After the initial panic that accompanied the start of quarantine, I, like so many others, experienced a rush of energy for one thing and one thing only. That, of course, was cooking. For a solid three months, I was taking on exciting and challenging cooking and baking projects. I was knee-deep in gorgeous vegetable tarts. I made more pasta bakes than I thought possible. I tested out countless chocolate chip cookie recipes, and even made a five-layer ice cream cake from scratch. I reveled in the process of finding, trying, and tasting new recipes, even keeping a log of everything I made, complete with photos. Then, also like so many others, I hit a wall.
By the start of summer, cooking myself meals had started to feel like a total drag. I'd grown tired of whipping up culinary creations and began to dread the torturous process of trying to decide what to make for dinner night after night. With warmer weather, I turned more to outdoor dining and started to order take-out as much as if not more than in the pre-pandemic days.
If you've experienced this same drastic decline in your love of cooking, I'm here to let you know that all hope is not lost. We can find our way back into the kitchen. You may have forgotten this since 2020 has been the opposite of a typical year, but it isn't completely uncommon to feel less like cooking during the hot summer months. Fall is often accompanied by a transition "back to reality" where we pick meal planning back up and tamp down our dining out spending. We might not be able to get back to the cooking and baking boom of March through May, but we can get our cooking habits back to equilibrium. Here's how.
Buy some new cookbooks
Flipping through the pages of a cookbook is one of the best ways to get re-inspired. Getting recipe ideas directly from your favorite chefs and cooks is always a thrill, which is exactly why fall is hands-down the most exciting time of year for cookbook fans. Most new cookbooks are published around this time, and perhaps surprisingly, 2020 hasn't disappointed in this department.
Some fall 2020 cookbooks I'm personally most looking forward to adding to my collection are In Bibi's Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean by Hawa Hassan with Julia Turshen, This Will Make It Taste Good: A New Path to Simple Cooking by Vivian Howard, Time to Eat: Delicious Meals for Busy Lives by Nadiya Hussain, Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten, and Dessert Person: Recipes and Guidance for Baking with Confidence by Claire Saffitz. I can't wait to continue to discover more as they're released and try out recipes from each.
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Sign up for a meal kit
I decided to sign up for a meal kit last month, and it has been a very effective way to coax myself back into the kitchen. In my opinion, trying to figure out what to cook can be the most excruciating part of the meal prep process. Meal kits take that step out of the equation because they choose the dishes for you and provide you with all the ingredients to make them. There are a lot of meal kits out there, however, so choosing the one that works best for your needs might take a bit of research. But that choice is, thankfully, a one-time thing.
I've tried out a few different meal kits over the years, and this time, I chose to go with Green Chef. I get nervous about all the packaging that comes with most meal kits, but Green Chef has a commitment to sustainability through carbon emission offsets, recyclable insulation, animal welfare practices, and more. It also offers a Plant-Powered plan, and since my goal for 2020 was to eat less meat, it seemed like a good fit.
A few weeks in with my meal kit, I reduced the delivery cadence from three meals every week to four meals every two weeks. Now that I've eased myself back into the rhythm of cooking, I'm ready to start experimenting more, which means I have less of a need for pre-planned and prepped meals. Signing up for a meal kit, even if it's temporary, might be a good way to trick yourself into cooking again, too.
Explore seasonal ingredients
If like me, you're someone who always needs to have a plan, the idea of heading to the store without an exact list of things to buy might sound terrifying, but it can also scare you out of a rut. Take a walk on the wild side and go explore what seasonal ingredients have shown up in your store's produce aisle. Then, get to dreaming about what you could create with them.
Better yet, go to your local farmer's market to see their seasonal offerings. There you can discover new, fresh ingredients and talk to the people who produce them for ideas on how to incorporate them into your cooking. The bright colors of fall foods are sure to get our imaginations going.
Take a virtual cooking class
You may have gotten bored with all the usual ways of cooking you were used to. If that's the cause of your burnout, learning new cooking techniques that you're eager to master is a smart approach to getting back into it. New challenges are always stimulating. Luckily, we're living in the era of virtual classes, so cooking lessons are just a click away. An added bonus: since there's an instructor leading the charge, you won't have to choose what to actually cook. You know I like that.