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Cooking Rut Solutions?

I am in a rut. I cook a variety of things, of different origin and ethnicity, but I am just bored and uninspired. Has anyone ever felt this and if so how did they break the spell? I usually love to cook, but even with the change of seasons I am so ho hum! I cannot even get a rise over a nice short rib ragu with pappardelle!

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  1. Either seek out a new cookbook unlike ones you have or find an ingredient you've never heard of and commit to using it for a couple of weeks. That might stretch things a bit and get you thinking anew.

    1. let chance take over. put five proteins, five spices and five cooking styles on a dart board.

      1 Reply
      1. re: kindofabigdeal

        That sounds kind of cool.

        I once had roommates who did not really cook. they would occasionally go to the grocery store, then tell me: "Hey, I bought some food. Youw ant to see what you can do with it and we can have dinner." I cooked, they paid for the food, it worked.

        my recommendation for Sal Vanilla, don't cook. Give it up for a while. Eat fast food. Goorge on takeout Chinese or prepared meals, visit the Golden Arches and fill yourself with fries, hit Taco Bell and stuff down three double deckers. Eat all the things you like that you would never cook, and then switch. Visit some little ethnic spots and see if they inspire you.

      2. When this happens to me, I go back and look at cookbooks I haven't opened in a while. I usually see something and think "I used to make this all the time and it's really good."

        Or how about make something that you love, but would generally never make it. Something from your childhood.. like Bisquick pizza. This is not fine dining, but there is something about it that makes me remember being a kid and loving it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: GenieinTX

          THe old cookbook remedy works for me, just flipping through them I see recipes I would not have considered before.

        2. I would highly recommend buying Sunday Suppers at Lucques if you don't have it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: MMRuth

            And another one - especially great for fall - Think Like a Chef by Collicchio.

          2. Why, Sal Vanilla! Don't you have a "to try" pile of recipes that you would love to try? Hee, just kidding (well, am somewhat serious!)... when I get in a rut, I refer to my "to try" pile OR cookbooks or magazines that I have lying around ... that usually sparks me right back up into action!

            1. jfood just went through the same thing three weeks ago, couldn;t get out of his own way in the kitchen. then it just broke. one sunday went for short ribs and haza bolognese, then he grabbed the file of the 3000 recipes he has downloadedover the years and just read the titles, then he chose a couple and has started back on the saddle. this week has been a different regionof the world every night. mrs jfood trying flavor never served on the table. on a roll baby.

              as they say, this too shall pass. just got a give the engine some time to re-charge.

              1. I am frequently in such a place. But I gotta say: the answer is right at your keyboard. Tell the Homecooking board what ingredients you have, and you will recieve wealth of ideas. I did it myself not too long ago with the glut of spaghetti squash we had, and have been more motivated and eating well ever since.

                Tell the board what you've got and there will be many posters to tweak it and get you out of the rut! Ask and ye shall receive!

                1 Reply
                1. re: cayjohan

                  I'll second the looking-online-for-inspiration idea. I often type in a search query on epicurious based on what I have. Sometimes this backfires if I just went shopping, because then I have too much stuff. But then I narrow it down by what I need to finish first. Usually works! Good luck.

                2. I am bumping this thread b/c I too am in a rut. Nothing inspires me right now. I wish I could be the type who goes to the store about every 2 weeks and stocks up and that is that but I am not. I get my urge to make something that day and then I am off to the store to buy the ingredients. I am a regular at the local Harris Teeter. Lately, I have been wasting $$ b/c I buy the stuff and never make it. I think I will take some advice and take a break but then my kids eat junk. For the past 2 days, I made crock pot crap. Of course the kids refuse it but my husband loves that kind of goulash stuff. Why does it all seem to taste the same no matter what ingredients you add? I will add that I made some italian sausage in spaghetti sauce that was different from the usual crock pot fare....I hate ruts!!

                  1. I'm told that Julia Child (or somebody famous) and her husband took a classic comprehensive French cookbook and "cooked through it" from page 1 to the end.

                    Might be an idea...

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: wayne keyser

                      I think you mean "Cooking With Julia" - or something like that -- it came out a year or so ago, and is written by a woman named Julie who decided to cook through the original Julia Child cookbook in one year. She wasn't famous until she wrote about her experience.

                      And that brings me to what I do when I'm in a rut: I don't look at cookbooks, which can make me think more about the work involved, but I read something (or see a movie) in which food is described in loving and inspirational detail. I might flip back through Under a Tuscan Sun and get the urge back to cook Italian, or Chocolat and put some time in on my baking. And reading Cooking with Julia (or maybe the title is Julie and Julia?) made me think about trying some more challenging recipes than I usually do, though perhaps not many she described.

                      1. re: Xine

                        Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell, is definitely an inspiration! I second Xine's recomendation of watching a great movie or reading a great book that inspires you.

                        Also something to think of- take yourself to your local farmer's market, and challenge yourself to make a meal ONLY with ingredients you can purchase there.

                        1. re: happybellynh

                          You know I think veggies are the cause of my dismay with cooking. I have a giant garden in my back yard. I have never eaten or cooked so many Zuc's, onions, carrots, tomatoes, fennel, chard.... Maybe I am just overtaxed. I picked the last of my green tomatoes yesterday and pilled out the plants. It did wonders for my mood. Who knew plenty could depress. Today I am donating PILES of apples, pears, chard, tomatoes and carrots. I hope it cures me.

                    2. Hey folks! Thank you so much for all the replies! I will give them a go. today, I repeated this complaint to a girlfriend and she gave me some advice that I thought I'd share. She says she goes online and looks at menus from great restaurants around the country and tries to recreate what she would have ordered (soup to nuts). She said she also buys special ingredients she has never used and looks for delicious recipes to use them. I am going to do that and ask for recipes here. People have such great ideas here! I am already excited!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                        In that vein, I've found that going to my local farmer's market can be inspiring.

                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                          I was going to suggest something similar - I find that I get a lot of ideas when I go out to eat. Quite a few recipes I have made come from something I had at a restaurant - while I realize I can't 100% replicate it, usually it's close enough. One of my favorite "stolen" recipes was halibut topped with roasted brussel sprouts, kalamata olives and chopped tomatoes. I love sprouts and olives but wouldn't have thought of them as working together but they really do.

                          1. re: pellegrino31

                            your "stolen" recipe sounds delicious...do you mind sharing a little bit more about how you make it? thanks!

                        2. One more thing. I have found part of my problem was that I would buy say a leg of lamb and think I would make all sorts of different dishes until it was gone, but they would be so different that it would be great. It is NOT. If I never see another leg of lamb... OK I do not want to go that far. Next time One meal and the rest gets to sleep in the freezer for a while. Period.

                          1. My friends and I like to do an Iron Chef night: we go to TJ's, give ourselves 10 minutes and each spend 10$ on whatever we want. Then, we make dinner, using at least some of every ingredient purchased.

                            Those nights made me experiment with plantains, green chickpeas, tomatillos, dried porcini, etc.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: piccola

                              piccola, it's a lot like what we do with our farmers' market, without the time/$ constraints. Gather the ingredients, decide what to cook...it's a wonderful exercise. And you can eat some wonderful dishes this way..

                              I think we all can get creative when faced with something out of our normal larder-zone. A great rut-breaking idea.

                              1. re: cayjohan

                                That IS a great idea. Green chickpeas?? I did not know such a thing existed!

                                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                  Yeah, they taste something like a cross between chickpeas and edamame.

                                  1. re: piccola

                                    Hey Piccola, are green chickpeas available at whole foods? Trader Joes carried them a year ago here in Southern California, oh for about 6 months, but not anymore. They said it was a one time deal. :(

                                    1. re: sweetTooth

                                      I've seen them at WF in NYC, but I don't know if every store has them. WF deals with local providers a lot, so they're hard to predict - but I'd say it's worth a look.

                                      For those in Canada, Loblaws/Superstore has some under the PC label.

                                      1. re: piccola

                                        Cool. Thanks! I will check at my local WF.

                            2. when I need inspiration, I go to www.tastespotting.com.

                              Seriously droolworthy food porn

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: purple goddess

                                Thanks purple goddess, I have added this website to my favorites!! And I am drooling!!!

                                1. re: purple goddess

                                  I just bookmarked that site. You are so right. Food PORN! Plus a lot of good connections to other sites. Thank you so much Goddess!

                                  1. re: purple goddess

                                    I'm just getting around to checking out this site. Absolutely fabulous! Many thanks.
                                    There are some seriously gorgeous and unusual recipes to be found there.

                                  2. I spend some time googling recipes of ethnicities that I've never tried before. Like... Danish or Belgian or Ethiopian...

                                    I found the greatest recipe doing this, Bitterballen. It's like deepfried beef gravy balls sorta in the same vein as soup dumplings in China, where you make a filling that is solid when cold so you can shape and coat it, then when you fry it up, it becomes almost liquid (not soup in this, of course, gravy), and when you bite into it, it fills your mouth with lush yumminess. :)

                                    1. variations:

                                      invite friends over, tell them each to bring 2 ingredients.

                                      make a delicious dinner

                                      go to the supermarket with a few friends. assign each to an aisle, and either a dollar amount or a number of items.

                                      1. Two words: chicken marbella

                                        I had this for the first time last night and was simply wowed. You may think the combination of ingredients is odd, but they definitely work. Sweet, salty, savory - Google it for the recipe - this may get the creative juices flowing again. :)

                                        1. I drink. A lot. Then I go to elise.com/recipes and make some drunken bastardized version of her current yumminess. Then I wake up and the first things to hit me are multiple variations on what I had made the previous night. It's all downhill from there.