Cold Days and Warm Food


Highway 1 in western Jones County near Fairview.

Hello and welcome to the blog!  What a cold spell!  This week we were in the heart of the frigid “polar vortex” system.  On Thursday morning the temperature reached -29 degrees in Jones County.  Many daily records were shattered around Iowa.  The van started but she groaned a little at the arctic temps.  This old body felt the same way!  Jenny took a few steps outside and immediately ran back in the door.

Work was canceled on all of last Wednesday and the first half of Thursday due to extreme cold and more snow.  In light of things, I didn’t mind a break.  The work climate was more frigid than the commute.   🙂

Well, a few weeks ago I’d intended to pass along good news about work but it didn’t materialize.  Recently I was that told no decision was made to hire me and there was concern if I would be a good fit.  It came as no surprise.  The only people in our training group who got jobs were in their 20s and 30s.  Two guys (57 and 61 years old) had already been dismissed — “the contract-to-fire” program as I call it.

Recently it was very gently suggested I could give a two week notice but I declined to do that, stating it was preferable to remain there as a temp.  It seemed to catch them off-guard a bit.  In the meantime, I’m saving $3 out of every hour’s pay.  Why quit now?   🙂   🙂

With the cold weather, I decided to come up with a crock pot meal that would satisfy the belly and comfort the soul.  The dish used pheasant parts but one could substitute some chicken.

Pheasant and broccoli dish with more broccoli on the side… It was reheated on the grill.


Creamy Chicken Broccoli Mac ‘n’ Cheese

1 + 1/2 cups boneless poultry, diced
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
8 ounces Velveeta
1 cup chicken broth
1.5 cups broccoli (fresh or frozen)
1 cup elbow macaroni, uncooked
1/3 cup to 1/2 cup half ‘n’ half or as needed
2-3 cloves pressed garlic
salt, pepper, cayenne pepper to taste

Combine chicken, soups, broth, broccoli, Velveeta, and garlic in the crock pot.  Cook for about 3 hours on low.  Add in the macaroni and cook about another 45 minutes, checking for desired doneness of pasta (I like to overcook it so the noodles are soft like dumplings).  Reserve the half ‘n’ half and use to thin down the mixture if it becomes too thick.  I like it thick but one could thin it further to be more of a soup texture.

The temperature soared to 44 on Sunday.  On Thursday the high was just -15!  Talk about crazy bipolar Iowa weather.  Today Jenny sat on the railing of the deck while I cleaned up the last of the ice and snow in the driveway.  No jacket was needed all day.  Unfortunately, more rain, snow, and single digit weather is coming this next week.  Old Man Winter is not being too nice to us these days.

That’s about it for now.  Once we get a little warmer it will be back to work camping… if I still have a job.  No worries.  In the meantime, there are more cooking ideas to try.  There will definitely be some outdoor fun before too long.

Safe and happy traveling and camping.

Brad, Jenny, and Duke
Jones County, Iowa

About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"
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6 Responses to Cold Days and Warm Food

  1. my_vantasy says:

    Hello! We had the same weather here in Ohio. Work was closed Weds and Thurs for the polar vortex-‘with pay–but the roads were too bad for me to go in on Fri, so I had to do leave w/o pay. I wanted to go in, but it wasn’t worth the risk. They don’t pay me that well! Nice looking comfort food. You need to come up with the meatless version. LOL. I feel bad about your job, but am glad you are staying strong. I saw something and thought about your situation: “Good morning, this is God. I”ll be handling all of your problems today.” Hang in there! Go get some kitty love therapy!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi! That would be nice to get paid for the closure. I didn’t get paid, being a temp. But it was nice to have some time off. I can imagine the roads there were bad.

      I thought about you when I posted about poultry. I’m so hungry for fish that the next casserole might have to have some fish in it. The kitties have been great. Thanks for the kind words about work. It’s hugely challenging. Like my 61 year old buddy said, he was tired of walking on egg shells and is relieved. He’s already found a new opportunity. I’ll stay around for now. There’s nothing to lose. 🙂

      Take care! I’m sure getting hungry thinking a about a fish casserole now. 🙂

  2. Jo Harmon says:

    Was thinking about you traveling on the roads in that awful weather, sure glad you didn’t have to go in to work or sleep in the van. Just hang in there as long as they let you. Like you said your saving money on every check.

    That dish looks mighty good might have to try that one.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo! That weather was nasty. We’ve got more rain / freezing rain coming tomorrow. I can camp tomorrow night since the low is 32. Can’t pass up that balmy air! Take care! — Brad and Jenny and Duke

  3. Laurie says:

    Glad you’re ok…I was wondering about the bad weather there. Sorry about the job – don’t let them talk you into quitting if you don’t want to, I think they do that because they look better if you’re the one who leaves…I had one try to do that to me, but I told them I really wanted the job and i ended up staying for 27 years. Hang in there and I’m glad you made it thru that awful cold!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Laurie! Your words brightened my day quite a bit! Thank you! I think you’re right – a person should not quit. If you do it can nix the changes of unemployment too. I’m working every day and doing my best – not knowing when it might end. We’ve got a break between weather systems with a 32 degree low tomorrow night. It might be warm enough for a little van camping. That sounds like fun! Take care! VT