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What do you do when you are bored/stumped about what to make

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I get this a couple of times a year (sometimes the whole house gets it). Nothing sounds good or inspiring to make or even got get as take out. Sometimes digging through recipe sites will inspire something, sometimes not. What do you do to get your food groove back?

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  1. I go to a great market and am inspired by what is there.

    1. fast.

      1. I know just what you're saying. Felt that way myself. A couple years back I wrote a list (several pages long) of every home prepared main dish I enjoy eating. Now whenever I get into that funk about food, I look over that list. There's always a 'bingo' moment, when I notice a forgotten meal that I suddenly find appealing. So funny the timing of your post, because I just had to do this last night... and discovered shepherd's pie!

        8 Replies
        1. re: i_am_Lois

          Mr P recently wrote of list of my "20 Greatest Hits," all recipes that he loves. Seems like nearly every week, I'd ask "what do you want for dinner next week" while writing the grocery list. Now he just points me to the Hit Parade.

          1. re: pine time

            Care to share the list ?

            1. re: magiesmom

              yes, that'd be fun -- maybe even a new thread!

              1. re: alkapal

                Yes, good thread idea:)

              2. re: magiesmom

                Thread for such lists started - here's the link
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9276...

              3. re: pine time

                Fortunately, our similar "favorites" list includes fried egg sandwich with mustard on toast served with tomato soup. That quick meal gets me beyond the immediate need. Then I read recent "What's for Dinner" threads to get inspired.

                1. re: MidwesternerTT

                  True, MidwesternerTT, at our house, too. The Mr's favorites include such exotic fare as roasted chicken, garlic chicken, homemade pizza, samosas, biryani--you get the drift. Not for CH prime-time!

                  If I'm really stumped, it's breakfast for dinner.

              4. re: i_am_Lois

                I've done the same thing. I have a list that I refer to, and almost always wonder to myself how I've forgotten about all those options I've made so many times...

              5. A reservation.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Veggo

                  You took the words right outta my mouth.......it must have been while you were..........Ummmmm nevermind.

                2. Order out or go out

                  1. I think about what I would order if we were eating out and then make that.

                    1. I like to cook camping food. Can of chili with some grilled onions and a hamburger patty.Or making breakfast for dinner. What I've mostly had for dinner this week.Tonight it's Dungeness crab linguine. I'm back.

                      1. A couple meals of easy stuff like Blue box or frozen heat and serve stuff gets be over the hump. Take out pizza too.

                        Sometimes its not that I don't know what I want, I just don't feel like cooking. Or cleaning up after (I do the cooking and kitchen cleaning while DH wrangles the 2 year old, over all I get the better end of the deal. My stove doesn't have temper tantrums)

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: autumm

                          what is blue box?

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            Kraft dinner aka boxed mac n cheese

                            My toddler's most favorite food after "FRUIT" (which means berries. Bananas are not FRUIT around here)

                            1. re: autumm

                              since I live alone and don't have to worry about feeding anyone but myself, i usually opt for cottage cheese and fruit' yogurt, mac and cheese or instant mashed potatoes with cheese or butter. That's if I feel like aftually making something, or evn preparing something.

                              If I just can't face even opening a carton or package, I get pizza, enchiladas or nachos, or thai. There is an occasiinal trip to the local diner for an omelet but rarely.

                              And if all of the are justout of the question, a bag of oreos and some diet coke over ice will do me just fine.

                              1. re: Miri1

                                We are one in the same, Miri1.

                                I love to cook for others, but sometimes I love that I only have to worry about my own dinner most nights.
                                I'd feel guilty serving my parents oreos dipped in peanut butter, though I'm sure they wouldn't complain!

                                1. re: Miri1

                                  Your last paragraph made me smile Miri....big time:) Life is good:)!!!!

                          2. I take a big spoonful of peanut butter or Biscoff spread and let the yummyness take over from there for inspiration on what to make.

                            1. Sometimes I try a new recipe even if I don't think I'm going to like it.
                              Was looking online for a way to ring the changes on chicken recently and kept coming across recipes using pineapple. I *hate* sweet 'n' sour type pineapple chicken. But when I processed a small can of juice-packed pineapple with a lot of garlic and hot chili pepper, poured it over the chicken and baked, the result was surprisingly tasty.
                              Unlike another new chicken idea I tried recently that my mom sent me -- sauce made of apricots, maple syrup, olives and who knows what all. That turned out very disappointing (just wanted to somehow scrape that flavor out of the meat) ... but at least it made my same ol' same ol' preparations taste pretty good in comparison.

                              1. When I'm stuck, I need visuals. I'll browse tastespotting.com or foodgawker.com, even pinterest. It helps me get thing going again. Or I make some popcorn sprinkled with white cheddar cheese powder and put on a food movie. If nothing inspires, I'll make more popcorn, bake a sweet potato, or open a bottle of wine, slice some cheese and an apple or pear. DH doesn't mind too much, sometimes we just need a break.

                                1. Look at my cookbooks and Pinterest faves.

                                  1. I guess we all do pretty much the same thing. First I look in the fridge and pantry to see what is on hand. If nothing pops, I turn on the Cooking Channel and have it on in the background while I'm puttering in the kitchen. That almost always works--may take an hour or two, but somebody always says a magic word to inspire. Sometimes I browse through EYB, and other times I review old menu lists or even grocery lists.

                                    If all that fails, I look in the freezer and can usually find something delicious I've made and forgotten about.

                                    1. Step 1:
                                      I sharpen my knife until it splits free hanging nose hairs.

                                      2: I go to the fridge and pull out whatever vegetables are sitting around neglected and threatening to turn.

                                      3: Cut em with panache.

                                      4: look at the pile of vegetables and ask myself 'what can I make from this?'

                                      5: eat stir fry, ramen, soup, hash, omelets, etc.

                                      1. Cheeseburgers. At home or out.

                                        1. I start with a pot of rice, then a look in the fridge to see what veggies lurk within. If all else fails, I have rice with various Asian condiments (I have three kim chees in the fridge, fermented tofu, prepared nori, and several variations of Japanese pickles).

                                          1. My honest answer is that I usually stare into my well stocked freezer waiting for something to yell, "Cook me! Cook me!" And then I suddenly realize I'm letting all the cold out and things are starting to defrost, so I grab a frozen yogurt to tide me over while I fall back and regroup! But since I live alone now, it's no longer as threatening as it was when I was married and the kids were growing up. But for what it's worth, I have been known to tell the family that tonight it's their turn to cook for me! But that was high risk behavior. It could result in them making a run to Chico's Tacos for take out. These days I usually eat my frozen yogurt, then have a tuna or pbj sandwich for dinner and hope that inspiration comes along tomorrow... or the next day... or the day after that... Hey, I've got time! '-)

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                              I reach into my freezer and pick something from my amazing collection of sausages. Then I look at the available fresh, frozen or canned veggies, beans or other starch. If there is some sort of sauce (teriyaki, curry, mexican, bbq etc) that looks like a good idea, that joins the mix.

                                              Put it into a baking dish and into the toaster oven. It works for me.

                                            2. If I'm ever stumped I log on to CH to see what others are making

                                              1. I make a quick egg and serve it on top of fresh spinach with some salt & pepper. If there's any bread or nuts to hand I'll put a few on the side. Somehow the simplicity has never failed to restart my enthusiasm!

                                                1. I live alone so I can eat what I want when I want now:) If it is a non cooking evening I scramble three eggs in a drop of olive oil and add herbs and a pinch of grated parmesan. Usually sides of fresh celery sticks and sliced fresh fruit.
                                                  I also toss hot spaghetti with shredded cheeses butter herbs and black pepper...simple yet filling. When I cooked for my family the grocery shopping and menu's were preplanned with military precision and rarely deviated from:)

                                                  1. I go out to eat. That Always inspires me to cook at home. ;-)

                                                    1. I get stoned and end up cooking something like kimchi and spam fried rice, or a ridiculous overstuffed quesadilla.

                                                      Salted, preserved pork products are a staple in this.

                                                      The salami and nutella sandwich produced from this process was ... regrettable.

                                                      12 Replies
                                                      1. re: ChknNWafls

                                                        Salami and Nutella sandwich! Ewwwwwwwwwww... Where's the barf bag?

                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                          You're not stoned enough Caroline. Get with the program

                                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                                            I doubt that there is THAT much booze in the whole wide world!

                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                              You don't get stoned on booze.

                                                              1. re: ARenko

                                                                Billy Joel in the "Piano Man",
                                                                "As the businessmen slowly get stoned
                                                                Yes they're sharing a drink they call loneliness
                                                                But it's better than drinking alone".

                                                                1. re: ARenko

                                                                  stoned really just refers to a state of poor judgment, rather than the method used. an end, not a means.

                                                                  however...colloquially it has changed.

                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                    And with a different meaning altogether in the Arabian peninsula.

                                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                                      LOL! "Let's go get stoned," said the sweet young thing to her lover... Omar Khayyam if ever I heard him! Fitzgerald's 5th translation! '-)

                                                            2. re: Caroline1

                                                              Especially since I read it as SALMON and Nutella.

                                                              1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                                                Makes the salami and nutella sound possibly appetizing

                                                            3. re: ChknNWafls

                                                              But seriously, kimchi and spam fried rice is amazing.

                                                              You dice the spam into ~1/4" cubes, crisp them up in a cast iron (20 mins), deglaze with kimchi juice, add chopped up kimchi, add oil as needed and day old rice, put an egg on it.

                                                              1. re: ChknNWafls

                                                                kimchi and spam, now THAT sounds ok, salmon or salami and nutella? while I have been blitzed on whatever, I don't think that has ever appealed.

                                                            4. When "nothing sounds good" i think back to my favorites from childhood, which always seem appealing
                                                              I also hit the farmers market, and then ask the farmer their favorite way to prepare what i'm buying- which is how i learned about african sweet potato peanut stew, now one of my favorite meals!

                                                              I also turn to ethnic cuisines, most recently i love to make congee- a very simple chinese rice porridge that can be flavored however you like

                                                              1. Look in the frig, pantry . ..Debate about going out or ordering in vs. bank account. Pull stuff out for a meal and feel proud of myself when I pull it off. Sometimes it's "I make something and it sucks" and sometimes it's "I can't believe I spent $$ on this crap"

                                                                1. Eggs
                                                                  Browse old pictures - I snap a photo of nearly everything I eat and it's helpful to go through them and see if anything pops out as "oh that was really good"

                                                                  There are several threads, a few recent on this topic, so I'd also search and see what you find

                                                                  Lastly, I accept that it's an ebb and flow like everything else, your groove will come back. I have noticed that I fall into a slump before and after holidays.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                    Agreed Fidhkybnva - I get burnt out when there are many big cooking events. I don't snap photos - but I try to make notes on recipes that I've made and that helps.

                                                                    1. re: JerryMe

                                                                      Great point, I do that as well. I actually email myself with notes about dishes I've made and then can search with keywords.

                                                                  2. One of our quickie-but-goodie go-tos when we have no imagination or energy is: A bunch of baby greens with olive oil, lemon juice, S&P, and walnuts -------along with a 4-oz. slice of beef tenderloin quickly pan-seared in olive oil, butter, S&P. If we are feeling slightly more energetic, we saute some mushrooms, peppers, and onions to go on top of the steak.

                                                                    Not terribly exciting, but quick and pretty tasty.

                                                                    1. Along the lines of pine time's 20 Greatest, I have a Pinterest board that is "Tried and Liked" which is where I put the recipes I've tried along with notes about them. If I'm stumped about what to make, I go to that board and scroll through it, and am reminded of a good recipe. I usually at least have a main protein in mind (like chicken, or pork chops) when I do this, so that helps narrow it down.

                                                                      1. Like MagiesMom said, I usually go to the market and see what inspires me (which sometimes means a stroll through the frozen dinner aisle and if I see something that sounds good I make it homemade). If that doesn't work then I have some backups, like this week will be a homemade hamburger stroganoff, it was going to be beef stroganoff, but the stew beef was overpriced and the 85/15 hamburger was on sale.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                          I've actually tried this before and it was awful. I hate going to the grocery store period, so going w out a list and a plan of what I'm buying/making would drive me straight batty, and it did, the one time I tried it. I was also in the store double the amount of time I usually am that day. I looked like a lost puppy, making frequent stops w my cart to try and think and get my head together.

                                                                          1. re: SaraAshley

                                                                            That's too bad, since it prevents you from taking advantage of the best quality items and manager's specials. My list contains only things I use that I'm running out of, and the best bargains in the weekly flyer. Before purchasing anything from my list, I first check the quick-sale offerings.
                                                                            I don't think I've ever run out of ideas for what to make - but I often have difficulty deciding which option to choose for the ingredients I have on hand. Is the ground beef going to be stroganoff, chili, pasta sauce, meatloaf, burgers, stirfry.....?

                                                                            1. re: greygarious

                                                                              Well, I'm certainly not as an experienced cook as many Chowhounds are, so maybe this is a skill I may better develop over time with more experience in the kitchen. I do check the sale offerings on my grocery store apps before deciding what to make/buy, and will try to plan my meals around what is on sale. I do all this before I go to the store, though.

                                                                        2. I go to my parent's house for dinner and let my Mom do the deciding for what I'm going to eat, lol. I hate to go through the effort of making something, or spending the money on going out if it's not something that's totally appealing to me at that moment.

                                                                          1. I keep a list of my 20 - 25 "Goto Dishes" handy. I work from home so i have it on a spreadsheet on my computer but you could keep it on your phone or you could keep a paper list on the fridge. A look at my list always helps even if I don't cook one of the dishes on the list, it gives me something to get my mind working. Often times I am just drawing a blank. The list helps.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                              Google Docs, great for this as well as many other things

                                                                            2. Some great suggestions. I do need to make a great hits list. Sending me to the grocery store hungry and without a plan would result in something akin to getting teeth drilled without medication. That is mainly due to our main grocery chain being horrible and usually full of other people without a plan shuffling around looking lost at 5pm :-)

                                                                              1. i make breakfast for dinner/lunch. i am talking abou the full board breakfast with 2 meats, and hash browns and some kind of gravy. the meal may not inspire but it sure makes me feel good.

                                                                                1. I do one of a few things:
                                                                                  1) Chipotle burrito bowl. It's simple and within my meal plan.
                                                                                  2) Check my pintrest pins. I keep a healthy foods board for inspiration.
                                                                                  3) I go to Whole Foods. I love searching for a new ingredient and then I'll go home and check what I can do with it. Sometimes my partner picks an ingredient and we find a recipe.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Tarantula

                                                                                    I love #3 it's actually how many of my meals are created. I just browse when I have time, pick up something interesting, read about it and cook. I often lose my creativity at busy times when I don't have time to do that strangely enough

                                                                                  2. Here's what I make- a call to our Chinese or Thai place!
                                                                                    It helps to just give me a mental break and of course, we enjoy it so much.
                                                                                    But, my slumps are generally evidenced by tuna melts, grilled cheeses and quesadillas.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: monavano

                                                                                      I fall back on easy standby options for a day or two (Spanish tortilla with salad, pasta with tomato and basil sauce, braised chicken with Meyer lemon and fresh herbs, served with roasted potatoes and a green vegetable), then peer into cupboards/fridge/freezer and pull something out, place it on the counter and come up with ways to build a meal around it.

                                                                                      It's good to occasionally pull everything out of a cupboard to find all the cool things I bought on whims but haven't yet used. Something in that odd pile of goodies usually gets me excited about cooking again.

                                                                                      1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                                        I am one of those specialty food hoarders who sees bargain this or that at Home Goods, or on sale at Williams Sonoma, and just HAVE to have it.
                                                                                        It's a good reminder to get into my cupboards and pull out those shiny balls that once got me so excited!

                                                                                    2. Aroma always inspires me. I like to walk past restaurants and check out the menus in the window. The aromas and the description of the offerings usually spark an interest for me.