We know you’re exhausted. Take these easy steps to get your kitchen groove back.

A lot of us have been struggling with culinary ruts and kitchen fatigue. As someone whose cooking is both her profession and her passion, the illness and the cure, if you had told me that staying home and cooking all my meals for an extended period of time was going to be a problem, I would have said impossible. And yet, even I have reached maximum annoyance with the relentlessness of dinner.

But with a new season (and the promise of vaccinations and easing of social distancing) comes opportunity. Here are 5 ways that I'm finding work to help me get excited to cook again.

1. Embrace the shift in seasons

Spring is a great time of year for perking things up. Spring fruits and vegetables have started to hit the stores, and the changing of the seasons is a perfect time to change up your cooking. Research the items that are hitting peak now and look at really celebrating them in your cooking. Spring clean your winter staples, thank them for their service, and fill your fridge and fruit bowl with the brighter lighter foods of spring! Clean up your grill for the season and start firing it up on the nights it is warm enough.

2. Practice for future entertaining!

With vaccinations going in arms, we can all see some bit of light at the end of this tunnel, and while we are likely to still be doing our gathering in small groups and at a safe distance, some ability to be at a table with our nearest and dearest vaccinated ones is coming soon. We are all out of practice, so take this time to play with some recipes that will be ideal for those events.

3. Use virtual travel to fire up your interests

We all have a list of the places we most want to go when travel can safely resume, whether it is a return to a favorite place we have been often or a totally new place to discover. Find some recipes online or in cookbooks that reflect the flavors of that place. If you are thinking about a place with a culinary tradition very different from yours, consider finding a local restaurant that serves that food and ordering in to experience those flavors to help with your own experimentations.

Family Cooking
Credit: Getty / 10'000 Hours

4. Spring clean your pantry, fridge, and freezer

These storage spaces and appliances have been doing major duty this past year. After a year of loading in pandemic supplies, we are now hitting the expiration and best by dates on the things we bought last March. Doing a purge and reorganization of those spaces will ensure that we are cooking and eating the things that we need to before they are past their prime and will also serve for some dinner inspiration. Even if it is just heating up your stash of frozen casseroles, soups, or stews; making a strata from some of those frozen loaves of sourdough; or being sure to eat the frozen vegetables you dutifully stashed from last summer before they return to the markets, chances are you'll get some changeup in your routine, and some room in your storage.

5. Revive simple recipes with condiments, flavor boosters, and toppings

If you have been eating eggs, sandwiches, and popcorn for dinner most nights, don't demand multi-course dinners of yourself. Start simple with some easy recipes that can be amped up with condiments and other flavor boosters. Try these ideas:

  • Plain scrambled eggs can be new and exciting with some homemade chili crisp forked through.
  • Try a new salad dressing like a punchy carrot ginger or a creamy garlic tahini.
  • Make some sumac pickled onions and stir them into plain rice.
  • Bake up some savory spicy granola to sprinkle on your steamed vegetables for crunch and flavor.
  • Make some homemade sauces like roasted salsas and punchy chimichurri, which last a long time in the fridge and can take the most basic protein from meh to ‘mazing with just a spoonful.

These recipes tend to be fast to make, so they are especially great if you have limited time or bandwidth to really return to the kitchen.