We’re excited to share a guest blog post from Stephani at Tinder to Sprinter–the couple behind this epic blog traveling across the US. Having a small kitchen can definitely be a pain, but when your kitchen is also your living room and bedroom, it takes a lot of planning to maximize your space.
Here are some tips on how to cook kickass meals, even in the tiniest of kitchens (sous vide is included of course!). Whether your kitchen is just big enough to open your oven door, or is roaming on four wheels, this advice could be a lifesaver:
I know, I know. You live in a shoebox-sized apartment with an oven as a storage cabinet and
who even knows if that oven works. Great, we don’t need no stinking oven. If you have access
to a cheapo styrofoam cooler and an outlet you’re in luck.
A little background on why you
should even listen to what I have to explain is that I am currently living the small space life in a
converted Sprinter Van. And when I say small I mean 100 sq ft. That’s not the size of the
kitchen, it’s the size of total living space. You see, my boyfriend and I are traveling the good ol’
USofA for the next year and there is no way I won’t be making some delicious camp meals.
Sous vide has made meal time epic on the road. Our time is spent hiking, fishing, and no where
near an oven. I spend a few minutes prepping our bags of dinner, dropping them in our tricked
out fancy schmancy styrofoam cooler, set the temp on the Nomiku and away we go. We’ve
come back from our adventures to indulge in local Salmon tacos, lamb belly, mac and cheese,
perfectly cooked hamburgers, and maybe a vegetable or two. I’m definitely putting the Nomiku
to the “on the road” test. So along with feeling your pain on cooking space limitations, I can
relate to how sous vide cooking can seem scary. After all it’s a technique and when us food
nerds get all “techniquey” on the lay person, those people tend to glaze over and just go out to
If you’re reading this, then I have to assume you are familiar with the Nomiku. You might be
wondering how to decide what to cook first or feel daunted by your limited space and give up all
together. Fear not, the Nomiku is one of my top Small Space Cooking Hacks. Along with a few
other tips, you should be good to go.
Buy Often and Buy Local
Pretty self explanatory. If you find yourself throwing away a lot of rotten produce, you should
probably buy less. For us, traveling the country is even more fun when you can swing buy a
roadside stand and buy whatever is locally in season. For most people, this isn’t feasible, but it
is possible to not buy the Costco-sized bag of spinach and opt for the self-serve mixed greens
part of the grocery store. You’d be surprised how much space and money you’d save by trying
So we obviously know the Nomiku is my number one tool in the kitchen. It’s portable, stows
away nicely, cleans easily (so important!), and pretty much guarantees a delicious feast. I also
have an unhealthy attachment to my hand held immersion blender, my favorite chef knife, and a
great cutting board.
Be Practical On What You Eat Often
For us, we eat A. Lot. of sandwiches. They’re portable, can be filled with anything, and taste
even better smashed up after a long hike!! When we do use the Nomiku, we are usually
cooking up a huge batch of meat and some veggies. We use the leftovers for lunch all week.
Buy some delicious fresh bread and you’re good to go. If you have an irrational fear of things
between bread, then I recommend salads.
Clean as You Go
Ryan, the other half, has been banned from cooking in the van because he’s terrible at this. Not
sure if the jokes on him or me? Anyhow, use the spoon, clean the spoon. Use the bowl, clean
the bowl. Use bowl again, clean bowl again. With limited space it’s an inevitable cycle.
Repurpose Tools You Already Own
If you aren’t an expert bread maker, than don’t buy a rolling pin. Use a wine bottle to roll out
dough. Don’t clutter the kitchen with cookie/biscuit cutters when you can use a can with the top
and bottom removed. My herbs count as kitchen decor. They are held in water and at the
ready when I need them.
Mise en Place
Translated from French to mean “everything in it’s place”, when you find yourself ready to
tackle some home cooking, set yourself up for success. Gather up your ingredients,
measure out the dry goods, read all instructions if need be, and definitely open up that bottle of
wine and relax!
Finally, cooking should be approachable and fun. As a chef I try to keep this in mind with my
dishes and with my ingredients. As for technique, I think that’s where people tend to stumble.
There are so many ways to cook an egg, for instance, that most people figure there is only one
perfect way to do it.
Well if you are looking for perfection, than sous vide is your best bet. I’m
not kidding. I’ve worked in many kitchens and sous vide is that little French secret we don’t want
you to know about. Well, too late for that. It’s easy, approachable and makes you look like you
know what you’re doing :)
Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin with a Gingered Butternut Mash, Accompanied by an Apple Fennel
and Warm Kale Salad.
I mentioned that you should buy often and buy local. For us, we’re currently wandering through
Colorado. Fall produce is abundant, so squash, apples, fennel are everywhere. A pit stop at a
farmer’s market filled my van with a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Pork tenderloin was
the next thing I spotted at the market and what goes better with all that than pork!?
Set water bath to 135 degrees (I prefer a more pink center)
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 T Lt Brown Sugar
2 T Apple Cider Vinegar
1 1-1.5lb Pork Tenderloin
1 Sprig of Fresh Thyme
1 sprig of Fresh Chopped Rosemary (1 T)
Mix salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar in a small bowl. Rub mixture all over pork tenderloin.
Add pork to a resealable ziploc bag or vacuum sealed bag. Add sprig of thyme and rosemary.
Immerse bag in water for 1hr 45 min.
To finish, remove pork from bag and pat dry with some paper towels. You need it dry to sear off.
You have two options for searing the pork: Option 1, use a super hot cast iron skillet and some
oil. Sear on all sides to create a beautiful crust. Set on cutting board to rest. Option 2 (my
favorite), use a blow torch. Gets a pretty great crust in no time. Plus you have less to clean up.
Slice into 1/2” thick slices and season with Kosher Salt.
Apple Fennel and Warm Kale Salad
Set water bath to 190 degrees (Use this temp for the Apple Fennel, the Kale and the
Butternut Squash Mash.)
1 bunch Green Kale, washed, chopped
-Place in ziploc sealed bag and use water method to remove air. Immerse in the water bath for
5-6 minutes. You just want to wilt it slightly.
-Remove from bath and toss with olive oil, Kosher Salt, Pepper and Apple Fennel Mixture.
Apple Fennel Mixture
1 bulb Fennel, cored and sliced 1/4” thick
1 medium size Granny Smith Apple, cored, sliced 1/2” thick
1 clove garlic, diced
2 sprigs fresh sage
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 T Apple Cider Vinegar
1 T Raw Honey
-Place all ingredients into a ziplock bag or vacuum seal.
-Set in water bath for 30 minutes.
-When done, apple and fennel should be soft but still hold their shape. No mushy apples
-Carefully open bag and remove sprigs of sage.
-Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.
-Mix (liquds and all) with Kale and serve with Pork and Butternut Mash
Gingered Butternut Squash Mash
Set water bath to 190 degrees
1 Medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced into 1/2” cubes.
1 small shallot, minced
2 T Minced Garlic
2 T Minced Ginger
½ T Cinnamon
1 tsp Cumin Powder
2 T Raw Honey
1 T Apple Cider VInegar
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Ground Black Pepper
½ c Chicken Stock
-Place all ingredients except chicken stock into a vacuum sealed bag or zipper locked bag.
-immerse in water bath for 45 minutes
-Remove from bath and place mixture in a large bowl.
-Mash with a potato masher or use an immersion blender for a smoother puree. -Add chicken stock as needed to taste. -Add Salt and Pepper as needed to taste.