What To Eat When You Are SO BORED With Everything You Cook

08/27/2014 09:39 am ET | Updated Mar 13, 2015

Chicken, potatoes, salmon and rice can taste brand new again. Food writer and home cook Jenny Rosenstrach shows us how, with these four innovative recipes from her new book, Dinner: The Playbook.

By Lynn Andriani

  • You Have: Chicken Thighs
    Jenny Rosenstrach
    You Don't Want: Grilled or Roasted Chicken We love chicken thighs because they're so cheap, tasty and quick-cooking. They're often grilled or roasted, but Rosenstrach has another easy way to give them major flavor: After you've browned the pieces on the stove, and let them finish cooking with artichoke hearts (frozen or canned are fine), lemon zest and oregano, you stir in a two-ingredient mustard cream sauce. The mustard gives the dish just enough oomph and the cream makes it taste a little bit decadent.

    Get the recipe: Chicken with Artichokes in Creamy Mustard Sauce
  • You Have: Salmon Fillets
    Jenny Rosenstrach
    You Don't Want: Salmon Teriyaki Anyone who's tried to get a kid to eat broccoli knows that some sort of dipping sauce (hummus, ranch dressing, melted cheese) is a can't-miss way to make potentially dull foods exciting. Rosenstrach applies the principle to salmon, whipping up a ridiculously simple yet restaurant-worthy sriracha mayo to accompany salmon that's been cooked in an olive-oil-lemon-juice-honey glaze. The fish is delicious on its own, with a sweetness reminiscent of teriyaki but none of the salty soy flavor. With the spiced mayo (which gets an additional kick from chopped, fresh chives), though, it's out of this world.

    Get the recipe: Roasted Salmon and Asparagus with Spicy Mayo and Chives
  • You Have: Leftover Rice
    Jenny Rosenstrach
    You Don't Want: Fried Rice You ordered Chinese food and now you've got a fridge full of getting-drier-by-the-day rice yet no desire whatsoever to fry it up with other odds and ends. This brilliant egg dish is a perfect alternative. You start by softening minced scallions, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes in a skillet with some oil; then you spread the rice on top and let it sit until it's nice and crispy. Next, you pour a mixture of eggs whisked with soy sauce on top; sprinkle peas over the eggs, and continue cooking on the stove for a few more minutes. A brief blast under the broiler turn the eggs golden and bubbly.

    Get the recipe: Crispy Rice Omelet
  • You Have: Potatoes
    Jenny Rosenstrach
    You Don't Want: Mashed Potatoes Eating mashed potatoes with some microwaved leftovers for dinner inevitably results in late-night hunger pangs (ergo, late-night snacking). But Rosenstrach reminds us how to turn the everyday staple into a real meal: the baked potato bar. While the spuds bake, you prepare the toppings, which are what this recipe is really about. Rosenstrach's favorites are often repurposed sides from a previous night: classics such as chopped or crumbled bacon, steamed broccoli florets, a few handfuls of spinach sautéed in olive oil with garlic and caramelized onions. Her trump card: Sprinkle shredded cheese (cheddar, feta or Parmesan) on top of each potato and slide them under the broiler for a minute, or so, just before serving, until the cheese bubbles. Everyone can add their own fixings (and feel wonderfully sated).

    Get the recipe: Baked Potato Bar

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  • 1 Green Bell Peppers
    While red, yellow and orange bell peppers hog the spotlight, greens are often maligned because they can taste bitter (as none other than Alice Waters declared in Chez Panisse Vegetables). Because they are harvested before they're ripe, they'll never taste as sweet as the other varieties. Another downside to being picked early: The skin is harder to digest and can cause people to burp.

    Instead, try: Tomatoes. They can be stuffed and roasted just as peppers can, yet tend to be easier on people's palates (and stomachs).

    Get the recipe: Stuffed Tomatoes with Sausage and Corn
  • 2 Cooked Carrots
    These healthy, grocery-store staples are commonly cooked, chopped and mixed into pasta salads, but they can be a tough sell since they often end up unpleasantly soft. Plus, a study shows crunch can go a long way toward making food tasty.

    Instead, try: Raw carrots. If you slice the vegetables thinly (you can do it yourself or buy them preshredded), there's no need to cook them, and they'll stay fresh and crunchy, almost like a slaw.

    Get the recipe: Crisp Carrot Salad with Currants
  • 3 Cilantro
    Disliking this herb -- a cornerstone in Mexican and Thai cuisine -- might not just be all in a picky eater's head. Some studies have linked an aversion to cilantro with specific genes involved in taste and smell, which suggests that the reluctance could be rooted in a person's DNA.

    Instead, try: Italian flat-leaf parsley. Its herby flavor will brighten any dish that you'd ordinarily add cilantro to, but it's much more widely liked. Typically used in Italian cooking, parsley goes especially well with tomatoes, whether in black-bean salad or salsa-like dips.

    Get the recipe: Tomato Relish
  • 4 Stinky Cheese
    You may love goat and blue cheeses (and we're right there with you), but it must be said that they aren't the most commonly adored dairy products out there. Even varieties that lack that punch-you-in-the-face smell still have a distinct taste many people just don't enjoy.

    Instead, try: Shredded Parmesan or cheddar. They're milder options for topping salads yet still deliver some oomph. If you want to bring a cheesy dish to a party, try a spread that uses Parmesan and sour cream or yogurt as a base.

    Get the recipe: Herb and Cheese Dip
  • 5 Raw Red Onions
    Piotr Marcinski/iStock/Thinkstock
    Red onions can add a critical zip to green salads and sandwiches and are often served raw because of their gorgeous color, which fades when cooked. Still, they have a pungent taste that can linger for hours or even days, and some people suffer indigestion or heartburn after eating them.

    Instead, try: Watered-down red onions. Soaking slices of the onion in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes before adding them to a dish will significantly lessen their bite. Or use scallions instead -- they give dishes a subtly sharp note but aren't as strong.

    Get the recipe: Everyday Green Chopped Salad
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