by Thais Harris, NC
Nutrition Education Program Manager, Ceres Community Project
Sometimes the hardest part of making a healthy meal is getting inspired to cook. Whether we are feeling tired, unmotivated, or in a hurry, there is always something that can spark our excitement to create something delicious in the kitchen. Here are some tips to help you channel your inner Julia Child:
Fill your fridge with fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and milk of choice (nut milk or organic dairy); stock your pantry with whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth), legumes, healthy oils (such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and ghee), vinegars (apple cider and rice), honey, seaweed (nori to toast, arame for salads, kombu for soups and stews), canned fish (BPA-free, sustainably caught such as sardines), nut butters, and spices (most used are: cinnamon, black pepper, cumin, garlic, ginger, paprika, parsley and thyme). If you have a freezer, consider having some poultry, fish, or tempeh you can pull out as needed. I love storing homemade vegetable and bone broth in the freezer, too.
If we have to go to the store to get ingredients for dinner every day, we are less likely to cook because of the time it takes to go to the store, or because we might get tempted to just buy something already made when we get there. With these foods at the ready, it is easier to get inspired and move into action.
Organizing a kitchen may sound like an even bigger chore than cooking, but neither will feel like work if you can find everything seamlessly as you follow a recipe or create from your own imagination. Most people feel more inspired to work in a clean and organized kitchen.
Sometimes a bowl of rice and beans can be as gratifying as a fancy recipe. Here are some simple dinner ideas: canned sardines (mashed with lemon and olive oil) atop a potato and root vegetable hash with a side salad; carrot cashew ginger soup; quinoa salad with almonds parsley and cranberries; quinoa pasta with chard and leeks; brown rice and seaweed bowl with pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and ginger; miso soup.
Inspiration is not a spontaneous magic event. Writers and painters and other artists often talk about how you have to show up for your craft, make time for it, put yourself in the right frame of mind. The same goes for cooking. It is very helpful to pick a day of the week, say Sunday, and set some time aside to think of your week ahead. Make some notes about what you currently have in the fridge and freezer that you need to use up, and look up some recipes (online or with your favorite cookbooks) that include these items. Then jot down extra ingredients you will need, so you can get everything at once. You can also prep dinner ingredients and store them in glass jars or containers so they are ready for you to use in the evenings (so you don’t have to start from scratch every night).
Sometimes the best way to get motivated to cook is to go out – only to realize that you could have made a better and cheaper version of the restaurant’s food at home! And when you have an experience that you truly enjoy at a restaurant, this too can become inspiration to make a similar dish at home. It could also be that by just taking a break from cooking, you will restore your love of it.
there are so many resources out there when it comes to cooking. I save Sunset magazines because they often have really fresh and delicious looking recipes. I like looking up ingredients online to find out what I can make with stuff I already have in the fridge, i.e. “persimmon muffin with almond flour.” If you have a smart phone or tablet, there are also free apps that can help every step of the way, from organizing the kitchen, to shopping, to cooking, which you can find by searching for “shopping list” or “recipe generator.” Paid apps include meal planning and other features. There is also a fun site, Cookbooker, where you can add your favorite cookbooks and magazines and see what other people on the site, who have cooked from them, have rated them. Another great online resource is Joyful12, a learning lab that teaches how to prep and cook delicious seasonal foods with lots of tips on how to get kids to help make them and enjoy them.
Planning a community dinner once a month, or just inviting friends over can be a great motivator to get your apron on. And you can always ask folks to bring side dishes so you don’t feel overwhelmed about making a big meal for a crowd.
If you have a partner, family member or roommate at home, give each other challenges. You can pull out ingredients from the fridge and pantry and ask them to come up with a meal and vice versa. This is really fun! Cookbooker (mentioned above) sponsors challenges, where everyone cooks out of one cookbook, or from one blog.
You don’t need a commercial kitchen set up to do well in your delicious endeavors, but you might want to consider having a few of these in hand to make cooking anything a breeze: a good sharp knife; an immersion blender; a zester (or microplane); stainless steel pans (cast iron pans are ok too), cookie sheet, and a strong cutting board (preferably wooden). I also like keeping a good stock of parchment paper for baking, and that way, even if I don’t know what kind of coating is on my cookie sheet, I don’t worry because my food is not touching it (and it is a lot easier to clean!).
Grab a copy of our cookbook and get the details on how to eat a whole-foods diet, and how to get the best from your food with different methods of preparation such as soaking, sprouting, and more. You support Ceres with your purchase and yourself in having a steady source of inspiration!
If what keeps you from cooking is the fear and confusion about what to eat, and you think inspiration might come from knowing how different foods contribute to your wellbeing, sign up for one of our Healing Foods classes and/or watch our Healing Foods Basics film. You can also check out other nutrition articles for more information on eating a whole foods diet, understanding fats, and much more!