Nana’s Recipes: Skillet Burgers!

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Ever notice there was a subtle change, probably back in the 1980’s, from “weather man” to “meteorologist”? Like putting “-ologist” at the end would make us think they actually knew how hot or cold it was going to be tomorrow. And besides, they don’t study meteors. The point of my little rant is this: WHERE THE HECK IS AUTUMN, Y’ALL? We’ve had no rain, a bunch of wildfires, and record setting heat this October, but in the spirit of “build it and they will come,” today I am going to tell you folks about one of my favorite fall meals in the RV: grilling a burger in a skillet!

To me these taste better than the finest dive bar/greasy spoon/bowling alley hamburgers you’ve ever eaten. Why? Because you put all that stuff in that you like! Here’s what you do:

Put a for-real, old-school, like-your-grandma-used-to-have IRON skillet on the stove and set over medium heat. Slap a pat of butter on that skillet. While the skillet heats up, grab yourself a hunk of ground sirloin and make a hamburger patty. I like to add black pepper and cumin to mine, and try to make the patty about the size of your hamburger buns. Once the butter has melted down and the skillet is up to temperature, toss the hamburger buns onto the skillet face down to toast (doesn’t take very long so keep an eye out). Once the buns are toasted, slap that patty on the skillet and let one side sear for 5-10 seconds before flipping the burger to sear the other side. Then let cook in the normal way to the level of done-ness you prefer. If you want fries with that, you probably should have started baking some Ore-Ida fries in the over about 15 minutes before you started on the hamburger. If you want potato chips with that, as luck would have it it only takes a second to open a bag! Once the patty is cooked how you like it,  place it on a plate with a paper towel on it and pat the excess grease off. This way the bun doesn’t soak it all up and get REAL messy! Add condiments, and chow down! You’re welcome! Now go take a nap!

Nana’s Recipes: Mint Chocolate Hot Toddy

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Well y’all, I feel like I might need to give ol’ Mother Nature a swift kick what with summer overstaying its welcome and all. So after drinking one of these by the campfire out at Matagorda over the weekend, it was just too good not to share… and maybe Mother Nature will pay heed and send us firmly into fall. Finally.

So here is an awesome drink to have out by the campsite. Just imagine a clear night and the stars are out doing their twinkly business. Maybe you still have some crickets, maybe it’s still warm enough for tree frogs, but either way there is some sort of wonderful night music of the animal kind. You’ve gathered together a few good friends maybe even some of the family member you enjoy being around, and y’all have all enjoyed your day and now it’s time to set awhile and relax. The evening is crisp, the fire is snapping away and somebody brings you a warm mug of THIS: a mint chocolate hot toddy! Holy moly y’all, this is what cool evenings were invented for!! It’s like a 21 and over Blue Bell drink! Here’s what you need:

  • a packet of regular old hot cocoa
  • water or milk, however you like it, 6oz or so
  • an ounce of your favorite Irish Cream
  • an ounce of your favorite Peppermint Schnapps
  • those little marshmallows if that’s your thing
  • a cinnamon stick if that’s your thing, or a pinch of cinnamon powder

Make the cocoa the way you usually do, then stir in the rest. If you like that fall spice flavor, add the cinnamon! This stuff is so easy to make it’s ridiculous. Now all you need to do is sit awhile, enjoy your evening, warm your hands on the mug, and warm your insides with the drink. 100% win, all ’round!


Nana’s Recipes: BBQ Sauce

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As a mighty proud native Texan, I sing the praises of this place and what we’re about near every day. One of those things I feel all us Texans can feel justifiably proud of is the exceptional quality, and variety, of BBQ we have on offer here in the Lone Star state. Some of you newcomers may have not realized yet, but BBQ used to have a fairly regionalized flavor, from the mesquite-soaked meals down in South Texas to the sauce slathered plates over in the piney woods. But today I’m gonna give y’all one of my favorites styles of Pure Texas BBQ Sauce.

Some folks feel that true Texas BBQ sauce should be painted on with a brush and not shaken out of a bottle, so this recipe is for thick ‘n spicy sauce! You’ll need the following:

  • a can of beef broth
  • one tbsp of  Worcestershire sauce
  • one tbsp soy sauce
  • quarter cup of mustard
  • half cup of molasses
  • a couple tbs of sugar
  • a beef cube
  • a tsp thyme
  • a tsp of sage
  • a tsp each of salt and pepper
  • two tsps chili powder
  • a tsp of red pepper flakes
  • a tsp each of parsley and paprika
  • a tsp of seasoning salt
  • 2 tbsp of onion powder
  • a couple tsp of garlic powder
  • a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar
  • a can of tomato past
  • for a smoky flavor, add a tbsp of liquid smoke

It sounds like a lot, but it is very simple to make once you have gathered and measured out all the ingredients. First, add the tomato paste and all the liquid ingredients into the pot and stir it briskly to blend it all together. Then add in the rest of the ingredients as you stir. Simmer if on low heat for an hour and a half or so, and then taste. You can tweak the flavor to suit at this point. If you prefer a sweeter sauce, add some sugar. If it’s too thick for your tastes, add a little beer to thin it out. Just remember, when you’re adding changes, make them very small. Stir them in and then re-taste.

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Nana’s Recipes: Spaghetti Fra Diavolo

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One thing that we all seem to have in common, is almost every family has a spaghetti night. It’s one of those staple meals that are so quick and easy, and no doubt every family has their own version. Well since we’re in Texas, I thought we could go over a spicy marinara sauce called Fra Diavolo (Brother Devil). There’s just something special about adding that little zing to a meal, so here we go!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Basil leaves
  • Mint leaves
  • fresh Parsley
  • garlic
  • red pepper flakes
  • tomato puree
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • olive oil

You’ll cook the pasta in the usual way: Fill a pot with water, add a couple teaspoons of salt, and bring to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook for five or six minutes, until the spaghetti is almost al dente. While the pasta is cooking you can whip the sauce together. Add two thirds cup of olive oil to a sauce pan on medium heat, and after the oil is heated add very thin sliced garlic (to taste) and stir often. When the garlic is almost that awesome french fry color, add a teaspoon or so of red pepper flakes and stir. Add two and a half cups of tomato puree and stir. Let that mixture cook for five to ten minutes. Stir occasionally and pay attention to when the olive oil begins to separate from the puree, at that point add the chopped herbs: half cup of basil, quarter cup of mint, quarter cup of parsley, and half teaspoon or so of black pepper. Mix the herbs in then add the pasta and stir together. Reduce the heat to low and let the pasta cook in the sauce for another three or four minutes…then EAT! Add cheese if you like or whatever seasoning you enjoy.

Nana’s Recipes: Pineapple Salsa

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I had the most delicious meal the other day at a Tex Mex restaurant in Austin, grilled Tilapia with Pineapple Salsa. I already know how to grill the heck out of tilapia, but I’ve never tried making pineapple salsa until now.

Last weekend I came up with a version that’s not quite the way the folks in Austin made it, but it’s pretty good in its own right so I thought I’d share it! There’s just something about eating fresh fish with a spicy, citrusy topping that for whatever reason makes me feel like I’m on vacation in the Caribbean or Hawaii. There’s nothing better than good food that’ll take your taste buds on a trip somewhere where the water is blue, the jungle is green, and the beach is white! A “vacation in a bowl” I always say. But enough of that, let’s get to cooking!

Here’s what you’re going to need:

  • 2 cups pineapple
  • 2 tomatoes
  • Cilantro
  • 1 fresh jalapeno
  • 1 red onion
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic

First you need to chop two cups worth of pineapple, chop both tomatoes, chop the jalapeno and keep the seeds in for that extra zing, chop the cilantro, garlic and onion as well. Get yourself a decent sized bowl and put two cups of pineapple, both tomatoes, the jalapeno, about a quarter cup of the cilantro, about three quarters of a cup of the chopped onion, add a a half teaspoon of the garlic, a half teaspoon of salt, three quarter teaspoon of cumin, and a tablespoon of olive oil and mix together. We’re looking for a more Pico De Gallo style chunkiness than a restaurant salsa blended texture. Needless to say, serve this up with corn chips, top your fish or chicken with it, and serve with Mexican beer or a pitcher of margaritas and it’ll be the life of the party!

Nana’s Recipes: Sopapillas!

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Oh my Lord, these are good. You ever eat something when you were a kid and that something sticks with you for the rest of your life? Me and sopapillas? We go way back.

One of the greatest things about this RV lifestyle is that with travel, you get to experience the regional differences in food. For example, salsa in Arizona and California is completely different to salsa in Texas, and salsa in New Mexico is different to everybody else. The point of the salsa talk is this: after eating a (hopefully) spicy Mexican meal, I like to chase it with something a little sweet, and there ain’t a much better “little sweet” than sopapillas!  Some of the best dang sopapillas I ever put in my mouth were at the Village Cafe in Santa Fe, NM, and at Borrego de Oro in Austin, TX, by the way.

So I decided to try and make some sopapillas in my RV kitchen and what I discovered rather quickly is that (especially if you’re good and lazy and want a clean kitchen) you can make sopapillas without a deep fryer! Technically they’re not the same, but they’ll do.

Here’s what you need to have: a puff pastry sheet (your favorite brand is OK), cinnamon, sugar, and honey.

Here’s what you need to do: unthaw that puff pastry sheet and unroll it onto a lightly floured surface. Once it’s all flattened out, cut it into squares or triangles of about 2-3 inches in size and arrange them on a non-stick baking sheet. Oh! While you’re doing that, have your oven pre-heating to 400. Next, grab a bowl and put three quarters of a cup of sugar in as well as a tablespoon of cinnamon and stir them together. Once the oven comes up to temp, throw the baking sheet in for 12-15 minutes and remove when they’re that super fattening golden brown color. Take each piece off the tray and roll em around int he sugar/cinnamon bowl until they’re coated and set them on a plate.

Drip some honey on them when you’re ready to eat and don’t forget to work out tomorrow!


Nana’s Recipes: Chicken Posole with Hatch Green Chiles

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Hatch, New Mexico, is a tiny village of slightly more than 1500 souls located on the Rio Grande in south central New Mexico 40 miles north of Las Cruces, NM on I-25. It had been settled since the 1850’s when it was originally named Santa Barbara, but was re-named Hatch in the 1870’s after a famous Indian fighter who happened to command the Military District. Now it is a sleepy village famous world-wide for it’s chiles, specifically it’s green chiles. Hatch Green Chiles have become almost a fad over the last couple years with even Whataburger offering Green Chile Cheeseburgers. A few years ago if you wanted a Green Chile Cheeseburger, you had to go to Sparky’s BBQ in Hatch! And if you find yourself in the area, make sure to swing through Hatch on Labor Day Weekend for the Chile Festival. But more to the point today we’re going to discuss a very New Mexico flavored bowl full of happiness called “Chicken Posole with Hatch Green Chiles”

What you need to do is cube up some chicken thighs (use however much you reckon will feed the folks you’re cooking for) and put them in a bowl. Salt the chicken cubes, sprinkle with cumin (to taste), dried chile flakes, and black pepper and let the chicken sit while you’re preparing everything else. As a side note, there is no right or wrong on the seasoning, just season to your taste… or your guests’ taste!

While the chicken is soaking up the pepper and cumin, drain a can or two of Hatch green chiles and throw them into a blender with some cilantro and a chopped clove of garlic and puree.

Next put a quart or so of veggie broth in a stew pot and set to low-medium heat.  Add hominy, pour in the blended Hatch green chile mix, chop up a couple of green onions and add them to the pot as well.

In a separate sauce pan, cook the chicken cubes as you would fajitas: i.e. throw em in the pan with the burner on med-high and keep the chicken pieces moving while they cook in their own juices. The chicken will cook fairly quickly so keep your eyes open and keep turning the chicken so it cooks on all sides.

Once the chicken is cooked all the way through, pour the chicken bits and the juice into the stew pot and stir together. Serve with chips and salsa, and some sort of wonderful beer from Mexico, preferably on a hot day. Or a cold one. Or those regular ones we seem to have too few of! – We love you.

Nana’s Recipes: Summer Watermelon

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When I was a kid, having that first slice of watermelon was one of those indicators that summer vacation had finally arrived. Some places go absolutely nuts over watermelon. For example, every June Luling, TX, has the “Watermelon Thump,” and for months prior to the “Thump,” you see pickup trucks all over Caldwell County with 8.5×11 sheets of paper taped to the back windows asking you to vote for this girl or that girl so she can become Thump Queen. So for those of you late comers to the fine state of Texas, let me state plainly: watermelon in the summertime is a big deal!

Some folks like to slice them into a kind of giant half-round, throw some salt on that slice, and chow down. That’s the simplest, quickest way to eat watermelon and one of the messiest if you’re a novice. Salting a watermelon seems to be a regional thing – up in Oregon, for example, when i salted my watermelon, folks looked at me pretty funny. “What?” I said. “It makes the watermelon more juicy, and you get that wonderfully salty-sweet flavor” Being wonderful, adventurous folks, they salted a small bit of watermelon and chowed down, forever converted to the Texas way.

One of the greatest tricks you can play with watermelon is to cube up a portion of watermelon that looks like it would be a good mouthful, then bet somebody (preferably someone who might be a lil bit of a know-it-all or one of those slightly irritating personalities like a brother-in-law or that jerk uncle everybody seems to have) that they can’t fit ALL that watermelon in their mouth. If they take the bet they’ll cram it all in there and once they do, bet them they can’t close their mouths. Fluid dynamics being what it it, the water in the watermelon won’t compress and watermelon juice will shoot out their nostrils to the everlasting delight of every kid who witnesses it! 

Nana’s Recipes: Port Isabel Style Shrimp

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Port Isabel, TX is so far south on South Padre Island…..(how south is it?)…..that if you went any further south, you’d be in Mexico! It’s the coastal town just to the east of Brownsville, kind of the Galveston if Brownsville was Houston, know what I mean? And of course it’s a fairly historic little southern port town too. As a matter of fact it used to be a major center for cotton exports and actually was  fought over during the Civil War. Pt Isabel also has one of those iconic old light houses, as well as the old town square around it. These days though, it’s a vacation destination offering seafood, beaches, and all the aquatic activities. Port Isabel is also home to the World Championship Shrimp Cookoff, so in that spirit we’re going to talk Port Isabel style Shrimp!

You’ll need a skillet, a pound and a half of peeled and deveined shrimp, a white onion, green onions, limes, and spices. First lets rub a little butter all over the skillet to make it non-stick, and then chop the white onion (about a cup and a half’s worth), finely chop the green onions (about a quarter cup’s worth), and mince two garlic cloves. Get the skillet up to medium-high heat and start sautéing the white onion for about 3 minutes or so and add a teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of chili powder, the minced garlic, and the shrimp! Sauteé for another 4 minutes or so and remove from heat, immediately after removing from heat add two tablespoons of butter, half a teaspoon of salt, and your favorite hot sauce (amount and style determined by your own personal tastes but let’s keep it subtle) and stir and stir until the butter is all melted. While you’re stirring add about a quarter cup of lime juice and that quarter cup of green onions. If you feel like adding some lime wedges, go right ahead, but serve on a bed of Mexican Rice. If you feel like drinking a delicious Mexican beer like a Victoria, Leon, or El Indio while you’re cooking, that is actually encouraged! We hope you enjoy this dish and if you have any favorite south Texas dishes, please tell us about it in the comment section below, and remember to come to the website and say howdy before you hit the road!

RV Cooking Tips

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Oh my Lord, social mealtimes have a way of creating some very long-lasting memories don’t they? Positive and negative. On the positive side, I STILL remember how incredible my grandmother’s green beans tasted ,or my great-grandmother’s homemade Lemon ice cream. MMM MMM! Unfortunately I also remember some mealtime disasters, like a ham served at a holiday mealtime a few years back. It’s impossible to truly recount the horrors of that ham, but I will tell you I slipped my serving under the table to the dog…then after the meal the dog ran outside and threw up! So today I reckon we could talk about some fairly common cooking mistakes and ways to help prevent upset tummies in our pets. Ha!!

It seems like most cooking errors come from either wanting to cut corners on time because we started late, or some other disaster in the galley has cause us to get stressed. Other errors are caused by tradition; the “Mom and Grandma cooked this way and and if it was good enough for my (long suffering) family, then by gum it’s good enough for you” mentality. Remember that secret ingredient your Grandma always told you? It’s always love isn’t it? That means caring enough about the poor folks who are gonna have to politely eat your cooking to not let your pride (or anyone else’s) or nerves get in between your loved ones and a good meal. It may sound a little harsh, but sometimes it’s as easy as:

Let the oven pre-heat! I had a relative that always threw the meal into the oven then turned it on and wondered why it was never done when the timer went off (and frozen in the middle).

Let your pans and skillets heat up! It prevents sticking, meat will sear properly, and if you want to sautee up some veggies, it’s an absolute must. Once your pan is up to temp, THEN add your oil or meat.

There is a difference between boiling and simmering! You can really mess up rice by not knowing the difference…a simmer is one or two bubbles every couple seconds or so, a boil is constant bubbles all over, all the time.

Truly simple ideas, but easily forgotten in the mad panic that sometimes happens in the kitchen. Worst case, treat everybody to a meal on the town, and everybody will sigh with relief! For any kitchen accessories you may need come to PPL and say howdy!