Category Archives: Cooking

This Category contains articles discussing RV specific cooking

Cooking at the HDT Rally

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything non-technical, and needed to share a few notes from a cooking seminar–geared toward cooking healthy foods in small spaces–I presented at the National Heavy-Duty Truck Rally in Hutchinson, Kansas a couple of weeks ago.

The audience at the HDT Rally seminar.  Credit for this picture goes to Sondra Kahanamoku.

First, let me start by saying that I’m no chef, by any stretch of the imagination.  This is my second time presenting the seminar, but the first was as a stand-in for someone better (John).  The second time was all me, and it probably shows in the more basic nature of what was presented–though I still think it turned out pretty well.  This post will cover some of the recipes and equipment used.  Apologies for the lack of pictures–I was talking and cooking the whole time, and food was being passed around the room as soon as it was ready.

Equipment

 

Anova Precision Cooker with Bluetooth

Before I start talking about recipes, let’s talk about some of the equipment I used.  Obviously, with sous vide recipes, a sous vide cooker was part of the mix.  I used an older Sansaire cooker (about $160 on Amazon now), but you can get a little better deal on the Anova model (with Bluetooth and a phone app, which lets you look at recipes and send settings to your cooker).

I hadn’t really planned to talk about them, but a set of utensils I brought along got quite a bit of attention.  The nesting set hangs from a stand with little magnets in the handle of each utensil, and there’s a ladle, spoon, slotted spoon, pasta fork, and spatula in the set.  They get used all the time, and go through the dishwasher regularly.  At about $20, it’s a pretty good deal.

Joseph Joseph Nesting Utensil Set

Appetizers

This time around, we made two very simple appetizers–a caprese salad and a buffalo chicken dip.

Caprese Salad

What’s a caprese salad? Don’t worry, there’s no lettuce involved.  All you need to get started are a couple of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, salt, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.  Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella, arranging them in a row alternating between a slice of cheese and a slice of tomato.  Sprinkle some chopped basil (preferably fresh) on top, and drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

This one is pretty easy, but does require some heat.

  • Buffalo wing sauce (I prefer the Hooter’s stuff, as it tends to mix better.  You can get it at most grocery stores, but it’s also a good excuse to go to the restaurant!)
  • Cream cheese (2 8-oz. packages)
  • Shredded chicken (fresh chicken can be boiled, or cooked sous vide, or you can use canned chicken)
  • A bag of Frito’s Scoops

Mix the wing sauce and cream cheese, and either microwave or simmer until the cheese is soft.  Stir together, then add chicken.  Best served warm, and can be easily reheated.

Meats, Sous Vide

It’s been a while, but I’ve talked about cooking sous vide a number of times before (here, here, and here to get you started).  Working with an immersion cooker is really nice in an RV, particularly with meats that you’ve bought and frozen.  I usually keep a full freezer, and it’s easy to pull something out, drop it in the water bath, and walk away while it defrosts and cooks unattended.

At this year’s seminar, we cooked two meats this way–a beef bottom round roast and some tuna steaks.  Cooking this way, you can get a very uniformly cooked piece of meat, and especially with the roast, one that’s very tender without being overdone.  In either case, season as you’d like before putting the meat in a bag.

For the tuna, all you need is 105-degree (F) water, and about 15 minutes of cook time.  For the roast, you’ll cook for at least 8 hours, at about 130F, for a nice pinkish-red all the way through.  If you have more time, it’ll just keep getting more tender, without turning grey.

The only picture I took, after the seminar was over and there was some “clean-up” of the leftovers.

Bratwursts

Cooking bratwursts was a last-minute add-on to the seminar.  The idea came from Gregg (who runs RVhaulers), who bought an immersion cooker after last year’s seminar.

It’s a really simple idea, and makes less of a mess (and less heat) than boiling bratwurst.  Especially if you buy them vacuum packed, drop the bratwurst into 140-degree water for at least 30 minutes or so.  The bratwursts will be fully cooked, and then you can toss them onto the grill or into a hot skillet to brown the outside.  The flavor is richer, and they stay nice and moist.

Skillet Macaroni

  • 1lb lean ground beef or turkey
  • Onion (either chopped part of a fresh onion, or a couple of tablespoons of dried onion)
  • 1 can of stewed tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 1 can each of black and dark red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 of a packet of taco seasoning
  • 1 cup of elbow macaroni (whole wheat preferably)
  • Serve with sour cream and cheese on top.

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and onion, but don’t drain off the grease.  Toss in the tomatoes, with all of the liquid in the can.  Add the rinsed and drained beans, taco seasoning, and the macaroni.  Cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until pasta is tender.

Serve in a bowl with a bit of sour cream and shredded cheese on top.

What else?

Hopefully there’s something here that interests you.  I’m planning on doing the seminar again at next year’s rally, so I’m looking for ideas and suggestions.  The goal is to present things that are a little different and fairly healthy, but easy enough to make in a small kitchen with ingredients that can be found just about anywhere.

 

World’s Easiest, Healthiest Crackers

My mother and father have been following a reduced carbohydrate diet. But how do you serve your favorite cheese or dip without a cracker?  Enter my mother’s almond based cracker recipe. It is extremely simple, and once you get the hang of it you will be making your own customized version of this in no time!

Equipment:

  • Oven
  • Baking sheet and or silicon mat like a Silpat
  • Parchment Paper
  • Rolling pin (or a glass bottle out of the fridge)
  • Knife or Pizza cutter

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups almond flour (finely ground–almond meal will result in a coarser cracker)
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • a few chopped rosemary leaves

 Procedure:

  1. Heat oven to 350 deg.
  2. In food processor (or with a handheld blender), add 2 cups almond flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and stir. Then add 1 large egg and mix until it forms a ball.
  3. Divide into two balls. Get out two pieces of parchment paper. Place one ball between them and roll out thinly to about 1/16 inch.
  4. Use a knife or pizza slicer to cut them into 2X2 inch squares. You don’t have to be all that precise.
  5. Cook at 350 for 12 minutes, preferably on a silicone sheet, but you can also just use a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Turn them over at the 6 minute mark, and remove when they’ve started to darken.
  6. Enjoy!

These are especially delicious with hummus, soft cheeses, and salsas and dips. Lately my family has been putting Port Salut cheese on for an afternoon snack. Personally I like to add a little rosemary to the original recipe and eat it will hummus.

Let me know what you think!

 

-John

Soud Vide Part 3: Cooking your first meal

Want to start from the beginning?  Head to part 1.

Lets walk through preparing a meal sous vide.

For this meal we are going to cook beef.  We got a great deal on a whole round cut at our local Kroger.  This cut weighs about 4 lbs and should be good for about 4-6 servings (more like 2 if we’re really hungry).

First, season the meat. Keep in mind that flavors will penetrate the meat more strongly than you may find in other forms of cooking, so hold back, maybe 25%, the first time until you decide how you like it. For this cut we are using salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of steak seasoning.

Now your meat is ready to be wrapped and sealed.

We use FoodSaver “bags”. Vacuum sealing your food is quite easy. First, put the meat in a bag, with at least 2 inches of material above it to allow it to be sealed easily. 3 or 4 inches is even better. You can also buy a roll of the bags and make your own custom lengths, which I prefer.

Now get out your vacuum sealer, like Dave’s “retro” FoodSaver here.

T.I.L.I.A Compact FoodSaver from the 1990s

Use the vacuum sealer to suck the air out of the bag and heat seal the end (usually takes 20 seconds).

Notice that the bag end is carefully placed to prevent folded over material which will not heat seal well.

Also note that the vacuum sealer may draw liquid up while it is sealing. This is usually caught in a special tray that should be cleaned. Usually when liquid is making it up to the sealer, it means you have pretty much removed all of the air from the bag, so you can just hit the heat seal button.

So now you have vacuum sealed meat that you can either freeze for later, or get started cooking!

If you are ready to go, fill your container with water. In this case we are using the sink in Dave’s freshly remodelled kitchen. We are using the Anova immersion circulator, since it was easier to reach than the Sansaire by several feet at the time of this writing. For both of the immersion circulators, you must have a minimum height of water to ensure good operation (look closely at the next picture and you can see the markings).

Set the temperature you would like to cook your meat.

And place your vacuum sealed meat in the water.

If you want to keep the humidity lower or prevent sloshing while driving, you can put the sink cover back over the cooking area as seen below.

Technically this will save you a bit of energy too.

For round, here are the parameters we recommend:

Time: 8 to 48 hours (I would say 8 hours is still tough, and 48 might be getting close to the point at which the meat gets too tender)

Temperature: 51C to 55C, or 123F to 131F (The FDA recommended temperature is 145F for beef, but that sure would be well done!)  Personally I prefer 53C for a rare to medium rare level of done-ness.

–John

After 24 hours, the power meter shows we’ve used about 10 kWh to cook this roast.  At national-average electricity prices, that would be just over $1.  That’s an average under 500W, though the heater itself is about 1000W, and cycles on and off roughly once a second.  If you’re running it from an inverter, you may notice the lights dimming a bit when it cycles on.

Almost ready-to-eat roast still in sink.

You can see what the roast looks like as it’s nearly done in the sink.  The outside looks cooked (brownish grey in color) but not browned.  We pulled it out of the bag, patted it dry, and seared the outside (a minute or so at most per side):

 

Now let’s see what’s for dinner:

We ate this with some spinach (John will post a recipe), cooked with some bacon and onion while we were searing the roast:

When you add everything up, we were able to have a good–and healthy–meal for less than $5 a head.

–Dave

 

Sous Vide Part 2: Getting the Gear

In part 1, we introduced sous vide cooking.  This time around, we’ll be talking about the equipment we’ve used.  There are a few popular models we haven’t tried yet, and we may do a more technical review later if there’s interest.  The intent this time is to show you what you’ll need to get started.  Next time around, we’ll cook something tasty (to be determined) and show you how we did it.

There are really only 3 things you need to get going: a sous vide cooker (often called an immersion circulator), a container with water, and food in sealed bags.  Here’s my go-to sous vide cooker:

The Sansaire Immersion Circulator

The Sansaire Immersion Circulator

I enjoy using the Sansaire model sous vide for several reasons. First, it was my first immersion circulator, so I am partial to this little guy (which is bigger than any of the other portable units). Second, it can usually stand on it’s own in a pot or sink without falling over, which is nice if you don’t have anything, like the wall of a pot, to clamp on to. Third, it is very, very easy to use. It is pretty much controlled by an “on” button and a ring you twist to change the temperature.

Continue reading Sous Vide Part 2: Getting the Gear

Sous Vide Part 1: What does it mean for the RV lifestyle?

For the traveling RVer, the issue of eating well while on the road is a common one. It can be difficult to invest in a good home cooked meal when you could just eat fast food or snacks while on the road. When you are finally hooked up, sometimes it is hard to get moving and decide what to make, especially if it is already late in the day.

Picture this. You are actively driving to a new site, and boy wouldn’t that be great if your food is busy cooking itself while you are driving?

Slow Cooker

The slow cooker, or Crock-Pot, is one of the more popular cooking appliances, and we all know they can be had in a crazy number of sizes and colors, and with complexity ranging from an on-off switch to fancy timers and displays.  Putting the crock pot in the kitchen sink and letting it cook away while driving, or setting it outside to cook on a hot day are both popular.  Cheap and very useful, but they’re not perfect.

Sometimes when I am cooking a crock pot meal, I end up essentially overcooking my meats, often due to a workout running long and not getting back home when I intended.  This usually wasn’t the end of the world, but for a long time I wondered if there was a better way to cook low and slow.

We’ll talk more about slow cookers in another article.  Today’s topic is a cooking method that’s only recently become affordable for the non-professional cook–and is well suited to RV cooking.

Enter Sous Vide

Anova Precision Cooker/Immersion Circulator

Sous vide cooking, which means “under vacuum” in French, is a form of cooking that takes the best feature of the crock pot “low and slow” cooking, and eliminates most of the issues like food drying out and the eternal argument over who has to clean the crud out of the crock pot.

Sous vide cooking is, simply put, the way you can make meals at home, especially meats, that rival or exceed the quality of what you would eat at an expensive restaurant.

Continue reading Sous Vide Part 1: What does it mean for the RV lifestyle?