gathered and used to make the plates. There is no harvesting or cutting down of trees, just collecting discarded leaves. Then, they are cleaned and molded with a heat press. They are disposable and eco-friendly.

When I got them, the first thing I did was take one out to the palm tree in our yard so they felt "at home." 

They are really quite pretty. The bottoms were darker and you could tell they were made of a leaf. The serving side was a lot lighter, without as many ridges.

They're really thick and sturdy. The folks at Marx Foods did a weight test on them and the plate held 13 pounds before it snapped and broke. You definitely can't do that with your usual paper or plastic disposable plate!

I took one of the hexagon plates to work with me. I started my usual summer job at the ice cream shop and thought it'd be the perfect place to test a disposable plate. I love that all of the plates had high lips, so you could actually use it almost like a bowl. This held a serving of rainbow sherbet like a champ with no leaking. The bottom didn't even feel that cold! When I was done, I washed the plate under warm water with a soapy scrub brush and let it air dry to be used again. They are disposable, but they're such good quality that you can get multiple uses out of them.

We have some company visiting for the holiday weekend, so the small rectangle plates took a trip with us to our housing development's beach area for a picnic lunch.

Again, the high lip on the plate came in handy, because it kept sand away from our food. The rigid plates held their own on damp sand and weren't overturned by light breezes.

When we were done with our lunch, we sent this little toy out for a float.

We joked he had a "burial at sea." But, in all seriousness, the plates even held the weight of multiple beach and sand toys and stayed afloat and sturdy. The girls had such a blast using them as boats. Who would think that you could take your disposable plates from eating lunch and then turn them into a fun beach toy?

We played at the beach for about 3 hours and the plates held up the whole time. After being in the water they did start to warp a bit, but we just packed them up with their beach toys and as they dried they became rigid and sturdy again. We won't reuse these to eat on, but it's crazy to think that they have the ability for continued use after such a full afternoon!

The pros:
Ridiculously sturdy - you feel confident using these for any type of food, hot or cold.
Great looking - a nice, natural beauty.
Eco-friendly - no trees harmed in the making!
Disposable - you don't have to worry about breaking them, losing them, or giving them away.

The cons:
They came loose in a box, without packaging, which I was kind of skeeved about.
A slight ammonia/woodsy smell when first received, but that dissipated as aired out.
Price - these are not cheap! They come in a variety of sizes and shapes and all are over $1 per plate.

Personally, I would not use these for everyday, casual eating because of the price.

I think they would work well for a beach wedding, a family reunion, themed parties, or for giving baked goods in. Something I'm definitely going to keep them in mind for is camping- where you could rinse and reuse them the whole camping trip, discarding them at the end.

They're a really pretty product that I'm glad to have had the chance to learn about and review first hand. They're a step above paper and plastic plates, but without all the negative, disposable factors. These can even be composted when done, instead of ending up in a landfill.

Disclaimer: I received a few, assorted plate sizes complimentary from Marx Foods to use and review. The opinions are my own, honest thoughts about the product.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

POM deceptive marketing

I was scrolling through articles on my news app last night, while Johnny snored happily beside me when this headline caught my attention:

"Judge rules: POM deceptively marketed pomegranate juice"

Hmmm.. I had a moment of hesitation, because this is a company that has sent ME products. Products that I received with packets of information to pass along to my readers.

Curious, I clicked on the article and realized that I had unknowingly used Dinner at Christina's to spread these false health claims.

Here are a few news articles for further reading:

Judge: POM deceptively marketed pomegranate juice

POM Wonderful's Deception Is The Tip Of The Iceberg

Judge Says Pom Wonderful’s Advertising Is Misleading

FTC Calls POM Wonderful Claims Deceptive

So, what does this mean? Well, personally, I think it means that they got carried away in advertising unsupported benefits they think pomegranate juice has. 

It's still a fruit. It's still whole food. It's still 100% juice, with no added sugars or artificial crap. It can't be bad, but it's just not as good as they've advertised. 

Truthfully, I haven't had anything pomegranate related in about two years. I opted out of receiving further complimentary products, and I no longer purchase or order anything that lists pomegranate as a main ingredient. 


Well, pomegranate (along with some other foods, such as maca and Brazil nuts) have been known to affect moods. Having experienced a life time of anxiety and depression issues, I found that drinking pomegranate juice, or eating foods with it as a main ingredient make me.. hmm, how shall I put this? 

Batshit crazy. 

No, really. Johnny was the one that noticed it and pointed it out (brave man). Every time when we looked back, I had had pomegranate juice, or a pomegranate related food within the past 24 hours.

So, basically what I'm saying is: 

Dinner at Christina's featured a product and repeated information about that product that has now been shown to be unsupported. I apologize for that and will edit the original post to make sure and include this updated information.

Disclaimer: I'm posting this on my own. Nobody told me to. I want to keep all my product reviews and opinions of products up to date and honest!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tofu UnStirred Fry

This was one of those dinners that gets thrown together because you haven't gone to the grocery store in forever. Our new house is halfway between grocery stores. 9 miles in one direction, 10 miles in the other. It isn't the most convenient, so I tend to put off going to the store until the last possible minute when the only thing left in the house is a tablespoon of milk and a can of soup. (Not really. But, you get the point.)

I tried to resist all urges to get take out from the delicious pizza place that is < 1 mile from our new home, in favor of a healthier option, so I worked with what I had. It turned out pretty good, definitely healthy, and I'm glad I didn't cave and get take out.

This could be made as a stir fry, but mine is an unstirred fry. Johnny and I got some new "waterless/greaseless" cookware before the wedding (post forthcoming) and I'm learning how to cook with them. Please feel free to cook this however you like- the end results will be the same! 

1 cup, uncooked rice - prepared as desired
1 bunch broccoli, steamed
4 stalks celery, steamed
1 onion, steamed
1 container extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
1/4 cup Newman's Own Low Fat Sesame Ginger
1/4 cup chopped peanuts

To start, I drained and pressed my tofu between two heavy plates in the sink. I sliced it in 1/4" slices and marinated it in the dressing.
I cooked our rice separately. Then, I steamed the vegetables separately. I used our Cuisinart griddler on high to cook the tofu and give it some nice color and grill marks.
I combined the rice, vegetables, peanuts, and remaining dressing in a large bowl and tossed until everything was combined. We served giant spoonfuls, then placed the tofu on top.
Serve with additional soy sauce or hot sauce, as desired.

This made a lot - we had huge helpings that night and a big container for leftover lunches. 

Entered into My Fitness Pal as 4 servings, each serving is 316 calories, 9g fat before adding additional sauces. Not too shabby for a throw together dinner, while trying to behave!!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bouquets, Boutonnieres, Corsages

In keeping with the "cheap-as-possible-free-is-even-better-budget," I decided to make all of the bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, the cake topper, and the centerpieces for our wedding. We didn't have a florist, so it just made sense for it to be DIY.

My god daughter's mom and I went to Carolina Pottery in Cary, NC and spent around $60 on supplies for everything listed above. I used maybe half of what we got, but I wanted to play it safe so I got extras.

I browsed Etsy and Pinterest for ideas, borrowed my mom's hot glue gun, and got to work!

My bouquet was unique, in that it really wasn't a bouquet at all. I carried my Grammy's prayer book down the aisle (the same one she carried down the aisle at her December wedding in 1952). The handkerchief wrapped around the flowers was my great-grandmother's, and the lace edging was done by my great-great-grandmother. A bride couldn't get more love and support than carrying 3 generations of Italian grandmas with her on her big day!

The flowers were a faux calla lily, glittery faux sprigs of leaves, some evergreen, and some sparkly strands. 

My cousin, Anne-Marie was my Maid of Honor. Her bouquet was made with shatterproof ornaments with some faux greenery and pinecones. The lace and ribbons were remnants from my mom's sewing box.

I made five men's boutonnieres for: Johnny, his brother (the Best Man), both of our fathers, and my grandfather. I used faux rose buds, faux evergreen sprigs, and faux twigs with little "ice crystals" on them. The bottom was wrapped with florist's tape.

I made two women's corsages for: my mom and my grandmother. I used faux white roses, faux evergreen sprigs, little fake red berries, and the glittery sprigs. My mom ended up wearing hers in her hair.

I would estimate the cost for all the above bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages at less than $20. It took some pre-planning and a few hours on my part, but it was definitely worth it. We saved a couple hundred dollars on these few things, alone.

I like that we got to keep them as "souvenirs," they didn't wither and die in a few days. (I have a great shadow box idea in mind for Johnny's boutonniere.) Also, they had a more personal vibe because I made them.

All professional photos taken by Alex Kaplan

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Griddler (or Waffle Iron) Hash Browns

Breakfast for dinner had been planned for 2 days. I just needed a lil sumthin' sumthin' extra on the side to round out the meal.

Then, one of my Pinterest friends repinned these hash browns, and it was settled. Original post and recipe can be found here. My take on them is below:

2 medium potatoes, shredded
1 medium onion, shredded
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Shred the potatoes and onions using your preferred method. I used my mandolin, but you could use your food processor's grater, some old fashioned Grandma's kitchen type grater, or just a regular ol' box grater.

Throw the grated potatoes and onion in a medium bowl with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Using a fork, toss everything until mixed well.

Open your Griddler, panini press, waffle iron, or similar weapon of choice. Generously spray with olive oil or non stick spray. Lay the potato mixture out in an even, flat pile, and gently close the lid.

Let cook for 5-10 minutes, and then check on it. The bottom of my Griddler cooks hotter than the top, so I flipped the potatoes at this point. Continue cooking another 5-10 minutes, until they're a beautiful, crispy, crunchy brown.

I served ours with a cheese omelette and turkey sausage links. Later I added some ketchup to the hash browns, but they're delicious on their own. 

It was surprising to get such a yummy crunch from potatoes at home. I usually only get that at diners where I know they slather tons of grease and butter for the desired crunch. Johnny said "holy crap, these are better than Arby's potato cakes." And if you know Johnny, that's high praise. Really high praise.

This whole "recipe" is 266 calories, with ~5g fat from the small amount of olive oil. Both of us ate very hefty helpings (see plate above) and there was still some leftovers.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rev-a-Shelf cabinet organizers

I've been seeing a lot of kitchen and shelf organizers on Pinterest and knew I wanted to start this kitchen off right. After doing some research, I found that most units were made by Rev-a-Shelf and they were in the $250 range. Not wanting to pay that price, but insisting I have some kind of organization, I tracked them down to a few other online retailers, the cheapest being Lowes. At $130 each, these were a bit of an investment, but one I was happy to make, and will pay off in the long run. 

Most of our bottom cabinets were really, really deep, which made getting things in and out pretty difficult. Also, the only shelf was a little 10" guy way in the back. Not the most practical, and didn't allow for great use of space. We'll call this the "before" picture. 

Enter: 1 handy husband. Oh, and some tools. Can't forget the tools.

The first cabinet tackled was one in the island. I thought it'd be perfect for baking items, since I'd likely spread everything out on the island and make a big mess, there.

This one required re-routing of an outlet box for the wine fridge, but I'm happy with the final results! Both wire racks slide out and allow for full reach of items. Johnny was able to position the top rack tall enough that the bottom, tall items (like jugs of oil and vinegar) even fit!

The next shelf required Johnny to remove the center divider. He's going to attach it to one of the cabinet doors, so that one will close first and you'll never know the difference!

This one is probably my favorite, because it easily holds all of our pots, pans, and their lids. No stacking, or loud clanking around the find the one you need.

The bottom slides out and has dividers that adjust to hold each pot in place. I especially like this feature, because it makes it easy to see all the sizes, grab the one you need, and place them back neatly after washing.

The top has tilted hooks that allow each lid to sit at an angle, so they aren't too tall and still allow the unit to close easily.

Rev-a-shelf makes a gazillion and one other organizing pieces for the kitchen and bathroom that I might want down the road. But for now, these two were the most important for our kitchen organization. It allows me to make the best use out of the two cabinets that receive the most use and need to fit a lot of items.

The units are really high quality metal, and the engineering of how they fit together and are supported in the cabinet is impressive. Little details like the dividers and ball bearing glides let you know these are quality pieces, worth the investment.

(Even though this is a product review and endorsement, it's based solely on my personal opinion and experience with the product, which I bought with my own money. Rev-a-Shelf or Lowes has no clue who I am, or that I bought their products.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Chocolate Coconut Pie

A Martha Stewart recipe, found via Pinterest.

I pinned it because: coconut. chocolate. 4 ingredients. Need I say more?

1 stick of butter, softened
11 oz. bag shredded, sweetened coconut
8 oz. heavy cream
8 oz. dark chocolate

In a food processor, blend together the butter and half of the coconut, until it forms a ball. Scrape down the edges and pulse in the remaining coconut. Turn out into a 9" pie plate, and press to form a crust. (I found a wide, flat bottomed glass helped with this step.) Cover the edges with foil and bake in a 350° oven for approximately 15 minutes, until the center begins to brown. Remove the foil and bake about 5 more minutes.

Over medium heat, bring the cream up to heat, just below a boil. Pour into a heat-proof bowl, over the dark chocolate. (The recipe recommended 61% cocoa, I used 70%.) Let sit for 10 minutes, then carefully whisk until smooth.

Pour the ganache into the crust and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to 24 hours before serving.

My pictures aren't that lovely because my plastic wrap fell onto the ganache. Also, the crust was a little hard to get out in one piece.

The crust was delicious, you could definitely eat it on its own. My mom said it was like a coconut macaroon. The chocolate ganache was so creamy and silky, it was heavenly to eat. 

We served with a healthy dollop of the remaining heavy cream, whipped. Go big or go home, right? 

Disclaimer: not diet friendly at all. I entered it in My Fitness Pal while making, and the stats are: 578 calories and 48g of fat per slice, when cut into 8 pieces.