Yesterday, my roommate came home from a long day at work, and asked me to the usual question, “What should I have for dinner?” As I listed off a bunch of foods, she continued to say she either didn’t have the ingredients or was simply sick of that concoction. After all, she always sticks with the same exact thing: sweet potato with salad, pasta with toast or a turkey burger. After a long day of work, it’s hard to get creative in the kitchen; I hear you. I too sometimes find myself getting into the routine of eating the same exact thing every day…simply because it works. Eggs or oatmeal for breakfast, big salad for lunch, chicken and veggies for dinner. While it’s easy to get caught up in a comfortable routine in the kitchen, it’s way more fun to spice it up. And with the right tips, you can spice up your fridge and pantry pain-free!
Try At Least One New Item Every Week: The other day, I bought spaghetti squash (something I never buy) to make “Spaghetti & Meatballs.” It was so refreshing to enjoy an out-of-the-norm, nutritious meal for a change, and it came out absolutely delicious. So trade up your pasta for some Spaghetti Squash, buy avocados for your salad if you usually go with tomatoes, try a new flavor of hummus (like spicy chipotle) or pick up a box of brown rice to experiment with. Purchase something you can’t pronounce (or have never even heard of) and give it a try. It can’t hurt, right?
Prep Meals Ahead of Time: Of course you settle for a bowl of cereal or boring old pasta for dinner when you’re starving, and the last thing you want to do is create a feast. But if you prep meals during the weekend (or the night before) you can freeze them so they’ll be ready to eat in a jiff. I love freezing Turkey Chili, pre-made turkey burgers, chicken cutlets, rice dishes and even the pierogies my grandma just made for me. Simply place your pre-made meal in the fridge the morning you want to eat it, and it’ll be ready for you to eat when you get home from work!
Spice it up (Literally): Play with spices and herbs to give any ordinary meal a kick. Snazz up your boring pasta with some basil, oregano and parmesan cheese. Add a kick to your morning omelet with cayenne pepper, chili powder or even a scoop of fresh salsa. Play with cumin, turmeric and red pepper flakes in your veggie and rice dishes. The possibilities are endless! Good news is most spices cost around $2 so you can grab a bunch and have them ready for any kind of meal.
Make Your Own Creations: Quite frankly, I’ve never been a fan of “following the rules,” and same holds true in the kitchen. Recipes are great as a guide, but take them as just that. If you’re missing a few of the ingredients, substitute in what you have! If you don’t feel like buying 1,000 new sauces just for one freakin’ recipe, make something up. The kitchen is your place to be creative and let your inner-chef shine. I love the combo of mayo and mustard on my salmon, but didn’t want to load on a bunch of cals so I substituted the mayo with plain nonfat greek yogurt. Who knew it tasted just as good? If a recipe calls for walnuts, I’ll use slivered almonds or sunflower seeds. If I’m all out of broccoli, I’ll use spinach or asparagus. Play with what you’ve got and I can assure you you’ll have much more fun in the kitchen.
Plan Special Meals: Of course we can’t eat glorious, home-cooked meals every day, or I honestly probably wouldn’t be able to afford my electric bill. But, special, extravagant meals are exciting, so save them for a special time. Maybe every Sunday you and your roommates can cook together, and whip up something fabulous? Or take turns cooking for each other once a week. My roommate and I are planning on making Eggplant Parmesan this weekend, something I haven’t had in a looong time. Decide on something ahead of time so you have something delicious to look forward to!