Are you in a cooking rut, making the same five meals over and over again? Need to be inspired (and rediscover the joy of cooking) with something new, yet accommodating enough for a busy lifestyle? In Food 52: A New Way to Dinner by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs (Ten Speed Press, 2016), 52 co-founder Hesser tells how she herself got out of her her own cooking dinner rut: "What saved me were recipes-I turned the clock back two decades and started following people's recipes again.
Recipes are a relief when you're busy and not feeling inspired to create. Follow directions and a destination is yours."
From A New Way to Dinner:
Overnight Roast Pork (can also be used for sandwiches, pizza, tacos, lettuce wraps, with mashed potatoes or rice-and gravy!)
1 (5-pound) boneless pork butt
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1/3 (one-third) cup firmly-packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 and 1/2 (one-half) teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/8 (one-eighth) to 1/4 (one-fourth) teaspoon ground chipotle (if not available, you can use chili powder)
Tie the pork with twine in several places so that it's nice and compact.
Place it on a plate or small baking sheet and season liberally with salt.
Let sit at room temperature for about an hour.
Combine the brown sugar, maple syrup, mustard, thyme, garlic and ground chipotle in a small bowl.
Add a couple pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper.
Heat the oven to 475 degrees.
Smear the sugar, mustard and garlic mixture all over the pork, concentrating a good amount on the top of the roast, where the fat is.
Nestle the pork (fat side up) into a roasting pan or cast iron baking dish just big enough to hold it.
Put in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until you start to smell garlic and sugar.
Remove the pork from the oven and cover the pan tightly with foil.
Return the pork to the oven and turn the heat down to 200 degrees.
Leave the pork in the oven overnight to cook for at least 8 hours and up to 10 hours (your house will smell wonderful and the pork will be tender).
Cover the roast with foil and keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Slice or shred what you think you'll need and put it in a covered baking dish.
Reheat in a 200 degree oven.
Makes: 4 servings for 2 dinners
And from Fast to the Table: Freezer Cookbook by Becky Rosenthal (The Countryman Press, 2016), here's:
Tuscan White Bean Soup with Sausage and Kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound loose Italian sausage
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 (one-half) teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 (one-fourth) teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 (one-fourth) teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
3 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans (6 cups), drained and used
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices, or 2 medium-size tomatoes, diced
6 cups chicken stock
1 zucchini, diced (optional)
2 cups kale, stemmed, leaves roughly chopped
Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.
Add the sausage to the pot, brown, not overstirring (you'll want some caramelization and browning on the meat).
Add onion and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the carrots, celery and seasonings.
Cook for 5 more minutes.
Add the beans and tomatoes.
Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom.
Add the chicken stock and simmer for 15 minutes or until the carrots are tender.
Add the zucchini and squash, if using, and then stir in the kale.
Cook the kale for just about 1 minute, or until slightly wilted, then remove the pot from the heat.
Serve hot with crusty bread or let cool and freeze.
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
Three Additional Inspirations
The Cozy Table by Dana DeVolk (Countryman Press, $25) serves up a collection of scaled-down recipes that are particularly geared for singles, couples, small households or empty nesters.
Toast & Jam by Sara Owens (Roost Books, $30) combines the culinary skills of baking and preserving; there are recipes for bread, cakes, biscuits, crackers, and scones, as well as recipes featuring the sweet and savory to use with the bread, cakes, etc.
Ever considered sweet potato fries in a salad? Or pasta that's baked within a frittata? These are just a few unusual, yet tasty combinations offered by Half Baked Harvest blogger Tieghan Gerard in her first collection, Half Baked Harvest Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, $30).
Sources: "Looking for weeknight dinner inspiration?" by Andrea Weigl, The News and Observer (Raleigh, NC)-The Vindicator, Nov. 2, 2016, and Cool-Weather Comfort, Mixer section-allrecipes magazine-Nov. 2017