Cooking is meant to be a fun experiment, but sometimes it can feel like a chore. And, if you are like me, it can be a sign that you are in a cooking rut; a routine where the same recipes are hitting the table over and over again.
Looking to try something new in the kitchen? Here are 12+ ways to be creative in the kitchen and rekindle your love of cooking! (Or find one in the first place!)
The good news is that it is easy enough to snap out of. All you need to do is shake things up and challenge yourself. Here are a few simple ideas to breathe new life into your kitchen and cooking that work for me time and time again. Read through and find the best approach for you:
Go the Farmers Market
Sometimes I feel bogged down simply because the same ingredients are on rotation in my fridge. My favorite way to break the routine up is to change where I am doing my shopping. And that means heading to my local farmers market.
A farmers market is simply a group of folks who grow fruit & veggies, catch fish, and raise animals like chicken and beef locally and sell directly to the consumer. Often the variety you will find here is far greater than what you are getting in the grocery store. Translation: new ingredients to experiment and play with.
Make sure you PIN Try Something New in the Kitchen!
Sometimes it can be as simple as trying a new herb in a recipe that is tried and true or swapping out this vegetable for that. Or it can be about trying a new recipe all together with something you have never brought home before.
The best part of this approach is you have the opportunity to speak directly to the person who has worked with the food. These folks have an amazing understanding of ingredients and often have suggestions on how to cook with them. All you have to do is ask. For me, those small conversations are enough to spark ideas that can be game changers and door openers.
Tips before you go:
- Double check the hours and the days. These markets typically pop up here and there and are not open everyday like the grocery store.
- Be sure you have cash and small bills. More and more these days folks are taking credit cards and even Venmo as payment, but there are still some that simply do not. Best to be prepared.
- Bring your own bags and bring a few. I always think I am going for one or two things and end up bringing home a whole slew of fun ingredients.
Search a Hashtag
Have as a specific dish or ingredient in mind that you would like to make or use, but don’t want to make it in the same way? Take to social media and search hashtags.
Let’s use macaroni and cheese as an example. By searching #macaroniandcheese, you might get inspired by different pairings of cheeses, ingredients other than cheese and pasta that have been added, or simply a garnish or topping that has been used. This simple search can give you a whole host of ideas on how to liven up your meal.
Grab a Cookbook
This one might seem obvious, but all too often cookbooks sit on our shelves and gather dust rather than being used as the wonderful resource they are. There are two ways I like to use them when I am trying to get out of a rut.
First: Check your fridge. Maybe you have one ingredient you are hoping to use up like chicken breasts or some delicious greens. Go to the index in the back of the book and see if there are any recipes that use those ingredients.
Second: This might seem a bit odd, but I will flip to a random page and whatever recipe is on the page is what is being made for dinner that day. There is nothing more fun than getting outside your comfort zone, heading to the grocery store with a specific agenda, and trying something completely new in the kitchen. You never know. That recipe might soon become one of your favorites!
Play recipe roulette! I know this sounds silly, but it is honestly one of my favorite games and takes me out of the usual comfort zone. I grab one of my cookbooks and isolate the section with a desired recipe- whatever that might be, entrees, chicken, side dish, dessert… you catch my drift.
Then you randomly turn to a page. You MUST make one of the recipes on those two pages. No exceptions. It will make you challenge yourself and get you out of the usual rut. Some of my best recipes have stemmed from this game! Crab Melts and Crispy Baked Chicken are two of them!
Third: Check out my list of over 200+ easy dinner ideas for tonight!
Here are a few cookbooks to try:
- Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
- Martha Stewart’s Cooking School Cookbook
- The Best of Cooking Light Magazine
Phone a Friend
Pick up the phone and call, email, or text a friend or family member. They might have a recipe they truly love right now from a place you might never have thought to look.
Plus, it is a great way to stay in touch and they might be inspired to do the same with you in the future. I go back and forth with recipes and friends often and it keeps things in my kitchen fresh and new.
The next time you are heading to the store to do your grocery shopping be sure to pick up at least one ingredient you have never worked with before. If you are feeling really adventurous, head to a local ethnic grocer, a spice shop, or the butcher shop.
Squid ink pasta, aleppo pepper, fennel pollen or a rack of ribs perhaps? When you get home, do a little research on and see what ways that ingredient can be used and what recipes sound delicious to you. It might involve a second trip to the store or it could be a great way to clean out things you already have in the pantry and the fridge.
Getting out of the monotony of the same recipes over and over again is easy. The biggest thing to remember here is that you should keep the whole thing light. Don’t take it too seriously. You are not competing on the next episode of Iron Chef so have a little fun and learn a little along the way!