Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Help me pick a range hood for the kitchen! New Electrolux range was installed last night.

Their pic:
My pic:

Now, I need a range hood to go over it. Currently, it is going to be a recirc unit, so I would like the charcoal filters to be included. Eventually it will be vented up through the upper cabinet into the sofftt, and then 5' out to the exterior wall from there. We use the current one simply as a light source - the fan works, but it is LOUD, and junk falls out of it when you turn it on.

Here are your choices:

  • $349
  • 250CFM
  • No idea of lights
  • Suspiciously good reviews

  • $329
  • 320CFM
  • 2x50W Halogen, LED Capable
  • Stellar reviews

  • $349
  • 250CFM
  • 2x6w LED
  • Not very bright
  • Q/C issues

  • $398
  • 900 CFM
  • 2x35W Halogen (LED Capable)
  • Professional hood, Professional noise
  • No night light/dim setting

  • $249
  • 250CFM
  • 2x50W Halogen (LED Capable)
Broan QP330SS
  • $389
  • 450CFM
  • 4x?w halogens, included (LED Capable)
  • Kind of loud
  • Green LEDs (range is blue)
  • More suction on left - range big burner is on right
  • $308
  • 450??CFM
  • 4x Halogen, LED Capable
  • Good reviews
  • Previous generation of the one above

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I know it's been a while since I last posted something here, but 40 hour work weeks and 18 credit hour school schedules don't leave a whole lot of free "me" time - what little I have left is given to the family.

But, today's posting is prompted by a new potential convert (you know who you are ;) ). This individual switched to a low-carb diet a while back in an attempt to loose some weight - I think 40 pounds was the goal, but I could be wrong. Anyhow, this post came across my news feed, and I urged him to take a look at it. He is now giving my idea a second thought, and is willing to give the vegan diet a try.

I must caution anyone that is curious to start slowly, though, especially if you're coming from a low/no-carb diet, since the mainstay of ours is carbohydrates. Start with one or two meals for two to three weeks, and slowly increase that by one more every two to three weeks. By 3 months, you should be at the 90% vegan that we are comfortably at.

The first question posed was "What to do about breakfast and lunch?" Well, those are easy, at least in this household. Breakfast for me on workdays is two slices of toast, each with about two tablespoons of all-natural organic crunchy peanut butter, the stuff you have to stir up before you use it the first time. Audrey and the kids eat cereal (with almond milk) or oatmeal, and fruit. On the weekends, one day for me is usually oatmeal, the other is (vegan) pancakes with a topper recipe that we devised. The topper is usually apple based, but today we switched it up an used pineapple. I sautee the fruit in a pan with cinnamon and sugar (I'll touch on our specifics, like the coconut sugar we use, in another post). Once it is cooked, I simply pour in enough (say, 1/4 to 1/2 cup) of natural maple syrup. Once that's warmed up, we spoon the syrupy fruit onto the pancakes, and add some fresh berries and chopped walnuts. Today, since we used pineapple, we used cashews (no macadamias in the house) and some flaked coconut.

Anyhow, back to the daily ritual. That toast holds me until my mid-morning snack, which is usually an apple and a Clif bar - the Clif bar is the best tasting protein bar I've ever eaten, and it's plant based. You can get them anywhere, but I buy the big box at Costco.

Lunch is usually leftovers from dinner, or if I'm on my way to school (or if we ate everything the night before) I will run into Central Market, Trader Joe's, or Whole Foods and grab a salad and a demi-baguette for $5-$6, or if I want something hot I'll grab a slice of veggie pizza from Whole Foods ($3) or get the veggie stir fry from Central Market's cafe. When I'm not going to school and there are no leftovers, lunch is either a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or (Stacey's Naked) pita chips, baby carrots, and hummus - I get the Pita-Pal Hummus-to-go packs at Costco, they are individually packed .125lb servings of hummus, and I eat two of them (for a 1/4 pound).

And, since I'm sitting here writing this, I may as well post our dinner for this evening. We actually made two, since this is one that Audrey and I love, but the kids aren't too keen on - which just means more for us. Our meal was 1.5 pounds of potatoes sliced about 1/8" thick, a whole medium onion, sliced, 3 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped (or minced if that's easier for you), and a pound of spinach (approximately - it was the remainder of what was left in our garden today). I lay a thin coat of peanut oil in the pan, then cover the bottom of the pan with a layer or two of potatoes, then a layer of half the onion. Sprinkle that with salt and pepper, and drizzle a little bit more peanut oil on top of that. Repeat this with the remaining potatoes and onion. Let that cook, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes, mixing it up every 5-7 minutes, until the potatoes get soft. At this point, add the garlic and mix it in, cooking it for 5 minutes. Then pile the spinach on top of everything, cover it again, and wilt the spinach down.

Audrey and I love this dish - tonight, I decided that shitake mushrooms would add another layer of flavor to it that would make it simply outstanding. The kids don't really like the potatoes since I use a bit more pepper in them than they're used to, so they got some whole-wheat pasta with butter and the spinach mixed into it. I'm getting the rest of that  for lunch tomorrow - the potatoes are gone.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Our motivation and tools

We started down a path last year (2012, actually) of being more conscientious of where our food came from, and eating as little processed foods as possible for us and the kids. This was after Audrey and I watched Food, Inc. After this eye-opening documentary, we eliminated processed foods (with the exception of oils and sugar) from the house, and started buying all of our meat and dairy products either from the Farmer's Market or from the most humane sources (as far as we could determine) at H-E-B, Central Market and Whole Foods.

We were happy with this arrangement, but we still had some lingering physiological issues and Audrey didn't feel that she was loosing any weight. Last year, we watched Forks Over Knives, and that changed our lives (we feel) for the better.

Since watching that, we have radically changed everything. Audrey does all of the research, and the kids and I do all of the eating. One thing she has found is that the one nutrient we can't get from a 100% vegan diet is vitamin B12. Knowing that, and knowing how much I enjoy a good burger or steak, we've decided that I can have that about once a month. We make fish or shrimp about once a week, and I still go through about 6 eggs a week, too.

Currently, Audrey's "favorite" author/bloggist is Dreena Burton over at the Plant-Powered Kitchen - we've used a lot of her recipes, and Audrey now owns "Let Them Eat Vegan!". Audrey gets a lot of inspiration from her site, as well as the Forks Over Knives site linked above.

Last night, I mentioned my popcorn maker. The one I have was manufactured by Whirly-Pop for Crate and Barrel, and is about 7 years old. The plastic gears are starting to slip, and a certain female cook (who shall remain nameless) somehow burnt popcorn in it and has coated the interior with gunk I can't remove. I'm replacing it with the new stainless steel model (to go with our brand-spankin' new All-Clad d5 skillets and pots, but that's another post). Popcorn is a staple at our house, and I enjoy making it with this tool. It doesn't use much oil, and the popcorn tastes SO much better than anything that can come out of a microwave (which, incidentally, we don't own).

The other tool that gets used daily in our kitchen is our new Breville Compact Smart Oven toaster oven. After using this for a little over 3 weeks, it's another "Why did we wait so long?" moment - this thing is worlds better than the Krups it replaced.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2 Jan 2014: Dinner

Dinner tonight was low-key and simple. I had four dough balls from a messed up pizza dough batch in the fridge, so I rolled them out and brushed them lightly with olive oil and threw the remains of New Year's Eve dinner/ New Year's breakfast on them.

One note I wish to make clear - our goal is not 100% vegan, more along the lines of 85-90% vegan, and knowing as much as we can about the animal products we do eat.

With that said,  we topped our flatbread tonight with leftover pepperoni, olives, organic mozzarella and smoked gouda cheeses. Audrey and I also threw the leftover home fries on ours. Other than the bread being chewy,  it tasted ok (remember, I said the dough was from a batch that I messed up).

The salad was a salad, the only thing of note was that it contained fresh spinach from our garden.

Later,  I am making popcorn - the old fashioned way. This is my first post from my phone,  so I don't have all the posting tricks worked out yet, but I will eventually be posting links to the tools we use. Anyhow, I make popcorn with a Whirly-Pop stovetop popcorn maker, using either coconut or peanut oil and Central Market organic yellow popcorn, topped with nothing more than Morton sea salt. Occasionally we add some 70% cocoa chocolate chips, but not tonight. We're going to wash it down with an (expensive) organic dry cider from England.

As I sat here reflecting on our (mostly) vegan New Year's dinner and contemplating my vegan lunch, I decided to start a blog about it.

Audrey doesn't blog, and to be quite frank, neither do I. But I'm going to make an effort to chronicle our project, so all y'all naysayers can see that it is possible, and it works.

I'm going to the doc next week to have a physical. I've been 80% vegan for about 3 months now, so my numbers are probably already very good - but they'll be officially documented soon. That will give us a bit of a baseline.

So, these vegan meals I've mentioned already? The two concessions we made for tradition's sake yesterday were three (scrambled) eggs split between 5 people, and .75 pounds of bacon for 6 people (Audrey didn't eat any). I made 100% vegan pancakes, with a sautéed apple topping (apples, cinnamon, sugar, and 100% pure maple syrup) and my signature home fries (potatoes & onions pan fried in peanut oil, topped with fresh minced garlic).

Last night's dinner was vegan enchiladas - one pan was bean enchilada, the other was potato and spinach. With this, we had a black-eyed-pea salsa that Stacey made, and various forms of organic tortilla chips from Central Market, including a sweet-potato tortilla chip that was....different, but yummy, and home-made guacamole (avocado, salt, garlic powder, cilantro, and lemon juice).

Today for lunch, I'm eating an interesting leftover chili, made with red lentils and walnuts. I like it a LOT more than the regular veggie chili we make, but the kids like the other one.