More RV Cooking Tips Via One Pot Meals

Here are two of my husband’s “white trash” (just kidding, dear) one pot recipes we’ve been meaning to post forever…He typed them months and months ago, and there they have sat on my desktop. Even if you aren’t interested in the food itself, his childhood food stories are sure to please.

Ok…take it away, Jim…

RECIPE 1 – Ham/Potato/Veggie Something Or Other

OK, I’ll admit it – my food background is a little bit north of southern white trash. I grew up in a small central Illinois town, which to everyone in Chicago meant downstate. But it was really in the middle of the state, and as such was not quite redneck and not quite not redneck. My mom was a cook in an elementary school, and my folks had a roadside restaurant for a while when I was young. She liked to make a lot of dishes with hot dogs and fried potatoes – probably because it was a cheap meal, but I didn’t realize it at the time. I loved hot dogs in fried potatoes, hot dogs in canned spaghetti, fried potatoes with spam – you get the picture.

Fortunately, I didn’t get stuck at that level of midwestern weirdness – today I have wide-ranging tastes and love Indian, Thai, Chinese and Middle Eastern foods, among all the other more usual fare available. Basically, I love to eat and I love to cook. In an RV, you sometimes have to make do with what you have and save the exotic recipes for special occasions. So one day I looked at what we had in the tiny pantry and came up with this dish.

basic ingredients: ham (but you can go vegetarian), potatoes, green beans, onion, cheese

options: other kinds of meats, other veggies

how to make it

The ham is important for us, since it will provide the texture and flavor. We found that you can get a package of pieces of ham that are trimmings from spiral hams that are really good and easy to cut up for dishes like this. You can also use those little ham cubes, or get a ham steak and cut it up. Here’s where the white trash part comes in: if you so desire, you can also use Spam, hot dogs, smoked sausage, smoky links, vienna sausages, and so on. Just cut ’em up and forget about it. (Robin begins to gag at the thought, so let’s move on…)

I want to talk about canned potatoes for a minute. I never would have thought of using such a thing before RV life, preferring natural/fresh foods, but they really come in handy in a pinch. No washing, peeling, or cooking – just open the can. You can get them diced, sliced or whole. The whole ones have better flavor if you cut them up, but they are all about the same. For this dish, one can is enough. If you’re really against them, you can microwave a couple of small potatoes and cube them.

So, take your workhorse skillet out and put it on the stove. Melt some butter or pour in some olive oil. Put in about a half of an onion, chopped, about a cup or so of the ham or mystery meat, and drained sliced or cubed potatoes. Fry it all together for a while with some salt and pepper for seasoning, until things start to get brown around the edges. Drain the liquid from  a can of french cut green beans (you can try other veggies like canned carrots, asparagus, spinach – the sky’s the limit), and add to the skillet. Mix and let the flavors mingle (ha ha).  Season to taste with Cajun seasoning, seasoning salt, or just about anything you want to try. Don’t forget the cheese – sprinkle some Parmesan and grated cheddar or Monterey Jack or whatever you have on top and let it melt. A great warm comfort food dish on a cool evening wherever you might be. Enjoy!

RECIPE 2 – Homemade Hamburger Helper

When I was growing up, it was the dawn of the convenience food era. My mother loved the new box dinners that had spaghetti, some sauce, and some parmesan cheese in a can, and we called it Italian Spaghetti. That was exotic for us, and good and filling with some ground beef thrown in. Later on when hamburger helper came on the market, it became popular in our house, too. We also used to have baked macaroni and cheese, which I could never figure out when I got older – why make perfectly good mac ‘n’ cheese and make it dry and flavorless by baking it? Any way, pasta of all kinds is great for easy meals, and gluten free pasta is appearing on regular grocery shelves more and more. We found a brand that cooks good and tastes good, so that’s what we use for dishes like this one, but of course you can use regular wheat-based pasta too.

basic ingredients: pasta (your choice, but macaroni-type is the best), ground beef, cream soup, frozen peas, peas and carrots or mixed vegetables, onion, cheese

options: other kinds of meats, other veggies, mushrooms

how to make it

To make this a one-dish meal, you’ll need a good-sized Dutch-oven type pot (not a deep pasta pot) with a heavy lid and a good thick bottom. About a pound of ground beef, turkey, pork or sausage will be plenty – brown it in the pot with a half chopped onion, some minced garlic, sliced mushrooms if you like them, and seasoning as desired. Drain the fat when it’s all done, and put in a cup of your choice of frozen veggies, lower the heat and cook for 10 minutes or so until the veggies are done too.  With a large spoon, take out the meat and veggie mixture and put it into a holding bowl.

Put as much water in the pot as it will hold, a teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of olive oil. Bring the water to a boil, and put in the pasta, stirring as you go. I like to use the energy-saving method for cooking pasta, but it takes some trial and error to get it right. The idea is that you bring it back up to a boil, then you turn off the heat, put the lid on tight, and leave it alone for at least 10 minutes, maybe longer depending on how much pasta and water there is, and how big your pot is. Start checking for done-ness after 10 minutes, and when it’s a little past al-dente, drain it into a colander.

While it’s draining, put the meat and veggie mixture back in the pot. Add a can of your favorite cream soup – mushroom, celery, chicken, etc – and a half cup or so of milk or cream. Heat this up on low heat until it’s bubbling, then add some grated cheese and let it melt in. Add more milk or cream if it seems to need it, and stir. Finally, add the pasta, mix thoroughly and season to taste. It’s better than the box mixes, has no artificial ingredients, and you can load it up with the kinds of things you like. Of course the varieties are endless – use tuna or chicken instead of ground meats, use different kinds of vegetables and cheeses, and so on. Just like Mom used to make!

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