How To Get Out of a Cooking Rut
I’m always surprised when I find myself not wanting to cook. Cooking is my passion, hobby and also my job. It is truly something that I enjoy doing. Perhaps because I do it so much, (or maybe I can blame it on the heat) from time to time I have a few days where I want nothing to do with it. The first couple days, I get by. Maybe I eat a frozen veggie burger or scrounge together everything I can find leftover in the fridge and mix it into one big bowl. Maybe I went to Burgerville the other night (it was so good!) But eventually I have to get back in the kitchen and I need to figure how to get excited about that. Here are some methods I find helpful:
1. Find food that needs minimal prep to taste good. In other words, keep it simple.
This time of year the tomato is a perfect example. Especially those beautiful, juicy heirloom tomatoes. Slice one up, drizzle with olive oil, maybe sprinkle some basil on top and call that a meal. Or add a fresh piece of salmon, which is also a food that requires very little prep. Simply bake in the oven and squirt with lemon juice.
2. Find a food that is visually appealing.
I mean, seriously… how pretty are these? They just make you happy while you are in the kitchen.
3. Find an ingredient that you have never prepared before.
This is the opposite of #1 but either strategy can work, depending on your mood. Finding a project can be a great way to get your focus back in the kitchen, while acquiring a new skill.The artichoke has always been daunting to me, so I figured I’d face my fear head on and figure out how to tackle it.
4. Search through cookbooks and blogs.
Surfing thekitchn.com is one of my favorite ways to pass a few spare minutes during the day. They post so many articles and recipes daily that every time you check it you will find something new. I also have a small list of food blogs I make sure to check weekly for inspiration:
A recent tradition my fiance and I have started is to take turns buying a new cookbook each month and then preparing a recipe together from it. This can range from a silly, vintage cookbook from GoodWill to a shiny hard copy of the new it-chef’s book. This is always a fun experience, from picking the cookbook and the recipe, to locating the often obscure ingredients, going outside of the box with preparation techniques and finally, enjoying the meal together.
5. Go to the farmer’s market or the grocery store.
Going to the farmer’s market or even the grocery store can help you accomplish a few of the above objectives, especially finding a visually appealing ingredient and trying something new. At a farmer’s market you are basically forced (in a good way) to buy and prepare the sometimes limited selection of what is in season and available. Once again, creating a project or experience outside of the kitchen before you bring it back in will make the whole experience more appealing and fun.
8. Re-visit old favorites.
If you do not have a recipe book or some way that you keep recipes, make sure to start today! It’s super helpful to be able to search through things you have already made and tasted, so you know exactly what you are getting into and the result you should expect.
7. Go out to eat. It’s ok to take some of the pressure off yourself, throw in the towel and just go out to eat every once and awhile. Not only will this act as a stress reliever, but you never know what kind of inspiration you can find at a restaurant!