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When cooking becomes a chore, or simply lacks challenge, there’s no better way to reignite the spark than with a dose of light-hearted fun and a sprinkle of gamification.
It can be all too easy to lose your passion in the kitchen, or to feel that your skills have plateaued. Fatigue, boredom, lack of ideas — these can all contribute to an overall sense of demotivation. Before you know it, you’re eating the same bland food day-in and day-out.
Luckily, these five culinary challenges will put your skills to the test and expand your own recipe collection. You’ll be introduced to all new kinds of cuisine, and that alone will be sure to reinvigorate your outlook on cooking.
Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking, now in it’s fourth year, is proving to be more popular than ever. Each Monday, a new challenge is set and all participants have to cook something within the parameters of that challenge. Once the meal is cooked, a photo of the end result must be posted, along with (ideally) a recipe or description of the dish.
The cycle started in January, but you can jump in right in the middle of it. Are you a newbie cook who’s struggling to overcome kitchen intimidation? That’s fine! However, there are a couple of simple rules that need to be followed.
First, you can’t join challenges that are over three weeks old. Second, post titles must be formatted as “Week XX: Theme – Dish Name”. The other terms are minor, so you can read about them on the Reddit page itself if you’re interested.
Back in May, coinciding with Mother’s Day, the challenge was to cook a meal that incorporated flowers. These could be used as a garnish for presentation or as part of the actual dish. In June, one theme was “One Bite” — any dish made had to be small enough to consume in a single mouthful, like in that one episode of The Taste.
The challenges all look pretty fun and are very broad, allowing you to run wild with your imagination and really push something special out of the bag.
When we’re used to eating cooked food so often, it can be easy to forget how delicious raw foods can be. At first, the options available will seem limited, but therein lies the challenge. With a little creative thinking, and some raw food inspiration from Pinterest, the breadth of options will surprise you.
30 Days of Raw Till 4 doesn’t have an official home on the Internet, but a quick Google search shows tons of people who’ve taken the challenge. The aim — for those who aren’t quite sure what it is — is to only eat raw foods from when you wake until 4pm for 30 consecutive days.
If you’re looking for an engaged community to join and probe for knowledge, the Raw Till 4 Facebook page has 52,000 members. Although this page isn’t focused on the challenge itself, it’s a great resource for finding ideas on what to cook and to learn about the supposed health benefits of raw foods.
Over several years, Sasha Martin has cooked 650+ recipes from every country on the planet. Her blog, Global Table Adventure, shares the journey with a huge number of delicious recipes and amazing pictures. But most exciting of all is the interactive food map, which allows you to take on the challenge yourself.
There’s no doubt that this is one hell of a cooking challenge, but the recipes, spice combinations, and cooking techniques you’ll learn about are all mind-boggling.
To help get you started, Sasha has put together a free Global Table Adventure Starter Guide (email signup required). This includes everything you’ll need to get going, including tips to get everyone involved, country lists, and links to connect with other people who’ve done (or are doing) the challenge.
If you’re a certified carnivore, challenging yourself to go vegetarian or vegan for just one day a week can be a real culinary journey. After all, when you can’t rely on meat to flavor and enhance a dish, that’s when your skills with herbs and spices is truly put to the test.
The official Meatless Monday website is, of course, geared towards reducing global meat consumption, and the movement has recruited a number of well-known bloggers. Many of them share their Meatless Monday recipes on their sites, but the Meatless Monday site also has plenty of vegetarian meal ideas to get you started.
If you’re not familiar with the TV show Come Dine With Me, here’s the premise: five contestants each host a dinner party for the other contestants. The guests rate the overall food and entertainment for each of the evenings on a scale of 1 to 10. The contestant with the highest overall score wins a prize.
Sounds simple enough. But when there’s a prize at stake, all reservations fall by the wayside as each contestant brandishes their most prized culinary delights. The tour de force of their lifetime of cooking is placed on the table, ready to be judged.
And the guests, competing for the title themselves, will do all they can to find fault with your food. If you aren’t confident enough to pull this off, there are some amazing cooking classes online that can help oil your gears.
Otherwise, why not organize your own Come Dine With Me competition with your friends? Maybe even take it a step further as an idea for a double/triple date. Whatever the circumstances, we’re positive that you’ll have a lot of fun and learn a lot from the experience.
Honing Your Culinary Skills
Looking for even more inspiration? Not only are there are apps that help you to cook like an award winning chef, but also some creative cooking shows stuffed with delectable dishes and feisty characters. There are even YouTube channels where chefs share their secrets.
So if your kitchen mojo is lacking, or you’re simply bored by what you’ve been serving, consider taking part in these challenges. You may be surprised by how much your skills grow through it all.
Have you tried these, or any other, cooking challenges? If so, how did they go? Which ones are your favorite? Tell us about them in the comments below!
Image Credits: Cooking by Moyan Brenn (Flickr), Raw Vegan Sushi by Kari Sullivan (Flickr), Thai Spread by Miles Goodhew (Flickr), [Broken Link Removed] by Jennifer (Flickr), Toasting the Entree by Didriks (Flickr), Chef by Eric McGregor (Flickr)