Wireless Music Done the Right Way

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I’ve recently discovered that I really enjoy listening to music while I’m cooking.  Much of this was because I found a new local radio station that I liked.  Much of their typical playlist includes old country and rock and roll such as Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.  Since my radio was a bit old and the reception wasn’t all that great I decided to check out some of the newer options out there.

No Wires is Better

I quickly discovered that things have drastically changed since the last time I looked at music systems.  The last time I bought one was when the mini-stereo systems had first come out at the Circuit City electronics chain.  That store is now completely gone, but my mini-stereo system has lived on.

After digging around on the Internet for a few minutes I discovered the Sonos system.  From the looks of system and the reviews they get I thought this looked like the perfect system for my home.  It would allow me to have music in three rooms without running any wires between them.  This would include the kitchen, the living room, and the master bedroom.

The Sonos System

While Sonos does have a pretty big product offering, I was able to quickly pick out what I wanted based on the type of music I generally listen to, and how big each room is.  For the kitchen I decided upon the Play1.  Our kitchen isn’t huge and I don’t generally listen at loud volumes so I figured this smallest of the three units would be sufficient.

In the living room I went with the Play5.  This unit is a bit bigger and has a good bit more bass response than the Play1.  Our living room is big and has high ceilings.  Anything smaller probably wouldn’t have been able to deliver enough volume to produce the quality of music that we wanted.

For the master bedroom I opted for another Play5.  Our master bedroom is quite large and the bathroom is attached so I wanted something that could play loud enough to be heard in both rooms.  I like to play music fairly loud in the bedroom when I’m getting ready for work each day.  The Play:5 is perfect for this application.

Simple Controls

sonos control app

The most amazing thing about the Sonos system is the simplicity of installation and setup.  You can configure the system from a PC or from a smartphone.  It took me about 20 minutes to get all three units up and going.  You basically get one of them connected via hardware to you Internet connection.  Then you connect the wireless units to that one with the press of a button on each device.

Then you just tell the system which room is which.  Now you’re ready to start configuring the music services.  If you have a large collection of CD’s on a wireless storage device you can quickly setup the Sonos controller to access all of this music.  It will also connect to just about every online music service known to man.  This of course includes Pandora, Rhapsody, iHeartRadio, and about a dozen more.

The app can be used from a smartphone, tablet, or your PC.  It is just about the most intuitive control app I’ve ever seen.  Even my parents have been able to learn how to use it in no time flat.

Now when I want to listen to my favorite music I simply open up the Sonos app and I’ve got my favorite Johnny Cash music at the tip of my fingers.  The total investment in equipment was about $1,000.  While that is certainly not an insignificant sum, I feel it is money well spent since I now basically have a whole house audio system.

A Cost Effective Way to Keep Your Knives Sharp

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kitchen IQ sharpenerAnyone who has spent a decent amount of time in the kitchen knows that having the right tools is extremely important to being able to work quickly.  But it is also important that you maintain these tools so that they work the way they are designed to.  Like most chefs, the tool I find myself using most frequently is my chef’s knife.  So making sure that it always has a keen edge is a must.

The Importance of a Sharp Knife

Do you remember the first time you used a brand new chef’s knife?  It sliced through everything quickly and efficiently.  It didn’t matter if you were cutting through carrots or a ripe tomato, it required almost no effort whatsoever.  This is how your knives should always operate.  It may seem rudimentary, but keeping your knives razor sharp is important to ensuring they last as long as possible.  It’s also crucial for your own safety.

Let’s look at an example.  I cut a lot of sweet potatoes.  These are a very popular food for those that are on the Paleo diet.  On top of that, I happen to love them.  But cutting them can be somewhat challenging.  They are an unusual shape, and they are very dense.  So a dull blade tends to change directions as you cut through a dense food like this.

Obviously this is very bad.  A knife should cut through your food in one direction.  This eliminates any possibility of you getting cut instead of the food.

How to Sharpen a Knife

Humans have been sharpening knives and tools for many thousands of years.  There are quite a few methods for keeping your blades razor sharp.  My favorite way to do this is with an electric knife sharpener.  They are fast, efficient, and capable of restoring your knife to it’s factory condition.

But not all electric sharpeners are the same.  The best models tend to come with 3 stages.  The first stage is for repairing any damage done to the blade during cutting or use.  The second stage then raises a burr on the blade.  This is an important step in the sharpening process.  Finally, the third stage hones the blade by removing the burr.  For the most part this process should take no more than 10 minutes.

The best knife sharpeners will also allow you to choose the angle at which you sharpen the blade.  This ensures that the smallest amount of material possible is removed from the knife during the sharpening process.  It also extends the life of the blade and also helps to ensure that the blade will remain sharp for a longer period of time.  Some models even let you adjust the blade angle based on the type of knife your are sharpening.  Using a dial you simply select the type of blade, and then sharpen it according to it’s instructions.

What to Pay

When it comes to a good electric knife sharpener, you should expect to pay well over $100.  Some models even get up into the $200 range.  Since good kitchen knives are expensive, I don’t recommend skimping on a quality sharpening device.  Smith’s is one of the better names out there and they have a couple of good products that allow for an adjustable angle.  You’re going to pay a bit more.  But I have no problem with this given it’s a quality product.


This Blender is the THE BOMB!

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ninja commercial blenderSo I know I just did another article on a blender not that long ago.  That being said, I have recently seen a new blender that absolutely blew me away.  One of the most time consuming things I do in my kitchen is making nut butter.

Grinding almonds down into butter is tedious.  A normal blender or food processor will work, but it requires you to constantly wipe down the sides so that the nuts stay down at the bottom near the blades.  Well not anymore.

The Ninja blender actually has a special attachment for making nut butter.  The lid is designed with prongs that drop down into the blending cup and swipe the sides clean.  This means you can clean the sides even as it’s mixing.   Continue reading

One of My Favorite Kitchen Tools, And It’s Cheap

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immersion blenderIn this day and age it’s pretty unusual to find a kitchen that doesn’t have a nice blender in it.  These great little tools have been around for decades.  Of course the quality has increased dramatically in that time, but the function is still basically the same.

My biggest complaint with a regular blender is that often the stuff you’re blending gets caught on the side and doesn’t get blended.  This actually happens quite a bit with the Paleo cookie recipe I mentioned in an earlier post.  It requires the use of nut butter.  Since I like to use raw, soaked almonds, I typically blend them myself.  This process should be relatively easy.  But it is extremely slow and tedious with a standard blender.   Continue reading

How to Choose the Best All Around CrossFit Shoes

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Choosing the All Around Best CrossFit Shoes

If you’ve recently started CrossFit or have been doing it for a while, you understand that a good pair of shoes is essential to good performance.  There is no other sport on earth that tests you mental and physical conditioning and the recovery ability of your body the way that CrossFit does.  And if you don’t have a good pair of shoes connecting you to the ground,  you are eventually going to suffer some sort of foot or ankle related injury.

What to Look for in a Good Pair of Training Shoes

The best CrossFit training shoes are going to have a few specific features that you should look for.  We will list them here in order of importance.

Small heel to toe drop – sometimes called the ‘offset’, this is the difference in height at the heel of the shoe versus the toe of the shoe.  To perform Olympic style lifts properly you want to have a relatively small offset.  When first starting training this can be difficult because many people lack the flexibility required to do Olympic lifts in flat shoes.  Nonetheless, you should work on your flexibility until you are able to do these lifts in low-offset shoes.  They are more stable and provide bette support than cushiony tennis shoes.

Toe Splay – for years running shoes and cross-training shoes have incorporated a restrictive toe area.  This is bad for your feet because it doesn’t allow your toes to splay or spread when you push off and land.  Our natural barefoot state allows the ideal amount of splay.  CrossFit shoes incorporate a larger splay area as well, making them much more stable plyometrics such as box jumps.

Exterior cage – CrossFit involves a lot of different exercises.  One of the most difficult is the rope climb. A rope will destroy a pair of tennis shoes in no time.  Manufacturers such as Reebok and Inov-8 have incorporated strong materials on the exterior of their shoes to protect your feet while doing rope climbs.  They’re worth the money, trust me.

For more information on shoes and CrossFit nutrition check out Efficient Gains.

These Paleo Cookies Will Help You Stay The Course

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paleo cookies 1Far and away the most popular New Years Resolution is that to lose weight. Most Americans tend to gorge themselves over the holidays. The thought process is simple. They say “It’s OK for me to have this extra ‘insert dessert of choice’ because come January 1 I’m going to start a diet and lose all the weight.

Part of the reason for the difficulty with maintaining any sort of diet is that they rely upon calorie restriction. Calorie restriction simply means that you eat less food than what your body is used to getting by on. It’s sounds completely logical, but there is something within every human being that works against this logic.

Our bodies are designed to survive. When we starve our bodies they go into conservation mode. This causes us to lose weight, but if you’re not eating the right kinds of foods, you’re going to lose the wrong kind of weight. And then once you’ve lost some weight and decide to start eating normally again guess what, you’re going to gain all that weight right back again.

At no other point in our history has food been so abundant. And if you take a quick look around you or at the statistics, the human race has never been fatter either. This stems from several circumstances. The first is an overabundance of food. The second is that so much of the food we eat is highly processed carbohydrates that our bodies don’t need.

Another problem with dieting is that most modern diets have you cut out the macro-nutrients your body needs to actually lose fat. Most diets tell you to cut out fat, eat more carbohydrates and proteins. That’s all well and good, but when you cut out fats, your body notices and it switches gears so that it can hold onto this energy source.

Why do our bodies hang onto fat when we diet? Fat is the most efficient source of natural energy that we can eat. Every gram of fat contains 9 calories. In contrast every gram of carbs and protein contain 4 calories. Our bodies instinctively hold onto this efficient fuel source when we restrict calories because it wants to conserve them until they are most needed.

If you’re pumping yourself full of carbohydrates, your body will use these first. On the flip side, if you eat a diet high in healthy fats such as coconut oil and nut butters, your body will see that it has an abundance of fat coming in. This in turn will cause your body to begin using your stored fat for energy.

This is where the Paleo diet comes into play. Unlike other diets, the Paleo diet refers to the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors. They ate whole foods. Meats, vegetables, tubers (sweet potatoes and parsnips), and nuts such as animal fat and nuts. Their diet consisted of very few carbohydrates. And as a result, they were very lean.

It also cuts out foods such as wheat and other grains, legumes, and dairy. All of these foods contain more carbohydrates than our bodies need to thrive. That’s not to say that you can’t have anything sweet however. There are some creative companies out there such as Gourmet Paleo, that have developed paleo chocolate chip cookies and other treats that adhere to the Paleo lifestyle. As with any treat, they should be eaten in moderation, but they won’t cause the same sugar spike you get from eating a few Oreo’s.  These paleo chocolate chip cookies are also available on Amazon.com.  You can also find their paleo coconut cookies on Amazon as well.

For more information check out gourmet-paleo.com.  Check out this great video on paleo cookies.