A Few Ideas for Refreshing Yourself and Your Kitchen

We don't get sick of cooking very often, but when we do, it's usually around the end of January. The challenge of holiday cooking is over, and we're back in the daily rhythms of just cooking for our households. There isn't anything exciting at the markets, it's dark outside all day, and all we want to do is sit on the couch and eat takeout and drink a martini. Here are a few ideas for shaking yourself out of late-winter cooking blahs and getting refreshed in the kitchen.

This month we're talking about eating light — but that's in the context of refreshing yourself and your kitchen. This is the time of year when we often need some refreshment. Here are a few ways we try to refresh ourselves and our kitchen.

What about you? Do you try any of these tactics? Or do you have other methods for getting some excitement back into the daily rhythms of cooking? What inspires for you?

Set a constraint or a challenge — Right now I am just cooking with what's in my cupboards. I have a lot of extra ingredients to use up from testing sessions for my new book, and now that the testing is done I can go back to what's left in my cupboards and find new ways to use it up. Challenges and constraints force creativity, and that's always interesting and inspiring.

Try one new ingredient — A simple idea: Just try something new. Never cooked with celery root? Pick one up and try it! Have you ever cooked with dried dates, Cara Cara oranges, or buckwheat flour? No? Try one new thing and see if it inspires your cooking a little.

Bring in lemon, vinegar, or something sour — One really specific suggestion: Give your kitchen some zing in the dark wintertime and go tangy. Add shots of lemon juice to your pasta, and vinegar to your stews.

Read a new cookbook — Go to the library and find a cookbook that is totally different from your usual style of cooking. Read it, savor it, get inspired. Or try a new blog — spend some time online browsing via Tastespotting or Twitter and see if you can find something that makes you want to cook immediately!

Accomplish one small kitchen challenge — Maybe it's not your cooking that needs a refresh, though — maybe your kitchen is dark and a little down. Maybe it's time to tackle the kitchen project you've been putting off. Replace the faucet, paint the backsplash, hang a new piece of art. Something little to get your kitchen feeling fresh.

Deep clean something! — A good deep clean can also help freshen things up. When was the last time you washed your cabinets? How about the light fixtures? Have you really scrubbed out your cupboards? This chores are not the most appealing thing to think about at the end of a long workday, but you'll be so glad and refreshed when they are done!

Go back to the basics — Finally, just returning to basics is so refreshing. What's your favorite easy meal? I just made a big pot of pasta with a little leftover chorizo and a bag of frozen spinach, along with grated scraps of cheese from the fridge. It was all about using up leftovers and returning to home base (pasta). It was totally delicious, and extra-satisfying because I used up all those leftovers niggling at my conscience.

What do you do when you get a little sick of cooking? What do you turn to when nothing sounds good?

Related: January 2010: Eating Light (and Refreshing Your Kitchen)

(Image: Flickr member Banjo Brown licensed for use under Creative Commons)