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I am a non-cooker - help!

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Old 08-29-2010, 12:28 PM   #1
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Default I am a non-cooker - help!

don't let me mislead you, I can cook... SOME stuff, I mean baking a chicken breast & ripping open a frozen Green Giant veggie is normal in my house. I can pan-sear a nice tilapia, or throw some lean pork chops on broil and enjoy it with long grain rice and black-eye peas....

BUT! -

I've never been much of a cook at all. I don't have the inclination to become a sensation in the kitchen - it's just never interested me. I don't know anything about herbs & spices (beyond salt & pepper) and I am not the type to buy a bunch of stuff to chop up & put in homemade soups, etc. If a meal requires 30 minutes prep time and 30 minutes cook time, forget it. Or say it has more than 4 ingredients, I'm in deep-fry trouble, LOL I have no idea how to sautee something (did I even spell "sautee" correctly? I doubt it!) and I can't break down a meal meant for 4 into a meal meant for 2 (just the hubby & me... no kids)

I don't fry anything; I bake or broil or boil or we grill it outside. We eat red meat very sparingly, mostly chicken, turkey, lean pork (lean beef, yes) and fish/seafood.

I don't eat veggies whose name I can't pronounce (and please, someone tell me.. what is "quinoa"?? ....off to google!!!!)

I mean....look at this - this is probably a very simple recipe and probably tastes pretty good, but I wouldn't know!
A one-skillet quinoa recipe - quinoa, corn, chopped kale and pan-toasted tofu tossed with a big dollop of pesto and finished off with a few roasted cherry tomatoes.

Pan-toasted tofu????? "Dollop" of pesto?? Chopped kale?!?!?!? Ack.

I've tried to find a good cook book or diet for "people who don't cook" - as I'm really trying to do better health-wise & weight wise for me & the handsome one.

So.... any suggestions? ~thanks in advance for responses!!
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Last edited by Beach Patrol : 08-29-2010 at 12:31 PM.
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Old 08-29-2010, 01:31 PM   #2
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To branch out in terms of cooking skills, I highly recommend using a recipe website like allrecipes.com. Their recipes are all reviewed and rated, so that you get tips on how to tweak it or what to change to make it turn out perfect. The website also has a great "ingredient search" feature where you can put in what you have in the house and what you don't want, e.g. exclude all recipes with kale, and it will find recipes using only those ingredients. You can also search by prep-time, total cooking time, and dietary categories like high fiber, vegetarian, dairy free, etc. It's pretty great! I went from being a cooking newbie to a foodie who loves to cook just because I think I learned how to use so many spices and ingredients that I hadn't previously used. And there are tons of recipes that are simple and don't take much time. Trust me - I'm in medical school and I don't have time to chop and marinate stuff all day!

Once you feel more comfortable in the kitchen, the idea of just throwing some things into the pan, sauteeing, and creating a meal won't be quite as intimidating. What goes together will definitely become intuitive although it does take practice! The nice thing about using recipes is that most of them tell you exactly step-by-step what you need to do, so even if you're new to cooking, you can probably still figure it out. One more thing - be open to experimentation! Search for a simple recipe with quinoa or better yet, whole wheat couscous. Couscous takes the amount of time it takes to boil water, so it's a busy person's best friend.
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Old 08-30-2010, 03:51 AM   #3
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I sympathize, believe me. This was my mom, and still is. But have no fear, my brother and I turned into pretty darn good cooks, and she has improved really a lot over the years, even though we still occasionally have to gently steer her away from MOM DO NOT PUT THAT INTO THE -- NO THAT DOES NOT BELONG IN CHICKEN SOUP. PUT IT DOWN.

Where was I? Do you know who Alton Brown is? He has a cooking show on the Food Channel called Good Eats, and you can find recipes from the shows and also links to videos here: Good Eats.

He organizes shows either around a type of food (mushrooms, say) or a procedure like I don't know, "blending" or grilling. He is very good about explaining WHY to do things a certain way as well as HOW, and I've learned a lot from him even though I've been cooking for decades. He can be kind of funny too. And one of the best things is that simplicity in equipment and technique is one of his themes.

I think he has some books too, probably any one you could find in your local library or bookstore would be a good start.

I've heard good things about Mark Bittman's book How to Cook Anything. (He has a regular column in the New York Times, The Minimalist, about cooking good things with as little fuss as possible.

If you have a "read the manual" or wanting to know about all the nuts and bolts kind of personality (or someone in your family) look into Cook's Illustrated magazine at your local library, or into one of their books like on baking. They are the engineer's/scientist's sort of approach to cooking, tinkering with old standard recipes to figure out what produces the best results (ONE teaspoon of flour? or ONE AND A QUARTER?!?), and then figuring out why.

If you are more about inspiration and discoveries, one of my favorite cooking blogs is The Kitchn (no e), and especially look through their archives; you can search for things like "black beans".

Also, there no reason you can't have a good diet and eat good foods while using the cooking techniques you are using. I've turned a lot more to grilling and roasting from pan-frying as I started calorie counting, and there are days that go by now that I don't turn on my stove burners at all. Oh! and that's what sauteeing is basically, just a fancier term for pan-frying, and dollops and all those things are just fancier words for a "a spoonful". Dieting is deciding how big a spoonful you're going to use.

Last edited by bronzeager : 08-30-2010 at 03:58 AM.
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Old 08-30-2010, 12:29 PM   #4
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!!!!

Thank you Cheryl and bronzeager!! - that's certainly a few good places to start!! I'll check out your suggestions today!!
__________________
CHANGE IS HARD.
BUT PERPETUAL DISSATISFACTION AIN'T NO PICNIC EITHER!


You CAN have ANYTHING you want,
but you CAN'T have EVERYTHING you want!
~my mama!
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Old 08-30-2010, 12:39 PM   #5
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Hey, Beach patrol.

I'm in the exact same boat as you. I am trying to get myself to cook. Yesterday, I bought a butternut squash and then Googled "How to cook a butternut squash." I didn't try to find a fancy recipe. Just needed to cook the thing.

Turns out all I had to do was cut it in half, take out the seeds, and bake in at 375 for 30 minutes. Didn't need seasoning at all. Tasted great.

And thanks to Google, I found out you can roast squash seeds. So I roasted the seeds for 20 minutes in a 200 degrees. It was a tasty snack.

Yay, Google.

My next task is to conquer some baby eggplant I bought on impulse.
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