Kit’s Kitchen

I love cooking, and making good-tasting, healthy vegetarian food on the road in my minivan was important to me.

I’m well-equipped to start with. I have a small 12 volt  fridge and a two-burner propane stove, so in many ways I have all the conveniences of home. On the other hand, my fridge is bar-sized,  I have little prep area, no oven, my storage space is minimal and I cook outside. I’m also most often  in very rural areas where access to fresh food is sometimes limited. So, there are some challenges.

I have a canopy that  goes off the back of my van to cover the kitchen area in  rain, which is super helpful. I don’t have a photo of it yet in this configuaration, because I have only used it in the desert as a stand-alone sun shade but here is a link to the product. I’m pretty happy with it!    http://a.co/8QsJdA7 

The pull-out kitchen

I’m typically a plant-eater, so beans, tofu and lentils feature prominently day—to-day. Fruit and vegetables are essential for me. I’m a fan of one-pot meals like soups and stews and I eat dairy products in moderation. I rarely drink prepared drinks, opting mostly for water, coffee and tea but occasionally buy pure juices to add to my water.

I tend to binge-eat sugar and other carbohydrates, so eat  bread, potatoes, rice,   noodles and sweets cuatiously. I use tortilla wraps more often than bread, as they don’t go stale as quickly and are less filling.

I enjoy ice cream “out” when I want a treat, but I usually wait until there is local, small batch ice-cream to be found. For whatever reason, I don’t really struggle with junk food per se, as long as it’s not in my immediate environment. I’ve been blessed with other addictions that keep me real. 😉

The best (and only!) banana split I’ve ever had! Shared with a friend in Havasu!

I absolutely never eat when I drive. This has been an essential new habit for me on the road. If I drive and eat, I sometimes don’t even register that I have eaten and this can lead to over-eating. Plus, who can really enjoy food while concentrating on something else? I like to find local little parks or scenic look-outs for meals on-the-go.

My food storage includes fridge space for fresh fruits, veggies, soy products and dairy. I have two drawers for dry goods.  My actual “kitchen” is a drawer that pulls out of a cabinet at the back of the van, where my sink, stove, propane, cast-iron pot & frying pan, coffee purculator and dishes live.


Cooking Supplies Include:

Cast iron pot and frying pan – one lid that works for both
I used to have a tea kettle and a Bodum French-press  coffee maker but swapped for a coffee percolator (takes up less space and does more, including boiling water)
Miniature spatula, flipper and ladle
Wooden spoon
Two cooking knives & a built in cutting board (that lifts out, to replace or access propane)
Can opener
Cutlery, bowls and plates (metal) for two people
Two dish cloths and two tea towels
Dish soap (biodegradable)

Oh, and I use the wax cloth food wrappers, rather than Tupperware or other disposable wraps for leftovers.

Below is the storage in the pull out drawer. The little propane tank is behind the white bins. It’s a one gallon tank that can be refilled. I only have to refill   every two or three months and it costs about $3! Very economical.

Travelling with propane demands care – it must always be stored upright, it should have a regulator on it, it should be turned off after each use and proper ventilation is essential. I never sleep with my windows fully closed EVER and I also have a propane/ carbon monoxicide alarm wired into the van. I believe you can also run them on battery.

The stove is the black rectangle on top. Water for the sink comes from a 6 gallon tank in the floor of the van powered and pumped by my battery. I carry an additional 6 gallons of water in the front passenger seat for times that getting water into the other tank isn’t possible or convenient (I need to use a hose to fill it).

Pantry Items Include:

Oatmeal
Quinoa, couscous, rice and pasta
Dry lentils and canned beans
Rice noodles & udon noodles (both cook quickly)
Coffee/ tea (in one of the white bins)
Peanut, cashew &almond butters
Trail mix ( I make a mix  I like)
Canned diced tomatoes, corn and retried beans
Coconut milk

Fridge usually has:
Hard cheese (Parmesan or asiago)
Tofu, veggie ground beef and veggie dogs
Canned fruit (I like it cold)
Fresh fruit & Veggies apples, oranges, grapes, mushrooms, brocolli etc)
Onion, Potato, Sweet potato
Yogurt or cottage cheese
Cream for my coffee
Flat bread/ tortillas
Minced garlic

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I don’t deviate a lot from these ingredients. The  fresh fruit and vegetables change with availability. I love to buy local and in season when I can and never miss a farmer’s market if I can help it. Farmer’s markets are a great place to learn a lot about a local community and meet great folks.

Oh, and I have an awesome spice rack I bought off Amazon. Since youre going to ask me for the link, here it is!         Spice Rack

Here are some breakfasts I regularly enjoy:

– yogurt, granola and fruit

-oatmeal and fruit

-retried bean wraps with cheese

-banana and nut butter on a tortilla wrap

-fresh fruit and a handful of nuts

-leftover stew or soup from the night before

 

Here are some lunches I  frequently make:

-hummus, cucumber and avocado  on tortilla wrap

-cheese and vegetable quesadilla with corn or flour tortilla

-raw carrots, cauliflower, broccoli dipped in hummus

-curry -coconut lentil stew

-vegetable stew with tofu or beans

-oriental noodles or Tempeh with vegetables

 

Typical Dinners:

Rice and bean casseroles

Noodles and vegetables

Veggie and tofu stir fry

a veggie wrap

Rice and veggies

Sweet potatoes  with cinnamon and butter

 

Things I’ve learned: 

98% of what I had in my home kitchen is unecessary. “Convenient” …but unecessary to make a good meal!

One good knife is better than 10 so-so knives. I don’t need dishes for anyone but me and sometimes one other person. Others will bring their own dishes if we eat together. I started with large size bowls and plates and quickly moved to smaller ones. There are small utensils (ladles, serving spoons) available and they are great for a van.

When I make a one pot meal, I always make enough for 2-3 meals. I prefer to eat a larger meal mid-day so that I am not cooking or cleaning up in the dark.

I eat much better with other people (like when I travelled with my daughter or was camping next to a friend and sharing meals) Many of my one-pot meals take less than ten minutes to prepare. I keep most of my dry food in Tupperware-type containers to ward off mice and insects and to make finding things easier.

I don’t need to carry nearly as much food with me as I do. I have to keep reminding myself that there is usually food available in the next town and I’m only one person!

I traded in my tea kettle and  glass French-press coffee maker for one enamel coffee percolator that I use on my propane stove. I LOVE IT. It makes great coffee, takes up half the space as two things, and can also be used to boil water, which I don’t like to do in my cast iron pot. I chose cast iron because it retains heat well in cool weather and it can be used over a fire as well as on the stove.

My new stove top coffee percolator!

In short, the simpler the better, and the LESS the better. One doesn’t need a stocked kitchen to enjoy good food on the road at all! Just a bit of creativity and a desire to enjoy the rewards.

As a side note, the rewards have been tremendous. I have shed 30 pounds on this nine month adventure, which I attribute to increased exercise – walking, hiking and swimming-   being in an environment where i am not constantly inundated with fast food options and simply making time to enjoy cooking and eating in a ritualistic way.

Additionally, I rarely eat out of “boredom” anymore, because I am never bored! I am living a rich, rewarding and active life that engages me on every level. No need to numb-out with food either, as was sometimes  the case at home.

I want to be wide awake for this journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14 thoughts on “Kit’s Kitchen

  1. Hi Kit, I’m in the planning stages of my mini-van set-up and stumbled onto your youtube video. I love your set-up and it will inspire mine. I also live in Ottawa, so I hope to cross paths with you some day on the road and compare.

    Warm regards,
    Guy

  2. Thanks for sharing your journey with us- I was inspired to see how well you eat, even though your kitchen set-up isn’t that big. Like you, eating well is so important to how I feel overall, my mood and energy levels….cooking for myself is an act of self-care that I respect and honor! I watched your video of your van tour but could not find the information you alluded to there (the name of your conversion place).. Would you be willing to share it here?
    Thanks again for taking the time to write all this out in such detail! Loving it!

  3. Love this article, Kit! Love seeing others set ups and yours is fantastic! Looks about like mine in the pots, pans, utensils, etc. department. Q.- What are cloth food wraps??? My Pyrex takes up so much space in the fridge- It’s a game of Tetris in there every time I open it!

    Thank you for this excellent article. You gave me many ideas to expand my repertoire. I’ve always eaten mostly the same things day to day. Just love your food breakdowns. You ROCK!

    Kelly and Sophie dog

  4. Hey Kit,
    Ditch the dairy altogether. There are a lot of good alternatives. I haven’t had dairy for over a year and the only thing I miss is a slice of old cheese with my Apple pie 😉
    Take care my dear friend

  5. When I get back home and reset up my van I am going to have a stove and a cooking set up. This is just the inspiration I need! The pics are fabulously mouth watering. You could do a great camping cookbook!

  6. You must’ve read my mind…was just making a list today of kitchen requirements….I’m close to purchasing my Caravan and hope to be hitting the road late summer. Thanks for this…I’ll compare it with my list and adjust accordingly.

  7. Omg can I come and eat with you? That looks fantastic! I will admit, one of my big concerns is food and cooking. I love cooking and eating healthy vegetarian food. I also have a hard time stopping myself when it comes to any dough product 🙂 So, you have such a nice kitchen set up. If I did end up getting a mini van for my traveling, I do not have anyone to help me build. I’m sure with the help of Pinterest and the FB group I could figure something out. I do worry about that though. I also wondered if a perculator or a pour over would be better for coffee and clean up. You like the perculator method best? Thank you so much for the post. Lots of good information!

    1. Hi Debbie,
      So glad it was helpful. Once you know what you want to build, I would suggest talking to carpenters who specialize in cabinet making They seem to be the ones most accustomed to specialty fitting in small spaces…or boat makers! But any carpenter might be able to take it on if they are bold! I like my new percolator a lot. Clean up is simple. Love that the pot also doubles as a kettle. Good luck with your build!
      Kit

    2. Debbie, we had a 2000 Chevy express van. Camped in it for over 10 years. Converted it ourselves. Only “building” was a frame off the van bed for a queen size mattress. Underneath were plastic storage bins for clothes and kitchen. Had a porta pottie, large dorm fridge and a microwave. You can go cheap and enjoy until you save enough for that complete re-do! My only regret is not taking it to a van conversion shop and having that canvas sided hard top lift on the roof installed. My back would have loved it, but then might not have gotten my RoadTrek! Kits pics and explanations are a great inspiration and guide, too!

I love to hear from you :)