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Combatting kitchen burnout, a year into the pandemic

Now, 365 days into a pandemic and 1,095 meals later, kitchen burnout is real.

By Nina Raemont

In the first few weeks of the pandemic, many of us saw our newly cleared schedules and shelter-in-place orders as an opportunity to explore complex, extensive kitchen projects. Grocery stores were selling out of flour. A new obsession with sourdough bread surfaced in internet communities. 

But then, the pandemic never ended, and neither did the meals we were making for ourselves. Now, 365 days into the pandemic and 1,095 meals later, kitchen burnout is real. 

To combat this malady, we’ve turned to the food experts for advice on how to spice up dinnertime. 

Taycier Elhindi, food blogger and freelance journalist, found herself alone in her North Minneapolis apartment during the beginning phase of the pandemic, coming back to the comfort food that left her feeling whole during a time of uncertainty. As a food blogger, Elhindi runs Quarter Cup Kitchen, a blog that provides easy-to-make recipes to home cooks. 

Elhindi channeled her kitchen ambition within the first few months of sheltering in place, but then she hit a wall. After making recipe after recipe for her blog, she had to rethink her approach to making food and producing content. 

“I kind of had to sit down and be like, ‘OK, this is obviously not sustainable and I’m not gonna be able to keep it up,’” Elhindi said. Shewas determined to find ways to avoid kitchen burnout while also finding interesting food to eat each week. “I tried meal prep, and I’m not into it. It works great for a lot of people, but I get really bored of it,” Elhindi said.  

To spice up her meals, she’d find new ways to repurpose standard ingredients. She’d make a whole roasted chicken in the beginning of the week, eat it with curry one night and with her quinoa enchilada soup the next.

Along with repurposing versatile ingredients, Elhindi also recommends exploring the different specialty grocery stores the Twin Cities has to offer. Sure, Cub Foods is a mainstay, but what if you ventured out to one of the specialty grocers to bring new flavors to your dishes and experiment with new ingredients?  

If you’re having a taco night, visit your local Mexican marketplace — Elhindi loves El Burrito Mercado in St. Paul. Take the very simple vodka pasta recipe and amp it up with a trip to Grass Roots Gourmet inMidtown Global Market. The store offers farm to table ingredients, like Farmhouse Kitchen’s hand rolled butter or Sunrise Creative Gourmet’s Roasted Red Pepper Lasagnetta used in Elhindi’s Lasagnetta alla Vodka recipe,that turn a simple 20-minute pasta dish into a dinnertime masterpiece. 

“It takes that pasta from a five out of 10 to like a 10 out of 10, and tastes like you’ve cooked it for hours,” Elhindi said. 

Golnaz Yamoutpour, the founder of local restaurant discovery and recommendation service 

Eat Drink Dish Mpls, swears by subscription and restaurant meal kits to cover dinner. 

“I find that meal kits introduce you to new flavors, techniques and dishes that you may never think of making on your own,” Yamoutpour said.  

Many popular local restaurants offer interesting kits, like Hola Arepa, Hai Hai and Red Cow.

According to Yamoutpour, the best way to kick the kitchen burnout and find inspiration to make your meals exciting comes from experiencing new restaurants and cuisines you’ve never tried before. 

“A lot of my creativity does come from my experiences eating out,” Yamoutpour explained. “The more you experience and observe, the more likely you are to bring that to your own kitchen.” 

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