Many people ask: what are you eating on the road? In all honesty, our diets have not changed a lot since downgrading from a full-size kitchen to our toaster oven and three-burner stove. Now, we must confess that we've never been fancy eaters. In fact, I'd call my personal brand of cooking "simple meets country." I tend to make the things I know best: potatoes, stir fry, spaghetti, casseroles, taverns (sloppy joes for readers outside of NE Nebraska), baked chicken and roasted veggies. I love veggies and fruit -- in fact I could easily be a vegetarian if I didn't live with a meat lover -- so of course I eat a lot of that on the go and always try to sneak it into our meals. Hey, I got Carson to like cooked spinach and asparagus, so that's a win!
I'd love to keep more frozen veggies on hand. In fact, it's the one thing I really miss. But we have an incredibly small refrigerator with only a tiny freezer compartment, which we usually reserve for chicken breasts or ground turkey. Salad and fresh broccoli or cauliflower is also hard to keep in a small fridge, all of which use to be main staples of my diet. So we compromise: we'll buy bagged spinach and baby carrots to keep around for snacking. And lots of fruit that doesn't need refrigeration.
We did get rid of many appliances, pots and pans we used on a regular basis – adios food processor, standing mixer, muffin pan and rice cooker. Still, we’ve managed pretty well with just the basics and we don't really miss a lot so far. Plus our crockpot – one of the few appliances we did bring along – sees a lot more action these days.
The biggest gripe I’ve had so far with cooking in the kitchen is doing the dishes. The more pots, pans, knives and utensils required, the greater the clutter and cleanup after the fact. The one-crockpot meal system takes care of that. And it cooks hot and ready meals for us when we’re out exploring or working, so there’s no dreaded “we have to cook supper” when we get home and want to just relax.
I thought I’d include a few recipes we’ve tried so far that are approved for 120 sq ft living. Many only require a crockpot. Others are a bit more complicated, but worth a good try. Oh, and because I think a lot of people ask: we’ve only eaten fast food three times on the trip! I know. I thought it’d be a lot worse, too. One stop was Whataburger – a regional chain that Carson had never eaten at before and myself only once when my grandparents used to winter in McAllen, TX. The other: KFC and Sonic. Both were on very long drives. Both were much, much worse than we’d hoped for.
When we're not cooking in the trailer we are usually eating turkey sandwiches, peanut butter sandwiches, popcorn with nutritional yeast (thanks Chrissy + Nathan!), Garden Salsa Sunchips (that's Carson) and many bananas, apples, oranges and baby carrots. We do allow ourselves to eat out at least 2x everywhere we stay, too. Hey -- part of travel is enjoying local cuisine. So don't hesitate to tell us about your favorite places to eat. We want to enjoy them, too. Just know we're on a budget!
Crockpot Italian Chicken
This recipe is so simple it's almost stupid. But if you want a huge spaghetti meal that will last you for days, this is your winner. Plus you can dress spaghetti up a million different ways.
- 1 can cream of chicken
- 1 jar spaghetti sauce (we used HyVee brand -- our last hold out from home!)
- Italian seasoning to taste
- 4-5 chicken breasts (frozen or thawed)
- Add chicken breasts to crockpot.
- Mix italian seasonings, can cream of chicken soup and spaghetti sauce. Pour over chicken.
- Cook on low setting for 6 hours.
We ate this with some basic spaghetti noodles and it was delicious. Plus it lasted for days and the chicken was oh-so tender.
Hamburger Soup Casserole
I have no doubt that this recipe will sound gross and strange to many of you. Well, that's probably because you didn't grow up eating casseroles like Carson and I. But I'm here to tell you: this is delicious and it's crazy easy.
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 can vegetable soup
- 3 T butter
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1-2 chopped peppers (we used orange)
- 2 C brown rice (NOT cooked)
- 1 can water
- Seasonings, salt, pepper
- Thaw ground turkey. Put in crockpot on low setting.
- Pour uncooked rice over top of turkey in crockpot.
- Combine cream of mushroom soup, vegetable soup, seasonings and can of water in a separate bowl. Pour over turkey and rice.
- Add the butter last.
- Cook on low 6 hours.
- Add peppers with about 1 hour left to cook.
We suggest serving with your favorite veggie as a side: green beans, a salad or cooked spinach.
Carson’s Bean Burgers (A Variation on Mark Bittman’s Well-Known Recipe)
This was one kind of crazy hard to make in the trailer. It's the first time we missed our food processor, which we actually used quite a bit. But we made do. And if you're like us and trying to make a conscious decision to cut back on your meat-eating, then this recipe is a good one to start with. It's hearty, filling and absolutely delicious. If you're familiar with the original, then you know the only variation that Carson really made in this is adding cooked potatoes to the mix.
- 1 can white beans, drained
- 1 medium onion
- Chili powder
- Red pepper flakes
- Onion salt
- Garlic powder
- 3-4 jalapeños
- ½ C oatmeal
- 2 potatoes (diced and cooked in boiling water)
- Coconut oil (or any frying oil of your choosing)
- Chop onion, jalapeños very well with a knife.
- Combine with oatmeal, can of drained beans, cooked potatoes and seasonings in a large bowl. Mix well.
- Food process in small batches until combined and there are no longer large chunks. **We had to use our tiny blender, so this was difficult. And took a lot of time. And we ended up more just “mashing” the stuff together.**
- Form patties. Add oil (we used coconut) to a pan and start frying the patties in small batches on medium-high heat. You want each side to be a nice “crispy” golden brown before calling it quits.
Serve on buns or, if you’re like us, just eat them plain with ketchup and a salad!
We'll add more road-life-approved recipes as we keep on moving. Just know this: we're certainly not starving on the road!