cooking with whatever you have

The worm looking thing behind the pan is our "manners worm."
It's a Creepy Crawler - remember Creepy Crawlers?
Its purpose is to encourage good table manners,
a necessity in a house full of males.
In a group of expat women, we were recently comparing notes on how we have to get creative in the kitchen because we can't buy the ingredients that our recipes call for. Living in less developed countries requires a lot of flexibility when it comes to cooking from recipes. It's good that I am used to not following recipes. But I have been used to making menu plans. And that, also, requires flexibility here.

I had carrots at home and had planned to buy chicken (to pan-grill with herbs and garlic), zucchini (to cook with the carrots), and some kind of rolls or nice bread from the bakery to go with.

I found chicken, but no zucchini or any of the other green veggies the boys like. I changed my plan to chicken, carrots, and rolls. But, when we got to the bakery, all they had were dry muffins and sandwich bread. We had spaghetti noodles at home, though, so I changed my plan again.

When we got home and started getting ready to cook, the spaghetti seemed to need something saucy, not just grilled chicken and steamed carrots. I thought about making some kind of cream sauce. Then Nate requested BBQ sauce, which we didn't have. But, ketchup, worcestershire, paprika, cayenne, and beef stock are a pretty good substitute. BBQ spaghetti? Sounds weird.

As we sat down at the table, I warned everyone, "This is a little weird. Let's see if we like it."

Everyone loved it! This week, I had planned a turkey breast and veggie stir fry, but was asked to make it like "that chicken and carrots we had, but with more yummy sauce."

Want the recipe? There is no recipe. That's the point.

Chicken and carrots

1" cubes; sprinkled with salt, generous paprika, and as much cayenne as you can handle. Also works with other poultry; probably good with pork or red meat, too. No carrots? We've also enjoyed it with a veggie mix of green beans, broccoli, and purple cabbage. Probably also good with sweet potatoes and various types of squash.


1 or 2 cups of broth, a generous squirt of ketchup (maybe 2-3 Tbsp?), a few shakes of worcestershire


Cook chicken in a skillet in olive oil until no longer pink. Add carrots, cook for a few minutes. Pour in sauce, boil, lower heat and cover, simmer until veggies are desired done-ness and meat is cooked through. If you want thicker sauce, add flour or corn starch mixed with water for the last minute or two of simmering.
Serve with spaghetti or whatever you have.


  1. You have to explain that worm a bit more...

  2. Love it! When we lived overseas I got in the habit of cooking with whatever we had and it still seems crazy now that we're back to just decide to make something and be able to find everything on the ingredients list. I actually used some of my expat cooking skills today when I wanted to make a curry but didn't have coconut milk- onion puree with a bit of honey does the trick!
    And yes, how does that worm work?

  3. I'll be describing it in more detail in the next post! Probably in about a week...


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