Mixing up your favorite dishes can make healthy home cooking easier. Classic combinations like grilled chicken on a kale salad and fried salmon with broccoli may still be in your rotation, but sometimes blindfolded dinners suddenly lose their appeal. You've gotten onto a healthy diet, and boredom is enough to call you for a pepperoni pizza. But hang up, there are better ways to revitalize your kitchen. Wesley McWhorter, RD, Qualified Chef and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, shares his top tips for breaking a healthy eating routine.
1. Try a New Supermarket
Interest in your meals starts with the foods you have in the refrigerator. If you go to the same store week after week with the same shopping list, it can get boring after a while.
“When I was a private chef, there was a Korean market nearby with a huge product department,” recalls McWhorter. It was in this shop that he met kohlrabi for the first time. The onion plant is related to cauliflower and cabbage and offers all of the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables. Today he is one of his favorite vegetables.
You can get inspiration and maybe even find your next favorite veggie by switching the place you shop too. Farmers' markets, which often sell old fruits and vegetables that you won't find in the supermarket, are especially good places to find a fun and new ingredient that can reinvigorate your kitchen.
Try It: Kohlrabi Slaw
Peel the hard outside of a kohlrabi tuber and cut the onion into matches. Season with salt and mix with olive oil, rice vinegar and a little agave. If you have parsley, coriander, dill, or any other tender herb on hand, chop it up and add it just before serving. Garnish with chopped roasted nuts.
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2. Explore International Flavors
Most people default to using flavors and recipes from their own family and culture. McWhorter suggests choosing international cuisine from a part of the world that you are less familiar with. He grew up in the southern United States and enjoys cooking Mexican dishes. “It's not just chips and salsa,” he says. He also suggests Indian and Moroccan cuisines for their spectacular use of spices.
An unfamiliar style of cooking doesn't have to be intimidating. You can sign up for a beginner cooking class for any type you'd like to learn more about. (Many are now donated online.) YouTube is also full of passionate chefs from around the world teaching their own personal recipes.
Try It: Pinto Bean Tacos
Heat some olive oil in a cast iron pan and add the canned or cooked pinto beans. Season with cumin and Mexican oregano. Use a potato masher to partially mash the beans. Stir into a hot corn tortilla with fresh coriander leaves, chopped radish and a spoonful of guacamole.
3. Sign Up for a CSA
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are everywhere today. They usually require a subscription. You register before the growing season and then each week you will receive a box of fresh produce from a farm near you. You don't know what's in your box from week to week, and it varies by season.
"It's almost like hacked," says McWhorter. There is definitely a game show element to open your box every week. It's a race against time to find out how to cook with ingredients, sometimes unknown, before they go bad.
In the roughly 12 weeks of a typical growing season, you will likely discover many new ingredients, learn new recipes, get cooking ideas from your colleagues and enjoy guaranteed protection from cooking marks. . “You will likely get a lot of things that you would not normally buy. It can be scary. But it's also a lot of fun, ”says McWhorter.
Try It: Crispy Okra
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Halve the okra pods lengthways and mix with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Place with the cut side down on a baking sheet and roast until brown and crispy.
4. Mix Up Your Greens
If you have even a passing interest in health and nutrition, a large bunch of kale is probably the first thing you add to your cart on a typical grocery shopping trip. But the world of leafy green vegetables goes far beyond kale. If it's the only leafy greens you eat regularly, you are really missing out on something, according to McWhorter. “I don't even like kale,” he says. “I really prefer kale, but there is also Swiss chard, mustard, dandelion, broccoli and more. "
All of these leafy greens are nutrient-dense superfoods, but each has a different flavor profile and texture. There are classic recipes for everyone, but most can be cooked or enjoyed raw. Trying as many vegetables as possible is one of the healthiest ways to keep them interesting in the kitchen.
Try It: Garlicky Collard Greens
Cut a bunch of kale (hard stalks removed) into thin strips. Put olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add a few cloves of chopped garlic. Cook until you smell the garlic. Add the greens, a few drops of broth or water and cover until the greens wilt. Put the lid on and continue cooking until the water has evaporated and the vegetables are soft. Squeeze the lemon juice over it before trying it.
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5. Dust Off Your Library Card
Most libraries have an entire section devoted to books about food and cooking. Take an hour to browse the stacks and check out anything that catches your eye. Of course, you can find traditional cookbooks that can be extremely helpful for breaking out ideas. But there are plenty of other foodie books out there that can give your ideas free rein.
“One of my favorites is called The Flavor Bible. It's full of information on how to combine different flavors, ”says McWhorter. It indicates which foods taste best together. You can find combinations that you wouldn't have considered, like fennel and orange. With a few other ingredients, this combination results in an exciting and spicy salad - a far cry from the usual chopped romaine with oil and vinegar.
Remember, you don't have to follow exactly the recipes you find in the books, says McWhorter, “It's a great way to get inspiration and start cooking again. "
Try It: Fennel and Orange Salad
Halve a fennel bulb and cut very finely. Quarter an orange. Cut a small shallot into thin slices. Put the fennel, orange and shallot in a bowl and mix with olive oil and white wine vinegar. Add green olive slices. Pour over the small rocket.
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6. Try a Meal Kit
There's no shame in ordering a few meal sets if you have no ideas about what to prepare for dinner. Several brands focus on healthy eating. These departments not only take care of the shopping and send you exactly what you need for this recipe, they are also a treasure trove for fresh ideas.
“I was given one and I liked how different it was from what I usually cook. It's a great way to get ideas, ”says McWhorter.