Breaking out of a dinner rut
June 3, 2013 6:39 PM   Subscribe

I try to plan my recipes for the week in advance, but lately I've been feeling really uninspired. Nothing's grabbing my attention. I'm looking for suggestions for cookbooks, websites, recipes, or books in general that might help me get my cooking mojo back.

We don't have any allergies or eating quirks. With that said, because my partner and I both work 9 to 5, recipes that are relatively fast and non-labour-intensive are preferred. I'd love stuff I don't have to think about, but that taste amazing. We also generally try to take leftovers for lunch the next day for simplicity's sake. Healthy's also good. Recipes for the summer that don't make the kitchen excessively hot are particularly desirable going into the summer.

We have a pretty standard kitchen stove and a grill outside. I'm reasonably competent in the kitchen--not amazing, but I can get the job done.

I already know about a few of the websites and books that are often recommended (with good reason!) around AskMe, including Bittman, Simply Recipes, and Smitten Kitchen. I have a couple or three of the Everyday Food cookbooks on hold at the library. What am I missing out on?
posted by synecdoche to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Sorry, forgot to mention: cheap is also very, very good.
posted by synecdoche at 6:40 PM on June 3, 2013

Best answer: Shutterbean is my go-to source.
Dinner, A Love Story (a little narrative-y but the recipes are v good)
The Mad Hungry cookbook is also excellent.

Also somewhat unexpectedly, recipes in The Feed Zone are very delicious - even to a decidedly non-athlete like me.
posted by kitkatcathy at 6:52 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Jamie Olivers 30 minute and 15 meals are great for inspiration. Download the series', get the books. Even if you don't follow the exact full meal plan it can give you some great ideas for mains, salads/sides and desserts. Yum!
posted by Youremyworld at 6:53 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have you checked out The Kitchn? Enormous recipe archive, tagged with just about every ingredient, meal, prep time and cuisine type. They also do theme weeks that feature a particular ingredient or preparation or theme. I always find something there to cook, or that sparks an idea.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 7:07 PM on June 3, 2013

posted by travelwithcats at 7:15 PM on June 3, 2013

Check out Entertaining With Beth. She has a wonderfully produced YouTube channel. Don't be put off by the "entertaining" bit. She makes a lot of dinners and has videos under a "Weeknight Meals" category.

Also, I like the Chow "Easiest Way" videos and Kin Eats.

I love these videos because they're short and they show you how.
posted by Fairchild at 7:34 PM on June 3, 2013

I really like the Fix-It and Forget-It series of cookbooks; there's a lot of crock pot options too, which I really love when I am not in cooking mode. Also Desperation Dinners and Cheap, Fast, Good.
posted by lemniskate at 7:50 PM on June 3, 2013

I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned Pinterest for food inspiration.
posted by Joleta at 7:59 PM on June 3, 2013

Bittman has a list of 100 quick summer recipes here.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 9:17 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Ottolengi cookbooks have really changed how we eat lately; often not well-written recipes, but if you have some experience and you pay attention you can figure them out and the flavors have been both easy and inspiring.
posted by Mngo at 9:22 PM on June 3, 2013

How about something different: Burmese food. I recently tried a few recipes from this book and was absolutely blown away--this food is anything but humdrum and not especially labor intensive. The only catch is that some of the ingredients (lime leaves, for instance) might be a bit hard to source if you don't have access to eclectic grocery stores.

I also love to mine the recipe archives of Saveur. David Lebovitz and Dorie Greenspan are the best. Oh, and The Splendid Table with the charming and inspiring Lynne Rosetto Kasper, of course!
posted by moxie_milquetoast at 3:12 AM on June 4, 2013

Oh man, that Burmese cookbook is SO GOOD. I also recommend Beyond the Great Wall, by Naomi Duguid as well. Her cookbooks are a great combo of travel writing, recipes, history, and lovely photos.

Also, if you're not familiar with John Thorne, author of Simple Cooking, I'd recommend you check his stuff out. More on the food-writing side than strictly recipes, but his recipes are really good. His mac and cheese recipe is just fantastic. He's written pieces for the Bittman website as well.

I found the River Cottage Cookbook and River Cottage Meat Book at a charity shop, but they're pretty amazing resources even if you have to buy them new. Nothing particularly earth-shattering, but definitely lots of good everyday ideas.

Some years back we were given a copy of The Gourmet Cookbook. A really fantastic mix of basic dishes, techniques to learn, plus some more elaborate ones for nights where you want a bit of a project in the kitchen.

I've had a copy of More With Less in every house I've lived in, I think. The recipes are pretty basic stuff, but there are lots of useful things in there. It's written by Mennonites and there are some religious elements to the writing, if that makes a difference to you.

I got my partner From A Polish Country House Kitchen for the holidays, as they really liked Anne Applebaum's book on the Gulag. We were both really surprised by this one; I wasn't really familiar with Polish food before this. I have made most of the recipes in the book now and have liked all of them.

When I'm feeling particularly uninspired, I'll search for (ingredient name) + "BBC Food" or "chowhound" - made a particularly nice lamb + sweet potato curry last night using the first search result that way.
posted by dubold at 3:50 AM on June 4, 2013

If you're up to exploring a new cuisine, I have been cooking from Fuchsia Dunlop's Chinese cookbook Every Grain of Rice and it is spectacular.

Its emphasis is on "home style" Chinese cooking. Reflecting how Chinese cooking is actually done at home, there's a focus on vegetables (although it's by no means a vegetarian cookbook!), easy recipes, and there's very limited use of techniques such as deep-frying, good for both health and the wallet. Think more lots of leafy green and tofu recipes, less deep-fried orange chicken.

And for the summer there's a lovely "cold appetizers" section -- spicy garlic cucumber, a cold chicken dish, tofu and avocado, etc. -- in the book, many of which I've been making in slightly larger quantities as full entrees.

(FYI, her other two cookbooks are also great, but are more focused on delving into a specific Chinese regional cuisine and so do contain some more complex recipes.)
posted by andrewesque at 7:43 AM on June 4, 2013

Taking a slightly different tack... limitations/restrictions can make for an interesting and fun challenge, and take your palate (and cooking repertoire) to new places.

Try cooking vegan. Or maybe cut out refined sugars. Attempt some raw dishes. The point of this is to challenge yourself to work creatively around restrictions.
posted by duffell at 2:00 PM on June 4, 2013

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