Monica Bennett blogs about life and cooking in an Airstream travel trailer at her site Just5MoreMinutes.com. Her writing has been featured in Outside Magazine, CNN, Food52, and here at Airstream. We asked her to help us celebrate the season with a couple tips from her Airstream kitchen. Below you’ll find recipes and ideas for cooking Thanksgiving in your Airstream – or wherever you find yourself celebrating.
Over the years my husband, young son and I have made a tradition of enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday with our Airstream – each year in a new and exciting location. We’ve been to the San Juan Islands of Washington State, Whistler ski resort in beautiful British Columbia and our favorite: spending Thanksgiving on our small piece of property in Eastern Washington. The process of preparing a Thanksgiving meal for my family is very enjoyable, and it creates a warm and inviting place in our little “home away from home” where we can relax and enjoy the holiday. Here are ten lessons I’ve learned along the way:
- Make Thanksgiving morning special with an autumn inspired breakfast. My family’s favorite breakfast is apple pumpkin fritters (see recipe below). These are deep fried, but I’ve found that if you use a smallish pot, then the fear factor of deep frying in your trailer drops tenfold. I have a little pot that holds around 4 cups of liquid, which is perfect for frying up these delicious golden nuggets of pure heaven. While breakfast is cooking away, sipping on pumpkin spiced coffee for the adults and warmed apple cider is another win-win in the morning.
- Take the time to explore your surroundings. Cool fall mornings beg for a nice long walk or hike. If near a river, how about a little fly fishing? These are some of our go to outdoor activities that we enjoy together as a family. Fall is also a great time to visit local farmer’s markets. Crisp apples, squash of all sorts and sizes, root vegetables, homemade breads and pastries, and my favorite – mushrooms – are some of the things you can find this time of year. Pick up some goodies with lunch in mind and enjoy the bounties that the hard working local farmers provide. Don’t forget to bring back some little pumpkins to give your campsite a cozy autumn feel.
~ One year at the local farmer’s market in Roslyn, Washington I scored a nice big bag of chanterelle mushrooms and made them the star of our lunch (see recipe below) ~
- Don’t doubt your oven’s potential. One Thanksgiving I roasted a 17.5-pound turkey! It is possible to do and no, it won’t drain your propane tanks. But keep in mind it will take a long time to roast: close to six hours, depending on the size. Make sure you have an oven thermometer to gauge the temperature. After my success with the 17 pound bird, I decided to keep things a little simpler the following year and roasted a couple of Cornish Game hens (see recipe below). They roasted up in no time and let me say, I was very thankful for those little hens and the extra time I was gifted to enjoy the great outdoors. Plus the cranberry sauce tasted out of this world paired with the hens.
~ When I roasted that 17.5 turkey in the San Juan Islands of Washington State ~
- Keep your sides simple and prepare ahead of time. Cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing – these could all be prepared a day or two before at home and reheated on a portable outdoor grill.
- Buy the pie. Thanksgiving is a great time for baking pumpkin pies, but this is the one item I don’t bring along or bake. I make it my mission to track down a bakery in town and bring one (or two) back to the trailer to enjoy. Baking pies is so labor intensive, for me at least, that buying one is well worth the money spent.
- Think about the leftovers. Will you have enough room in the fridge? Do you have enough storage containers to keep the leftovers in? Make a plan for each menu item and be sure to have a storage container for each. When I roasted that 17-pound turkey I couldn’t just stick the whole thing back in the fridge like I could have if I were at home. I had to pick all the meat off the bones, package it in three or four separate containers, and wedge them into any free space I could find in the fridge.
- This is a well-known technique, but it’s true: clean as you go. Our Airstream kitchens are small, yet practical. One thing is for certain, though: if I don’t keep on top of putting things back into the fridge and washing the dishes as I go, my little kitchen turns into an overwhelming mess. Enjoy the process of cooking more by cleaning as you go.
- Extend your counter space. Using an “over the sink” cutting board that has a built in silicone drainer greatly expands my counter space. I couldn’t live without it.
- Compost in your freezer. If you’re prepping in the kitchen and have fruit and veggie scraps, keep a big zip lock bag in the freezer and toss in the scraps. Once you’re home you can put them in your compost bin.
- Toss the cardboard before you hit the road. I recycle all the cardboard boxes (like the ones the stuffing mix comes in) before heading out. This cuts down on garbage and increases storage space.
The Thanksgiving holiday doesn’t have to be stressful. Keeping the menu simple, cleaning as you go and planning ahead are just a few of things I’ve learned while getting ready for Thanksgiving.
Just remember to take some time for yourself. While the oven is hard at work, make yourself a cup of tea, step outside, take a deep breath and take in the beauty of the season.
APPLE PUMPKIN FRITTERS
- 1 cup pumpkin, cooked and pureed
- 1 cup chopped apples
- 1 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup milk
- pinch of salt
- oil, for deep frying
- Combine all the ingredients and mix until you have a smooth batter
- Pour in enough oil to reach a 1/3 of the way up a small to medium sized sauce pan. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out even amounts of batter gently dropping the batter into the hot oil until the fritters turn golden brown and are cooked all the way through – about 2-3 minutes
- Using tongs, carefully remove the fritters from the oil and allow to drain on paper towels
- Continue until all the fritters are cooked
- Serve with warm maple syrup
- 1 pound wild or cultivated mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- Salt and pepper
- Clean your mushrooms with a pastry brush, dusting off any dirt. Trim mushrooms to whatever size you like – since these were smallish chanterelles I kept them whole.
- Preheat a medium sized cast iron skillet. When hot, add avocado oil to coat the bottom of the skillet and then add mushrooms, salt and sugar. Cook over high heat and continue to stir until the mushrooms stop releasing liquid.
- Turn the heat down to medium low, add butter and garlic and cook for approximately five to six more minutes or until the mushrooms turn a rich, deep dark golden brown color.
- Remove from heat and stir in chives adding a good turn of black pepper.
- Serve with a hunk of goat cheese and a fried egg
Thanksgiving Cornish Game Hens
- 2 Cornish Game hens (one per person)
- ½ stick of softened butter
- 4 slices of lemon
- 4 cups of small baby potatoes
- 2 large carrots, sliced
- 1 tablespoon of herbs de Provence
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Rub the hens with plenty of softened butter, taking care to place some butter under the skin. Add two lemon slices per hen under the skin.
- Tie string around the legs ensuring an even roast.
- Sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs de Provence
- Spread the potatoes and carrots on the bottom of medium cast iron skillet and place the hens on top.
- Roast for about 45 minutes (basting every 15 minutes) or until internal temperature reaches 165 F.
- Allow to rest for about 10 minutes
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