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taubele 01-18-2011 03:52 PM

Recipes for a cooking-phobe? :)
Hi everyone!

I always hate to admit it and get a little embarrassed, but I have an honest-to-goodness cooking phobia that I am trying very hard to overcome. To make a long story short - my parents never allowed me to help cook. I was "in the way" or "bothering them" and I wasn't to step foot in the kitchen. When I -did- try cooking on my own, I would often mess up, and be ridiculed for it. I developed a phobia not of fire or anything like that, but of serving inedible food, and whenever I step into a kitchen my palms just start to sweat.

My wonderful boyfriend has been helping me and I've made a lot of steps. I'm ok cooking one thing at a time, but when I have to combine several steps, I start to get flustered. My largest enemy in any recipe is "Meanwhile..."

I'm getting over it, I am, and I have become a master of casserole dishes and one-pan types of things. I also find it helpful to do a lot of prep work, like chopping veggies or meat, beforehand and then giving myself a ten minute break before I actually start cooking. Sometimes it makes me take an hour to cook something that should probably have taken 40 minutes, but that's ok.

I'd say my largest deficit is simply having a "sense" for food. My boyfriend keeps saying it will come in time, and I hope he's right. I am a slave to the timer, for example, and I can't really "tell" when things are done. I also have no clue about spices. Ah, well, one thing at a time (I totally learned how to make over-easy eggs for the first time last week, go me!)

In any case, I have a small repertoire of menus that is slowly becoming routine, and I'd like to spice it up and keep my education going a bit by adding new recipes. Last week I made a turkey meatball, orzo, and spinach soup that tasted pretty good - the broth was perhaps a bit bland, but I'm working on learning my spices :) I also found that after leaving the leftovers in the fridge for a couple of days and re-heating it, it tasted much better (more time for things to seep together, I suppose!).

Does anyone have any easy recipes - that perhaps might challenge me to do two (easy) things at once? I am a fan of pretty much all types of food, except for spicy food, as it tends to make my stomach upset for days on end. I am particularly reactive to cumin, so any recipes with that is a no-go. I aim for 300 cals for breakfast and 500 cals respectively for lunch and dinner, but there's wiggle room, as I have a 1500 cal/day goal. Boyfriend is more food-picky than I am, but he's been great about making his own food on days where he might not like the recipe I'm making (or adding things to it to make it more palatable to him).

Thanks very much for reading this (long) post, any advice and consideration -- and have a fantastic day!

mchedester 01-18-2011 04:23 PM

I have the same thing going on. For some reason, I get really stressed out when I have to multi-task my cooking tasks. For me it helps to have everything out that I am going to need and to read through all of the directions before I start. That way I will already have a plan. When it says "while this is cooking, do this" you will already know exactly what to do. And of course it helps to do all of the chopping beforehand like you said. Also, if you eat a lot of chopped onions or peppers or whatever, you can chop more than you need so you have them for the next recipe. It's really nice to have stuff already chopped up. I also make sure the kitchen is totally clean with all dishes washed before starting and get everything clean again when I'm done. Once you have the ingredients out and ready to go, and a plan, the rest almost takes care of itself.

SailorDoom 01-18-2011 11:14 PM

Not really a recipe recommendation, but I'd strongly suggest checking out a book called "Light Basics Cookbook" by Martha Rose Shulman. It helped me learn how to manage my time in the kitchen and (for most recipes) she tells you how to prepare your space and what items/ingredients you'll need to successfully cook the dish. The first third of the book is dedicated to describing different equipment, cooking methods and common ingredients and what to do with them (for instance, how to shop for tomatoes and common ways to prepare them, or what does it mean when a recipe instructs you to blanch something). The cookbook uses a fairly limited (and I'm using that term loosely) palate of ingredients, so she also recommends a weekly shopping list and what dry ingredients to have on hand in the pantry. The other thing that I really like is that each recipe serves as something of a foundation -- there are lots of different ways to prepare things depending on what you have on hand and you can use leftovers from one dish with a different recipe to change it up. Spices and cooking methods are suggested for different foods in general terms at the beginning of a chapter (for example, what are the options for cooking and seasoning kale, salmon, or different types of beans). I would describe the cuisine covered in the book as Mediterranean, with influences of Asian, Middle East and African cooking as well. Most of it is fairly simple food -- lots of beans, greens, eggs, chicken, and fish -- something for everyone. Even though I've become a pretty confident and adventurous cook, I find myself returning to this book cookbook (the first I owned) over and over again. Hope this helps a little! It sounds like you’re doing well and improving all the time!

SailorDoom 01-18-2011 11:27 PM

Oh! Just thought of one more recommendation -- check out or Eating Well Magazine. There are many one skillet meals on the website (I'll link two of my faves at the bottom of this post), but there are also some really solid "main dish with a side"-type recipes on there too. I don't know if you like fish, but I'll link an excellent salmon recipe from Eating Well that made me feel like I was eating at a fancy restaraunt instead of my kitchen.

One Skillet Meals (easily modified, boyfriend approved!)
One-Skillet Bean & Broccoli Rabe Supper | Eating Well
(if you're not familliar with it, broccoli rabe has a pretty bitter taste. I've tried this recipe with broccolini, which is like thin stalks of broccoli and also spinach with great results)
Skillet Gnocchi with Chard & White Beans | Eating Well

Salmon Recipe with Apricot Cous Cous (excellent and will likely challenge you!)
Cashew Salmon with Apricot Couscous | Eating Well

taubele 01-19-2011 12:06 AM

Thank you so much for the suggestions! I'll definitely check out the cookbook, it's the sort of information I need.

I'm still trying to get the boyfriend turned on to beans. He likes them refried and that' I know they're an easy way to get protein (especially since neither of us likes nuts - it's a texture thing) but he's being stubborn about it. He might eat it with spinach (about the only green thing he eats! Boys... his idea of vegetables are: potatoes, corn, spinach (cooked only), and raw carrots. Geez.) The salmon recipe might be a challenge (I love fish!)

I really appreciate the advice of all above :)

almeeker 01-19-2011 12:14 AM

My childhood was completely opposite of yours, I've been cooking since I was tall enough to reach the burners while standing on a stool. But I might be able to help as lately I've been teaching my children to cook. One thing I can tell you is that in order to work on things simultaneously you have to think of it backwards, estimate how long each piece will take and subtract that from dinner time, then start with the part that takes the longest. You must already be doing this to some degree if you are making stir fry and rice.

The first things I taught my children were how to brown meat and boil water. It sounds like you're past that, but once you can brown meat you can make all kinds of things by adding just a few ingredients. For example, beef stroganof is 1/2 a package of egg noodles boiled in water, ground burger (browned and drained), then to the meat add a tub of sour cream (or Greek yogurt), an 8 oz package of fresh sliced mushrooms, 1/2 a bag of frozen peas (optional) and a good handful of freshly cracked pepper. Plate the noodles first, then top with the meat mixture. This is especially yummy with ground turkey and a little onion browned together.

Chili is also very easy, in a large pot brown some ground meat, (turkey, chicken or beef), then drain and add 2 large cans of tomatoes, 2 cans of beans (red or black), chili powder to taste (1-2 Tbls). You can also brown chopped onions and peppers with the meat, but it's okay to cheat and buy the tomatoes with the onions and peppers already mixed in. That's it. Once everything is in the pot let it simmer while you whip up a couple of quesadillas for dipping.

There are several cookbooks out there with minimum ingredients and I think you can google "5 ingredient recipes", "6 ingredient recipes" etc. I don't have any of those cookbooks, because I know most of those recipes by heart, and those are the ones I've been teaching the kids. My favorite cookbooks are "Joy of Cooking" and "365 No Repeats" by Rachel Ray. I love Joy because it's like a dictionary for cooking, if I can't remember something about a certain cut of meat or a certain technique for pastry, I pull out Joy and it's in there. It's not condescending, it's easy to read and very much a step-by-step type of cookbook. Plus it's full of little history lessons about cooking. I like 365 because every recipe I've ever made from that book has turned out the first time and every time, even when I've made multiple substitutions because I didn't have all the ingredients on hand. I also quite like Paula Dean recipes, although I don't have any of her cookbooks, we just surf her stuff on Paula Dean recipes are not specifically healthy, but they are easy and my kids can make them almost independently from the first time through.

taubele 01-19-2011 02:10 PM

Thanks almeeker :)

My boyfriend has been so helpful (and had to fend for himself cooking since the age of 14 or so) and I've gotten past things like browning meat and boiling water, thank goodness (though you should have seen me the first time I put noodles to boil AND had to brown something, I kept thinking I was going to mess it up somehow, even though he assured me over and over that it's next to impossible to do so). Also, thank you for the chili recipe and the stroganoff recipe - those both sound pretty easy, and I've been wanting to come up with/find an easy chili recipe to try and get more beans into my diet. I have to be careful with the spices, but a nice mild chili I can probably handle.

Once I get a handle on cooking I certainly intend to teach my (future!) kids once they're ready to be in the kitchen. I wasted years on boxed foods, microwave meals, and constant takeout and fast food because I was scared of using my own kitchen. I don't want them to suffer the same fate, because I think that learning about food when I was young would have helped me tremendously.

Another thing is everyone talks about substitutions -- I am ok substituting, for example, one type of meat for another (i.e. ground turkey for ground beef) but it's often in other places where I get really stuck. If i recipe calls for a veggie I don't have, or a spice, or a sauce, I never know a) why that ingredient was called for in the first place and b) how to substitute it properly -- since I get that I probably need to balance out some other sort of flavor. I guess those are sorts of things to learn as I go!

canary52 01-19-2011 02:23 PM

Easy recipe. You can use it for chicken or shrimp. Serve it with pasta (linguini or spagetti is best). It's very forgiving, no measurements really (but I'll ballpark it)... You may need to double or triple the recipe depending on how many you're serving.

Put some olive oil in a frying pan (1-2T) I use a non stick but any pan is OK.
Put some butter or I use Earth Balance spread (2t- 1T)
Put in some chicken broth, (the taster the better) (1/2-3/4 c)
Put in some Marsala wine (get something decent Florio is good) (1/4 c)
Put in two chopped up garlic cloves, sprinkle in some parsley (not too much -1 t) some oregano (1/2 t). Salt and pepper to taste.

Cook down a bit (this is called reducing, don't get nervous.) Give it between 5-7 minutes. You can add shrimp or cut up chicken to it and let it cook soak up the sauce. Serve over pasta with lots of parmesan cheese.

Really it is to taste and easy to fix. Plus the parm cheese covers up a multitude of sins. Taste it. You'll know if it tastes too oily or has too much wine or needs more or less stock. You'll see. You may not coook but you do eat. You know what tastes good. Trust yourself. If you mess up one meal, so what? You order pizza and try again.

And just remember Paul Prudhomme, a famous New Orleans chef, invented blackening by burning the spices on his fish. Trust yourself, you'll do better than fine. Just remember, as someone I know once said, practice doesn't have to make perfect but practice does make better. Besides, you can get some fun stories about less than perfect meals. Ask my husband about the oyster sauce...

OK I'll tell you. I didn't bother to read the bottle. It said use 1 t and dilute with a cup or two of water. I used 3/4 of the bottle straight. Straight. And broiled it. It produced what can only be described as something looking like industrial sludge. We were first married. I cried it's awful don't eat it! My husband said it's OK honey once you scrape off this black stuff... We're still married over 20 years later....yeah the oyster sauce.... not to mention it probably had about 9 million grams of sodium. We tell that story to anyone who messes up a dish..even the best cooks do...

mchedester 01-19-2011 03:32 PM

Ok, I have to ask. Did you really need help or is this just an excuse to tell a bunch of people about your boy friend?

SailorDoom 01-19-2011 05:18 PM

Ok, I have to ask. Did you really need help or is this just an excuse to tell a bunch of people about your boy friend?
Aw! :mad: I don't think she did -- the original post was all about cooking! Plus, if you're cooking for more than just yourself, what that other person wants is a major consideration. If you like it and they don't, you're running at, like, 50% success. Thats a great stat in baseball, but not in cooking! :D

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