Tuesday's Tip: When in doubt, improvise

June 22,2010
Sweet Pea Chef
Jessica Efird( )

Jessica, aka the Sweet Pea Chef, is a former U.S. Senate staffer/weekend gourmet turned full-time mom/family gourmet. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two sons.

This current home moving experience has taught me a few things, one of which is the ability to become super creative when using a half-packed kitchen. When we accepted an offer on our former home, the new owners did not want to close for 60 days. This period of time suited us because it allowed us to move after the school year was over and perhaps more importantly, afforded us the time to both find a new home and pack, pack, pack. Perhaps I will write a future Tuesday’s Tip post on packing up a kitchen, but for today’s post I share some tips I learned as a result of the packing itself. Once we were under contract on our old home, I took to packing at least a box or two a day in order to spread out the packing chores. You see, when we moved nearly four years ago from Virginia, SPH and I had never done a major move, and never moved with a child, and we ended up having to pull an all-nighter on the eve of our move in order to pack all of our stuff. Determined to avoid having to do another all-night packing extravaganza this year, we started packing early and often. While packing up early sounds like a good idea, and in many ways it helped us, once I got to the kitchen I started realizing just how many things I use regularly in the kitchen. So I started with the easy things to pack…the roasting pan? I quickly deemed it okay to pack, as I didn’t see myself roasting a large turkey in the waning days prior to our move. Days passed and soon I was packing frequently used bowls, cooking utensils and spices. Soon it became clear I had to improvise with the limited items left unpacked in order to prepare a meal or snack. I realized that as summer travel season is in full swing, perhaps as you travel you will need to improvise too, especially as you might rent a home or condo that has limited cooking tools. Some ways to improvise in a half-packed or less-well stocked kitchen: *A large stock pot or sauce pan can double as a bowl to mix items *A sturdy plate (make sure it isn’t easily scratched) or even a paper plate can double as a cutting board *Mugs can be used as small bowls to whisk eggs or mix small amounts *A sturdy bottle (think wine or alcohol) can stand-in for a rolling pin *A colander can double as a steamer, when set over boiling water, just make sure it is metal and won’t melt if left over hot boiling water for a long time *Two knives, the back of a large fork or even a hand mixer can stand in for a pastry blender, depending on the use These are just a half-dozen ideas I have used in my kitchen. But as necessity dictates, you can get creative too and MacGyver your own ideas out of a bare kitchen. SPC