Food Talk And Fabulous Finds - Please help the world's worst cook

03-24-2008, 03:55 PM
Hey guys, I need some serious help! I am on a calorie diet (1,200) and I'm the world's worst cook, so I usually end up eating processed and frozen foods. While this gets me the 1,200 calories of my diet, I usually end up going way overboard on sodium and other bad things. I need help!! I bought a cookbook but all the recipes seem so complicated and overwhelming. I'm a slightly picky eater so all of these weird herbs and spices mixed together doesn't sound very tasty. I just want to learn how to cook basic stuff. I want to learn how to cook fish and vegetables. I always over-steam my veggies and they end up like mush. I live near Seattle so halibut and salmon are the local fish for me, which I like but don't know how to cook fresh fish. I also want to cook rice or beans, but all the rice I see is loaded with sodium. Any suggestions??

03-24-2008, 04:07 PM
I know there are a few good recipes on the top of the 300+ forum. I post there and am always hearing of good recipes. I spray a cookie sheet with conola oil and then pile on frozen veggies mix. I then lightly spray the veggie...spinkle them with garlic powder and bake for about 30 min. You can adjust the time based on how you like your veggies. Im not a fresh fish cooker. I usually just order it out. I do lots of chicken.
good luck

03-24-2008, 04:15 PM
I think you just need practice! Try steaming your veggies for a bit shorter time until you get them the way you want.

Do you have a good basic cookbook? Something like Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Garden? I know the BH&G has some specifically low fat recipes, if that is what you are interested in. If you don't want to buy a cookbook, see what you can find at your local library.

My DH loves rice and beans. He cooks them himself from scratch. You buy a bag of beans or rice and follow the directions on the package. I know some folks swear by the small appliance called a "rice cooker". I don't have one, so I can't say if it is a "must have".

There are a lot of variables involved in cooking. You just have to jump in and try. Most of the time things are still edible, even if they aren't perfect. If you think you won't like a certain combination of spices just leave it out and use however much salt and pepper you like. Good Luck!!!!

03-24-2008, 04:22 PM
Rice doesn't need to have any sodium in it. I tend to eat rice the way they do in most Asian countries, which is no salt at all. When you serve rice with flavorful entrees you don't need the salt. I would suggest you pick yourself up a rice cooker. It's fool proof and you get perfect rice every time.

Beans aren't really difficult, they are just time consuming. They need to be sorted (to pick out small stones~if any), rinsed, soaked overnight, and then boiled in lots of water (don't salt until they are almost done or they will take forever to cook.) Then just add to per whatever recipe you are using.

As far as fish is concerned, one of the easiest methods is to bake it in a foil packet. Set your oven for 400 degrees F. Put fish on a large piece of foil (large enough to wrap around with room to spare.) Add seasonings (dill, salt, pepper, etc.) and a little bit of liquid (1-2 Tablespoons-ish) of your choice (wine, vinegar, juice, water, etc.) and then crimp up the side so that no steam can escape. Then bake for 15-25 minutes or until fish is opaque and flakes off with a fork. Time will vary depending on thickness, but most of the time what I buy is done in 20 minutes. You can also add cut up veggies in the foil packs with the fish.

Steaming veggies doesn't take nearly as long as most people think. Just 5 minutes can over cook some softer veggies. I'd suggest that you test them with a fork while you are steaming them. When the fork can barely pierce them they should be done. The goal is to get them crisp tender right?

I would suggest that you try to find a good cookbook that has super simple recipes in it. A good basic one. I've purchased Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen as a gift several times. It has very basic recipes and is geared at people who have never cooked. How to Cook Everything: The Basics by Mark Bittman is a good one too.

03-24-2008, 04:25 PM
Have you tried the new "Steam packets" of veggies? They are in the frozen section-3 packs in each bag. I had broccoli w/ garlic butter today; really good--not mushy--and an entire pack is 101cal, 2g fat, and 6 g fiber (2 WW points). I would start there for a quick fix.

I know nothing about salmon, but I think halibut is lilke flounder? I cook flounder and tilapia in the frying pan w/ spray (0 fat) butter and lots of garlic powder and lemon pepper. Cook on medium to medium-low until flaky and opaque (usually 3-5 mins a side depending on how thick).

Rice in the microwave is easiest for me. White rice, double the water (like if you cook 1 cup of rice, add 2 cups of water), cover and microwave for 15-20 mins. Then add spray butter, salt & pepper, etc. You will find that starting with a plain base is much healthier (don't salt the water). Also, instead of water you could use low-sodium chicken broth to infuse some flavor.

I would also recommend spaghetti squash. I, too, am a picky eater. The thought of "squash" is repulsive, BUT it really does taste like whatever you flavor it with. I stab one a few times, microwave for 7-10 mins. Then cut open, take all the seeds and pumpkiny stuff out. Then, use a fork and scrap the sides and it will come apart and look like spaghetti noodles. I use spray butter (again), garlic powder, and shredded parmesean. It's yummy (though not as good as when I was low-carbing and put full-blown alfredo on it!)!

Hope these help!

03-24-2008, 04:44 PM
I didn't really know how to cook until I had my 4th (and final) child. Here is something really easy with chicken. Spray an oven safe dish with Pam. lay 3-4 chicken breasts (fat cut off) no bone, no skin. Pour some low calorie, low carb italian salad dressing (depends on your daily calorie intake, check the back of the bottle as to how much to use) over the chicken, put in the oven at 350 degrees until liquid runs clear and chicken is cooked through. It's so yummy and tender. Good to eat with the oven baked veggies also. Good luck. Also try they have everything.

03-24-2008, 05:36 PM
Here are a few simple recipes for you:

My favorite brown rice recipe (courtesy of Alton Brown):

1/2 cups brown rice, medium or short grain
2 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Place the rice into an 8-inch square glass baking dish.

Bring the water and butter to just to a boil in a kettle or covered saucepan. Once the water boils, pour it over the rice, stir to combine, and cover the dish tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour.

(I make this recipe once a week and use it as the base for a lot of other stuff. Fresh out of the oven, it can be served warm with fish or chicken and has a great, mild, nutty taste.

Refrigerate what's left, and the next day you can mix it with chopped tomatoes, a little bit of diced red onion, and a can of black beans. Top with some low fat Italian dressing and toss for a yummy, filling, and nutritious lunch salad. )


The basic rule for baking fish is 6 / 10 / 400. That's 6 oz of fish, cooked for 10 minutes, in a 400 deg oven.

Take any 6 oz fish filet or steak, pat it dry with a paper towel. Brush the skin side (if there is skin) lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle the top with a little kosher salt. Sprinkle with lemon juice if you have some, or dust lightly with lemon pepper seasoning. Bake as above.

I bake mine in the toaster oven and it always comes out perfectly.


Another recommendation - get yourself a George Foreman grill. I swear by mine. Marinate a boneless, skinless chicken breast in light Italian dressing for about 30 mins. Then put the breast on the grill. Cook for 7 mins, flip over and cook for 5 more mins. Yummy grilled chicken, easy and quick. Serve with the rice above.


More later ... gotta run for a meeting.


03-24-2008, 07:47 PM
All those recipes sound great! I do have a Foreman grill. I tried marinating chicken breast in Italian dressing once and cooking it in a skillet, but I burned the dressing before the chicken was cooked and it was black and lost its flavor. I think I will try the oven-cooked fish this week. I like squash/zucchini and I steamed some the other day in one of those Ziploc steam bags. I cooked it for the right amount of time (I think) but the zucchini was so watery! I didn't add any water, it just came from the vegetables. Is this normal?

03-24-2008, 09:02 PM
Zucchini has a lot of water in it.

03-24-2008, 09:10 PM
Marinate boneless skinless chicken breasts in balsamic vinegar in a ziplock bag while you're pre-heating the grill. Then cook on the grill for the amount of time called for the the Foreman grill guideline. Easy, juicy and tasty with no added calories from oil.

03-24-2008, 09:15 PM
Another good cookbook to try is the American Heart Association Quick & Easy Cookbook ( Just about everything in it is easy peasy and most is very low calories, so the recipes will fit easily into a 1200 calorie diet (and the book provides nutritional info for every recipe).

It's very easy to broil chicken or fish. Just lightly season the chicken or fish with whatever you want (salt & pepper, lemon pepper, a no-salt seasoning mix like Mrs. Dash, etc.). Stick it in a pre-heated broil and check after 4-5 min. If it's not done, flip it over and check again in another 4-5 min (less if it is close to done). Fish will flake easily with a fork when it is done. Chicken won't have any pink left in the center. Then you can top the chicken or fish with salsa, chutney, or a marinara sauce.

For rice, I agree with everyone else about skipping the pre-flavored varieties. Try brown rice cooked with chicken broth instead of water (just replace all the water with chicken broth) for extra flavor. Or replace part of the water with light coconut milk for a nice creamy texture (if you are making 1 cup of rice, replace 1/2 cup water with 1/2 cup light coconut milk). Another idea is to stir salsa into the cooked rice--it's sort of like instant Spanish rice.

You also might try roasting your veggies instead of steaming them. Cut them into the individual-sized pieces, toss with a small amount of olive oil (sometimes I skip this and they usually still come out great), then stick them in the oven at around 400 degrees. Check every five minutes until they reach the tenderness you want. After they are cooked, toss with a little seasoning (some ideas to try are salt and pepper, lemon pepper, a seasoning mix like Mrs. Dash, a little fresh-squeezed lemon or orange juice, or balsamic vinegar). You could also bake your fish or chicken in the oven right alongside the veggies.

03-24-2008, 09:35 PM
Do you have a slow cooker (i.e. crockpot)? They are very easy to cook with, you basically throw everything together (as per recipe), turn it on, leave it alone, come back in 8 hours and you have enough food for 3 days.
Look at some slow cooker recipe books at your local library to see if that's something you would like (so that you don't buy right away).

03-25-2008, 07:19 PM
I have a crockpot, but all I know how to make is pot roast, which I know is fattening. I would LOVE to learn how to make homemade soups, like chicken noodle. I bought a Better Homes & Gardens Dieter's Cookbook yesterday and I'm going through the recipes. Maybe I'll be brave enough to try one tonight!

03-25-2008, 07:22 PM
Pot roast doesn't have to be fattening. A lean cut of roast, some veggies, and some veggie stock make a fantastic pot roast - and very healthy.


03-26-2008, 01:13 AM
I agree with Photochick ... anything and vegetables ... pork loin chops, chicken, turkey ... lean of course ... carrots, onion, celery, potato. I just add a splash of water.

There was a great thread yesterday called 'what's for dinner'. I'll see if I can find a link.

04-05-2008, 07:41 PM
You could check out the ABS 6 minute meal cookbook from Men's Health. It goes along with the ABS diet but it's mostly healthy and sensible. The nice thing about the 6 minute one is that most of the recipes are simple.

My theory is this book is for guys and the stereotypical thinking is guys don't like to cook but they do like to eat.

They encourage the use of already cooked chicken. You can't really screw that up. Avoid the skin of course. I usually eat it as chicken and then pick whatever is left and use it in a pasta (or rice) sauce.

This recipe is from the book. Easy and hardly any cooking except the pasta. 10 minutes and you'll be eating.
2 ounces Barilla Plus whole wheat pasta - penne or rotini anything like that
12-14 precooked shrimp
3 cups chopped spinach
1 tomato chopped
3 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese
2 tablespoons diced walnuts
3 tablespoons ready made pesto -
i have tried pastene found in the Italian section at the grocery and Classico found in the pasta sauce section both are good I think I like the Classico better.

I boil the water for the pasta but before I put the pasta in I toss in the frozen shrimp.
Let them thaw and remove into large bowl that you are going to toss all this in.

Cook the pasta.

While that's cooking throw the rest of the stuff in the bowl.

When the pasta is done just drain don't rinse and toss in the bowl.
Mix it up and eat. This takes maybe 10-12 minutes to make depending on how long you cook the pasta.

5 powerfoods.
2 servings described here
372 calories per serving 19g protein, 29 g carbs, 21 g total fat, 5 g saturated fat, 488 mg sodium, 5 g fiber

This is good cold as pasta salad too.

04-08-2008, 02:15 PM
Mmmm. This sounds really good. Even better as a pasta salad.

04-08-2008, 10:45 PM
Oh, bless you!

I agree that something like Delia Smith's 'How To Cook' would be a useful thing to start with - the kind of book that assumes you have NO IDEA what the **** to do in the kitchen, as is true of so many people these days. That would be a nice helpful starting point, and would explain about things like how to cut and clean veggies, or the names of kitchen utensils or whatever. Nobody is born knowing this stuff - some people get the chance to learn it at school or at home, but lots of people don't, and there ARE recipe books out there pitched at absolute beginners.

Look, love, don't freak out about things being complicated and 'getting it wrong', or about recipes being carved in stone. It's just a learning curve. I love cooking, but I really can't be arsed with recipes - I'm very much a DIY girl.

If you'd like to make soup, then vegetable soup is EASY EASY EASY and yummy.

Get a biggish pan.

Get some veggies you like. (I'd always include onions, because they are yummy, imho, but use whatever you like.)

Get maybe a stock cube or two (I tend to use chicken or vegetable, but use whatever you like. Or don't bother! They're just an easy way to get something flavourful as a base.)

Wash the veggies.

Chop up the veggies into little weeny bits. (I don't normally bother removing skins unless we're talking onions or something, where you have to. Just make sure the skin is clean.)

Put water in pan and heat it up till it starts to bubble.

Sling in a stock cube or two.

Add the onions first - they take quite a while to cook.

Add everything else. (If you have any leftovers sitting around in the fridge - like leftover cooked veggies, leftover chicken, leftover sauce, leftover rice, leftover ANYTHING, pretty much - chop 'em up and add them too!)

Let it cook until it looks and tastes like soup (probably at LEAST 20 mins, but really, you can cook it for ages and it will just keep getting nicer and soupier. Just keep an eye on it from time to time to check it doesn't boil over or run out of water.

Now, sure, you can make it more complicated - you can add salt'n'pepper, or soy sauce, or chili, or whatever other things you like in your food. But basically, soup is just bits of stuff chopped up and slung in water and boiled. (Boiled on a LOW heat, so it simmers gently, rather than on the top heat, so it goes all Volcanotastic on you.) And you can make soup out of ANYTHING! And you can put it in the fridge, and then you can use leftover soup as the base for another new soup, and sling DIFFERENT leftovers in it (pot roast, or stir fry, or whatever the **** is lying around), and heat it up again, and bingo you have an entirely new soup!

BUT DON'T FEEL BAD IF IT DOES BOIL OVER OR RUN OUT OF WATER! (Or if you burn the toast or whatever, you know?) Because these things happen to all cooks, including the ones that write the recipe books! It's fine - it's just a matter of practicing so you get the hang of it, same as learning baseball or parallel parking or any other thing. You can't have good judgment about a thing until you've had the chance to practice for a bit, you know?

04-15-2008, 09:24 AM
The super-lazy, "I need to eat REALLY SOON" alternative to major soups is to pick up a packet of pre-diced fresh veggies (not the dried ones, and not the flavourless frozen ones*) at the supermarket. These are usually sold as 'soup mix' in Australia (no idea what they're called elsewhere), but you can also check out some of the more obscure packages labeled as 'coleslaw mix' - they often have carrots and all sorts in there. Plain, raw, diced veggies that you don't have to cut up... that's what to hunt for.

Boil your kettle. Throw boiling water in a pot. Add chicken-flavoured stock. Bring to boil, add veggies. 10-15 minutes later, call it soup and eat it.

This is not in any way an awe-inspiring recipe, but if you're walking in the door hungry and otherwise inclined to scoff 4 slices of toast while dinner's cooking (not that I'd do any such thing, of course... *cough*) then you quickly learn the value of semi-instant soup with a practically zero calorie count. ;)

*Peas and corn are okay for adding in, and to be fair, the diced mix that has carrot, potato, etc in it can be tolerable when added to fresh vegetables... just bear in mind that it's not suitable for making soup on its own as it doesn't taste like anything when cooked on its own.