Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Beginner cooks pay attention!

If you have never cooked and want to try it then please pay attention! I was a member of the club that cooked from books titled "Idiots Guide to Cooking" about four years ago. Now I consider myself a fairly proficient chef. I'm not Martha Stewart but I can prepare a decent meal for two or even entertain a group of friends with my skills. Here are some pointers I've learned along the way:

1. Simple recipes do not mean less appealing food. The meals my husband raves about are not necessarily the most difficult, expensive or time consuming meals.
2. You must invest in some basic kitchen gear to get started. I recommend a basic set of pots (all sizes), several pans, a combo frying pan/stew pot (deep enough to hold liquid but wide enough to fry meat), and a set of kitchen appliances that include a Cuisinart, mixer, crock pot, toaster oven and several casserole dishes of varying sizes. By a wonderful stroke of luck I was given all of these items awhile back- it would be a considerable investment to purchase all of them but a necessity if you want to provide a wide variety of foods. I had no idea I would use all of these items. Never fear if you can't afford them- there are still many recipes that can be made with just a few pots and pans.
3. It is good to hold a few staple ingredients in your cupboard at all times: kidney and black beans, beef and chicken broth, sugars (powdered, regular, brown), flour, butter, olive oil, and spices. I would start by purchasing parsley, basil, oregano and chile powder. As time goes by you find your spice cabinet multiples itself abundantly.
4. Invest if a 1-year subscription to Cooking Light or another magazine about cooking. Some of the simplest, most nutritious recipes come from these magazines.

Give yourself a one-year grace period to experiment. It takes time to learn. The toughest part is the timing of the meal. Getting the roast to come out of the oven simultaneous with the vegetables and the bread is a challenge. This can only be learned with practice.

Here are some simple foods that are favorites around our house. Its amazing how these incredibly simple recipes create tasty and nutritious meals in short amounts of time.

1. Shrimp with pasta (This is a very, very simple recipe and one of our favorites. This is the recipe that made me give up my complex pot pies and other time-consuming endeavors. Why bother when something this easy is so popular?)
2. Pot Roast with bread (a crock pot is really useful for this classic dish. You load the crock pot in the morning and you have a ready-made meal when you come home from work at 5 pm)
3. Scallops with pasta (a bit expensive but not to bad if you buy frozen scallops)
4. Grilled Chicken (very easy if you microwave the chicken for 5 minutes and then put it on a Foreman Grill or a regular barbecue) with rice (a rice cooker is very handy here but you can make it on the stove also)

Add a salad and a side-dish of a fresh vegetable and you have a delicious, fairly-easy meal in a short amount of time. It is so nutritious to cook at home and such a rewarding feeling to know how to prepare a meal.

Good luck. May you discover a creative side of you that you never knew.