Getting Your Cooking Groove Back

IMG_2519As I mentioned in my last post, I had hit a wall with my cooking. The vegetarian aspect only made it slightly more challenging. I took some time off from fretting about it, then I was ready to move forward. Time to get the cooking mojo back. Like anything you do regularly, it’s easy to get tired of it or frustrated with it. Exercise routines, work, dinner. All things that can quickly run into a rut which makes you want to give in completely. Sometimes you need to take a break or try something new to get your inspiration back.

I combed through these cookbooks, checked blog posts I had liked, and gave some thought to what would taste good to come up with some new dinner ideas.

Here’s the list of what I’ve got on the cooking docket.

Wednesday night I made a (another) tasty rice casserole from the Super Natural Every Day cookbook by Heidi Swanson. It had cottage cheese, wild rice, and chopped mushrooms in it which made it rich and meaty. It was topped with Gruyere cheese which made a crispy, cheesy topping. Everyone liked it, no one knew there were mushrooms in it. Definitely a win.

Coming up next is an Asparagus Quiche with Goat Cheese. I try very hard to stick with in-season, locally grown produce. But I spied some tasty asparagus in the grocery store and couldn’t resist. It will still be a few weeks before we see any asparagus here. And we’ve got to eat. This will make a lovely dinner and I can carry the leftovers to work for lunch. Or breakfast. Goat cheese is good for any meal.

Deborah Madison doesn’t write a bad recipe, so I’m looking forward to trying some Cabbage Parcels with Sweet and Sour Sauce. However, the filling seems a little labor intensive for weeknight cooking and I’ve got several cups of cooked wild rice leftover from the rice casserole. So my plan is to create my own riff on the filling while using her recipe for sauce and cooking method. After I give this a whirl I’ll share the recipe and let you know how it turned out.

Black bean burgers are also on this week’s Must Eat list. I’ll googled around until I found this recipe from Sandra Lee. Based on the comments, the recipe looks pretty solid. I may not make it exactly as written, but I’ll let you know what I do and how it turns out. I like the idea that it comes with instant leftovers for another meal.

In my back pocket for when the weather gets warm (IF the weather ever gets warm!) I’ve got some taco recipes that I’d like to try. And I’ll be so glad when some salads come back into the rotation! Salad is great but I crave hot food in the winter. I’m also looking forward to having this for lunch this week. It definitely looks like one of those meals I could eat many days in a row until I make myself absolutely sick on it.

Here are the cookbooks I’m using for inspiration. Do you have a favorite cookbook? A favorite vegetarian cookbook?

How do you get out of a cooking rut? What are you cooking these days?

See where I began here. Post your ideas on Twitter using #40dayvegetarian. And checkout my other blog, 3oclockproject!



I’ve Hit a Wall

By Si Griffiths (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Si Griffiths (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

I knew it would happen. I hit the vegetarian wall today. This happens, even when you’re eating meat. You start to think about dinner. What would taste good? What do you have the ingredients for? What’s worth a trip to the store if you don’t have the ingredients? Nothing sounds good. It’s all too much trouble, too similar to something you recently had, or you just don’t feel like making much of anything at all. Today is that day.

I was talking with my daughter. Snow was pouring down outside. The house was cold. Neither of us was particularly happy about the weather. It’s late March and should be 60 degrees during the day. It’s not. Not today anyway. It’s cold and yucky and we want hot food. Hot food that’s not soup.

Me: I don’t want to make soup for dinner, but I’m out of ideas.

Child: I’m souped out.

Me: Me too. Souped out. Stewed out. Out.

Child: Let’s have something else.

Me: Like what? I’m open to suggestions.

Child: I don’t know.

Me: I’d like a black bean burger.

Child: I don’t like black beans. I like pinto beans.

Me: I have pinto beans. But I think they’ll turn to refried beans if I try to mash them into a burger. That’s why people make black bean burgers. You never hear about pinto bean burgers. I have a new recipe for a different rice casserole?

Child: I’m tired of casseroles.

And so it went. We discussed some other options but still nothing was ringing my bell. She went to school. I ran by the grocery store and picked up the ingredients for the rice casserole and for spaghetti for later in the week. What will we have tonight? I don’t know, but Qdoba may be calling.

Cooking fatigue hits everyone once in awhile. If you asked my family what they want for dinner they’d say “Tacos!” gleefully! Even if we JUST HAD TACOS. While I try to find a variety of healthy, seasonal options to tempt their palates, they want tacos. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with something new and creative in the face of taco lust. I have my old favorites, meals I can make by rote, ones that require no recipe, no thinking. Then I have a stash of new recipes to try. I most often find these on my favorite blogs or in Cooking Light . I even keep binders of recipes, sorted by category, that I can refer back to when I’m feeling like I’ve run out of cooking steam. The truth of the matter is that we need a season change. We’re tired of the soups, stews, and roasts that we’ve been enjoying since the cooler weather came. We want the bright, fresh menu of spring! Only it’s still winter outside and our bodies crave hot food that you eat with a piece of crusty bread while hunkered down in front of the fire.

I know that relief is coming. The farmers market opens in a few weeks. Even if I have to eat Swiss chard and spinach for a month before the asparagus and spring onions appear, I’ll do it. And I swear I won’t complain. I know in a month from now when Easter arrives I’ll be thrilled with the prospect of peas, new potatoes, and the strawberries that will inevitably follow. But for now we’re still stuck in the winter of our discontent and we’ll have to eat a few more casseroles, soups, and stews until the weather breaks and the burden of the spring bounty of vegetables finally arrives.

What do you do to get out of a cooking rut? Do you have a favorite place to get new recipes? What meal are you most looking forward to eating this spring?

Use #40dayvegetarian on Twitter and check out my other blog, threeoclockproject on Tumblr!

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