Be sure to sign up for the weekly RV Travel Newsletter, published continuously every Saturday since 2001. Click here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Better Cooking On Your Propane Stove

Four Burners, No Waiting!
    At my "sticks & bricks" house, I had switched over to electric heating elements for my stove top many years ago. I do have a propane-fired inside BBQ that has its own 25-gallon tank outside, but that tank wasn't nearly enough for daily cooking. In retrospect, I should have found a better way. Don't get me wrong, I like cooking with electricity, but I really miss the immediate response of lowering the flame! Of course my RV is like most out there, it has a propane stove top. Mine has four burners; the ones I have seen lately have three. I wish it had automatic ignition (more on that this summer..I may have figured out a safe way to add piezo ignition!!) I hate to say it, I enjoy cooking on my RV stove more than at home. Crazy, right? Well let's look at it a bit closer.

Cooking is all about heat control. When you have an electric element it uses electric current (amps) to travel through a heavy piece of wire and cause it to heat up. It takes a while to get that hot and when you want less heat you slow down the flow of electrons. Less power equals less heat. The only problem with this is that the heavy electric element has to cool down before the pot above begins to cool. It can take a while. Lots of people get used to moving their pots off the "burner" when they turn down the heat. Then you put it back when it cools down to the temperature you want. Sounds simple enough, but sometimes I forget...or get busy with some other thing in the kitchen. Then I end up with overcooked...whatever.

With a traditional gas-fueled stove (propane or natural gas), when you turn the knob to lessen the gas flow it gets cooler. Right away. No waiting. The same thing is true when you twist for more heat. It's there. Again, no waiting. There are quite a few recipes that really do need a quick change in the amount of heat to come out well. I want the best of both worlds. I've experimented with Induction cooktops. I even keep one in my RV. It works very well. It can control temperature in 10-degree steps and shuts off immediately when shut down. Of course there is a trade-off. It uses LOTS of power!! I can really only use it on shorepower or while running the generator. And then we're back to propane.

Sometimes older IS better. Simple fire can provide so many things. While we're no longer cave men (and women), those instincts and habits are still in there. I'll take my steak...flame grilled!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Another Cool Little LED Light!

    OK..I admit it...I'm a sucker for inexpensive, little and bright flashlights. I've been "collecting" flashlights for MANY years at this point and it's become a bit of an addiction. At least they are useful! This latest little beauty fit all the criteria. It's tiny, lasts a long time on its batteries and is very bright. Oh, did I mention it's pretty cool looking too? You really can't have enough lights around. OK, maybe you can, but I simply cannot resist them! It's even easier when the prices have come down so far that they have become impulse buys. Not that I didn't buy them on impulse when they weren't inexpensive!

For only $1.00 you can get this 3 LED clip-on light. I found this one at Walmart. It's really designed to clamp onto the brim of a baseball cap, but with a little imagination it could clip onto lots of different places. For example, I tried it on my sun visor. Once clipped on, I could aim the light straight down and really illuminate an object -- like a map. For those of you too young to remember, we used to navigate the roads with a large folded piece of paper that had streets printed on it. Not a glowing GPS screen. They would come nicely folded like a pamphlet...once unfolded it would become a huge poster-sized street/trip guide. Don't get me started about trying to get them RE-folded!

Not only is this light useful as a clip can be hand-held easily. It has a slightly curved design (likely to fit on a hat visor!) that feels quite nice in the hand. The switch is easy to slide with only one hand. Similar to the head strap mounted one I bought a few weeks ago, it lasts a LONG time without really getting dim. Batteries are easily replaceable and are 2032 coin-style cells. You can find these in bulk online for around 46 cents each. I always keep a couple of dozen on hand in case one goes dead. Since I have many gizmos that use's a no brainer.

Just because I am addicted to flashlights doesn't mean they all can be put to good use. I've done lots of articles on flashlights over the last few years. Magnetic lights, strap-on lights, clip-on lights, lantern lights, lights for ambience,  Multipurpose magnetic lights, and yes, even flashlights! You know what? There will probably be more to come! Stay Tuned!

Rich "The Wanderman"

Saturday, April 16, 2016

For Your Safety - Battery/Crank Powered FM/AM/NOAA Radios

No Storm Coming Anytime Soon!
    So, lately I have been giving some thought to failures. Not in life, but with the equipment and hardware we travel with in our RVs. What if you suddenly find yourself in a storm and your batteries are discharged and your generator won't start? Oh, and your chassis engine and battery are dead too. I know it's a lot of "coincidental" failures, but it could happen. Now what? Well, if you're like me, you'd want to know when the weather will improve so you can begin to fix what's broken (or let the sun shine in and get your batteries charging from your solar panels!) How do you do that with no power? Of have a fresh set of batteries in your portable radio. You have one of those right? I never use mine. And guess what? The batteries were dead. No spares of that size with me. If I had had spares...they would be of the same vintage and likely dead too! Now what, again!?

Crank it up! What? No batteries, no music....crank what up? The radio. There are quite a few hand crank radio varieties out there that require NO batteries to run them. I just ordered one that has all the NOAA frequencies in it as well. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) these will get you weather reports, and on other frequencies; local news, national news...and These work by turning your hand cranking into electrical power which is then stored internally within a battery. The battery is either a lithium-ion or nickel metal hydride type. I prefer the lithium ion as they self-discharge (sitting in a drawer not being used) at a very slow rate.

Cool Glow In The Dark Ring!
I ordered two of them. One had a small solar panel on top as well as the crank for charging. it could also be charged from an external USB port. You could also charge a cellphone or other device from the USB port. Worked OK. It was about the size of a large paperback book. I believe that one will stay at home. For the RV I found a discontinued ETON FRX1 in white, that was only $9.96 online It won't charge a cellphone, but can be charged from an outside USB port. It also has a flashlight built in. How long does it last when cranked? Good question! After about 60 seconds of cranking...relatively slowly, I was able to listen to the radio for almost 15 minutes before it got static-y. The light would stay on for about the same amount of time. It's pretty bright and usable. I really like that there is a glow in the dark ring around the top of the radio. Makes it easy to find in the dark! The whole thing is pretty small. Less than half the size of the other one I bought.

I know you can drive yourself crazy wondering about all the "what-ifs" that we face everyday. Since this one wasn't too far fetched and incredibly easy to prepare for...I went for it. besides, I had the perfect spot in a small cabinet for it!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Even The Simple Things - Adjustable Measuring Spoon

My Tiny Utensil Storage Drawer
    I enjoy cooking when RV travelling. In fact, I try and cook new recipes and sometimes pretty complex stuff on the road. It's fun...and therapeutic! The main issue is all the tools you need to complete the task. Until now, I had 2 sets of measuring spoons and several measuring cups in several sizes. Lots of space used. I don't have lots of space. Therein lies the problem. I have only a single utensil drawer in my galley and it was full. On a shopping trip to a local big box store, I found a new version of the multi-measure spoon. The last few times I tried these, they only worked on dry ingredients or very thick ones. Liquids didn't work. Until now!

Under 2 Dollars!
This new version uses a silicone seal/scraper to close off the unused portion of the measuring spoon. This way, when you set it for 2 Tablespoons, you only get Two Tablespoons! The old ones I tried just leaked the liquid under the adjuster and I ended up with too much....all the time. That's really not good when a recipe calls for a specific amount of an ingredient. This one adjusts from 1 Teaspoon all the way up to 4 Tablespoons. That's a 1/4 Cup. That's more than enough for most of the recipes I make. If I need larger I can use one of the new measuring cylinders I found or a measuring cup. Or...if I really don't want to clean more than one thing, just use the adjustable one multiple times (4 x 4 Tbsp. (1/4 cup= 1 cup.)

See The Silicone Scraper
Any semi-soft solid, like butter or peanut putter is always a pain to get out of a typical measuring spoon. With this, you just push the adjuster forward and it "ejects" it into the bowl. Result! You can even do that with one hand. Great if you are mixing something into a recipe. This little gizmo was under 2 Dollars ($1.49 to be exact) If I had known how well it would work, I would have bought two of them! Ah well, maybe if I go back to the store next week they will have some extras in the bin. In my experience those who hesitate are lost. Or Murphy was an Optimist. What does that mean? It means I won't find any more when I go back. Of course.

It's always nice when something just works the way it should. It's rare...but it shouldn't be. A simple design is always the toughest to come up with. Just ask Rube Goldberg!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"