Growing up, my mom made our family dinner on a kind of schedule. Monday would be chicken, Tuesday we would have pasta, and so on. It was kind of nice knowing what would be for dinner on any given night, and now that I’m cooking for myself and my boyfriend, I’m also following a similar “schedule”. It makes my weekly shop a whole lot easier, and since my boyfriend isn’t home for dinner about three nights a week, I can plan to always have leftovers ready for him when he gets home later.
The only problem with cooking on a schedule is that cooking can become boring and start to feel like a chore, and I find myself struggling to breathe life into the same old recipes. So, how do I recycle recipes without getting bored? I decided to do some research on the subject and find ways to keep dinner exciting night after night.
Try something new
Instead of cooking the same recipe every Monday, why not choose a main protein and switch up the sides or preparation method? Monday can still be chicken day — or whichever meal you’d usually have — but changing up how you prepare it can instantly reinvigorate a boring meal. Try, pan frying your chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce one week, and opt for a one-pan bang-it-in-the-oven meal during the next week. Or you could even just change up the sides you serve with it! Don’t always stick to rice or potatoes, go for fresh, seasonal produce like roasted peppers or sautéed asparagus once in a while!
Spice it up
No, I’m not suggesting that you add chilli, though you’re more than welcome to! Just mix up which spices you use with your protein. Sure, steak and chops spice is great, and a premixed chicken spice can make any chicken breast taste a thousand times better, but once in a while, why not reach for lemon pepper? Or cumin. Or turmeric. Or whatever floats your boat. The internet is a wonderful place full of new ideas. Just Google new recipes, even if you don’t follow the recipe to a tee, have a look at which spices are used and create your own new spice blends. It’s amazing what a difference even a handful of herbs can make to an old favourite.
Take stock of things
I’ll be the first to admit that I never used to cook with stock. I had this idea that stock was only used in soups, but once I started using stock in my everyday cooking a whole new world opened up for me. Have you ever tried those one-pot pastas where you cook the pasta in stock and cream? It’s fucking amazing. Even just a tablespoon of stock in your mushroom sauce amps up the flavour to 11.
Get with the theme
Instead of having pasta on Tuesdays, or burgers on Fridays, opt for theme nights! Many cuisines tend to use similar ingredients in multiple recipes, so swop out pasta night for Italian night, burgers for American cuisine, and stir fry for Asian night. This means your shopping list (and budget) will stay pretty consistent, while your dinners get more and more interesting.
One of the things that has inspired me most to change up my dinner routine is Facebook’s food videos. Now, many of the recipe videos you see on Facebook can get a bit ridiculous, with kilograms of cheese and oil, or crazy presentation and long cooking times, but you can still use them for inspiration. Seeing the cooking methods, spices and ideas other people use in their cooking has really inspired me to start trying new things, so it could help you too!
Do you have any other ways you keep your tried and tested recipes fresh and exciting? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!