6 Ways to beat the “recipe reruns”

February 4, 2010

Want a little more variety at home too? Photo by Elaine Vigneault

Want a little more variety at home too? Photo by Elaine Vigneault

Do you find yourself cycling through the same four or five recipes, week after week?

Yeah, me too.

For us, some of this came about as part of our (now infamous) kitchen renovation that lasted four months. For a lot of that time we didn’t really have anything close to what we would have considered a “proper” kitchen setup, so we resorted a lot more to takeout and convenience foods that didn’t take much preparation.

From there, some bad habits formed, and we got into a bit of a rut – it doesn’t help that I have a few favourite foods that I’d willingly eat for every available meal if someone didn’t stop me!

Maybe for you you just got into a routine without noticing. Maybe you’re just busy, and the time investment to learn new recipes just won’t even fit into your mind. And maybe, and I can say this because it’s happened to me too, maybe you haven’t even noticed that you’re in this particular cycle.

Here are some ways to break out of those routines and not only try some new dishes, but enjoy yourself in the process. You don’t have to do everything I’m suggesting here – just pick a few and see where it takes you!

1: Recognize the cycle. Like they say, the first step is to realize that you’ve got a, well, maybe not a problem, but a situation you want to change. Like I said earlier, you might have other things on your mind, so change for the sake of change isn’t going to appeal to you. First you’ll need to frame your time in the kitchen as something you actually want to change. Or is it?

2: Figure out why you want to try new recipes. I personally could eat a certain noodle dish I make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s my absolute favourite food, and if it were up to me, that’s probably what I’d do, but I’m, erm, not allowed to do that. OK, it’s not just that; food and family go strongly together and it’s a shared experience that I want to be part of. Anyway, I have to try other stuff in the interests of family unity

3: Play cookbook roulette. Take a look at your cookbooks. Are you like me and have some that you’ve only tried three recipes from, tops? Before you go grocery shopping, pick a few recipes out that you haven’t tried yet. You could browse for something you think you’ll like, or maybe you’d rather try “spinning the globe” and flipping to a random page. Or you could vary your technique each week.

4: Go on a food safari. I can almost guarantee that there’s something in your grocery store’s produce section that you haven’t eaten in the past year, if ever, let alone cooked with. Make a point of adding one brand new item to your cart with each trip. Don’t worry about what you’ll make with it, just buy it and let Google guide you the rest of the way later.

5: Start Small. Entire new meals might be too much to handle all at once. After all, there is such a thing as a kitchen disaster, and putting energy into trying new things only to have a meal ruined could put the kibosh on your whole effort. Instead, consider just changing or adding one thing to your existing meal: a new salad (or salad dressing,) or sub out a side dish for something new. This way you can ease new components into your routine without as much risk.

6: Try a food subscription. Depending on where you live, there might be a farm co-op or other produce delivery service you can subscribe to. These services supply a box of fruits and vegetables every week – the contents vary, and you can specify the size to fit your needs as well. We use a service here in Toronto, and it’s a great shortcut to the “food safari” idea I mentioned earlier. For example, we received parsnips this week. I only know to roast them with other vegetables, but we’re tired of that, so tomorrow we’ll be trying something completely new, probably via one of the 800,000+ links on Google.

What about you? Have you recently broken out of “recipe reruns?” What tricks and tips can you share with the rest of the gang here? Let us know in the comments!

(Photo by Elaine Vigneault)

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