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.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

New Kitchen!

Sorry this is so late, I'd wanted to show you guys the new Dinner at Christina's kitchen for a few weeks now! But the truth is, it wasn't in any shape to show off!

Little by little we brought in kitchen boxes from the garage, unloaded them, and started the long process of dozens of dishwasher loads to get everything clean. It had all been in storage for 10 months, so I wanted everything washed and shiny before I put it in my new cabinets. My mom even came over and hand-washed a bunch of stuff on her lunch break a couple days.

There's still a few random things that I need to find places for- but here's our biggest counter, mostly cleaned off and dishes in the cabinets! 

The center of the kitchen has a huge, huge island. I used to not be a fan of islands, but the island in our old kitchen held the stove top and also had room for stools. I've gotten used to it as a center, social part of a kitchen, so I like that our new kitchen has one too. 

One of my favorite parts of the kitchen is in the island. It has a built in wine fridge. Johnny and I have been debating getting a stand-alone wine fridge for a few years, so it's cool that the decision was already made for us! 

There's the usual fridge, stove, microwave. All in close, easy reach of each other. 

A different angle, same view. To the left of the fridge is the living room. The kitchen and living room are open into each other, like so:
And in that little bay window area is where we have a table for in-kitchen dining. (Right now it's our only table, since the people that bought our Illinois house wanted our dining room set.)

It's a cute little Ikea table and chair set my mom got for us, gently used from a friend for $50. It's normally round, but for this photo we have it extended.

And there you finally have it! The new Dinner at Christina's kitchen where I'll be making, eating, and photographing the food I share from here on out!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Splendid Isolation

Just a proud big sister bragging that Michael has started a blog to share the adventures and overhaul of his home, a 28' sailboat.

He's lived on his boat, Splendid Isolation, for over a year now, with his girlfriend, Claire and their ship cat, PiƱa.

It's a really cute, funny blog of their life, the work they're doing on the boat, and he also takes and shares great pictures!

There aren't many posts yet, but stop by and tell him Christina sent you :) It's a fun read, I promise!

Monday, May 7, 2012

My Wedding Shoes

Yes, shoes, as in plural.

First, I had these glorious heels. They came from David's Bridal, like my dress. I wore them for all the bridal photos, walking down the aisle, the cocktail hour, and most formal photos.

At the last minute I decided to do the little "I Do" trend at the bottom for some photo ops. I went with bright purple gems, to match my bright purple toenails. The gems were actually strung together, I found them in Wal*Mart's ribbon section, sold by the yard. I asked the girl for 6", so it turned out to be some ridiculous amount like .18¢ and they were a breeze to hot glue on. 

This is me, getting to put the shoes on, as the finishing touch of "getting ready." In case you couldn't tell by my face that I was thrilled, I'm actually squealing in delight. (Sidenote: Johnny's mom chose this photo to be in their parents' album. I love that!)

Before any of the dancing started, I knew I wanted to slip into something comfortable. Since it was a winter wedding, I didn't want to go with the traditional "white flip flops." Besides, why would I wear any other color shoe besides bright green?!

I custom ordered these bad boys from Van's. They cost more than my heels, but I love them and I wear them all the time now that the wedding has passed. Most comfortable shoes I own, as a matter of fact. (Sidenote: I switched to this Target $5 headband once I took off my lengthy veil.)

I cannot tell you how glorious it felt to sit down and kick off the heels and put on these shoes! Brides that wear heels for their entire wedding day definitely deserve an official award ceremony and recognition.

This is my aunt asking me to lift up my dress to show off my shoes. Apparently my grandfather needed visual proof that I, indeed, had bright green sneakers on under my wedding dress.

The Vans even made it into some of our "official" wedding shots.