Jul 302014
 

VeggettiI never dreamed that veggie pasta would become one of my most desired food staples on the dinner table. The Veggetti will turn just about any reasonably sized squash or zucchini into a pasta dish in a couple of minutes or less. We’ve all probably seen spaghetti squash dishes used as pasta substitutes in the past. The Veggetti, though, which uses the narrower zucchini gives you a better taste and two different sized textures of vegetable pasta.  Unlike squash, the flavor won’t over-power your sauce, and the texture is just as firm as your favorite brand of al dente spaghetti. Some of you are probably asking why anyone would prefer veggie spaghetti over good ol’ regular pasta.

The answer is, carbs and gluten. Doctors and nutritionists are proving that our food pyramid has been deliberately and wrongly turned upside down for the last several years. Our bodies were meant to eat a diet with less carbs and richer in saturated fats and cholesterol. Books and blogs such as Wheat Belly and Grain Brain are changing the way we view carbohydrates in our diets. Furthermore, a higher number of people seem to be suffering from wheat or gluten intolerance these days, and Celiac disease is on the rise. Why wheat has suddenly become suspect in all of this is still Uncooked Veggie Pasta being debated. It could be that our bodies were never designed for grains, or it could have something to do with the way wheat and grains have been genetically modified. It is not the intention of my article to elaborate on this topic; there are plenty of other websites and books that go into that. One thing I do know for sure is that I have never enjoyed packaged spaghetti pasta as much as I used to since they started removing the eggs due to the phony cholesterol fear. My mother always had our favorite brand in the cupboards: R&F Egg Vermicelli. The eggs gave the pasta texture which as I will explain, is the most important characteristic of pasta. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:43 am
Jul 282014
 

Ninja Express ChopThe Ninja Express Chop is one of the most useful, electric kitchen appliances we’ve ever bought for our home. My wife actually bought this for me, but so far has has used it everyday, herself, for chopping vegetables and fruits. I spend a great deal of time hand-beating, scrambled eggs in the morning. I like to create as small a mess as possible, so I normally use a large glass and a fork or serrated knife to mix the eggs. This takes time and is hard on the right shoulder that I injured a few months ago. While the Ninja makes quick, easy, mess-free work out of eggs, this amazing express chopper does so much more. During the summer months, when we have an abundance of garden vegetables, peppers and fruits littering our kitchen counters, the Ninja Express Chop is practically begging to be used on a daily basis. The Ninja is actually a review I am excited to talk about and review in-depth. Below, you will find a detailed overview on the Uses, Operation, Performance, Convenience, pros and cons, and final conclusions on the Ninja chopping appliance. Also, I have included a real-life demonstration of the Ninja chopper in use. Enjoy the review and please leave me your comments.

Ninja Express Chop

Uses

Ninja-Chopper-UsesThe opportunities to effortlessly chop food things up are endless: Salsa, Pico De Gallo, fruit smoothies, coffee beans, nuts, beans, herbs, spices, sauces, gravies, eggs, and every other type of food known to man. My wife, who tends the garden and cares for the vegetables was using the Ninja far more frequently than me. Once I got my hands on it, though, it became a regular part of my routine for making omelettes.  A lot of times I didn’t get as creative and healthy with omelettes as I should have, simply because I didn’t want to go through the trouble of chopping things up. Now, the Ninja chopper sits on my counter and practically dares me to look for some peppers, onions and other vegetables to chop up and add to my eggs in the morning. It wasn’t til I actually experienced the Ninja that I fully appreciated the way it works.  Continue reading »

 Posted by at 1:36 pm
Jul 212014
 


deep eddy vodkaMy purchase of a 1.75 Liter of Deep Eddy Vodka at my favorite local liquor store was more of an informed decision than an impulsive one. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with a gluten-free diet. Since some vodkas are made from wheat and other glutenous grains, they are likely to contain some small level of gluten. The dietary advice for those who suffer from Celiac disease is that distilled liquors like Vodka, even though they are made from grains, are probably okay to drink. How is this possible? Apparently, grain-based vodkas lose most of their gluten in the distillation process. There is such small amounts of vodka in grain-based alcohols that most celiac health experts believe it is harmless for persons who suffer from Celiac disease. Unfortunately, not all sufferers of celiac disease are the same. Even a microscopic amount of gluten for my niece could have catastrophic consequences. For me, just about any type of alcohol probably doesn’t pose much of a threat, but I decided to go as gluten-free as possible. Deep Eddy Vodka is 100% certified gluten-free. The box boasts the claim that Deep Eddy is distilled 10 times and 100% natural. But, the absence of gluten was only one reason to buy Deep Eddy. How about the taste of the vodka?

Deep Eddy is a Bargain

The price I paid for a 1.75 Liter of Deep Eddy was $19.99. Granted, my local liquor store is full of great deals, but Deep Eddy would still be a bargain at any store. Like many other American vodkas, Deep Eddy is made in Austin, Texas and is 80% / 40-Proof alcohol and distilled from potatoes. The bottle I bought came came with one other perk: It was packaged in a nicely boxed gift-set which included two logo’d glass jars with the Deep Eddy logo. Those big jars, suggest, that one might use their vodka to make those big fruity  foo-foo drinks with lime and/or lemonade.  If you’ve read my numerous other vodka reviews, you realize that I would have preferred a couple of martini glasses since that is the way I normally drink vodka. That’s okay, I have plenty of martini glasses and the Deep Eddy jars make a nice addition to our assortment of bar glasses.  Deep Eddy was mainly purchased to replace my empty favorite bottle of Blue Ice Vodka which was also made from potatoes and certified gluten-free. Blue Ice has been the standard by which I judge all other vodkas. This one, however, was a few bucks cheaper. Could Deep Eddy be as good?

Taste Test

Deep Eddy proves once again that you don’t have to pay good money for good vodka. I’ve paid more for other brands that aren’t as good. Belvedere and Grey Goose immediately come to mind. I poured the first taste into my glass and tried it at room temperature. The initial taste was so smooth and light that I thought I had accidentally mixed water into my vodka. The finish went down like vanilla sugar water. I dried out the glass and tried it again and got the exact same outstanding result.  Deep Eddy is very clean, sterile, and somewhat of a sweet vodka. It might be a little too sweet for me to say it is my favorite over Blue Ice, but I would certainly buy it again at the great price of $20.00.  If you’re a vodka enthusiast that likes ethanol taste that is so prevalent in many other vodkas like say, Sobieski, Deep Eddy might not be the best choice for you. I think the ethanol gives it an illusion of air, lightness and carbonation that some people like. To me, it tastes like the inside of a rubber balloon. I never did care for that flavor. I can overlook the sweetness especially when olives are added.  I mixed my first martini with Deep Eddy by vigorously shaking it inside a stainless steel shaker of ice and adding  two Mezzetta olives to the glass.  When my wife saw the interesting box on the counter, she too, decided she wanted to try a vodka drink rather than her usual Rob Roy. I made her a martini with ice and lime juice, which is very appropriate for a hot summer evening. The power of suggestion is just one of the strengths of this brand. The main strength is its taste and Deep Eddy Vodka makes one of the best martinis I’ve had since, well, the last drop of the Blue Ice left my house.

 

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 10:39 am
Jun 262014
 

Salt Water Pool SystemsThe first thing to understand about salt water pool systems is that they still use chlorine to sanitize the swimming pool. With that said, I still think there is a great deal of misinformation and underestimation of the benefits of a salt water pool system. Much of this has to do with a lack of experience with proper pool chemistry. I am no expert, myself, but I have learned from others who have helped me through my many hardships and experiences maintaining a properly chlorinated pool over the past 8 years. Since I inherited a swimming pool with the house we bought 8 years ago, I have learned that a salt water chlorination system is the only way to conveniently chlorinate my swimming pool. There are other automatic chlorination systems that use traditional chlorine pucks such as the one that came with my own pool, but as I will soon explain, they are greatly flawed and may actually cause damage and harm to you or your pool; or both.  Convenience the old-fashioned way comes at a price. So, the question is, can you have both convenience and a successfully maintained pool? Before I get into the review on the salt water chlorination system I just purchased, I would like to give a brief and unscientific explanation of how a salt chlorinator works and outline the most compelling reasons for owning one over manual chlorination or automatic chlorination with tri-chlor pucks.

How Salt Water Pool Systems Work

A salt water pool essentially uses salt to generate its own chlorine and dispenses it automatically into your pool. There is a salt water cell that is installed into the pool plumbing which transforms salt water into usable, free chlorine. The chlorinator usually comes with a display box where the outflow of the chlorine can be adjusted. The display box also provides you with information such as the level of salt that is in your swimming pool and display codes which indicate other issues or potential problems with your system. A salt water pool, of course, needs one other thing: Salt. My 11,000 gallon pool required about 6 x 40lb bags of salt. The recommended level of salt is 3,500PPM. My pool already had a certain level of salt before the chlorinator was installed, due to the fact that I have used regular, unscented chlorine bleach to chlorinate my pool the past few years. Chlorine bleach contains sodium hypochloride which deposits small levels of salt into the pool. If you do not have a salt water chlorinator, there are some excellent reasons for using regular, unscented liquid bleach to chlorinate your pool which I will explain shortly. Unfortunately, jugs and jugs of bleach, day after day is a messy system and is not a very convenient way to chlorinate your pool. You will soon see that this was my main impetus for going with a saltwater system for my pool.
This was my unscientific explanation on how a salt water chlorinator works. For the scientific explanation, click here: How a Salt Water Chlorinator Works.

Why use a Salt Water Pool System?

Comfortable and better for Your Skin

Just about any pool company or pool guy/girl can tell you that the levels of salt used to chlorinate your pool are better for your skin. It feels sort of like you are swimming in a saline solution rather than a harshly chlorinated pool. I can attest to this fact, first hand. My skin used to get so dry after I was out of the pool for a while. Even with chlorine and other chemical levels the same, the salt water pool feels better and softer on the skin. This is a fact. It is also important to note, that since you are not putting large amounts of chlorine into the pool at one time, that the chlorine is more evenly and consistently dispersed throughout the day as your pool pump is running. This means you are not going to ever be exposed to higher levels of chlorine at different times of the day. This, of course is better for your skin, hair and your body.

It is Better For the Health of you and your Swimming Pool

One huge thing that gets overlooked even by some of the pool gurus is the chemical relationship between Stabilizer (CYA) and Free Chlorine. Even many pool professions do not realize that the higher more stabilizer in the pool means higher chlorine levels are needed to properly sanitize it. An ideal level of stabilizer is between 30 and 50PPM. So, here is why I used regular, non-scented chlorine bleach to chlorinate my pool all these years: It doesn’t raise my stabilizer!
A traditional, tri-chlor, puck chlorinator can raise the CYA level of your pool by up to 25PPM per month. That number, according to one website I read, is for a very large pool; 35,000 gallons. You see, Chlorine pucks (trichlor) are made up of 50% stablizer (CYA). Since higher levels of stabilizer require higher levels of free chlorine to properly sanitize a swimming pool, many of our traditional chlorination methods which use stabilizer are creating a huge problem for us: As we chlorinate our pools, we need higher and higher levels of chlorine to keep them properly sanitized. After a month or two of tri-chlor pucks, for example, we can expect our CYA level to be up to 100PPM or higher. Some chemists recommend that a properly sanitized pool, should have a free chlorine level which is 8-10% of our CYA. For a pool with a CYA reading of 100PPM, we would need to keep our free chlorine around 10PPM to keep the swimming pool properly sanitized. Anything less could not only result in green water and algae, but expose us to potential health risks. And as more and more stabilizer gets added, the situation only gets worse. I experienced this first hand with my own swimming pool. I had a tremendous algae outbreak before I realized how high my stabilizer was and also had trouble keeping stains and other chemistry in balance. I also had to make a very expensive replacement of my pool heat exchanger which I suspect was corroded-out and rusted from the excessively high levels of chlorine. I got on a couple of website forums and discovered the Three Bs of Pool Chemistry and Maintenance: Bleach, Baking Soda and Borax. These are the only three chemicals you will ever need to maintain a healthy pool manually. Unfortunately, the manual way is expensive and inconvenient. And, you have to worry about recycling all of the 2-3, large plastic, empty bleach jugs each weak. Knowing what I know about pool chemistry today and my past problems, however, this wouldn’t stop me from continuing to do it this way if I had to. Fortunately, there is a better way. Salt water pool systems offer benefits in three ways:  Continue reading »

 Posted by at 12:04 pm
Jun 102014
 

Winegard HDTV AntennaI bought the Winegard HDTV Antenna on impulse, on-site without having any prior knowledge of the brand, research or reviews. What prompted me to buy this particular outdoor HDTV antenna was the low, $35.00 price tag at Home Depot. I was actually shopping for both a splitter and an inexpensive, outdoor HD antenna. As it turns out, I didn’t need a splitter. You may or may not need a coax splitter either, but before we get to the installation concerns and questions, let’s talk about the actual benefits of having an outdoor HDTV antenna.

Why an Outdoor HDTV Antenna?

Over a year ago, I gave up pay TV and started using internal, HD antennas to pick up local channels off-air. I will get into the specifics of why I gave up pay TV a little bit later in this article, but for now, let me explain why I decided to go with an outdoor HDTV antenna. I have three HD TVs in my house: A 42″ LG LCD Flatscreen in my den; a 32″ LCD in my upstairs bedroom and a 65″ Mitsubishi, Projection HD television in the basement. When I cancelled my DirecTV service over a year ago, I bought three, inexpensive, indoor HD antennas for each of these televisions.  The television antennas worked pretty well, if not for two problems:

Problems with Indoor HD Antennas

  • One, Indoor antennas do not help with your room decor.  In order to get the most consistent picture, it seemed I had to place my antenna in the most conspicuous places.
  • Two, even when I found the best place for the antenna, the picture would often freeze and become scrambled on the most used and popular, local stations such as CBS, NBC and ABC.

My best reception came from bedroom television upstairs which was positioned high up on the wall of our vaulted ceiling. This also happened to be the cheapest antenna of the three I purchased. This is when it dawned on me that the position of the antenna was way more important than the quality of the actual HD antenna. An outdoor HDTV antenna started to make a lot of sense. It made even more sense when I realized that my old, DirecTV dish was already wired to all four televisions in my house. Since the wiring was already there, shouldn’t I be able to just replace the current TV dish with an inexpensive outdoor HDTV antenna? The easiest way to test this would be to take one of my current, indoor HDTV antennas and simply connect it to where the cable leads into the DirecTV dish.  Can I use satellite dish as antenna? Continue reading »

May 172014
 



Olmeca Altos TequilaIf you don’t want to pay good money for good tequila, you will want to read this full, review on Olmeca Altos Tequila. Before I get into the specifics of the brand and its qualities, I want to make a point about ambiance. Let’s face it, when it comes to enjoying a good tequila, atmosphere makes a huge difference. I think the reason many of us are so fond of Tequila in the first place is that the taste reminds us of our most recent vacation where we once enjoyed refreshing, margaritas near a crystal clear swimming pool or white-sand beach in the middle of an ordinary work week in the middle of an ordinary January day. During those cold winter months, if we’re lucky enough to make that trip to Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Cozumel or the many other dozens of beautiful vacation spots of warmth and sunshine, the taste of a fresh, lime-squeezed margarita will leave us with an indelible memory of relaxation and care-free paradise. Obviously, even the best tasting bottle of tequila in the world won’t replace the enjoyment we get from a week of paradise, but it goes a long way in improving our attitude,  even if it is only for the memories. So, for this reason, I have to be honest by admitting that my most recent review of Olmeca Altos tequila is a bit influenced by the beautiful weather and surroundings in which it was enjoyed.

Olmeca Altos Plata is Perfect for Cocktails

Olmeca Altos PlataThe bottle pictured above is of the Olmeca Altos Plata 100% blue agave tequila. As you can see by the photo of the empty bottle, the very last drop was enjoyed in the cocktails pictured above. A May, 70-degree, calm, sunny, early evening in Arvada, Colorado on a southern-exposure deck with a nice view is about as close as you can get to being on a beach in Mexico in January. So, I have to confess that my review, here, may be slightly biased by the outstanding climate, good feelings and vibes of my immediate surroundings where I enjoyed making this critical analysis. For starters, let me state the obvious: Olmeca Altos Plata is a very smooth liquor – much smoother than any bargain-priced tequila I’ve ever tried. There is no need to drown its flavor with sugary lime-aid mixes. The Plata tequila is actually good enough to be sipped on its own. This is an exceptionally smooth tequila which easily rivals some of the more popular brands which cost twice as much or more. Don Julio and Petron, both come to mind. While I am a big fan of Don Julio, I think Patron is an over-rated brand with a big marketing budget. To be honest, I don’t think it is even as good as, Olmeca Altos. In fact, I don’t think I would even pay 3-times the price for Don Julio knowing how good this one is.  If you’re a true tequila aficionado, don’t expect the Altos Plata to give you those over-tones, substance and character of more expensive, award-winning brands. However, this tequila definitely gives you that full, sweet taste of agave nectar. I also note a fair hint of white pepper, vanilla and just a hint of smoke. The initial taste has a it of a burn, but it quickly tapers off to a very sweet and smooth agave finish. This is the perfect tequila for dry mixers such as the cocktails pictures above. Here is the recipe in case you’d like it: Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:00 pm