I remember when cooking was a chore.

My daughter declared herself a vegetarian at three. I figured it was a trend. So we ate “vegetarian” chicken and “vegetarian” turkey for many months until my ploy was discovered. Yes, looking back I’ll admit it probably wasn’t my greatest move. But I was a mom. I wanted my daughter to be healthy and get enough protein. I figured the trend would be gone in a matter of weeks.

It wasn’t.

Three years later she was more heavily committed then ever before. So I gave in. And I started making dinners with a vegetarian option just for her. It made our meals healthier too, so I considered it to be a win/win for everyone.

Yet over time, our meals became bland and boring. I’d throw a couple of chicken breasts in the oven or on the grill with a sauce or a seasoning. Add a box of potatoes or noodles as a side. Add a salad and a vegetable to round out the meal, and dinner was served. Over and over and over and over…

Well you get it.

So of course we went out more because I hated cooking. It wasn’t any fun.

Yes, I was stuck in a rut.

How the art of cooking helped me get unstuck

Then I became vegetarian too and everything changed. This post isn’t about why I became vegetarian. Suffice to say that after doing a ton of research to keep my daughter healthy, I learned that it was a healthy and viable option for me as well.

What this post is about is how opening your eyes after realizing you are stuck in a rut can open up your world to new opportunities.

After cooking the same old boring meals over and over again, I looked for a change. Eating out became an option for a while, but my daughter complained about how difficult it was to eat great meals when a restaurant offered very little to suit her needs.

It isn’t much fun ordering the only meal on the menu, and eating that with a side salad made from iceberg lettuce. Not much nutrition. Not much flavor. Not much fun.

And I didn’t really realize what she was talking about until I faced it too. That’s when cooking took on an entirely new meaning.

I went looking for alternatives and I found it in cooking.

Up until that point I had pulled a few vegetarian cookbooks from the library, but the recipes weren’t very good, were difficult to make, and frankly didn’t have a lot of the nutrients required for a healthy vegetarian lifestyle.

When I finally went vegetarian, I looked a little harder and found some of the best cookbooks on the market today.

[Hint: if the author also runs a successful restaurant, chances are the recipes will be out of this world.]

The first cookbook to capture my attention was Herbivoracious by Michael Natkin. Yum. We fell in love with every recipe we tried, so naturally I kept trying.

And found The Candle Café  and Plum.

Vegetarian meals take a little longer to chop and dice and slice. But by bringing the whole family into the kitchen and each taking a little of the work, we could easily have a meal in front of us in no time. And we got a lot of family talking time accomplished in the process.

We talked about our days, our goals, even our dreams. We debated problems we were facing, shared our success stories too.

Our cooking sessions became the highlight of our days.

We talked more. We planned more. We invented more. We created more.

And we had a lot of fun in the process.

Yes, we became healthier.

We also found we had a healthier outlook on life too.

And it taught me something more.

Getting unstuck isn’t about making drastic changes or doing something you’ve never thought of, never considered before. (And no, it’s not about becoming a vegetarian, though it was one of the steps for me.)

It’s about doing what makes you happy and doing it a little more. Applying yourself to be better at it. Pursuing it to becoming more fulfilled with what you do.

It’s not about one thing that changes your life drastically. It’s about doing little things each day to bring you to a better place.

And when I moved to a better place, I became better connected to those around me.

How do you move forward? How do you get unstuck? Find something you care about and change your approach. Become better at it. Do it differently. Learn more. Share more.

And in the process you may just find more you care about too.