Getting Instant Inspiration for your Daily Meals
One of those questions many of us face on a daily basis is “What am I making for dinner tonight?”. If you’re like us, and you also have breakfast and lunch at home, then you can multiply that little question times three. That’s a lot of meals over a week, a month, or a year, and although we’re creatures of habit and tend to reach for a few meals and recipes over and over again, sometimes it’s nice to vary things up.
Variety is also important as vegans, since eating lots of different fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, grains etc., provides us with a large array of nutrients, and what is of equal importance, there’s a lot of pleasure and satisfaction present when we’re eating different foods we enjoy and we’re looking forward to our meals and snacks.
This was one of the things that inspired us to create our online program My Brownble. We wanted to give you an ongoing supply of ideas, and something not a lot of people know about me, is that I use our program too! There are close to 300 videos in the program as of right now and that continues to grow every week, which means I can’t remember half of them off the top of my head, so sometimes when I’m planning out meals for the week, or I’m in the train coming home unsure of what to make for dinner, I scroll through the program to remember old time favorites of ours. It’s so great to have a database of recipes you’ve already tried and loved, and maybe some that you can cook blindfolded but that perhaps newer recipes have made them move over a bit and now they’re out of sight and out of mind. It’s so great when we can bring those back.
In today’s post and podcast episode I’m going to give you some very practical tips so that you can quickly find inspiration when you need it. The idea is that you create your own sources of inspiration, since my go-to meal ideas might be very different to yours, and my favorite ingredients or types of meals might be very different to yours. What we basically want to do is create a Netflix menu of our go-to favorites, so we’re never without yummy inspiration. We can just scroll or browse and pick! I bet you’ll recognize some of these from other videos and episodes, but some might be brand new to you, so pick and choose what works for you. Are you ready?
Tip # 1: One Ingredient Iron Chef
I’m not even sure if this show still exists, but during my late teens and early adult years in which I was consuming the food network like it was a freshly “popped” tube of Pringles, there was a show called the iron chef in which two world famous chefs battled it out, and had to make a full 3 or 4 course meal using a mystery ingredient. The ingredient was unveiled in perfect dramatic Japanese fashion, samurai sound effects and all. One day the mystery ingredient was eggplant, one day it was pasta, one day it was something strange I had never seen before, another day it was a spice, and of course it included all sorts of animal products too, but we’re using plants today. The idea in this show wasn’t to use it and leave it at that, it was to make it the star of the show. Meaning you would plan the entire menu around it.
I find this is a great tip for making meals at home, since that “staring at the fridge moment” usually begins with a question mark, and continues on with one ingredient sitting in our hand and then another question mark. If we ask ourselves, how can I make this shine with what I have at home, you’ll get plenty of ideas and inspiration, and you’ll even start creating your own recipes! This is one of my favorite starting points in my personal recipe creation process. If you’re ever in my neck of the woods and you see a girl holding a leek for a strange amount of time, come and say hi!
It doesn’t surprise me that Iron Chef began in Japan, as they have a lovely cooking principle called “Kansha”, in which tradition states you are to try to use up a vegetable to the fullest, using it in many different preparations but so that none of it goes to waste. It’s a celebration of food like no other, and especially of vegetables, and it has taught me so much about cooking in a very simple way but with so much flavor. A great book to help get you get inspired is Kansha: Celebrating Japan’s Vegan and Vegetarian Traditions by Elizabeth Andoh.
Become an iron chef at home, grab something from the fridge, and see what else you have that might go with it. Our podcast episodes on food pairings might be a great starting place if you need a little extra help.
Tip # 2: The food photo reel!
In this age of instagram, so many of us are snapping photos of our yummy meals, especially if we’re in the process of learning new recipes and trying new plant-based ones. If you use instagram for this purpose, you have a full highlight reel of all your favorite go-to meals right there, but if you don’t like to fill your friends feed with your grub, did you know you can make albums within your photo folders on your phone?! Next time you make a yummy breakfast, think of maybe starting an album with breakfast ideas, then one for lunch and dinner, another for snacks. Fill it up with photos of your own meals. This is powerful stuff since it doesn’t make you feel like you have to follow a full recipe exactly, these are meals you’ve already made before! Meaning, you’re more familiar with them, you remember what the process was like, and you already know it passed the yummy test.
Take this up a notch by taking a screenshot of any quick recipes or combinations you want to try. You can snap the ingredients, or snap a photo you saw on someone’s instagram or Pinterest board. You can use it as visual inspiration even if you’re not making the full recipe.
Tip #3: Indulge in some me time while you browse around for meal ideas
This can mean sitting on the couch and just flipping through a cookbook you love, watching some of our videos in our Youtube channel or in our online program. It can mean watching a cooking show, or browsing through your favorite recipe blog and just reading a few recipes. This isn’t necessarily about making the exact recipe you find (although it can be that too), most of the time, it’s just about putting you in that yummy cooking mood, giving you ideas for flavor combinations, and simply inspiring you to use what you have in a new way.
Tip # 4: The kitchen binder list
You’ve heard me talk about this trick of mine for years now. It’s a very thin binder I keep in my kitchen, with a typed up list of easy meals we love, for those days in which even I am out of ideas (yes that even happens to me folks!). It doesn’t include recipes, it just includes a bullet point list with the meal ideas, and sometimes the page number for a cookbook in case it’s a favorite recipe that really needs exact amounts.
Tip # 5: Kim’s go-to templates
When in doubt, there are a few types of recipes that can accommodate so many different ingredients and flavor profiles. Keeping these in mind when figuring out what to make can really help:
Making a curry
Making stuffed sweet potatoes or baked potatoes, with all sorts of fillings and a topping
Making a stew to be served with some delicious bread on the side
Turning simple ingredients into delicious bruschetta, for example, some toasted bread with rubbed garlic, some olive oil, sautéed spinach and mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes on top and some capers, some hummus or another bean dip. The sky is the limit.
Adding lots of veggies as toppings for pizza, or tossed with a simple pasta with any sauce you like or a little olive oil and garlic.
Making sweet or savory stuffed crepes with practically anything you have in the fridge, ditto for wraps made with corn or wheat tortillas, lavash, nori sheets or spring roll wrappers. Any leftovers will shine again once wrapped, serve a little sauce or dip on the side.
Cook very simple ingredients with lots of flavor to serve as a kind of mezze platter or antipasti, which is basically a very flavorful combo of separate dishes, tied together with some really good bread.
Making a veggie bowl, with any components you like, and a dip, sauce or dressing to tie everything together.
There you have it! Five delicious and practical tips to help you with dinner-making brain freeze, and which will help you create delicious vegan meals that are catered to you and what your family enjoys, and what fits your time and budget too.
Now I want you to tell me, are there any secret tools, systems or resources you use to get ideas for what to cook next? Leave them below in the comments!