Wednesday, January 30, 2019

More Low Carb "Cheats" - How To NOT Feel Like You Are Missing Out!

    Lately, I have been writing some articles about low-carb cooking, recipes and products. My goal is to replace the high carb versions of what I miss with low carb versions that still taste the same. That's the real trick. So many low carb versions of things just don't taste the same as their counterparts. You end up feeling like you are missing out on something. That leads (for me at least) to a nagging train of thought that keeps me thinking about what I am missing and trying to rationalize just having a small amount. It's a slippery slope for me! Next thing I know, I'm eating ice cream and pretzels (delicious by the way) out of a tub while watching TV. Let's explore a substitute for something I used to always take on RV trips. The simple and tasty granola bar.

Image result for nature valley protein barsTake a look at the calorie and carb counts for an average granola bar. Believe me, I was as shocked as you when I realized just how energy dense these things are. I don't care, I like them. They happen to be good as a snack with coffee, or on the run when you just need something to nibble on. For the last couple of years I have been reading granola bar labels and hoping for one that would be "guilt free." It's been a long wait, but new products have been rolling out over the last few months that fit the bill perfectly! The first one I came across in the supermarket was Nature Valley protein bars. They come in some pretty great varieties; Salted Caramel Nut,  Honey Peanut Almond, Coconut Almond and Peanut, Almond & Dark Chocolate. They really taste amazing and the texture is spot on. These are mid way between crispy and chewy bars.. Just the way I like them!

Image result for great value protein barsIf you are minding carbs, these are pretty low, especially if you subtract the dietary fiber (I do) 14 grams - 5 dietary fiber = 9 Total Carbs! (6 grams Sugars) I am eating around 65 grams a day to maintain my weight. Remember that's an average by the week, so I don't go crazy counting everything all the time. So these are a pretty guiltless snack. Be aware they do have 190 Calories as well. The main issue is price. They are around $5.68 for 10 or $3.89 for 5 bars. Not terrible, but significant. That being said, Walmart's brand, that just came out, is as good or perhaps a bit tastier than the originals and they are only $1.92 for 5. Right now there are only two varieties available, but they are good! Same nutritional values. I keep a few in the car and sometimes even one in my pocket for an afternoon snack.

You can avoid temptation and get to eat stuff you like without feeling guilty! It is possible. I'm proof. I'll keep finding substitutes and moving forward. In follow-up articles I will be writing about guilt-less pancakes, cookies, cakes, biscuits and yes...even pasta! Ice cream too!! Stay Tuned!

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

How To Heat Your Massive Space Efficiently - Kerosene Forced Air!

Safely Ensconced
    Last week I wrote about lighting my new 24' x 22' x 12' fabric hangar. That worked out well. So, now I can see what I am doing inside....however it's COLD up here in the North East, around 19 degrees Fahrenheit today. Not great for working in a fabric hangar with gaps under the roll-up doors and at the corners. The fabric itself is pretty heavy duty and does have some insulating properties, but you still need a heater to be comfortable. Since it's a big space, keeping it heated all the time is pretty wasteful, but getting up to a comfortable working temperature shouldn't take too long. I mean waiting a few hours to be able to work isn't all that efficient. You really need a "Big BTU" heater that you can turn down when it gets the space comfortable, so it will maintain that temperature without needing to run all the time using fuel. The best way I have found to do this, is with a Kerosene forced hot air furnace.

The Heater!
I looked around at a whole bunch of these. They come in everything from 15,000 BTU all the way up to 225,000 BTU! Typically, contractors use them to heat their work spaces. They are a long cylinder with a burner and a fan to force the air through and out into your space. You can get them in both propane and kerosene versions. Some (including mine) can be run on heating oil or diesel with a few small modifications. That will make use a bit less expensive, but I have noticed it doesn't burn a lot of fuel. With a 7-gallon built-in tank, I've run it for 4 hours and seen NO drop on the gauge! Opening the fill cap did show a slight drop, maybe less than 1/2 inch...but not too much at all. Kerosene is easy to get near me, I just bought a blue container to keep a spare 5 gallons in reserve. Why blue? I have so many red ones for gasoline that I would get confused!

5 Gallon "No Spill" Spout
So, how's it work? Pretty amazing. In about an hour the temperature inside the fabric hangar was warm enough that I didn't need a coat! All this on a 20-degree Fahrenheit day! Of course it will take longer to warm up big chunks of metal, like my RV, but the inside gets pretty warm as long as I leave the RV door and a couple of sliding windows open. Mine is 75,000 BTU. I thought about getting a 125,000 BTU version, but I am really glad I didn't. It would have been way overkill. The one I bought was a Mr. Heater, and was about $189.99 from Amazon. I am still a bit worried about smoke and carbon monoxide inside the building, so I leave one of the zippers on one of the doors open about 12 inches with the heater just in front of it. Just to be safe.

Overall I'm very happy. It is a bit noisy, what with the fan running. It's OK...usually I'm working and don't notice it after a while. Besides, it does exactly what it's supposed to do...keep me warm!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Don't Work In A Dark Cave - 120V LED Daisy Chain Lighting

Safe And Sound Inside!
Now that my fabric "Hangar" is complete and my RV and Helicopter are inside, I realized I would not only need some heat (more on that next week) but also some way to illuminate the large space without breaking the bank. It's 24' x 22' x 12' so quite a large volume. In order to allow me to do maintenance and modification tasks over the winter I would need a good amount of light. Probably like you, I don't enjoy squinting! So, how can you light up the space, minimize shadows and keep the power use to a minimum? Oh, and NOT create so much heat to melt the plasticized fabric or set fire to anything else? After some research, I found 2 solutions that are working VERY well.

The Original 5000 Lm Shop Light
A couple of years ago, I cleaned out my garage. It was LONG overdue. I found so many things I had...ummm..misplaced that I should probably think about cleaning it more often. Naaah. Well, I had purchased a set of 2 LED hanging shop lights. These were 5000 lumen bright white (5600K) that hang from included hooks and bits of chain. They were about 27.00 each and work well. There is a chain on one side to turn it on and off and a grounded plug and wire on the other. Each light requires it's own outlet to work. On the long walls of the hangar I would need to add a bunch of extension cords to go from one side to the other. I did hang one of them up (the other is in the, now cleaned, garage!) and it works. The chain goes around the crossbar of the building's frame and it's secure.

Original Light
They are 4 feet long and the building is 24 feet....hmmm that's 6 lights on each side. 300.00! to completely light the space. No way. Even if you cut the number in half, it's way pricey. I know you're asking, what about hanging a single row of 6 from the rail that travels down the peak of the roof? Well, it's 12 feet above you, hanging on bits of chain. I worried that wind might cause them to fall. Scary stuff. Also, I'd have to rig up a switch to turn them all on or off (not too hard) AND have to install them way up there. I'll admit, I tried putting one up. The light was bright, but diminished too much when close to the ground. It was better when it was 5 feet up the wall on each side.

New Daisy Chained Light
Back to the internet, looking for another solution. Wow! A lot of choices. Most of the 5000 lumen styles were around the same cost, so that's wasn't all that helpful. Then I hit upon something new. A set of lights that were DESIGNED to be daisy chained together and run off a common plug and switch! They came as a set of 8 for only 57.99 (on Amazon) These are smaller and lighter, but do not put out the same level of brightness. Still, for 8 of them (around 2200 lumens each and warm white) they are a much less expensive choice that is easier to wire/install. No chain or hooks are included, but since they are so lightweight, I just used some extra cord I had lying around and tied them to the cross bar. Works great!

It's nice to be able to work in a well-lit and well-heated indoor space over the winter. Be ready, I have lots of projects that had become "back burner" ones because of the inability to work during the cold months. I can't wait to begin!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Further Adventures In Pleasant Weight Loss - Pizza. No, Really!

My Mobile Gourmet Kitchen!
    I love to eat. Just look at some of my past articles about cooking in my RV, especially when boondocking. Gourmet meals do NOT have to be difficult nor time consuming when on the road. Why do I enjoy cooking so much you may ask? Because, I like to EAT! A few years ago, I was overweight. I have had a bad knee since a high school track accident and when the barometric pressure would swing a great deal, it would ache. I dealt with it. No big deal. Then, BOTH of them began to hurt in the mornings. Why? Easy, I was forcing my one better knee to carry most of my weight all the time and it didn't like that at all. So, I went on a diet. Essentially, I restricted my intake of carbs. There's more to it than that, but that was the basis. I did this the first time LONG before anyone had even heard of low-carb. I've been keeping up with it and have stayed at my target weight for almost 2 years now. That being said, I found myself still missing certain foods.

I am always on the lookout for great tasting substitutes for my old favorite foods. Aside from the obvious carb rich foods like PASTA I really missed having a simple slice of Pizza. I mean, most of what goes on as toppings....tomato sauce, cheese, spices, mushrooms, pepperoni sausage, meatballs, etc.. are low carb already. What does it in is the crust. A pizza without a crust is like a day without sunshine on an RV trip. You're not particularly happy, but you'll make do. A friend of mine and I were talking about the subject and he asked if I'd ever tried a cauliflower based crust substitute. A what? Huh? Obviously, I'd never even heard of that! I did know that cauliflower could be used to substitute for other foods I missed. I have a killer recipe for cauliflower "mashed potatoes" that I'll share in a later article.

It turns out you can make (or buy) a "crust" that is based on cauliflower that has been ground into small granules. Not as smooth as mashed potatoes, but almost. I start with a medium fresh cauliflower (or a frozen cauliflower rice package) cook the cauliflower and then squeeze out as much moisture as I can. I put it on a piece of cheesecloth and twist until it's "dry." Add an egg, some Parmesan (perhaps a bit of mozzarella) and spices and press into a crust. Bake until crispy at 350 degrees (about 8 minutes) and your crust is ready to use. Or...go and buy a frozen one! Usually around 3.99 each at the supermarket. I won't judge. I buy them too!

Once you have a crispy crust, put on your sauce, cheese and other toppings and back in the oven until they are cooked and the crust is golden brown and delicious. Usually about 10 minutes or so. That's it. Cut and eat! Works great on a small BBQ with the lid closed. No, really it does!! You can make any kind of pizza you can imagine. To keep it healthy, try topping it with fresh items you find at farm stands on your travels. It's like a game, find the ingredients available, mix and match a pizza. I even did one with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, spinach and ham bits. Not a "traditional" pizza, but it was REALLY tasty! Trust me on this one, even doubters will enjoy these pizzas. Especially if you like thin crust Neapolitan style.

There is no reason you can't eat healthy and get your favorite foods back, you just have to be a bit "inventive." Stay tuned...more to follow. And believe me, I will thoroughly test them out beforehand!

Be Seeing You... Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

No Cover This Winter - I Bought A Big Fabric Building! - Was It Worth It? Part 3

Waiting To Go Into The New Building!
    Well, it's done. Sort of. I managed to get the sides and roof up and attached. Even the roll-up door kit (only one side is included) was finished...with some difficulty! It wasn't too bad. Even with just one extra person. That's not to say there weren't difficulties. Overall, I am somewhat satisfied by my purchase. There are definitely some changes I would make to the assembly procedure and to some of the hardware and supplies that come with the kit. There were quite a few issues that had to be worked through to complete assembly. Not that any of them were insurmountable, but when you purchase a full kit, you shouldn't have to climb mountains to be able to use it.

The Messy Cut Due To Factory Slots In The Wrong Place
The main issue that made the install difficult were the poor instructions. There were steps that were backwards in the numbered sections, whole steps left out and pictures that really didn't illustrate the process properly. In this day and age, having a corrected instruction manual or even some notes/more photos on a company website is easy to do. No one is asking for them to spend more $$$ on printing new manuals, but when phone help is only available during the week and most folks are going to put them together on the weekend....well, you see what I am getting at.

After We Had To Buy Better Rope For The Doors.
When we were at the point of installing the roll-up door kit, and there really weren't any detailed instructions. Having to wait on hold for a long while before having someone from the factory explain that the instructions are long out of date and they change the product over time, does nothing to make me feel better about the company nor their product. I mean, running changes (especially to increase quality or ease of assembly) are great, but if you don't change the manual or point to a place to get a list (change-log?) of updates, all you are doing is slowing down the process and losing customers in the process. Don't even get me started on the person that answers the phone. Customer Service? What's That??

Let's just look at the hardware and kit pieces. In Part 1 of this set of articles we put on the end covers. The slits in the fabric were in the wrong place and 2 weren't cut at all! Now, after looking at the printed manual, their website and trying to figure it out, I stumbled (many days later) on a YouTube video that shows that the cuts are in the wrong place from the factory!!! This was confirmed by the factory technician later on. Why wasn't this mentioned ANYWHERE by the factory? It caused me to have to cut the fabric multiple times to make it fit, because we all believed WE had assembled something incorrectly! How frustrating is THAT!

Completed. Yes, The RV Is Inside!
I've had some snow fall here in the North East, about 2 inches a couple of times. The structure held up fine. That's a good thing. I am adding a couple of lolly columns to reinforce the roof peak rail. It may not NEED it, but probably won't hurt either. I'm STILL having problems unzipping and rezipping the zippers. It's a function of how the end fabric fits over the top arch rails, but there should be a better fit, or some advice to get it to all work smoothly. Word of mouth advertising is the BEST way to sell product. If your product is good, you have reasonable customer service, you will have satisfied customers that extol the values of your product and recommend it to other. Common Sense really.

Well, I can say that once all these trials and tribulations were done, the finished product is an 8/10. I'd like to see better closures on the corners (the bottoms have relatively large gaps). I'd also like to see a better self-healing zipper system for the doors. I had one fail. Everyone that graciously worked on this project with me wanted better rope. It's used for a bunch of things (like pulling the bottom of the fabric to the base rails. It's very inexpensive polyethylene rope, that doesn't like to stay tied and loves to "unbraid" itself. Next year I will be replacing it with better cord and perhaps some bungees as well.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"