The 2 easiest ways to avoid getting stuck in a food rut

Do you find yourself struggling to come up with new ideas for quick and healthy dinners? Especially ideas for those life-saving weeknight meal ideas that you turn to time and time again when you come home and you’re tired and hungry.

Well you’re definitely not alone. Most of us struggle to keep things fresh and interesting. Especially for week night dinners.

The good news is that over the years, I’ve discovered a couple of easy tricks to avoid the dreaded food rut. And thinking about it, since I figured this out, I can’t remember the last time I found myself getting bored with my cooking – even when the pressure has been on and I don’t have much time.

Today I’m sharing my 2 little tricks.

What are the 2 easiest ways to avoid getting stuck in a food rut?

1. Tweak your favourite recipes
This may sound a bit scary, but it’s not as hard as it seems. Think about your favourite easy recipe and look at the types of ingredients it uses. Then choose one or more of the ingredients and substitute in something similar but different.

For example to tweak the green pea curry below you could try a different curry paste to give you a green or yellow curry or even use an Indian curry paste for a completely different vibe. Or you could replace the tofu with chicken or beef. Or use different veg. Or serve it with rice or a big handful of herbs.

It just takes a little bit of confidence. The more you do it the easier it will become.

2. Discover new favourite recipes
Tweaking is brilliant, but it will only take you so far. Especially if your collection of favourite meals is on the small side.

The next step is to add new quick and easy recipes into your repertoire. Even if you commit to yourself to only trying one new recipe per month, that will give you more than 2 weeks of new weeknight dinner ideas over the next year.

Make the most of the search function in the side bar of Stonesoup. Or browse the recipe index to explore the archives. Or (shameless plug alert!) pick up a copy of the new 2nd edition of one of my best selling eCookbooks – the Tired & Hungry Cook’s Companion

green pea curry-3

green pea curry
serves 2

I used to make my own Thai curry pastes from scratch but these days I find the commercial ones are good enough not to bother with the DIY option any more. So don’t feel guilty about using a paste from the supermarket. Although if I was cooking this for a Saturday night dinner party I would go to the extra effort.

I like serving this in big bowls with spoons for scooping the sauce but you could equally serve on a bed of steamed rice or cauliflower ‘rice’ (finely grated raw cauli). For a more authentic flavour use fish sauce to season rather than just salt.

3-4 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
1 can coconut milk (400mL or 1 1/2 cups)
2 handfuls frozen peas
2 handfuls snow peas, trimmed
300g (10oz) firm tofu, chopped

1. Heat a medium saucepan on a medium high heat.

2. Add the curry paste and cook for 30 seconds before adding the coconut milk. Stir.

3. Add the peas, snow peas and tofu. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

4. After 5 minutes check that everything is hot and cooked to your liking. Taste and season.

VARIATIONS
pantry recipe – replace the snow peas with extra frozen peas and you have a great little pantry recipe.

carnivore – replace the tofu with finely sliced chicken breast or steak. After the initial 5 minutes, simmer uncovered until the meat is cooked to your liking. Depending on how finely you’ve sliced your chicken or steak it may take from another 2-5 minutes.

vegetarian / vegan – make sure you use a curry paste with

more fragrant – add a few finely shredded kaffir lime leaves or serve with a big handful of fresh herbs such as basil, Thai basil, mint or coriander (cilantro).

different veg – replace peas and / or snowpeas with zucchini (courgettes), sugar snap peas, broccoli, broccolini, asparagus, broad beans, finely sliced eggplant (aubergine), Thai eggplant, capsicum (bell peppers), cauliflower or bok choy. Adjust the cooking time to suit the veg – most will be fine in the 5 minutes but some may need a little longer.

video version of the recipe

With love,
Jules x

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{ 9 comments }

Anne October 17, 2012 at 9:09 am

Your the best …….. I love watching your video’s. I hate adding a but to this “but” I would just request that you use a wooden or plastic spoon for stirring…. ((-:

Fondly!!!!

jules November 5, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Hi Anne
Funny I actually like the sound of metal spoons in a saucepan – my mum used to use them.
You’re not the first to make that request though, so you’ll be happy to hear I’ve invested in some new wooden spoons.
Thanks for the honest feedback!
Jx

eemusings October 17, 2012 at 10:55 am

Oh my goodness – I’ve been in a seroius food rut for the last couple of months. I have a ton of recipes bookmarked to try but no desire to get stuck in. I usually find watching a few inspiring chefs on Food TV helps spark some interest, though!

jules November 5, 2012 at 3:16 pm

eemusings!
Hope you’re out of your food rut soon :)

Kate October 19, 2012 at 8:52 am

yumm! I love curry dishes, can’t go wrong!

jules November 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Exactly Kate
Yay for curry!

Wicked Foods October 22, 2012 at 1:43 pm

The green pea curry looks fabulous and looks super easy to make! Definitely want to try out a mini and slightly modified version for a cocktail reception

jules November 5, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Hi Wicked Food
Would never thought of this as cocktail reception potential.. interesting

tVM October 23, 2012 at 4:44 am

Mrs. tVM is making this great looking green pea curry recipe for dinner this evening. We’ll let you know how it turns out. We had a bit of difficulty finding curry paste but ended up getting at at an oriental grocery store here in Tucson, Arizona, USA

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