Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DYI: RV Alternate Power Souces Including Generators and Solar

We hope to create a live discussion on the different sources of power for your RV/Trailer/Boat, or "off grid" living.

Offered initially to get the discussion going is a simplified block diagram.  This shows the following power sources:

Generator source 110V AC
Shore/RV Park/Commercial Power source 110V AC
Solar Collector source Unregulated DC
Vehicle source 12V DC
Wind/Water Turbine source (are other options not shown)

The diagram also shows the placement of components to produce usable regulated 110V AC, as well as regulated 12V DC.  Some of the components are:

Transfer Switches (Can be manual or automated)
110V AC to 12V DC Converter+Charger
Battery Isolators
Solar Panel Combiner
Solar Controllers
Power Distribution and fuses/breakers
12V DC to 110V AC Inverter 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Cuisinart LP Grill : Model  CGG-200

Cuisinart Grill - Model CGG-200 (Folding base stand not shown)

After putting this grill to the test for several years we offer the following unbiased evaluation.


Depending on your shopping abilities you should be able to buy one of these in the $150 to $199 range.


We rate this high for portability and more than adequate as a grilling surface for 4 to 6 people.  This is our choice for RVers, weekend campers. tailgaters. and picnic goers .  While it might not be recommended or intended for use on a plastic surface, we have used this on top of folding plastic tables without damage to the tables. Metal picnic table tops, the folding metal grill base, or even cooking on the ground would avoid any danger of damage.  There are even folding tables on the market now with one side having metal mesh for camp stoves.  Seems these hybrid camping tables might be ideal for the grill, but we have not tried these tables out. (Readers that have, please send us photos and info).


Our unit was purchased with a folding/collapsible  base stand.  We have never used it.  We find this grill convenient to carry in our RV.  Just the grill section for use on folding tables or available picnic tables.  We place the grill on a large cookie sheet during storage to avoid grease drips damaging wood or carpeting.  We have used this grill with the small disposable screw on green 16 oz LP tanks. While it works great this way, connection to a 20lb is our preferred method.

Optional LP Hose for use with 20lb BBQ size tank

An optional hose can be purchased at most hardware, camping,  or sporting goods stores.  Make sure you get the correct extension hose with the proper connectors to attach to the grill and the larger LP tanks.  The LP Pressure regulator is built into the grill at the control valve.  You will not need the type of extension hose that has a regulator attached.  The common Coleman brand hoses work just fine.  Using a 20lb tank is much more economical and also prevents running out of LP during cooking.





This model of grill heats up faster than most cheaper portable grills.  Believe us when we say we have tried other table top versions.  The cheaper ones are difficult to generate enough heat to cook properly with, especially in any type of wind.  Also don't take any of this as meaning this grill is only for portable use.  It would also provide great service at home on the patio.  It is just smaller than a traditional patio grill, and the CGG-200 only has one burner.  That one burner is able to adjust to different cooking temperatures. 


The grilling surface is approximately 13X17 inches.  It has two swing out side table surfaces that lock into place.  One adjustable 12,000 BTU burner, Temperature gauge, ignition start, and a removable drip catcher.  The housing and swing out side tables are stainless steel. 


After several years of service we did start having trouble with the regulator.  While researching the issue we ran into a couple negative comments concerning Cuisinarts customer service.  We were pleasantly surprised to find we received excellent customer service once we made contact.  We were attempting to find out if there had been a recall on the regulator/valve assembly.  There had not....but their customer service had a new part shipped to my front door in 5 days.  The part came at no charge and I was more than happy to swap out the parts.  It quickly fixed my problem and we hope to enjoy more years of use.


We rate the CGG-200 with the highest marks for the years of service we had without problems.  When you get great customer service standing behind the just made us want to pass the word.


We did find out the proper place to go for customer service on this product is not directly to Cuisinart, but to: 

The Fulman Group

Cuisinart Grilling



We intend to also update this article with photos and tips on the reassembly of the ignitor, should you take that apart.  There is a definite learning curve.  Especially if you remove the cover and the spring and parts all go flying!  Ask me how I know that.  LOL


Sunday, October 12, 2014


RECIPE: Pumpkin Biscuits
Recipe and Photo Submitted by Rick Beach

Also see our variation of this as Sweet Potato Biscuits


1 15 oz can       Canned Pumpkin
3/4 Cup            Dry powdered milk
Water (Add enough water to the 3/4 cup powdered milk to equal 1 cup of liquid milk
5 Tbsp              Agave Sweetener
1/8 tsp              Ground Nutmeg
1/8 tsp              Ground Clove
1 tsp                 Cinnamon

3 Cups Flour
3 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
3/4 tsp Salt
3/4 Cup Crisco or cold butter diced in 1/4 inch cubes

In a mixing combine the pumpkin, dry milk, agave, and water together, then whisk together.  Add the Nutmeg, Cloves, Cinnamon..  Whisk well.  This should be a wet pasty mixture.  About the consistency of cake batter.  Set aside

In another mixing bowl make basic biscuit mix by adding the Flour, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, and salt.  Whisk or sift these dry ingredients.  Next "cut in" the Crisco until the mixture is crumbly.

Next scrape the wet pumpkin mixture in on top the the biscuit mix.  Stir and fold until combined.  Do not over mix.  Adjust flour or water to get to biscuit dough to correct consistency (Just beyond the sticky stage) Roll out about 1 inch thick on a floured bread board.  Cut biscuits 2 1/2 to 2/3/4 inch diameter (Biscuit cutter or top of a drinking glass works fine)  Once the biscuits are all cut (this size makes about 10-15) cover them on the floured bread board with a towel and let them set at room temperature for about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven or Dutch Oven to 400° 

Place cut biscuits in a well greased Dutch Oven and bake at 400° for about 20 minutes.  I tested these in the kitchen oven using a cast iron "chicken fryer" with no lid.  I also did two of them on a cookie sheet.  The cookie sheet biscuits were starting to burn on the bottom, at 15 minutes.  The cast iron cooked great at 20 minutes. Adjust your baking time accordingly.

We served these hot with butter along with a bowl of Chicken soup.  We used the Chicken soup recipe found on this blog.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

RECIPE: Southern Spoon Bread

Southern Spoon Bread

10- 12 inch Dutch Oven (Coals for 350° Heat)

2 Cups      Cornmeal
2 Cups      Water
1 tsp         Salt
¼ Cup       Sugar (Optional)
4 Tbsp       Butter melted
1 ½ Cup     Milk
3               Egg yolks beaten
4               Egg whites beaten until stiff peaks form

In a sauce pan bring water to a rapid boil.  Gradually stir in the corn meal .  Continue to stir over low heat until mixture is smooth.

Add the Butter and salt and sugar (Optional).  Stir slowly.  Slowly stir in the milk.  Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the beaten egg yolks.

Fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites.

Pour batter into a buttered Dutch Oven.  Bake at 350° about 30 minutes.  Do not disturb.  This puffs up and is done when golden brown and puffy.  When checking for doneness be ever so gentle not to bang the pot or lid.  This is one Dutch Oven dish you don't want to rotate the pot or lid during the baking.  Otherwise your bread will "Fall".

Serve with a spoon.

RECIPE: Old Fashion Buttermilk Cornbread

Old Fashion Buttermilk Cornbread


1 1/2 Cups  Flour 
2/3 Cup      Sugar (Optional)
1/2 Cups     Cornmeal
1 Tbsp        Baking Powder
1/2 tsp       Salt
1 ¼  Cup     Buttermilk
2                Eggs Beatened
3 Tbsp.       Bacon Drippings (Or Butter melted)

Spread a pie pan with bacon drippings and put in hot Dutch Oven or Oven to heat (450°F).  Dutch Oven works best if a trivet is used to raise the pie tin slightly off the bottom of the Dutch Oven.  A long piece of foil placed under the pie tin will aid in lifting it out of the Dutch Oven.

Sift together the Dry ingredients.  Mix in the liquids and drippings until you have a batter with a similar consistency of cake batter.

Pour into the heated pie tin.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick test down.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

DIY Industrial Strength Tent Stakes

DIY Industrial Strength Tent Stakes

Are you tired of cheap wire or plastic stakes?

After having an expensive EZ-Up Tent damaged because of wind I set out to fabricated a set of heavy duty stakes.  Not something that would break the bank in the process.  I live in a desert and the soil is often a mixture of compacted sand and gravel.  Any of the normally supplied stakes just would not work.  Even some of the longer ones found at sporting good stores were ineffective.   I know many of you stake down EZ-Up tent shade, and Chuck Wagon type canvas shelters.  

These were put to the test on their first trip out.  They were driven at an angle at the four corners.  Then ratchet tie down straps were attached at all four corners of the EZ-UP, and tighten down.  In the evening a storm blew in quickly.  One of my friends EZ-Up’s stakes pulled out…that resulted in a mangled mess of aluminum uprights and ribs.  It went into the trash.  I couldn’t get mine down  and folded alone in the wind and rain.  I just made sure the straps were tight.  The EZ-Up rode the storm out unscathed. 

A set of four stakes will cost about $24 to fabricate (not counting paint and welding material).  I happen to have a Mig wire welder which makes quick and clean work of the project.  Gas welding/brazing would probably work just fine.  If you are a good stick welder that will do too.  Start to finish took me 45 minutes, including a quick coat of paint on the top end.  These aren't fancy, and I am not the greatest welder...but they certainly work.

These are made from Concrete Forming stakes and a few other common hardware items.

(4)   ¾”X24” Round Concrete Forming Stakes (The type with holes for nailing through)
(4)   3/8” nuts
(4)   ¾” Flat Washers
(4)   1 ½” Steel Rings
Optional Fluorescent Orange Spray Paint

Grinder or file
Welder or Brazing Torch
Bolt Cutters or Hacksaw or cold chisel and sledge
Channelocks, Visegrips, etc  

Start by grinding or filing the round flat end of the stakes, and partially down the stake.  This is to provide a shiny clean surface to weld.  Also grind a small patch at the second hole down to provide a clean welding surface for the nut.   Lastly grind about one inch at the point end if using an Electric Welder.  Your welder grounding clamp will attach to the ground point end.


Cut the 4 rings with a bolt cutter, hacksaw or chisel.  I did mine at the factory weld.  Bend these cut ends slightly past each other and set aside.

Place one flat washer on a flat surface such as a brick.  Hold the stake flat end down, inserted in the washer.  Weld 360° around the stake end to attach the washer.  


Flip the stake and weld the top of the washer seam were it meets the end of the round stake end.  


With pliers or vise grips position the nut over the second hole which you have previously cleaned up with a grinder.  Tack with the welder.  Align and remove the vise grips holding the nut.  Finish welding the nut to the stake.  Be careful not to fill the nut hole with weld.


Slip the ring through the welded nut.  Re-bend the ring to line back up.  Weld the ring cut ends back together.  Tack on one side, tack again at 180°.  The ring should slide freely through the hole of the nut.  The ring does not get welded to the nut.

Normally with a Mig your welds are not rough enough to need grinding.  But clean up any sharp or poking points that might be protruding.   The welds on the end of the stake at the washer will get hammered.  They will soon flatten on their own.

I shoot the top end with fluorescent orange paint so I can see them in the dark.  Take a tennis ball and slit it part way.  These can be slipped over the stake after the stake is driven in.  They are a great safety addition to help avoid a trip hazard, especially if kids are around.