2 Burner Stove or Less Simple Recipes

In 2012 we left our 2400+ sq ft home with full kitchen to live out of this….

Our van at the Twin Rocks Cafe

Our van at the Twin Rocks Cafe





back of van packed






15 passenger van and various arrangements of tents over time (roof and ground tents).  Nine of us.



So this iswas our Kitchen…it morphed depending on our location, situation, weather.

inside palapa3







This was the kitchen the kids and I set up at Kino Bay, wrapping a palapa with tarps so we had some sort of protection from the sand storms we were blasted with.  It also kept some of our possessions a little more out-of-sight and left only one entrance.

Like my father, my kids’ father does the camp cooking.  He says for the most part he enjoys it.  His biggest challenge is coming up with enough variety.  But here he is, I think at Oxbow on the Colorado River, cooking up supper for the hungry crew.










When camping we have the 2-burner stove, and sometimes a campfire.  Our red dutch-oven became permanently black, loosing its lustre blush that once graced my suburban kitchen.  It found itself buried in coals too many times.

We have a slow-cooker, kettle, coffee-grinder and Blendtec blender, but of course those require electricity.  On occasion we’ve made smoothies in restrooms at campgrounds!

Our kitchen here at the hotel is currently morphing.  We have a full size oven/stove waiting for the gas line to be dropped through our roof.  And have a full-size fridge with freezer.  So we are movin’ up in the world!!  (I’ll share soon about some of our new transitions.)

But all along we’ve tried to keep food preparation and storage simple and usually to a minimum.  For 2 years our ‘fridge’ was a huge cooler, half full of ice block to keep for more than 2 days while we were off road somewhere.  But its soooo nice now to have a fridge!  One of my pet-peeves, however, are fridge doors full of condiments you can’t make a meal from!  So I focus on less condiments and real foods.  Everette leans towards variety and toppings.

We’ve discovered some food sensitivies that are quite major, actually.  They tend to morph a decently-pleasant child of ours into a vicious hair-pulling blood-scratching angry person we hardly recognize so we try and really limit all grains.  Some of us avoid most dairy.

So in that respect this Vanlife Cookbook I’m posting here is not very conducive to cooking simply for our family.  They rely heavily on grains (including wheat, corn and rice) and plenty of dairy.  But hey, not everybody is like us.  So I thought I’d forward it on to you!

The ingredients are easy to find staples in most places, and the idea is that these meals are made in less than 30 minutes with 2 or less burners.

Hope you like it.  Head over to Sprinter Van Diaries and thank them.



Tequila: Sandy y Daniel

I wrote a post about how Everette and I discovered Tequila Sandy y Daniel, and how Everette and Mark ended up going for el pajarete.  Now here’s more pics from the Tequila Fieldtrip!Collage Sandy y Daniel

Meet Sandy (left) and Daniel (right).  An unpresuming pair of guys who are making a mark in the tequila business here in Jalisco, the centre of tequila country.

Mark and Everette got a tour of Daniel’s family home, full of color, fun extravagance and playful (they have 3 little kids).  See the updated Blue Boy?  Just a sampling of fun stuff that abounds.Collage Kids stuffPics below are of the outside of their house, with a great view of Lake Chapala and a beautiful pool to dip in.  Outdoor living is easy here at the Lakeside where the weather is consistently warm (seldom hot nor cold) so this spacious outdoor space is luscious!

The pic on the bottom right is their view up towards us at Hotel Perico about 3 quarters the way up the hill, mostly hidden by vegetation.

Collage Pool

Are you aware of the regulations that not only go into selling the alcohol, but more importantly in the planting, growing & transporting of the plant material?  Every step of the process has to be documented, and ‘passports’ issued that limits the amount of plant material that a trucker can pick up/transport/deliver, all paperwork being verified from being picked up at the farm to checking in at the licensed facility in Tequila, Jalisco (that’s the city where Tequila supposedly originated….)

Sandy and Daniel have 9 fields of blue agave they are growing to produce tequila, on both the north and south side of Lake Chapala. They took Everette and Mark to their nearest one, not far at all from Hotel Perico, up a rough dirt road to the crest of the hill that overlooks the lake to the south.  They have a covered patio there where the sign (above photos) announces Tequila Sandy y Daniel, and they can take in the view of the lake below.

Collage Tequila

Related to pineapple plants, the agave plant takes about 5 years to mature and sends shoots high into the air where their seed pods are harvested for future plants.  They must harvest the main body of the plant 2 years after sending out the shoot.  Each plant harvested weighs about 80 pounds, predominantly liquid.

A crew with a truck shows up to harvest a designated amount of plants which are issued a passport which must be carried on the designated vehicle and all paperwork must be available to be shown at all times: by authorities who may stop them on the highways; at the tequila plant, etc.

Sandy and Daniel chose 2 tequila ‘recipes’ from a variety of options at the distillery, choosing the flavor that was most appealing to them.  That recipe has won awards in the USA multiple times in the last 2 years alone….quite the success since they only started growing their plants about 9 years ago.  One recipe is white tequila, the other is a sipping tequila (gold) which they allow to sit in oak barrels for up to a year which allows it to carry the label Reposado.   They are endeavoring to make Anejo, which will be aged between a year and 3 years.  We wish them much success.

Pics below are of Sandy y Daniel tequila bottles, and the small collection of Everette’s shot glasses (and a boot that used to hold a glass but that one broke).  The two glasses on the right he had made to order, with little geckos inside.

Collage Tequila bottle

Tequila and el Pajarete

First off….you might be interested to know that tequila is good for you!!  Especially if you want help in losing weight!  Now if only I would enjoy the stuff maybe I could add it to my daily regiment?

Not likely.

Back at the Chili Cook-off  Everette and I sampled some tequila….not our favorite liquor drink but on the map below you’ll see we are basically in the middle of Tequila Country!  There are lots of options and we thought we might just find something to our liking if we tried hard enough.  So there at the Chili Cook-off we were introduced to Sandy y Daniel & their tequila by the same name.



We discovered that when Everette & I look out from Hotel Perico at the morning sunrise we overlook Daniel’s house where we can stop and buzz at the gate, and purchase some tequila right there.  So that’s exactly what Everette did.  Which led him to being invited over for el pajarete the next morning.  “And bring a friend!”

So Sunday morning Everette and Mark headed out for a quick morning drink…often what people here in Mexico will drink for a hang-over!  Some use coffee, many use hot chocolate mix; then you add alcohol (not for kids!) and have milk squirted directly into your cup.  Viola!!

The cow ran out of milk at Daniel’s neighbors so they ventured up the hill behind Hotel Perico to another friend’s place so Everette could get a full one.Collage 2nd farm

You can see from the guys’ faces they were totally thrilled with the experience; new for Mark and not frequent enough for Everette, I’m surmising from his report of how well his day went!Collage CheersWhat Everette thought would be a quick morning drink out turned into a field trip for these two homeschooling dads as they galavanted around the hills here on the north side of Lake Chapala.

Checkout further posts where they learned more about Sandy y Daniel tequila; the business and the life.



The 1 Night Restaurant

We were away for Mother’s Day, amazingly without the bulk of the kids.  I was in the presence of only 2 kids for the majority of the day and we didn’t do anything special since we were stationary at a hotel, laying low.  Nice day but certainly quiet.

But when we got home I (we) was treated to a surprise Mother’s Day dinner…candles, quiet table for 2 tucked away in our bedroom for some privacy.

Collage Mother's Day

Not an extensive menu but they certainly were confident in what we should ‘order’…so we did as we were prompted (pick this one ….and this one) and did enjoy a tasty Chicken Caesar Salad alongside a noodle dish with homemade Alfredo Sauce….Layne, watch out!  Serious competition!!  I think we’ll have to have an Alfredo Cook-Off the next time you visit.

Collage Menu

The bill was a bit over-the-top pricey… even in pesos.  But the company was delightful, the atmosphere relaxing, and we were totally stuffed with delicious food.  I would highly recommend this Johnson Kids 1 Night Restaurant…but then again, snooze ya loose.  Was only open last week for one night.  Sorry!

Tropic of Cancer: Heading North

We are very content to stay close to Chapala currently and have lost the wanderlust a tad.  Content to be comfortable and build a community.

But necessities demanded that we take a quick road trip to Texas, particularly to take care of the legalities for our van.  So we set out with only 5 of our big family in our 15-passenger van, making it spacious and far more comfortable….each child could have their own bench!!

sunrise trucking

With fewer people traveling we didn’t need to make quite so many potty stops that makes our traveling a bit faster… but add some coffee into our systems (a Starbucks treat in Aguacalientes) and fresh fruit for breakfast, and we made plenty stops.

Collage Starbucks

My cowboy fetches me coffee and even washes my windows (minus the cowboy hat) with a smile.  Oh, how I love that man!!

Collage Gasing UpI’m not sure if it was in Aguacalientes or in Zacatecus where I first heard about this fabulous-sounding man named Everette Russel (boring last name….Johnson) 30 years ago in February, but it was a treat to actually drive this area now by his side.  Who would have ever imagined that Connie’s telling me of him, and my silly comment, “I think I’m going to marry that man!” would have transpired to us parenting 9 children together and traveling the country of Mexico together 30 years later?!!!  But here we are.  Full-circle to this very place.  Collage scenery

Somewhere near Zacatecus (I don’t recall where exactly) we crossed the Tropic of Cancer where Laars sported a smile and a wave.  I recently learned that the Tropic(s) are moving, and that one place in Mexico actually has been marking the changes with signs along the highway.  Pretty cool!!  Always learning something new.Collage Tropic of CancerWe pulled in to Saltillo where we spotted a coveted Pizza Hut where we tried a Hawaiian BBQ & a TexanaIMG_2839

then found ourselves a hotel for 2 nights as our temporary base-camp.  In the morning Everette and Danaka had to make the border run themselves….find out Why in the next post.