One of the advantages to this military lifestyle is making fabulous friends wherever you go. On the other hand, one of the biggest disadvantages is that we also say 'see ya later' more often than we wish. The Hubs and I have so many wonderful friends, all of us scattered to different points around the globe. The hope is always that we'll be stationed together again, and if not... well, we visit whenever we can!
One of my best pals (and her hubs), transitioned back to civilian life not too long ago. They've embarked on a fabulous new adventure as RV enthusiasts and military retirees. Totally living the dream!
Abby is my blogging inspiration, my photog buddy, and an excellent confidant. We still 'yak' when the opportunity arises, and share our lives with each other. True friends aren't separated by distance, they just find ways around it. I'm so glad I found such an excellent friend in my Abby.
Today, she agreed to guest post for me, sharing one of her RVing recipes for the rest of us. I am always in awe of how easily Abby adjusted to life in an RV. And how many delicious meals she can make in such a confined space! Keep reading for a peek into Abby's world, and her post-military life:
When I think culinary, I picture a huge kitchen with many beautiful appliances, delicious aromas, fresh herbs for seasoning, and graters for a sprinkle of parmesan. Heck, I picture Allison’s house. I don’t picture the miniature kitchenette inside an RV.
|My RV kitchenette (don’t blink or you’ll miss it)|
But I’m a full-time RVer. I traded in the luxuries of a house to explore America in a 28-foot Class C motorhome. The amenities of full kitchens are in the past. My place to play chef is this: TINY.
So that must mean for delectable food, I’d have to raid Allie’s house (believe me, I have) because otherwise my dinner menu would center around s’mores and tinfoil packages of freeze dried food found in the camping section of retail stores, right? Nope! I can make it all in my kitchenette. When I’m craving a certain something-or-other, with a little creativity, I can make it.
Pizza was on the menu tonight. While out hiking in the Ouachita National Forest, my husband, Paul, took a pretty good tumble, so he deserved some comfort food. After all, he had done the same for me after I’d sprained my ankle and had to hobble back down Elk Mountain. Pizza really is great comfort food, isn’t it?
First thing was first to make pizza: The crust. Allison has mentioned before that I had made pizza dough for her and the Hubs back in El Paso, but the secret to that dough had been that I used a bread maker. Primitively camped there in the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas, we didn’t have electricity, so using my bread maker wasn’t an option unless I started up the noisy generator. So I opted to make the concoction with my own two hands.
|Making pizza dough|
My crust would be an “artisan crust” (my lingo), which would have texture and consistency of something between a thin crust (my favorite) and a traditional crust (Paul’s preference). Marriage is about compromise, right? First I mixed my dry ingredients: One cup of flour, a quarter cup of grated parmesan cheese, a teaspoon of baking powder, and a pinch of sea salt. After blending the mix, I added the wet ingredients: Two tablespoons of olive oil, two tablespoons of sour cream and a quarter cup of hot water (with a little extra on hand if the mix seemed too dry). With the world-traveled tea kettle and my propane stove, boiling water was a cinch. No cavewoman fire-lighting skills needed.
While I mixed my ingredients and kneaded the dough, my dogs, George and Emma, who were tied outside, let out a few barks. I appreciated our seclusion in the Ouachita National Forest. We were the only campers at Knoppers Ford, so no one would be bothered by barking dogs, and our “backyard” was the beautiful, wide open forest.
|Emma and George outside our campsite at Knoppers Ford Recreation Area|
When my dough was ready, it was moist to the touch, but not sticky. I plopped the ball onto my pizza pan and began to spread it. In an RV many essentials take on a mini form. My rolling pin is one of them (though I do miss my marble pin for home defense!). After spreading it, I poked the dough with a fork to so that it wouldn’t get bubbles in the crust, and I pre-baked it for three minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit so the dough looked as though it was just beginning to dry.
Now it was on to the topping. Instead of traditional pizza sauce, I wanted something a little “foo-foo” (that’s a Paul term) like pesto. Confession: I’m not that awesome. My pesto would only be an illusion. To create it, I mixed two ingredients, dried basil and olive oil. Cool, huh? Okay, not so much, but it would still be tasty, even if it was actually non-pesto.
Here’s the deal about full-time RVing. An RV is short on space, which isn’t conducive to lugging kitchen appliances. We agreed only two appliances could move into the RV with us: Paul chose the coffee maker and I chose my bread maker. The food processor went into storage. Food storage is also limited, so I make shortcuts (dried seasoning is easier to store than fresh, for example) and keep only the essentials around. By leaving the land of housing and suburbia, I’ve also forfeited my quick access to grocery stores when I have a craving. Way out in the American backcountry, the stars were bright, the air was fresh, the coyotes howled, and we were next to nature. To me that’s an okay trade for pesto.
As I spread the "pesto" on my crust with a rubber brush, the dogs’ barking escalated to full-blown carrying-on. Obviously, cooking is a horribly inconvenient time to be interrupted by boisterous dogs—unless the said cooking has an interruption that smells like…
This next step in pizza making is very important. Save the dogs. I hauled out into the dark and shoved the dogs back into the RV after two quick sniff tests. Lucky for me, the skunk had only fired a warning shot out of reach of the dogs’ ties. So that’s why this is called “skunk pizza.”
Excited, the dogs wrestled on the floor shaking the RV like there was an earthquake while I went on preparing the toppings…until the skunk fume dissipated and the aroma of bacon frying filled the camper. Then I had their full interest. “Sorry doggies. Bacon is for people.”
The pizza toppings I chose were thin sliced tomato, diced onion, chopped bacon and kale. The kale might sound crazy, but I promise it’s yummy, kind of like spinach on pizza is. I used only light, leafy pieces, which gave an extra pizazz of flavor, but wouldn’t be overpowered by crunch (that’s the bacon’s job) or fiber of the stems.
The next step was my favorite part, grating cheese. I am a cheese freak, so it’s a wonder how any actually made onto the pizza itself! Allison has taught me a lot when it comes to skills in the kitchen, and I put to use some of her advice making this pizza: Grate your own cheese. Cheese that comes pre-grated and packaged is kept separated and loose by corn starch, which takes away from the moisture in the cheese. Trust me, Allie is right that a pizza with freshly grated is better. Not a little better. All the way better.
As you can guess by my rolling pin, the cheese grater I have for RVing is also compact; it’s a handheld grater. Handheld graters are intended to be used for a sprinkle of parmesan, not an entire block of mozzarella, so my job was time consuming, but well worth it. Once grated, I sprinkled it over my toppings. I added a little bit of dried seasoning, garlic, red pepper and cilantro, and the pizza was ready to bake.
My little RV oven was just the right size for a pizza big enough for two. I baked it on the top rack at 425. Because not all ovens are created equal, the cooking time can vary, and my recipe needed between twenty and thirty minutes. I pulled mine out closer to thirty when the cheese was beginning to golden. I confirmed the crust was ready by using a spatula to test. It lifted on the side without sticking to the pan and without seeming floppy. Time to serve and gobble.
And there you have it: Cooking in an RV isn’t much different than in a house! And it tastes just as delicious. Dishwashing on the other hand…well, just appreciate your dishwasher for me when you clean up after dinner. Happy travels!
The finished product
I'm sure you enjoyed this fun recipe for cooking in a small space, and adapting your needs to suit the environment. If you'd like to keep up with Abby and all her RVing adventures, please check out her blog at 1,000 Miles On My Own Two Feet. You won't be disappointed!
As always, happy cooking my friends! Though I'm crazy busy planning our current PCS move to Germany, I'll be back soon with plenty more recipes and adventures to share.
Thanks for reading, everyone!