Falling into a food rut can be hard to avoid. Sticking with tried and true meals gets boring, but it can take a lot of effort to figure out new recipes. Combing through food porn on Pinterest can be such a hassle, so it’s usually easiest to just go with the same meal you’ve been making every other day for the whole semester. But don’t dig into that spaghetti and Ragu just yet — read on for some easy tips on how to make your meals a lot more interesting without much effort.
1. Go Against the Grain
Instant white rice is good in a pinch, but there are plenty of other, more flavorful options for your next homemade burrito bowl. Quinoa is the obvious choice, but any hipster out there has probably noticed it’s gone awfully mainstream at this point. Fonio is gluten-free millet with a nutty flavor that feels like a cross between couscous and quinoa. Freekeh is another option and has a smoky, herbal taste and works well in pilaf. Teff is the world’s smallest grain and contains iron, calcium, protein and vitamin C.
2. Be a Shameless Copycat
Restaurant food tastes delicious, but making your own homemade version can be even better because you have control over what goes in your dish. Mimicking your favorite meal at your go-to spot might end in disappointment, so browse menus of fancy places you can never afford instead. They tend to combine ingredients you might never have thought of otherwise. Melt Shop’s pepper jack grilled cheese with house sauce, fried chicken and … cabbage? Might be worth a shot.
3. Spice Things Up
Whether it’s red pepper flakes or poultry seasoning, we all have that one go-to spice when our food needs a little extra flavor. But if variety is the spice of life, you better vary your spices. Try McCormick’s Maple Seasoning for some restaurant-quality pork chops or Italian seasoning for chicken Milanese.
4. Call in Reinforcements
Just because your roommates are sick of the super-easy recipes their parents cooked way too much growing up doesn’t mean you should miss out. Ask your friends what their favorite 30-minute meals are and build yourself a new recipe repertoire.
5. Eat Breakfast for Dinner
Telling breakfast foods they’re only welcome in the morning is just plain rude. Omelets and other egg dishes are really easy to cook and can make for a well-rounded dinner with protein. Loading ‘em up with veggies can give them an extra nutritional punch too. If you’re more of a pancake type, try a savory pancake for a more socially acceptable version. Not that we’d judge you for taking the dessert-for-breakfast-for-dinner route with some PB&J stuffed French toast.
6. Quit Cooking
Or at least stop cooking your vegetables. Anyone who’s normally too lazy to cook can embrace beets and Brussels sprouts, both of which can be grated or thinly sliced and added raw to sandwiches or salads. Because the vegetables taste less strong when they’re uncooked, even eaters who aren’t usually their biggest fans might enjoy them raw.
7. Lose the Lettuce
Try a new green instead of your typical iceberg (or buttercrunch or romaine). Arugula, Swiss chard and dandelion greens have stronger flavors to keep your salads interesting. Another easy switch is picking some new toppings. No need to resort to a boring garden salad when you can pretend you’re an international chef with a caprese salad or turkey taco salad.
8. Check Out a New Grocery Spot
Food shopping can turn into an autopilot trip for all your staple groceries. Checking out a new location can break the trend and force you to notice more interesting options. Farmers markets are a great option. Seeing all the colorful fresh produce can get you excited about eating veggies in a way that your usual frozen vegetable medley never could.
Hopefully after reading these tips you’re inspired to shake things up and move beyond your usual recipes.
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