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Help me find my passion for cooking again!

  • c

Hi All,
I'm looking for some inspiration. I used to LOVE cooking. Lately, not so much. I don't have a particularly demanding schedule compared to some people (meaning I am usually home by 4:30 and have time to get dinner on the table before the kids need to go to bed.) Maybe it's kids, or aging, or just a funk, but I just don't feel like cooking anymore. We have no dietary restrictions, the kids will eat almost anything, and we're all somewhat adventurous with eating. Any suggestions, cookbook/website recommendations, etc. that can inspire me to get in there every day and make something great? Thanks!

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  1. Have you checked out the What's For Dinner threads here on Chowhound? There's been a long series of threads where people share what they made for dinner that night -- it can vary from creative use of leftovers to multi-course meals. Some people add photographs and recipes, as well.

    Seeing what other people are cooking might give you some ideas, and sharing what you're cooking might make it seem more exciting and less like a chore.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jacquilynne

      how true that is Jacquilynne.
      seeing what others are making can take you out of the what am I going to make for dinner tonight. soooo many times it's dictated to me exactly what I'm going to the store for.

    2. I've had periods of blah regarding cooking.

      I find reading the COTM threads inspiring. I've made many dishes because of the great descriptions and group praise.

      I've also regained my interest by focusing on a particular technique or trying to use a something in my kitchen which has been forgotten about (talking about you crockpot and clay pots!)

      I have a nice smattering of various ethnic grocery shops near by. I often browse and buy a new-to-me ingredient. Once home I'll research and the subsequent education often gets me inspired.

      When all else fails I make soup. The process of soup making is one I love and it always makes me happy in the kitchen!

      3 Replies
      1. re: meatn3

        Since you are new to Chowhound (CH), COTM is Cookbook of the Month. Each month the current thread is listed at the top of the Homecooking board as a sticky. (It took me forever to figure out what COTM was!)

        You can do a search for COTM and find older threads.

        This link is good for other cookbooks that lots of people cooked from:


        1. re: meatn3

          I think one thing that's great about COTM is that so many of the posts have links to the recipes when available.

          Speaking of COTM, I thought Rich Bayless "Mexican Everyday" was great with a goodly number of recipes available online and not so time consuming.

          1. re: c oliver

            Glad you mentioned that, CO; I found that several of the online recipes were worth taking a look at even though I own Mexican Everyday, because they include variations not mentioned in the book. Now I make sure to check out the online links for other recipes in my books, and have found a number of helpful streamlining tips and changes.

      2. tastespotting.com or foodgawker.com They are basically the same thing. A collection of beautiful pics of amazing food with links to the sites once you click on the pic. I love them for inspiration when I'm looking for something different to do with some ingredient I have. You can search for something simple like "chicken" and come up with a billion great new ways to make it.

        1. Here are a bunch of old threads, a lot of which address this in various scenarios.


          BTW, welcome to Chowhound!

          1. I imagine you will get your mojo back. If you do a quick search there are a lot of threads on this topic which might be helpful for ideas. When I start to feel like I'm losing my motivation I usually try to focus on something - an ingredient, a style of cuisine, a food group and then let that motivate me to get ideas. I'm notorious for just picking up thing at the store and then I am forced to learn about whatever it is I bought and that usually gets my creative juices and motivation going again. Also, the What's for Dinner thread is full of ideas. I am also a fan of randomly browsing PInterest, tastespotting.com or foodgawker.com adn coming up with ideas.

            1 Reply
            1. re: fldhkybnva

              ...........fldhkybnva, I always enjoy your posts and ideas.

            2. Find an ingredient you've not yet used, and look up recipes that use it: za'atar, ground sumac, rutabagas, kohlrabi, celeriac.

              Browse your local butcher or the meat counter of a good supermarket and find a different cut of meat than you've used.

              Look up online for a different style of cuisine - Thai, Greek, Indonesian, Jamaican.

              And remember that it doesn't have to be an EVERY DAY IS A NEW DISH type of cooking. Try for something new once a week - go with burgers one night, chicken another, soup, salad, and homemade rolls another, and then ... Greek keftedes (fried meatballs with oregano and mint) or Pastitsio.

              3 Replies
              1. re: LindaWhit

                I definitely agree with the last statement. I find myself trying to always recreate the wheel and completely forget about our favorites and fail to realize that it's OK to have a pattern or the same meal multiple times or even to just vary it slightly - different seasoning for the meat, different cheese, etc. In an effort to remember the good stuff and take off some of the unnecessary pressure to create a new menu every single day and every single meal, I now pick out a few ideas from a very long list and focus on them for the week.

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  vary the same meal up a bit by changing out even a few things, so right fldh...
                  I've spent a lot of time in Germany of late.
                  having meals there, remind me when I'm home 'I can do that'.
                  tonight I did. made a dinner complete with everything I was served at my favo place in Munich.really easy food to make, so different from the norm around here, I even got a fist pump from my husband.
                  the ingredients were standard: potatoes, boneless pork, cabbage, apples, berry compote. it's just what you do with familiar ingredients that can make you smile as you're dishing up dinner.

                  1. re: iL Divo

                    I love recreating something I've had elsewhere and usually it means I don't have to return.

              2. Any thing you do every single day is a chore and wears you down !!! Give your self a day off !!!! If the children are older than 8 can be in "charge" of dinner one night per week. They can make sandwiches and salad or fruit dishes for simple meals .Or they can help suggest the dinner for that night .Even if they cant cook , they can plan a menu with your help , measure the ingredients and set the table . It can make them feel proud that they planned dinner . . You might get some odd combos but so what ? Tuna salad , baked potatoes , and strawberries could happen and it wouldnt kill any one to eat it . You would of course veto an unhealthy menu of three desserts . Letting go sometimes can be freeing and fun.

                1 Reply
                1. re: saltylady

                  Gotta do more than hit "recommend." Just having someone else participate in the decision process is great. That's what bogs me down sometimes. I get tired of planning more often than I get tired of cooking.

                2. I'm not clear on how old your kids are but i have very fond memories of "helping" mom make dinner-it turned into a fun activity to do together. As a kid i was often in charge of mixing, shredding cheese, setting the table and such but really enjoyed participating.

                  Different "themes" were also great- like breakfast for dinner, make your own pizzas, and different ethnic foods

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Ttrockwood

                    +1 to the idea of themes. We went through a spell where each week was a different theme: sandwiches, Mexican, things that started with C. After a few weeks of that, we had found enough inspiration to get back into the swing of regular (non-themed) menu planning.

                    1. re: truman

                      My parents purchased the Time-Life Foods of the World series when I was a child. We focused on one book at a time and turned it into a family learning experience. Mom cooked from the book. The rest of us learned about the culture, geography and history of the country. We checked out music from the library, made art projects. At the dinners (bi-monthly?) we ate heartily and presented our reports and had a great time. By the point the meal was served we were so invested in our project that we eagerly tried the food. I doubt we would have been such good sports about some of the dishes otherwise!

                  2. Well, maybe if you discover a brand new reason, along with family, to cook it will help inspire you!

                    You could start your own food website & blog....or maybe even write a cookbook. I think we all go through the blahs at times with regard to cooking, but having a clearly defined project in mind really gets me going again!

                    Best wishes!


                    1. I follow/"like" quite a few blogs on their facebook pages. These bloggers update their facebook page with links to their daily recipes. It gives me inspiration and new recipes each and every day. I can quickly scroll though and see what recipes I'm interested in.
                      Some of my favorites are Food52, Two Peas and Their Pod, Melomeals, Get Off Your Tush and Cook, Tasting Table. If you are not on FB then subscribe to their daily emails.

                      1. Maybe you could look at the "why" of cooking.

                        Do you want to help your family eat more healthy foods, less processed, lower calorie, good gut health, low inflammatory, etc?

                        Maybe cooking very different foods from different cultures are of interest?

                        What about discovering " the best of" foods...the best hamburger, brownie, broccoli soup, etc ?

                        1. Maybe try a new (for you), CHer approved restaurant and recreate some dishes that you and the family like.

                          I imagine there are many CHers that have tried almost everything. There are many cuisines I've yet to sample so this would be easy for me.

                          1. cshoe why not think about childhood favorites? Having a dish you loved as a child might work some magic providing it is still to your taste of course. It doesn't have to be something you cook yourself to get some inspiration.
                            I was filled with a sense of wonder when I stumbled upon pillsbury cherry turnovers in the refrigerated section at walmart. These were a much loved childhood treat I shared with my cousins that I thought were gone forever. Enjoying them again after so long was amazing and I think it helped me get over a cooking slump.
                            More recently I tried a slice of apple pie at a bbq restaurant and the pie was very juicy. I hadn't had juicy apple pie like that in so long that I wanted to make apple pie at home. Well several pies later (and a lot of extra walks) I am still having fun. Somehow success with the pies gave me the courage to try making creamy pumpkin soup. I've always wanted to but I was afraid it wouldn't be worth the hassle. The results were very satisfying.
                            Good luck and let us know how things work out.

                            1. Something that always worked for me when I was at your stage in life was to throw myself into a specific type of ethnic cuisine and explore making the scratch recipes that fit into my schedule. Of course that risks remarks from the family like, "Hey! If I wanted egg drop soup seven freaking nights a week I'd freaking move to China!" (sigh) Families can be so unappreciative!

                              But it also sounds like you might be suffering burn-out from shouldering the responsibility of being the ONLY "chief cook and bottle washer" in the family. If that's the case, then announcing at dinner that tomorrow night is the family's turn to fix dinner for you, and that you "don't want no freaking take-out!" just might put a little spring back in your step! It always worked for me because I was either so touched by their love offerings I felt obliged to re-shoulder my tasks with joy, or the food was so lousy I rushed back into the kitchen as self-preservation! But what worked for me may not work for you.

                              Whatever it takes, here's to you finding the answer that works for you, because it sounds like you're not in a happy place. Good luck!!!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Caroline1

                                Caroline: " If I wanted egg drop soup seven freaking nights a week I'd freaking move to China!"" You made me burst out laughing just now! So funny.

                              2. When I get in a cooking slump I head for a beautiful market and often get hooked by the beauty of ingredients and let them guide me.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: magiesmom

                                  I agree. Nothing gets me excited to cook more than a beautiful market. A new (or borrowed) cookbook can be inspiring too.

                                  There are times when I just don't feel like doing anything complicated and yet, nothing simple seems interesting enough. Fortunately, where I live, the restaurants are not compelling enough to keep me going out more than a few nights in a row. Usually by that point, I have a renewed desire to cook a) healthier, more vegetable-oriented foods, and b) a much wider variety of styles/cultures/ingredients than my local restaurants seem to want to offer.

                                2. I'll add a second to my recommendation to find a new ingredient, or perhaps a new spice. I just got a load from Penzey's and I have more motivation than ever - it's so easy to use their spices or blends as inspiration for a new dish. If you have time, browse the market and see what you find.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                    Penzey's also has some recipes that can be helpful in how to use some of the more obscure spices

                                  2. I see this is OPs first post. Wonder if s/he has any thoughts on these suggestions. Always helps to know what appeals and doesn't.

                                    1. Sometimes when I get in that "I don't wanna cook!" funk I say to heck with it, store bought stuff it is. After a week of blue box, frozen ravioli with pesto, frozen pizzas, etc, take out, I'm more than ready to get back in the cooking grove. I love my husband, but cook he is not. Took him an hour to make Kraft blue box while I was pregnant and nauseous. Our deal is he brings in the big pay check, I cook and do most house hold management. But sometimes you just need a break.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: autumm

                                        This is so true. Over the holidays or on vacation, while the change in food is welcome for a few days, by the end of a week I'm ready to get cooking again.

                                      2. I'm not sure it's something that can be forced.
                                        bet if you thought about it you'd know what is bogging you down. I refer to it as being out of sorts. I know when I'm out of sorts, then I have to think about what my funk is about. when it comes to me I get back in gear. it'll come to you, don't put too much pressure on yourself

                                        1. Thanks everyone for so many suggestions. I appreciate them all, and I'll try to address some things and see if that prompts any other ideas.

                                          First: Ingredients! Unfortunately I live in a little town without much fresh grocery choice. There are not any major cities that are close enough for me to make a grocery excursion. I can usually get some exotic things in jars/cans/etc., but there are no exciting little markets here. I can usually get most common herbs fresh, though.

                                          I totally like the idea about focusing on a new technique or region of cooking. Part of my problem is that I developed a very efficient way of menu planning that is great for the family, bad for food excitement. I end up making similar foods all the time (Tuesday is not spaghetti night, but it is almost that precidictable.)

                                          I do try to get the kids to cook, but the enthusiastic cooker is too young to manage it on his own, and the other would rather be doing something else. Also, I homeschool them. So sometimes by the end of the day, I need my space!

                                          I have tried the prepackaged route to get through the slump, and that's what drove me here. It's no good! So, I'm at least partially motivated by the desire for good food. Also I'm similar to user 'autumn' and the husband just doesn't cook (especially weeknights.)

                                          I LOVE the idea of starting a blog or writing a cookbook, although realistically it may not happen.

                                          I've got to run, but I'll write more later. Thanks again everyone!

                                          I did find a few recipes here that I'm going to try here.

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: cshoe

                                            cshoe, I see that you homeschool your kids. Perhaps taking a break in the middle of homeschooling and studying, and making a cooking lesson *part* of the homeschooling might be the way to go?

                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                              And, you can count it as a math lesson for younger kids! My younger son loves to cook and we used cooking as a way to reinforce fractions, addition, etc.

                                              In fact, my son and I will be alone Saturday and owing to rainy weather, have planned a cook-fest. Two types of lasagna for the freezer, cake, and from-scratch potstickers.

                                              Doesn't help so much when they get to those blasted quadratic equations, about which I have kvetched on other threads.

                                            2. re: cshoe

                                              Bingo, eureka, and all that jazz! I think Linda is a genius!

                                              cshoe, I just went to your profile page to see what kind of information about you I could extrapolate, but that was a blank since this opening post is your first time posting on Chowhound. Welcome! The kind of information I was looking for is what little corner of the world you live in, AND whether it is likely you have reliable mail and UPS.

                                              If you do, then there are a LOT of things you can buy on line when it comes to exotic AND plain old every day food. I do a lot of that through my Amazon Prime membership, which means Amazon loses HUGE amounts of money on me annually for their free two day shipping. It's also an excellent source for cooking equipment -- cheap on up through ridiculously expensive -- that makes a whole lot of things available to me that I don't have to hassle bringing home and carrying into the house myself.

                                              And then there is my favorite spice shop; spiceworld.com In addition to all of the standard spices, they carry a lot of herbs and spices critical to certain exotic cuisines, AND they often offer recipes that use them. Just browsing their recipes and the cost of the spices could stir up the magic for you. BUT...! I also check the availability of the spice on amazon too, because spiceworld.com does not offer free shipping! But sometimes they win because their price is cheaper, even with shipping. And then there are the spices, herbs, and teas they carry that I cant find anywhere else.

                                              With this groundwork lain, the genius of Linda's idea is that you could dedicate an hour or two a week to a specific culture AND it's food. I did something similar with my kids when they were in 4th and 5th grades. My daughter had been excited all semester that she had a class in "geography." Then one day I asked her to find Hawaii on the globe for me. She looked all over Asia, Africa, and Antarctica! When I asked her what in the world they had covered in her geography class all semester long, she said, "Oh, things like plate tectonics and stratigraphy and alluvial planes..." Yes! That school really was calling geology "geography." Enter home schooling as a supplement to correct the misinformation my kids were getting from the El Paso Independent School District!

                                              Some of the countries/foods/meals we covered were Greek, Japanese (Sushi is easy to make, and kids adore the new style "sushi balls). Italy, and of course the kids thought that would mean pizza, but they got osso buco instead. Lots of interesting cuisines to explore!

                                              Oh, and just for general information, Walmart is now shipping a lot of grocery items to your home at no charge. There is a new brand of freeze dried spices and herbs that is relatively new to the market that are VERY hard to find, but Walmart now carries them on their website, so I ordered a few. However, Walmart is a LOT slower with anything they ship/mail to you than amazon.com ever dreamed of.

                                              Hope this lights a few sparks!

                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                Great ideas all three of you! Making it part of geography is a great idea, and will liven up things around here dinner-wise. I have ordered groceries from Amazon before, but never knew about Walmart shipping groceries.

                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  I am very far removed from genius, Caroline. T'was just a momentarily flash of brilliance. But thank you. I will :::preen::: like my cats do when I tell them they are very handsome boyz. I get a gold star on my forehead for the day. ;-)

                                                  And I love the idea of spending time on a particular culture, and working a cooking lesson or two into the mix of the homeschooling.

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                    Early on in my second marriage we had four kids (2 each from prior marriages) who ranged from 4 to 7. When Bobby (youngest) started kindergarten he was all excited that his teacher had broken the class into 3 groups, each to study a special culture, and at the end of the semester parents would volunteer to cook lunch for the kids typical of that culture. The kids in the group that studied Germany got sauerbraten, spaetzle (from scratch), and red cabbage and LOVED it...! The kids who had been studying Italy got a great lasagna, tossed salad, and home made gelato. Bobby's group that had been studying Japan got gohan... That was it! A bowl of rice each! Bobby came home furious! He asked me if I would make a Japanese meal for his group. So I did, and we had a blast. Kindergarten was a half day back then, so on the appointed day the teacher and the 6 or 8 kids came to our house. I took the legs off the dining table so we could sit on the floor in proper Japanese fashion, and I made nigiri sushi, udon with tempura, sea urchin, chicken teriyaki, all sorts of goodies including small chawanmushi in kid size portions, and for desert a whipped kanten (agar agar) "snow" with fresh strawberries buried in it, then cut in cubes. Of course we started off with traditional tea in traditional Japanese teacups, and I explained chanoyu to them. It's the most rewarding cooking I've ever done for a bunch of kids! They were all sooooo disappointed that all they had gotten at school was a bowl of rice while the other kids feasted. I had paper fans for each of them to take home, and I suspect a few even made it to school to one-up the other kids... '-)

                                                    So that's where I drew my idea from when we moved to El Paso, and my kids were getting GROSS misinformation from the school system. We did summer school from grades 4 &5 respectively until they started college. Fun times! You jogged my memory with your suggestion, Linda. Good on you....!!!! :-)

                                                    Now I just hope that cshoe has as much fun with it as I did!

                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                      I recently made this african stew with my 8yr old nephew, he has been learning about world geography and enjoyed reading to me about their typical meals.
                                                      For this recipe i omitted the chilies for him and we had hot sauce on the side, we used all sweet potatoes instead of also squash and spinach since i wasn't going to spend $5 on watercress. It was a huge hit and super delicious, excellent even better at leftovers.....


                                                      1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                        Sounds like fun, and an interesting recipe. Thanks.

                                                2. Two words: Road Trip!

                                                  Get out, hit the road. Leave your comfort zone behind and see what slaps you in the face. Bring the kids. If inspiration doesn't hit then keep driving. Think of it as an extended (practical) civics/geography/sociology class.

                                                  1. I've been there. I don't have a real cure, but I suggest you think of something you make that you love, and think about how you want to eat that again. Maybe that would be motivation.

                                                    Or you could take the energy you used to cook, and divert it to another interest for awhile.

                                                    1. Cshoe: When I'm in a slump like you, I go back to basics: childhood comfort foods, like chicken noodle soup; or childhood eating patterns (I have a favorite all-white combo: steamed rice, a chunk of feta, Greek yogurt, drizzled with olive oil); or another fave: toasted baguette slathered with mayo and layered with HB eggs and lots of salt and pepper.
                                                      You eat enough of that and after a while, trust me, you'll be ready to start cooking again.

                                                      1. When I get in a funk that I like to do something in the slow cooker. A nice stew or braise, that takes no time at all to prep, and will make your house smell like heaven all day. I find the smell is the best way to get my creative juices flowing again, and it gives me a break at the same time, win-win!
                                                        The other thing is to see what other people are doing, follow blogs, watch cooking shows, competitions etc. or look through an old or new cookbook.
                                                        I hope this helps!

                                                        1. Slightly more flexible than Cookbook of the Month (COTM) is Home Cooking "Dish of the Month" where the home cooking hounds vote on one dish to focus on cooking and perfecting, reporting on many variations, for the month.

                                                          You can usually find links to the COTM and DOTM threads in blue at the top of the Home Cooking Board. The October DOTM is chili. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/918836 November's dish is still in the voting phase--you'd even have a chance to vote. The nominations have been narrowed down to braised meats OR Hungarian Goulash. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9219...