Gourmet #Vanlife Cooking: Recipes, Tips, and Tricks

A lot of people ask us about cooking in the van. Feeding ourselves is high on the list of things we like to do. While we definitely eat less in the van, I don’t think we eat less fancy. We are lovers of food and we’re not going to let the lack of oven, running water, countertops, or kitchen utensils slow us down.

Our tools.

Honestly, we don’t have much. We use:

  1. two burner
  2. two cast irons
  3. spatula
  4. one knife
  5. small cutting board
  6. crazy creek table
  7. two plates
  8. some silverware
  9. Jetboil (for coffee and the times we want Mountain House)
  10. strainer

These few things can get us by for just about every meal we want to cook. The magic is in the cast irons. Once these babies are seasoned, you barely need any other cookware. They will grill, sear, slow cook, scramble, toast, and so much more. Now it’s time to get creative!

Our favorite meals:

Hamburgers With a Veggie Side

These are the easiest, and it feels like a gourmet meal every time we make it. We have two burgers sitting in the cooler right now waiting to be grilled up for dinner tonight. And broccoli.

  1. Hamburgers — we get two at a time because we are working with a cooler. It has incredible cooling power, but we don’t want to chance it with raw meat. Whole Foods will make patties for you at their meat counter or you can grab two pre-made ones so it’s easy to transfer straight to the cast iron without having to form the patties and touch raw meat in the back/side/front country.
  2. Buns
  3. Condiments (always in our cooler)
  4. Pickles (always in our cooler)
  5. Side veggie (brussels, broccoli, carrots, sweet potato fries)
Cooking Instructions:
  1. Throw two burgers on one cast iron with fat of your choice, cut the veggies and cook those on the second cast iron, also with a fat of your choice, salt and pepper.
  2. Burgers will need to be flipped after 6-7 minutes on low heat. Don’t touch them until then, letting them sear with keep in the flavor.
  3. Flip, cook other side, and also throw the buns on for a little toasting. It might be the magic of the cast iron, but usually, everything is ready around the same time. ENJOY.

Chicken Quesadillas

We love mexican food, and these few ingredient quesadillas are a go to.

  1. 1/2 jar salsa (make another round later with the other half!)
  2. 1/2 can of refried beans
  3. Shredded or ground chicken (we eat a lot, .75lb for a meal)
  4. Tortillas (or chips if you just want to dip)
  5. Hot Sauce
  6. (easier option) Don’t use any of these ingredients and make a Chicken Fajita Bowl Mountain House and put it in a toasted tortilla!
Cooking Instructions:
  1. Combine refried beans and salsa in cast iron with LOTS OF FAT OF CHOICE.
  2. Brown chicken in other cast iron.
  3. Add chicken to refried beans/salsa mix.
  4. Crisp tortillas on newly empty cast iron.
  5. Build your quesadillas. ENJOY!

*You can add so many things to these — including cheese which would make it a true quesadilla. You could also add peppers, avocado (add at end), onion, really whatever you have in the van that might go bad soon.

Breakfast Scramble

This is my favorite meal, every morning gets a good breakfast whether it be at 5 a.m. before a hike, or 11 a.m. after sleeping in. You MUST have a big breakfast. Every breakfast is a combination of different ingredients with eggs on top. A lot of the time, it includes left overs.

  1. Eggs
  2. Sausage (precooked)
  3. Peppers
  4. Onions
  5. Salsa
  6. Leftovers
  7. (easier option) grab a Breakfast Skillet from Mountain House and you only have to boil water.
Cooking Instructions:
  1. Put fat of choice and veggies (always salt+pepper) in cast iron first, let them cook.
  2. Add eggs on top and scramble in pan.
  3. Pile eggs on top of bread or tortilla from night before, be full for hours.

Tips and Tricks:

Four months of cooking on a two burner has left us with a few insights on how to make things go more smoothly when cooking without power or running water.

  1. Try to minimize dishes as much as possible. If you can eat directly from the cast iron, why get a plate dirty?
  2. We’ve mentioned ‘fat of choice’ a few times. We are fat proponents, it helps keep us full, and young. We’re talking about GOOD fat, not vegetable oil. We use ghee most of the time because it’s shelf stable, stable at high temperatures, comes in a sturdy jar, and lasts a long time. It’s clarified butter, and it’s delicious.
  3. Keep your raw meat in the bottom of your cooler (hopefully in a dry bin if you have it), it’s the coldest and safest place for it.
  4. Cast irons are so wonderful because you don’t have to wash them. Scrape it out and put it away for next time. Grab some pot holders so they’re easy to handle.
  5. Keep sugars (tomato sauce), acids (lemon juice), soap, and water out of your cast iron pan. It will ruin the season and you won’t be able to clean it as easily.

If you like the gear we’re reppin’, or what we’re wearing, check out some of the sponsors that make this tour possible: La SportivaCrazy CreekNational GeographicRovR ProductsSea to SummitMountain HouseLifeStraw, and Lowe Alpine.

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