Thank you for your support!

It is with gratitude that I inform you that there are only 3 copies out of 530 that are available for Small Kitchen Big Flavors! on a first come first served basis!

Reminder shipping to Canada requires a $13 additional charge to cover the $20.55 Customs fee. If you need assist with this process since the pay button on the cookbook sales page is preset for US sales. I will e mail you with how we can add the surcharge after you click the US payment authorization to PayPal.

If you are interested in getting a copy of the cookbook, click on the tab on the main page in the upper right corner that says: cookbook.

Thank you again… and Happy Cooking!

Chef MJ

Apple Pear Compote

The practice of preserving apples by cooking them down in some sugared water with a little lemon juice or vinegar to make sweet and savory chunky compote or smooth sauces with apples dates back to medieval times in Europe.

Various apples sweet to tart can be used and additional fresh and dried fruits can be added.  The flavor profile can be altered even more depending on the you prefer and how you plan to serve the compote or applesauce… whether as a side dish to compliment pork as a snack for kid or adults or even as a dessert or topping.  Chunky compote can be used as a pie tart filling to a pie or drizzled over some vanilla ice cream as a topping.

Making apple Pear Compote

Apple compote be made with ease while at home or while camping. If you have fruits on hand that need to be consumed or tossed, why not perk the fruit up into a compote or chunky sauce, creating a side dish, snack or dessert that will hold up well for about 5 days when covered and refrigerated. 

Which apples should you use for your apple compote?

There are a variety of apples sweet to tart that make a good tasting compote.  A good rule of thumb is to choose a mix of two or three varieties. 

Very Sweet to Mildly Sweet

  • Fuji
  • Gala
  • Honeycrisp
  • Golden Delicious
  • Crispin (aka Mutsu)

Sweet and Tangy

  • McIntosh (cooks down very easily so will be slightly more watery)
  • Braeburn
  • Rome
  • Cripps Pink (aka Pink Lady)

Tart and Tangy

  • Macoun
  • Granny Smith

Apple type to avoid

       * Red Delicious   (save those for slicing or eating whole rather than cooking or baking)

Cooking Tips:

  • If you’d like your applesauce to have a pretty pink color, pick a red variety as one of your choices, and don’t peel ahead of time — strain out the peels once cooked.

In the recipe that follows I used ingredients I had on hand: Fuji apples, a few pears, dried cranberries and an orange along with a little acidity of the vinegar, some cinnamon and sugar.  The beauty of making this compote is that you can easily substitute or combine the fruit and varietal of fruit: apples, pears and dried fruits: figs, cranberries, cherries, raisins, apricots etc.  

Other substitutes that can be made are: using a few squeezes of lemon juice rather than vinegar and experiment with different spices added to the dish like roasted garlic, red chili pepper etc.

I prepared the compote on the stovetop of the RV Galley but you could prepare the dish using a heavy pot on an outdoor grill, use a slow cooker if you are going to be out and about on a hike or make this in an Instant Pot if you have that onboard.

Apple Pear Compote

Makes 4 – 5 servings


2                 Fuji apples, rinsed, peeled and cored

3                 pears, rinsed, peeled and cored

1/4 cup      dried cranberries

                    zest of an orange

                    sugar to taste ( 1/8 – 1/2 cup)  

                    pinch of salt

      1 tsp      cinnamon (or a few pinches of red chili peppers)

                    juice of a lemon or 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 – 1 cup  water (or substitute apple juice or apple cider)

1 tsp             vanilla

Diced apples and pears ready to cook down

Apple pear mixture cooking down on stove


  1.  Rinse fruit, peel, core and dice in 1″ pieces.
  2.  Place prepared fruit, water, sugar and vinegar or lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat.
  3.  Stir fruit intermittently and bring the mixture to a boil. Continue stirring for a few minutes then lower the heat to simmer. 
  4. Add spices.
  5. Stir as needed for 20 – 25 minutes until fruit has softened and water is mostly absorbed.
  6. Add dried fruit and zest of an orange.  Cook for another 5 minutes.  Stir as needed.
  7. Off heat, stir in vanilla.
  8. Serve warm or cold.
  9. Cover and refrigerate leftovers and enjoy over the next few days.

Crock Pot

Spray interior of ceramic pot with baking spray.  Cook the ingredients in a Crock Pot as above.  Place the crockpot on low for 6 hours.

Instant Pot

Place the ingredients as listed above in the stainless steel liner of the Instant pot.  Close lid and steam vent.  Cook an manual 2 minutes then Natural release for 5 minutes then intermittent Quick release bursts.  To break the compote down further if needed.  Turn the IP on saute’ and stir until desired consistency is reached. 


Chef MJ

Holiday Candy Making

truffle and ritz candies


The holidays always seem to bring on an urge for me to make some candy or cookies to enjoy with family or a cup of coffee or cocoa.

I’m sharing a few simple treats that we enjoy!  The beauty of these selections is that they can be prepared rather simply and easily!

Baking is a treasured holiday activity for many however be aware of local health and safety and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.  What does this mean for the baking tradition?  Use the recommended guidelines and good common sense, know how viruses are transmitted and follow advisable recommended health and safety guidelines even when the pandemic is over!  Good handwashing always.  Proper food safety guidelines and storage, definitely.


Oreo Truffles


20                   Oreos

4 oz                softened block cream cheese

1  1/2 cups    chocolate chips


                                      Crumbled Oreos  will mix with cream cheese



  1. Place half the Oreos in a gallon sized ziplock bag, burp the air from the bag and using a rolling pin – crush the cookies into a fine crumble.  Pour the cookie crumbles into a medium bowl.  Repeat the process for the remaining Oreos.
  2. Soften cream cheese in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave on HIGH for 20 seconds then add the cream cheese to the bowl with the Oreos.
  3. Using a hand mixer combine the Oreos and cream cheese thoroughly.
  4. Make tablespoon sized balls of Oreo dough filling and place the cookie balls on a flexible cutting board or waxed paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up the Oreo balls.
  5. When the 30 minutes is up, start melting the chocolate.  Place the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on HIGH for a minute then stir.  Repeat 30 second bursts of microwaving followed by stirring a couple additional times and just until the chocolate is melting (about 70%) when stirred.  Remove the bowl of melting chocolate from the microwave.  Stir the chocolate as the rest of the chocolate melts.
  6. To make the truffles, spear the Oreo balls with a candy fork or small skewer and dip the Oreo ball into the melted chocolate. Place the chocolates on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and set the tray in the fridge for 10 minutes or so until the chocolate hardens on the truffles.
  7. Wrap each truffle in a piece of wax paper or place each truffle in a paper candy cup and place the candies in a gallon sized ziplock in the fridge.
  8. To serve bring out the number of truffles you are serving and keep the other truffles in the fridge.  Since this recipe uses cream cheese, don’t leave the truffles at room temperature more than a couple of hours before returning any leftovers to the fridge for storage.



                                                     Putting on the Ritz Cookie


Putting on the Ritz


24                  Ritz crackers or flat type pretzels

24                  Rolo candies, unwrapped

12                   pecan halves

rolo melting



  1.  Place a single layer of Ritz crackers on a microwave safe pan or plate.
  2.  Unwrap Rolo candy (1 for each cracker), set aside on a plate.
  3.  Top each Ritz cracker with a single Rolo.
  4.  Microwave the plate of goodies on HIGH for about20 second. Add additional micrwave time in 5 – 10 second bursts as needed. If the Rolo candy partially collapses when you press the candy, remove the dish from the microwave and top each Ritz cracker with a 2nd Ritz cracker, pressing the top cracker down onto the slightly melting Rolo.
  5. Serve or store lightly covered.  No refrigeration needed.


Peppermint Pretzel drizzle candy


15 -20                   small pretzels (type of choice)

3                           small candy canes, crushed in medium and fine pieces

1 1/2 – 2 cups      chocolate chips


chocolate melting

melting chocolate chips


  1. Place a layer of parchment paper (baking type) on to a baking sheet.
  2.  Add chocolate to a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute then stir.  Repeat in 30 second microwave bursts until the chocolate is about 75% melted, then remove from the microwave and stir until the remaining chocolate melts.
  3. Using a rubber spatula pour about 2/3 of the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper linned small baking sheet and spread the chocolate evenly.
  4. Sprinkle candy cane pieces in between the pretzels.
  5. Drizzle the remaining portion of melted chocolate over the chocolate pretzel mixture and place the tray in the fridge until the chocolate hardens.
  6. Break the candy into serving sizes.  Lightly cover leftovers.  No refrigeration needed.

chocolate peppermint bark

 Chocolate peppermint bark candy


Enjoy the holidays!

 There are  a few Small Kitchen Big Flavors! cookbooks available through this blog site and also on Ebay.  Order now for your holiday shopping!



Chef MJ


Creamy Ricotta Tart with Asparagus

Tis the Season Fa la la la la … Here’s a recipe you may want to whip up to add as a tasty side dish to your main meal or make this a main meal offering paired with a delicious salad.

I’d pair this with a butter leaf lettuce salad topped with diced pecans, gorgonzola  crumbles, polenta croutons, pomegranate seeds and a salad dressing with a little bit of tartness or acidity.   Example:  salad dressing 1 part red wine vinegar, 3 parts good quality olive oil, a good squeeze of honey mustard and a squeeze of honey.  Add some fresh ground pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt… stir or shake the dressing then drizzle over the delightful salad just as you are serving the meal.

This recipe could be made anytime but it would certainly create a nice presentation at a holiday meal.  Add a lovely salad as noted above and/or serve with roasted meat, poultry or seafood dish.


Creamy Ricotta Tart with Asparagus



1 sheet            Puff Pastry

4 spears         asparagus

1 tsp                olive oil

3/4 cup           ricotta cheese

3 tbsp              finely grated parmesan

3 tbsp              grated mozzarella cheese

zest                  of a lemon

1 tsp                 lemon juice

1/4 tsp             ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp             freshly ground black pepper


1.  Defrost frozen pastry sheet, roll the dough out to fit in you full sized tart pan or medium pie pan.

2.  Place dough in the baking pan.  Top the dough with pie weights or substitute pie weight by placing baking parchment in the baking pan over the dough then fill the pan 1/3 full with uncooked beans or uncooked rice.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Bake for 15 minute on the middle rack.  Lightly shield the pastry dough if edges are browning too quickly.  Remove pan of puffed pastry.  When pan cools, empty out the pie weights.

4. While pastry shell is cooling, rinse the asparagus, snap off (or cut off) the lower 1 1/2″ from the stem end, pat dry, set aside.

5. In a medium bowl combine ricotta, grated parmesan, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, nutmeg and pepper, set aside.  Pour the ricotta filling into the tart pan.

6. Lightly coat the asparagus spears in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

7. Add asparagus spears then grated mozzarella on top of the ricotta mixture.  Lightly cover the tart with foil.

8. Lower the oven temperature to 375 and bake the tart for about 20 minutes so allow the ricotta to set.


Chef MJ

Light Tasty Baked Lemon Chicken

Here is a wonderful low calorie chicken dish with a pleasant zing of lemon.
Before getting to the recipe though… listed below are some interesting facts and tidbits about lemons that I found while searching a variety of fun facts on the internet.
Benefits of Lemons in cooking?  Rather then go straight to a simple and delicious recipe that includes lemon, I thought I’d share so interesting facts and benefits of this citrus that go beyond adding the welcoming flavor enhancement that lemons bring to both main meal entrees and dessert recipes. Lemon Leaves  Lemon leaves are not eaten, freshly picked lemon leaves (from trees that have not been sprayed with pesticides) can be used to add flavoring by wrapping meats in leaves before roasting. Add lemon leaves to olive oil or vinegar to impart a fresh, lemony flavor. Use whole lemon leaves in recipes that call for lemongrass then pull them out and discard them after cooking (similar to how you may cook with bay leaves and toss them after cooking.  Add a few leaves to fish stews for a fresh light flavor. 

Limoncello In Italy the Femminello St. Teresa lemon trees happen to contain a high oil content in the outer peel/zest.  These lemons are used to make Limoncello a delightful lemony liqueur. I have made this liqueur successfully… after getting a tutorial from a lovely fellow RV traveling friend Helen.  Helen and Dave bring small bottles of this delightful evening delight to campsite potlucks or a hostess gift when visiting other campers.  Delightful! 


Lemon Facts

Lemon trees are thought to have been present by 2 AD in Ancient Rome. The citrus fruit lemons gives flavor to baked goods, sauces, salad dressings, marinades, drinks, and desserts, and  a good source of vitamin C.   Lemons are 5% citric acid.  Ph 2.2.  An average lemon contains 3 tbsp. of lemon juice and the calorie count is 15 calories.

Add a squeeze or two of lemon over some freshly cut fruit to keep the fruit from browning.

Lemons are a good source of Vitamin C  Vitamin C is essential for health, and a deficiency can lead to health problems.

The British Navy carries enough lemon onboard their ships to provide the sailors with 1 ounce of lemon juice a day.  The early explorers also knew the value of citrus and took lemons on their long voyages to help prevent or treat scurvy, a life threatening condition that was common among sailors.

Lemons are an excellent source of flavonoids, which are antioxidants which help remove free radicals that can damage cells in the body.  Other benefits include boosting your immune system.

Preventive health benefits

Lemons and lemon juice have antioxidants that may help prevent free radicals from causing cell damage that can lead to cancer. However, exactly how antioxidants can help prevent cancer remains unclear.

Boosting the immune system

Foods that are high in vitamin C and other antioxidants may help strengthen the immune system against the germs that cause the common cold and the flu.

One review found that, while vitamin C supplements do not appear the reduce the incidence of colds in a population, they may help reduce the length of time a cold lasts. Vitamin C may also help boost immunity in people who are undergoing extreme physical activity.

Squeezing a whole lemon into a glass of hot water with a large spoonful of honey, this makes a soothing drink for someone with a cough or cold and the lemon has antibacterial properties.

Scurvy Prevention

Although not common in modern day life, it is worth noting that if a person does not consume enough vitamin C, they will develop a deficiency which is known as scurvy. It is rare in the United States, but it can affect people who do not have a varied diet that includes Vitamin C.  Symptoms can start to appear within a month of not consuming vitamin C.  Symptoms include tiredness, inflamed gums in the mouth, joint pain, slow wound healing.

The British Navy carries enough lemon onboard their ships to provide the sailors with 1 ounce of lemon juice a day.  The early explorers knew the value of citrus and took lemons on their long voyages to help prevent or treat scurvy, a life threatening condition that was common among sailors in the era of the early explorers.


Lemons are a good source of Vitamin C  Vitamin C is an essential nutrient and antioxidant.  One lemon weighing 58 grams and contains 30.7 mg of Vitamin C.  This is approximately 1/3 of the daily Vitamin C requirement so adding other foods with Vitamin C into your daily intake is a good idea.


When is a lemon ripe? Unlike many fruits, lemons do not ripen or improve in quality after picking. People should harvest lemons when they are ripe and store them at room temperature away from direct sunlight.

Food Fact  Lemons pair well with both savory and sweet dishes.  Add a squeeze fresh lemon juice over fish, shrimp, scallops, chicken.

Easy Salad dressing   A squeeze of lemon and small amount of olive oil with herbs is a great healthy alternative to bottled salad dressings as these dressings often contain additional salt, sugar, and other additives, and they can be high in fat and calories,

Although it is true that the nutrients in lemons offer several health benefits, it is difficult to obtain all the necessary nutrients from lemon due to the small amount of lemon typically recommended and consumed… so eat a varied diet and include of foods rich in Vitamin C in your food choices.


Lemon Chicken

This is a super lemony RV that can be prepared easily on a stovetop, toaster oven or convection oven in your RV or a heavy weight cast iron pan on an outdoor grill at the campsite and the lemon sauce is amazing!


1                                                chicken breast, large boneless skinless, cut in half lengthwise

1                                                egg, white only

1/4 cup                                    all-purpose flour or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten free 1 to 1 baking gluten free flour

1/4 tsp                                      cayenne pepper can be added to the flour

2 tbsp                                      vegetable oil (if saute’ method is used rather than baking)




1/4 cup                                      sugar

2 tbsp                                        corn syrup

1/3 cup                                      chicken broth

1 tsp                                           lemon zest

3 tbsp                                         lemon juice

2 tbsp                                         cornstarch

2 tbsp                                         rice wine vinegar

1/4 tsp                                        salt

1 clove                                         garlic, minced



2 tsp                                             cornstarch

2 tsp                                              water


1/2                                            lemon cut horizontally in full thin slices

1                                                 green onion, rinsed, chopped


  1.  To bake: Preheat toaster oven or convection oven in your RV to 425 F.  Note:  If you like you could saute’ the chicken in a heavy skillet on the RV galley stove or grill. .. just heat the skillet over direct high heat when you are ready to cook.
  2. Rinse produce, pat dry.  Mince or chop as directed and set aside.
  3.  Prepare the lemon sauce.  Zest and juice the lemon, combine sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Do not add the thickener yet.  Place saucepan on the stovetop over medium heat.
  4.  Stir the sauce until it comes to a soft boil then lower heat to medium/low.
  5.  Whisk thickener (cornstarch and water) add thickener to sauce while whisking. Continue whisking until slightly thickened then take the saucepan off heat.
  6. Rinse chicken, pat dry and cut the chicken in to 2 lengthwise pieces.
  7. Pound the chicken on a cutting board placing the chicken between 2 pieces of wax paper or placing a ziplock bag over the chicken on the cutting board.  Use a small iron skillet to pound the chicken to 1/2″ thickness.
  8. In a medium bowl add egg white and whisk until frothy.  Add pounded chicken and let it rest in the egg white for 10 minutes.
  9. Place flour on a cutting board or in a medium bowl.  Dip chicken in the flour a piece at a time then let the chicken air dry for 10 minutes.
  10. Bake the chicken in an oven safe pan or baking sheet in a preheated oven for approximately 14 – 15 minutes.  Chicken is ready when the internal temperature is 165F.  If you saute’ the chicken instead of using an oven…med/  Place skillet over high direct heat, add 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil, when oil is warm, add chicken and saute’ to the advised internal temperature above.  If chicken is browning too quickly lower the heat a little to medium.

Want more RV Recipes? My cookbook Small Kitchen Big Flavors! is available at a great Introductory Price on eBay and my blog site at: https:/

Spicy Tacos Tonight

Most everyone loves a good taco but I’ll share a recipe with you that will walk you through how to make a basic ground beef taco that has fantastic flavor and great texture… With Thanksgiving coming this week… try using some of the leftover turkey in place of the beef in the recipe below….hould be totally bueno!

Before we get to the recipe, here are some interesting beef taco facts!

If you are one of the many people out there who loves tacos, chances that you love these tasty hand held delights and know they are yummy ‘grab and go’ foods that you can eat in most any setting, including camping!

But… there is more to tacos than just great taste. In fact, here are some interesting fun-facts about tacos that most people are likely unaware of.

If you want to up your taco knowledge and be a true taco expert, here are some fun facts to get you started.

Tacos have been around forever!

While there is some debate over when exactly the first taco was created, most experts state that the first taco was actually invented somewhere between 1,000 and 500 B.C. At the time, the taco was more about having an ‘edible spoon’ using the tortilla to cradle the food from a bowl or plate to the consumers mouth. 

The name’ taco’ came much later on. The first recorded reference to the word taco came about in the 19th century. The first mention of the word taco in the United States was first noted in 1905!

Where does the phrase Taco Tuesday come from?

‘Taco Tuesday’  is thought to have been a phrase that was introduced by the Snow White Drive-In in South Dakota on August 20, 1973 when the restaurant ran a promotion: ‘Stop in on Taco Tuesday!’

Americans Eat a TON of Tacos

According to National Taco, Americans eat billions of tacos every year.  4.5 billion to be more specific!

The Biggest Taco Ever

The largest taco ever made was is thought to have been constructed on November 20th, 2011 in Queretaro, Mexico. It was 246 feet long (WOW) and was made with carnitas as the filling.

There is a National Taco Day

Did you know there is a national day to celebrate tacos? National Taco day is October 4th.  

The Word Taco Means “Light Lunch”

Roughly translated, the word taco means “light lunch”.  

First US Taco Truck is noted to have been in New York

Today, you can find taco trucks all over the country.  However, the first taco truck originated in New York in 1966. The truck didn’t have a full kitchen and was mostly used for catering

There is a Right Time of Day to Eat Tacos

For most people, any time of day is the right time of day to eat tacos, but there is actually a specific “taco time.” According to Mexican tradition, seafood tacos are meant to be eaten at lunch, while antojitos (snacks) are to be eaten at dinner time.

Although taco fillings can include a wide range of main ingredients (fish, shrimp, chicken, pork, steak, beef, turkey or other proteins) as a the main ingredient, heck I’ve even made a scrambled egg taco topped with cottage style French fries, cheese and tomatoes.

Look below for the simple, tasty, basic ground beef taco filling but with a twist on the seasoning choices and the wrapper or shell used to hold the taco fillings.

Taco Wrap

Parmesan cheese FolioWraps. I found these wraps in the refrigerated section at Costco.  The photo below shows what the parmesan wrap looks like after heating the wrap in the microwave.

RV Recipes: Start your beef taco with this shell

                                                                   Parmesan Folio Wrap

Taco Recipe


Taco meat

1 1/2 lb ground beef 90%/10% or perhaps, ground turkey or pre-cooked carnitas

Spice blend

2 tbsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1/8 tsp red pepper flakes


1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 small red or sweet onions, diced

3 clove garlic, minced


1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1 tsp brown sugar

2 tsp vinegar

Taco garnishes ideas to top cooked seasoned meat

grated cheese

sour cream

diced avocado or guacamole

diced tomato

diced onion

chopped lettuce

salsa or hot sauce of choice


RV Recipes: Doesn’t this beef taco look scrumptious?


Taco Shell – Wrap

Parmesan Folio Wrap (COSTCO refrigerated section)

Alternate Wraps

Taco shells (pick your choice)

Soft or crispy taco shells

Iceberg lettuce wraps

Indian fry bread or even naan bread


Picture of a prepared Parmesan Folio Wrap Taco

RV Recipes Directions for Seasoned Beef Tacos

  1.  In a small bowl combine spice mixture ingredients, set aside.
  2.  In a large saute’ pan add olive oil, turn heat to medium.
  3.  When oil is hot add diced onion to the saute’ pan.  Stir over medium heat for 1 minute then add minced garlic.
  4.  Lower heat to medium/low.  Continue stirring another 2 minutes.
  5.  Add the ground beef, turkey or carnitas to the saute’ pan.  Increase heat to medium.  As the ground meat mixture cooks, break the meat into a small sized crumble, chopping the meat to a small crumble texture.
  6.  Add chicken broth, tomato sauce brown sugar and white vinegar to the meat mixture.  Continue stirring over medium heat until the meat is cooked and most of the moisture in the pan has been absorbed.
  7.  Take the meat mixture off heat.
  8. Set up the toppings you like for your taco(s).
  9. If using Parmesan Cheese Folio wraps.  The directions advise placing 1 wrap in the microwave at a time.  The wraps come stacked in a package and have a paper wrap under each cheese folio.
  10. Place the Parmesan Folio in the microwave paper side down (cheese folio facing upward).
  11. Microwave on HIGH for 60 – 75 seconds until most of the cheese is showing little bubbles within the cheese.
  12. Remove the cheese and paper together as one piece from the microwave.  Peel the cheese off the paper wrapper and fold the cheese into a taco shell shape.
  13. Add the cooked meat and toppings to the center of the taco. Note: move quickly with the forming and filling of the taco shell as the cheese firms up within 15 – 20 seconds or less.


Want more RV Recipes? My cookbook Small Kitchen Big Flavors! is available at a great Introductory Price on eBay and my blog site at: http:/

Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup

Comfort Soup for Fall weather

When September rolls around each year I start thinking of warm comfort foods and Chicken Tortilla soup is right up at the top of my list!  A nice bowl of soup for lunch or dinner when we’re camping and the weather is brisk or rainy seems just right.

Make it simple

When planning a week of menu plans prior to camping I include some ‘Make Ahead’ meals and some Pantry meals in addition to a few grilled meals.  Not only does this free up some of my time to hike and explore the destinations we are visiting, it ensures variety.  I found doing these few planning steps keeps me from grabbing food on the go from a fast food drive through or struggling with raiding the fridge or pantry for a make do kind of meal.

I like to have staples onboard that are are planned and follow the recipe I’m going to follow.  Chicken Tortilla soup is one of my must have items on my planning list.  I like the versatility of the dish as much as I enjoy the warm spicy flavors.  This soup makes a great lunch or dinner and the leftovers (need to be refrigerated) but are wonderful to heat up as a repeat menu item in a day or two.

Since the soup ingredients listed in the primary recipe are all pantry stable if unopened, you’ll be able to pretty much ‘heat and eat’.

Note:  ‘Canned food’ tend to have excess sodium, so read the labels.  Purchase low sodium chicken broth, rinse the canned chicken and canned beans well under running water, washing off some of the excess sodium.

Now if you feel like ‘kickin’ this recipe up a notch while camping or at home… you can definitely enhance and add some fresh substitutions and additional condiments…

Consider substituting rotisserie or leftover cooked chicken.  Other toppings can be added perhaps a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkle of shredded cheese, a few sprigs of cilantro and/or diced avocado.

If you want to keep it simple just follow the basic ‘pantry’ recipe and it will actually taste homemade and delicious.

Adapt this recipe as needed to fit your particular food program.  If you are vegetarian, eliminate the chicken, and chicken broth by substituting vegetable broth and adding some canned or frozen vegetables.  The dairy products (cheese and sour cream in the additional topping suggestions can be omitted and the soup will still be flavorful and make a nice meal.


Basic Ingredients

28 oz                    low sodium boxed chicken broth or bone broth

10 oz can             cooked chicken breast

15 oz can              white navy beans or black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained

10 oz can             diced tomatoes with diced green chilis

8 oz  can             salsa of choice (I used Paul Newman pineapple salsa)

1/2 tsp                 cumin

1/2 tsp                 chili powder


1 cup                    tortilla chips



  1.  Rinse and drain canned: chicken and beans.  Add to a large saucepan.
  2.  Pour in broth, diced tomatoes and juices and salsa into the saucepan and stir,
  3.  Cook over medium heat until the soup is warmed to desired temperature.
  4.  Pour or ladle the soup into large coffee mugs or individual serving bowls.
  5.  Add a squeeze of lime juice to each bowl, stir.
  6. Top with crumble tortilla chips and serve.

Additional Toppings (totally optional)

1/2 cup      grated cheddar or pepper jack cheese

1/2 cup      sour cream

1                  diced avocado

1 lime         cut a small wedge of lime per person; when ready to serve the soup, add a squeeze of lime and stir.


My cookbook Small Kitchen Big Flavors! is available at a great Introductory Price on Ebay and my blog site at: http:/

Chicken Parmesan… on the Light Side

My cooking style changes with the seasons and Fall has officially arrived!  I love to see the weather a little brisker and watching the leaves change to gold, crimson and orange on the trees and shrubs.  Our RV trip to the ‘Porkies’ in Michigan in the Fall a couple of years ago was a fabulous RV trip.  We enjoyed the travel time and exploring various sites between California and Michigan but meeting up with fellow RV travelers added to our excitement while experiencing the fall leaves in Michigan is definitely a memory that will also stay with us forever.
The Fall weather changes the type of food I tend to prepare.  When it’s Fall I think comfort food!  I decided to prepare the following dish as it fit the criteria I was looking to bake and enjoy for dinner…  This recipe is warm gooey and a delicious main meal dish that actually cuts back on calories by slightly altering the typical ingredients, for some lighter alternatives.
This version of chicken parmesan is just over 300 calories for a 5 oz. serving.  No guilt just yummy food.  You can prepare this dish in an RV convection oven, toaster oven or even transform your outdoor campsite grill into an oven by elevating a cast iron skillet on a couple of bricks placed in the center of your grill rack.
The prep time for this dish is about 10 minutes.  The cook time approximately 30 minutes total.
If you have x-tra time on your hands and want to tenderize the chicken prior to prepping and baking, I’ve listed some tips in the next paragraph that you can follow.
Rinse the chicken breasts, pat them dry then place in a gallon ziplock bag.  Add a cup of buttermilk or plain or fruited yogurt that will compliment the chicken parmesan; some ideas for flavored yogurt to use include vanilla, lemon or key lime.  If you want to use the traditional buttermilk marinade to tenderize the chicken but only have milk on hand – just add 1 – 2 teaspoons of vinegar to a cup of milk, let the mixture rest for about 10 minutes until the milk curdles just a bit.  The buttermilk gives a milder taste, yogurt leaves a slight astringent type taste.  The yogurt may fit well in tenderizing chicken you plan to transform into a luscious curry dish.
Once you have selected the marinade, pour the buttermilk or yogurt over the chicken in the ziplock, burp and seal the    bag and place it in the fridge 1 – 12 hours, then prep and bake the chicken recipe.  After marinating time is up, remove the chicken from the ziplock bag, pat it dry, set aside.
On a cutting board, cut chicken breasts in half lengthwise, remove the chicken from the cutting board, set aside.
Place a long piece of saran wrap on the cutting board.  Place chicken pieces in a single layer over the saran wrap then cover the chicken with another long piece of saran wrap.
Using a meat tenderizer hammer or the base of a heavy skillet, pound the chicken into an even thickness.
Set up a breading station using 2 medium bowls that are large enough to dip and coat the chicken pieces.
Add egg whites to 1 bowl and the bread crumb mixture and spices to a 2nd bowl.
See the Directions listed below for the breading and 2 step baking process.
Serves 2 – 4
1 cup         buttermilk or yogurt
Chicken Parmesan
2               6 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup    Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup    Panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup    grated parmesan cheese
1/3            tsp garlic powder
1/3 tsp      pepper
2 large      eggs, whites only
4 oz           part-skim mozzarella
1 cup         seasoned tomato sauce (homemade or readymade in a jar)
1 small      package of fresh basil leaves


1.        Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2.        Lightly coat an ovenproof dish or skillet with olive oil or cooking spray if baking in            the oven.
            * If using a cast iron skillet if cooking in a make shift oven on the grill.  Place the                     skillet of prepared chicken onto 2
             flat bricks placed on the grill just under the sides of the skillet but not extending                  beyond the skillet.  In this a way                   the skillet is supported and elevated                    allowing  heat to flow over, under, side to side and front to back of the skillet.
             Cook over direct medium/high with grill lid down except for checking the chicken              process occasionally.  Note:  Viola, you have created an oven on the grill!
3.        The following directions are listed below and mentioned in the Introduction                         above: Rinse chicken breasts,
            pat dry and place on a cutting board.  Slice each breast in half lengthwise.  Cover                 the cut breasts  with saran wrap
            and lightly pound the chicken to an even 1/2″ thickness.  Create a breading station             using a couple of bowls.  Add dry
             ingredients to 1 bowl and stir to combine.  Add egg whites to the 2nd plate and                    whisk lightly with a fork.
4.        Slice or grate mozzarella into 4 portions, set aside.
5.        Dip chicken a piece at a time into the egg white mixture using 1 hand then with the             opposite hand dip and 1 to coat
            the chicken in the seasoned bread crumb mixture.
6.        Lightly coat the baking dish or skillet with olive oil or other baking spray, add your             chicken in a single layer, lightly
            spray the top of the chicken, add 1 – 2 tablespoons of seasoned tomato sauce.                         Repeat process for remaining chicken.
7.        Place the chicken in the oven.  If using convection oven place the dish on the metal            convection rack. Bake the chicken for 15 – 20 minutes until the internal                                  temperature of the chicken is 165 degrees F and the bread
           crumbs are lightly browned.
8.        With oven mitts, remove the chicken dish from the oven, set on a cool stovetop.
9.        Add a couple tablespoons of tomato sauce over each chicken breast and top with                 grated or sliced of mozzarella.
10.      Return the dish to the oven for about 5 minutes to melt the cheese.
11.       Remove the dish from the oven (using your mitts), place the dish or skillet on a                    cool stove top and sprinkle with
            freshly chopped basil.
If you have leftovers… all the better, simply cover and refrigerate to enjoy the next day. Heck why not make a gourmet chicken parmesan sandwich the following day or top a salad with diced chicken parmesan.
Another option would be to package and freeze some chicken parmesan that you have prepped but not baked.  Place  partially prepared chicken breasts in a single layer in a ziplock freezer bag after they are dipped in whisked egg whites and dredged in the breadcrumb mixture.  Simply slide a single layer of coated chicken into the freezer bag, burp the air out of the bag, seal the bag then using a permanent marker write the ingredients (Chicken Parmesan) on the bag, the date you prepped the entree and the cooking instructions to follow after you defrost the chicken in the fridge.
Enjoy within 3 months.

Pure Vanilla Extract


The Thanksgiving and Winter holidays will be here in less than 4 months.  Here is a homemade gift idea that you can prepare whether you are currently at home or RV’ing.

Having a simple affordable thoughtful gift that you can prepare with ease…is wonderful and truly appreciated by anyone that will be doing some baking.

The cost of pure vanilla extract has skyrocketed and making your own high quality pure vanilla extract is simple and fun.

It will take 4 – 6 months for the vanilla extract to fully develop into a full delightful flavor so… order up some vanilla beans and get you pure vanilla extract started soon.

I use grade A  – Whole Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla beans, you can use a less expensive Grade B vanilla bean… but if I’m going to the effort of making a quality vanilla extract…    I want Grade A.

This recipe has 2 ingredients and no cooking is required.

Feel free to double or tripe the recipe.



1 pint                   good quality vodka, rum, brandy or bourbon

6                           vanilla beans





  1.  Rinse vanilla beans, pat dry.  Cut the ends of the beans and toss into a clean glass jar that has a lid that will seal well as you will rotate the vanilla in the jar at least once a week for 14 – 26 weeks.
  2.  Cut the vanilla beans down the center using the side of a paring knife.   Gently tease the bean pod open to expose the tiny vanilla beans.  Scrape the beans from the vanilla bean with the side of the paring knife and transfer on the tip of the knife to a pint or larger size of vodka, rum, brandy or bourbon.
  3. Drop the split vanilla beans in next and seal the bottle.
  4. Gently turn the bottle over a few times then store in a dark pantry area.
  5. Continue to gently turn the bottles once a week as noted above.
  6. Vanilla should be ready in 4 – 6 months but gets even better up to a year.
  7.  Strain the vanilla through a fine strainer or cheesecloth into a large measuring cup then pour into clean 4 oz. gift jars (4oz Ball jars).  Label and date the jars.



Summertime is perfect for making Bruschetta.  Enjoy these fresh ingredients as an appetizer or even as a light main meal.  This is delicious and only requires a bit of prep work that can be easily done at the campsite.

Here is the combination of ingredients I put together to make this dish last night.  I served this as an appetizer to a group of 8 people and have leftovers to enjoy later today.

Farmers markets, farm stands and grocery stores have vine ripe peaches and tomatoes and they are at their peak of freshness so I was determined to prepare this.  Everyone loved the combination of ingredients and gave this recipe a WOW!

Serves  8  (Increase or decrease the ingredients for the amount of Bruschetta you decide to make)


5                       tomatoes, vine ripened if available

3                       peaches, fresh ripe or canned with water drained and discard

1/4                    red onion, fine diced

14                      fresh basil

4                        garlic cloves, fine minced

1/2 – 2/3 cup   Kalamata olives, medium diced

3 tbsp                olive oil

1 1/2 tsp            balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste (go light on the salt)

1 loaf                  French or sourdough baguette, sliced 1/4″ slices (lightly butter and grill if you wish or serve untoasted

4 oz                    butter for drizzle over baguette slices prior to grilling


  1.  Rinse produce and pat dry.  Peel peaches, cut in half, discard seed then medium chop and add to a med/large bowl.   Note: I find chopping is easier when using a flexible plastic cutting mat/board.
  2.  Peel and chop onion, peel garlic, mince add to the bowl with peaches.
  3.  Pat olives dry, rough chop and add to the bowl.
  4.  Rinse tomatoes, remove stem and seeds then medium chop and add to the bowl.
  5.  Rinse fresh basil leaves.  Stack the leaves on top of each other starting with the largest leaf.                                                                                                                              Roll cigar-like into a tight bundle and cut finely (chiffonade) with a sharp knife then add to the bowl.
  6.  Drizzle olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt & pepper over the bruschetta and lightly toss the ingredients to combine.
  7.  Slice baguette in 1/4″ slices.  Lightly butter and grill (if you like) or serve as soft slices.                                                                                                                                              Note:  I prefer to lightly butter and grill the bread slices for since the bruschetta is moist.
  8.   Serve with soft or lightly toasted baguette slices.