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Winter Cooking Inspiration

Lauren Chandler

My clients often hire me to inspire their cooking. Day in and day out they’ve found themselves cooking the same old dishes, or resorting to take out because they just aren’t inspired to cook. They know cooking from scratch is healthier than buying processed food or going out for dinner, but they’re in a rut.

Let me help.

First, try something new – maybe you’ll like it. Take home that knobby vegetable that you have never pronounced aloud or those greens you aren’t familiar with and you always ignore. Chances are, these ingredients are nutrient dense and will pleasantly surprise you. Ask the farmer at the booth, search online, or email me (lauren@laurenchandlercooks) for technique and recipe ideas.

Additionally, consider ways to enhance some of your stand-by dishes. If you always prepare the same combination of ingredients with your leafy greens or grains or beans or roasted vegetables, here are 10 ingredients to add into your rotation to make them more interesting:

1. Brown mustard seeds. Toast in a dry skillet until they pop and turn grey, for crunch and a different flavor.

2. Wild rice. Toast uncooked wild rice in a dry skillet until it pops and part of it turns white, for crunch and a different flavor.

3. Dried fruit. Soak dried fruit, like prunes or apricots, in a flavored liquid like apple juice or sherry, until soften. Roughly chop.

4. Red onions. Soaked thinly sliced or diced red onion in lemon juice for 30 or more minutes for a bright pink color and pickled zing.

5. Za’atar. Toss this spice blend into your dish with olive oil and lemon juice.

6. Sautéed lentils or other beans. Cook them per usual (or use canned) and then sautée in olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper for a savory protein and satiating texture.

7. Sauerkraut. Whether homemade or bought, a spoonful of kraut provides tang, crunch and health benefits.

8. Fresh herbs. Lots of herbs. Brighten up your dishes with mint and tarragon. They are both lovely and underutilized.

9. Edible flowers. Purple rosemary flowers are blooming on bushes around town. We eat with our eyes first and they make a gorgeous presentation.

10. Citrus zest. Use a microplane or rasp to finely grate citrus zest into your dish. Grapefruit, tangerine, lime, lemon – they pack a punch. Remember to buy organic and wash the skin first.