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Appliance spotlight: Actifry

Posted by on 8:00 am in Featured appliance | Comments Off on Appliance spotlight: Actifry

By Anna Carey Do you have a weakness for fried food? You’re not alone! Unfortunately, I’ve always found the mess and oil from using a deep fryer at home too much for me, but the Actifry might be just the solution we’ve been looking for. With as little as a single tablespoon of oil, the Actifry turns out everything from crispy, delicious French fries to healthy root vegetable chips, sausages, shawarma, and even homemade granola! Thanks to rotation and an evenly-distributed 338F temperature, meals, sides, and treats will be evenly cooked just the way you want them, without ever needing to be submerged in hot oil or fat. And many non-fried recipes that require a good deal of stirring and even heat to turn out properly can benefit from the rotation and circulating air in the Actifry. As a bonus, it doesn’t need to be preheated, so it can save some energy and help avoid heating up your kitchen for many of the foods you might usually make on the stovetop or in the oven. Among the nice things about the Actifry is that it allows you to use most types of oil or fat, in small amounts, and therefore allows for a wider variety of flavors than traditional frying. You can get creative: duck fat potato wedges or coconut oil stir fry are equally possible, as you need only a teaspoon or two of fats to evenly coat your ingredients. Actifry lovers have thriving communities sharing recipes on the TFAL website, Facebook, and Pinterest, and there are hundreds of ideas from all kinds of cuisines. The biggest issue Actifry lovers have is that it is bulky and takes up space, and is tough to fit into a small kitchen. Luckily, you can borrow one from The Kitchen...

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Appliance spotlight: Slow cooker

Posted by on 10:24 am in Featured appliance | Comments Off on Appliance spotlight: Slow cooker

By Anna Carey The slow-cooker is well-known as a fantastic way to have an easy, hot meal ready as soon as you arrive home from your daily routine, but this kitchen superhero also has a bit of a reputation for turning out a particular kind of food. Our parents’ slow cooker recipes were often based around large cuts of meat and soup preparations, ready to deliver to potluck dinners, and these ideas have been common since the first CrockPots came onto the market in the early 1970s. Those of us who prefer more complex flavors, fresh ingredients, and varied cuisine options have often been a bit critical of slow cookers for this reason. Recently, though, there’s been a resurgence of interest in slow cookers for the convenience they offer to those who struggle to find time to put together hot, nutritious meals for themselves or their families at the end of long days, and I for one have been pulled in! Along with this renewed interest, a new round of recipes have emerged, and if you’ve been out of the slow-cooker loop for the last few years, some of them might surprise you. For example, did you know you can make both desserts and bread in your slow cooker? As the temperatures rise, the idea of turning on the oven might not be especially appealing, and the slow cooker can help. From apple crumble to chocolate cake, the slow cooker can sub in for your oven when you just can’t stand the idea of heating up your home. And while you won’t get a crusty, brown artisan loaf from your slow cooker due to the lower temperature, there are some really excellent no-knead recipes for soft sandwich bread that turn out beautifully in slow cookers of all sizes. Slow cookers are also great for a wide variety of meals that require long, slow cooking to turn out flavorful, tender meat. Pulled pork or shredded chicken tacos make a quick weeknight meal when all you need to do is prep your toppings before serving. Similarly, many Indian dishes benefit from the slow cooker’s long, low-temperature cooking method. If you’ve never tried a slow cooker, haven’t had a chance to try one out lately, or just don’t have the space for one, The Kitchen Library has you...

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Sugar-Free: Done and done

Posted by on 12:29 pm in Health | Comments Off on Sugar-Free: Done and done

I did it! One whole month of no sugar (including fruit, artificial sugars, maple syrup/agave, etc.). And I’m so glad I did this. I admit, the first two weeks were rough but the last two were a breeze and nothing felt out of the ordinary except for all the benefits I started noticing. Benefits I’ve noticed: Clearer skin Less stomach bloat Lower grocery bill Cleaner apartment (because I cleaned to distract myself from cravings) What I learned: 1. I didn’t think I had any willpower when it came to food. It turns out, I do.  2. I love fruit. I was practically skipping around the veggie and fruit section of the grocery store last night. 3. I don’t actually love all the other junk food I’d gotten into the habit of eating. Except… 4. I actually do love gummy bears, but I certainly plan to eat them in moderation going forward. 5. Drinking a cup of tea at night instead of snacking has been probably the nicest, coziest habit I’ve acquired (I love Chocolatey Chai tea for this!) What I plan to eat (aka. what foods I missed the most): 1. All the fruit. 2. Wine (that counts as a food group to me) 3. Homemade muffins (I just could not find a recipe without sugar! They all had honey, maple syrup or agave in them so I had to...

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Appliance spotlight: Vitamix

Posted by on 8:00 am in Featured appliance | Comments Off on Appliance spotlight: Vitamix

 Oh it’s not just a blender. It’s a Vitamix. It’s like a celebrity among appliances.  It can blend a freaking iPhone into a soup! If I sound like a huge fangirl about this, it’s because I am. In late 2013 we applied for a grant through the Carrot Cache to buy some new appliances to add to our inventory, and we got it! So we sent a survey to all of our members asking them what appliance they wanted and this majestic blender was #1. This blending beauty not only makes beautifully smooth smoothies, but it can blend fast enough to make soup. Plus it can also be used as a food processor (so that’s one less appliance you need to carry home with you from the library!). I’ve made everything from smoothies to peanut butter in this bad boy. And it came with a HUGE binder of recipes, which you can also borrow, of course. Not convinced? Swing by the library and try it out for...

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Sugar-Free: Home Stretch

Posted by on 11:09 am in Health | Comments Off on Sugar-Free: Home Stretch

One more week to go! I must have been way more addicted to sugar than I thought because everyone warned me that the first couple of days would be rough, but those “couple of days” lasted the first 2 weeks of this no sugar challenge! And then suddenly *poof*, no more night time cravings (ahem and tantrums). Instead I’ve started to crave things like grapes, mangoes, dates, and oranges (oh my gosh, I want all the oranges right now). Will I continue when the month is over? Yes and no. I definitely plan to eat all the fruit I was eating before with a few treats every so often....

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Appliance spotlight: Cold-press juicer

Posted by on 8:00 am in Featured appliance | Comments Off on Appliance spotlight: Cold-press juicer

 Cold-press juicing is all the rage right now and I totally get it! But man, am I tired of seeing cold-pressed juice being sold in fancy packaging at an extraordinarily inflated price. This is the appliance that started it at all for me. I get it, I didn’t want to drop $300-$600 on a cold-press juicer either. And now we have two available for you to borrow! I can’t rave enough about the Omega juicer and GreenStar juicer we have. I just want to scream from the rooftops, YOU CAN MAKE BUCKETS OF YOUR OWN COLD-PRESSED JUICE FOR A COUPLE OF DOLLARS! Sorry for shouting at you. Rant over.  ...

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Appliance spotlight: Spiralizer

Posted by on 5:57 pm in Featured appliance | Comments Off on Appliance spotlight: Spiralizer

 When we were at VegFest this year this little gadget caused quite a stir.  If you’re new to spiralizing, prepare to be blown away. The spiralizer is a low tech machine available to borrow that turns vegetables into noodle-shapes (see the three different sizes in the photos). So for instance instead of eating plain ol’ pasta you can spiralize a zucchini or a carrot and use that as your base instead, it goes so well with all kinds of sauces and toppings. Plus it’s a sneaky way of eating a lot more vegetables. Other fruits and veggies you can spiralize include potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, beets, and apples. For anyone who’s trying out a vegetarian, vegan, raw diet, or is just trying to eat a few more veggies this appliance is a lifesaver. Think outside the salad...

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Sugar-Free: Cheaters never prosper

Posted by on 11:43 am in Health | Comments Off on Sugar-Free: Cheaters never prosper

When it comes to sugar, I decided to cut it out cold turkey rather than little-by-little for a reason. I wanted my body to go through sugar withdrawal (so I could see what that was like…checking that off my bucket list). And I knew that if I let myself have some types of sugar and not others, I would just overcompensate with the allowed sugar and wouldn’t experience any health benefits. Plus, sugar is addictive. So there could be no cheating with this challenge (see how I’ve refuse to call it a “diet”). And guys, I have been tempted to cheat. A friend of mine brought home some candies from Taiwan and when my boyfriend tried one he said it tasted like a homemade gummy bear. Guys, gummy bears! I pouted for a good long time about that and then tried to convince myself that since I couldn’t read the ingredients there might not be any sugar in it… In the end, I packed the candies away for...

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Sugar-Free: Hungry eyes

Posted by on 10:23 am in Health | Comments Off on Sugar-Free: Hungry eyes

Things are feeling a bit better this week than last week, and it’s also a little shocking to be 10 days in. Check out how it’s been going day to day: Day 5: I’m realizing that snacking is such a deep habit, I can’t just turn on some TV and ignore it. Actually, TV makes it worse. My apartment has never been so clean (I even scrubbed the bathroom floor with a toothbrush the other day!), my nails are painted, I’m teaching myself how to knit, I’ve downloaded a ton of new books — so if nothing else, this quitting sugar challenge has been productive.  Day 6: Since I do most of my eating at night (or I used to), there is a huge difference between Day Dayna and Night Dayna. Day Dayna is pleasant, cheerful, and productive. Night Dayna is lazy, whiny, and just plain awful. It also doesn’t help that I usually run in the evenings but the last few days have just been too dang cold (I’m not that hardcore), so I had no outlet to let off steam! Well, last night I started a beginner skating lesson (and didn’t fall once!), and it’s exactly what I need to lift my spirits and take my mind off of food and being too cold.  Day 7: I also happen to be doing Apartment Therapy’s January Cure Challenge co-currently with this one. So although I packed away all the food I can’t eat before I started, today I’m going through my pantry more thoroughly to clean every nook and cranny. And I’ve even started giving away food. Why did I have THREE bags of icing sugar??  WEEK ONE: IN THE BAG! Day 8: Willpower tested! I found a forgotten package of chocolate leftover from the holidays floating around the apartment. And for one desperate moment I thought about eating the whole bag and then disposing of the evidence, and no one would ever know. I’m proud to say that I ended up tossing the package in with all the other foods I can’t eat, so at least I know it’s there for me in February (if I want it). Day 9: I’ve discovered that root vegetables taste like heaven. I roasted carrots, beets, and sweet potato with a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. It tasted like candy! Kris promised this would happen and I scoffed at first thinking, “That’s nuts! Only candy tastes like candy.”  Day 10: Night time cravings have started getting better and I don’t think I’m as irritable as before. But I still think about gummy bears and chocolate more frequently than I’d...

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Sugar-Free: So about those cravings…

Posted by on 8:00 am in Health | Comments Off on Sugar-Free: So about those cravings…

As promised, here’s some highlights from the last 4 days of no sugar. And it ain’t pretty, people: Day 1: So far so good. I just texted Kris and discovered that I can’t drink wine. Sigh. Had company over for dinner and even though dinner was filling, I got a sad little pang in my stomach when I realized there would be no dessert. Day 2: Feeling sleepy today but not irritable. Yesterday I went through all of my cupboards and packed away any food I can’t eat (my boyfriend was surprisingly ok with this) so I won’t be tempted. Later in the day (The Blerch is right on cue!) I started craving Wonderbread (weird, because I never buy white bread). I may or may not have started making a list of the foods I’ll when I’m done. Day 3: I’m feeling better today. And in order to get ahead of The Blerch, I prepared two healthy dinners so I won’t have to worry about food tonight or tomorrow. The first positive thing I’ve noticed: grocery shopping is way cheaper because almost everything has sugar. If you need me, just look for the lady crying in the vegetable aisle.  Day 4: Last night I watched the documentary Fed Up (which skillfully compares today’s sugar giants to the 1950’s tobacco giants — scary and infuriating stuff). So this morning I was pumped and ready to keep going…until I got to the grocery store on an empty stomach. This was a mistake. I spent the entire time angrily pushing the cart around and loudly exclaiming things like, “Why is there sugar in All Bran, it already tastes like garbage cardboard!” to no one in particular. But on the bright side, I did discover this Chocolatey Chai Tea, which doesn’t have any sugar, calories, or a weird after taste. And I’ve definitely noticed a huge reduction in bloating before before...

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