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ImageMore interested in falling face-first into a dish than in creating one? Not that long ago, I felt the same way. Yes, I used to order out more often than not. Food preparation used to mean peeling back the cover of some random “healthy” meal and pressing buttons on the microwave. Just like Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, my stove housed books not meals.

Nowadays I actually enjoy thinking up and preparing creative dishes and meals, ordering out is the exception and not the rule, and food preparation only involves the microwave when I’m reheating tasty leftovers. We do use the oven to store a thing or two, but cooking pans–not books–rule the space. As I’ve honed my kitchen-based skills over time, I’ve also discovered that staying motivated in the kitchen isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. One upside among many is that practice makes better, if not perfect, and that the better you create, the better you eat!

Probably the best motivator I can share is this: start (or keep it) simple. One of the things that used to keep me out of the kitchen was how much I thought was necessary once I was in the kitchen. It turns out that what you make doesn’t have to be overly complicated or overwhelming to be good. Get your hands wet by creating simple salad, simple chicken, simple seafood, or simple vegetarian dishes among others. And, when I say simple, I mean it: Choose dishes that require a couple to a few ingredients. When your kitchen-based comfort and confidence increase, so can your dish- and meal-based complexity!

Another motivator is this: create things that your like or love. I love salad, so I enjoy creating simple to complex salads with a few or many tasty ingredients. Sometimes I create a masterpiece, sometimes not. Regardless, when I like what I’m working with I’m excited to ideate and create. I also love lean meats, am growing more fond of vegetarian dishes, and really like brown rice and whole wheat pasta dishes. When I work with any of these items I find myself energized and interested in the creative process. This makes preparation all the more enjoyable.

I do know only creating what you like or love isn’t always possible when cooking for several, but, that doesn’t mean your can’t enjoy the process. Even when I’m cooking something I don’t enjoy as much as my above-mentioned favorites, I engage myself by putting my own spin on (and thus my own motivation into) whatever it is I’m making.

Jumping off from the idea of cooking for two or more, another motivator is this: getting others to pitch in. In my own home, this involves getting my partner to wash most, if not all, of the dishes when I prepare meals. This is a huge motivator for me as I don’t enjoy doing the dishes! Another idea is to get help with the preparation (the cutting, slicing, stirring, timing, and general assisting, etc.). I get that many cook for one, in which case these ideas aren’t as helpful, but when I cooked for me I motivated myself by cooking in quantity so that preparation and cleanup would be decreased over time. Simply prepare several meals worth of simple proteins in one session and get jiggy with them over the course of a week (e.g. spice them differently, pair them with different things, combine them in other dishes, etc.).

Another big motivator for me is this: creating healthy meals. I’m often negatively overwhelmed by processed foods’ ingredients and generally avoid them. Granted, I don’t look at many labels these days as I buy very few process foods, but my usual reaction is, “This has what in it?” or “Good lord, what the heck is that?” Conversely, when I create, I know exactly what–and how much of what–is in my meal. As a guy who’s had high blood pressure my whole life, this approach is essential to my health and well-being. Resultantly, the majority of my recipes are sodium-free/sensitive with that in mind. When you want to avoid this or that ingredient for this or that reason, it’s very possible to do so when you are preparing your own food. For yourself and others, you can mindfully create the most healthful or the most _______ meals possible.

Last, but certainly not least, I’m also motivated by these: kitchen tools that make quick work of food preparation. For me, this involves owning a stand-alone steamer, a rice cooker, a food processor, a mandolin, various presses (e.g. garlic, citrus, etc.), and so on. Everything from non-stick cookware to a hand blender saves time and effort when making (and cleaning up after) meals. One example relates to how much I enjoy sautéed onions, garlic, and peppers. Before I had a food processor (or a mandolin) the slicing and dicing seemed to take ages. Now I press a button (or slide a veggie across the mandolin’s blade) and, voila, it’s done in a snap.

Although the above-listed are but a few of many motivators that get me “cooking,” they are surely my top 5. Whether you are looking to change your kitchen-related habits, are simply looking for ways to maintain motivation, or are just after an interesting read–I’m hoping that my thoughts have helped. I’ve been motivated to create many dishes over time (many of which I’ll surely share via WordPress) and I’m looking forward to creating many more… Bon Appétit!

Here’s a recap of 5 ways to stay motivated in the kitchen:

(1) Keep it simple

(2) Create what you enjoy

(3) When creating for 2 or more: get others to pitch in

(3) When creating for 1: cook in quantity to save time and effort

(4) Positively impact your health via ingredients

(5) Grab one or several time- and energy-saving kitchen accessories

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