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Coconut Curry with Pasta: gluten-free, vegan, soy-free, corn-free, tomato-free

We love this because it’s a fairly simple one-pot meal, and we can’t get enough curry.

A bowl of curried pasta with sriracha and an instant pot in the background.

Ingredients

  • half a box (about a cup and a half) of gluten-free pasta (see notes below)
  • 1 can coconut milk (full-fat is our favorite, but light works fine)
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 curry bouillon cube or 1 tbsp curry spice blend
  • 2 tbsp curry paste
  • 2 tbsp tamari or gluten-free soy sauce, plus more to taste
  • 2 tbsp tahini or sunbutter (optional, and/or use peanut butter)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 10-12 ounce bag frozen veggies (we like the California blend with cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Sriracha, to taste

Instructions

  • In a medium saucepan, or an Instant Pot set to saute on low, add pasta, coconut milk, water, and all spices up to the frozen veggies, bring to a simmer and stir occasionally until pasta is cooked. (About 8 minutes for our red lentil penne. Check package directions.)
  • Add frozen veggies and simmer another 5-10 minutes until veggies are warm (we like our veggies al dente, your mileage may vary).
  • Serve with extra sriracha, if desired.

Notes

  • Some gluten-free pastas are fragile, and fall apart easily when mixing in additional ingredients once they’re cooked. We have found lentil and chickpea pastas to be pretty resilient. Our current favorite is Barilla Red Lentil Pasta because it’s delicious, full of protein, and affordable.
  • Sky Valley Sriracha is our favorite, because there’s no corn syrup and it’s gluten-free.
  • If you can eat tomato and like it in your curries, add a tablespoon of tomato paste when cooking the pasta.
  • If you have minced ginger on hand, a tablespoon will warm it up nicely.
  • Kale, spinach, or collard greens are a good addition, too, and add lots of good nutrients.
  • This is also a good way to use up whatever veggies are in your fridge, including those wrinkly red peppers that aren’t pretty enough for a salad.

Have you checked your brakes? You should stop and read this if you can.

Before we left Phoenix, I spent some time crawling under our trailer inspecting its brakes, suspension, and axles. Until now, we had only hauled our house for a few very short trips, so thankfully things were still fairly clean down there. The trailer has an electric brake system on all four tires. One of the first things I noticed was the electrical feeds to these brakes were not protected in any way, and they could rub on the metal surfaces: a potentially dangerous situation down the road.

View of the driver side trailer break wiring without protection

view of the drivers side break area

view of the passanger side break area

I purchased plastic wire loom and wire ties to cover and protect the wires. The wire loom is corrugated and flexible, but split down one side so it is easy to install without unhooking anything. I slipped the loom over all exposed wiring and secured it with wire ties and clips. I maintained sag loops to allow for suspension movement.

view of the drivers side break area with wire loom protecting the break wires

view of the passanger side rear break wiring with protected wire loom

Trailer brakes are vital to driving any large rig safely. It is important to maintain your entire brake system. Hopefully this modification will keep us on the road, and is a good reminder to our fellow travelers, too. Have you checked your brakes lately?

Our Furnace Wouldn’t Light!

I know it’s August and we haven’t had to think about our furnace in months, but winter is just around the corner. It was time to do some maintenance.

Much like moving into a sticks-and-bricks home, there is always something to work on. Last winter we were having periodic issues with our furnace not lighting, especially on the coldest nights. I checked the air intake and exhaust ports to make sure there were no blockages, since bees and wasps like to make their homes there from time to time. The other appliances that use propane fuel (stove, hot water heater, and refrigerators) all worked fine.

The furnace itself is mounted under the kitchen pantry and is not easily accessible.

Thankfully our trailer has an electric fireplace as an additional heat source when the furnace acted up.

The propane (LP) gas system runs off two thirty pound tanks located on the front of the trailer. There is a LP gas regulator that will automatically change over tanks when one runs empty, it should be located between the tanks and facing outward on a system like ours. When they are installed correctly, there is an indicator on the front of the regulator that shows when one tank is empty. But our regulator was mounted facing backwards, and it was so close to the front of the trailer that I couldn’t see the indicator.

When one tank is empty, the regulator should switch over automatically to the full tank and allow the removal of the empty for refilling. In our case, however, the regulator always failed to switch over automatically when one tank was empty. Not only that, but after manually switching over and when an empty tank was removed, a little gas would leak out of the pigtail from the full tank.

At this point, I was pretty sure the regulator was at the core of our furnace problem. I did some research and discovered our regulator was a Flame King changeover propane regulator.

Our furnace requires more LP gas (35,000 BTU) than the Flame King provides (30,000 BTU). This is a non-issue for our stove, fridges, or water heater, but could explain why we were only having problems with the furnace. LP stands for liquefied petroleum, and this liquid (just like water) does not vaporize as quickly as the outside temperatures decrease. The temperatures don’t drop very much in the Phoenix area, but during the winter, we saw some nights in the high 20s and low 30s, and that’s when we had the most trouble with our furnace. (If you like knowing more about the science of this phenomenon, this article talks more about the science of how cold affects propane tanks!)

Many online reviews of the Flame King regulator listed the same issues as we were having, further confirming our suspicions that we were on the right track.

I ordered a new regulator along with a longer hose so I could mount the system properly. According to reviews, many of the people frustrated with the Flame King regulators switched to Marshall Excelsior MEGR-253H units.… [ Click here to read the rest of this post. ] “Our Furnace Wouldn’t Light!”

Bedside Cabinets

While we still lived in a sticks-and-bricks home and I had my wood shop, I did some last-minute cabinetry for our RV. Above the windows on each side of the bed was a space that had the potential for a small cabinet. The existing cabinets above the headboard had vertically-opening doors that were several inches away from the wall on each side.

view of the wall space above the left bedside window

If I kept the cabinets shallow enough, they should fit. First, I drew up a plan for two cabinets, and then I made a wood cut plan. I chose poplar for the cabinets to keep the weight down, and to better match the other cabinets.

view of stacks of poplar wood for cabinet making

There would be a single door and room for two shelves inside each cabinet, and a water bottle shelf. The shelves are large enough for things like average-sized pill bottles, small packs of tissues, eye drops, and lip balm.

Rather than a plain panel door, I routered out the center panel space to be used as a picture frame. I installed a clear plexiglass face and a fiberboard backing, held in with glazing points.

view of the left hand bedside cabinet with the front door open

view of the left bedside cabinet with the door closed

I attached the cabinets to the existing cabinet and the wall.

view of the right hand bedside cabinet installed

view of the left hand bedside cabinet installed

This was my last official project to come out of my wood shop garage before we moved into our RV. Let me know what you think.

We finally hit the road! Does That Mean Major Truck Repairs or Just a New Battery?

Those of you who’ve followed our Instagram might’ve seen that we’ve officially left Arizona (for now) and are on the road. We have a schedule to keep to get to our Florida destination on time (more about that in a future post!), but not such a tight schedule that we can’t stay 2-3 nights in each spot, and we’ve limited our travel to 200 miles per day. So here is what happened when we landed in El Paso:

A pickup truck with its hood open

The truck wouldn’t start!

At least it waited until we were settled into an RV park, rather than the middle of nowhere. And in Texas, there’s a LOT of “nowhere.”

We bought our 2016 Ram 2500 a year ago and it’s in great shape. It even came with brand new tires, but we suspected the battery was original from the factory. Anyone who has spent any time in the Arizona heat knows that batteries do not last long. We could have swapped this one out before we headed out, but the car was still turning over without any hesitation, so we didn’t make it a high priority.

When the truck failed to turn over the other day, there was a moment of panic that something major was wrong and we were going to be stuck waiting for big repair bills.

What do we do now?

Thankfully, we were prepared. If the battery was the source of the problem, we should be able to jump it and go straight to a store to replace it. We have a couple different options for getting the truck started on our own:

    1. First and less ideally, we have the RV itself. Our RV house batteries are deep cell 12 volt units. We could attach jumper cables to a house battery to start the truck. Deep cell house batteries are not designed to supply the large current dump needed to start a vehicle but they will work in a pinch.
    2. Second and luckily, we also have a Winplus 12-volt car jump starter portable power pack, which was our best choice.

We hooked up the portable power pack to the truck battery and it cranked right up. Once we removed the power pack the truck continued to run so we both let out a sigh of relief, the problem was more than likely the battery not holding a charge. We drove straight to the nearest Autozone and picked up this Duralast Platinum H7-AGM battery. They were nice enough to install the new battery right in the parking lot, even though it was 100 degrees outside and peak sun. We drove around awhile to give the new battery time to fully charge, which was a nice excuse to see the sights.

Fun fact: It turned out that manufacture date on the old battery was 2013! We have no idea how it lasted 6 years in the Arizona heat, but it sure did.

We always have a plan B.

If we had been unable to get the truck started, we have two different road side assistance plans: Escapees RV Club roadside assistance and our insurance company.… [ Click here to read the rest of this post. ] “We finally hit the road! Does That Mean Major Truck Repairs or Just a New Battery?”

Our Favorite Apps for RVing

Apps come and go all the time, and I think “favorite apps” lists are always like a snapshot in time. So here is a snapshot of our 10 favorite apps for August 2019, in no particular order:

1. Coverage?

Coverage? by Two Steps Beyond/Technomadia provides nationwide overlay maps of cellular coverage by carrier. We actually got this app before we even started RVing, because our last sticks-and-bricks home had nonexistent AT&T coverage, and we needed to change carriers. I have yet to find another map as detailed as this one, and the HD upgrade is well worth the cost (currently $2.99).

2. RV Parky

RV Parky is a free search and review site for RV parks, with the ability to create public or private trip itineraries (trip-planning is only available if you create an account). In addition to traditional RV parks, you can filter by feature (50 amp service, pull-thru, WiFi, propane, etc.), stores with free overnight parking, and gas stations.

3. Campendium

Campendium is another free search and review site for RV parks, national parks, and free camping, with user-reported information about cell signal strength by carrier, prices, and the ability to rate specific details like RV access, noise, and cleanliness.

4. US Public Lands

US Public Lands is another Technomadia creation. It offers overlay maps for camping on the different types of public lands, including Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forest Service, and Army Corps of Engineers (COE), to help you find boondocking spots. Currently, this app is $2.99.

5. Passport America

Passport America is a fee-for-membership club that lets you use your membership (currently about $44/year) for discounted stays at RV parks. Discounts are typically 50%, but parks can impose stipulations such as limiting the length of stay or time of year. However, you don’t need to be a member to use their website or free app, and it has a great trip-planning feature.

6. Pilot Flying J

Pilot Flying J has a free app to find the nearest service station for gas, treats, propane, CAT scales, dump stations, and medical clinics (did you know Flying J is aiming to open 50 clinics nationwide by 2024?). The app will let you “clip” coupons for freebies and discounts, and you can add your Good Sam card to your account so you always get the 5-cent discount if you have a Good Sam membership. This app also has a trip planner that lets you see all the Pilot Flying J stops on the way to your destination.

7. Highway Weather

Highway Weather by Voyage Studios lets you plan a travel route and gives you the weather (including wind speeds!) along the way. You can adjust your start time and see how that affects the weather along your route, too. The app is free with ads, but it’s only $1.99 to remove ads, which we think is an incredible bargain.

8. Weatherbug

Weatherbug is a weather app that will deliver location-specific alerts for weather and air quality, as well as pollen maps.… [ Click here to read the rest of this post. ] “Our Favorite Apps for RVing”

Creating a Gluten-Free Kitchen

When I realized it was going to be impossible to avoid gluten contamination if I lived with a gluten-eater, we immediately decided to make the whole house gluten-free.

I wish I could say a mixed-gluten kitchen was easier in a sticks-and-bricks home, but our apartment kitchen at the time was a little smaller than our RV’s kitchen, so that’s not true. The fact is, it’s extremely difficult to maintain a mixed kitchen, and impossible for us personally. So in preparation for a very a deep cleaning, we sorted everything in the kitchen to decide what could stay and what must go.

Maybe this post will help you if you find yourself in a similar situation, following a celiac diagnosis or eliminating gluten for other health reasons.

This is what we learned.

  1. Cross contamination is an unending battle: Accidents happen and recipes change. It requires constant vigilance.
  2. Trust your body and its reactions. Your immune system is always more trustworthy than a gluten-free label or a company’s promise.

Where do you begin?

If you’re doing a temporary gluten-free test to see if you feel better, there are a few things you can do to make the test more successful, which also eases the transition into full-time GF life if the test is successful.

What is gluten?

Gluten is sticky, heat-resistant, and can’t be “killed” like a germ with antibacterial wipes. Because of this, when making a kitchen gluten-free, the gluten molecules must be physically removed, because it only takes one molecule to trigger a reaction.

Gluten is known as a composite protein, which is the combination of two different proteins, and enormous by molecular terms. A person with celiac disease will have a reaction to a small segment of the protein, and everyone is different. This is why you might know someone who can drink barley-based beer without getting sick, but a rogue crouton will knock them into bed for a week (or more). This does not mean that physical damage isn’t happening when they consume the barley-based beer, just that they’re not experiencing symptoms. This is known as “silent celiac.”

Contamination rule of thumb

** If it’s scratched, porous, or a bread-specific item, it’s permanently contaminated. **

Scratched items include anything with a nonstick coating, cutting boards, serrated knives, Tupperware, plastic spatulas, Instant Pot seals, and chipped plates. Gluten seeps into the crevices and cannot be removed.

Porous items include sponges, colanders, wooden utensils, pizza stones, and cast iron. These items absorb everything they touch, and gluten cannot be removed. I know that some people really love their cast iron, or it’s been in their families a long time. I have heard of people sanding the cast iron down to its shiny metal base and reseasoning it in order to make it safe for them, but I’ve never tried it. The dust generated from the sanding process would be enough to make me gluten-sick.

Bread-specific items include the toaster, bread maker, pizza stones, and bread baskets. These cannot be salvaged, sorry.… [ Click here to read the rest of this post. ] “Creating a Gluten-Free Kitchen”

Medicine Cabinet Remodel

The medicine cabinet in our RV was generously sized (in our opinion), but it only had one shelf. There was a lot of wasted space.

a view of an open bathroom medicine cabinet

While we could have stored about 16 super-tall cans of 80’s Aqua Net, we’ve both outgrown that phase and our toiletries are a bit smaller these days.

The cabinet itself is made of a light ¼ inch plywood, so it is not a good base with which to attach a shelf. However, I did this, I wanted to avoid visible screws. I chose some light hardwood lumber that could be stained to closely match the rest of the cabinet. Rather than installing standard shelf supports (which would likely require visible screws), I made two legs and used double faced tape to attach them to the inside of the lower shelf in order to support my new shelf.

a view of a shelf support inside a bathroom cabinet

I cut and stained the new shelf to match as well.

a view of a bathroom cabinet

The one additional shelf added a lot of room in the cabinet. If we find ourselves running out of space again, I could add an additional shelf to the lower area in the same manner. (Or, more likely, we do a little spring cleaning.)