Wednesday, April 29, 2015

RV Microwave Pressure Cooker Redux!

My Microwave/Convection Oven
    MANY of you read my last article about Pressure Cooking with the microwave. Like you, I was a bit disappointed in the one that I tested. I received lots of comments and suggestions for new ones. After testing a couple, I finally received one that ACTUALLY WORKS! Yes, you CAN Pressure Cook in your RV using the Microwave. Of course, you can use the stove, but then you have to STORE the bulky cooker. You could even use an Electric version with your generator (or MAYBE a solar charging system after your batteries charge, but I'm still looking into that.) Bottom line, I have one that works now, mostly.

I Liked The Blue, It Comes In Several Colors!
The Cook's Essential Microwave Pressure Cooker is a true pressure cooker. It actually builds pressure to raise the boiling point of water to cook food faster and more efficiently. It's not the 15 PSI+ of a conventional stove-top or electric pressure cooker, but it still gets the job done. A little bit slower perhaps...but still a great job. I figure the pressure is around 5-6 PSI so I added a bit of time. Maybe 15-20% more is a good starting point. As I learn how it cooks, I will add or subtract time accordingly. In the box you get the cooker, it's lid, a strainer for the bottom of the pot, a spare silicone seal for the lid and two Recipe/Instruction books. It has two built in safety valves to vent over pressures. While it is plastic, it appears quite heavily built.

Not Much In The Box, But Everything You Need.
One of the main benefits of using the microwave rather than a stove top pressure cooker is the simple fact the lag between turning on the heat and beginning to time the cooking is MUCH less. Overall, you will get things done faster than with a traditional stove top version. I've always been amazed at the number of things that you can cook in a pressure cooker. A simple search online will garner thousands of recipes of every description. I do have a few favorites. Remember EVERY recipe for the pressure cooker REQUIRES some amount of liquid. As the liquid boils the steam is what pressurizes the vessel and cooks the food. no liquid = BURNT FOOD!

Chicken Stew!
Any type of beef cooks up incredibly tender, Even the cheapest cuts. I love precooking pork ribs (with your favorite rub or BBQ sauce) then grilling them for a few minutes on each side, Unbelievably tender and FAST!! Corned beef and cabbage with potatoes. All in one pot. In record time. Chicken or Veal Stew with carrots, peas and mushrooms with a bit of tomato sauce and your favorite spices. Absolutely delicious. Any vegetable will cook faster and incredibly tender. Potatoes and other root vegetables are especially great. Since the vessel is sealed, more nutrients remain in your food. It's healthier! A Win-Win!! Your imagination is really the limit here.

This pressure cooker can easily be found online for around $17.00 including shipping. I have seen a couple of other versions of Microwave Pressure Cookers manufactured by other companies. The main reason I wouldn't test them...they are EXPENSIVE! Around $100,00 for something I will only use infrequently, I'm going to use this one for the rest of the RV season here and perhaps throughout the Winter as well. We'll see how well it holds up to extended use. Maybe I'll write a recipe book if I like it that much!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

2015 REVISED - How to Go From Winter's Slumber to Spring's Re-Awakening Or Perform A Yearly Safety Check! It's TIME!

Look Ma...No Snow!
    I cannot believe Winter is finally over. Time to wake the slumbering beast (well my RV is  more like a tame housecat than a beast.) I am going to de-winterize, inspect and repair for the upcoming season! It's about time!! I have SO many projects to get moving on. Winter is great for planning and researching projects, not so great for actually DOING them!

 If you plan ahead and prepare, getting your RV ready for the season or checking it once a year if you are blessed to live in a warmer climate, should go smoothly and easily. Yes, I know NOTHING I do ever goes, smoothly and easily. Let's hope this Spring's charmed.

Start with a list of basic tasks. The list below can be changed to suit your particular RV, but is a good guideline. Mine reads as follows:

Remove Cover Straps (guess who forgot to undo the straps AGAIN last year!)
Remove Cover
Inspect Cover for Rips and Tears, Repair if Needed/Possible
Roll and Fold Cover and Store.
Inspect Outside
Inspect Underneath For Leaks, Puddles, Dry Rotted Hoses, Excessive Rust, Gas Pipe Joints, Frame, etc.
Inspect Tires and Inflate to proper pressure (Check Dates!)
Wash RV and Inspect for cracks, chips, glass breaks, leaks, etc. Repair if needed.
Open Outside Engine Compartment, Check for Leaks and Nests.
Open Storage Compartments and Inspect (leaks, bugs, critters, etc.)
Clean Outside Refrigerator Compartment (Spiderwebs, Leaves, Nests, etc.)
Clean Outside Furnace Compartment (Spiderwebs, Leaves, Nests, etc.)
Clean Outside Water Heater Compartment (Spiderwebs, Leaves, Nests, etc.)
Replace Water Heater Drain Plug and/or Anode.
Clean Battery(ies) and Terminals if Needed. (Chassis, House and Generator)
Check Coach and Chassis Battery Water Level, Refill if needed. (Distilled Water ONLY!)

Open Door(s) Test Operation. Lubricate if Needed.
Turn On Lights, Replace Any Bad Bulbs
Open Vents, Test Seals and Operation
Open Windows, Test Seals and Operation. Check Locking Mechanisms
Open Cabinets (Upper and Lower)
Check for Leaks, Roof, Doors, etc.
Check for Critters. (Bugs, Mammals, Gremlins, etc.)
Clean Interior (Carpets, Walls, Floors, Cabinets, Fridge, etc.)
Check LP/Propane/CO Detector Operation
Check Smoke Detector Battery and Operation
Check Monitor Panel, Tanks and Propane
Check Converter/Charger For 12 Volt Output
Check All Fuses and Breakers (12V and 120V)
Confirm Solar Charging System Voltage and Amperage (If Applicable)
Check Bathroom Skylight for leaks and cracks.
Check and Tighten ALL screws and fasteners Everywhere!

Check Oil Level, Fill if Needed
Check Coolant Level, Fill if Needed
Check Brake Fluid Level, Fill if Needed
Check Power Steering Fluid Level, Fill if Needed
Check Transmission Fluid Level, Fill if Needed
Check Windshield Wiper Blades Replace If Needed.
Check Windshield Fluid Level, Fill if Needed
Check All Hoses and Tighten Clamps
Check Airbag Compressor for operation and leaks.
Check Air Bag System Pressure
Check Air bag System for Leaks

Check Fuel Levels
Check Battery Volts
Start Engine
Check for Oil Pressure Rise
Listen to Idle (Sound OK?)
Check Idle Speed RPM
Check for Battery Charging (Volts/Amps)
Check Temperature Gauge for Rise
Listen for "strange" noises. Clangs, Bonks, Whistles, Squeals, Chattering, Rattles, Clunks etc.
Shift Into Each Gear (Foot on Brake!!)
Switch On Dash Air Conditioner (Got Cold Air?)
Select Dash Heat and Defrost (Got Hot Air?)
Shutdown After Everything Warms Up to Operating Temperature
Re-Check Oil Level, Fill if Needed
Re-Check Transmission Fluid Level, Fill if Needed
Go Outside, Look Under RV..Any New Leaks?

Check Generator Compartment for Oil Leaks
Check generator and Wiring for Obvious Problems
Check Oil Level, Fill if Needed (Coolant too! If you have it)
Start Generator
Check for leaks
Check for Transfer Switch Operation
Run for 30 minutes (or so)
Check Voltage at Sockets without Load
Check Voltage at Sockets with Load
Shutdown Generator
Turn On Inverter
Check AC Power From Inverter

Turn On Gas at Main Tank Valve
Listen and Check for Leaks (Use handheld detector)
Check for leaks in Refrigerator, Furnace and Water heater Compartments
Check for leaks Inside (Stove, Water Heater, Furnace, Refrigerator)
Light 1 Burner, Check for Blue Flame and Even Burn
Turn Off
Check Other Burners.
Turn Off Stove Valves
Set Thermostat to Heat
Confirm Furnace Ignition
Confirm Heater Vent Airflow and Temperature
Shut Off Thermostat
Confirm No Leaks from All Stove Valves in the OFF Position

APPLIANCE CHECKS (On Both Shore Power AND Generator/Inverter)
Attach Shore Power (or use Generator)
Turn on Air Conditioner, Wait for it to engage
Check for Cool Air
Check for Heat Strip Operation (if installed)
Shutdown Air Conditioner
Inspect Microwave
Set Clock
Run for 1 Minute (heat something up!)
Check Coffee Maker Operation (VERY Important!)
Check Fridge DC Control Panel Operation
Turn On Refrigerator (on AC Power)
Clean Out Refrigerator Chimney/Cooling Fins/Tubes and Check for Debris/Nests/Bugs Inside
Confirm Refrigerator Heating Element is Warming Boiler in Outside Compartment)
Switch Refrigerator to Propane (LP Gas)
Confirm Flame Ignition (By Sound AND Visually Outside)
Switch Back to Electric (or AUTO)
Check Refrigerator Door Seals and Lock(s)
Turn On Entertainment System
Check Inputs (Antenna/VCR/DVD/Satellite/VGA/HDMI)
Check Sound
Raise/Lower TV/Satellite Antenna
Turn Everything Off.

WATER SYSTEM (without Sanitize) 
Re-Connect Water Pump to Tank
Set Valves to Tank Fill
Re-Insert Water Heater Drain Plug
Close Low Point Hot and Cold Water Drains
Check All Fittings
Close Faucets
Partially Fill Water Tank (Hose or Connect City Water)
Set Valves To Operating Position
Pressurize System (Pump and City Water, One at a time)
Check For Leaks
Open Each Faucet Until It Runs (to Remove Antifreeze and Air)
Check Toilet Main Drain. (Holding Antifreeze?)
Check Flush Fill and Drain
Fill Fresh Water Tank (and/or Use City Water)
Check For Leaks (Look in All Cabinets! Under Coach as Well!)
Open Faucets and Run Water until Clear
Check For Leaks AGAIN!!
Turn On Water Heater (Propane)
Check for Ignition
Confirm Hot Water and Flow
Check For Leaks (Inside Hot Side Plumbing AND Outside Water Heater Compartment)
Switch Water Heater to Electric
Confirm Hot Water and Flow
Shut Everything Down

Close All Windows
Shut Off All Appliances
Shut Down Propane Gas Flow
Turn Off Lights
Close and lock Doors.

While this list is geared toward my coach, most of it will likely apply to yours. Hopefully, it will start you off  safely and with some peace of mind this season.

Feel free to send me items to add or ask questions!

Be Seeing You....Down The Road

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Pressure Cooker...For Your Microwave? Is That Even Possible?

    For many MANY years, my Mother has been using a pressure cooker for lots of recipes. It's become almost a tradition in the household. I'm not complaining! Some of the best and most tender meats I've ever eaten are cooked in a pressure cooker. I have always wanted to have one for the RV, but they are large and hard to store. Since I wouldn't be using it very often, I really couldn't justify that amount of space. Last year, I came across a Microwave version of the pressure cooker. Wow! Seemed too good to be true. It was plastic, didn't take up too much space and weighed very little. The question...Did it work? Well...Kind of.

Nice Package!
First off, this is really NOT a true pressure cooker no matter what the labeling says. It's really a glorified steamer. Pressure cookers work by raising the pressure inside the container so water boils at a higher temperature. (No really...look up BOYLES LAW) Things cook faster. It works. In fact, you can cook a cheaper cut of meat until it's tender/fall off the bone delicious in WAY less time than you can on, let say, a BBQ. A little side note here...I "pre-cook" ribs with dry rub or marinade in the pressure cooker for around 22 minutes for a full rack cut in half. Then put them on the grill for about 5-8 minutes a side to get a crust. You get fall off the bone amazing ribs in a fraction of the tradition time. It's not perfect, but's good! Back to "sort-of" pressure cooking,

So this cooking gadget has no real way to seal the lid to the body, it does have two plastic latches, but it leaks enough that almost no pressure builds up. There is an adjustable steam vent at the top. You load in your food, add some liquid, pop on the lid and set the vent, Pop it in the microwave and Voila! you have cooked food. OK...sounds easy, and it is. But it isn't pressure cooking, it's steaming. It makes anything you can make in a steamer perfectly, every time. Likely due to the vent on the lid. I made white rice, brown rice and lots of varieties of vegetables without a hitch.

I did try a meat recipe. In a word, YUCK. It was awful. More like soup than anything else, After that debacle, I looked around online and found a couple of other devices billed as microwave pressure cookers. One was only $17.00 shipped, so I ordered it. It has a seal for the lid and really looks quite a bit different than the one I have now. I also saw one by Nordicware and one made by Tupperware...haven't been able to locate one to buy and test, but they are a lot more expensive. Looks like this story is only just beginning. There are also several Electric pressure cookers that I know work well, but I fear they will use too much power and since I already have a small one, I know they take up much more room.

As always, don't believe everything you see hyped on TV about better/faster/healthier cooking. Take everything with...well, a grain of salt.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Don't Scratch Your Non-Stick Pots & Pans!!!

    If you've ever spent your hard-earned dollars on non-stick pans, you know how easy it is to scratch one. Once scratched, they become trash. It isn't safe to continue to use them -- especially Teflon-coated pots and pans. Ingesting the coating can be really bad for you. I've ruined a few in my day. I know you can go to a big box store and buy a whole set of cheap pans for $20.00, but for well-made heavy ones it's really sad to see them go in the trash -- and I use them a lot, especially for my "One Pan" meals. So, how do you scrape out a nasty mess from the bottom of the pan? Easy...get a tough little silicone scraper.

I used to use a wooden spatula or a plain plastic one when I needed to scrape out some gunk at the bottom of a pan. The wooden ones work pretty well, but don't have quite a sharp enough edge to really get underneath anything left on the bottom. The plastic ones do have an edge, but you can't really use them on hot pots. Just off the stove is the best time to remove leftover food bits. Try that with a plastic spatula and you have a black (usually, unless you have another color!) gooey mess to deal with. I've left melted black lines on my skillets with the cheaper plastic spatulas...nasty. When they cool off, it's really tough to get them off.

You can already buy silicone bowl scrapers. They've been around a long time and work great when you are attempting to get every last bit out of your bowl. I use it all the time when making my "Mock Almost-Mousse" dessert. It's good till the last...umm...drop or, more accurately, bit. But they are way too soft to use to scrape at food residue, especially baked-on or cooked-on pieces. Now you can buy ones that are cleverly designed with a plastic support for the heavy silicone blade. Simply put, they work. I have scraped off overcooked egg chunks and brittle, cooked-on cheese bits with ease. All done in a still-hot skillet, without any damage to the non-stick coating.

I cook often in my RV, on the road, so anything that makes cleaning easier is always going to be tops in my book. Add to that fact it's small and easy to store and you have an RV utensil drawer keeper. They come in various colors and styles, but I liked this one. Small enough to store easily in a small space and large enough to scrape a lot of stuff in a short period of time.

Of course, with my new non-stick CERAMIC frying pan, I may not even need one. But for my Teflon coated's a MUST!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

FOUND IT! - Powered Whisk That Requires NO Power! (With Recipes!)

    A while ago, I wrote an article about a miraculous powered frother I'd found. I was hopeful that it would be able to make fresh whipped cream. It did...well, sort of. It really works amazingly to froth my favorite coffee beverages, but as a cream whipper, well, not so much. It was a bit of a bummer, but I have been using it daily to put a beautiful froth on my coffee and other beverages both hot, cold and "adult." I was still on the lookout for a powered whisk that would make whipped cream and NOT use too much power. I believe I've found one! With some reservations.

At home, in my sticks and bricks house, I have a really nice stick/immersion blender that has a whisk attachment. It makes short work of turning heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla into perfect fresh whipped cream. I wanted to be able to do that on the road as well. While shopping around a local liquidator shop, I spotted one of those "as seen on TV" sections. Sitting on the shelf was a "powered" whisk that said, right on the box, that it would make whipped cream. There was even a picture! Normally I don't go for this stuff. Especially if I hadn't even seen the infomercial. But at $2 for TWO of them, why not give it a whirl?

See It's On The Box!
I admit, after seeing the picture of lovely whipped cream on the box, and looking at the handle shape of the devices, it didn't occur to me that they wouldn't take batteries. I mean there was no indication of a electrical cord or plug....Hmmm. Well, as soon as I opened the box it became obvious. They aren't powered by electricity at all. You use good, old fashioned, muscle power. First, let me tell you it does work, It makes whipped cream just like it shows on the box. How? Well you put the ingredients in the bowl, place the whisk at the bottom, and push. Then release. Then push again. faster and faster. As the handle travels up and down, the end of the whisk spins at a fairly brisk clip. Mixing lots of air into the mix and creating whipped cream.

Now the down side. It's work. Not a huge amount of work, mind you. But work nonetheless. It's great that you don't need any type of electrical power. But you do lose a bit of convenience. I'm still going to bring it on the road with me to see if I can generate the gumption to actually USE the thing. Now, I do have a significant incentive. There's this very basic dessert, kind of like a Mousse that you can make from the basic whipped cream recipe. Get yourself some Dark Chocolate (or Milk Chocolate if you wish) cocoa powder. NOT sweetened!! Mix in about 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder per pint of heavy cream. Whip the mixture until you get thick, heavy chocolate-y goodness. You can chill it in the fridge for a while to get it more solid, but it's not really necessary, especially if you want it NOW! Add some of your home made whipped cream on top (Again, heavy cream, vanilla and sugar) and enjoy.

Sometimes the simplest things make us happy. Now, even with no power at all, I will have the ability to make one of my favorite non-guilty dessert pleasures. Try'll like it!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"