Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Where Oh Where Has My Counterspace Gone?

    Since I do a lot of cooking while travelling in my RV, I like to have lots of counter space. Unfortunately, my RV is small so counter space is limited. For the most part, I work around this. Back in the day, when referring to V8 engine power, folks used to say there is no substitute for cubic inches! In this case there really isn't any substitute for square inches!  What can you do? Well, there are a few things beside being better organized.

Let's take a look at a few of them.
First off, you can add a stove-top cover. These will really give you a larger work space for prep. The only issue being, you cannot use the stove when it's sitting on top! Well, you can, but it would be bad. When you are dealing with tight spaces you have to become creative. Sometimes, I prep or store my prep ingredients here then move everything off when I am ready to use the cooktop. It works, but is a bit more hassle.

If you want play...sometimes you gotta pay!
All Covers In Place

Secondly, you can add sink covers. If your RV, like mine has a double sink, and you aren't actually washing the dishes, these will cover one or both sinks. This way you can use the extra space for prep work or whatever you like. I tripled my counter space with these! Usually I leave the right one off and use the increased counter space on the left. 
If you look closely towards the back, you'll see even my garbage can has a matching cover. I do put stuff on there when cooking, but something about using the lid of the garbage can for food prep.... I simply use the space for tools and...well garbage! Peels, pits, meat trimmings, etc. You can just lift up the cover and slide the trash into....well... the trash!

Counter Extension, Folded
Counter Extension, Open
Next up is a counter extension. This is really the best way to extend an existing counter. They lie flat against the side of the counter until needed. You simply pull up on the extra counter and then press a latching up underneath. Believe me, it's much simpler done than said! It doesn't make any noise when travelling, which is one of my pet peeves! And it doubles my main prep counter space. This doesn't come without a price though. When opened it reduces my main entry door opening by about a third. You can still get in and out, but it's now a bit of an obstacle. Since I am usually (OK, always) the one cooking and I am usually alone, this really isn't an issue at all. These are available online to be retrofitted to your counter. They come in plastic, Formica(!), laminates and plain or stained wood.

All of this simply proves that some creative thinking and some slight changes in behavior can go a long way towards making your RV cooking experience much more enjoyable. I don't think twice if I'll have enough counter space to prepare and cook a, rather elaborate meal. It's fun! And relaxing.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Even The Simple Things - Unbreakable Glasses

    All this talk about food in the last few articles got me thinking. What about nice glassware for your perfectly prepared meals? Look, I know a red Solo cup works just fine, but what about special occasions? What about making things more "home-like?" You could haul around a bunch of fragile glasses, but I've found a much better solution. Essentially unbreakable stem-ware. And you can find "regular" glasses and other items too. I've seen these popping up more and more at large department stores all over the place. 
Amazing as this sounds, there is a substance on this planet that one can make perfectly clear, substantial liquid containers out of that really mimics glass quite well. No, it isn't real glass. It's a polymer called poly-carbonate. This stuff is used all over the place. Even as windscreens on supersonic fighters! Hmmm, how about an RV windshield? It's stands up to reasonably high temperatures and really does feel a lot like glass. They are available in all sorts of sizes and colors too. Even coffee mugs! I like the clear ones. They really are quite amazing. 
All sorts of different styles can be had. Wine, Champagne, Beer, Hi-Ball, Drinking, Pilsner, even pitchers. You name it, I've found them for sale. They even make fully insulated versions. With an air pocket between an inner and outer wall, you don't get that annoying condensation on the outside of the glass and your drink stays cool or hot longer.

 What about cost? Aye, there's the rub. Most come in sets of 4 or 6 and cost between $24 and $36 a set. That's about 6 dollars a glass! the insulated versions are even more expensive! If you look around you can get them cheaper, and they often end up at liquidation stores so keep your eyes open when wandering those aisles. I've found several styles for 3 dollars a piece. mostly for 10 oz tumblers and some wine glasses. Try looking for catering supply places online.
I have a set of 4 wine glasses and 2 champagne glasses as well as 6 drinking glasses and two large glasses that I use for iced tea. They have held up VERY well this season and believe me, I've dropped them more than once. I've noticed no odd flavors and they haven't discolored at all. My old plastic tumblers didn't do nearly as well. Besides, they were ugly! Add some elegance and a sense of home with these beautiful accessories. Next time you're out RV'ing, celebrate! I know I will!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road...

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Even The Simple Things - Ice Cube Trays

My Fridge/Freezer
    I like ice. I like ice in my drinks. Not usually alcoholic...but you never know. Like most everyone, I was using traditional plastic ice cube trays in my RV freezer. They worked, but I was getting cloudy ice and had to wait a long time once I arrived to actually pull out the first batch of cubes.  In this article, another in the semi-regular series, "Even The Simple Things" we'll get to the bottom of the ice cube tray. So to speak.

While on the move there isn't an easy way to make ice cubes without  spilling water all over my freezer. or at least I thought there wasn't!

Enter the close-able ice cube tray! A real boon for the cold drink set! There was even a bonus! I am getting crystal clear ice upon arrival as well! It's the simple things in life, you know?
Lid Secured, Ready To Fill
Overall Lid Off
How's it work? Well I located some ice cube trays that have a removable cover and a "snap-up" lid to fill with water. They were really inexpensive and seemed like a good idea. I figured they would leak a bit, but I could put some paper towels in the fridge to catch and stray water that seeped out.

The thing is? They didn't leak at all! Still don't even when jostled around quite a bit in the freezer. Simple to use and great ice cubes. Yay! Simply snap on the overall lid until it's closed all the way around. Open the lid on it's hinge and fill with water. About 2 cups or so (1/2 liter). Put in the freezer. I have 2 of them, one on top of the other. they "nest quite snugly. I then placed a couple of small water bottles on either side to stop really bad smashing around in the freezer. I use the bottles to cool down the outdoor coolers anyway so it's "win-win."
Ice Cube Storage
Once you arrive and need or want some ice cubes, just open up the overall lid and pop them out. A simple twist will cause them to eject easily. Much easier than the ones I have at home. I keep a small rectangular plastic container in the fridge to dump the already made cubes into. Once I dump both trays I refill them with water and put them back. This way I always have a ready supply when I'm on the road. Some folks have RV fridge/freezers that have ice makers in them. Pretty cool! I have heard about a lot of extra maintenance and problems with them. I like simple solutions. Well Mostly.

**I believe the ice stays clear because of the constant vibration. I could be wrong....but it seems like that could be it!

I've seen versions of an ice cube tray that you fill from one end and there is a screw top. Seems that would make it hard to get the ice out and find a place for more than one in the freezer. YMMV!

Be Seeing You, Down The Road...

Rich "The Wanderman"

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Even The Simple Things - Fridge Door Liquid Storage

    Most of the time I drink ice-water. Recently I figured out how to have clear ice when I arrive so it's there when I want it. Other times I want to "mix up a beverage" and have it in the fridge ready to go. Either way, I was sick and tired of using up what little fridge space I have on the top shelf with large containers. Even the ones that are REALLY thin and sit next to the wall used up too much space.

As usual, when travelling I end up in various dollar stores or liquidators. You can often find very interesting things (sometimes even useful) at these places. Their inventory changes frequently so they are great places to visit repeatedly. A month or so ago I stumbled upon a slew of these 2 Quart refrigerator bottles. Lo and Behold! They fit perfectly in my lower Dometic door shelf! You could easily fit multiple containers there for a variety of thirst quenchers.

What makes these better than other plastic bottles? First they are made from a plastic that does not impart any odd flavors to the liquid inside. No nasty plastic aftertaste AND when you clean it out, no lingering flavors from past beverages. Next, I have tried my very best to break them. Didn't do so well. Empty, full... it didn't matter. Dropped, thrown even hurled, I couldn't  get one to open nor crack or split at all. I believed the lid and flip top cap would be a weak spot. I mean when you compress the bottle forcibly, the pressure should have popped the top and caused a geyser. It didn't. This is a good thing. Especially when traveling down "not so great" roads.

Shelf "Fingers"
Perfect Fit!
I had been looking for a container that would fit on the lower door shelf of my fridge for a while, so this was quite a score. The Dometic brand has "fingers" that prevent the shelf contents from sliding back and forth. They also provide a bit of spring tension to hold the items in the shelf. There is also a movable wire retainer for larger items.

The Norcold brand may be similar, but I haven't seen one in person to be able to tell. I can fit more than one on my lower shelf, so I've been filling one with water and one with this odd strawberry drink I found at a chain supermarket (Hannafords). I mix it pretty weak, otherwise it's REALLY too sweet. Of course, I found that it has been discontinued... Murphy was an optimist, you know?  I've been looking for a substitute. No luck yet.

Be Seeing You...Down the Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"