Even seasoned cooks in well-established kitchens consider preparing a Thanksgiving feast to be a challenge to say the least. In an RV, with smaller ovens and limited counter space, it can be even more difficult. Rather than focus on what you don’t have—especially at this time of the year—it’s good to be thankful for what you do. So, here are some strategies for making the most of your November holiday.
Related Read: DIY Thanksgiving in an RV
Survey Your Surroundings
Check with your campground, as well as your neighbors. Many parks offer a community-style Thanksgiving dinner in their clubhouse. Participants sign up to bring a specified dish so there is a variety without duplicates (unless they specify potluck), or to help with a meal-related task like setting the table.
In a smaller space, it is much easier to make one or two fabulous contributions than to make the whole meal, and eating with others provides the best of both worlds. You get a full meal with new and old friends without the hassle of taking on all of the work by yourself.
Related Read: Thanksgiving on the Road: Finding a Meal
If you choose to make the entire meal for the occupants of your RV, and maybe a couple of friends or family members, planning is the only way to ensure a less stressful day. Decide ahead of time what dishes you want to serve. Try to choose ones that use the same ingredients, so you’ll have fewer elements to buy and store. This also saves time prepping and cleaning up.
Then, make a list before shopping to ensure you get everything in one trip. This saves time and money.
Most RVs have small kitchens with tiny ovens. We are blessed with a full-sized convection oven and we still don’t really have the room to cook a large bird. There are several options that make this easier.
Consider cooking your turkey in an outdoor smoker. You could even eat at a picnic table “Charlie Brown” style. Make all of the side-dishes and desserts, but buy a ready-made turkey from a nearby restaurant or grocery store. (Several offer these, but the options vary by location.) Limit your entrée to just a turkey breast that will fit in your oven. Not only will this likely feed the number of diners you can fit in your RV, but it reduces the amount of leftovers that you’ll need to store.
Don’t Skimp on Prepping
You increase your cooking flexibility and reduce stress by preparing some of the food—or at least the elements of dishes—a day or two ahead of time. Chop vegetables, measure ingredients and place them in labeled containers, assemble veggie trays, and make pies or cookies before the main day. Since you don’t have the counter space of a full kitchen, do what you can to maximize the space you do have.
Choose Easy Side-Dishes and Deserts
Pick a couple of “must-haves” that you are willing to spend your time and energy on and then fill in with a few easy or store-bought additions. For example, maybe it just isn’t Thanksgiving without your mother’s cranberry salad recipe. Focus on that and serve premade mashed potatoes and rolls rather than homemade, etc.
Plus, make sure to use your crockpot as a space and time-saving cooking option. It works great for Thanksgiving staples like sweet potatoes or green bean casserole.
Frozen piecrusts make baking pies easy (if your oven will accommodate them), but you can also get a lovely one from Perkins or The Cheesecake Factory if you order in advance. Also think outside the box; if you have access to a campfire ring, use it. Roast some strawberries, bananas, or marshmallows and dip them in melted chocolate. Just because it’s a holiday, doesn’t mean you can’t make s’mores.
Quickie Clean to Enjoy Your Day
Tidying up quickly after the meal allows you to spend more time having holiday fun. Nobody wants to spend hours scraping plates and washing pans. In an RV, sometimes the dreaded dish duty is enough to entirely stop you from preparing a large meal. When cleaning up is easy, it takes away much of the stress.
One way to minimize the mess is to serve the meal outside. Many campgrounds provide picnic tables. With an inexpensive tablecloth and a centerpiece, this can be as festive as if it were inside. Another option is to use holiday paper plates over your camping tableware. This provides a disposable barrier over the sturdier dishes keeping the plates, themselves, clean. Use liners for the pans, pots, and slow-cookers. Afterward, just remove the liner and throw it away. This really reduces clean-up time.
This holiday, engage the help of others. Share the bounty with your neighbors. Make preparing and cleaning up after the meal part of the “family fun”. With proper planning and a good strategy, you can easily make this a Thanksgiving to remember…for the all the right reasons.
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