In our Healthy & Whole series, we’ve been talking about barriers to embracing healthy eating: no time, fear, lack of inspiration, guilt, and judgement. We’ve talked about practices like mindful eating. Now, we’ve moving to something a little more instructional: how to get inspired and create a recipe.
We’re frequently asked how we come up with the recipes we make on this blog. Though we occasionally find inspiration from cookbooks, very rarely do we cook directly from them. Our two main sources of inspiration are: seasonal foods + other food blogs or websites (followed closely by what’s on-hand in our own pantry and fridge).
It takes quite a while to become comfortable with the thought of going to a farmer’s market to find inspiration. It also takes a while to understand how to adapt recipes to suit your tastes. Our biggest advice: practice, practice, practice. Most of what you’ll have to learn will come through practice – trial and error (lots of error, so get ready!). There’s no true “easy answer”, but here’s what we do to come up with recipes.
What We Do To Get Inspired
1. Surf the net. Honestly, a ton of our ideas and inspirations have come from things we’ve seen on the internet, be it other food blogs or websites. You can learn about what foods are in season, and typical dishes made with certain ingredients. When I first started getting into food, I would surf food blogs all the time and then surprise Alex with statements like, “Generally I see oregano used in Italian or French dishes” or “I’d use eggplant in something like Eggplant Parmesan or rollatini, but I rarely see it in soup”. It’s amazing what kind of knowledge you can absorb.
–> Check out this *new* list of our favorite food blogs we go to for inspiration.
2. Go to a farmer’s market and walk the aisles. Check out what ingredients seem to be the most readily available, and most economically feasible for your budget. Buy a few items, but don’t feel pressure to buy your entire meal in one place (at least, we normally don’t!). If you’re at a super market, check out the fresh items that are highlighted as seasonal or on special.
3. Ponder your new ingredients, drawing from the ideas you’ve seen on the internet or in cookbooks, something you’ve eaten before in a restaurant, or a family recipe. Try to think of ways the ingredients are typically used, and whether you could adapt something you’ve seen. Search Google for ideas.
For example, last time I was at the farmer’s market, I bought the following items:
-Beautiful looking heirloom tomatoes (above)
-Corn (we love corn, and it is in season)
-Eggs (we buy eggs every time we go)
I pondered the ingredients and decided to dice the tomatoes and combine them with fresh corn (and red onion, jalapeno, and lime) to make a salsa, and then scramble the eggs and make them into tacos: Scrambled Egg Tacos with Heirloom Tomato Salsa Cruda. It’s kind of like Chopped, but in your real life!
4. Test it out. Test out your new idea – maybe it’s completely from your head, or maybe it’s taking an existing recipe and tweaking it a bit. We generally write down what we do — primarily since we create most recipes to share with with you, but also because it’s easier to understand what failed and try it again in the future.
5. Taste it. Is it good? If so, score! You have beat out the odds and succeeded! And if it’s not good, don’t worry! It’s all part of the learning process. We’ve had too many failures to count, though usually they’re still edible enough to satisfy. We will say, however, if you were hoping this meal would feed multiple hungry people, it might be good to have a backup plan in mind (for example, some bread and sandwich fillings just in case).
So, it’s takes a lot of courage and a little bit of creativity, but the more you try it, the more you’ll feel confident in your ability to find inspiration and translate it into a daily meal!
**How about you — is this information helpful? Do you already do these steps? What do you do for inspiration?
Our *NEW* Inspiration List
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.