December is a time of year when most people are recovering from their Thanksgiving feasting, getting cozy in their homes, flying to faraway destinations to visit family, and enjoying the holiday festivities. For a select few adventurous outdoor enthusiasts, this makes it an excellent time to take advantage of the reduced crowds, pack up the Winter gear, and head out to the trails for some snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, or even just Winter hiking. Naturally, this is much easier to do with a warm, luxury campervan to retire to.
The culinary aspect of the experience is too often overlooked, and Winter in particular gives an opportunity to enjoy warming fare rich in nutrients and flavor. Winter camp cooking has the added benefit of usually being done in large batches that will last a while, like big pots of soup, preventing cook-time from cutting in on snow-time. Here are a few of my favorite recipes for your next Winter van camping adventure.
Classic Vegetable + Protein Stew
This is probably the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of a warm, hearty dish for Winter. There’s nothing quite like a good stew to make you feel extremely nourished and ready to go, and of course it can also be kept in a thermos for eating while out on the mountain. This is an extremely easy and customizable recipe, as the vegetables can be swapped and replaced according to your preference. Here are my suggestions:
- 2 small or one large head of broccoli, cut and separated
- 1 bowl of brussel sprouts, whole or halved
- 2 – 3 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers, cut into chunks
- 1 bowl of carrots, sliced (peeling optional)
- 2 onions of any kind, cut into chunks
- 1 bowl of mushrooms, halved or quartered
- 1 large can or 2 small cans of stewed tomatoes
- 1 quart of stock (or 2 – 3 stock cubes) of any kind
- Beef, chicken, or imitation protein (Quorn is very good)
- Salt, pepper, garlic (fresh diced, or dried), rosemary, and thyme, all to taste
For the most part, this recipe is fairly straightforward to make; you cut up the vegetables (perhaps before leaving for the camping trip), and you throw everything in. However, for best results, it’s advisable to saute and sear the meat/protein especially, and perhaps even some of the vegetables, before you throw in the water/stock. So, you oil the bottom of the soup pan, get it hot, and throw in the protein, as well as perhaps some of the larger vegetables, and continuously stir/turn them on medium-high heat, so that they get a bit seared, before pouring in water and stock. Bonus pro-tip: a generous amount of garlic is the #1 secret to an excellent stew, and most savory dishes, for that matter.
Oatmeal makes one of the greatest breakfasts particularly because of how cheap and easy it is, and yet, how delicious it can be, when you get creative with it. Many people will have tried oatmeal without adding much to it, and therefore think that it’s bland; however, you really have to see oatmeal much as you might flour, it’s the base upon which something great can be concocted. Again, this is a highly customizable recipe, but here are my suggestions:
- 1 cups oats
- 2 cups water
- 1 or 2 pats of butter
- 2 tablespoons seeds (hemp or flax are great, or a mix)
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- OR 1 heaping spoonful of peanut butter or almond butter
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup or brown sugar
- 1 medium apple sliced or diced, a handful of blueberries, or similar amount of fruit of your choosing
- Pinch of salt
There are two ways I like to make this recipe, either with peanut/almond butter, or with all the spices you see listed above. The spice version goes well with maple syrup, while the nutbutter version is best with brown sugar, but any combination is delicious, really. You can also up-level this dish by cooking the fruit on medium heat in butter in a separate pan, and then drizzling it on top of the finished oatmeal mixture. The rest is pretty self-explanatory, you get the oats and water cooking, add the various other ingredients, stir, and cook until it’s the consistency you like!
One of the things I love about chili is that almost all of it comes in a can. While you’ll want to cook the onions and meat/protein first before adding the other canned ingredients, it’s still incredibly easy to make, and only tastes better with time.
- 3 cans beans (I like to do 1 can each, of 3 different kinds)
- 4 small cans or 1 large can of Rotel tomatoes
- 1 large or 2 small yellow or white onions, chunked or diced
- 3 lbs ground beef, or equivalent substitute protein (I like portabella mushrooms, quartered for a veg option)
- 1 packet of McCormick or Williams chili seasoning mix
- Some extra cumin and garlic (diced or dried)
As mentioned before, just saute the onions and protein in oil until browned, add the spice mix, and then start pouring in cans of beans and tomatoes. Allow to simmer for a while, and you’ll have a flavorful and incredibly easy meal with plenty of protein and starches to keep you going throughout the day.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these campervan cooking ideas, and that you’ll make at least one of them on your next Winter van camping adventure!