Eating at home can be better and more fun than dining out every day. Here are seven ways to make home food preparation interesting.
For many years, it was my responsibility to feed our family of seven three healthy meals a day. I decided to approach meal preparation as a hobby to keep myself engaged. Now, my years of others relying on me for meals are gone.
BUT, eating out presents some challenges to maintaining the healthy approach to life my husband and I are intent on following. A focus on nutrition and some food allergies and our slowing metabolism that seems to accompany the accumulation of birthdays make eating out a lot a challenge.
Cooking for fewer people has required some adjustments. But, I am finding that cooking at home for most of our meals is not only better for us but it can be fun and give us some new shared interests.
Here are some ways we keep meal prep from becoming boring.
Find new recipes
Cooking shows on television can inspire new recipes. Themes, slants, approaches, points of view….any time of day on multiple channels, there are cooking shows to inspire.
Websites can help! Pinterest is a great source of recipe inspiration. Have coconut milk in your cabinet and need the inspiration to use it? You can find a multitude of options there. Want to make gluten-free, vegan brownies? There will be a number of recipes to choose from. Want a new take on meatloaf or spaghetti or need to know how to use that mystery ingredient that your gardening neighbor bestowed? Find it online.
My daughter has almost replaced me with AllRecipes.com. She has found family favorites there that for me were hand-written on 3×5 index cards.
We subscribe to at least one food-related magazine at all times. When it comes, I sit and peruse all possibilities and tear out the pages with foods we might like to try. If we try it and like it, it gets filed. If it is forgettable, out it goes.
Try new foods
By “new” I don’t necessarily mean “weird.” (Unless weird sounds good!)
Growing up, the vegetable choice was pretty much green beans, peas, corn, or carrots. I remember broccoli showing up when I was in my 20’s as a “new” veggie. Zucchini came a little after that. Now, with improved refrigeration and shipping and preservation methods, you can get all sorts of foods that were unknown to you even a few years ago.
Try something new! You might like it!
Explore different cuisines
When we moved the small-ish “micro-urban” community we live in, more years ago than I can believe, there were 3 restaurants in town, not counting the common fast food places. One was a chain family restaurant, one was locally owned and had good burgers and sodas and soups, and the third was a more-upscale Italian-ish place.
Now, same town, we can choose from a long list of places to eat different cuisines. Thai, Indian (from different regions), Mexican (both authentic and Tex-Mex), Chinese (buffet, sit-down, carry-out), Korean (especially if we are willing to brave the campus area), and others that I am sure I am not currently aware of.
So many options for so much fun and exploration!
Buy unusual (to you) ingredients
My husband is an avid runner. As he has had more birthdays, he has gotten more interested in the mechanics and technology of long distance running. Several books he has ordered have opened us up to new ingredients. We now have several types of miso in our refrigerator. Seaweed. Tahini. Quinoa. Agave syrup. Chia seeds. Various types of “milk.” And we are learning how to use them successfully.
Turmeric is a new spice to us. We now have Garam Masala and Cumin on the spice shelf. I discovered Ginger Juice that I use regularly. And the oil and vinegar stores know me by name. (Wild mushroom and Sage Olive Oil are my favorite. Balsamic fig vinegar is all I need on a salad.)
Learn new techniques
Back to television, watching competitive cooking shows has taught me a lot. PBS has great cooking shows for techniques, as do other broadcast channels. Even simpler television cooking shows have introduced me to smashing garlic cloves with the side of a knife to easily remove the skins and having a “discard bowl” nearby to save time when chopping and preparing.
Googling recipes for gluten-free bread has given me the information I needed to have a measure of success in baking yeast bread with flours that are not made from wheat (which required me to buy and learn to use unusual ingredients). A simple technique I ran across online made my bread go from flat to raised, actually resembling the wheat bread I made for years.
Remember old favorites
Don’t forget those family favorites. I remember once when I was on a roll to make meals interesting to our children that my husband requested spaghetti—at least once a year. I had gotten so into meal prep that for one whole year, I never repeated a recipe. Variety being the spice of life and all that, he just wanted an occasional “comfort” meal (even though he did assure me he enjoyed my creative efforts).
Now, with me being gluten-free and us both watching our caloric intake, we can substitute spaghetti squash with a favorite sauce. Chili is easily accomplished in the crockpot. He has perfected nachos that are healthy and tasty. Sometimes the old favorites hit the spot.
Divorce yourself from perfection.
Food prep and dining at home should be fun and nutritional, not perfect. When you are trying new ingredients, or preparing new recipes or learning new techniques, sometimes it comes out less than what it looked like on television or online.
No worries! If it is edible, then that is a success. If it is not (which will happen rarely, I promise!) then, don’t eat it. It’s as simple as that.
Do you enjoy cooking at home? What have you found to be successful for at-home meal preparation? What new ingredients have you tried? What will you never try again?!
* This was originally posted by Debbie at SixtyandMe.com
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash