Etiquette Hell

A Civil World. Off-topic discussions on a variety of topics. Guests, register for forum membership to see all the boards. => Time For a Coffee Break! => Topic started by: shadowfox79 on December 28, 2012, 08:24:10 AM

Title: Learning to cook
Post by: shadowfox79 on December 28, 2012, 08:24:10 AM
One of my new year resolutions is "Learn to cook." This ties in to my other resolution to lose weight, because one of the primary reasons I'm overweight is that it's infinitely preferable to order pizza than eat the boring stuff I can cook.

When growing up, my mother was all about meat and two veg. I can make a good roast dinner, but other than that my meals consist of a piece of meat and a pan of vegetables, because I don't know how to do anything else. I've tried getting recipes from people at work, but I'm usually confronted with "Oh, this one is really easy! You just have to fry this off and then chop some tomatoes and add red wine and reduce it down and then do X and then saute Y and..." by which point I'm completely lost.

I'm not expecting recipes, but does anyone have any straightforward go-to dishes I can look up so that I can ease my way in?

(A note - It's only me eating them. DH lives off tins of beans and sausage most of the time.)
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: joraemi on December 28, 2012, 08:51:21 AM
How about a simple soup recipe like chicken noodle?

Chop an onion (cut it in half, pull off the papery peel, cut the half into long slices, then turn it and do that again and you will have little chunks)

Peel and slice two carrots

Put 1-2 T(tablespoons) of canola oil in a big pan ( I use my Dutch oven- like a big soup pot) and heat over smedium high heat for about a minute. Toss in the onions and carrots and sauté them for about 5 minutes. (Let them sit and cook, then stir them around a bit, let them sit, then stir, etc)

Then add one box (4 cups) of low sodium chicken or vegetables stock, cover and bring to a boil. Add 1/2 C datalini or other small pasta (my family also really loves egg noodles in this soup). Add 6 ounces or so of frozen, precooked chicken that is already cut up. (i use Tyson brand). Turn heat down to simmer and cook until pasta is done according to cooking directions on package. Add a tsp or so of parsley flakes for color if you like it.

Eat! You can adjust any of those quantities to your liking.  You will learn with experience how to do it just the way you like it. You can also make vegetable soup this same way by sautéing all of your veggies in that first step then adding the stock. 

I really learned a lot of about cooking and different methods by watching shows on the Food network.  No lie.

Enjoy!

Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: gmama on December 28, 2012, 09:12:43 AM
May I suggest this book? 

http://www.amazon.com/Good-Housekeeping-Step-Cookbook-Photographs/dp/1588167607/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356707109&sr=8-1&keywords=good+housekeeping+step+by+step+cookbook

I've given it as a housewarming present to a couple of bachelor friends who were clueless in the kitchen.  It's got great step-by-step photos and little introductions at the beginning of each section on how to do stuff from breaking an egg to cutting up a chicken or how to cut up different vegetables for a salad.  Said bachelor friends are now confident enough to host small dinner parties (one guy even won a "best burger" cook-off among his buddies!).   Plus, the recipes are really great and simple to do... one of our family favourites is the potato crusted salmon fillets.  :D
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: Winterlight on December 28, 2012, 09:19:40 AM
Joe's special- it looks terrible but tastes delicious, and it's cheap and easy to make.

1lb ground meat-beef, turkey, whatever you like.
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained in a colandar- try and squash out as much water as you can
1/2 lb sliced fresh mushrooms- use whatever variety you like best. You can use canned, but fresh taste better
4 eggs- crack into a bowl or glass and mix
1/2 diced onion- optional
Italian herb mix
1 tsp minced garlic- I am lazy and buy the jarred kind, but fresh is great
Cooking spray so the stuff doesn't stick to the pan

1. Spray your cooking pan-  frying pan/electric skillet/saucepot, whichever you have, and turn on to medium-high heat. When it's warmed up, add the meat (and onion, if using it) and cook till the pink is all gone. Chop it up into little pieces with a big spoon.

2. Add the mushrooms and mix into the meat. Keep checking on it, and when the mushrooms start releasing their water, toss in the garlic and Italian herb mix. I normally use a capful of it. Stir it all together.

3. Add the spinach and mix it in. Let it get hot, then take your beaten eggs and mix in. Let them set and cook through.

Serve with bread- you don't need another vegetable because of the spinach. I sprinkle a little parmesan on my serving because yum. You can also serve it over pasta. I eat this a lot the week before I donate blood because it's great for iron.

Be warned, it does look kind of weird at first, but it's yummy and it makes a lot.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: JenJay on December 28, 2012, 09:36:18 AM
I taught myself to cook with the help of allrecipes.com. I'd go to, say, "chicken" and sort the recipes by rating, high to low. Then I'd start looking through them and decide which ones looked like I could handle them. As I got more experienced I could take on more challenging recipes.

Do you have a crockpot? Some of our favorite recipes require nothing more than tossing 5 or 6 ingredients into a crockpot, turning it on, and waiting for dinner.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: #borecore on December 28, 2012, 09:36:58 AM
My biggest tip: Check out cookbooks meant for kids. They are very thorough -- no one expects a 12-year-old to know what "braise" means -- and their main dishes are just as main dishy as those in a simple cookbook for adults. They often include lots of pictures, too.

I'd suggest, based on what you've said about what you enjoy, that you check out older books, like 1980s and earlier, at thrift shops. You can try a lot of things and maybe find some your husband will enjoy, too.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: athersgeo on December 28, 2012, 10:01:11 AM
Stuffed Peppers

Take one large red* pepper (just a regular sweet pepper). Cut in half, top-to-bottom, leave the stalk in place and remove the seeds/pith. Wash and set down on a baking sheet.

For each half of the pepper measure out the following:
1/2 teaspoon capers
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 plum tomato quartered (or 2 baby plum/cherry tomatoes halved)
1 teaspoon of fresh basil (probably equivalent to six/eight individual basil leaves torn up)
15-20g feta cheese

Fill each pepper half with the capers, tomato and basil, then drizzle the vinegar and olive oil over the top.

Stick into the oven at 180C (350F) for about twenty minutes, or until you can see the pepper beginning to char and go soft.

Remove from the oven and crumble the feta cheese over the top of each pepper half. Return to the oven for another five minutes.

Serve with a side salad and a slice of some nice Italian bread.

*It will work just as well with a green pepper or an orange one - I just prefer red ones!

It's simple, it doesn't require too much in the way of skills (which is one reason why I love the recipe!) and it's also a fairly healthy recipe and very tasty.



I also second the suggestion for the Good Housekeeping book - they're extremely good and easy to follow.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: katcheya on December 28, 2012, 11:00:47 AM
My personal kitchen philosophy is that cooking is an art, and baking is a science!  I will experiment while cooking, substitute one herb for another, add more or less of this or that.  When baking, though, I follow the recipe to the letter.

The basic ingredients I recommend always having on hand are olive oil, garlic (fresh and/or powdered,) onion powder and simple dried herbs like basil and oregano (to start!)  I also have a hot sauce (like Tobasco sauce) to add some zing.

Here are my go-to easy recipes.  Stick to the basic recipe, and if/when you feel comfortable doing so, experiment with the alternatives!

1 - My very basic red sauce: Heat a bit of olive oil in a pan, on medium heat.  Throw in one chopped onion and a sliced clove of garlic (or two or three!  Depends on your taste.)  Stir gently until you can see through the onions, then pour in a can of crushed (not diced - too liquidy) tomatoes and sprinkle in a teaspoon of dried basil, a teaspoon of dried oregano and a teaspoon of sugar (or honey; this cuts the tomato's acidity.)  Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

While it simmers, prepare your pasta as per directions on the box.  I like fresh linguini myself, but anything goes! 

Alternatives: throw in a can of mushrooms (or handful of sliced fresh mushrooms) and/or some sliced sweet peppers (red, green, yellow or orange, whatever you prefer) before adding the crushed tomatoes.  Cook for another five minutes, then add the crushed tomatoes.  At this point, if you have it on hand and you feel like it, you can also pour in 1/4 to half a cup of wine (red or white, experiment!) Another idea is 1/4 cup of vodka and a few squirts of tobasco sauce*. Simmer for 10 minutes.  At the very last minute, I like to toss in a handful of whole kalamata or green olives.

This is great sprinkled with Parmesan cheese or with a few dollops of goat cheese thrown on top.  (Note: add the goat cheese to your plate, not to the pot of sauce!)

Step 2 - Easy Italian chicken:  Preheat oven to 400F.  Take two boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Sprinkle both sides with lots of onion powder and garlic powder (note: not onion salt or garlic salt!)  (If you have them, place one leaf of fresh basil on the chicken.) Place 1 slice of fresh tomato on each breast (on top of the basil leaf, if using.)  Bake for 25-30 minutes. 

Alternative: Skip the slice of tomato (and basil leaf); once done baking, spoon some salsa (I'm fond of the Tostitos brand roasted garlic salsa) onto the chicken. You can also place some thin slices of whatever cheese you like.  I use marble cheddar.  Stick it back into the oven just long enough to heat the salsa/melt the cheese (two-three minutes.)

Serve on a bed of rice (white or flavoured.  If you use salsa, Spanish rice goes very well with it) and any type of frozen or canned veggie you have on hand.  Also very good with a simple salad on the side.

Both these recipes make enough for two servings.  Makes for an excellent lunch the next day!
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: Ambrosia Hino on December 28, 2012, 11:11:55 AM
I'm going to suggest this book

http://www.amazon.com/Saving-Dinner-Basics-Cook-Even/dp/0345485432/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356714471&sr=8-1&keywords=saving+dinner+basics (http://www.amazon.com/Saving-Dinner-Basics-Cook-Even/dp/0345485432/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356714471&sr=8-1&keywords=saving+dinner+basics)

I have it and several others by the same author, and so far, I've enjoyed almost everything I've made. I also have a tendancy to just do steamed veggies and salads, and try different marinades for meats (we grill year-round)
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: Sophia on December 28, 2012, 11:20:05 AM
The PP about kid's cookbooks gave me an idea.  Look at  http://thepioneerwoman.com.  She includes step-by-step pictures of what she makes.  allrecipes.com is good too. 
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: Sharnita on December 28, 2012, 11:32:42 AM
Community ed cooking classes might be a good bet.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: AlephReish on December 28, 2012, 12:10:49 PM
I agree with the others about kid's cookbooks when you're starting to learn, or try ones designed for students - my copy of "Where's Mom Now that I Need Her?" (http://www.amazon.com/Wheres-Mom-Now-That-Need/dp/0961539011/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356716913&sr=8-1&keywords=where%27s+mom+now+that+i+need+her (http://www.amazon.com/Wheres-Mom-Now-That-Need/dp/0961539011/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356716913&sr=8-1&keywords=where%27s+mom+now+that+i+need+her))  and "The Starving Student's Cookbook" (http://www.amazon.com/Starving-Students-Cookbook-Dede-Hall/dp/0446679615/ref=pd_sim_b_2 (http://www.amazon.com/Starving-Students-Cookbook-Dede-Hall/dp/0446679615/ref=pd_sim_b_2)) were well-used when I was starting out. I've also found Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" a great resource as I got more into cooking. (http://www.amazon.com/How-Cook-Everything-Simple-Recipes/dp/0471789186/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1356717106&sr=1-4&keywords=bittman+how+to+cook+everything (http://www.amazon.com/How-Cook-Everything-Simple-Recipes/dp/0471789186/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1356717106&sr=1-4&keywords=bittman+how+to+cook+everything)) It describes something basic to do with most every vegetable, bean and type of meat, including how to best slice, chop or prep the food.

My go-to, I don't wanna cook recipe is Shakshuka. It's a middle eastern tomato dish, and I keep the ingredients on hand.

2 tblspn olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (I use the pre-chopped stuff in a jar)
10 oz. frozen spinach (1 box)
1 can (14.5oz) of diced tomato with mild green chilis
1 can (28 oz) of diced tomato
1 teaspoon cumin
6 eggs

Heat the oil in a large pan or skillet. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add both cans of tomatoes and the cumin and bring to a boil. Add the spinach (no need to defrost it). Bring back to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and let simmer. Stir occasionally. Simmer until heated through. Crack eggs and add to the tomato mixture. The eggs will cook on top of the mix. I prefer my yolks cooked, so I break them, but they can be left runny. Cover and let cook 5 to 7 minutes, until eggs are cooked. Serve in bowls - one egg per serving.

It's an easy dish to experiment with, too - don't like it spicy? Cut the tomatoes with chilis. Like onions? Add those in with the garlic and cook them through before adding the other ingredients, etc. I've also seen it with chives, peppers, served over couscous...

Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: AstiTheWestie on December 28, 2012, 12:18:59 PM
I also have learned SO MUCH from just watching the Food Network and Cooking Channel. I have learned knife skills, how to build different flavor profiles (now I am just showing off ~ LOL) and many different cooking techniques. It's my best tool.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: AstiTheWestie on December 28, 2012, 12:22:40 PM
Another trick I use is to cook all of my meals for the week on Sundays. I make things like pasta, meatloaf, chicken, soup, and a bunch of sides like rice, veggies, or risotto. It only takes a few hours because I utilize every burner and all real estate in my oven. Then I am covered for the week for my lunches, and my husband and my dinners.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: Shakira on December 28, 2012, 12:56:39 PM
I second the mention of the slow cooker! That is my favorite thing, especially in the cold winter months. It's great to come home from work and dinner already smells fabulous.

Here's my favorite go-to slow cooker meal:
Roughly chop some red skin potatoes (I usually quarter then unless they're really big). Throw them in the bottom of the slow cooker.
Throw in a handful of baby carrots.
Put a couple pork chops on top.
Pour in a can of cream of mushroom soup. Fill the empty can with water and add that in.
Sprinkle in a packet of onion soup mix.

Don't stir it, just put the lid on and put it in low for 8 hours. My kitties are always crying at the slow cooker whenever I make this, they just want to find a way in there!
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: PastryGoddess on December 28, 2012, 01:15:06 PM
I would recommend the following books:

Cooking by James Peterson.  http://www.amazon.com/Cooking-James-Peterson/dp/1580087892

It gets updated every 3-4 years so you should be able to find previous editions for cheap.  It was my textbook in culinary school and I still go back to it on a regular basis.  It's a big book and it can be a bit dense.  However it does a good job of explaining various cooking methods and what they mean.  The recipes in the book are designed to give you familiarity with the various methods discussed.

My next favorite book is Culinary Artistry.  http://www.amazon.com/Culinary-Artistry-Andrew-Dornenburg/dp/0471287857

It is a gold mine because it has several sections of food/ingredient pairings.  So if you have lamb and want some ideas on what to cook it with or what flavors go with the lamb, you can flip to the page and it will give you a whole list of ideas.  There is also a cuisine guide as well so if you want to cook Vienamese one day, it will give you the base ingredients/flavors you need.

And finally...Have fun and remember sometimes a mistake turns into your new favorite dish.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: lady_disdain on December 28, 2012, 01:21:29 PM
My favourite recipe source: budgetbytes.blogspot.com

Easy, well illustrated, healthy and cheap. I have never had one of her recipes go wrong.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: MrsJWine on December 28, 2012, 02:27:22 PM
I love cooking and trying new recipes, but one of my most reliable and satisfying go-to meals is grilled chicken breast with spring mix from a box and a slice of whole- or multi-grain bread. Splashing on a little olive oil, vinegar, and salt is much healthier than most dressings (at least in the quantities that I like to put on my salads).

Invest in a small George Foreman grill (do yourself a favor and splurge on the kind with removable plates).

Slather up your chicken breast with some olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, whatever smells good. Throw on the hot grill for 8ish minutes, take off and cover in foil (shiny side in), let sit for another 10, and there you go. Optional: pound the chicken with the flat side of a mallet to 1/2" or so before cooking.

You can cook all kinds of thing on one of those grills (I don't recommend bacon while you're sleeping in the morning). Once you get the hang of chicken, try branching out to other stuff. I've even cooked eggplant on mine.

ETA: Another great thing about the little grill is that during the summer, it doesn't kick up as much heat as a stovetop or oven or even a crockpot.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: camlan on December 28, 2012, 03:07:17 PM
I have yet to cook one recipe from a cooking show on TV, but I have learned a lot about various cooking skills--knife skills, how to saute, how to chop and dice vegetables. So one thing I'd recommend is just watching a few cooking shows to learn some basic skills.

Then find a good, basic cook book that discusses ingredients and how to choose them as well as cooking methods. I learned how to make bread and pie crust from reading The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

Another good cookbook is How To Cook Without A Book. Each chapter teaches you one basic cooking skill (how to saute, how to grill) and then teaches you how to come up with variations on that.

Finally, pick foods you like and go out and find a recipe for them. You'll be more likely to want to cook when you know you will like the outcome.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: BabylonSister on December 28, 2012, 04:18:54 PM
I love Mexican-ish (or Fauxican) because it's easy to put together with ready-made ingredients such as tortillas or salsa. You can just cook a few chicken breasts in the crockpot with water and taco seasoning (I make my own http://www.the-girl-who-ate-everything.com/2012/09/homemade-taco-seasoning.html). Once the chicken is cooked, it will be very tasty, moist and easy to shred with a a couple of forks. Slice an avocado, add shredded cheese and black beans out of can. Put it all in a tortilla.


For more general advice: great idea on the kids' cookbooks. Look at your used bookstore/thrift store for 2-/3-/4-/5- ingredient cookbooks. They rely a lot on convenience food but they can give you a foot in the door. At the same time, I also second looking for books with basic techniques such as braising, white sauce, pie crust, etc Most of those things are much easier to make than you'd think.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: readingchick on December 28, 2012, 05:09:23 PM
My minestrone recipe is in the cookbook folder; it's quick and easy and you probably have everything you need in your pantry.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: QueenofAllThings on December 28, 2012, 06:33:49 PM
Omelettes are quick and healthy - when made with an egg and 2 egg whites.  Fill with whatever - chopped peppers and onions, turkey sausage, smoked salmon, mushrooms, low fat cheese, etc.

Another quick meal - sauté sliced peppers, onions, mushrooms, put them in a whole wheat wrap with a little goat cheese, wrap and eat. Make enough veggies for a few meals.

Soups and vegetable chilis are good as well, and you can make a big batch to freeze.

The key is to have lots of ready made healthy food available - always make extra!
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: SouthernBelle on December 28, 2012, 06:56:19 PM
I'll chip in with http://www.amazon.com/How-Cook-Everything-Basics-Photos/dp/0470528060/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1356742395&sr=1-1&keywords=mark+bittman+how+to+cook+everything+the+basics (http://www.amazon.com/How-Cook-Everything-Basics-Photos/dp/0470528060/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1356742395&sr=1-1&keywords=mark+bittman+how+to+cook+everything+the+basics) by Mark Bittman, the food writer for the New York Times.  He gives the how-to for every recipe.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: Hmmmmm on December 28, 2012, 07:39:39 PM
I always suggest starting to learn to cook with things you already enjoy eating and are pretty familiar with.  I dont recommend anyone going from not cooking at all to trying to convert to cooking every night.  I think your just setting your self up for failure. 

If your goal is to also eat healthier, just about anything can be made with less fat, salt, calories at home than made at a restaurant.

If you like burgers, try a turkey burger topped with bought Salsa verde on a whole wheat bun.
Learn to make a few pasta dishes, but try out a whole wheat or a low carb pasta if that interests you.  I think puttanesca sauce and a marinara sauce are the easiest to learn.
Find a salad you enjoy.  Taco salad is super easy as is a Cobb salad.
An egg salad sandwhich can make a great quick comfort food dinner if you like eggs and add in a side of sliced tomatoes or a green salad for a more well rounded meal.
As others have suggested, soups are great for beginning cooks.  And they freeze really well.
Chicken, brocolli, rice casseroles are really good one dish meals.

A subscription to a magazine like Eating Well is also good for getting new ideas.  You can also sign up with things like food&wine, food.com, and all recipes to have suggestions emailed to you.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: MerryCat on December 28, 2012, 07:43:52 PM
I like the blog skinny taste (http://www.skinnytaste.com/) for tasty and healthy recipes. Some of them can take a while to prepare but a lot of them are relatively quick and easy. And even super-fussy Mr. Merry will eat them lol
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: delabela on December 28, 2012, 07:47:31 PM
I would suggest reading a lot of different recipes to get a feel for how people are putting ingredients together - use google for an ingredient you like, such as chicken, and see what sounds good (I would also suggest reading any comments from people who have used the recipe to get an idea of the real world experiences).

You tube is a good resource for demonstrations of specific techniques. 
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: Slartibartfast on December 28, 2012, 07:50:15 PM
Site worth bookmarking: www.cookingforengineers.com.  It's got step-by-step instructions with pictures for everything, which takes a lot of the guesswork out of cooking.  "Add the flour and mix - it should be this color.  Then add the eggs - it should look like this.  (etc.)"

Here's my suggestion for several days' worth of meals:

1) buy a whole frozen chicken or turkey.  Put it in a pot and fill the pot 2/3 of the way with water.  Boil it for a few hours or until you suddenly remember you have a chicken on the stove.

2) Let the whole pot cool a while, then pour it through a strainer.  Save the liquid - it's salt-free homemade chicken stock, and it's useful to have on hand.

3) Pick the meat off the bones.  Stick the meat in a tupperware in the fridge or in the freezer.

Now that you have a good quantity of cooked chicken, you can do other dishes:

-  Barbecue chicken sandwiches (open tupperware, insert barbecue sauce, put on buns)

-  Stuffing bake (box/bag of stuffing mix, cheese, cooked chicken bits, and whatever fresh/frozen veggies you have on hand)

-  Chicken quesedillas (tortilla + shredded cheese + chicken bits --> a minute or so in the microwave)

-  Chicken salad (chicken bits + mayo + whatever else you like in yours - I do grapes, apples, nuts, and celery)

-  Chicken soup (chicken bits + the chicken stock + whatever leftover veggies, pasta, rice, etc. you have in the fridge)

I love just having the chicken meat around because once it's cooked, all the other meal options are really easy and fast and don't produce all that many dirty dishes for me to wash  ;D
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: Slartibartfast on December 28, 2012, 07:55:00 PM
Oh, here's my other go-to favorite:

1) Pull out a 13x9 pan and cover the bottom in aluminum foil

2) Cut a zucchini into quarters lengthwise (so "home fries" style)

3) Put two fish fillets plus the zucchini spears in the pan

4) Spritz quickly with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper

5) Bake at somewhere between 350 and 400 until the zucchini isn't so crunchy anymore

6) Easy cleanup  ;D
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: AstiTheWestie on December 28, 2012, 08:02:14 PM
I so agree with cooking ahead of time. Whether it be a meal or 2 in a slow cooker, or just cooking so you have leftovers. There is nothing better than coming home from a long day at work and having dinner basically ready!
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: buvezdevin on December 28, 2012, 08:07:49 PM
I have been thinking about your question since reading it earlier today, wanting to send encouragement and some words that may be helpful. Others have posted so many great ideas and sources, and Hmmmmm's post led with a thought I think particularly wise, starting with cooking foods you know you enjoy.

I like cooking, and can do so reasonably well now, after a lot of years playing in the kitchen, but I vividly remember the first time I tried to peel garlic cloves and pondering those things with a paring knife in hand thinking "garlic salt exists for a reason" (which it does, but fresh garlic is also useful and wonderful - smash a clove with a small but solid object and the skin can be pulled off, useful tip a friend provided to me decades ago).

It helps to be working on foods you know you enjoy - and if you can interest your husband in joining you for any meals, I find it adds greatly to my enjoyment of cooking and the end results to know I am cooking for someone else's pleasure/nourishment as well as my own.

I don't have a specific recipe to share, but echoing some thoughts of prior posts - adding an egg (scrambled or not) to a mix of vegetables, cooked in a pan in light oil over medium heat, with or without meat, can be a lovely meal, or skip the egg, add some tomato sauce and pour over pasta.

One thing I was slow to learn - while cooking/sautéing in a pan over medium heat is a good way to ensure even cooking without burning, cooking in a pan over a high heat can give vegetables or meat a lovely added flavor and texture - so long as they are items which do need a significant time to cook through.  For example, brussel sprouts cooked in a skillet on higher heat will char a bit and have additional flavor.  Same is true for some fish and meats, though that takes a bit of practice to avoid burning or undercooking - but if you cut the pieces up, and do a stir fry it is easier to get right.

Best wishes, and please post back to let us know how it goes!
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: mmswm on December 28, 2012, 08:08:33 PM
Here are two of my favorite ridiculously easy meals...

1. Put a couple boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the center of a baking pan (I use a 9 inch pyrex)
2. Put some baby carrots in a pile on half of one side of the chicken and some green beans next to the carrots.
3. Put some small red potatoes on the other side of the chicken (about meatball sized...if they're bigger you can cut them in half)
4. Sprinkle a packet of Italian dressing mix over the meat and veggies.
5. Pour a can of chicken broth over everything.
6. Cover with foil and stuff in the oven at 350F until everything is cooked.


1. Slice a green pepper and a medium sweet onion.
2. Brown a pound of ground beef in some Italian dressing (cooking it in the dressing really infuses the flavor into the meat).
3. Saute the veggies.
4. Cut a loaf of Italian bread in half, lengthwise and then smoosh down the center to create a "bowl"
5. Drain the ground beef and spread it over the bread halves.
6. Place the veggie slices over the meat.
7. Cover it all with provolone cheese.
8. Bake in a 350F oven until the bread is warm and the cheese is melted.

Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: shadowfox79 on December 29, 2012, 03:06:01 AM
You are all stars. I'll start looking into these straight away.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: Kaypeep on December 29, 2012, 07:27:35 AM
Never underestimate YouTube or a Google Search.  I've been cooking since I was old enough to reach the stove, but my mom was very basic and I didn't really start to cook "fancy" until about 10 years ago.  I learned stuff watching cooking shows. (Martha Stewart has a great show on PBS right now that is just Basics, like  how to make eggs of various types, how to make stock) but I also learned how to make the best baked potato simply going to the website http://www.howtobakeapotato.com/.

I also learned how to prepare and cook lobster tails by searching You Tube and finding MANY aspiring chefs and professionals who made their own teaching videos.  There are videos on "how to cut a mango" or "How to chop an onion" and "How to chop garlic."  Seriously, You Tube has it all.

Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: readingchick on December 29, 2012, 09:01:16 AM
You are all stars. I'll start looking into these straight away.

Why, thank you!
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: mmswm on December 29, 2012, 09:03:37 AM
Here are two of my favorite ridiculously easy meals...

1. Put a couple boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the center of a baking pan (I use a 9 inch pyrex)
2. Put some baby carrots in a pile on half of one side of the chicken and some green beans next to the carrots.
3. Put some small red potatoes on the other side of the chicken (about meatball sized...if they're bigger you can cut them in half)
4. Sprinkle a packet of Italian dressing mix over the meat and veggies.
5. Pour a can of chicken broth over everything.
6. Cover with foil and stuff in the oven at 350F until everything is cooked.


1. Slice a green pepper and a medium sweet onion.
2. Brown a pound of ground beef in some Italian dressing (cooking it in the dressing really infuses the flavor into the meat).
3. Saute the veggies.
4. Cut a loaf of Italian bread in half, lengthwise and then smoosh down the center to create a "bowl"
5. Drain the ground beef and spread it over the bread halves.
6. Place the veggie slices over the meat.
7. Cover it all with provolone cheese.
8. Bake in a 350F oven until the bread is warm and the cheese is melted.

The first dish sounded so good that I decided to do it for dinner myself.  I forgot to add, however, that you can do it in the crock pot as well, which is what I'm doing, since I'm pretty lazy today.
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: JenJay on December 29, 2012, 10:20:07 AM
I'll chip in with http://www.amazon.com/How-Cook-Everything-Basics-Photos/dp/0470528060/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1356742395&sr=1-1&keywords=mark+bittman+how+to+cook+everything+the+basics (http://www.amazon.com/How-Cook-Everything-Basics-Photos/dp/0470528060/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1356742395&sr=1-1&keywords=mark+bittman+how+to+cook+everything+the+basics) by Mark Bittman, the food writer for the New York Times.  He gives the how-to for every recipe.

I have this app on my phone and it's great! Step by step directions and little mini guides to things like how to peel garlic, how to dice onions, etc. Good stuff!
Title: Re: Learning to cook
Post by: JenJay on December 29, 2012, 10:30:35 AM
The absolute yummiest, and easiest, eggs evar!

-Preheat your oven to 400
-butter (or use bacon grease) a ramikin or other small, oven-proof dish. (I had to buy ramikins specifically for these eggs, totally worth it!)
-add a couple tablespoons worth of diced meat or veggie if you like**
-crack two eggs in, you can break the yolks or leave them whole
-salt and pepper to your liking
-add some cheese, shredded is fine but I like to slice a piece, break it into little chunks, and plop them in so that the melty, cheesy goodness is throughout the eggs
-add about a tablespoon of cream or half & half
-bake for 20 minutes, check the center, give it a few more if necessary

** I like mine plain but DH has added ham, sausage, bacon, leftover taco meat, bell pepper, spinach, salsa, etc. Just about anything can go in.