As with any tiny living situation, RV or otherwise, less is more! And that holds true when cooking for and celebrating the holiday seasons. As we approach Thanksgiving, we are being extremely mindful as to how much we take on in preparation for our meal. Because if you add up the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, rolls, and pumpkin pie you could easily be serving 10+ items! Now don’t get me wrong, if we were entertaining family and friends or spending the holiday with other full-timers, a potluck Thanksgiving meal with all the fixings would be amazing.
But as with most holidays on the road, we celebrate them together as a family of three. When approaching our menu selection, we start with the staple items… turkey in this case. And then we each select our favorite side or agree together as to what sides we will share. Once we have made our decisions, we decide which items if any will be labor intensive and which ones we can “cheat” with, as in not making but microwaving.
2020 was our first Thanksgiving on the road and we chose to cook the turkey over the fire which we will do again this year. It definitely is a labor of love as it takes most of the day (6 hours) to man the fire so the turkey can cook properly. But it works out because it becomes more of an experience where we spend the day around the campsite playing games, watching outdoor movies, and listening to music.
To cook the turkey over the campfire, we used a tripod cooking set up. This simple, but genius, contraption consists of 3 support poles that form the tripod, and a grill grate is suspended from the top of the tripod with a chain. The chain also has a simple height adjustment mechanism so the grate can be raised or lowered depending on how close you want your food to the fire. To cook the turkey properly, we jerry-rigged a foil basting tray above the turkey to keep some heat above the bird. When cooking outside in November, it can be tough to keep both side of the food hot during the cooking process.
To prep the turkey, we cleaned and dried a fresh bird from the local farmer’s market. Then generously applied our favorite all-purpose dry rub to all exposed parts of the bird. After that we let it sit out while we went to build a fire. Letting the turkey warm to room temp for about an hour before cooking will help it to cook more evenly and predictably. Once the fire was well established, we set up the tripod and let the grate get hot for a few minutes. Then we put the bird on the grate, spine side down to start. This part was a little challenging. Getting the turkey balanced on the grate in the position we wanted was not exactly a simple task! We watched it closely for the first 15 minutes or so as it was crucial not to have it too close to the fire. We didn’t want the skin burning! Then began the delicate dance of keeping the fire going while adjusting the height and position of the turkey to make sure it was cooking well, but not over-cooking any one section. The goal was to get the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast to 165-170 degrees. We checked on it every half hour (basting with butter before each flip) or so to add wood to the fire or reposition the turkey. After roughly 6 hours (good thing we started early!) it was done! Upon removing it from the fire it’s best to let it rest for 10 minutes before carving. We impressed ourselves because it was our first time cooking the bird this way and It turned out so good! It was definitely a long and somewhat tedious process, but it was also very enjoyable and a good way to try something new. Thankfully we didn’t have to order a Thanksgiving pizza! The turkey turned out absolutely delicious! The skin was crispy, and the meat had a wonderful flavor with the perfect hint of smoke. And believe it or not, the meat did not get dried out!
As for our sides, we had microwavable mashed potatoes, stuffing, and biscuits. Conveniently, our Vacationer has a traditional oven and a convection oven/microwave combo. Having both appliances allows us to cook the biscuits and mashed potatoes at the same time. And then it’s just a few minutes on the stove for the stuffing and dinner is ready. Our gravy comes from a jar and our cranberry sauce a can. Consider it balancing out the challenge of the campfire turkey with simple sides!
Of course, that might not work for everyone but over the past year we are learning to focus our time where it really matters. And for us that means prioritizing family time by playing games, talking, reading books, or snuggling by a campfire, not cooking for hours and washing every dish in the RV.
That’s not to say that everything is smooth sailing because when it comes to desserts, we are a house divided. One of us is team apple, and the other is pumpkin. Our son hasn’t formed an official opinion as he is all too happy to eat both! But alas, we somehow narrow it down to one desert. Last year we had a decadent heath bar crumble and apple slice dessert, and this year it will be store-bought pumpkin pie.
Leading up to Thanksgiving we make DIY crafts with fallen leaves, twigs, rocks, and any other outdoor elements we have around. We’ll then use those projects for table decor as well as items from our YearCheer box and a few finds from the Dollar Tree.
All in all, celebrating Thanksgiving on the road is quite similar to when we lived in a house. The biggest difference is that we scaled down the amount of food for a family of 3. We are able to maintain some traditions while also doing it in a way that suits our lifestyle. It really come down to making the day about spending time with your family and giving thanks for your blessings.
We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving spent with those you love and cherish the most! Whether you’re in an RV or a sticks and bricks, hug your people and eat lots of delicious food!
Meet Spencer, Kristi and Kade, a.k.a. the Adventurtunity Family! In September 2020, they embarked on an adventure to live full-time in their 37′ Holiday Rambler Vacationer. Originally from Baltimore, they have traveled the country in their RV and are sharing their adventures, insight and tips with others in the hopes of inspiring them to hit the road and explore, too.