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Chef Natalie’s pandemic survival meal

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Hi. I’m Natalie Rodriguez. I guess to start I’ll say I’ve been a food enthusiast for as long as I could remember and I’ve been cooking in kitchens for 10 years now. I graduated from the Culinary Institute of Charleston SC in 2013 and spent the next six years trying to find my voice and style as a chef. Before vanlife started, I spent five years as a sous chef with gruelling work hours, leading various kitchens. I guess you could say I spent a lot of time letting the desire, for travel and for discovering the true essence of my cooking craft, simmer on a back burner. During that time in my life, I met my future wife. Abigail was a free, independent spirit. Someone who if they wanted something in life, was going to reach out and grab it. Somehow she fell madly in love with me and talks of traveling together naturally came about. A few years later after pondering those dreams, I finally told her I needed an outlet. That is when we discovered vanlife. Abi started doing hours of research on vans, build outs, routes, camping etc. We started selling all of our stuff and even downsized our home. We lived frugally and started saving money. We bought our van and spent a year and a half building it out and saving funds. After getting married and prepping last minute checklists, we hit the road Feb 9th of 2019. Being on the open road was surreal. I remember sitting on the beach in Florida and thinking this is my new normal for the next year at least. Wow. Now that I have all this time, I focus my love for cooking on trying new techniques and creating hearty vegan meals for my wife and I. Since we saved enough funds for the year not to work, I haven’t been working, just creating. Eventually I’d love to do In house private chef gigs, but for now, I’m cooking how I want to cook and traveling wherever I want to go.

What do you do in the middle of a pandemic in your van in the middle of nowhere? You make an epic feast with all the items from your pantry, that’s what. Head down to the bottom of the page for a link to @letsplayrideandseek YouTube video showing how they made it!

Chef Natalie’s pandemic survival meal

Vegan, Vegetarian
Coconut & Sofrito Black-eyed Peas, smothered in Umami Tomatoes, topped with Blood Orange Slaw and served over Puerto Rican Fry BreadThis dish features a number of smaller dishes combined to make Chef Natalie’s Pandemic survival meal, the video can be seen on YouTube below.We love this low-cost meal because it uses mostly non-refrigerated, long-lasting pantry ingredients, so it’s perfect for when you’re trying to stay at a camp as long as possible during a pandemic. It also happens to be protein packed and VEGAN. Win win
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Resting time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Dinner, Outdoor
Servings 2
Diet Vegan, Vegetarian


For the fry bread

  • 2 cup All purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp Baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Anatto
  • 1 cup Canned coconut milk

For the sofrito

  • 1 Bell pepper
  • 1 Tomato
  • 1 Yellow onion
  • 3 Garlic cloves
  • 1 Cilantro
  • 1 Hot pepper
  • Salt & pepper

For the coconut black eyed peas

  • 8 oz Dried black eye peas
  • 1 Coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup Sofrito
  • 1 tbsp Oil

For the umami potatoes

  • 4 Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 Garlic
  • Marinade
  • 1 tbsp Oil
  • 1 tbsp Liquid aminos / soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp Liquid smoke
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/8 tsp Paprika
  • 1/8 tsp Dried porcini mushroom powder

For the fresh crunch slaw

  • 1 1/2 cup Purple cabbage
  • 1 tbsp Cilantro
  • 1/2 Blood orange
  • Salt


For the Fry bread

  • Mix dry ingredients, add coconut milk, combine to form a ball, knead for a few minutes. Place damp towel over bowl. Rest for 30 minutes. On lightly floured clean surface, roll the dough out until thin. Cut the dough using a round cookie cutter (or cup, whatever you have on hand). Add a generous amount of oil to a shallow sauce pan or cast iron, heat to 350f (med-high). Once the oil is hot, drop the dough circles into the pan. Fry on each side 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. They should puff slightly. After removing them from the pan, place them on a towel to dry. Add a pinch salt while they are still hot

For the sofrito

  • Option 1: Chop all ingredients roughly, then add to blender and purèe
  • Option 2: Mince all ingredients until close to purèe textureAdd the mixture to a storage container of choice, store in the fridge. Use 1-3 tbsp to flavor your rice, pasta, stews, soups, etc..

For the coconut black eyed peas

  • Add oil and sofrito to pan and sautè for a few minutes. Add the peas and coconut milk and simmer 10-15 minutes or until creamy texture is achieved. Add salt to taste.

For the umami tomatoes

  • Preheat oven to 375f. Line baking pan with aluminum foil. Mix marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add tomatoes and garlic cloves to marinade and mix until well coated. Place mixture into foil lined pan. Cook 25-30 minutes or until tomatoes are blistered and garlic is soft.

For the fresh crunch slaw

  • Add ingredients to a bowl and mix until combined.


Calories: 1367kcalCarbohydrates: 199gProtein: 48gFat: 46gSaturated Fat: 27gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gSodium: 975mgPotassium: 2658mgFiber: 25gSugar: 28gVitamin A: 4523IUVitamin C: 185mgCalcium: 308mgIron: 19mg
Keyword advanced, complex, pantry essentials, vegan, vegetarian
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