Kurt Klaus has seen it all in 35 years of trucking along America's roadways. He's happy to park his rig long enough to enjoy weekends with wife Mary Jo, below.

Kurt Klaus was driving his 18-wheeler along the Pennsylvania Turnpike one night when he decided to stop and get some rest. There wasn’t a rest area with facilities nearby, just a place where the shoulder of the road widens and drivers can safely pull over to take a break and maybe grab a bite to eat at a picnic table.

Another trucker had already parked his rig in the darkened area and, after noticing a shadowy figure digging through a trash can, decided to be a Good Samaritan. The trucker returned to his rig, took a sandwich out of his lunchbox and walked back to offer it to the hungry soul going through the garbage.

“The next thing you know he’s running back to his truck like he was shot out of a cannon,” recalls Kurt. “I never saw a big ol’ trucker run that fast in my life.”

The shadowy figure turned out to be a black bear. “Thankfully, the bear had found some easy pickings. He just grunted a few times and he was out of there,” adds Kurt.

Kurt has canvassed the nation’s roads for the past 35 years and estimates he has logged 3 million miles as a “long hauler, short hauler, every kind of hauler.” He has a great view of the world through the windshield of his big truck.

“I’ve seen my share of bad weather, bad drivers and bad accidents. Sometimes you don’t even want to remember. For the most part, a good day trucking is an uneventful one.”

It’s safe to say that Kurt has eaten his share of truck stop cooking, some of it good and some of it not so memorable. His dining experiences have provided

helpful lessons about cooking that he has eagerly applied back home in Yorkville, Illinois. Take his chili, for example.

"Any trucker can tell you that chili is one of the basic food groups. Every truck stop has chili, and some are OK. But I've kind of perfected my own to where I really like it." Scroll down to check out Kurt's Much-Better-Than-Truckstop Chili.

Kurt is also proud of the savory Italian Pot Roast he makes with pancetta and red wine. He likes to prepare the hearty dish when the weather begins to cool off a bit.

Kurt is quick to share cooking credits with Mary Jo, his wife of 18 years. “Mary Jo does the majority of the cooking. Occasionally I’ll make her something fancy out of guilt. I’ll just storm in there and trash her kitchen and make something. But I haven’t heard too many complaints.”

----As told to Jim Smith

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Italian Pot Roast

When the weather starts getting cooler, it is nice to have a hearty meal simmering away on the stove.

  • 1 31/2-4 lb. boneless chuck roast
  • 3 TB. olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp. salt, to taste
  • 1/2-2 tsp. PENZEYS FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER, to taste
  • 3 oz. chopped pancetta
  • 1-2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Cup red wine
  • 2 Cups beef broth (2 cups water and 11/2 tsp. BEEF SOUP BASE)
  • 2 Cups peeled, chopped tomatoes or 1 28-oz. can Italian tomatoes
  • 1 Cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 Cup sliced celery
  • 5-6 oz. button mushrooms, cooked in butter or olive oil until softened
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 2-3 TB. chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 4-5 large potatoes, peeled and quartered

Trim the fat from the meat. In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the roast and brown on all sides. Remove from the pot and season with the desired amounts of salt and PEPPER. Drain off most of the fat, leaving 2-3 TB. Add the pancetta, chopped onion and garlic to the pot and cook over medium-low until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, add the wine, stir well and return to heat. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until most of the liquid evaporates. Return the meat to the pot. Add the beef broth, tomatoes, carrots, celery, mushrooms, quartered onion, parsley and ITALIAN HERB MIX. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 11/2-2 hours. Add the potatoes and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the cover from the pot and cook until the sauce is your desired consistency.

Prep. time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 3 hours total
Serves: 6-8

Nutritional Information: Servings 8;
Serving Size 2 cups (438g); Calories 530; Calories from fat 250; Total fat 28g; Cholesterol 130mg; Sodium 680mg; Carbohydrate 27g; Dietary Fiber 4g.

Need any spices for this recipe?

Spice Price Quantity
Penzeys Freshly Ground Pepper 2.4oz 1/2 cup jar $5.69
Beef Soup Base and Seasoning 8 oz. jar $10.85
Italian Herb Mix .7 oz. 1/2 cup jar $4.79

Much-Better-Than-Truckstop Chili

Kurt shares, "We grow our own peppers. Last summer we grew Bailey's piquins and Zimbabwe bird peppers. That's a lot of firepower. For most of us jalapeños do the job. It's up to you."

  • 11/2 lbs. ground chuck
  • 1 lb. bulk hot Italian sausage
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 15-oz. cans red beans, drained
  • 1 15-oz. can pinto beans, drained
  • 1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 2 15-oz. cans tomato sauce
  • 5 chopped tomatoes or 2 15-oz. cans chopped tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 medium sweet peppers (bell peppers), chopped
  • 2 jalapeño peppers or other hot peppers, chopped
  • 1/2 Cup chopped celery (1 stalk)
  • 2 tsp. GROUND CUMIN
  • 1 can beer
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 Cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 Cup masa harina

In a stock pot, brown the ground chuck, sausage and onion over medium-high heat. Drain off the fat. Add the beans, tomato sauce, tomatoes, garlic, sweet and hot peppers, celery, CUMIN and beer. Stir well. Add the CHILI POWDER, salt and brown sugar and mix to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1-11/2 hours. Gradually stir in the masa harina until the chili is your desired consistency. Top with shredded cheese, chopped onion and sour cream as desired.

Prep. time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours
Serves: 10

Nutritional Information: Servings 10;
Serving Size 2 cups (533g); Calories 530; Calories from fat 180; Total fat 20g; Cholesterol 70mg; Sodium 1480mg; Carbohydrate 59g; Dietary Fiber 14g.

Need any spices for this recipe?

Spice Price Quantity
Cumin Ground .9 oz. 1/4 cup jar $3.55
Medium Hot Chili Powder 2.4 oz. 1/2 cup jar $6.85