Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Camping & Palm Plate Review

I was so excited when the UPS man brought my sample of disposable palm plates & bowls from Marx Foods the morning before we left for our camping trip.  Excited because this is the first real product review on my blog, and excited because what better way to test them out than while we were camping?

Every year we go camping with two other families, and we have been doing this for almost a decade now!  We go for 4 days/3 nights and we share the cooking duties.  It works great because each family cooks one breakfast and one dinner, and then we all do lunches on our own.  It is so nice to not have to cook or clean dishes every meal!

Back to the plates: Marx Foods makes these plates from palm leaves (read how they are made here) and they are both disposable and biodegradable.  They have a wood grain look to them & my first thought was how great they would be for a large function: like a charity dinner, wedding reception, large party, etc.  When we were planning our a banquet for our ministry last year I looked into disposable plates that were supposed to mimic china, but were in fact plastic (and there just was no denying that).  These would look so much better & be a great conversation piece too.  As a matter of fact, even though they are disposable, my daughter liked them so much that she insisted on washing & reusing them (more about that later)!

The first night we had spaghetti for dinner.  Perfect test: spaghetti sauce is one thing that can really soak through a paper plate.
It is amazing how plates just made from baked palm leaves can be so sturdy.  No weakening at all from this dinner.  Afterwards my daughter washed her plate & although the plate was stained from the sauce it was ready for the next meal.

In the morning it was our turn to make breakfast.  I decided making sausage, egg, & cheese breakfast muffins would be easy to make for a group.  I think it makes camping so much easier if you do as much prep & cooking ahead of time as you can.  I found a "natural" pork sausage at the store, but then I realized that plain "natural" ground pork was only .99/lb (a savings of about $3/lb), so I bought several pounds and used this recipe to make my own seasoned sausage (the only thing I changed in the recipe was to reduce the nutmeg).  I then formed them into patties & pre-cooked all of them.  That sausage was so yummy!
The only thing we had to do in the morning was cook the eggs, butter & warm the muffins (I have a camp oven that goes on the cook stove), and warm the sausage.  The other great thing about going with other families is we share our cooking appliances & cookware.  So, while my husband's cooking eggs on one cook stove, I'm warming the muffins on the other, and we use our propane camp grill to reheat the sausage. 

This was a fairly dry breakfast so we washed the plates under running water & reused them for lunch (and those breakfast sandwiches were so good that I reheated a leftover one for lunch).  For dinner that night we were making taco salad.  I cooked the meat & beans before we left, using this recipe, so I only had to reheat it at dinner time.  Chop some veggies while that's heating & dinner was done!  We had all the fixings laid out so everyone could build their salad in their way. 
These stood up so well to heavy and wet foods, washing (not immersing), and being reused, that I thought they must have some kind of resin in them, but it's palm leaves & nothing else.  Pretty cool, huh?  Now, you may be thinking, "When I'm camping I get to just toss my paper plates into the fire, I'm not going to wash them, so how do these work for that?"  Well, I thought you might wonder that, and even if you didn't, here's our fire test.
The plate is just beginning to catch fire & burning like wood: producing heat & not turning all ashy (like paper plates do).  A minute later it really took off:
Woo hoo!  (Your inner pyro delights in this, I know!)  When it was done burning there was some ash left, but it just stayed in the fire pit & incorporated into the wood ash.
Now back at home, I thought we should give the bowls one more test: a bowl of my granola with kefir, honey, and milk.  I even let it sit while I got ready in the morning.
It held up great.  I even rinsed it off so it can be reused.  You may be able to tell in this picture that washing the plates or bowls will make them lose their shape slightly, but once they air dry they can be reused!

A side note:  we made lots of "real food" compromises this weekend.  Like, you'll notice the english muffins are store bought, not the homemade sourdough ones I've made in the past.  My husband told me, in his sweet way, that I could not subject our friends to any "wierd" food.  Which is probably just as well, because I still spent hours in the kitchen getting ready for our trip.

So, after a weekend liberally sprinkled with sweets and preservatives we found ourselves waking up Monday morning totally exhausted & groggy.  Could we blame it all on not sleeping as well while camping?  I don't think so.  I think we've got junk food hangovers.  A few more days of good sleep, kefir & healthy foods, and we should be recovered!

If you would like to find out more about these plates and bowls (they have 10 different styles) you can visit the website for Marx Foods hereMarx Foods sent me these plates & bowls for free to sample and review, but I was not required or obligated in any way to give them a positive review.  I just think they're super cool, that's all!


This post is a part of Tuesday Twister and Real Food Wednesday.

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