Improvising in the kitchen

Published: 7/19/2016 7:00:54 AM

“That’s amazing! Don’t add anything else to it. Keep it just like that… it’s sooo good!”

They are words you don’t hear all too often but savor down deep when you do. Cooking daily for a family happens so often that it can feel chorelike. This is where variety and creativity can go a long way to keeping the cook happy and even sometimes the eaters.

Today was one of those days. I did something I’ve never done.

Improvising in the kitchen is risky business when you have hungry bellies awaiting the dinner bell. My son came running down the stairs, after having finished up homework, on a mission to feed himself. I can’t blame him. The feeling is primal. When hunger strikes, the hunter strikes. He wanted to cook up bacon… at five o’clock at night! “No way, I’m working on dinner!” I retorted quickly. Then just as quick, I hopped up and headed into the kitchen.

I had a rough idea of what I had to work with. Some asparagus, leftover roast pork and potatoes. I turned on the oven and prepped the potatoes for garlic and rosemary baked french fries. The asparagus was trimmed and placed in a steamer, easy as that. Then there was the chunk of leftover roasted pork. It was tasty the night we had it, though a bit dry. Two days later it would rival stringy cardboard. What to do? OK, pulled pork. I can pull this off.

I grab the saucepan and pour in half a cup of water and a tablespoon of brown sugar. Bear in mind, I don’t measure, so these are guesstimates.

Stirring slowly over medium heat, once the sugar and water were combined I add some vinegar – you know, a splash or two. Continually stirring, I take the ketchup and squeeze for a few seconds. Lastly, I go for the Monadnock Maple BBQ spice blend and dump in about two tablespoons.

Whisking away, I dip in a finger and taste....mmmmm, not bad. Feeling brave, I toss in the leftover pork and pull away, until it’s no longer a big chunk but a mish mosh of stringy pieces swimming in a sea of simmering sauce.

Eathan comes bounding down the stairs again, “Mom, is dinner ready yet?”

I motion for him to come to the stove and taste my creation and I can immediately feel his reaction as his eyes widen with pleasure.

“Mom, that’s amazing! Don’t add anything else to it. Keep it just like that… it’s soooo good!”

Not all my creations elicit such a welcomed response, but when they do, I feel fed.

This month wraps up my writing for the column, the Spice Cupboard. I hope in some small way I have inspired some of your own kitchen creativity and spice exploration. Feeding ourselves, our families and our communities can be challenging and even overwhelming but if we remember to spice it up and lighten up, we can create nourishing meals and memories that will last a lifetime. If you’d like to continue to follow my blog, you can sign up on my website at


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