Ashamed of myself!

sonottacookAugust 3, 2009

I'm really ashamed to admit this but I am 35 years old, a wife and new mother and I don't know how to cook. I mean it's not like I can't cook anything...I'm really good at opening cans...HAHA...and I do have a couple of things that I can make decently well from scratch. My problem is that my mom never cooked. We ate out, made sandwiches or ate total junk food. I then moved in with my aunt and uncle and we had homecooked meals every night but she never taught me how to cook. I know it's my fault that I never took the time to learn anything but you do what you grew up with most of the time so cooking was never important to me. Me and hubby eat fast food so much it's unreal (and expensive). Also, since cooking was never a big deal grocery shopping wasn't either so I really don't know how to "bargain shop"...meaning I really don't know what a good price is on meat, produce and stuff like that. I'm just starting the coupon thing and learning a bit about bargain shopping but with no help or no one to give adcvice it's really tough. Now that I am a mother I don't want my son growing up as I did so I REALLY want to learn some new things. I would like some cheap, easy and GOOD recipes that I can prepare/cook then throw in the freezer for a later time (since I am a new mother that would be really great for my time). I know it may sound stupid to some people but cooking and family dinners are really important to hubby and I now because of our son. Any recipes, tips, etc would really be appreciated...Just please remember that even though I am 35 years old I don't know hardly anything about cooking so for those of you that respond please let me know when I should throw your recipe in the freezer and if I should thaw it out before cooking/baking or if it can be done frozen. So sorry this post is a mile long...just wanted to get my whole point across to get the help I need. Thanks in advance.

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Oh, I forgot to mention that I do own a crockpot with 3 different size bowls for cooking in (been used once) and a small pressure cooker (never even opened the box) I don't know what to do with these things so they are useless to me at the moment so a few ideas on what to make in them would be great.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 4:20PM
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Sounds exactly like my wife. She never learned to cook, and she grew up around good cooks. She just never wanted to learn. I'm finally getting her into the kitchen more now that she needs to cook for our daughter while I'm working. It's never too late to start. And now you have the same motivation my wife does. Gotta learn to cook some healthy food and cook it cheap. It's not hard to learn to cook some basics, and then build on that. And you'll learn what good prices are on stuff easy enough. Try shopping at a few different stores for some of the same items to see who has the best prices. Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 4:47PM
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It's not that I didn't want to aunt and uncle just felt that school and everything that goes along with it was much more important and the cooking I could learn later (they were right but later is just now coming for the cooking part LOL) What is really funny is that I am just realizing how much I do love to cook for my husband...just wished he loved what I make LOL. I sound like an idiot but I almost feel like a new bride just learning all this stuff. Almost embarrassed when I try something new in case I really mess it up LOL.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 7:06PM
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Don't be ashamed of yourself as long as your eager to learn there is always a room for improvement. Start with the simple recipe and later on try another and so on and so fort. Before you know it your a good cook. Good luck and I hope you can post your recipe here in Garden Web soon. Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2009 at 4:58AM
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Take a deep breath - no need to beat yourself up. Especially because you want to learn - that's the hardest part. As far as learning, it's all about trial and error. Get a few simple cookbooks and/or recipes off the web and practice. Start with foods that you LOVE. It's so much easier if you are then excited to eat it.

Some tricks of the trade:

Read the entire recipe first, carefully. Make sure you understand what you have to do every step of the way. If you don't understand, pick a different recipe at this point.

Take out all your ingredients and measure them and place in little bowls in the order they will be used. Pretend you're on a cooking show and you have to have everything ready. This will prevent you from getting overwhealmed if you need something quickly.

Make sure that you have enough time to make the dish. If you're in a hurry and something goes wrong, you'll get all flustered. When reading the directions, calculate how much time everything takes and then double it. Allow for that...if you eat early, who cares. Or if it takes longer than expected it's ok if you don't then need to run out the door.

Read cookbooks - they really give you tons of info. Vocabulary, tips, etc.

Don't expect that everything is going to be fabulous right away - most recipes take time to improve to your own tastes. Follow the recipe exactly the first time, tweak it after that.

Don't think that every great dish has to have all homemade ingredients. It's ok to use short cuts and some premade stuff. You put it together, so it's made by you. Some great lasagna's start with jar sauce. Shredded rotisserie chicken is yummy added to things instead of poaching your own chicken, etc.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 3:42PM
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Big smile on my face here! I'm your age, and a few years or so back I decided to learn how to cook. Like you, I grew up in a non-cooking household. Even worse, I never ate out because we were very poor, so not only did I not know how to cook, but I had no idea what any of the recipes looked or tasted like. I had no one to help me either. I'm a pretty good cook now though.

For me, the thought of learning to cook was very intimidating. There are still things I don't know much about, like baking and grilling, but I know from experience that it's just a matter of time and practice. Most things will turn out to be edible on your first try, so that's the good news. Perfecting a recipe comes with practice.

Start out slow with basic recipes. For instance, potato salad is basically taters, mayo or salad dressing, and hard boiled eggs. There are dozens and dozens of tater salad recipes but they are all based on those 3 basic ingredients. Once you know the basics then you can tweak a recipe however you like.

There are two cookbooks and one website that are great for the absolute beginner - Joy of Cooking, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, and The books describe everything about cooking for the beginner, and the website has thousands of searchable recipes that are user rated (4 1/2 to 5 star recipes are a good start) with user comments that are very helpful, and there's an online recipe box too and other nifty things too.

It's important to have the proper tools: decent pots and pans, a variety of SHARP knives, cooking utensils, etc. You can buy additional items as needed. This is all described in the cookbooks.

Be sure you have all of your ingredients and tools (bowls, utensils, etc.) before you begin your recipe.

Herbs and spices are expensive, so don't buy them all at once. The cookbooks talk about herbs and spices, and other ingredients in detail, which will help you. Hint: fresh ground pepper tastes SO much better than already ground pepper. The difference is *definately* noticable. I wish someone had told me that from the start. One more hint: brown sugar is nothing more than regular granulated sugar and molasses mixed together. Do it yourself and save money. Ok, one last hint: there is beet sugar and cane sugar. It doesn't matter which you use unless you are making candy or carmelizing the sugar like in flan or kettle corn (in which case use cane sugar). It's a chemical composition thing, but they otherwise look and taste the same and either one can be used.

Good grocery shopping skills take time and practice, so don't expect to be an expert right off the bat. Give yourself time, you'll learn as you go.

Cooking is part science and part art. *Many* recipes do not require you to be exact, so if a stew calls for this many cups of carrots and that many tablespoons of onion and 2 lbs of meat, don't worry about exact measurements. A lot of things can be eyeballed (except when baking and candy making, which is fairly exact). So for the most part, don't fret about exact measurements.

Most freezers attached to the fridge keep foods just below freezing (32*) and are not meant for long term storage. A manual defrost chest freezer (deep freeze) is an excellent investment that you should consider once you are cooking regularly. Buying and cooking in large quantities, then freezing, will save you time and money.

As was mentioned, allow yourself plenty of time to prepare your meals until you get the hang of it.

Be forewarned that cooking from scratch can be time consuming, messy for your kitchen, and will dirty lots of dishes. It also takes time to plan out meals, create grocery lists, etc. In time you'll learn how to coordinate your recipes so that you use up all of your perishables, but at first you'll probably need only a portion of something, not knowing what to do with the rest, and end up throwing it out. Don't worry, it's part of the learning process.

The cookbooks I suggested will explain the different cuts of meat, the best way to prepare those cuts, etc. Same goes for how to use fruits and veggies and all that.

You can make your own baby food easily and save a small fortune (assuming you have a baby). All you need is a grinder and/or food processor.

A gas stove is so much better to cook on than an electric stove because you can immediately adjust the heat with precision control.

I won't have any spare time after today, but I do hope I've been able to help in some small way. It helps to have a husband that will encourage and support you as you learn, and give you gentle but honest feedback. Don't feel pressured to be an expert on your first try. It takes time and practice. I wish you the very best, and congratulations on your expanded family!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 7:33PM
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Good advice here. When I was first married, I knew very little about cooking. My mother liked working in her kitchen alone and turned the kitchen over to me when clean-up time came. I would occasionally be allowed to make cookies, as she didn't like the time it took, but that's about all. It took me awhile to learn, but I had a great cookbook, which was the old Better Homes and Gardens red and white 3-ring binder version. It was a real jewel. They keep reissuing the cookbook and I had to buy a new one because my old one fell apart after 35 years of use and I was disappointed to see that a lot of our favorite recipes were no longer in the book.

Now you have the internet, and it's wonderful for recipe searching. I, too, really like I also like Every morning, I go to allrecipes and look at the Daily Recipes. I like reading people's comments, what they do to make the dish better. If you find a recipe that's five stars and lots of people have reviewed it, you know you have a winner. Also, if you have something in your refrigerator you want to use and want some ideas, you can use their "ingredients search". On recipezaar, I look at the latest reviews. There are always 400-500 so I never get past the first few pages, but I almost always find something I want to try. I copy and paste these into a document (if you use Word, use "paste special" and choose "unformatted text" so that your paste function doesn't bring over links and such) and then save the document for when I'm in the mood to cook. I think both sites offer cooking lessons.

If you have something specific that you want to make, search for a you-tube lesson on it. There's some good pizza-making instructions on you-tube. I'm linking something you might be interested in, but you can Google up a lot of interesting things. There are also lots of cooking blogs. One that I like a lot is I don't know Ree, but I have met her brother Mike, and her dad, who is a local doctor.

As far as comparison pricing at the grocery store goes, just stay alert, pay attention to price per ounce as they're changing the package sizes now, and read the sales ads. You'll be up to speed in no time!

Here is a link that might be useful: Great Depression Cooking with Clara

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 11:46AM
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I would recommend learning to sautonions and garlic, and learning to brown meat. You can do a ton just with those skills.

I'd chop up a bunch of onions and garlic and just keep trying until you start to get a feel for it. Put a few tablespoons of oil in a pan and turn the stove on medium to start with. When you hold your hand a few inches over the pan and feel heat, it's ready. Onions usually end up in bigger pieces (because they're bigger to start with), so I add those first. Don't be doing anything else while you cook at first. If you're focused, you'll smell the onions if the pan gets too hot, and you can turn down the heat before they burn. Also if you see any smoke come out of the pan, or you hear loud hissing, turn down the heat. If you hear no noise and the onions look the same as when you put them in (they're not turning clear or golden brown), turn the heat up. After the onions cook for a few minutes, add the garlic. With garlic, the smaller you chop it, the stronger it tastes. When the garlic starts to get light brown, you're all done. Don't be tempted to wait for it to get nicely browned, because it goes from golden to burnt in about five seconds. From this point, you can make a billion things. You could add chopped butternut squash and chicken broth to make soup, add spinach to make garlic spinach, or add ground beef, tomato sauce, and dry spices to make chili.

In terms of browning meat, you want the pan hotter than for onions and garlic. Put it over medium high heat, and use vegetable oil (corn, peanut, soybean, or canola all work). When you flick water at the pan and it hisses and spits back at you, you're ready. Pat dry and salt the meat (and add dry spices, if you like) and put it in the pan. It will hiss pretty violently. If you have a splatter guard, that can come in handy. If the oil starts to look dark, or black smoke comes out of the pan, get the meat out of the pan, dump the oil, and pour in new oil. When you lift the corner and peek under the meat and see a nice medium brown, it's ready to flip. If the meat is more than an inch thick or so, after you brown the second side, add liquid (water, stock, beer, BBQ sauce, whatever) and turn the heat to the lowest setting, so that you just see tiny bubbles, cover, and cook for 10 minutes or so for something like chicken peices. If it's something huge like a pork shoulder or a pot roast, it will take much longer.

I think a lot of people feel ashamed about not knowing how to cook- I bet that keeps tons of people out of the kitchen. I think you're at an advantage, really, because a lot of people are so afraid of screwing up that they stick to the same boring foods their parents taught them to make. You're a blank slate! And we believe in you :-)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2009 at 11:55PM
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Another good way to learn besides all the things that have been mentioned already is to watch some of the good cooking shows that are on. It's not that you have to make what they are making but you will see how the cooks do things and use equipment and combine ingredients will give you a feel of what you can do in the kitchen. Then when you find a cook whose food appeals to you you could actually try to make one of the recipes they are showing you...It sounds like you need your confidence built up! One of my favorite cooking shows is Lidias Italian Table..I love Lidia and she has a lot of nice cookbooks out you ever just sit and read a cookbook? That's another way of learning...Do you have a good basic one like Better Homes and Gardens? It's always good to have some references.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 7:04PM
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Do I have a cook book for you--Loony Spoons. It was one my son and daughter-in-law got when they were first married and their kitchen experience was low. Unlike you they both knew a little about cooking but not much. They have both used this cookbook and have both turned into pretty good cooks. This cookbook has easy recipes dished out with a little humor and made for new cooks. Even now they turn to it for the good recipes.

Check out my busy day chicken casserole on this forum. It is a tasty dish with few ingredients and it freezes well--almost fool proof

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 7:04PM
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It wasn't on this forum, but another one that I posted my Busy Day Chicken Casserole recipe so here it is.


I cup rice
4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1-1/2 cup frozen peas
2 cups chicken broth
1 envelope of onion soup mix.

Take a little of the powder from the onion soup mix and rub it on the chicken breast tops--just enough to color them. Put the rice in the bottom of the casserole dish. Sprinkle the peas over the rice and then sprinkle the rest of the onion soup mix over the peas. Pour the chicken broth over this and set the chicken breasts on top.
Bake @ 350 for 1 hour. 4 generous servings

Note--You can increase or decrease the size by putting in more or less of everything as long as you have a single layer of chicken.
No spices are required--there is enough salt in the broth and soup mix

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 7:10PM
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I can only agree on getting a good basic cookbook, hopefully one with pictures. Try your library, that way if you don't like it, you aren't out any money. My 28 year old daughter took ONE of my hundreds of cookbooks when she left home, my old 1969 Betty Crocker book and she uses it regularly because it has basic recipes for things like biscuits.

don't be ashamed. I've been cooking since I was 4 or 5, so, sheesh, it's 50 years or so. Grandma taught me to bake bread when I was 7 because she said bread was easy, the more you handle it the better it is and if you mess it up, it's just a little flour, water, yeast and salt, it's not a tragedy.

A lot of things are going to be learned only by doing. Learn what "saute" means, and how to make a roux (flour and butter or some other kind of fat). Learn the difference between boiling and simmering, make a couple of pots of soup and some homemade bread.

Especially now that you have a child, you need to set an example and help keep him healthy.

Cooking and baking can be as simple as you like or as complicated as you care to make it. Check out the cooking forum for recipes, just lurk if you're intimidated at first. If you have questions, jump in and tell them Annie sent you!

Oh, and a lot of things freeze really well. I tend to cook them first, and then thaw and reheat, things like chili and lasagna and pancakes and waffles. Well, pancakes and waffles can go right into the toaster to reheat, just like Eggos. Muffins freeze well too and I always made breakfast sandwiches and burritos for my daughter and froze them. Just cook your egg, slap on a slice of cheese or a piece of canadian bacon, whatever YOU like. Freeze it, I used to do a dozen on a cookie sheet, then package them separately after they were frozen. Take one out, put it in the microwave while your bread or English Muffin is toasting and it's ready to go in just a minute or two. Breakfast burritos are even easier, just wrap scrambled eggs and anything you like in a flour tortilla, wrap that well in foil or a ziplock freezer bag. I used to take them out of the freezer the night before, thaw in the fridge, warm in the microwave and she'd be heading out the door with hot breakfast in her hand before school in less than a minute.

Does that help you at all?


    Bookmark   September 24, 2010 at 4:11PM
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Don't overwhelm yourself with "must" do's and "should"s like must use homemade chicken stock etc. I think semi-homemade is a good start and basically, consider anything not eaten at the golden arches etc is a win.
You tube is a great option these days, many food network cooks and chef's have video's on there now. You can find video's for a basic skill (chopping vegetables), walk through a recipe, whatever.
I might add, men can learn to cook too:) Maybe something fun to learn to do together.

Chili is a easy start - a big pot of some sort, saute some chopped onion in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil, then add ground beef to brown, chop a green pepper, a jalapeno and throw in, stir around for a minute, add a packet of chili seasoning, open a couple cans of diced tomato and a couple of cans of beans, (f your not sure of the size of your pot, do 1 tomatoe and one bean and see how much room you have left, it will be fine!) dump in, add water or a can of V8 if too thick, let simmer. Taste, add tobasco or hot sauce, part of another seasoning packet salt whatever you think would make it taste better to you. Don't sweat it too much.

1/2 to 1 lb ground beef (something not too fatty)
1 yellow or white onion (I use small since I'm not big on onion)
I add couple of cloves of garlic although probably not too traditional but I love garlic (or the prechopped stuff in little jars if you want)
a small can of jalapeno's or a fresh one chopped - or not any if you won't miss it.
1 green pepper
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 jar of Herdez salsa (this is not a saucy salsa but more chopped bits like a pico de gallo, if you have to find a different brand, La Victoria maybe? Or some other pico de gallo or 1 more can of tomatoes, you can find them spiced chili ready)
1 can kidney beans - rinsed
1 can black beans - rinsed
packet or two of chili seasoning
hot sauce or tabasco to taste if desired
additional spices if you want in addition to chili packet
pepper of course
red pepper flakes

    Bookmark   November 27, 2011 at 2:28PM
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