Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Even The Simple Things - Amazing, Fresh Corn "Niblet Stripper"

Corn Prep Area.
    Lots of my quick and easy recipes taste great when fresh roasted, grilled or even boiled corn on the cob is added. No, not the whole cob (though that's pretty tasty all by itself!) but rather the niblets. I used to use a simple knife and cut them off in large flat strips. This works great and if they stay together, make a great snack too! The main problem is trying to cut them off when the cob is still hot. Many a time I have burned my fingers stripping the corn off the cob. I had a "niblet stripper" once. It sort of worked OK, but was very sensitive to cob diameter and would often mangle the niblets into a bit of a mush. Not such good eats. This latest model is far simpler and is definitely in the "Why didn't I think of that?" category.

The EZ-Kernels
We've pretty much all used a vegetable peeler before. What if someone made one that took much thicker "peels" and then rounded the blade a bit to fit the contours of a typical ear of corn? Well, someone did! And I found it. At a Marshall's I spotted this little gem for only $1.99. If it worked it would be excellent value for money. If not...well, that's a couple of dollars for a conversation starter. Once I managed to get it out of it's anti-theft blister packaging. What is the deal with that stuff! I know shops want to keep people from stealing their merchandise, but it shouldn't take power tools to open them nor should they be stronger than the plastic the actual item is made from! In this case, it looked as if I could simply pull on the handle to release the stripper from its confinement, but if I had it would have surely broken. I digress. Once out, you must remove the white plastic blade guard before use. Be careful, the blade is VERY sharp. I'm going to keep the guard and put it back on before storage.

Way Sharp Blade!
The device does feel a bit flimsy, but strong enough to get the job done. While it's not corn season here in the northeast, I did have some frozen (gasp!) ones to try it out on. 8 minutes or so in the microwave and I had 4 half ears to test on. First still have to hold the ears somehow, but you can lay them down flat as opposed to holding them vertically when using the knife method. I pulled the stripper from left to right after placing it on top of the kernels. It worked! It's about the same amount of work as the knife method, but is much more precise. There less wasted edible material left on the cob as well. It also completely stripped the ear in three strokes, so it's more efficient.

Would I buy one at a higher price? Or, more importantly, would I use up my precious space on-board for it? Alas, no. It is pretty cool and does what it is supposed to, but I can't think of anything else I could use it for and I am very low on space as it is. It will get used when NOT on the road though. They are really tasty on salads, in stir fry's, casseroles, corn breads, anything with peppers and onions...the list goes on and on!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

To Wax Or Not To Wax, THAT Is The Question - Better Looking RVs With Floor Finish!

Clean And Pretty!
    A LONG while back I had cleaned and then applied an acrylic floor finish to my RV. Red Max Pro was the brand; it's no longer available but a very similar product called Zep Wet-Look Floor Finish is. The results were spectacular to say the least. A couple of years ago I renewed the application (2 easy coats, no buffing) and was pleased with the results, for the most part. Seems that I didn't get the RV clean enough before re-application and I had sealed some dirt and faded black streaks under the new acrylic coating. Since this stuff is so durable, getting it looking good again was going to be an issue. With a regular wash and wax you have to do it many more times, but there would not have been an issue with crud under the coating.

Pretty Awful, Right?
What to do? I could strip the entire coating off, all the way back to the base gel coat layer and reapply from scratch. That seemed to me to be a lot of extra work. There must be a way to "spot" treat the application and get good results. Even if they are "good enough" I would be pleased. I began by isolating a 2ft by 2ft square on the sidewall that looked pretty bad. No amount of polishing by hand or power buffer was making any difference, so I decided to try some light scratch compound. This definitely worked, but was pretty harsh and required a steady hand and the right amount of pressure to work properly. I had read about using the same brand floor stripper to remove the acrylic coating, but was concerned over the use of even more chemicals on my gel coat finish (not to mention my hands!)

Close Up, Ready For New Acrylic.
Ultimately, I used a combination of Magic Eraser for REALLY bad spots and simple light buffing with "Barkeeper's Friend" (a not-too-harsh abrasive powder.) Once the bad stuff was gone, a new coating of acrylic was applied the same way I did the first time. The new coating allegedly will blend with the existing coating where it was still in good shape. After all this is finally done, I will likely go over the coating with a single (or maybe a double) light coat to make sure everything is sealed for the season. Looks like the deep shine WILL come back easily enough. I was a bit worried I would have to strip and re-do the entire RV! No fun at all.

If I would have properly re-applied last year, this problem would have never surfaced. It's all my fault. I was in a rush. That never works. Trust me! All in all, after almost 4 years (in 4 season weather) it still looks GREAT! If I had to wax my RV, no matter that it's pretty small, it would be lots of work and have to be done MANY times in a season, especially on the nose. This type of coating isn't for everyone. Since it's a floor finish, you can never get it glass smooth. Obviously, right? Who wants a really slick and slippery floor unless you're skating!?!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Like Coffee? How About Cappuccino? Here's A Great Way To Make It Without Electricity!

Still Not Warm Enough
    Sometimes the old ways are still good ways of doing things. I'll freely admit I am a great fan of technology. For example, the methods and styles of brewing coffee are varied and run the gamut from simple to outrageously complex. Over the years electricity has become the king of brewing. If you like Espresso drinks (like Cappuccino) you have lots of new-fangled ways of getting a good cup without ever lighting your stove. This is fine and dandy if you live in a sticks and bricks house and have an, essentially, unlimited supply. In an RV...not so much. When boondocking almost not at all! So, how can you still get a great cup?

Nice At Only $7.50!
MANY years ago, before home electric espresso makers, there was the "Moka" Pot. This ingenious device made what is about as close to "real" espresso as you can get, on the stove. The main difference between it and a professional maker is the pressure it develops. Pro espresso makers top out at about 130 PSI while this pot can generate only around 20 PSI. That being said, the addition of hotter water and steam in the brew cycle can give a very close approximation of espresso including the all too important "crema." That's the  frothy foam that develops from the ground coffee beans and the brew cycle. It's NOT the milk froth you add later...if you want to.

So, How's it work? Easy. Simply unscrew the top and bottom portions of the pot. Remove the metal coffee basket, then add water to the lowermost half, up to the valve (there MAY be a fill line inside as well) then put the basket back in and fill it with coarse ground coffee. Do NOT tamp it down! Make sure there are no grains on the threads or mating surfaces and screw them back together. Be careful, you may have a gasket seal to watch. Put the now-ready-to-go pot on the stove. Try and pick a burner and flame size that roughly equals the size of the bottom of your pot. They come in many sizes, from a tiny single cup all the way up to a 12 cup version.

Yes, I Know It's Sideways!

Once it's on the burner, wait until the water begins to boil. At that point the water will travel up the center, through the grounds and coffee will begin to appear. Once the top reservoir is filled with coffee the pot will begin to make a much louder "gurgling" sound. This is the time to shut it off and remove from the heat. If you let it go much longer, you will end up with nasty and burnt tasting coffee. So, is it espresso? Yes and No. It definitely falls within the definition, but the type, grind and time will vary the flavor greatly. The good news is the experiments usually taste pretty good!

The Manual Frother!
So this gets you the basic ingredient of most coffee drinks. To make the arguably most famous, Cappuccino, you are going to need some heated and some frothed milk. The heated one is easy...just a small saucepan on the stove with a very low flame works great. Frothing at home with a steam-based frother is great, but won't work without power in the RV, defeating the purpose of the Moka pot! I use a press style milk frother This is very similar to the Coffee french press style pot. In fact you can use one in a pinch. Pour cold milk in, push/pull the plunger for a while and voila! you have milk froth. It will almost double in volume. Then, if you like, you can heat it up and pour it/spoon it over you espresso after you've added the warmed milk. Add some cinnamon if desired and drink. There are other ways, but this is the most "authentic."

All in all, it sounds way more complex than it is. Also, it makes for a nice ritual for a lazy afternoon. I wouldn't recommend it for early mornings...well, unless you are a *gasp* "morning person."

Be Seeing You... Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"