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How to get your kitchen groove back 

One of the most frequently asked questions I hear from aspiring cooks goes something like this: "I'm in a cooking rut. At the end of the day, I can't get excited to make more than a bowl of cereal. What should I do to get unstuck?"

At some point, we all get stuck in the kitchen. Even the most accomplished and diligent of cooks goes through an occasional bout of the culinary doldrums.

The good news: Like most things in life, the lack of inspiration is temporary. Peruse the following list of attitude adjustments, and try one on for size. In no time, your sulky self will be on the mend and the cooking barometer will begin to rise.

1) Attend to the dark corners of your kitchen that always get the short shrift. Your oven, for starters, would like a word with you: She has not been cleaned since Y2K and refuses to roast chicken under 3 inches of soot.

2) Get rid of those ancient jars of spices, oxidizing and loosing punch from light and heat. Consider the cryogenic approach and use freezer shelves as your new spice storage area. Buy as-you-need amounts from ethnic groceries or the bulk area of your supermarket.

3) For crisis management of culinary attitudes, turn to The Mindful Cook by Isaac Cronin. This powerful little gem asks you to take stock of your culinary baggage and check it accordingly. When was the last time you really spent time with an orange, for example?

4) If you have an extra 100 bucks in the reserve, buy a chef's knife and sharpening steel. A good knife is an investment for life; if cared for properly, it lasts forever. Really. More importantly, a sharp knife is amazing for culinary confidence. It whips through onions, it makes clean breaks through meat. You'll feel in charge.

5) Get reacquainted with your senses and recall the simple pleasures of being in the kitchen: the smell of brewed coffee and frying bacon, the sound of a cracking egg, the texture of a mashed potato.

6) Weather and season permitting, the most powerful cure-all for culinary doldrums is a visit to a neighborhood farmer's market (in the winter, Dekalb Farmers Market will substitute nicely). With an intoxicating array of colors, shapes and aromas, markets offer jewels of the earth and put our petty worlds into perspective. Food comes from the earth, not the supermarket. Enjoy it, celebrate it, cook it!

Culinary questions? Reach CL's Kitchen Witch at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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