This is my son. We started cooking together when he was about 5 years old. He was a rather picky eater back then, so I had to get creative to get him to eat healthy. He graduated from the UNLV College of Hospitality and now works in the food industry. His palette has grown up, of course. He challenges me to become a better and more creative cook. He especially picked up on my willingness to make small changes to get big results and big flavor.

Last week, I made a slow-roasted pork roast. I made my own Cajun spice mix. I mixed some of that with a little brown sugar and rubbed it all over the roast. I put the roast in a large pan, resting on a bed of sliced onions and crushed garlic. I covered it with foil and put it in a slow oven for 6 hours. I resisted the temptation to check on the roast, because I wanted all of the juices to stay in. On the side, I made mashed potatoes with gravy. The pan juices had some of the Cajun spices and brown sugar melted in. The result was an amazing gravy!

I also made focaccia, using my basic pizza dough recipe. I replaced the extra virgin olive oil with 2 flavored oil oils which my sister sent me from Florida. One oil was wild mushroom & sage, and the other was basil & garlic. The addition of these oils to the dough lifted the flavor, but not in an in-your-face way. The dough recipe made one large focaccia and a dozen slider rolls. I brushed them with olive oil and sprinkled them with my own Italian herb seasoning mix.

The next day, I made a barbecue sauce using some of the Red Apple dark balsamic vinegar my sister also sent. The dark balsamic vinegar was less tart than my regular red wine vinegar, resulting in a fruitier sauce, that also needed less sweetener. I shredded the left over pork, and we had BBQ pork sliders.

I also made some sautéed cabbage. I cooked the cabbage in a little bit of olive oil and some sodium-free chicken stock. (This allows ME to control the salt and the fat content.)

At the end, I added a little butter, some salt & pepper, and a drizzle of the Key Lime white balsamic vinegar. That little change lifted the lowly cabbage to a whole new level. My husband, who generally does not like cabbage, had two servings.

The moral of the story? The changes I made were very small, and pretty healthy. Although these oils and vinegars are a little pricey, the truth is that it took such a small amount of each one that the overall cost was minimal.

2 stores in Florida. Also available online.

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