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Author Topic: Learning to cook  (Read 11971 times)

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Re: Learning to cook
« Reply #15 on: December 28, 2012, 01:15:06 PM »
I would recommend the following books:

Cooking by James Peterson.

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.

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.


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Re: Learning to cook
« Reply #16 on: December 28, 2012, 01:21:29 PM »
My favourite recipe source:

Easy, well illustrated, healthy and cheap. I have never had one of her recipes go wrong.


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Re: Learning to cook
« Reply #17 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.

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Re: Learning to cook
« Reply #18 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.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


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Re: Learning to cook
« Reply #19 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 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.


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Re: Learning to cook
« Reply #20 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.


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Re: Learning to cook
« Reply #21 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!


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Re: Learning to cook
« Reply #22 on: December 28, 2012, 06:56:19 PM »


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Re: Learning to cook
« Reply #23 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,, and all recipes to have suggestions emailed to you.


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Re: Learning to cook
« Reply #24 on: December 28, 2012, 07:43:52 PM »
I like the blog skinny taste 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


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Re: Learning to cook
« Reply #25 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. 


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Re: Learning to cook
« Reply #26 on: December 28, 2012, 07:50:15 PM »
Site worth bookmarking:  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


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Re: Learning to cook
« Reply #27 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


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Re: Learning to cook
« Reply #28 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!


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Re: Learning to cook
« Reply #29 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!
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