Van Life: Campfire Cooking Challenge

Leslie says: One of the great joys of traveling in a van is being outside so much. The van’s a cozy shelter, especially on a rainy night, but there’s nothing better than an evening spent drinking wine, and hanging out around a blazing campfire. Unless it’s cooking over one. Here’s a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up since we started OGT. Scroll down to the bottom for an ultra-easy recipe.

Leslie cooking

Invest in a Good Grill Pan

Yes, most people prefer to fire up meat directly over the source of heat, but 9 out of 10 camp grills are either filthy or rusty, or the bars too widely spaced. I’ve had great results using my beloved Lodge Cast Iron on top of the grate, heating it up by placing the lid on top. Add olive oil, the seasoned meat and cover. Minutes later, flip and finish.

Double Duty

While the meat rests — on our most recent trip, I made carne asada from Trader Joe’s — I warmed a chili mac pasta I made the night before. Five minutes later, we were eating.

chili mac on oregon coast

Clean Up Tip

Our friend, Ted, is the one-man cleanup crew on backpacking trips, and he’s a big believer in warming up water in the dirty pan. Makes it a whole lot easier to scour. John tried it after this messy meal and it worked well. We haven’t quite figured out how to efficiently use the teeny sink in the Eurovan’s kitchen for doing dishes, so the operation’s done outside. The vehicle we rented from Road Trip Oregon had a spray nozzle in the back, which was so helpful. The more we travel in these rigs, the more we LOVE them.

The Recipe: 4-Ingredient Cheesy Chili Mac

  • 1 package black bean pasta (I use the TJ’s brand)
  • 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes with green chili
  • 1/2 jar salsa
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes

Cook pasta two minutes less than instructed on the package. (Because it’s going to finish cooking in the sauce.) Drain and add the tomatoes and salsa. If serving immediately, return to the heat and add cheese and warm until the cheese has melted. If warming up later, wait until the pasta has cooled to add the cheese.
Serves 4.

Wine Pairing Recommendation

Here’s a shocker! We drank a white wine with this hearty dish, a Pinot blanc from Erath. This dry, under-the-radar varietal has crisp fruit character and the backbone to stand up to all sorts of assertive flavors of the meal, brightening up the spicy beef and the cheesy pasta like the sun breaking through those gray storm clouds.

steak cooking



One thought on “Van Life: Campfire Cooking Challenge

  1. This is a great tip, as hubs and I are investigating purchasing a travel van. Is it difficult to get the bottom of your cast iron clean after using it over the fire? Also, thanks for the Road Trip Oregon link. We’re from Idaho, and may need to rent one for a week just to try it out! ~ Lynn


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