Steak and Baked Potatoes

New Twists on an Old Favorite!

Some people celebrate (or mourn) Labor Day as the unofficial end of summer. I like to celebrate it as the kickoff to a great fall season of camping and cookouts! Food just tastes better outdoors. Right?

And, it’s just much more fun to cook in the outdoor kitchen. You can cook over an open campfire, use a Dutch oven, fire up the propane stove, or break out the charcoal or propane grill.

Grilled Prime Rib

Photo credit: Food Network Kitchens

For Labor Day, though, nothing sounds better than good ol’ beef steaks and baked potatoes, but I’m thinking it may be time to try a new twist on an old favorite.

These recipes looked especially good. If you try ‘em, let us know what you think!

Try Grilling your Prime Rib

I’ve tried Michael Chiarello’s recipes many times with good success. This one looks pretty easy. Make a paste and let the grill do the work!

Try a New Marinade

This one’s a recipe from T-Bone Tom’s in Kemah, Texas. It gets 5-star reviews. Note that it looks like you’ll only need about half this recipe.

Try a New Dry Rub

This one’s courtesy of the Taste of South Texas Bar-B-Que Team in Van Vleck, Texas and gets 4-star reviews.


Twice baked potato

Photo credit: The Food Network

Add some Twice Baked Potatoes

This one’s a simple recipe you can count on.

How about a Baked Potato Salad?

Guy Fieri can always be counted on to offer those “new twists!” Be sure to scroll down and make a note of the culinary team’s update on the recipe.

Spicy Baked Potatoes

Here’s another Guy Fieri fave with some jalapenos for heat!

I’m thinking I should go for a walk, now. I probably just gained five pounds reading these yummy recipes!

Happy Labor Day, and happy camping, everyone!



Texas Wine Trail

VIsit 32 Texas Wineries in 31 Days

Texas wines have come a long way over the last few years, and there are now more than 30 vineyards scattered across the Hill Country.

If you like wine and you’re taking your camper out anywhere in the Texas Hill Country over the next few weeks, check out the wine tastings, grape stomps and live music at several of the vineyards. According to Texas Hill Country Wineries, there are 17 events next Saturday alone!

Photo credit: Texas Hill Country Wineries

Out of curiosity, I looked at the vineyard map, and then checked out the Texas State Parks map too. There are plenty of vineyards with great camping spots nearby!

Texas Hill Country Wineries

Texas Parks

Texas State Parks Near Texas Wineries

And if you wait until October, which is Texas Wine Month, you can plan your RV road trip along the Texas Wine Month Trail: 31 days, 48 tastes, and discounts at participating wineries. Tickets are on sale now.

Let us know if you hit the trail and discover some great new Texas flavors!

~ G. Elaine Acker



Celebrate National S’mores Day on August 10!

Get ready! National S’mores Day is Friday, August 10! If you’re like me, you have lots of happy memories of sitting around the campfire with a marshmallow on the end of a sharp stick or coat hanger and this weekend’s a great time to munch and make new memories!

S'More photo

Here’s a double-decker s’more! Yum! (PRNewsFoto/The Hershey Company)

We don’t usually drop a lot of brand names here, unless we’re talking RVs, but in this case I’ll make an exception. I mean, really, to make a proper s’more, you need Hershey’s chocolate packaged in its neat, flat little squares.

“It’s time for National S’mores Day, which means family fun, campfire stories and gooey S’mores,” said Anna Lingeris, spokesperson for The Hershey Company.

The first s’mores recipe was published in the Girl Scouts handbook in 1927 and this weekend, you can keep the tradition alive, whether you’re at home or camping in your RV this weekend. Making s’mores usually involves a campfire, but you can wrap your s’more in foil and grill it for 1-2 minutes each side or pop it in the oven if it’s just too hot for a campfire, or if you want to take the party indoors in the air conditioning!
Classic S’Mores Recipe
1 graham cracker (broken in half)
1 Hershey bar (broken to fit on the cracker)
1 large marshmallow
Heat the marshmallow over an open campfire until it begins to brown and melt. Sandwich the chocolate between the cracker and the how marshmallow. Let it sit for a minute to allow the chocolate to melt a bit and the marshmallow to cool. Keep the napkins handy!
Here’s another recipe from Paula Deen for making s’mores in the oven.
And if you need one last good reason to make a s’more here it is. I’m on the road in my Airstream this week, and my hubby called this morning to inform me that dark chocolate has more antioxidants than blueberries. So, there you have it. Make that Hershey bar a dark chocolate bar, and you’re all set!

Do you make s’mores with your family when you’re camping? Do you have any fun stories or different recipes share?

Happy S’mores Weekend!

August is National Catfish Month

Family RV Gatherings Call for Fried Catfish!

August is National Catfish Month. Who knew? So I just had to share this old photo of my dad with his prize catfish caught on Lake Cherokee in East Texas.

Gerald Acker and Catfish

Gerald Acker caught this prize catfish on Lake Cherokee in East Texas. Probably in the 60s and probably on a trot line.

Some of my best family memories involve catfish fries with all the cousins hanging out by the lake. Usually, my dad and the uncles had caught the fish we ate, but these days, it’s easy to find fresh, U.S. farm-raised catfish at the store. (Beware of imported catfish! Just sayin’…)

Now, we can make new family memories at almost any lake, pulling our RVs and swapping stories and recipes. And while we mostly fix the traditional fried catfish in a cornmeal batter, I found a huge variety of recipes, from fried to blackened, on the U.S. catfish home page. Maybe it’s time to try something new!

Here’s a beer-batter recipe from NASCAR driver Ryan Newman.

Beer battered catfish

Photo from the U.S. Catfish website. Thank you!

1/2 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Everglade seasoning, optional
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
3/4 cup room-temperature beer
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil
1 pound U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish fillets, cut into 3 to 4 inch wide strips

1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, Everglades seasoning (if using), baking powder, paprika, white and red peppers and oregano.
2. If not using Everglade seasoning, add 1/2 teaspoon salt.
3. Whisk in beer and egg until smooth.
4. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
5. When ready to cook: In a deep skillet or large pan, pour vegetable oil to the depth of 3 inches; heat to 375°F.
6. Stir batter and fold in catfish. When oil is hot, lift fish strips with tongs, draining excess batter; place catfish in oil several pieces at a time (do not over crowd).
7. Fry until well browned on all sides, about 3 minutes. Remove to paper towels to drain. Keep warm, repeat with remaining catfish.

YIELD: About 24 pieces

(Original recipe by Jim Campbell of Griffin, Georgia)

What are some of your favorite recipes for family RV gatherings? If you have a great catfish recipe to share, we’d love to hear from you!

~ G. Elaine Acker

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream for the Fourth of July

Fourth of July celebrations usually include fireworks, a hot dog or two, and in our RV, homemade ice cream. Whether you hand crank it the old-fashioned way, or use an electric ice-cream maker, the results are worth the effort!

Waiting for ice cream And, if you don’t have a freezer or only need a small amount of ice cream, here’s an entertaining way to impress your fellow RV campers. I like to take two coffee cans and improvise an ice-cream maker. Just put your ice-cream mix into the smaller (1 lb.) can, seal it tightly with the plastic lid, and then set it inside the larger (3 lb.) one. Pack the space between the cans with rock salt and ice, and seal the larger can. Then, hang out by the lake, enjoy the breeze, and roll the can back and forth with your foot. In about 30 minutes, you’ll have a cold tasty treat!

Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe (this one’s for the ice cream freezer)

6 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 12 oz. cans evaporated milk

2 Tablespoons vanilla extract

Whole milk

Whisk these together, and pour into the ice-cream freezer. Add fruit if desired (peeled, diced peaches are a wonderful addition) and then add milk to the “fill” line in your freezer. This makes one gallon.

Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe (for the coffee can)

1 egg

1/3 cup sugar

1 5 oz can evaporated milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whole milk

Crushed fruit, chocolate chips or other “mixin’s” (optional)

Duct tape

Rock salt (about a cup)

Crushed ice (about 10 cups)

Whisk the ice cream ingredients together and pour into the small coffee can. Add milk until the can is about ¾ full. Seal the plastic lid on the can with duct tape – you don’t want salty water getting into your ice cream!

Place the small can inside the large can, and layer about half of the ice and rock salt in the space between the cans. Seal the large can and you’re ready to roll. Literally. Roll the can under your foot (place it on a towel to keep it clean) or make a game of it and recruit some of the kiddoes to roll the can around the RV park.

After 10 minutes, open the large can, drain the water, and wipe down the top of the small can. Open the small can and scrape down the sides with a spatula and stir the ice cream. (This would also be the time to add some crushed fruit or chocolate chips if desired). Re-seal the small can and re-pack it inside the large can with ice and rock salt. Roll the can for another 15 minutes and again open the cans and check the mixture. It should be frozen to a soft consistency, but if not, you can either re-pack the cans and roll a bit longer, or, place the cans in the freezer to harden. This makes about a pint of ice cream.

What are some of your family’s favorite Fourth of July traditions?

Happy Independence Day, and don’t forget the ice cream!

~ G. Elaine Acker


Find a “Pick Your Own” Farm Near You

TomatoEvery summer, when I see the abundance of fresh fruits and veggies in people’s gardens, I get the urge to break out my jars and start canning like my mom and dad used to do. Most of the time, mind you, I resist this urge. But this year, I’m thinking about giving in.

I’m not a gardener – I don’t stay in one place long enough. But I have discovered several farms where you can pick your own goodies for canning.  I’m thinking of taking the RV, finding a nearby park, and making a weekend of it.

I found a handy site called that has a list of farms, tells you what’s in season, and offers a “how to” section if you need a refresher course on canning.

(By the way, my web browser is doing something a little odd when I open the link, so you may have to click the link, then scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the info you’re looking for.) Then, just click on the cities listed, and find a farm or two. I linked directly to the Texas page, but you can search any state on this site.

Next, of course, I would start looking for a state park nearby and make my weekend plans.

Jelly Jars

This photo is from the site where they also have great recipes and how-to information.

My mouth is watering, just reading the list of fruits ripening right now: blackberries, blueberries, peaches, and figs. I’m envisioning a pantry full of preserves that’ll give me a bit of summer flavor all year long!

Did you grow up canning? What are some of your favorite things to can? Do you have a recipe to share?

Contributed by G. Elaine Acker