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Please help the world's worst cook

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Old 03-24-2008, 02:55 PM   #1
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Default Please help the world's worst cook

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??
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Old 03-24-2008, 03:07 PM   #2
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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.
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Old 03-24-2008, 03:15 PM   #3
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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!!!!
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Old 03-24-2008, 03:22 PM   #4
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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.
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Old 03-24-2008, 03:25 PM   #5
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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!
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Old 03-24-2008, 03:44 PM   #6
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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 foodnetwork.com they have everything.
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Old 03-24-2008, 04:36 PM   #7
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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. )


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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.


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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.

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Old 03-24-2008, 06:47 PM   #8
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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?
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Old 03-24-2008, 08:02 PM   #9
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Zucchini has a lot of water in it.
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Old 03-24-2008, 08:10 PM   #10
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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.
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Old 03-24-2008, 08:15 PM   #11
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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.
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Old 03-24-2008, 08:35 PM   #12
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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).
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Old 03-25-2008, 06:19 PM   #13
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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!
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Old 03-25-2008, 06:22 PM   #14
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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.

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Old 03-26-2008, 12:13 AM   #15
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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. What's for dinner?
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