I'm cooking! Look ma, I'm cooking!

Warning, semi-long and probably boring.

Ok, I’m a college student. 20, male, living alone. For the longest time, I could only “cook” by using the microwave, toaster, or heating something on top of the stove. Oh, and sandwiches. I got those down pat. And I can’t forget the almost weekly delivery of Chinese food.

Not too long ago, I found a product called Prego Pasta Bake Sauce. I strongly recommend this to anyone with my [lack of] cooking talent. See, with this, you don’t have to pre-cook the pasta or anything (though I’m told it’s really simple anyway. Bah!). All I had to do was throw some uncooked ziti in a pan, toss in the sauce and a few cups of water, and throw it in the oven. Easy!

That was a few weeks ago (it turned out great, though slightly burnt). Tonight I did it again, but this time I got daring. I added some canned chicken chunks to it! oooh, ahhh (hey, I told you this was boring). I wanted to add in the cheddar cheese that I got instead of mozzarella, like last time, but I figured one variable (the chicken) was already enough. (curse you science education!). Anyway, it came out great, and I have delicious leftovers that will last me a few days.

So, the whole point is… I’m learning! Inch by inch, I’m getting closer to actually cooking! Sorry if this seems pointless and boring you guys, but to someone with no cooking experience who’s sick and tired of microwave dinners, this is just plain awesome. Heck, I feel like an excited puppy over this! :slight_smile: Ok, just had to share that. You can go back to your interesting lives now.

I learned to cook when I was ten years old, when my mom was sick in bed and it was Thanksgiving. She said the turkey was very good. Over the years I flatter myself to think me a rather passable cook. Now if only I could find someone to cook for

See, you’re already experimenting! Next thing you know, you’re at the bookstore poring over cookbooks! :smiley:

I got started cooking because I flat got tired of fast food (ah, the college years). I did box mixes and easy meals for a long time, and then slowly over the years started trying more complicated recipes. I’m not an awesome cook or anything, but right now I’m at the point where I’m really starting to get into completely from-scratch meals, with fresh veggies and herbs and all that.

I predict that you’ll get the urge to start trying more and more, and next thing you know - you’re a cook. Way to go!

Hey, it is a great feeling when you start to gain mastery of the culinary arts. (Okay, or gaining mastery of not burning pre-packaged dinners. It’s still food) Nothing pointless or boring about becoming self-sufficient. Feeding yourself decent meals is a large part of that, I’d say.

Congratulations. :slight_smile:
Now, go out and buy a small, whole chicken. Put it in the oven and cook it at say, 325 for 20 mins per pound. (Or ask the butcher, I don’t even know for sure, I just do it by feel now) It’s ready when the legs are wiggly to the point of falling off. Peel a few spuds, boil 'em till they’re soft, drain and mash. I’ll let you get away with a canned vegetable this time, which you can throw in the micro. Now you’ve made yourself a roast chicken dinner. When the carcass is cool, scrape all the meat off the bones, chop it up and mix with some mayo, salt & pepper. Now you have fresh home made chicken salad for lunch.
Next week: How to make soup from the left over chicken bones.

:wink:

Baby steps, Triss. Baby steps. :smiley: I think… Yes, ziti with ground beef! I can do that!

Actually, I do have a cookbook here (“Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 11th Edition!”). It’s got all sorts of introductory material for those new to cooking, so I’ve been going through that and soaking up some pointers. I’d actually try some of these simpler recipies in here, but I’d need access to a supermarket for most ingredients, and that requires a car. I should make up a list of this stuff for the next time I have a chance to go.

I got started on cooking when I was in high school. My mother worked as a part-time nurse’s aid, and occasionally this meant we were on our own for supper. One day she had left a bowl of ground beef in the refrigerator so we could make hamburgers. I got home from school and decided I didn’t feel like burgers that night and looked through the cookbook until I found a recipe for meatloaf that looked simple enough. From then on it was just a matter of time before I moved on to things like sauces (peas and carrots in white sauce became my contribution to family dinners, as Mom had never mastered lump-free white sauce) and experimenting with recipes.

I always felt sorry for guys who never learned to cook; having to eat all your meals in restaurants or take-out seems ridiculously expensive, and living on heated-up canned food…ugh. Of course, it helped that I grew up before the convenience of microwaves.

Keep at it Sir Dirx. Keep a supply of staples on hand (not office supplies, things like canned cream soups) and don’t be afraid to experiment. I don’t know if this still works, but back in my day one sure way to impress a date was to fix dinner yourself. :wink:

Try rice, and by that I mean (I’ll get scorched for this but . . .) minute rice. Use canned chicken or beef broth instead of water, and add chicken or beef (semi-advanced, but you can do it–strips of beef cooked slowly with bell peppers and onions (you can get these frozen), drained, add packaged an jus, simmer, then add the minute rice (uncooked), bring to a boil, turn heat down and let rice soak up an jus–delish!). Can’t spoil minute rice, but it has very little flavor on its on–so it’s a good base. Canned creamed soups often have receipes with rice or pasta. Or go for Farmhouse seasoned rice (my favorite is broccoli cheese). Difficult to screw up, and a solid base for experimentation. Sooner or later you’ll more on to real rice (or get a rice cooker), and figure out how to do the seasoning yourself–you will become the pilaf king, but until then, this gives you variety.

An easy one is cream of mushroom soup (or cream of chicken soup) mixed with either hamburger meat or chicken and then served on top of mashed potatoes or rice.

Oh, I should add, heat the cream of mushroom/chicken soup in a saucepan and then add the cooked meat. When it’s hot and like a thick gravy, it’s ready to serve over rice or mashed potatoes.

Do remember to COOK the ground beef before you put it in the ziti.

<shudders when she thinks of adding raw ground beef to the aforementioned ziti and tomato sauce>

I’ve been cooking a lot lately, and it’s amazing to find out that all of these foods that I’ve enjoyed in restaurants and such, I can make myself! And mostly, with a bit of practice, I can make them better than the restaurants did.

My advice: learn a couple of side dishes. Mashed or baked potatoes, or rice, preferably all three. Then that frees you up to do some good simple main dishes. Meatloaf is fun to make, you get to squish hamburger up with other stuff, and then the whole house fills up with that meatloaf smell while it bakes. Roast chicken is good too; there’s also my favorite cheat, frozen chicken, um, things, stuffed with broccoli and cheese that I get for ridiculously cheap from the local warehouse store’s freezer section. They always go over well.

Anyway, my last two recommendations:


Great resource for everything from the simple to the insanely complicated, but if you ever want to know how to make something, it’s there.

http://www.foodtv.com/
Good introductory cooking lessons available, as well as a dictionary that defines some of those pesky cooking terms.

And…

Don’t try baking bread yet. I tried a couple of wheat bread loaves recently… euuuurrrrghhh…

If so interested, look for cookbooks geared to teenagers, new college students and bachelors.
Try to ignore the sexist tone of the title

I got this for my teenage nephew after he called to ask “how do I cook spaghetti noodles?”

(Lay the dry noodles on a cookie sheet, preheat oven to 450 deg, sprinkle with icing sugar…what! :wink: )

Cooking with cheese hint: Buy the sharpest cheese you can afford, even sharper than you may like the taste of. Cheese sharpness wimps out when confronted with heat. Melting mild cheddar or Havarti ends up with a bland substance almost indistinguishable from reconstituting the powdered phlegm in boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Shred Romano or extra-sharp cheddar or American over a dish to bake, and you get something with some cheese flavor after it’s cooked.

Meat-Sauce Pasta à la Skulldigger: Buy dried minced garlic and onions; set them in water a few hours before you start cooking the meal (before leaving for work or classes in the morning is fine). [Cut-up fresh garlic and onions is even better but takes extra work.] When beginning to prepare dinner, drain the reconstituted garlic and onions, grumble up ground beef and place onions, garlic, and ground beef in a sauté pan. Add a touch of olive oil (or canola) but not much; the fat from the ground beef will provide most of the cooking fat. Cook over a medium-low burner, stirring frequently, until the meat loses its pinkness. Drain off most of the fat and mix the results into a bland bottled or canned spaghetti sauce; pepper* and spice to taste. Put on to simmer. Go log onto SDMB and read and comment to a few threads. Half an hour or more later, cook up some pasta (vermicelli or linguine, for example) – be sure to add salt to the water. When it’s cooked, drain in a colander, put on plates, top with your “homemade” meat sauce, grate cheese on top, and eat.

  • Use coarse-ground pepper – it flavors better with less pepper “bite.”