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Anyone else hit a cooking stumbling block this time of year?

It's slowly getting warmer but still fairly cold in the Northeast...I've been braising meats and making soup all winter long. I'm ready to start cooking lighter meals, but no produce is in season for me to focus on. Anyone else find it hard to get inspired this time of year (roughly March-April), when the weather is iffy and nothing is in season?

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  1. Yep, we call it stuck in The Rut here.

    A few months ago, it was "it's cold - let's make chili!" Now it's "oh, Gawd. Chili. Again."

    ETA: and yes, the dearth of fresh produce for inspiration doesn't help. I just have to keep telling myself that the asparagus is coming, the asparagus is coming.

    7 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      <<Now it's "oh, Gawd. Chili. Again.">>

      This. Exactly this. I made chili on Saturday and I kept glowering at the pot.

      Oh how I long for a meal of fish and garden fresh veggies.

      Gravy can go to hell.

        1. re: KitchenBird

          "Gravy can go to hell" is easily the best thing I've ever read on this site.

          And, yes... it's not quite nice enough to throw something on the grill, not quite cold enough for chili or soup here in western Texas, so I'm definitely in a rut.

          1. re: shanagain

            We were going to grill tonight (in Tampa), but it didn't get that warm today (mid-70's?), and like you not cold enough for soup again, so we made breakfast. Sausage, yum!

            Since I'd already thawed the chicken, I've got a choice tomorrow. Grill, sauté or crock it. We'll leave it up to Accuweather to decide. :)

            1. re: DuffyH

              Yeah, we sometimes don't grill when it's down in the teens :)

              1. re: c oliver

                <Yeah, we sometimes don't grill when it's down in the teens :)>

                Teens? I don't understand. What do teenagers have to do with grilling? ;))

                1. re: DuffyH

                  Har dee har har har :) But, really and truly, that's our minimum.

      1. What a timely question! Here in Tampa the weather has been bouncing up and down like an over-inflated beach ball for the last month. Yesterday it was 54º (chili!), Saturday was a little warmer (creamy chicken soup), today it will hit mid-60's (a one-pot skillet spaghetti recipe with GF pasta I need to perfect). Tomorrow, 78º, we grill!

        Then it's back inside for a couple of days before it cranks up to 80º for the weekend. Next week we bounce between mid-70's to mid-80's. Says Accuweather. Right now. Tomorrow they may change the forecast again.

        btw, sunshine - yesterday my DH said "Chili again? Seriously?" LOL

        1. Yes. I have hundreds of recipes pinned on my Pinterest but I'm having a hard time picking what to make. Our weather has also been crazy too... yesterday it was 65 (wish I had planned something for dinner to grill!), today it's overcast with snow here and there, in the 30s. It'll be back up into the 60s by the end of week. So it makes it hard to plan ahead. Plus, like you mentioned, a lot of the produce at the store is rather sad.

          1. Yes! I can't take it anymore! On Friday, I got so annoyed that I finally went into my backyard (in the cold) and turned on the grill and pretended the weather was much warmer than it actually was. I was amazed that the grill was even capable of coming up to temp in the surrounding temperatures. Same thing (in reverse) starts happening around September time. Even if it's still warm out, I'll start making my first pot of soup of the season.

            11 Replies
            1. re: sherrib

              We grill year round. Snowstorm? No problem...just shovel it out! :-)

              1. re: jbsiegel

                We also. Though the grill is under an eave of the house, it's not unusual to have to shovel to get to it.

                1. re: jbsiegel

                  The grill gets hot enough? I have no problems shoveling to get to some BBQ.

                    1. re: sherrib

                      Definitely. It will take longer than in summer but no problem.

                      1. re: sherrib

                        Yep...hot enough no problem at all!

                      2. re: jbsiegel

                        I live in an apartment in Brooklyn, I SO miss grilling!! In the summer my kitchen gets unbearably hot...the window leads on to the fire escape, so I can't put an AC or fan in the window, not to mention it's right next to the stove, so that wouldn't really be a good idea. I'm going to try experimenting with a fan on the floor this year...

                        1. re: italianyc84

                          Costco has a set of 2 rotating fans. They stand on the floor (I put the small one on my microwave) and they're pretty narrow. Had them in my small apartment for a while

                      3. re: sherrib

                        My father used to stand in the snow or rain with his big golf umbrella in order to grill his Sunday steak. I'm afraid I don't have his enthusiasm, so my grill is lonely for 4 months each year.

                        1. re: Terrie H.

                          Sunday steak LOL. For us, it's Sunday salmon!

                          1. re: jbsiegel

                            I'm old enough that salmon wasn't even a possibility here in Maryland back then!

                      4. Absolutely. Have been making the same 4 Fuchsia Dunlop recipes, baked beans, homemade sauerkraut baked with smoky pork bone from farmers market, and split pea soup with ham bone over, and over.

                        Have a cookbook library, really should look into Madhur Jaffrey's Worldwide Vegetarian (whatever the title actually is) for some new ideas about flavors (white bean pumpkin Cuban soup? Moroccan sweet potatoes?) but lack initiative in a general "March slump."

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: HillsofBeverly

                          Which four Dunlop recipes, if I might ask? Maybe they'll help me break out of my rut since I could use a few new ones to focus on.


                        2. Reading the what's for dinner board has me planning and trying new combinations. Plus a focus on using up what's in the pantry & freezer is also forcing new combinations, so I'm not feeling stuck.

                          From the produce aisles, fruit has been very good the past couple of weeks. Other than apples in the fall, fruit is so seldom "local" here that the in-season timing matches world-wide seasons. Recently we've had Florida strawberries, "USA" oranges, kiwi, pineapples, and pears, and Chilean red grapes.

                          We also had a pound of some wonderful asparagus, spread across 3 meals; sometimes it's worth a splurge to get a new ingredient.

                          Had to grin at DuffyH's 54-degrees as a trigger temperature to make chili fo supper. Here in MN that's the lowest-end of grilling weather.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: MidwesternerTT

                            Yeah, I get that all the time. Funny thing is, I grew up in SoCal, moved here from the Great White North (Kitsap Peninsula, WA, Brrrr! ) 2 yrs ago, and now 80 is the new 70.

                            And I'm talking º!

                            1. re: MidwesternerTT

                              We don't have anywhere to grill in winter because we keep the snowblower where the grill usually is.


                            2. Nope, it's cold I don't want to do anything but cook and eat and so the cooking motivation is high. However, whereas I usually can decide quickly on what to make and go for it, recently I've noticed that I vacillate a lot and every meal will try to make something new. Perhaps I'm bored and want the adventure or am bored of old flavors. There is quite a stumble to decide what to make but once I commit and set off to figure out exactly how to make it best, I get very excited and motivated so I think I do have a bit of what you're discussing.

                              1. I feel the rut as well! I can't wait for the farmers market and warm enough weather for a chopped salad to sound satisfying. I need to console myself with a few last loaves of bread before it's too warm to start the oven. I've been adding loads of parsley to everything to 'freshen' it up.

                                1. Yeah, this is when I go in for Thai to revive our braised-out taste buds. It helps that a greenhouse in our region supplies the local-foods market with cilantro and lemongrass. Good limes are available this time of year, too.

                                  Late winter is the time of year that I eat least locally, making forays to the supermarket for jalapenos and serranos, as well as for poblanos, pasillas, and red bell peppers and avocados.

                                  Shrimp has a powerful appeal now, too -- but to give in I have to shut my eyes to enslaved Thai seafood workers / Gulf oil-Corexit contamination.

                                  1. Funny enough, I am trying to cram in my usual once-a-year winter dishes that I haven't gotten to this year. We've had a milder than normal winter until the past few weeks, so I've finally been inspired to do the ribs in sauce, French onion soup, chili, and bean soup, that I usually make each winter. The chili is on the menu for tomorrow, when we are supposed to get some snow.

                                    1. This is probably the happiest I've been cooking in winter. I've been roasting all manner of vegetables. Also 'discovered' kale about a year ago and that features prominently.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        I have had many new food discoveries albeit nothing which the rest of the world hasn't discovered. But, my mini rut has encouraged me to branch out and I have a list of many new favorites and now can't ever decide which one I want to eat because they all are so great.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          I made a delicious kale and butternut soup last week.

                                          Other than that, I'm getting kind of bored.

                                        2. Shrimp, Oysters, and Crawfish are plentiful and delicious right now. Fresh fish is available. Freezer is full of vegetables & game. Life is good!!!

                                          Oops! Forgot. Louisiana Strawberries have started and are awesome.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Uncle Bob

                                            those of us who are just beginning to see a few crocuses might have to hate you for a while.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              Those of us who just removed 8+ inches of new snow from their driveways even more so

                                              1. re: Pwmfan

                                                Yeah well, Y'all go ahead and hate. ~~ This summer when it's 100*- 85% Humidity in the shade, and you are enjoying fabulous mild days and cool nights...I'll return the favor! :))

                                          2. finding it hard this time of year-nope...
                                            I'll make a tomato bisque from scratch for dinner tonight after I roast the tomatoes onions garlic & rosemary with house seasoning & Barcelona Spanish olive oil. a little rice, stock butter sage and cream, pummel in blender finish with croutons and minced shallot greens.

                                            1. don't know how this fits in with "seasonal" but a nice cobb salad may bridge the gap... chicken, bacon, eggs but with avocado and other "springy" things too...

                                              1. Yes. I've got some beautiful veal shanks in the freezer just crying to be made into osso buco, but I haven't been able to talk myself into making it for the last three weeks. Just blah. Nothing is interesting me. I need some inspiration fast!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: lisavf

                                                  We are in the process of moving. We are going to be out of the house in 7 weeks, and I have a freezer full of food - large brisket, sweetbreads, tongue, etc. My goal is to finish them before we move because I'm not throwing them out!!! Cook the shanks and refreeze them if you have to, but don't let them go to waste!! Happy cooking.

                                                2. Not in the least. I love cold-weather cooking since I am happy to have the extra heat from the oven and burners. It's summer when I get into a rut, cooking whatever generates the LEAST amount of heat. I don't grill because I prefer the overall sear of a cast iron pan to the charring of grates. Living in the northeast means buying produce from other regions/continents. We should relish their availability because if the world ever gets serious about controlling greenhouse gases, a consequence will be the curtailing of global shipping and Boston will be eating a lot of root vegetables plus canned and dried produce for half the year.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                    I can't wait until summer to try all of the "cold" dishes from Fuchsia Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice! I am always so desperate for "non-cook" recipes that time of year...


                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                      I'm with you guys on this. Summer is my dreaded season of cooking. I finally have an apartment with central air, so I may hate it less. It's hard for me to find no-cooking meals for the really hot days that are family pleasers.

                                                    2. re: greygarious

                                                      I live in the northeast also, but I prefer buying local produce and buying in season (exceptions being citrus, avocado, etc)...we do eat lots of root vegetables in the winter, and don't eat canned or dried produce at all, but we do eat frozen vegetables (some I freeze myself, some I buy).

                                                    3. I just realized that I cook a lot the same year round. We live in the mountains so it can get pretty cold. But our summers are usually quite mild and super low (think single digit) humidity. Except for August, it's pretty unusual for our temps to get even get in the 80s. So the selection of vegetables certainly changes but otherwise ? I'm not dealing with the - what ? - psychology of the season changes so much. Just a thought.