Monday, September 28, 2015

Cooking in the Caboose Part 2 - HOW and WHAT to Cook?

Finally - the sequel to Cooking in the Caboose Part 1 - Organization.

As we talked with those who had lived full-time in an RV, a common theme emerged.  Many found themselves eating "junk"  or fast food more than normal when they first moved into their RV. I was determined this would not happen to us.  I'm sure I'll learn  more as we go along. This is what I've learned and experienced in the past month.  If you took a more organized approach to cooking in a SB, I would think the learning curve will be smaller.
Below is a photo of my kitchen. You'll see I'm not exaggerating about counter space or kitchen size.  I have a few light things hung on the wall - our walls are thin paneling that is already pulling away from the frame of our Keystone Outback trailer - so I'm careful about that. I do have a cover for one side of the sink that doubles as a cutting board and sits over the stove when the stove isn't in use. On a side note - we've started turning off the pilot light for the oven as it heats the top - and I like to use that space for storage.

My entire 1.5 butt kitchen
Be flexible! Though I have three burners on my stove, I can only fit one pan on the stove at a time. ::grin:: I've learned to make the Instant Pot work for me. If something isn't working "well," consider other ways to accomplish the same thing. Beware of blowing circuits this is easy to fix, but I'd hate to blow a circuit while slow cooking a meal on a rainy day when we're out exploring - not that has ever happened. LOL
Smells are magnified in the Caboose. I love fresh garlic - open the trailer after a hot day of travel, with a basket of fresh garlic and WHOEEE - new levels of aroma. I'll do fish outside as none of us want to smell it all week.  If one happens to incinerate a veggie burger in the dreaded microwave the smoke will fill the trailer quickly. To take care of smells I run the exhaust fan on the range hood while cooking, open  side windows and roof vents. The normal cooking smells haven't been a big problem. The smoke and garlic were - though one member of our family commented he LOVED the smell of a garlic infused home.

Nadine, a friend who goes on the road for months at a time, suggested making a weekly menu and sticking to it! I've found I still can't fit a full week's worth of produce and meat in our trailer sized freezer and fridge. We had some things we brought with us that we are eating down and then this will get better. Yes, it's important to have a plan to make meals work in the trailer. I no longer have 21 cubic feet of back up - or a huge pantry - and the nearest store may be down a mountain and over a river.
Accompanying my new menu planning habit, was the need to teach my family there are plans for the ingredients they see. I do buy a few free foods (grated cheese is for the enchiladas, but I bought a pack of cheese sticks for you).

Do not solicit too much extra help.This is counter-intuitive to the way we've raised children. However, the space is small. This is not even a 2 butt kitchen.  I'd say I welcome help - but I'm getting creative about how to use the help AND I only welcome help from one at a time.

Get out ALL ingredients before you begin cooking. Again, this is a good trick to practice in a SB home I suppose - but I didn't. This is ESSENTIAL to stress-free trailer cooking. It's a sure bet that one or two or five ingredients will not be easily accessible.....and if your portable pantry is in the van - the food may be miles away when you need to fix the enchiladas. Plan ahead. Hmmmm....planning....that seems to be my recurring lesson.
Do as much prep work as possible up front. I do as much chopping, peeling etc as possible at the start. This is new for me.

Clean as you go. I tended to do this in my SB kitchen, but it's essential now.  After everything is chopped,  I clean up so nothing but pans and ingredients are out. After I assemble, I clean up so there is room to set out plates for serving. AND so that it's appetizing if we eat in the trailer - it's not conducive to eating to have 1/2 the trailer full of dirty pans and such.
Eat outside as often as possible...this allows me to stage food on the table in the trailer, rather than on the tiny counter.....I don't haul all the food outside, we dish up inside and take it out - this  saves me prep time and the kids clean up time.

What have I cooked?  We've grilled veggies on skewers, chicken and beef kebabs. We've had Burgers, Chicken Enchiladas, Beef Stroganoff, Meatloaf, Rice Bowls, Pizza, Veggie Pot Pie, One Pot Chicken Divan, Chicken Divan, Burritos, Meatballs,  Cupcakes and Oatmeal....I believe I can fix  whatever I cooked BEFORE I moved into the trailer...I just have to be flexible with the "how."
On travel days, I've learned to take meat out in the a.m. and it will be ready to prepare after we set up. I'm still discovering the best "go-to," quick travel day meals. What are your go-to easy meals?

*Note - SB equals Sticks and Bricks home. For more help with acronyms check out  the acronym tab. 
**I thought it was a great idea to put our favorite recipes on the blog so it would "always be with me" and I didn't have to bring cookbooks.  The internet provides zillions of recipes at one's fingertips. Of course, if one does not have reliable WiFi - this plan is flawed. More on wifi at a later date.

1 comment:

Joy said...

Not the blog, but an icon on the computer linked to a document file is our go-to place for our favorite recipes. When Hope got married, my gift to her was a book "Six Dozen Rose Recipes". The other girls and my husband use it now as well, and since it is on the computer, we easily add new recipes. They aren't all accompanied by a Bible verse like her first six dozen, but it's an easy place to store them, and helpful for if something goes wrong with the internet.

Don't know if we have a favorite. Since Steve has been doing lots of cooking, his quick fix, providing the ingredients are here, is "Veggie Pizza" available on the Campbell's Soup website, since instead of tomato sauce it uses a can of mushroom soup.