Something out of nothing

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Do you ever have those nights when you have no idea what the heck you’re going to make for dinner? That was me yesterday. When I lived alone it wasn’t such a problem not having a dinner plan. Whenever that happened I usually had a bowl of cereal or perhaps some scrambled eggs and toast. But now I have Kevin to feed, as well. He’s a strong man who comes home from his strenuous Crossfit workouts after work and is in need of a good, hearty dinner to replenish the nutrients his body needs. I don’t think a bowl of cereal would cut it for him. I had made a terrific dinner for us the night before of lentil salad and roasted cauliflower and chickpeas but, as I’ve learned in the last few months, leftovers are basically a thing of the past. Kevin’s appetite is twice the size of mine and there is rarely any leftover food for the next day’s meal. Since we’re having guests stay with us this weekend and I have a glorious meal plan in the works I’m trying to save every dollar I can in order to purchase the food. So last night I did what a lot of us end up doing. I opened the pantry and the fridge and tried to figure out what I could scrap together for a decent dinner.

This is what I found. I had 1/4 of a box of Arborio rice left, a half empty box of vegetable stock in the fridge along with a small block of Parmesan, and a bag of frozen peas in the freezer. Risotto it would be. I also had half of a container of hummus, a bag of raw broccoli, one red bell pepper, and a few cherry tomatoes. Crudites, anyone? Perhaps I’d add in a slice of avocado toast. It it also from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good cookbook and we’re obsessed with it. To round out the meal and give us a little extra protein and deliciousness I would fry up some eggs and serve it over the rice. Didn’t sound half bad, eh? It was delicious and the only thing that took up any time at all was the risotto. But then again, there is something wonderfully relaxing about making risotto. The almost mindless process of adding a ladle full of stock to the pan and stirring, stirring, stirring is somewhat meditative.

When it’s warm outside there is such pleasure in eating dinner on the patio and biting into the crisp snap of a red bell pepper covered in a smear of spicy, velvety hummus. Save the warm pita slices for winter when we need the cushion only bread can provide. Give me a platter of fresh veggies as a substitute anytime. The risotto was just creamy enough but topped with the egg it was out of this world. Since I didn’t add a finishing touch of butter to the risotto the runny yolk added a luscious golden sauce that didn’t make me miss the butter one bit. And we can’t forget the avocado toast. It’s as simple as running a thin layer of Veganaise over a toasted piece of low-glycemic bread, topping it with meaty chunks of vibrant avocado, and sprinkling on a bit of coarse salt and fiery flakes of crushed red pepper. Delicious!

I’m not a trained chef, I’m not even a gourmet home chef, but I’ve been cooking long enough to know that sometimes you have to use your imagination and past experiences to make something out of nothing. If cooking at home is seen more as a challenge to you than it should be, trust me, just keep doing it and eventually you will have done it long enough to know what’s what. Recipes won’t seem as daunting and you’ll start coming up with substitutions based on personal preference all on your own. Then you’ll be creating wonderful food moments from almost nothing at all.