Jul 31, 2010

Welcome Back, Alcohol...and Chinese Food!

Earlier this month, B and I decided to have a no-drinking competition until August. For 3 weeks there would be no drinking at all -- not even on Fridays or Saturdays.  Guess who won?


It's true -- neither of us consumed any alcohol. Brandon was challenged with his little sister's 21st birthday and his cousin's birthday. He was offered shots left and right but turned down anything but water. I was challenged being on vacation with everyone else drinking around me. I turned down wine with dinner and Boston-brewed beer. I was certain that Brandon would crack and I would win just out of stubbornness, but it looks like we're both strong-willed. During the challenge, we made some observations.


  • I still remembered how to flirt. 
  • There were still injuries - bruised hand from volleyball and bruised knee from walking into my bed.
  • I weighed 109.6 lbs the first day of the challenge. I weighed 107.4 on the last day of the challenge. Not a big enough difference to be worth giving up alcohol. 
  • I really enjoy wine with certain foods. There were a couple times at dinner (with seafood in particular) that I would have liked a glass of wine. 
  • I say "Ugh, I need wine." way more than I actually need it. I could have just screamed really loudly instead.
  • I only noticed having more energy on the weekends, when I would typically drink more. Other than that, I didn't feel any different.
  • Conclusion: I'll keep drinking!
  • I felt like I took away from other people's fun to a degree. I still had fun, but I didn't party as hard. I was well-behaved the whole time and didn't make an ass of myself.
  • Without a doubt, I saved money. In 3 weeks I saved about $300.
  • I worked out more and I had a clearer view on life. I read my bible more. It was nice to see other people wasted and think, "Oh, is that how you are?"
  • Conclusion: I'm very glad I did it. It kind of made me want to grow up a little bit more. I'm not in college and don't want to party my balls off anymore. I'm still young and have time to, but it was really nice to wake up every morning for 3 weeks not having a hangover. I never had a wasted day that I sat around hungover. I was always ready to do something and that was nice. 
Our original plan was for the loser to take the winner out for an Italian dinner, but because we both won, we planned something totally different. We decided to try Red Orchids, a Chinese restaurant in West Ashley. I was told by several people that they offer fresh, high-quality meals at reasonable prices. The restaurant is located in a plaza with Big Lots and Burlington Coat Factory. Don't let this discourage you.

The inside of the restaurant is open with lots of red paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. The owner and hostess were both very friendly. Upon seating we were immediately greeted by our server, Will. He was extremely helpful when we asked for recommendations. He was very happy to answer all of our questions and did a wonderful job explaining the different dishes, wines, and beers.

After seeing steamed buns on Jessica's blog, I knew I had to try them. I was so excited to see them on the menu.
The buns were exactly as I expected - very soft, chewy, and doughy. The pork filling had a sweet sauce that did not overpower the sticky bun. It was really fun to try something new.

Brandon chose pan-fried dumplings as our second appetizer.
We had the option of ordering steamed or pan-fried dumplings. Will told us that pan-fried only meant fried on one side for a little bit of extra crunch, so we couldn't resist. It was perfect. The sauce that accompanied the dumplings was slightly salty and sweet. They were filled with pork and vegetables. 

For entrees, we chose a fish and a chicken dish. Brandon was eager to try one of the house specials: "a pair of 18-22oz of crispy snapper fillet, gently glazed with Chinese sherry, cayenne, and marmalade sauce." Brandon said this dish was very fresh and flaky, however being deep fried with the skin on, every third bite was fishy. I thought the sauce was thick and flavorful and ended up drizzling it on my rice.

We also shared the Hunan Chicken: "sliced chicken stir-fried with mushrooms, peppers, bamboo shoots, and snow peas in Hunan sauce.' This dish wasn't bad, but was lacking complexity. We both agreed that we both enjoy foods with several dimensions. If you're looking for a mild chicken dish, this is for you. The Hunan chicken would be great for those less adventurous or those who can't handle much spiciness. 
Both entrees were served with our choice of white rice, fried rice, or brown rice (for $1 extra). We chose one side of brown rice and one side of fried rice. The fried rice was tasty! Overall, the menu had a lot to choose from. Being that both B and I are not fans of fried food, I think we chose items that weren't pleasing to our palettes. We both agreed that we'd go back to try different entrees. I'd love to try the lemon shrimp, honey-glazed walnut shrimp, or the garlic chicken.  

At dinner, we each had a Japanese beer: Asahi for Brandon, and Sapporo for me. Both were delicious. Brandon's Asahi was a bit sweeter. I figured I would be toasty-faced after this large beer, but somehow I wasn't! I did feel a bit dizzy after half a glass though. When we got home, we popped open a bottle of my favorite white wine: Elk Cove Pinot Gris. Here I am with my wine baby:
And just because I can, I had some red too!!!
Off I go to finish getting my wine on!!!

Thank you all for your encouraging words during this competition! A couple times when I really wanted to drink, I thought about your comments and knew I'd be able to make it. XO!!!

Red Orchid's China Bistro on Urbanspoon

Jul 29, 2010

I'm baaaack! Massachusetts Goodies and Mosaic Blogger Meet Up

I'm back in the dirty South! I had so much fun visiting my family and can't wait to go back again. While I was there, I found a bunch of new fun foods. The very first day I found the Peanut Butter & Co. Mighty Maple peanut butter at Hannaford for only $3.89. Another place I wanted to pick up nut butter was at Trader Joe's!  My aunt Jennifer brought me to their location in Acton, where I grew up.
We found lots of goodies and had fun checking out their products. Jennifer wanted to buy this just for the name:
After a week's worth of random food and souvenir shopping, my suitcase became so full I had to sit on it to zip it shut. No big deal, right? Well, when I got to the airport, it was 10 lbs over the limit! I opened up my suitcase to put stuff in my carry-on and because it was so packed, it popped open and bras and underwear went flying all over...oh, and peanut butter jars and brownie mixes, too. Oh, the life of a foodie. Here are all the goodies I brought home:
  • Peanut Butter & Co. Mighty Maple peanut butter 
  • Peanut Butter & Co. Rip-Roaring Raspberry jelly
  • No Pudge! Fudge Brownie Mix, Cappuccino
  • Trader Joe's Reduced Guilt Brownie Mix
  • Trader Joe's Sesame Honey Almonds
  • Trader Joe's Almond Butter with Flax Seeds
  • Maine Blueberry Honey (can't wait for this on my Blueberry Ricotta pancakes!! 
    I was so excited to take home all these goodies, even if it meant that 50% of my souvenirs from Massachusetts/Maine were FOOD items! When I got home Tuesday night, I had a package waiting for me. I recently became facebook friends with the manager of one of our local Chick-fil-As. For being such a "raving fan", he sent me some gifts:
    In the box were 2 stuffed cows, 2 football-shaped koozies, a pencil sharpener, a Pez dispenser, a towel, and lotssssss of coupons! Thank you to Rick & Debbie Blind of the Centre Pointe location! :)

    Yesterday was my first day back to work, yuck, but I had a blogger meet up to look forward to. For dinner, Erica, Lindsay, Blair, Amelia, Kerr, Katie, and  I met up at Mosaic Cafe in Mt. Pleasant. Mosaic Cafe is an adorable restaurant that strives to use local ingredients and focuses on seasonal cuisine. The menu is full of soups, sandwiches, and salads. I chose the Oriental Chicken Salad: chicken breast salad (sesame seeds, snow peas, scallions & walnuts), carrots, sprouts, crunchy noodles, grape tomatoes, with a sesame-ginger vinaigrette for $10.95. 
    It was pretty good, but not fantastic. I'm not sure if it was from the chicken or the dressing, but it was extremely salty. And my salad didn't have any snow peas, scallions, or walnuts on it. Hmmm. I still had a great time catching up with all the ladies and meeting Katie and Kerr for the first time. :) Here we are inside the restaurant. 

    From left, Blair, Erica, Kerr, Katie, Lindsay, Amelia, me:
    And another pic from outside. I purposely wore flats so I would be as short as Erica. She ended up wearing heels and we were still the same height! :)
    Remember my 3-week Abstinence from Alcohol challenge? It's almost over!! The time is length is random, I know, but we decided to do it on the 10th, and just wanted to do it until the end of the month. On Saturday, I'll be celebrating the fact that I have been able to go without a sip of alcohol for 3 whole weeks -- even while on vacation! I'm a little afraid that a couple sips of wine will have me falling out of my chair. I better surround myself with good company!

    One more thing: I added a new tab a couple weeks ago: Foodie Goodies. It's a page dedicated to my absolute favorite food products. Check it out and let me know what your favorites are! I'm always looking for new items to add!

    Mosaic Cafe & Catering on Urbanspoon

    Jul 26, 2010

    The Review of All Reviews: The Mustard Seed

    Any reader of my blog or friend of mine knows how much I love the Mustard Seed. Anytime someone asks me for a restaurant recommendation, I ask them, "Have you been to the Mustard Seed?" It's always my response for several reasons:
    • The ever-changing and creative daily specials - there is always something new on the menu that makes me think to myself, "Wow. What an interesting combination of ingredients." 
    • The wonderful use of local, in-season ingredients - You can always go back for your favorite meal, but the side options change throughout the year. Why use vegetables that have been shipped across the world when you can take advantage of local farmers' goods? 
    • The friendly service and welcoming atmosphere - whether it's from the hostess greeting you as you arrive, your server during the meal, or a manager coming over to check on you. You are guaranteed to be approached by someone who honestly cares about your experience.
    • The value - Entrée prices range from $11-$18 (average is $12). This is very reasonable for dinner and you get your money's worth. Meals are plentiful and leftovers are common.
    • And the #1 reason: Consistency. I've always been impressed with everything I've eaten. I've ordered or sampled the majority of the menu and everything is of good quality.
    The Mustard Seed has three locations: Mt. Pleasant, Summerville, and James Island. It is part of the Dine with Sal restaurant group. The group also owns Boulevard Diner, Longpoint Grill, Sette, Uno Mas, and Village Bakery. The Dine with Sal group prides itself on using the freshest, local ingredients in all of its restaurants - each having its own distinct cuisine. The roots of this group go back to 1994 when restauranteur Sal Parco opened his first Mustard Seed location in Mt. Pleasant with only 7 tables! Sal's love of food, hard work, and dedication have earned him success in all of his restaurants. 

    The Mt. Pleasant Mustard Seed is my favorite location. The staff is attentive and knowledgeable, and the Executive Chef, Jonathan DuPriest, is excellent with presentation. Entrees are always cooked to perfection and he creates fantastic daily specials. After seeing several reviews on my blog, Jonathan and Sal gave me the opportunity to spend some time in the kitchen to see how they prepare their scintillating meals. Enjoy seeing some of the menu's finest:




    As you can see, the Mustard Seed offers some incredible dishes! A few weeks after taking the photos above, I came back with my best friend Nicole Johnson and our friend Joe Girard. Here is a little video review we made! Big huge thanks to Nicole for staying up until 2 a.m. editing this for me!

    Have I convinced you to go to the Mustard Seed yet? Get in your car, truck, moped, or limo and GO GO GO!

    Mustard Seed (Mt. Pleasant) on Urbanspoon

    Jul 24, 2010

    Pumpkin Muffin Blogging with Nolan & Braden

    It's 73* here in Townsend, MA which feels like fall to me. Pumpkin muffins in July? Sure, why not. Since I got here on Tuesday, I've been staying at my aunt Jennifer's with her and her three boys: Jackson, Braden, and Nolan. Nolan pulled out a box of Pillsbury Pumpkin Quick Bread. I'm usually disturbed by baking anything out of a box, but Jennifer showed me how she "healthifies" this treat. 

    Here is my 4-year-old assistant, Nolan, with the pumpkin mix:
    Although they have no idea what a blog is, he and Braden wanted to take photos, too. Future bloggers?
    Braden even took pictures of the muffin liners.
    Nolan read the instructions while I pulled out ingredients for Jennifer's healthy version.
    The boxed recipe has you combine the mix with 1 cup of milk, 1/3 cup of oil, and 2 eggs. We added skim milk, 1/3 cup canned pumpkin instead of oil,
    and egg beaters instead of regular eggs. Nolan was shocked at how two minor tweaks could save so many calories!
    He mixed up the batter and sampled it to make sure it was still tasty.
    His "taste" was more like a muffin's worth of batter.
    We threw in some Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips in half of the muffins to, um, balance out the flavor?
    While the muffins baked, I calculated the difference in the Pillsbury version (with oil & eggs) versus Jennifer's version (with pumpkin & egg beaters). Here is the calorie/fat info for the muffins without chocolate chips.

    Fat Grams
    Pillsbury Version
    Jennifer’s Version

    Quite a difference! Not only do you save calories and a whole lot of fat, you add Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron by using the canned pumpkin. The muffins are moister and taste more pumpkiny! Nolan was very happy with the results!
    Do you ever use packaged mixes for baked goods or do you prefer homemade treats? Have you ever made substitutions like we did? How did it affect the taste or texture? What's your favorite packaged dessert? Favorite homemade dessert?

    Jul 21, 2010

    Greetings from Massachusetts!

    Hi Hi hello!!

    Day 1 in Massachusetts down, 6 more to go...I'm ready to move back.

    Peanut Butter & Co. peanut butter is $3.89 at Hannaford's. This is not a joke.
    I rolled down a hill today. Like I threw my body and rolled down my aunt's front lawn...just because I can. (There are no hills in Charleston.) I have reverted back to 5-year-old status.

    I saw this nice lady at the DC airport. My cousin, the 9-year-old bad-butt, snapped the photo for me because I was too scared.
    And I'm blogging from my cousin Jackson's bedroom. It's fancy.

    Updates soon!


    Jul 18, 2010

    Sober Saturday was SO fun!

    Today has been SO(ber) much fun! Who needs alcohol when you can fill your day with friends, fitness, and food?

    No hangover in sight, I woke up before 8 am! Waking up before my alarm clock = major success. I jumped out of bed and nourished myself with a new product: Kellogg's FiberPlus Cinnamon Oat Crunch.  A 3/4 cup serving has only 110 calories and 9 grams of fiber...Yay for regularity!

     +  = MMM.

    A little before 9 AM, B$ picked me up and so we could run the Arthur Ravenel bridge. Our huge bridge that connects downtown Charleston and Mt. Pleasant is very popular with runners and cyclists. The pedestrian lane is 2.5 miles long with a 4% slope. Running up with the headwind is TOUGH. We ran up to the middle, stopped to tie sneakers at the top, then continued to run to the other end. We then turned around and ran back up, and ended by walking down. We estimated running about 4 miles and walking 1. Here's me at the top:

    Hot Mess
    Was I spitting here? Ew. 
    After the run, we refueled with some free Chick-fil-A! B had a chicken biscuit and yogurt parfait and shared like a good manboy. My choice of protein was the new Fage Blueberry Greek yogurt. 

    I'm so in love with the blueberry flavor. It tastes like blueberry jelly - pretty darn sweet. Go find this ASAP!

    After breakfast #2, we ran some errands and stopped at an antique store. Yes, at 25 and 26 years old, we browsed items that were probably older than us. Interesting? Sort of. Smelly? Definitely. When I got home, I showered and got ready to meet Nikki and Joe for lunch. Nikki brought me some gifts!!

    A crockpot since she got a new one from her wedding...(check out the dude's face behind us!)
    ...and my birthday present: an apron with my blog name embroidered on it. Notice the colors!
    Here we are eating, blogging, facebooking, and making Joe photograph it all.
    Here's typical Nikki & Christina: electrifying! And Nikki was naked.
    After lunch, the three of us went shopping -- Joe was our driver and brought us everywhere we demanded. We shopped til I dropped.
    But not for long -- by 8 pm we were ready to eat dinner. Don't be shocked - we ate at the Mustard Seed. I know, I know, it's my third weekend in a row, but I'll be out of town next weekend and I needed my fix! 

    Chef Jonathan surprised us with their soup of the day: a coconut curry soup with chicken, shrimp, and rice noodles.
    For my entrée, I chose the sesame crusted chicken with a raspberry soy sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and fresh local vegetables. 
    Everyone talked about going to Red's for some beer (grrr), but since we had been running around all day, we thought it was a better idea to go back to Nikki's to bake cookies and VLOG!! Oh yes...while we were at dinner, we made a movie...Stay tuned for a FULL MUSTARD SEED REVIEW WITH VIDEO AND TONS OF PICTURES!!!