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Thanksgiving Dinner for RVers: Making the Traditional Turkey and Other Options

Thanksgiving dinner…. You're RVing, so how do you go about preparing this annual feast? Here are some ideas and tips that will have you enjoying a delicious meal, even though your kitchen is tiny.

One of things I'm grateful for is that we have options. We've celebrated the holiday in various ways.

The Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner

While it's no surprise that RV ovens are smaller than what you find in a sticks and bricks home, you may be surprised at what all you can make in that little RV oven. First off, be aware that RV ovens come in different sizes. In my Holiday Rambler, I can roast a 21-pound turkey. Yes, 21 pounds! In our Forest River, an 18-pounder is the max that I've been able to fit.

Key to getting a large bird in a small oven is the pan. Use an oval shaped, disposable roasting pan, the kind made of heavy aluminum. You can then bend the front and back somewhat, if necessary, shaping it to fit your oven.

If you don't want to fix that much turkey, ask the butcher to cut it in half for you. Yes, he should be able to cut a frozen turkey in half, without thawing. I've had this done and there was no extra charge for it. A whole chicken or Cornish game hens are smaller alternatives. Or, consider a turkey breast, turkey roast, or depending on your preference for light or dark meat, turkey legs or turkey breast fillets. If you don't have an oven, use your CrockPot slow cooker. Bake the stuffing with the bird and you have one side dish taken care of at the same time.

I like to use my stove burners for cooking the potatoes and for making the gravy.

Use your slow cooker and microwave for other side dishes. Sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, and escalloped corn all do nicely in either the microwave or a slow cooker. If you want them to have a browned top, give them a few minutes under the broiler, when the turkey is out and resting.

Cranberries? I usually cheat and used canned. If you choose to make cranberry salad or cranberry relish from fresh cranberries, do it earlier in the week.

Bake your rolls the day before. Or, buy a package. Give them a few seconds in the microwave immediately before you sit down to eat. You can also put them in the oven to warm after you've taken out the turkey.

Round your meal out with a tray of mixed raw vegetable and dip, some olives, or other simple nibbles.

As for dessert, I have nothing against a frozen key lime pie any time of the year. Or, pecan pie from the bakery. But, here again, if you are making it from scratch, do it a day or so ahead of time.

Grazing the Day Away - An Hors d'oeuvres Feast

Sweet treats. Savory bites. We sometimes spend Thanksgiving nibbling throughout the day. We may sit down at the table for a full meal that is entirely made up of appetizers and finger foods. This is a particularly good option if you don't have an oven, if you are boondocking and want to conserve electricity, or if you simply don't want to commit to the traditional meal.

Assorted quick breads -- banana bread, cranberry bread, date nut bread -- are a good way to start the day. With eggnog. Or, with coffee spiked with Irish Cream.

Plates of crudites and fresh fruit. Meat and cheese platters. Cream cheese roll-ups. Shrimp cocktail. Crab or salmon spread. Pate'. I like to putts around in my kitchen, so I usually make them. If you aren't so inclined, hit the local deli the day before. Open a few jars of pickles and olives. The one caveat about this is that RV refrigerators aren't always big enough to hold all these plates and jars. If that's an issue, make your selection from a salad bar or olive bar, so you can choose just a few of many items. A couple kinds of snack crackers help round this out. Add a bottle of wine or sparkling juice, and you have a feast.

When we go this route, I like to have dishes of goodies sitting out on the table throughout the day. Sweet and spicy glazed nuts. Dried fruit. Assorted cookies and candy. All of them finger foods that don't need refrigeration.

The Park Dinner or Potluck

If you are staying at an RV park, chances are there's a community dinner. These are sometimes catered, so all you need to do is show up and pay your "donation." Sometimes they are planned, and guests are assigned a particular dish or type of dish to bring. Potlucks are popular some places, with each person bringing whatever he chooses to bring. When there isn't an official park dinner, you can always get together with friends or your RV neighbors.

Dining Out

Let someone else do the cooking! We've had traditional turkey dinners at truck stops and diners. We've gone to "nicer" restaurants for a more formal meal. We've also gone out for pizza or to a Chinese buffet. These dinners out were the easiest. Though, they do lack some of the festive ambience usually associated with the holiday.

Whether your Thanksgiving spread consists of turkey with all the trimmings or something less traditional, do give thanks. Appreciate what you have. Enjoy the company of those who are with you. Make this Thanksgiving Day one to add to your memory bank of RVing good times.

Read more about RV kitchens and cooking in an RV.

Read more about celebrating Thanksgiving and other holidays while full-time RVing.

Go to the RV Life and Travel home page to find more articles about RVs, RV camping, and full-time RVing.

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