By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm
Thanksgiving is over once again and Christmas is quickly approaching. In our business it’s a fact of life that not everyone gets to make it home for Christmas. Many truck stops have a really nice buffet dinner, but maybe you’d rather make your own dinner. Are you one that wants a more “being at home feel”? We believe being on the road for this holiday is the hardest of all. It’s a time to be with family and the ones you love. If you are able to prepare some of your family favorites, made the way Mom does, it can go a long way to help lift your spirits. You may also want to put up some festive decorations and colorful lights in your truck to keep your mood cheerful when forced to be away from home during the holidays.
Unless you have the luxury of a big bunk with an oven, you probably won’t be able to cook an entire turkey, but a bone-in turkey breast a great option instead. There are a variety of 12-volt cookers available these days. Back in the day, we had an inverter and I used a rectangular metal crock pot with a small little griddle at its base to make our turkey. The drippings from that I put into a small pan to make gravy. Microwave a couple of potatoes and mash them up. If you want a healthy version of mashed potatoes, try cauliflower! Bake it and mash it the same as you would potatoes. Sweet potatoes are another healthier option, unless you add the brown sugar and marshmallows to make them extra yummy. I say, “Go for it. It’s Christmas after all!” I’ve said this before, but lunchbox cookers with foil pan liners work great for cooking, including sweet potato casserole. They make clean up easy. You simply throw out the pan when done!
The traditional favorite green bean casserole also cooks great using the lunchbox style cooker. Open a can of french cut green beans, drain them, put contents in a foil liner. Add a can of cream of mushroom soup, stir together and top with crispy fried onions, and cook until bubbling. If that’s not possible, warm up your favorite veggie and make the best of it. It’s still cooking at home. Cranberry sauce is another one of my favorites. It makes no difference if it’s right out of the can, from the deli or homemade! It’s a necessity with turkey and a requirement for a homemade feel to your Christmas dinner.
If you can’t cook everything yourself, the deli case at a nearby grocery store might be a good way to get a lot of variety without a lot of leftovers; especially if you don’t have much room. Maybe a new salad could be added to your list of favorites for the holiday dinner. A cabbage salad, ambrosia or other fruit salad is always a great addition to any holiday meal and you can usually find these in most delis.
We can’t forget dessert! Many stores and many truck stops have bakeries, so you can probably find your favorite pie or cake by the slice. You do have options! Many times all you have to do is ask. Also, if you get to go home before the holiday, maybe you can bring some of your favorite treats from home back out on the road with you. It is always fun to talk with other drivers too and see what some of their favorite treats and traditions are. It’s a great way to connect with others and also keep your spirits up during the holidays.
Speaking of favorites and traditions; I would like to share a southern tradition with you that happens to be one of my favorites. For southerners, this is quite possibly the most important meal of the year. We always followed this particular menu, once Roger introduced me to it. He was born and raised in Alabama. I was from southern California; a different kind of southern. He taught me the practice of eating black eyed peas, hog jowls, greens and cornbread every year on the 1st of January. It CAN be done on the truck, either with canned peas and greens and deli ham and corn muffins or slow cooker made black eyed peas with chunked pork and greens on the side in your choice of cooker. You can buy, bake or fry the cornbread. The point here is that you take part in the tradition. The belief is that the peas represent luck, the pork is for health, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold. The more of each you eat, the more of each you will have in the New Year!
Stay Safe Out There And Keep It Shiny!
Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.