Campervan Cooking Tips and Recipe Ideas

Aug 23, 2018 | Recipes for the Road

By Dawn S.

All of the “Recipes for the Road” posts on Escape Campervan’s website have great ideas and recipes to get you started. Here are some more to add to the list. But before I share them, I will have to agree with 3 things that others have already said: add fresh fruits and veggies (choose sturdy, not soft varieties), do a simple stir-fry or one-pot meal, and plan out your meals so that you can use the food items in several different recipes (example: EGGS; scrambled eggs and bacon, fried egg sandwich, spinach cheese omelet, breakfast burrito with salsa and cheese, French toast).

So here we go, Dawn’s van life cooking tips and recipe ideas.

Things I Bring From Home

  • GSI Outdoors Javapress French Press, 50-Ounce (also great for brewing loose leaf tea)
  • Large thermos
  • Reynolds Wrap Extra Heavy Duty Grill Bags (I can always find them on Amazon)
  • A small cup, with ¼, ½, and 1 cup lines drawn on with a sharpie to use as a measuring cup
  • Vinyl tablecloth
  • Ove glove or oven mitt
  • Wine bottle carrier – use to store and carry water bottles, thermos, coffee mugs
  • SPICES – I reuse small containers and bring along curry powder, Italian seasoning, and a blend of Adobo, cumin, chili powder and garlic powder
  • Small camp towel
  • Camp soap and pot scrubby pad cut into pieces, so you can start with a fresh one as needed
  • Gallon and quart size slider top freezer bags rolled up with a few rubber bands around them – for storing open items or leftovers
  • Reusable plastic containers – keeps your PBJ from getting squished in your daypack, use for taking food onto the plane, storing leftovers, or open items
  • Condiment packets (see below)
  • Bring from home your favorite coffee or tea – it may be hard to find when you are on the road 

Tips

Coffee

I make tomorrow morning’s coffee the night before. I store it in a large thermos so I can quickly warm it up in the morning if needed. Add some cappuccino mix to make it VANtastic!

Skillet

For easy cleanup, spray skillet with cooking oil or drizzle with olive oil packet

Shopping

It’s ok to stock up on nonperishable food items.  Grab some boxes or cardboard flats for storage bins, but do plan to stop by a supermarket or farmers market every few days for fresh produce and perishable items, so you have room in the fridge drawer.

Liven Up Prepared Pasta Sauce

Add sautéed onions, peppers, zucchini, fully cooked chicken breast, Italian seasoning, and parmesan cheese packet, and serve over your favorite pasta.

Tyson Grilled & Ready Fully-Cooked Chicken Breast Strips

Easy to thaw and add to salads, veggie wraps, cheese quesadillas, pasta, rice dishes, and stir-fry.

Instant Oatmeal

Stir in some trail mix, nut butter, or a honey packet.

Dollar Tree

Find toiletries, first aid items, small sized canned goods, instant mashed potato pouches, snacks, condiments, and even frozen meat items for one dollar!

Condiment Packets

I give my co-workers, who order lunch often, my condiment wish list, and they bring me their unused packets of olive oil, soy sauce, parmesan cheese, jelly, syrup, honey, mayo, mustard, ketchup, Barb-Q sauce, taco sauce, hot sauce, vinegar, and salad dressing to use on my van trip.

Keep It Simple

Pick up some supermarket deli-prepared favorites, like potato salad, cole slaw, chicken salad, fried chicken (is cold fried chicken just a southern thing?) rotisserie chicken, prepared green salads, and sandwiches to enjoy when you get to camp.

Recipes

If you are new to van camping, I recommend that you start off with a simple and easy meal plan until you find your groove.

These first three dinner ideas are what John calls “Backpacker meals” and I keep a few on hand to make a quick dinner on those nights when it’s raining, or we get to camp late.

  • Easy Dinner Idea: Tuna Curry Couscous or Salmon Curry Quinoa – cook couscous according to package directions, add curry powder to taste, stir in a can of tuna, add a drizzle of olive oil (and hot sauce if you like it spicy). Or warm up fully cooked quinoa pouch, stir in salmon pouch, and curry powder to taste, add a drizzle of olive oil
  • Easy Dinner Idea: Knorr Rice Sides and canned chicken breast (AVOID the Knorr Pasta Sides – they don’t turn out as well, and are a real bear to clean up)
  • Easy Dinner Idea: Stovetop stuffing and canned chicken breast, add a drizzle of olive oil.
  • Lunch Idea: Turkey and spinach wrap with hummus (or mustard/mayo packet)
  • Lunch Idea: Nut butter, jelly, and trail mix/granola, spread on wrap/tortilla, roll up and enjoy.
  • Easy No-Cook Breakfast Ideas: Bananas, apples, yogurt and granola, pastries, Cliff bars, breakfast bars, cereal, and milk
  • Easy Breakfast Idea: Cheese Grits – cook instant butter flavored grits according to package directions, stir in garlic powder, salt and black pepper, parmesan cheese packet (or any other cheese that you have).

Okay, now that you are settling into your van life routine, here are some other recipes and ideas:

Family Fave: Reynolds Foil Grill Bag Dinner

Pork Tenderloin, Red Potatoes, Carrots, and Onions

1 Reynolds Wrap Extra Heavy Duty Grill Bag

Pork tenderloin (the flavored ones are great, I like the teriyaki or garlic and herb the best)

Baby carrots

Red potatoes, sliced

Onion, chopped

Soy sauce packets

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

When the weather is dry, stack some Matchlight charcoal briquettes, light, then spread out slightly when the flames die down and the coals turn gray. Add meat and veggies to the foil bag. Season with salt and pepper and a soy sauce packet, drizzle with olive oil. Press out air, and make a small fold along the open end, fold at least one or two more times to close tightly. DO NOT PUNCTURE BAG. Place foil bag DIRECTLY ONTO THE COALS, gently press to flatten out, carefully flip over every ten minutes ‘til done (use oven glove), about 25-30 minutes total, depending on size. Carefully remove foil pouch from coals, supporting it with a plate lined with aluminum foil or paper towels, and let rest on picnic table bench at least 5 minutes. Slice an X pattern on the top side to open the bag, WATCH OUT FOR STEAM, remove and slice pork tenderloin and serve with cooked veggies on the side. Make garlic toast out of bread or leftover hot dog buns.

Breakfast Ideas

  • Corned Beef Hash and Egg Wrap: Heat up a can of corned beef hash, add eggs and scramble, fill a flour tortilla with the hash and egg mixture, add to skillet and toast on each side.
  • Grilled Breakfast Sandwich: add mayo, fried egg, Canadian bacon, and cheese, then toast in a skillet on each side (use bread, bagels, English muffins, or leftover hot dog buns)
  • Breakfast Burritos: fill a tortilla with scrambled eggs, salsa, cheese, and your choice of ham, sausage or bacon.
  • French Toast with Turkey Bacon: crack an egg or two into a bowl, sprinkle with cinnamon and beat with a fork. Spray skillet with cooking oil. Cut bread into triangles, dredge through the egg and fry in skillet on each side ‘til brown and toasty. Serve with jam, honey, or syrup and turkey bacon.
  • Pancakes with Syrup and Turkey Sausage: A quick and easy choice – Betty Crocker Bisquick Shake ‘N Pour Buttermilk Pancake Mix, 10.6 oz, brown n serve turkey sausage. 

Lunch, Snack, and Dessert Ideas

  • Sliced apples and nut butter
  • Baby carrots and celery sticks
  • Trail mix/GORP: you can buy it premade, or make your own. Just mix together in a large bowl your favorite nuts, dried fruit, and sunflower seed kernels. You can also add M&M’s, rolled oats, granola, pretzel pieces, etc. I love walnuts, dried cranberries, and sunflower seed kernels. Separate into individual zipper-top plastic bags, label the bag with each person’s name, and eat with a spoon right from the bag.
  • Tortilla chips and salsa
  • Pretzels and hummus (or nut butter)
  • Pringles: If chips are your thing, the cans work great in the van, no crushed or stale chips
  • Fig Newtons, shortbread cookies, Cheez-Its
  • S’mores: graham crackers, chocolate bar, marshmallows
  • Snack-Sized Cups: applesauce, fruit, pudding 

Dinner Ideas

  • Shrimp Stir Fry: use a thawed bag of frozen shrimp (peeled, deveined, tail off), chopped onion, red and green peppers, mushrooms, zucchini. Start with veggies first, stir fry in skillet with a little oil on medium/high heat, then add shrimp for last 4-5 minutes ‘til pink, season with soy sauce packets, serve over heated up rice pouch.
  • Sausage and Veggie Skillet: sliced chicken sausage, zucchini, onion, pepper, mushrooms, warm in the skillet ‘til veggies are tender. Serve with a side of rice or instant mashed potatoes.
  • Taco Salad: layer on plate tortilla chips, salad greens, black beans, (and/or canned roast beef, cooked ground turkey/beef) salsa, diced onion, sliced black olives, shredded cheese, and if you have it some diced tomatoes and sour cream, hot sauce packet.
  • Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas: spray skillet with cooking oil, add chicken and/or cheese and salsa to one half of a tortilla, fold over,  and fry on each side until toasty, cut into triangles and serve
  • Tuna Melt: same as quesadilla above, but fill a tortilla with tuna, diced onion, and cheese, then fry on each side until toasty
  • Black Beans and Rice: can of black beans (drained and rinsed) small can of fiesta corn (drained), can of  Rotel and diced onion (or use salsa), fully cooked rice pouch, sliced turkey kielbasa. Sautee onion and kielbasa in a small bit of oil ‘til onion is tender, then stir in all other ingredients, add cheese if desired (use leftovers to make burritos for lunch the next day)

Happy meal planning, and bon appétit!

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