Cooking in the van – or not!

2/4/2022 Florida
I’ve outgrown the van. Simply put, there are too many kitchen appliances and not enough space. Yes, I know that I shouldn’t have so much, but I’m trying to eat healthy and avoid eating out. Hence, there is a new appliance and an old one died and had to be replaced.

What I love about cooking is that I can control every ingredient that goes into my mouth. I’ve gained weight in 2021 and am having a very hard time getting rid of it. My fault, of course, because I’m not exercising enough. And I love chocolate and snacks!

Some of the cool things I’m doing though seem to work when I’m in the right mood, and just want something good to eat. I use the following items because clean up is minimal and I don’t have to use a lot of water.

Appliance I can’t live without:
Toaster oven: I splurged and bought a new Hamilton Beach oven that has several functions and can cook a 12″ pizza. Recently, I discovered the air dryer function and made some meatballs. I just put some parchment paper on the air fryer tray and they turned out great. However, when I made a small pizza, I burned it to bits. I also noticed that the bottom of my toast is burning before the top is done. I will look into it to see if I can get it fixed. This will be a work in progress.
RoadPro12v oven: This is a popular oven used by truckers while they are on the road. I call this my “easy bake” oven and use this every day for heating up food, and cannot live without it! The oven heats to 300 degrees and takes a little longer to cook food, but it works beautifully. I use a foil pan and line it with sheet foil to save on clean up. It looks like a large lunch box and sits on my counter, and works whether I’m plugged in or not.
Mr. Coffee 4 cup coffee maker: ‘Nough said. I had a pour over, but never was interested enough in trying it, so I gave it away.

Fun to have and useful:
Electric pressure cooker: I had a Cook’s Essentials 4 quart pressure cooker and loved it! Unfortunately, it couldn’t handle being on the road, and finally stopped pressuring. I said good bye and a friend found a 6 quart Instant Pot Duo for $45.00 that day. I couldn’t pass it up and it fits where the other one was stored. Yay!
Sous Vide: This little gadget was acquired at my sister’s garage. She gave it to my bro-in-law as a gift, but he didn’t really have enough interest in trying it. They were about to donate it and I scarfed it up along with the water container and a cook book. I bought a pork tenderloin and it turned out amazing! Just cooked the meat for a couple of hours, pan seared it and it was the juiciest pork tenderloin I ever had! I can’t wait to use this again, though I might ditch the water container and use a pot instead (space issue). It comes with a clip for that purpose. I have a water jug that is only used for boiling so I can reuse it.
Hand pulled food chopper: this looks like a small container and has a knife attachment that fits into it. The top latches on and you pull on a lever to chop ingredients. No electricity needed! This is very cool, but it dulls quickly. I’m ready to buy #3.

Wish I brought with me:
I love baking and miss my hand mixer and food processor, but have no space for it. Sometimes I’ll put some pre made cookie dough for a snack, but that’s about it. Maybe when I get a bigger rig…

What was I thinking?
Vita Mix blender: I love this blender and when I was home used it all of the time to make veggie smoothies, soups, hummus and whatever else looked good in the cook book. I can now make a mean Margarita; ask my former neighbor, Mark. The problem is that I have to use a lot of running water to clean it and water is a very rare commodity in the van. The only time it was used was once at Yellowstone in 2020 and when I visited my cousin in Arizona that Christmas. Those were Margaritas, too…

Expensive, but so far worth it:$$$$
Because I have been frustrated trying to cook in the van without making a mess or throwing away spoiled food, I decided to try a meal plan. There are a lot to choose from and prices vary. I chose Real Eats because the food is made to order and pre-cooked, and all you have to do it put the bags in boiling water for a few minutes and voila! your food is ready. Each meal contains a protein, vegetable and starch. You can change up the meals each week, and they also offer “add-ons”. I took advantage of the coupon for 40% off my first order and bought 8 meals for a little over $60.00. The next week I had to choose a different plan because the price jumped to $112.00! The 4 meal plan costs around $65 and is the most expensive at $15.99 each. BUT, and this is hard to say, the meals are balanced, well-portioned, and there is no prep or clean up, which justifies the expense. The bags can be put into another container for microwaving, too. I chose to use my easy bake oven (the RoadPro) and it works just fine. By the way, if you sign up for this please mention me as a referral for a discount coupon!
Will I continue this? Though the cost is astronomical, it really does balance out because there is no waste of food, no leftovers, they’re well balanced meals and health conscious. Yep, I’ll keep buying them until I move on.

I still buy food for breakfast, lunch and snacks, and try to make sure I throw in extra veggies once in a while, but I will put my mind to it to use my awesome appliances for at least one recipe a week and will be more mindful of moving around.

p.s. The weather has been crummy, which prevents me from going on hikes. I walk around the campground and that does help, but it’s not the same. Fortunately, my excursions are keeping me active and busy!

Be safe and stay comfy wherever you are!


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