Do you ever feel like you’re making the same foods over and over again? This was recently a topic of conversation one evening when I was out with friends. It can be difficult to think of different things to cook, particularly this time of year when everyone is busy. Since eating the same foods or relying on convenience foods too much isn’t fun or healthy for anyone, though, it is worth the effort to change things up a bit. Here are some ways to get your creative juices flowing when it comes to experimenting more in the kitchen:
- Compare notes with friends. One thing I noticed in my discussion at our last mamas’ night out was that although we all could relate to being in a food rut, we all had different foods in our ruts! I tend to rely on things like spaghetti with meatballs, tacos and whole roasted chickens. A friend who hails from Cuba tends to cook a lot of rice and beans or chicken with onions and peppers. One of the moms who is a vegetarian cooks baked potatoes with cheese and broccoli or vegetable pasta dishes. A working mom whose husband stays home eats grilled food, like hamburgers, grilled chicken and grilled veggies over rice, a lot at dinnertime. Just by asking for a few favorite recipes from a handful of friends, you could end up with several weeks’ worth of new dinners to try.
- Vary your side dishes. Look up new ways to prepare rice, potatoes, pasta and grains. Also, try to find one new vegetable to try each month or so. My father-in-law taught me how to make risotto last year, which gave us a new and delicious way to serve rice. Making your potatoes au gratin instead of mashed can also lend appeal to a meal. Or try substituting sweet potatoes for regular baked white potatoes, or couscous instead of rice or egg noodles.
- Make a list of recipes that you can make relatively easily. Once you start writing, you might find that you know how to make enough things to not repeat a meal over the course of a month! I did this and separated meals into categories: What could I make with chicken? With pork? Beef? How about pasta dishes? And those with egg? Once I had a handful in each category, I could choose one from each category each week. This way, we wouldn’t be eating tacos or breakfast-for-dinner each week.
- Let the kids cook. They will probably need help or at least supervision at first, but kids are often creative and willing to experiment with food. Take them to the library to pick out some cookbooks and have them choose what they want to make in advance so you can get the necessary ingredients. My son once took out a book about Thai cooking, and made some really interesting meals. You might be able to assign them the chore of cooking once per week or so. This will also help picky eaters to expand their palates, and will certainly help them to appreciate what you do!
Take a few hours to plan out how you can climb out of your food rut if you’ve found yourself trapped by your own boredom with cooking. If you find a great new recipe, share it with our readers so that we can all benefit!