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justasinger posted 4/14/2014 15:29 PM

I'm not much of a cook, so I'm trying out mixing two different box dinners... cheesy ham and hash browns, and cheesy pasta and broccoli...

MissMouseMo posted 4/14/2014 15:47 PM

Let us know how your little science experiment turns out.

Leia posted 4/14/2014 17:37 PM

PM me if you want some cooking tips. I like to think I'm a decent cook.

ThoughtIKnewYa posted 4/14/2014 17:51 PM

Ham, cheese, and broccoli go together well, but I've never had potatoes and pasta. Well, actually I have- they're called Pierogies. I'm sure it will be okay. Personally, I despise the boxed cheese mixes, but not everyone does.

TrustedHer posted 4/14/2014 17:54 PM

I think it's a good idea to pick a few dishes and learn how to make them. Start simple:

Bacon and Eggs
Grilled Cheese
Crockpot pork butt (shoulder roast)

Use a basic recipe, make it over and over until you get it right, and then you can start to play with it. Add different ingredients to your omelets, add ham or bacon to your grilled cheese, different kinds of flour for the pancakes.

Expand your recipes slowly, by adding one new dish at a time. Simple, stick-to-your-ribs stuff.

Tater-tot casserole (which I learned from SI)
Beans and Ham
Stir-Fry beef, chicken, pork
Meat loaf (I use 1 pound each of ground beef and ground pork)

Next to cats, the most common thing on the internet is recipes Google is your cooking friend and partner.

There are a lot of good beginner cookbooks now, if the recipes you find are too intimidating. A lot of them are aimed at college students and young singles, but the goal is the same: Educate the beginner.

Here's my favorite title:
"Help, My Apartment Has A Kitchen!"

Don't know if the book is any good, but I love the title...

ThoughtIKnewYa posted 4/14/2014 18:34 PM


I married a French-trained chef. You'd think that would mean I was eating 'fancy' food all of the time, but he was so tired after work that he never cooked at home. I started out as "The Casserole Queen" and slowly branched out. Today, my H considers himself the second best cook in the house. And we're actually putting together a business plan based on my recipes and his knowledge of costing.

Like TrustedHer said, start simple and just keep working at it. This site has lots of easy recipes:

Most of all, have fun!

MissesJai posted 4/14/2014 18:34 PM

There are a TON of chefs here on SI - we'd love to help you sharpen your culinary skills - pun intended

Sad in AZ posted 4/14/2014 20:17 PM

Buy a crockpot and get the cookbook "101 things to cook in a crockpot with 3 or fewer ingredients" (or something like that )

You'll be a chef in no time!

stronggirl72 posted 4/14/2014 20:26 PM

Pastas and rices are one of the best ways to break into the cooking game. Here are a few variations:

Jarred pesto can be found in the pasta aisle and is awesome if mixed with spaghetti, ravioli or penne and topped with parmesan cheese and chopped fresh tomatoes or even cooked chicken slices. Super easy!

Another great thing is to mix a Near East brand couscous (any flavor) with a frozen seafood filet that come with its own sauce (there are quite a few new on the market these days). Prepare it according to the recipe on the box and top with the fish.

How about a fresh salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cheese cubes) with steak or grilled chicken on top and your favorite dressing?

Hope these inspire you. Good luck and congrats on your efforts!

positively4thst posted 4/14/2014 20:30 PM

Please, please check out Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution!! You can search videos on Utube or google recipes. Just check him out and then throw out the boxed food. You have so much more potential than you think you do!!!!!

positively4thst posted 4/14/2014 20:33 PM

Please Google his TED talk.

Dreamboat posted 4/14/2014 20:47 PM

I have become the queen of cooking chicken recently. DD is an athlete and chicken is about the only protein she will eat when she is training.

Easy steps:
* Buy Perdue Individually wrapped boneless skinless Chicken breasts (This works well for 2 people; you can also just buy chicken cutlets in the meat section, but you usually have to trim the fat and cartilage yourself; if you buy chicken breasts then you will want to slice them in half to make flat cutlets)
* Get a ziplock bag and put the chicken in the bag with the marinade (recipes to follow) Make sure most of the air is out of the bag when you zip it; I like to also pound the chicken flat at this point (in the bag) (get your heaveiest spacula or spoon and whack it a few times per side); Put in the fridge for 20 minutes or longer, up to overnight
* If cooking on the stove, Heat a skillet on high for a couple of minutes; Turn down to medium high, add oil (or use cooking spray); If cooking on the grill, heat the grill
* Place the chicken in the skillet or grill and cook for about 3 minutes on each side; You can cut the chicken while in the pan to verify that it is not pink; Yout don;t want to overcook because then it is dry, but worse is serving pink chicken!
* Serve with any sides and/or veg of your choice


Mexican: lemon or lime juice (about 2-3 T per chicken breast) olive or vegetable oil (about 1-2 T per chicken breast), salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, paprika, red pepper (if you want it hot)

Lemon Garlic: lemon juice (about 2-3 T per chicken breast) olive or vegetable oil (about 1-2 T per chicken breast), salt, black pepper, garlic powder, lemon pepper (optional)

Moroccan: lemon or white wine vinegar (about 2-3 T per chicken breast) olive or vegetable oil (about 1-2 T per chicken breast), salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cumin, ground coriander, turmeric red pepper (if you want it hot)

Oriental: rice wine vinegar (about 2-3 T per chicken breast) olive or vegetable oil (about 1-2 T per chicken breast), soy sauce (about 2-3 T per chicken breast), garlic powder, onion powder, ginger, sesame oil (optional)

For the spices, start with a few shakes. It is better to under spice than over spice and you can always add salt at the dinner table. Adjust to your tastes (I use garlic in everything but I realize some people are not fans)

And the recipe is adaptable. The basic premise is acid (lemon, lime, vinegar) and oil plus some spices.

Then add a side of veg (frozen, canned, fresh), salad, rice or noodle dish, potato of some kind, pasta with olive oil, fruit, etc. Pick one or two and you are golden.

justasinger posted 4/15/2014 06:58 AM

Wow, lots of great ideas in these posts. I actually love to cook breakfast. I make kick ass pancakes. I do omelets and bacon and eggs and French toast, it's the non breakfast meal that gets me. I'm fairly good at following direction (I have made some decent lasagna and some pretty good chicken parm, as well as shepherd's pie). I'm just horrible at the shopping aspect, and I can't really look in the cupboard and go, "Hey, I can just use this and this and this, and make this". There's a lot of preparation for me when it comes to making a meal, I can't just make it up as I go. That casserole turned out fine (once we added ranch dressing,... LOL) My kids love ranch dressing.
And I think I have the only 4yo in the world that doesn't like mac and cheese. What I'd really love to see is a website where I could input what ingredients I have on hand, and it will spit out options for easy meals... lol...
Dunno, I've just never been in the position where I needed to cook the meals. When it was me by myself, I would usually just buy two large pizza's every other day, and fill in the gaps with cereal and ramen noodles...
Edited to add...
Its very difficult for me to juggle so many things, jeez, I don't know how my mom did it. Or any mom for that matter. I'm not back to work yet, but once I am I just feel there's just no way for me to take care of all of this alone. Taking care of the ducks (granted, they will get much easier very soon, right now they are ducklings, once they get in the permanent coop I'll only have to feed and water them once a day). Then the dogs (would be easy if I didn't have the puppy that cant seem to figure out that OUTSIDE is where she's supposed to relieve herself). Then the horses, they aren't too bad really, but it all adds up, ya know? And I'm pretty sure I'm getting a beef cow this year.
Ok, this just turned into something It wasn't supposed to be... lol I'm sure I'll get it figured out. I'm looking into nanny's for when I get back to work...

[This message edited by justasinger at 7:08 AM, April 15th (Tuesday)]

StrongerOne posted 4/15/2014 07:39 AM

Soup and the freezer are your friends. I have chhickens, cats, and a kid (there are other pets, but the H and kid are in charge of them), working ft, so I hear ya!

Shopping and knowing how long things take to cook and how long they can stand around after cooking -- these are the harder things to learn.

Can you take a couple hours somewhere in the week to cook ahead? If you can make a big batch of whatever, then freeze portions, that is a big help. So, lentils (they cook in under 30 minutes; you can make soup, or you can drain them and toss them with italian dressing/feta/tomatoes, or mix them with rice for pilaf as a side...), any kind of beans (soup, mix with corn/green onion/bell pepper, veggie burritos...), hummus, big batch of pasta sauce.
[ETA: you may need to add water along the way. If it's too thick, not soupy, especially after you add the pasta or rice, add some liquid]

Easy minestrone -- Can of diced or petite diced tomatoes, can of cannellini or garbanzo beans (rinsed), baby carrots right from the bag, green beans (fresh or frozen, don't need to thaw), smash some garlic cloves, chop an onion, can or two of broth (veggie, chicken, beef -- doesn't matter). You can saute the onion and garlic first, but don't have to. Throw it in a large pot. Crank the heat. Simmer, throw in italian seasoning, salt, pepper. Throw in a handful of tiny pasta or barley or rice or just break up some spaghetti. Simmer some more, then throw in a bag of frozen spinach. You can throw in some cut up chicken, or cooked sausage, or premade meatballs. Or make it meatless. Serve with salad, bread. Freezes great. (lol -- "throw" is my fave cooking action!)

Veggies: I steam or stir fry most of the veggies we eat, unless they are in salad. I buy whatever is in season and is a reasonable price.

Shopping -- I always have two cans of each kind of beans (garbanzo, black, cannellini or navy, pinto, refries), dried beans and lentils, rice, different pasta shapes, canned tomatoes (two of each: whole, diced, petite diced) and tom sauce and tom paste. Couscous is great because it is even easier and faster than pasta. Grits (my H is a southerner). Always have some hillshire farm polish sausage in the freezer, frozen spinach, frozen sweet pepper strips. CAnned soup, of course. Several cans each of chicken, beef, and veggie broth.

Whole wheat tortillas. These are awesome for quick quesadillas, which was my son's favorite breakfast for a long time. Hot skillet, throw in a tortilla, sprinkle on shredded cheese, add some hot sauce if you like, put another tortilla on top of it. When the bottom tortilla starts to puff and the cheese starts melting, flip it over, brown, done. Five minutes. If you add something like cooked chicken (warm it in the micro first) or even crabmeat, that's lunch or dinner.

I love the Zatarain's mixes. (Buy the low sodium versions) Great when you are waaaaaay too tired to cook.

Eggs, yogurt, cheese (buy pre-shredded, you're busy and there is no shame in it!).

I'm a very good cook NOW, and I do canning, pickles, all that sort of stuff now -- but a lot of my cooking is the easy stuff.

Have fun!

Oh yeah, and Jamie Oliver is the bomb!

[This message edited by StrongerOne at 7:42 AM, April 15th (Tuesday)]

Sad in AZ posted 4/15/2014 10:05 AM

What I'd really love to see is a website where I could input what ingredients I have on hand, and it will spit out options for easy meals

Try different cooking websites--I think Cooking Light magazine's site has a function like this. Southern Living has great recipes; Cooking Channel, etc. Get googling!

Chrysalis123 posted 4/15/2014 10:52 AM has an ingredient search feature

Dreamboat posted 4/15/2014 10:56 AM

The key is to plan ahead. I keep a list of all of my go-to meals, including the sides I usually serve with them. It is an ever changing list as I add new things and things fall off the list because DD no longer likes them. Then once week I plan the meals (DD helps pick the menu) and then create my shopping list. And I do literally plan what we will have for each specific day based upon what we have going on and how much time I will have to cook that day.

I make sure that I always have certain staples in the pantry: pasta, spaghetti sauce, tomatoes, salsa, canned fruit, etc. I stock up on those when there is a sale.

Since your kids love ranch, you can serve raw veggies (carrot sticks, broccoli trees, cucumber slices,...) with ranch for most dinners. Add on a quick fruit like apple sauce, pineapple tidbits, or mandarin oranges. Make sure you always have those. Then you just have to plan for a protein and a starch.

Start your list with things the kids like to eat and are easy to cook:
Spaghetti and meatballs/meat sauce
Fish sticks
Chicken nuggets
Grilled chicken
Sloppy joe
Soup and sandwich

Then expand the list as your cooking skill improve and your DDs taste mature and change.

Good luck!

Pentup posted 4/15/2014 11:17 AM

Download the app BigOven. You type in what you have, it gives you recipes

tushnurse posted 4/15/2014 15:55 PM

I will let you in on a secret Justa, cooking is just following directions, and if you can read you can do that, what makes a good cook from a bad cook is one that is willing to experiment a bit. If it sounds good, but you more pepper, add some.

Some of the most awesome meals are the easiest to make too. Turkey Breast, Salt and Pepper that sucker, throw it in the oven for the amount of time it says voila Dinner and left overs. Stove top stuffing, super easy. Steam some veggies and done.

I was never a fan of the premix meals, like hamburger helper, or tuna helper etc. I think you get more bang for your buck by making some noodles, and pouring a jar of sauce over it, and cooking your meat.

Don't be afraid to try new things, and keep a few frozen pizzas in the freezer just in case it's inedible.

GabyBaby posted 4/15/2014 20:42 PM

As of right now, this slow cooker eBook is free on Amazon:

200 or so recipes for the taking, but they usually don't stay on the freebie list for more than a day or so.

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