Are you bored of your paleo meals? Do you feel limited in the variety that you can eat? You could always do what I did: start your own recipe blog to apply external pressure to be inventive in the kitchen (2-3 new recipes a week is hard, y’all!). Or you could just try something new! Find a new recipe, buy some new ingredients, try out some new cooking techniques! Try something that sounds strange to you that is out of the sphere of what you normally cook. If you are bored of what you are eating, challenge yourself to go beyond your comfort zone! And this doesn’t need to be hard, time consuming or expensive (it’s all in the recipe you choose to try). Maybe you don’t think you’re bored, but you still find yourself eating the same easy meals over and over again? Trying some new recipes can be incredibly rejuvenating!
So, where do you find new recipes to try? There’s a growing collection of paleo cookbooks out there, each with its own signature style (For example: Gather, Beyond Bacon, Against All Grain, 30-Day Guide to Paleo Cooking, Paleo Primer, Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook, Make Ahead Paleo, Nom Nom Paleo, Omg. That’s Paleo?, Quick & Easy Paleo Comfort Foods, Make It Paleo, Paleo Comfort Foods, Eat Like A Dinosaur, Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts On the Go, The Paleo Diet Cookbook, Well Fed, Weeknight Paleo, Paleo Happy Hour, Paleo Indulgences, Primal Blueprint Cookbook, Everyday Paleo, Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook, Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals, Paleo Slow Cooking, The Paleo Slow Cooker and dozens more) and information books that contain recipes (Practical Paleo, It Starts With Food, The Paleo Solution, Digestive Health with Real Food, etc.). These are the best sources for tried and true paleo recipes. Pick out a new book and challenge yourself to cook your way through it.
There’s also dozens of fantastic paleo recipe blogs where you can find new recipes to try for free (I started trying to make a list and then realized how futile that is, but I will do a compilation of my favorite paleo blogs at some point in the not too distant future). There are also a few fabulous paleo recipe sharing sites which offer a selection of recipes from many different bloggers and are generally updated daily or even several times per day (chowstalker.com, dessertstalker.com, thefoodee.com, and fastpaleo.com). Joining pinterest is also a great way to browse recipes from many different bloggers and catalog them for your future use.
What should you look for when choosing a new recipe? Well, if there are any ingredients you can’t eat due to food sensitivities or personal reasons, don’t pick a recipe that uses them. If a recipe includes ingredients you know will be tough to find in stores or markets near you, then that’s probably not a great choice either. If a recipe uses an ingredient that you know you vehemently detest, that’s definitely not a good one for you. But, do pick recipes that use techniques you’ve been wanting to try, that pair ingredients you like but have never had at the same time before, that treat an ingredient you cook with regularly in a new way, and that just plain old look tasty to you. If you think the recipe will be more time consuming than what you can usually manage during the week, save it for the weekend. Give yourself a little more time than you normally think you would need for a new recipe too. Also, if you are unsure of liking a recipe, don’t make a huge batch. There’s nothing worse than leftovers of something you didn’t like.
What are other ways to get inspired? I go to a Farmer’s Market most weekends. My rule is that if I have never seen it before (and it’s paleo), I buy it. I’ve become very fond of some new greens this way (sweet potato greens, sorrel, and mizuna) and have also broadened my squash horizons (hello spaghetti squash, where have you been all my life?!). I’ve also become known as the person who buys weird stuff from my local grass-fed meat farmer, who recently sold me 25 pounds of grass-fed beef cheek (yep, that is the muscle in the cheek from the cow’s head) for only $2/pound (and guess what? Beef cheek is awesome!). I also discovered how mild lamb’s liver is this way and how delicious heart meat is! You don’t need to go to these extremes. You may find some new vegetable in your local grocery store. Take it home and google it and you will likely find a few different recipes to try. When in doubt, add bacon. Cook something you normally eat raw or eat something raw that your normally cook. Another great way to find inspiration is to eat foods you wouldn’t normally cook at home when you go out to eat. Sometimes knowing that you enjoyed an ingredient at a restaurant makes it much less intimidating to try and cook at home!
Think outside the box. Trying a new recipe for supper isn’t as hard as trying something new for breakfast or lunch, but sometimes breakfast and lunch are the meals we find ourselves in the biggest repetition ruts. I think this is because it’s so much harder to find time to prepare these meals. Maybe try something new on the weekend (then after you’ve made it a few times, it might be easier to prepare mid-week). Or try a new breakfast where you can do food preparation the night before. Try something completely different for these meals. If you always eat eggs for breakfast, maybe try a pork chop? Maybe you just exchange one item for another. If you always pack a garden salad with meat leftover from the previous night’s supper for lunch, maybe switch out your veggies or your dressing. Maybe add some fruit, some herbs or some nuts. And if leftovers are one of your Go To breakfast and lunch options, then just trying new recipes at supper will add some variety!
You don’t need to try a new recipe every night. I find trying new recipes to be more stressful than making something I’ve made a hundred times before. And it’s terrible when I don’t really like the finished product (and then I start thinking about all the ways I know I like those ingredients… grumble). But it’s so fantastic when it works! Make a goal for yourself. Maybe one new recipe each week? We call it “New Food Night”. Even just adding a handful of new recipes to your rotation may remedy the boredom situation.
What about finding variety for very restricted diets like the AIP? Yes, it’s harder to find new recipes when following very strict elimination diets like GAPS intro or the Autoimmune Protocol. But it’s not impossible. Mickey Trescott has a fabulous e-cookbook with 110 recipes for you to try. I have also stolen Stacy’s idea (www.paleoparents.com) and have started a pinterest board just for AIP-friendly recipes from other sites (my AIP-friendly recipes have their own tab under the recipes menu–but make sure you read the intro because sometimes modifications are suggested to make a recipe AIP-friendly). Between our two boards, hopefully you will find something to inspire you.
What if the kids (or you) don’t like the new recipe? If I don’t like a new recipe I’ve tried, I typically eat it anyway and chalk it up to experience. But, it can be very stressful if my kids don’t like a new recipe (especially if I know it doesn’t taste good). I often experiment with new recipes when I know I have some leftovers in the fridge for the kids “just in case”. If I don’t end up needing the leftovers, they become lunch for someone the next day. It helps ease the stress if my kids refuse to eat. If you just really can’t stomach what you made, then don’t eat it. It’s okay. Scramble yourself a couple of eggs and try something different next time. But I have to admit that the number of times we haven’t liked a new recipe are fairly small.
What if you don’t like cooking or don’t feel like you’re good at it? Well, practice makes perfect. And eating yummier food may make you enjoy the process of making it more. But, if you really don’t enjoy cooking, maybe you can find variety in some other ways. Maybe it’s just as simple as combining foods differently than normal (maybe you always eat steamed broccoli when you have chicken, so tonight you can try Brussels sprouts instead). Maybe it’s just a question of mixing up the types of greens and veggies in your salads or buying a rotisserie chicken from the deli with a different spice mixture.
Enjoy the adventure! Trying new recipes is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to liven up your meals and expand your food horizons. If you are finding that you don’t enjoy the new foods you are making (either because they just don’t taste good or because you find the time and energy to make them to be too demanding), then stop and take a step backward. Maybe one new recipe a week is too many. Maybe you need to choose recipes that are more similar to foods you already make. On the other end of the spectrum, if you find yourself loving “New Food Night”, then maybe you’re ready to take the next step. Maybe you’re ready to try more new recipes more often. Maybe you’re ready to experiment. Maybe you’re even ready to start your own paleo recipe blog… just kidding.