I hit a major cooking rut earlier this year. Our favorite go-to recipes suddenly became annoyingly boring and the quality of our usual take-out spots declined.
Here's how I broke out of my rut, plus tips on how you can too!
My first inclination was to scroll through Pinterest but I came away more overwhelmed than inspired. I need something curated, something tested, something healthy and delicious. I needed cookbooks.
So that's what I did, I hit the books! We also subscribed to Blue Apron, but more on that in a later post.
The first two books were from the same author, Megan of Freckled Italian. The cookbooks, The Big 15 Paleo Cookbook and The Big 10 Paleo Spiralizer Cookbook were the perfect introduction to the paleo diet in an accessible way. It was also a great way to break away from our usual diet and it was exciting to try something new.
Megan's books are great because she takes staple paleo ingredients and provides multiple recipes for each with additional variations. The possibilities are endless!
Here are some of the dishes we made from her book:
Thai Almond Sweet Potato Noodle Bowl (Page 92, The Big 10 Paleo Spiralizer Cookbook)
I love Thai food so this was a must try for me! I was halfway through making this recipe when I realized that I didn't have plain almond butter and I had to choose between Justin's vanilla almond butter (my absolute favorite but too sweet for this dish) or tahini. The tahini worked perfectly as a substitute and the dish was saved!
Cincinnati Chili with Zucchini Noodles (Page 39, The Big 10 Paleo Spiralizer Cookbook)
I'm a big fan of bean-less chili, I'm an even bigger fan of it when it smothers a heaping pile of pasta noodles. This paleo version was delicious and I did not miss the wheat noodles like I thought I would.
Roasted Tomato and Zucchini Noodle Frittata (Page 20, The Big 10 Paleo Spiralizer Cookbook)
I made this frittata during the Fourth of July weekend. We had guests staying with us and it made for a perfect breakfast before a day packed with events. I went rogue with this recipe and threw in some bacon. Hey, it's paleo!
Beef Stew with Sweet Potato Noodles (Page 90, The Big 10 Paleo Spiralizer Cookbook)
I've recently become a huge fan of chuck roast because you can do so much with it. It makes a great base for one pot meals and by one pot I mean the crock pot. This recipe was super easy and flavorful. 10/10, will make again this winter!
Sweet Potato Linguini with Mushrooms and Spinach (Page 94, The Big 10 Paleo Spiralizer Cookbook)
This recipe was quick, easy, and flavorful and was a big hit with everyone in the family. My iron is always low so the spinach helps with reaching my daily dietary quota.
Pasta Primavera (Page 34, The Big 10 Paleo Spiralizer Cookbook)
This recipe is a great way to use up all the vegetables that are about to go bad and makes a great side dish. Highly recommend!
Fish Stew (Page 87, The Big 15 Paleo Cookbook)
Like Megan, I love a hearty fish stew. Probably because I love fish and anything tomato based. I made this recipe with flounder and my taste buds were extremely happy. Putting this on the list of possible recipes for Christmas dinner.
Another book that I picked up, at Costco of all places, is called Clean Slate. It was too beautiful to pass up! The first part of the book focuses on educating the reader on good food versus bad food. The recipes are not overly difficult and there's even a detox plan that you can follow. Me being me, I focused heavily on the snack and dessert sections.
My favorite meal out of the book thus far is the sardines and cream cheese on rye sandwich (page 92), mostly because it's quick and easy to make when I have a busy day and cooking a full lunch is not on the docket that day. It's also a great way to think outside the tuna can and explore the many variations of canned fish (anchovies, salmon, etc.).
A second favorite is the avocado-yogurt smoothie (page 114). It's savory and sweet and I crave it all the time.
My fourth favorite cooking book this year has been Martha Stewart's Cooking School. It's a great way to get back to the basics, refresh and reset my skills, and create simply delicious meals.
In addition to new books and a Blue Apron subscription, we invested in a few new (inexpensive) tools and a fun pantry items:
- handheld spiralizer (because our large spiralizer doesn't work well with thinner veggies like carrots)
- new spice blends from Savory Spice Shop
- a new knife (it's amazing how much a good knife has improved my mood in the kitchen) and kitchen shears (to help with breaking down whole chicken)
Tips for breaking out of a cooking rut:
1. Find curated inspiration and, specifically, aim for something that's familiar. For example, Megan's paleo books use familiar ingredients, ones we use in our everyday cooking, but with a different perspective. What's old can be made new. I also enjoy perusing magazines located near the grocery store check out.
2. Learn a new technique or brush up on old ones. I love Martha Stewart's Cooking School book. For example, I know how to make chicken stock but what can I do to make it better? YouTube is a treasure trove of cooking techniques and can lead you down a blackhole of amazing cooking videos, give it a try!
3. Try a new-to-you spice blend. We live near not one but TWO Savory Spice Shops so I'm constantly there scouring the shelves for new-to-me blends and peppering the spice team with questions. It's amazing how a new spice blend can change up your cooking.
4. Sign up for meal delivery service. This is a great way to enjoy a curated menu, learn new techniques, and try new flavors without spending an arm and a leg going out to eat.
5. Go out to eat. I love trying new dishes and using them as inspiration for cooking at home.
6. Take a cooking class. I've only taken one cooking class (sad, I know) and, to this day, still make the meal that they taught us how to make. I have Chef Alyssa's classes on my wishlist this holiday season. Don't live in the Charlotte are? Check out local chefs who may be offering classes, Whole Foods, or Sur La Table.
7. Buy a new tool. A new tool can make a huge difference, whether it's a knife or a new pan, the possibilities are endless!
Are you in a cooking rut? What have you tried to break out of it?
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