I Am In A Culinary Rut. - Swampy's Kitchen Blog at Allrecipes.com - 264670

Swampy's Kitchen

I Am In A Culinary Rut. 
Jan. 19, 2012 10:34 am 
Updated: Jan. 26, 2012 3:30 pm
I am in a culinary rut.

I love to cook. I always have. My family loves it when I cook and I love to cook for them. It’s just that recently I haven’t felt the fire that I need to finish off some of the half baked ideas I used to have almost every time I walked into the kitchen. I have a 9 foot by 4 foot spice rack that is full to overflowing and when I look at it, I see nothing. When I open the fridge, I see jars & bottle of different sauces & spreads and I yawn. When I look in the fridge or freezer, I see cut after cut of meat or fish and I think about takeout. The Super Bowl is a little over 17 days away and I haven’t even begun to think about my game day menu and if you know me, you know that is bad. I’m not even sure if I have the alligator in the freezer that I will need for my mandatory & much requested alligator chili. So yeah, I am in a culinary rut.

I am sure that I can put some of the blame on the lifestyle change I was forced to make last spring when my doctor sent me to my room without dessert and I am sure I can put some of the blame on the DIE-t I went on to go with that lifestyle change. Sure I lost 48 lbs and now I can eat just about anything I want any time I want (within reason) but even that hasn’t inspired me to get wild & crazy in the kitchen. I guess I feel like a part of me has an out of order sign hanging on me and the service person keeps having to re-schedule.

Slow cooker recipes bore me. Cookies were fun for a while but the holidays are over. I can only justify cookies as donations to food banks and I can’t justify them for myself. I haven’t been traveling anywhere new so I haven’t had a chance to try some new dishes that I can try to spin at home. I haven’t tried out for CHOPPED or had my wife & kids hit me with a mystery basket full of bizarre ingredients. I was hoping that the NFL playoffs would inspire me but most of the teams with interesting cuisines got eliminated already and I am not all that inspired by the food of Baltimore, New England & New York though I can most certainly play with San Francisco. Even my writing feels a bit like limp overcooked pasta to me.

So what do I do ? What do you do when you are stuck in a culinary rut ? How do you get excited about being in the kitchen again. I generally hate blogs that ask a question but I am tuck so I am all ears, eyes & tastebuds for any idea you may have no matter how outlandish. If you know me, you know I will try most anything (within reason).

So come back next time when hopefully I will be out of my culinary (and literary) rut and we will be discussing the incredible Super Bowl Menu that you all have inspired me to create.
EDIT: my wife has just read my blog and she is also coming up with a lot of ways to "De-Rut" my Culinary Rut....
Jan. 19, 2012 10:53 am
Ah Doug, I feel your pain. Slow Cookers and I are not the best of friends and they don't inspire me to the heights of culinary genius. I chock it up to the January blahs... The big meals of the holidays are over. The let down from the cooking chaos leaves me in a culinary funk. When the meat and cheese cases don't make my heart race, there is something wrong. Start that Super Bowl menu! That will get the juices flowing. Love the new avatar!
Jan. 19, 2012 11:08 am
Hi BN & thanks - January is tough no matter where you are I think. Maybe this weekend's games will help...
Jan. 19, 2012 11:24 am
I've pretty much given up in the kitchen... At the moment I'm eating a Lean Cuisine french bread pizza for lunch. A couple of factors for me are the empty nest adjustment, the time factor (no time for both cooking and cleaning up so we're opting for "healthier" convenience foods, simple salads, etc) and then I am also trying to focus less on food and more on getting out of the house for exercise. Every time I think "maybe I'll make ______" I remember that I spent all of December in the kitchen fulfilling the traditions which I have decided are not nearly as important as me having more balance in my life and being healthier so I can live better. Perhaps some time and distance will change my attitude but I don't want to go back to what December was so I have to be patient and look forward to what will develop.
Jan. 19, 2012 11:26 am
I was wondering when your blog would show up after I saw your new and "Improved" pic! And pray tell what is wrong with Maryland crabs? How dare you (chuckle)! I challenge you to a chili cook off how about that? Opps can't do that. It would give away my secret ingredients :) Want to hear the unheard story of Chef Luigi and how he camped out here during the Holidays?
Jan. 19, 2012 11:29 am
I can so identify with your blog Doug. I am not a big slowcooker fan and I just think it might be the after holidays blahs.....among other things :( Get going on your super bowl menu and I'll bet you will get back in the swing. Maybe look up some foreign menus that you have never cooked but enjoyed. I know you will be the same old Swampy soon.
Jan. 19, 2012 11:48 am
I'd say don't fight it and let it pass. Maybe you just need a break. Then inspiration will come back with a bang. Right now I'm getting over a cold that won't go away and I see to have no taste for anything. It certainly won't hurt me to not eat like its my last day on Earth so I'm giving it a rest. I hope your muses come back soon!
Jan. 19, 2012 11:48 am
I agree that it's a January thing. I feel sadness when I look out at my cold and barren garden and the farmers markets are all closed. It's hard to be pumped up about cooking after the holidays too-it's like you get all cooked out. Fear not! Know it is temporary and the sun will be shining upon your kitchen again soon! Shop for some inspiration! Go to a grocer you don't usually visit and see what new and exciting things they have that aren't on the shelves of your usual haunt. Or go to an old country store and look for hidden gems, jellies, sauces, etc. Maybe you need some new bottles on that spice rack of yours that I envy so much-or hell, you could just throw in the towel and send it to me! lol! Don't be too in a funk, you'll find your groove again soon! We're here to listen in the meantime.
Jan. 19, 2012 11:59 am
Hi goodfood4ursoul - December was tough and trying to please everyone but myself was even tougher. Glad to hear you are focusing on yourself. I guess we will all get our fire back soon - it's just so cold, I want it now.
Jan. 19, 2012 12:01 pm
Hey Dog Head - I'll do a chili throwdown with you anytime ! And do tell about Luigi - I think he left some pictures and a half written blog or two at my house a few months back.
Jan. 19, 2012 12:03 pm
Hi Julie - I think one of the sources of my funk was finding out that Alexanders in Kihei closed a few months back. Maybe I need to make some fish tacos in their memory for Super Bowl.
Jan. 19, 2012 12:06 pm
So Doug if you say, "Slow cooker recipes bore me". Why not challenge yourself and come up with one that's not boring and WOW us? When I get in a rut in the kitchen my go-to's are ones I've never tried.
Jan. 19, 2012 12:07 pm
Thanks Maridele - I need to break out soon because a snowboarder crashed into my wife recently and broke her finger so I am trying to do more of the cooking for her. We had leftover burritos the other night with ingredients that wouldn't even go together at a korean deli in NYC.
Jan. 19, 2012 12:10 pm
Hi Lissa - I think I will head out to either Wegman's or Whole Foods this weekend - both are about 30-45 minutes away and they always seems to rekindle something in me. And yeah, my garden looks so cold and bare I can't imagine anything growing in it next spring.
Jan. 19, 2012 12:12 pm
Hi bd.weld - it's not that the recipes bore me so much as the toss it in the pot and come back 6 hours later aspect. I love to make a mess in the kitchen and to get involved with the food. Slow cookers really make me feel detached but I will take up your challenge and see what I can find in the new & faceless slow cooker section.
Jan. 19, 2012 12:15 pm
So here it is. I sent the little feller off to the North via UPS ground per instructions. Once he arrived O Canada wanted mucho $$$ upon delivery. Recipient said Hadies NO and I agree with recipient. So the little bug*er returned to chez moi. Notice the slight names changes. Then a deal was made with AR to send HIM back to Seattle from ma abode. They would then ship HIM off to O Canada and (bless them) soak up the $$$ for the delivery. Delivery dates came and went followed by frantic e-mails to AR and phone calls. Then a couple of Tuesdays ago I placed the little shead out in front of the garage. Imagine my surprise again to find him still there when I got home. Visions of Chuckie swirling in my head. More calls and e-mails. I was told FedEX picks up till 8 pm. I put said shead aka Chuckie back out. I poked my head outside after 8 pm and HE WAS GONE! Guess we will have to wait for Chuckie's next blog to see where the h*ll he is. So he arrived after Thanksgiving, was sent away one week later, returned right before Christmas and left after New Year's. Thank goodness he does not take up much room!
Jan. 19, 2012 12:25 pm
wow - talk about travel issues - homeland security must have him on the watch list. He came to us just as the October Snowstorm hit and the UPS guy stuck him in a corner of the garage - it was few days before we even found him. I think it will be a long time before he will want to come back.
Jan. 19, 2012 12:32 pm
Such a timely blog, Doug. I find myself in the same boat. The cupboards are full but the mind is empty. I'm thinking that maybe I should just go to the kitchen, grab the first thing I see from each shelf, and see what I can turn out. Lately, most of my meals have consisted of oatmeal with various dried fruits, cinnamon, and honey for breakfast; a blender full of frozen fruit and fresh veggies to drink for lunch; and boring meat, veg, rice/potato dinners. I, too, am trying to avoid the slow cooker. Cooking should be a very hands-on process and the crock pot just doesn't fulfill that need. Keep your chin up. One morning we'll all wake up with new culinary delights dancing through our brains and all will be well again:)
Jan. 19, 2012 12:36 pm
Chili-chopped onion, ground beef, secret spices dry and liquid, whole peeled itlian tomatoes, tabasco, red cooking wine and dark red kidney beans. MmmMmm. Some hot ciabatta cheese bread, toppings for the chili and a bottle of vino! Have some homemade boursin cheese and crackers for an appy and voila!
Jan. 19, 2012 12:37 pm
Hi Mangel - Glad to hear that we are all in the same boat - just no italian ship captains please....a blind grab from the cupboards could be fun. I just wonder what I could make out of pasta, wheat thins and stale girl scout cookies ?
Jan. 19, 2012 12:38 pm
Start cooking Dog Fish - I can be there in about 4 hours !
Jan. 19, 2012 12:47 pm
Dawg gone it Doug I am helping you out with your footballl menu! Add some DFH Shelter Pale Ale or 60 minute IPA and you are set! BTW did you hear BKing is now doing home deliveries down here?
Jan. 19, 2012 12:50 pm
Well I quit drinking 23+ years ago Dog Fish so we'll keep the beers on ice for now....and yes, I heard about BKing delivering - some people may never leave their house now - or won't be able to....
Jan. 19, 2012 12:54 pm
You know It is such a shoot with restaurants on Maui. They come and go much like the tide. I have never been to Alexanders but I have seen their ads. Sounds like I missed a good one. Here is a link to a fish taco that we love http://allrecipes.com/recipe/fish-tacos-with-honey-cumin-cilantro-slaw-and-chipotle-mayo/detail.aspx
Jan. 19, 2012 1:01 pm
Thanks Julie - I recognize that fish taco recipe - I have freelanced off it before. I think there is another Alexanders near the airport - I may have to ask the FB followers of KPOA for help in locating it. My favorite Maui restaurant of all time was Bubba's Burgers - I think they are only on Kauai now.
Jan. 19, 2012 1:01 pm
oops...meant a " shoot" BTW next trip to Maui for you guys, you have got to stop in at the "Cafe O' Lei" location at the Maui Lani golf course on a Thursday night for their shortrib special. They are absolutely melt in your mouth ONO! You have to get there early cuz they sell out early. I could kill for a plate right now:)
Jan. 19, 2012 1:02 pm
Oh...I get it. Cr@p won't post....LOL
Jan. 19, 2012 1:03 pm
"Cr@p shoot" LOL
Jan. 19, 2012 1:05 pm
I like most of the Cafe O'Lei locations on Maui especially Maui Lani and downtown Wailuku. We have had some stellar dinners at Japengo at the Kaanaplai Hyatt our last few trips too. BTW Also try Star Noodle on the hillside above the Lahaina Cannery Mall. Love it!
Jan. 19, 2012 1:13 pm
Pick a country and go to a specialty market if you can find one. Thai is a good place to start. Those chili pastes and sauces will wake you right up, not to mention the lemon grass and all the fresh herbs from the oriental market.
Jan. 19, 2012 1:51 pm
Ah, we shouldn't blame January for the ruts in the kitchen. I love this time of the year as down time from outside work in the gardens. I think it is having 365 days in the year that we can cook for that gets us. I made several lists once of things the family would eat so I could pick and chose from those on days I just felt like being on autopilot in the kitchen. I'm afraid that didn't help me out of my ruts and the only advice I can give is "This to shall pass". Good luck pulling out of the k-rut!
Jan. 19, 2012 1:53 pm
Hi, Doug. Welcome back with your new snazzy look! I am looking forward to your annual "bowl" of conversation and food ideas! Hope you don't languish right on through it!
Jan. 19, 2012 3:37 pm
Doug you just need to stand in the middle of Whole Foods produce department and grab some veggies you have never worked with before. It will rekindle the cooking spirit that is sitting dormant.
Jan. 19, 2012 4:02 pm
Doug - I did not recognize you - great photo! What do I do to get out of a cooking rut - Invite lots of good friends over and enjoy the time we are able to spend with each other! Life is precious - get cooking! Always like your writings!
Jan. 19, 2012 4:34 pm
I think we all get in those funks now and then. There are times when I eat oatmeal for dinner because I "have nothing to eat" in my fully stocked freezer and pantry. It will pass and then you'll be excited to create once again. And BTW, the new look is great.
Jan. 19, 2012 4:39 pm
Julie - We've been to the Cafe O'Lei in Kihei a couple of times and we have never been disappointed. I remember that you had mentioned Star Noodle the last time we were on Maui but I got outvoted that night.
Jan. 19, 2012 4:41 pm
I feel your pain! I ready for some Super Bowl blogs! I've been out of my kitchen and taking care of Jim after his surgery! I'm Back Baby.... I'm Back!
Jan. 19, 2012 4:43 pm
Hi Covergirl and thanks for the idea. Thai is usually my go-to takeout food so maybe I try a thai fusion....hmmm - thai/cuban - thai/cajun - thai/french - no, not the last one. Have a great night and thanks for stopping in.
Jan. 19, 2012 5:15 pm
Ah the January Cooking Blues strike again! I do think its from the cooking marathon that happens from November thru December. We drain the culinary inspiration down to the very last drop and then we squeeze that into oblivion :) I like to go to a kitchen supply store and specialty grocery to get my juices going again. I love buying a new gadget or wooden spoon and then well you have to break it in. Or a new spice. Hope you get your groove back soon!
Jan. 19, 2012 8:32 pm
Hi Doug! Great picture...you look so happy! I know what you mean. January is always tough, especially the weeknight "stuff". Finding myself feeding the family the same ol', same ol' (pasta bakes, chilis and basic mexican). I was in a rut awhile back and I think I may have a solution for you. I picked an ingredient I don't work with very often (for me it was Duck Breast...not lowfat I realize but...). So I learned have best to cook it and tried it a few different ways. In other words it inspired me back into the kitchen to learn something new. Didn't really help with the weeknight bore BUT I felt excited to try a new protein and the sense of accomplishment was awesome...so was the duck (kids and hubbo LOVED it)!!!! Good Luck and keep the faith!
Jan. 19, 2012 9:32 pm
Hi Doug. I feel your pain. I am in the same cooking rut lately and can't figure out how to get out of it. I thought maybe trying a new cuisine would help, so I dabbled in Mexican foods earlier this week, but it didn't do much to reignite my fire. Tonight I made "fancy" grilled cheese (pepper jack cheese, tomato and avocado) with some roasted cauliflower and fresh pineapple. It was fairly healthy and it was tasty. That's the best I seem to be able to do lately. Hopefully it's just the winter blahs. If you find something that piques your interest and gets you back to feeling excited in the kitchen, please do share your secret.
Jan. 20, 2012 4:47 am
Morning Cat Hill - January does get a bad rep and the post holiday letdown probably has a lot to do with it. In my case I think the lack of winter weather has effected my thought processes. I'll de-rut myself. I usually do.
Jan. 20, 2012 4:48 am
Morning Mamaw1 & thanks - I think we may need to start talking national Foodball League Playoffs this afternoon. Look for the blog later today.
Jan. 20, 2012 4:49 am
Morning Marie C. - I think you are absolutely right. My local Kings & Shop Rite are a little too white bread at times. Thanks for stopping in.
Jan. 20, 2012 4:53 am
Good morning Shearone - I don't recognize myself half the time. Thanks for the tip - I should probably treat this weekend as a Super Bowl warmup and throw together a couple of test appetizers.
Jan. 20, 2012 4:56 am
Morning BigShotsMom - I have oatmeal in my pantry too - I like maple brown sugar - I can already feel the funk starting to peel away thanks to everyone here. Have a great weekend.
Jan. 20, 2012 4:58 am
Good morning Terry - Did you say Baby Back ? Ribs....mmmmm.....sorry got distracted there - glad to hear you are back and that Jim is getting better. The Super Bowl Blog is coming.
Jan. 20, 2012 5:01 am
Good morning rae - I have some new kitchen gadgets from Christmas I haven't played with yet. I think I will have to see what I can do with them. Thanks.
Jan. 20, 2012 5:03 am
Morning stj - I love DUCK but it's one of those meats that they say you shouldn't have on the South Beach Diet because of the fat contant so I have stayed away for awhile. I may have to find my blog where I talked about making a cherry balsamic duck & spinach salad and see how I can play off of that. Thanks for checking in and yes, believe it or not, I was actually happy when that picture was taken. Doesn't happen often. Have a great weekend.
Jan. 20, 2012 5:06 am
Good morning Citrus Punch - we sort of tried mexican ourselves on Monday night when I warmed up every leftover in the fridge, threw them into the middle of the table and handed everyone a tortilla. That Grilled Cheese sounds great. I now know what I am ordering at the diner for lunch today. Thanks for stopping in.
Jan. 20, 2012 5:26 am
Hi Doug, know exactly what it feels like. Luckily, it passed off quickly for me ( when my younger son said- what kind of food are you giving us now a days ?)! So, i made tiramisu ( from scratch )a few days ago, sugar free chocolate burfi( a sweet) and am making thai for dinner today-- thai green curry,noodles( chinese !) lemongrass rice and cucumber salad ( all veg). I am cheating- have a green curry paste( readymade) nearing its expiry, so will use it up. You will soon be back to ' normal' !
Jan. 20, 2012 5:44 am
(heavy sigh) I was in such a funk, I persuaded DH to remodel the kitchen thinking that would inspire me. Kitchen is coming along nicely (we're refinishing cabinets ourselves), but is in such disarray I can't stand trying to cook in it. Guess I've become anal-retentive in my old age (grin)
Jan. 20, 2012 5:55 am
Well, here's some food for thought, (pun intended)! I just cooked the most interesting meal last night based partially on a restaurant menu item that I didn't even get to try and one that I tried at a food festival. It was out of my comfort zone & generally not a cuisine I like much. It was dang good, though. So I propose you look up random restaurant menus online, browse until something catches your eye and then make your version of it. How will you know if you hit the mark? You won't & who cares! That's the beauty of it. You'll be making up dishes based solely on a description and your imagination's "taste buds". And just FYI, my meal was Thai sweet chili glazed pork with ginger peanut slaw, wrapped in butter lettuce. And I don't DO Thai food! Next time we'll try it in Mu Shu Pancakes, something else I don't do. Now, git to gittin'. :o)
Jan. 20, 2012 7:58 am
Hi khushi - what time should I come over for that feast ? That alone should inspire me. Thanks
Jan. 20, 2012 8:00 am
Hi Litegal1 - we re-did the kitchen in 2008 so I can't justify making any major changes but as another commenter mentioned, I did get some new kitchen toys for Christmas that I haven't played with yet so maybe that will help. Thanks for stopping in.
Jan. 20, 2012 8:02 am
Morning cheepchick - I like that idea. There are a couple of restaurants here in NYC that I haven't been to yet that could inspire me. There are a couple of food trucks too. Thanks for checking in and please send me some of that pork !
Jan. 20, 2012 1:16 pm
Nice pic, Doug. January is a blah month in the state of Wisconsin, and with the Packers' loss on Sunday, it seems everyone around here but me is in a funk. I was disappointed with the demise of the Packers chances this year, but I'm still on cloud nine from the Bama championship. : ) I've been having trouble getting inspired lately and have fallen back on my old standby dishes..good but no WOW! factor there. This weekend, I'm making a Pork Chili Verde which I hope will bring back a bit of fire. Good luck to you with yours!
Jan. 20, 2012 9:39 pm
DM: Nice new photo! Judging by the responses to your blog, I would say the post-holiday kitchen blahs seems to be an epidemic. Yup! Like you, I am desperately seeking the antidote. Eventually, I figure I will get bored with the less-than-exciting meals I have been preparing, which will catapult our menu choices to a higher level. Good luck to you!
Jan. 20, 2012 10:26 pm
Pull out the culinary bucket list (you know you have one) and start working your way thru it. It will seem like work at first but then something happens and the spark ignites (for me anyway). I did the French fries in duck fat, mastered Brioche and learned to cook scallops to perfection the last time I got in a funk. I've checked them off the list and it feels like o accomplished something Now I'm working on perfecting "spice mixes" as if I was developing my own food line (which I'm not) but it helps me get out of the rut if I feel like I have an end goal. Then, the magic comes back and I return to cooking up a storm.
Jan. 21, 2012 5:59 am
Hey there Doug. You are not alone when it comes to being in a rut of cooking. Sometimes I need some inspiration and I always check out Lisa"s "What's for dinner" posts every morning. I love the holidays and that's when I know there will be something different. I usually think "no, that's just for Thanksgiving or Christmas" not true. My children have told me they want something different. When I do cook, and I cook every day of the week, I look at recipes on AR and in my cook books then look in my freezer and pantry, I feel just like you, "Oh what will I cook today" "I don't have anything screaming at me" "which spice to use" etc. Well, I do not know what to tell you. Something will come to you when you are not thinking so hard about it. I know you can't wait for the Super Bowl game. And that's when you'll think of something interesting! BTW, good job losing weight!
Jan. 21, 2012 6:56 am
First of all, where do you get alligator? I wanna try the chilli recipe!!! Second, have you sat down and thought about something that you have always wanted to try, but never have had the guts to? Sometimes that works for me. Also, maybe signing up for a cooking class that offers something to help you in an area that you need improvement or offers a challenge to you. Usually challenges can spark interest again.
Jan. 21, 2012 9:03 am
Good afternoon wisweetp - I was not happy when the Packers lost. I work in an opffice full of Giants fans. That pork chili verde sounds good. I am going to put a face on one of my own faceless recipes today in an attempt to get myself back in gear.
Jan. 21, 2012 9:04 am
Good afternoon & thanks bikerfamily = I am going to do some pre-souper bowl apps tomorrow for the football games. Try something outside the norm. Now what to do....what to do....
Jan. 21, 2012 9:07 am
Hi Cookin Up A Storm - I was just at the store a few minutes ago and the Duck Bacon caught my eye. I am going to have to try that with something tomorrow, I just don't know what. Thanks for the ideas and thanks for stopping in.
Jan. 21, 2012 10:26 am
As a displaced Cajun who is now mired in snow, we have been doing a lot of soups and stews. Made a huge pot of beef and veggie soup this week, chicken broccoli potato soup last week, and I think a chicken and sausage gumbo will be on the menu tomorrow. After the stress of the holidays, comfort foods just seem to be what the family wants.
Jan. 21, 2012 11:24 am
Doug, for Christmas dinner with my family I made seared duck breast over parsnip potato puree with a balsamic cherry reduction...great minds think a like!
Jan. 21, 2012 5:59 pm
Good evening luv2cook and thanks - the weight loss was easier than it has been keeping it off. I think I am getting there - I saw some things in the store today that will be calling my name in the morning. My wife made her first apple pie today so that inspired me too.
Jan. 21, 2012 6:17 pm
Hi kalexander - I get all of my gator from cajungrocer.com in Lafayette, LA. I saw some duck bacon today and it has always intrigued me so....and next month I am going to a cooking class birthday party so that should help too. Thanks for checking in.
Jan. 21, 2012 6:19 pm
Good evening teleiri - I made a soup tonight of mine that has been on this site for 12 years and never had it's picture taken. I threw some ghost pepper in too. That lit a spark inside....
Jan. 21, 2012 8:21 pm
The one thing that works for me when I get into that culinary rut you describe so well is to stop cooking. Pick at leftovers, grab something fast and humble and keep it simple. Sooner or later the fire will rekindle and you will once again cast off your disinterest and plunge anew into the world of culinary creation. At least I hope so. Right now I am just coming off six days of extended company and have zero energy to think past tomorrow's playoff. I am a Niner fan and this has been a long time coming. The rains are back and the house is a mess. None of this probably helped you in the least but thanks for letting me vent! Hang in there and ignore your kitchen for the time being. Your culinary muse will return in due time, of this I am certain. :-)
Jan. 22, 2012 12:55 pm
Dear Doug, You're problem is you have too much to work with, clean out the cupboards, donate 80% to a food pantry, then see what you can come up with, you'll be forced to be more creative, and you can only work with what's left, no running out for ingredients. Show your friends and family how ingenious you really are.
Jan. 22, 2012 2:05 pm
Doug, don't worry every cook has been there before.The best thing to do is just start eating good food then you will want to make something like that. The biggest reason people cook is to eat so once you start eating you will want to start cooking.
Jan. 22, 2012 11:55 pm
Hi! I recently found this site: http://www.projectfoodie.com/ and it has a feature that this site used to have (and I loved) but then Allrecipes got rid of it: a random recipe "spinner". When you go to the site, you'll see a "recipe search" box and more over to the right, there's a button that says "Surprise Me". I just click that over and over and see what kinds of recipes come up! I have found a few very interesting, different ones that sort of got me excited about cooking again.... Give it a shot! :-)
Jan. 23, 2012 3:12 am
I think they call this the "January Blahs". Go sign up at a soup kitchen to help cook. Perhaps your knowledge can "zip up" the food that is served there. And therefore zip up your desire to cook! Good Luck
Jan. 23, 2012 9:14 am
Good afternoon KATSINTHEKITCHEN - I am really sorry about that Niners game last night. I work in an office full of Giants fans. Ouch. If you need to vent some more, feel free to come on back and do so.
Jan. 23, 2012 9:17 am
Good afternoon cookiemonster - you are right, too many choices. Not sure a food pantry would want my Ghost Pepper sauce but you do have a point. I need to turn our pantry into a basket from CHOPPED - just a few ingredients and see what I can do. I have a feeling that challenge is coming. Thanks for checking in.
Jan. 23, 2012 9:22 am
Hi younglove & thanks - I think I started to break out a bit this weekend. I made an old recipe I hadn't made in years and then I went wild for the football games. The rut may be behind me. Thanks for stopping by
Jan. 23, 2012 9:27 am
Hi NADES - AR actually has an APP something like that called Dinner Spinner. I haven't played with it for a while. I should also use the advanced ingredient search box - thanks for the reminder that it is there.
Jan. 23, 2012 10:43 am
Hi katiewtg - working at a soup kitchen would be good and if I had the time to do it, I would. I did donate veggies from my garden this summer and that did include habaneros & jalapenos so hopefully that helped zip some things up. Thanks for stopping in.
Jan. 24, 2012 8:45 am
In a culinary rut? WHAT? Don’t feel the fire? WHAT? Slow cooker recipes bore you? WHAT? Alligator in the freezer? (Can’t help you with that.) Assuming you are still wondering what to do about your situation (and the upcoming Super Bowl extravaganza—by the way, hubby says: “Go Pats”), I can help. First of all, there is no need for bizarre ingredients, ethnic cuisines, or dishes from away, get inspired by good-old Maine food! Read my words carefully, Doug, I am here to help. And, I’m sorry about and for all the bloggers who are also tempted to give in to the funk. Here’s what you do. You stop thinking outside the box! Just think of the foods that you ate as a child and the foods that you've discovered and loved along the way. For me, that includes graham cracker cake, Italian spaghetti with meatballs and sausage, Tourtière Pie, and many more filling dishes. All Y’all, please don’t forget that the slowcooker is just a method of cooking; it is what you put in it that matters. For your game day enjoyment, I suggest the following be served, along with ample amounts of adult beverages and warm bowls of melted Velveeta cheese with salsa added to dip the taco chips in: 1. Polynesian Medley -
http://everyonesfavoriterecipes.blogspot.com/2012/01/ethnic-polynesian-medley.html 2. Cheese Breadsticks - http://everyonesfavoriterecipes.blogspot.com/2012/01/breads-cheesy-breadsticks.html 3. For dessert, choose from two alternatives: a) Graham Cracker Cake - http://everyonesfavoriterecipes.blogspot.com/2012/01/graham-cracker-cake.html A few notes about Graham Cracker Cake: A couple of the ingredients in this cake can be tweaked to make it lower in fat, calories, and/or sugar. Feel free to substitute low-sugar or low-calorie graham crackers, and/or use a sugar substitute or a lower-sugar alternative (such as a generic, store-brand Splenda Blend) in the filling. If you substitute for the sugar, make sure that it is thoroughly blended with the other filling ingredients. Though I doubt there is any alternative to pure smooth whipping cream, everyone needs dairy in their diet once in a while, so don’t fret about that. OR b) The Chocolate Cake with Pour-Over Frosting –The Cake: http://everyonesfavoriterecipes.blogspot.com/2012/01/chocolate-cake.html

I recommend spreading peanut butter on top of the cake, between the cake and the frosting. The Frosting: http://everyonesfavoriterecipes.blogspot.com/2012/01/desserts-chocolate-frosting-to-pour.html A few notes about The Chocolate Cake and Pour-Over Frosting: A couple of the ingredients in this cake can be tweaked to make it lower in fat, calories, and/or sugar. Feel free to substitute no-fat, light, or low-calorie mayonnaise or salad dressing, and/or use a sugar substitute or a lower-sugar alternative (such as a generic, store-brand Splenda Blend) in both the cake and the frosting. If you prefer to leave out the frosting, I recommend just spreading low-fat, no-fat, or low-sugar peanut butter on top of the cake and sprinkle the top with nuts. Take a look at these recipes and more on my blog and let me know if this helps! I can find you recipes, share tips and cookbook recommendations, and I appreciate any of your comments or suggests. 

Jan. 24, 2012 9:08 am
Wow Lynan - that's the kind of comment that I love - a blog within a comment within a blog - thank you. Some great ideas in there too. I did get back to basics some this weekend when I made a recipe I first submitted to this site 12 years ago. A basic cheese soup. I went on and started to play around from there. I think I can see over the edge of the rut. Thanks for checking in.
Jan. 24, 2012 10:22 am
Sorry about the formatting...and forgetting to mention to serve the Polynesian Medley over rice. I'm relatively new to blogging and had to reply to your dilemma. Share the basic cheese soup? Thx., L
Jan. 24, 2012 11:03 am
The formatting in comments has never been good - everything runs together.....cheesy veggie soup - http://allrecipes.com/recipe/cheesy-veggie-soup/detail.aspx - hope you like it
Jan. 24, 2012 7:25 pm
still in a rut? cause sunday night's dinner didn't say that. yum.....fond food memories.....
Jan. 25, 2012 5:41 am
try mulling some wine- maybe the spices will get your gears turning- and if not, at least you'll have some mulled wine! Try a Swedish Glögg... it is great warmed up for when you have a cold!
Jan. 25, 2012 12:08 pm
Hi Doug! I definitely feel the post-holiday blues with you. I got tired of the slow cooker too, and amped up my kitchen experience with a pressure cooker...more mess, less time, probably more tender and plus, letting off the steam scares the dog and kids! If you need some Advocaat to warm you up, I'll see if I can dig that recipe up. Hang in there....SuperBowl is a coming!
Jan. 25, 2012 12:14 pm
Thanks Cates - I am glad that I was able to conjure up some crazy food for you & your siblings
Jan. 25, 2012 12:16 pm
Hi Awestphal - I once knew a Norwegian in Philly who made a mean Glogg but I haven't had a drink in 23 years now so I'll have to pass this time around. However cooking with alcohol is a different story altogether. Thanks for the idea.
Jan. 25, 2012 12:17 pm
Hey Ched Bread - I have to admit, I am intrigued by the pressure cooker. I love to see the name chefs on TV struggling with them. I have never used one though. Hmmmmm. And yes, please share the recipe. I can use all the help I can get. Thanks for checking in.
Jan. 25, 2012 12:53 pm
Doug, I still like the slow cooker meals, I try different sauces, or spices or the unusual, hoping to not have to throw it out LOL, so far so good! I love your writing humor, as Cher said in "MASK" > "SNAP-OUT-OF-IT to her son, GREAT movie, I have an idea for YOU... Go to Google, and type in "Strange New Meals" or "Rare ingredients for Cooking"! I too, need a creative twist, fun muse and I put her into over drive at times! ^_^ Experiencing Empty Nest Syndrome is not easy either and we have many left overs or same (almost) meals in a row, usually served with a different steamed or roasted Vegetable! Super Bowl will get you smiling and creative juices running I'm sure! Glad to meet ya'! Grab a glass of wine, or TWO or Three, he-he and pull out your mirage of ingred's/spices/herbs and after your Google Search, and this just might inspire YOU! Happy Cooking! Oh, a Trifle yet? I made for the 1st time a Caesar Dressing and Yummy Caesar Salad, with Sauteed Chopped Big Pieces of Chabatta Bread in Garlic and Olive Oil, that went on top, in the dressing was Anchovie paste (didn't have canned on hand) and the one coddled egg and Parmesan cheese, etc. I'm still munching on it and doubled the batch of dressing to have a few days! with large torn romaine. Have Seasoned Ribs on now, and will have Caesar Salad with it! Did I help? Hope so, Cooking/Baking is FUN! and you do watch the Food Network right? Great ideas there too, and Cooking.com too ~ Cooking BLISS I send YOU! etc.
Jan. 25, 2012 1:43 pm
I feel your pain. Sometimes I hit the Fannie Farmer cookbook, sometimes I pull out one of my really arcane recipe books that I found at a yard sale or Goodwill. How about exploring some bean recipes? Hummus can be made a hundred different ways and is unbelievably easy to whip up. It's also really good for you. Try garlic, horseradish, lemon, onion, carmelized onions, etc. Or go basic. Fannie Farmer's Banana Bread recipe is phenomenal and simple, and I sometimes sub Splenda (or sucralose equivalent) for sugar when I want to reduce the carbs, with really good results. Speaking of beans, how about some refried black beans? Speaking of bananas, how about some fried bananas? Or plantains? Or one of my favorites, grilled pineapple? Go basic and go simple. Best of luck!
Jan. 25, 2012 5:05 pm
Doug, I guess I'm in the minority here. Winter and fall are my favorite times of the year to cook. Unfortunately, they tend to not be the healthiest types of meals. We are very much meat and potato/casserole and soup-loving people. This type of appetite is very easy to fill during these cold winter months with bone warming soups and chilis. My husband was just commenting the other day about the amount of meals I have been providing. My slump will come with the warm weather when everyone else is breaking out their grills. I just can't figure out that kind of cooking for some reason...it pretty much all tastes the same to me. So, good luck, I hope you find a fantastic recipe that peaks your interest and pulls you out of your rut!!
Jan. 25, 2012 7:02 pm
Cabin Fever's settin' in. They say the lack of sun puts you in the rut. I know it's true for me. Got into one right after Christmas. Got so busy before, I never did make my tamales. So before I sunk too low, I got to cookin'. Started by soaking pintos for refried beans on Friday night. Spent a good part of Saturday simmering a giant hunk of pork for tamales. Got going on a pot of Chile Verde. Set my beans to cook most of the day and put my Spanish Rice together. It always tastes better the next day. By Sunday I was on a roll, ending up with 3 1/2 doz "regular" and 27 "inferno" tamales. And FATTIES they are! Think I could quit there? ONO! I had to make mini strawberry cheesecakes. Needless to say, after DINNER(not to mention all the tasting) and some home-made Sangria from a friend and 3 little cheesecakes, I wanted to cry. Got out of my slump, tho. I can imagine what you are thinking but I only weigh 109# and I eat more than most guys. I think that's why I love to cook! Try some good old-fashioned Southwestern cooking Mr. Culinary Rut. Those peppers'll shake you right out of it.
Jan. 25, 2012 10:44 pm
I can almost sympathize with the culinary rut...I'm facing a similar dilemma...my oven is broken, and I love to sleep in...so no crock pot will do it lol. I have only a stove top and I keep trying to figure out ways to use it that don't involve frying in large amounts of fat. From what I can gather from your posts...that's almost what you need. You want something new. Something that isn't "ho hum..throw it together and wait" So tie one hand behind your back :P Don't allow yourself a step. Pretend something is broken if it isn't already lol. You mentioned something about the south beach diet. I don't follow that, but I hate eating more calories than I absolutely have to so frying is evil to me :P In my case this makes the "oven is broken" agonizing. Almost all of my low fat cooking is broiled or baked. I'm having to twist my standard recipes into something else entirely to make them fit. Notice I'm not giving them to you...the rut is because you're tired of following instructions you've followed a thousand times before. You need to to think of new ways to do the old things...yourself. Good luck. If you want I can send you recipes ;) But I think you'll have more fun doing it my way.
Jan. 26, 2012 1:10 am
How about instead of trying to come up with new dishes. Try a theme night at your house. Pick a country and come up with a recipe, drinks and music to correspond with it. By the way, men who cook at home are sexy.
Jan. 26, 2012 4:55 am
Good morning PurpleHealthyEater247 and thanks for the comment and for the great ideas. Your salad sounds delicious. I like to watch CHOPPED when I am working out in the morning so I can see what different whacked out ingredients I can learn about and look for at the store. Thanks to this blog and all the comments, I think I can see over the rim of the rut.
Jan. 26, 2012 5:03 am
good morning MarkP_Beans365 and thanks for some really good ideas. Fannie Farmer is a great basics cookbook. I like to use it as a base for my culinary shifts away from the norm. I may have to grab it again before the Super Bowl.
Jan. 26, 2012 5:12 am
morning Dottie - I have to admit that I get a little bored with grilling in the summer but I just keep trying different seasonings & sauces. As for soups, I have to pick one to make for the Super Bowl and I can guarantee that it won't have clams in it. Have a great day
Jan. 26, 2012 5:32 am
Good Morning chart - those tamales sound mucho bueno ! I can guarantee there will be something SW in my menu on game day - just not sure what. Loved my time living & working in Texas - it really helped to shape the culinary mess that I am. Have a great day
Jan. 26, 2012 5:48 am
Good morning panathenia - thanks for the comment and the great idea. I love the challenges on Top Chef when they think something is a slam dunk until they find a key component is missing. That is when you have to think on your feet. I like to saute and use a grill pan when I only use the stove top. I try to stay away from frying anything. I'm not very good at it.
Jan. 26, 2012 5:52 am
Morning sonnid - I usually like to highlight the cities the two teams in the Super Bowl is from and the city where the game is being played. Boston, New York & Indy don't exactly thrill me so I may have to come up with a foreign connection. Thanks for the idea and for stopping by.
Jon McLean 
Jan. 26, 2012 6:10 am
Jan. 26, 2012 6:26 am
That's Right Jon - Alligator - I made some Alligator Chili with Michael Ketchum from AR in this video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyfwUdD8P4g - thanks for checking in
Jan. 26, 2012 7:38 am
To get out of a rut, I read cookbooks. I browse cookbooks I already have, and if that doesn't inspire me, I LOVE the cookbook section of my local library! On a side note, have you ever looked at http://whatthef**kshouldimakefordinner.com/? Just replace the asterisks with the proper letters. (didn't want to offend or get censored!)
Jan. 26, 2012 8:02 am
oh Doug, I am also in that rut! I've been browsing my old cookbooks, but even that is leaving me cold. Maybe I need a new cookbook? hmmmm...I just became inspired! I just moved to this new town last October...I have not yet visited my new library or gotten a new library card...and libraries have cookbook sections....I'm on my way! WOW. That was cool. I actually got inspired posting this! Thanks, Doug! Good luck to you!
Jan. 26, 2012 8:13 am
Hi bethiemac - I'll have to try that website from home - I got firewalled at work. We have cookbooks out the ying yang and I love to look at the food sections from various newspapers around the country. I may have to check out the Indy paper to see what they are doing for the game. Thanks for checking in.
Jan. 26, 2012 8:14 am
Hi msntnkrbll - that was pretty cool. Let me know what you find and in what cookbook you find it in. Happy Hunting !
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Doug Matthews

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Princeton, New Jersey, USA
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Mendham, New Jersey, USA

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About Me
My mother decided early on that her sons would never have to rely on someone to feed them so we all learned to cook at an early age. I really started to branch out when I moved out west to Denver, SF & Dallas. Combine that with extended business travel to Louisiana & my growing love of spices and you get a real mix of flavors.
My favorite things to cook
Love to make cajun food with my favorites being crawfish pie, alligator stew & alligator chili - I go nuts on Super Bowl Sunday
My favorite family cooking traditions
We didn't have a lot of traditions per se but you could count on pancakes or waffles on sundays - dad making scrambled eggs twice a year on christmas morning & mother's day - veal parmagiana on christmas eve, Thanksgiving with Grandma Matthews and any menu of your choice on your birthday. We weren't a spicy family so I learned a lot of good strong basics in the kitchen from Mom that I have carried over into my cooking today.
My cooking triumphs
I love to experiment with variations of dishes I try around the country. My biggest success is here on allrecipes where I had 2 recipes published in the same cookbook - Southwestern Turkey Soup & Curried Carrot Soup. I think my corn muffins are a great starting point and my alligator chili has become a much requested Super Bowl favorite.
My cooking tragedies
There have been a few times in the past where I tossed everything and took everyone to a restaurant instead. I'm not too proud to say my cooking is awful when it really is.
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