How I Made Cooking Fun Again

There’s nothing quite like sitting down to a beautiful, satisfying meal after a long day at work.

 

And there’s nothing quite as terrifying as the pile of dishes we have to face after said meal. I love cooking, but I have to say some of the magic has left my kitchen now that I work full-time and take care of a toddler.

 

Don’t get me wrong; cooking is still one of my favorite times of the day. I love the process of selecting produce, making food for my loved ones, and playing with flavors and colors. It’s my best creative outlet. Yet, most days of the week, I’ve already been running around for hours and I don’t want to spend the rest of the night trapped in the kitchen.

 

After having my son I’ve focused on simplifying meals. It IS important to me that I make time to prepare tasty, nourishing foods that keep me and my husband going through our busy schedules, and that our toddler will eat, but my focus has shifted to more one pot meals, crockpot cooking, and stir-frys that can get pulled together quickly.

 

I’ve always loved pulling together quick meals, and over the last few years I’ve really streamlined my processes in the kitchen. This allows me to get in and out of the kitchen without wasting time, money, or effort – and it makes cooking really fun again.

 

Here’s how to make cooking fun again:

 

Set yourself up for success by doing prep work in advance. At least once a week, I set aside an hour or two to chop veggies and get them ready to go. I can’t emphasize enough what a difference this makes during the week! I make it more fun by listening to a podcast I really love or setting up my iPad with Netflix in the background – this definitely inspires me to get in the kitchen and just get it done. I used to do this on the weekends, but now I do it more frequently

 

Have a clean out the fridge night. Technically, this isn’t cooking, but it’s a great way to use up yoru leftovers and also give yourself a break from cooking that doesn’t include pricey, and unhealthy, takeout. You also won’t have as many dishes, which makes clean out night my favorite night of the week.

 

Cook once, and eat twice. I am the queen of this, and I don’t just mean making a big batch of chili to eat all week (although I sometimes do this, too.) Let me tell you how this worked for me this past week: On Thursday, I steamed asparagus and made a little extra that I’ve been able to chop up and add to salads and stir-fries this week. Sunday night, I made salmon and brown rice – the leftover salmon went into a salad (plus the asparagus) for lunch today.

Two nights ago, I sautéed mushrooms and added the leftovers to cooked brown rice for a quick and easy fried rice that went along side a whole-roasted chicken. The chicken made for a great dinner, but will also serve as a quick snack this week as well as toppings for salad, or even wrapped up in a collard green leaf with a little hummus for lunch on the go. Leftovers definitely don’t have to be boring – there are tons of ways you can mix up your cooking, use up all the ingredients you have on had, and still have fun, exciting meals that taste good and are really healthy.

 

Stock your pantry with better foods. If you come home hungry and all you have in the pantry is a half-eaten box of rice crackers and a can of garbanzo beans, what will you make for dinner?

 

One of the best things I do is to have a pantry that’s stocked with versatile ingredients that allow me to whip up a quick meal any time of day. This is one of those times where quality is far more important than quantity – no need to head to head to Costco for 12 cases of mac and cheese (gluten-free and organic, of course) when you have high-quality ingredients that work in several dishes. One of my favorite combos is sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and kalamata olives. That way, I have options: I can make a quick pasta using those ingredients, or I can put them on top of fish or chicken with a side of veggies for a quick and delicious meal.

 

These are my favorite tricks for making cooking more fun. If you ask me, cooking at home is one of the very best things you can do for your health, and I’m all about helping to make it easier. I’d love to hear if you try one of these ideas, or if you have another way that you make cooking easy and fun. Share your thoughts in the comments.

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