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(post, KR Hendricks)
With age comes less trepidation in the kitchen. While I still prefer to stick to recipes when cooking, I am slowly learning to “throw stuff together” as my mother says. It all started a couple of years ago when my kids began eating a hot lunch at school, and I found myself having to prepare lunch just for little old me. A combination of laziness, frugality and time-pressure sent me grazing through the fridge every day in search of a mid-day meal. I did smorgasbord for a while--a hunk of cheese, dinner rolls with peanut butter, warmed-up chicken or leftover vegetables, nuked pasta with butter and salt. It didn’t occur to me to try to put some of these things together and make a real meal. One day, I had a rare think-out-of-the-box moment: why not try and create something here? What’s there to lose? If these bits-and-bobs sit in the fridge much longer, they are going to get tossed out anyway. And there’s always the Lebanese take-out on the next block if it all goes very wrong. My first fridge creation was 2-day old penne pasta sautéed in olive oil with a bowl of leftover steamed broccoli and a big dollop of tomato pesto. It was so yummy I wanted to submit the recipe to Gourmet. Since then, I have crafted dozens of pretty-decent lunches. One day, my foraging yielded: 1. a bowl of steamed string beans 2. half a can of cannellini beans 3. feta cheese 4. an almost dried-up bunch of parsley I chopped up the green beans and parsley, tossed them in a bowl with the cannellini beans, some olive oil and Balsamic vinegar, and topped with feta and freshly-ground black pepper. A star was born! I’ve discovered that leftover rice and meat or fish cook up great quickly fried in oil with some garlic and ginger, and splashed with soy or Thai fish sauce. Disasters? Oh, there have been more than a few. One those days, I’m thankful for a falafel-hummus sandwich from my Lebanese friends. Overall, however, the results have been positive. The success has encouraged me to be more daring. I recently did a frittata with cooked, shredded beets. It was actually good.