Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Even The Simple Things - Under Sink Soap Dispenser

My Tiny Lav Sink
    The world is a dirty place. Working on your RV can be greasy. Cooking with meat and poultry requires washing of hands to keep healthy. I used to use a bar of soap and/or squeeze some liquid soap out of a bottle each time I washed my hands and depending on which sink. Mainly, liquid cleanser in the kitchen and bar soap near the lav sink. It's not too bad using the squeeze bottle by the kitchen sink, there's one there for washing pots and dishes so it's easy to get to and it doesn't leave a mess when used. The down side is having to grab and squeeze the bottle with dirty hands. Especially if it's poultry related. Right now I solve that by simply washing the bottle when I'm done with my hands. In the Bathroom/Lav sink it's a different story. Bar soap is great, but when it's wet, it makes a mess no matter what you put it on. In the shower I have a vertical "bar soap drainer" that funnels the water down the drain, but that's not practical in the tiny sink. What to do?

My sticks and bricks house had an under the sink mounted soap dispenser. It has a chrome pump handle/nozzle above the sink and a screw on bottle reservoir underneath. You push down on the handle/nozzle and it dispenses some liquid soap. Easy! You pull the pump assembly out from the top and pour soap down into it to fill. Also very easy. Yes, I know the pump handle will get a bit dirty when pumped, but it's really small and easy to wipe clean. You could even use an anti-bacterial wipe. The best part? They are really easy to install.

Of course, you have to buy the dispenser. They are everywhere (Amazon, Walmart, Online) for around $10.00. When it arrives, unscrew the bottle from it and then disassemble the under-the -counter nut and washer. Pull the pump assembly out of the neck. If you are lucky, you have a pre-drilled hole with a plug or cap already adjacent to your sink. If not, you'll have to drill one in the counter surface. This is usually just a Formica like laminate with wood underneath, so it's easy to drill the hole. I do recommend using a hole drilling kit (cheap at a tool store, around $8.95). It will have lots of other uses for various sizes.

Once the hole is drilled, put some plumbers putty or a thin bead of silicone caulk around the perimeter of the hole. Feed the threaded neck into the hole and reach inside the cabinet to thread on the washer and retaining nut. Tighten hand tight only! It's usually just plastic and could break. The rubber washer will stop it from unscrewing while underway. Now just screw on the bottle underneath, fill with liquid soap and replace the pump assembly into the neck. Pump a few times to prime and you are done!

This is way simple and will work great. No more cleaning up the lav sink from bar soap residue or worse, looking for soap you left on the lav sink that flew halfway across the RV because you forgot to put it away before leaving. (Don't ask!)

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

What To Do In The RV When It Rains....And Rains...And Rains!

Pretty Dismal Out.
    It's been raining here in the Northeast for Days now. It's warmer than usual 60-70 degrees in February. Quite unusual. Hmmm.. Didn't Al Gore invent this thing called Global Warming? Never mind. It's really tough to find something to do outside when it's raining. Obviously, the typical maintenance tasks on the exterior, engine bay, storage compartments, house battery(ies) and the like will have to wait until nicer weather. Yes, there are MANY places that can be worked on and tidied up inside, but what if you really don't feel like doing any of that? How about just relaxing on the couch, watching out the windows and listening to the rain on the roof? Perhaps add a warm (or cold) beverage? Isn't this idea of shelter and comfort one of the main reasons we own RVs?

I'm well equipped for bad weather. I can amuse myself inside for hours and hours. First off, if there is internet access, I have the entire world to tour via the Web. Lots to read and investigate. Many of my projects begin just like that, with an idle tour online. What if there is no internet access? Well, you still have a about a game or some writing, maybe you have a movie stored on it? No? Well, what about a digital media device and USB hard drive or thumb drive? I know I have hundreds of hours of content ( maybe over a thousand now since I've been digitizing my DVD collection) that I can watch and enjoy.

Used With Or Without Amp Grabbing Heater.
I even have a warm and cozy fireplace I can place on my dashboard and really feel at home. Typically, I travel alone. When I don't and plans get rained out, there is always the extendable table and a deck of cards. I know, that won't use up that many hours, but usually the conversation in a comfortable atmosphere will!

Next up, cooking! When you are faced with a bunch of time and are stuck inside, why not try out some more complex recipes? Most of the cooking I do in the RV is of the one pan/skillet variety. Still quite tasty and "gourmet" but when I have some extra time, you can put all 4 burners to good use. if you have shore power or are going to run the generator, (and don't have a propane oven!) my convection microwave can make an excellent roast! Add some side dishes and some dessert and Voila! -- you have a feast.

Any and all of those ideas are great when watching the rain fall outside, all warm, dry and cozy inside. If it's a major storm, all the better! I know, I've been there!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Not-So-Useful Pancake Flipper.

Comfortable, Even In Winter
    As many of you already know, I have been on a low-carb pancake kick for a while now. I can't help it, I like pancakes, they freeze well and with the discovery of Carbquik (a substitute for Bisquick or other pancake/dough mixes) I can finally have a few in the morning without feeling too much guilt! One of the things I don't like about making pancakes is the individual "flip" while cooking them. You know, wait for the bubbles on top and slightly brown edge and flip over. The top is still wet and the flip needs to be precise, especially in a small pan. Over and over. There has to be a better way and I believed I had found one. Well, not so much.

See The Small "Lips" To Hold In The Batter
With the amazing rising pancake recipe I had found a ring shaped mold allowed them to rise to even greater heights. Pretty amazing, but carrying around old bottom-cut-out tuna cans or ring-shaped molds wasn't practical so I went looking for something better. After some online research I stumbled across a silicone pancake mold designed to be placed in the bottom of a skillet that had handles to allow for easy flipping of 7 pancakes at once. Add this to the fact they were about the correct serving size and the edges came up high enough to "corral" the rising pancakes. And it was "squishable" silicone so storage wouldn't be a problem. Sounded like a win. Again, not so much.

Even In A Flat Griddle I Got Leaks
The idea was simple, put the round silicone device at the bottom of a non-stick skillet and add batter to each mold hole. First issue, the handles that overhang the pan prevented the mold from sitting flat against the bottom of the pan. To fix that I used a square, thin-lipped griddle pan, but even this had leakage issues. The batter flowed out from underneath the mold and I had seven pancakes on top and one gigantic one on the bottom. What a mess. I hate wasting food, especially when I want to eat it in the first place!

Next I attempted to flip the contraption over, figuring I could separate the pancakes from the now top. I gently tried to lift the silicone mold and saw immediately that more of the uncooked batter  was leaking into the pan and a flip was just going to make a mess. Perhaps I didn't let it cook long enough (at 350 degrees) so I waited a bit longer. Nope, raw insides, overcooked bottom. Finally, I just gave up. Nothing was going to make the small, round and beautiful pancakes of my imagination. At least the leftovers would taste good. Well, after they were cooked through, by themselves, on the griddle.

Most of the time I find stuff that actually works. Often to my complete surprise and delight. Not always. Thankfully more often than not. This was not one of those times. You are welcome to try your hand at this silicone mold. If you figure it out, let me know.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Even The Simple Things - How To Freeze Stuff AND Have Them NOT Stick Together

Convection Microwave Below 4 Burner Stovetop
    Sometimes I like to prepare food before a long RV trip and freeze it. Often, I don't feel like cooking an entire meal and the frozen food reheats easily using microwaves, boiling water, or even on the stove, if you freeze it all in separate zip top bags and reheat them individually. I find that a bit wasteful. There is a better way. If you freeze items correctly, they won't stick together and can be tossed in a large bag and individual servings removed and reheated at your leisure. Want a little? Take a little. Want a lot? Take a lot. The trick is in the freezing technique.

Use A Plate That Fits In Your Freezer Flat!
Recently, I wrote about fantastic pancakes that rise to great heights. Pancakes are a lot of clean-up for an RV galley. Especially my tiny one. Also, cleanup uses a lot of water so I rarely make them onboard. That being said, they can be frozen and reheated easily and taste just as good when you do. If you freeze them correctly the first time, it's easy to take a few out to reheat. So, how do you do it? Easy, make the pancakes as you always do. Let them cool (I usually have a few and make extra to freeze later on.) Once cool, spread them out in a single layer on a plate or cookie sheet or whatever you have that will fit in the freezer and stay horizontal and flat while they freeze. Put them in the freezer until frozen solid. THEN take them off and place them in a zip top bag or bags and put back in the freezer.

They will not stick together and you can take out a few to reheat whenever you like. This doesn't only work on pancakes. Pretty much anything that you can freeze, but you want to be able to use separately can be frozen using this technique. I have done; strawberries, chicken parmigiana, chunks of beef roast and anything else I can think of! You can take out a single serving or enough for everyone. Reseal the bag and pop it back in the freezer. Having a freezer at all is one of the greatest things about having an RV in the first place!

To be honest, sometimes you just feel a bit lazy. I travel alone most of the time, so it's nice to come back to the RV and have the ability to create a quick meal when you're just not in the mood to cook anything. It can be quite a relief.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"