I know exactly what I’m making for dinner, each and every night.
Why is this a bad thing?
Well, it’s not necessarily, but I’ve found that, for me, cooking has become more of a chore than something that’s fun and enjoyable.
Especially after a long day, the last thing I want to do is have to think about what to make for dinner.
Sure, I could:
- search online for new recipes to try
- or find inspiration in new food blogs to follow
but most of the time, I just stick with the tried and true.
The funny thing is, I love food and I love to cook.
And yet, every Sunday, when I go to the grocery store, I pick up the same ingredients because on Mondays, it’s pasta, Tuesdays, pork and potatoes, Wednesdays, stir-fry with rice… and the weeks just pass by.
I totally get that the routine is boring, but it’s so easy. I know exactly how long it will take to make and how it will taste.
But, I want to break out of this cooking rut.
I want to have fun in the kitchen again. I want to get excited about making dinner. Maybe not every night, maybe not even once a week, but every now and then, I want to try new herbs, spices and ingredients, and be an inspired home cook!
This is one of the reasons I started The Dinner Special podcast.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I chat with my food hero guests about their fondest food memories, favorite things inside and out of the kitchen, and a dish that is special to them.
I also ask them questions like, “For those of us where cooking has become a chore, how can we make it more fun.” Things that I truly want to get some answers and ideas on.
From time to time, I’ll put together all their answers into a post like this. I hope this makes it easy for you to turn to.
If you have any burning questions you’d like answered, please send them to me at: thedinnerspecial [at] gmail [dot] com.
You’re a huge part of The Dinner Special and I’m sure lots of people have the same questions they want answered.
(Sorry for getting sidetracked.)
When I asked my food hero guests, “For those of us where cooking has become a chore, how can we make it more fun,”
Here’s What 28 of Them Had to Say:
Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars:
For people who think it’s a chore, I simply say try something easy.
Learn to scramble eggs really well.
I don’t think everybody has to love cooking, but we all have to eat.
I think the best advice I can say to someone is just to keep it simple. Your first meal doesn’t have to be a five-course extravaganza. Like I said, learn to make really good scrambled eggs, or pancakes, or French toast, and that will take you far.
Amy Kritzer of What Jew Wanna Eat:
I think you have to start with some good music, pour yourself a glass of wine, make it like a whole experience.
Then, start with something easy that is impossible to mess up and I think that will build your confidence and it’ll make it more fun for you.
I’m not opposed to people who take things that are pre-made and tweaking them a little bit.
If you bought some pre-made chicken to add to your matzo ball soup, instead of cooking your chicken, that’s fine.
Whatever makes you happy and makes it work.
Jordan Reid of Ramshackle Glam:
I think just finding your basic technique.
Like, with a slow cooker, it’s just meat and some liquid and vegetables. And so it’s like, once you get that basic thing down, you can have fun and you can say like, “Oh, I have some sriracha in my fridge. Let me throw that in. Let me try it with soy sauce on the side, let me try it with red wine instead of…”
I tried Dr. Pepper in a pot roast and it was really good.
And so I think that’s how you can have fun. Stick to the basics that you know in terms of technique and then you can improvise from there.
Chef Tony Singh of The Incredible Spice Men:
Get somebody to help you, because lots of people are time pressured and it is a chore if you’ve got a million and one things to do.
If you can get your children involved, it’s a great family experience and you’re teaching them life skills. Get somebody to peel the onions or peel the carrots or stand there and start to wash up for you.
Get people involved and that makes it much, much better.
Chef Cyrus Todiwala of The Incredible Spice Men:
What I always tell people in my classes is, when they look at a recipe, let’s say they look at a recipe in our book and they find something which looks very daunting, I always tell them to read the recipe first as if they’re reading a novel.
Then, shut the book and put it away and come back to it in a couple of hours. The recipe will automatically fall into place and will not look as dangerous.
The most important thing is unclutter your mind. Just de-clutter it and become creative.
Just become creative because all you will end up doing is creating something new.
Elena Rosemond-Hoerr of Biscuits & Such:
I think, especially during the weekdays, we totally get into a rut.
One of the things that I like to do is try and dabble with new ingredients or new cuisines.
So dabbling in things outside of your comfort zone is a good way to sort of bring the fun back into the kitchen.
And starting really small.
Trying to make something that you love to eat out, but that you hadn’t even thought that you could make at home, like a burrito bowl and then go from there.
Jodi Moreno of What’s Cooking Good Looking:
I think involving people always makes it more fun.
If I don’t want to sit at home by myself, I’ll just invite a bunch of friends over, casually set the table, give them a job to do and this way we’re not going out to eat ’cause in New York that’s very easy to do.
So, I think involving people, and if you have a spouse or children, that makes it even easier. My husband likes to cook too so the two of us will do it together and I think we kind of motivate each other to cook at home more often.
Eva Kosmas Flores of Adventures in Cooking:
Try to think of ways to make it more attuned to your personal taste. So, if you’re trying to just make something from a cookbook, know that you don’t always have to follow it to a T.
You can always change it up and add something else that you really like.
If you’re okay about onions but you love leeks, you can totally swap those two out. The same goes with most vegetables. If you hate cooked carrots, but you love brussel sprouts, switch those up, because roasted brussel sprouts get all caramelized and delicious.
My main thing would be, don’t be afraid to change it up and make it more in tune with what you actually like to eat.
It’ll be a lot more interesting to you if it’s something that you enjoy, rather than if you’re just almost following guidelines. That’s a lot more boring.
Courtney Chun of Fork to Belly:
It’s just about doing recipes that really inspire you, and that you really enjoy.
Before I started the blog, I would try to make healthy dishes. It would get repetitive. I’m making the same chicken breast, the same salmon with broccoli, and brown rice in it. It’s not like I didn’t enjoy what I was making but the process gets repetitive. It’s just not really fun.
I started doing cakes or making Japanese dishes because I really enjoy Japanese food. That just really helped to push me along and make me really enjoy what I was doing.
I think just with anything, you need to find what you love to do.
Megan Voigt of Hint of Vanilla:
One of the things that I do whenever I bake or cook, or just when I’m in the kitchen ever, is I put on some music, and I kinda dance a little bit. I’m a terrible dancer, and I’m a terrible singer, but I will actually dance and sing as I’m cooking.
It’s something that you see in movies and you’re like, “Oh, that’s so cheesy.” But you know what? I do it, and I really enjoy it.
It’s just injecting a little bit of fun.
Have a recipe that you’re comfortable with, that you know is pretty good for a weekday dinner, so you’re not stressed. Then, on the weekends, you can kind of do a bit more research and try something that you’ve never tried before and maybe do something that has a little bit more time and effort put into it.
Jonathan Melendez of The Candid Appetite:
I would say turn on music while you’re cooking. That’s like the one thing I always do as I cook, always.
Right before I start cooking, I will turn on music, I’ll have it on shuffle, and I’ll just listen to music the whole way. And then it feels like you don’t even think about it anymore, because you’re listening to these songs that you really enjoy, and you are in the kitchen.
And it doesn’t become a chore anymore, because there is something there to distract you.
Cristina Sciarra of The Roaming Kitchen:
I think the best thing is just to make it to the market, pick something that looks good to you and go home and search (for example) broccoli recipes. The websites I really rely on, if you type things into Food52, you will have great results with a recipe that will work for you.
Karen Chan of HonestlyYUM:
I would always say start by making sure you have just the basic correct tools, and I think at the very minimum you just need a really good knife. A really good or really sharp knife, because if you’ve got to sit and cut an onion with a crappy knife, I wouldn’t even want to do that.
You just need the basics and you need really good basics.
For example, a really good pot. Like a very good cast iron pot, for example, or for me I use a mortar and pestle all the time. Especially if you’re going to be doing a lot of ethnic cooking, those are just so handy to have.
But aside from that, music. I almost always listen to music when I cook. It lets you settle into it more and kind of focus on the chopping. It’s a little meditative because you just kind of zone out there listening to music.
A glass of wine doesn’t hurt. I always have a glass of wine and some music playing and just have fun with it.
Start with manageable things, have equipment and tools that are good and that will help you. I always say, seriously, a good knife goes a really long way and alcohol…
Skye McAlpine of From My Dining Table:
In my mind, what makes cooking a chore is the mess.
I love cooking. If there are times when I don’t feel like cooking, it’s pretty much always because I cannot face cleaning up the kitchen.
So, I would say, maybe try and choose dishes where you use fewer saucepans, just to get you started.
Maybe dishes that don’t require a whole load of equipment. And clean up as you go along, because it’s really easy to wash up as you go along. But if you leave it all until the end, that sort of sets the trap.
The other thing about cooking is it’s all kind of confidence and practice. The more you do it, the more you are going to enjoy doing it. Go out and buy a really inspiring cookbook full of easy dishes that don’t require lots of washing up and just jump in the deep-end.
And also, I genuinely believe that cooking for people rather than just cooking for yourself or yourself plus one is so much more fun.
Nicole Dula of Dula Notes:
My best advice for that is like what we were talking about before, to kind of put a piece of yourself in it because it becomes more personal and it’s more rewarding in the end.
So if you like, say quinoa, just try to experiment with different things you can put on like a quick sauté of vegetables or vegetables and meat, put it over your favorite grain and just experiment with flavors until you find a dish that’s super easy to make, super adaptable, no matter what’s in your fridge.
Just have a stand out dish that you can make at the drop of a hat whenever you’re hungry, and then it will just make you feel better about yourself.
Cindy Ensley of Hungry Girl Por Vida:
Some days you just have to get dinner on the table, so it’s more about what recipes you have in your arsenal. But if you can throw something new in there every week, maybe, or even every couple of weeks, I think that makes it fun.
Or use a new ingredient. A couple of years ago, my husband and I weren’t really big fans of fennel, so we started implementing it into our meals and now we love it.
So I think that trying a new ingredient or trying a new recipe, but not going overboard and trying to do it every night of the week. I think that gets daunting.
There are lots of different ways you can use ingredients and just trying them out a couple of different ways, I think, is also key.
Phi Tran of Princess Tofu:
I think you should do it with someone who loves to cook.
I like cooking with other people. I think if you cook with somebody who likes to share their food and also their skills, it’ll make it more fun.
It’s nice to do it with someone else every once in a while. And if it gets charred then you have someone else to share pizza with.
Alanna Taylor-Tobin of The Bojon Gourmet:
Wine or maybe a cocktail or something. Put on some fun music, pour yourself a drink, and just try to relax and make it a treat for yourself.
Also having someone to cook for, I think, is really important. So invite someone over who super loves food and is really fun and encouraging.
Ileana Morales of A Little Saffron:
Try not to overthink it. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
Our weeknight meals tend to be pretty simple. I use canned chick peas all the time and I just do that with some sautéed kale and some bacon. That’s it, that’s dinner. So I would say, don’t overthink it and don’t be so hard on yourself.
I like to think of a recipe like a guideline, because if you’re out of something, it’s fine, it’s usually not essential. Just work with what you have.
Katy Atlas of Sugarlaws:
To make it more fun, two things.
Don’t do it by yourself if you can avoid it.
Lots of people think they always have to go out for dinner with friends but actually staying in and cooking is a fun activity to do with friends too. My husband will always keep me company. He’s not a great cook but he’ll help out and hand me cans and do little things to keep me company while I go.
Put on some music.
Cooking is sort of a wonderful activity because it’s a great way to just kind of be really active and engaged with it. Your mind isn’t wandering as much as our thoughts tend to wander. You can just focus on it and sort of enjoy the experience of it even if it’s not your favorite thing and can be a tough thing to find time to do everyday.
We just focus on being present and try to have company for it.
Renee Byrd of Will Frolic for Food:
Trying new things is always fun.
For me personally, I like trying new spices, new herbs or trying something that’s a little bit weird or that’s a little bit strange.
I like to play with herbs in sweet things, like muffins, “I don’t really like muffins, muffins are boring,” put something in it that’s different, that has a new texture, that has a new flavor. Like cocoa nibs have the crunchy bitter thing going on and then you have sweet orange zest that is really aromatic.
These things are very fun for me. I don’t know if it’s fun for everybody. That’s sort of how I have fun in the kitchen.
Half of my time, I feel, is spent in the process of the mediation of chopping and looking out of my window and experiencing what I’m doing.
I really am very tactile so I love to touch things and have it in my hands. That’s really pleasurable for me and being able to create something that in my mind is artful out of that is so much fun.
Meike Peters of Eat in My Kitchen:
It’s like with everything else, you have to go through this time where you fail, where it’s not always fun, and where the results can be quite frustrating.
You just have to stick to it and cook and cook and cook.
What I like to do is because we always cook in the evenings, just open a bottle of red wine, have some cheese, some nibbles, and put on some nice music.
Because for me, what I love about food is, it doesn’t start when it’s on the table and when I eat, it starts already in the kitchen. I create a nice atmosphere in the kitchen and that definitely helps.
One shouldn’t take everything so seriously. If it doesn’t work out it doesn’t work out, and you try it again.
Phoebe Lapine of Feed Me Phoebe:
I really think that this strategy, cook on Sunday or Saturday, whichever afternoon you have free, and eat all week long, is a nice way to do it.
You’re not rushed, and once you have those building blocks in your fridge, then ten to 15 minutes of cooking becomes less burdensome on a weeknight.
I feel like dedicating your afternoon that way is a nice time to grab a buddy or your loved one to tag team and divide and conquer.
Emily Hilliard of Nothing in the House:
One of the things that has been nice for me is getting a CSA or farm share.
That’s really nice because I’m not necessarily someone who can go to the store and have an idea. But, when I have a set framework of like onions, broccoli and potatoes, I think that adds a limiting factor, so you don’t have to start from scratch.
Another thing I like, I really like cooking with other people. That’s always been present in my life with family and just having friends over and cooking together.
I also like having music or the radio on while I cook.
Kristan Raines of The Broken Bread:
I would say just to not worry about a thing and to enjoy the process. I think whether you’re baking or you’re cooking, the process can be the most reviving thing in the world.
My favorite thing is to just make it communal, grabbing whatever’s in the fridge and not worry if it’s going to come out great.
For me it’s turning on the music, and if it’s dinner time having a little glass of wine, and taking it slow and making it more of an adventure than a chore.
That shift in your perspective can aid you in like – “Okay, work day’s over, we can make food and enjoy the food because it’s nourishing and fun to do together”.
Becky Rosenthal of Vintage Mixer:
Turn on some music, keep it relaxed. Don’t try anything too difficult at first, and cook things you know you’ll enjoy.
If you’re trying something new, maybe just have a back up in the fridge just in case it doesn’t turn out.
But, don’t be too hard on yourself and just stick to the things you know you’ll enjoy.
Chef Adrian Richardson:
I suppose if you can teach people some simple dishes they can do, and how to make the dishes they’re already cooking even more enjoyable with things like seasoning and herbs and switching things around, I think this can be monumental.
Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef:
I think a lot of people think cooking is no fun because they secretly don’t think they’re good at it.
I’m as lazy as the next person, I will take a short cut if it’s offered to me, I never make my own pasta.
There are many many really simple recipes out there that if you make them three times, you’ve memorized them by heart, but if you make them, you’re eating really good food.
That’s what I try to instil in my blog and that’s what I would tell someone who says “I hate to cook”, I’d say, “you know what, I bet you don’t, you just think you’re not good at it, and that’s why you don’t like it.” But actually, if you had some successes in the kitchen, you’d start to like it.
Awesome tips and advice.
Thanks food heroes!
I hope you enjoyed this post. I was actually thinking of only including ten or so responses to keep it short and sweet, but I honestly feel like we can get something from each food heroes’ thoughts.
Whether it’s a tip, some advice, or simply knowing that they get stuck in cooking ruts too, I find it encouraging and inspiring to hear their thoughts. I hope you do too!
Let’s get excited about cooking again!
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How do you keep it fun in the kitchen with a busy schedule?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Let me know in the comments below.
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