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Topic: Cookbooks for Morons  (Read 4520 times)
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« on: December 06, 2007 12:59:51 PM »

Let me start by saying I am a horrible, horrible cook.  I can knit a sweater in 2 days, but for some reason I am an absolute disaster in the kitchen.  I am also a complete klutz.

Last May I chipped a molar on some rice I made.  I have almost set my kitchen on fire 3 times.  I have even messed up boiling water before (turned on the wrong burner and then wondered why nothing was happening for 15 minutes).  The first time I made grilled cheese, I had to call my friend for instructions.  I was 20 at the time.

And yet, I still am determined to learn how to cook!  Ordering in or eating out for every meal is entirely to expensive, not to mention really unhealthy.  But most cookbooks I pick up I don't understand.  And they all have so many ingredients!

Does anyone know of cookbooks for people who can't cook?  With healthy, inexpensive foods?  Am I asking too much?  Should I just give up and invest in an Easy-Bake Oven?
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2007 01:06:02 PM »

You might try starting out with a cookbook aimed at kids.  The instructions are pretty easy, and a lot of them even list the types of equipment you'll need for each recipe.  I have quite a few, and have found some recipes that I really like!

« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2007 05:29:22 PM »

I always use www.allrecipes.com.  It has varied levels of "hardness" but it's great because you can look up anything you'd want to eat, and see how people have rated the recipe before you even try it.  Also, people usually leave tips in the comments with the recipes.  You should try it out!
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« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2007 07:46:42 PM »

Emeril Lagasse has an awesome kids' cookbook.  the recipes are easy, but they don't rely on processed foods, and they're TASTASTIC!  for down-home style cooking, you could try the "Little House on the Prairie" cookbook- most libraries have that one.  Recipezaar.com is a good website to use, too--they have a "cookbook" system that's sort of like Craftster's bookmarks.

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« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2007 08:01:36 PM »

I love cookbooks and read them like novels but there's two that I use all the time for basic reference:
Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Both have a variety of recipes for every skill level, as well as sections on cooking basics and cooking tips.  All the recipes are well written and tell you step by step exactly what you want to do.

You might also look at crockpot cookbooks - Fix it and Forget it is a good one. It's really hard to mess up crockpot food, and the best thing is, your dinner is already cooked when you get home at the end of the day! Using a crockpot is good for saving money too - due to the long slow cook time, cheaper cuts of meat do really well in them.  And it's the only way I'll cook dried beans (cheap and healthy!)

MizMosa mentioned allrecipes.com - I second that! I use that site about 5 times a week.
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2007 09:18:58 PM »

Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything."

The BH&G one is good, too.

For something more encyclopedic, "The Joy of Cooking."
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2007 07:20:52 AM »

Step by Step cooking

I don't remember who it's by but it looked pretty good.
Has pictures and everything!

Then you got your Dummies series these books are awsome!

They have one that I think is right up your alley

"Cooking Basics for dummies"  or

"30 minute meals for dummies"

and a plether of all kinds of regional cooking

I have several different Dummies guides
but don't have a Cooking one

I use a 1945 Culinary Arts institute Cookbook mostly but I also have about 200 other cookbooks at my disposal
I am a book-a-holic Grin

Hope these help

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« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2007 03:08:00 PM »

I recommend the Joy of Cooking - their instructions are totally comprehensive, and you can always find a used copy for cheap at yer local bookstore (LBS ?).

Oh, and don't feel bad. I'm actually a pretty good cook, and I still turn the wrong burner on. All the time.

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« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2007 05:43:22 PM »

When I went to college, my mom gave me a copy of "The Absolute Beginner's Cookbook".  The recipes are pretty quick and easy, the utensils you need are listed with each recipe, and most of the ingredients are affordable on a poor college student's budget.  Some of the ingredients are things like "1 can cream of mushroom soup" or "1 cup Thousand Island dressing" as opposed to "x amount of basil, y amount of oregano, z amount of olive oil, blah blah blah".  I was (and am) far from a beginner, but I still use that cookbook today.

« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2007 06:50:42 AM »

Oh, and don't feel bad. I'm actually a pretty good cook, and I still turn the wrong burner on. All the time.

Me too!  Especially if I try to use the back left burner.  Gets me every time.

« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2007 12:56:56 PM »

Oh wow.  Thanks for all your suggestions.  I didn't expect to get so many.  This week is exam week, but next week I will definitely be checking this stuff out!

Feel free to keep the recommendations coming!
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« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2007 07:07:33 AM »

You could try those 5 ingredient books, though they use a bit of canned and convenience stuff. Once you get comfortable in the kitchen with your 5 ingredients, then you can graduate to something else.

As an alternative, you can make an investment and have a personal chef come to your home and teach you the basics.

« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2007 03:15:11 PM »

 I give every bride Fanny Farmer Cookbook. Very simple recipes. Great book.
« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2007 11:11:35 PM »

I would like to second (or was it third?!) the recommendation for The Joy of Cooking.  It's insanely comprehensive and very accessible.  My husband and I both use it so regularly that it hardly ever makes it back to its shelf.  There is a copy of Fanny Farmer at my husband's family's cabin, and that often proves to be a great resource too.  I also recommend watching a little bit of cooking tv...as much as she annoys me, Rachael Ray has some great time-saving techniques that I would never have thought of myself.  Alton Brown is extremely informative as well.

« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2007 12:09:34 PM »

For a basic cook book, I like the Betty crocker cookbook.....you know--the one with the cover  that is red and white checked?  They have it at Walmart, Sam's Target right now for the holidays, and it includes basic
American cooking--stuff that MOM makes........or Grandma........it is a really good reference.......

The fix it and forget it crockpot  cook books are great--it IS hard to mess up in the crockpot......

Have you ever watched How to Boil Water on food network??  It is aimed at beginer cooks.........also  SemiHomemade withSandra Lee  is a good show to watch cause she shows you how to cook using store bought shortcuts............Good Luck!!!!

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« Reply #15 on: December 17, 2007 02:51:18 PM »

i have seen some that are just 3 or 4 or 5 ingredients - but don't overthink cooking!!   it 's baking that takes more precise measurements - also - always write on the recipe  you use - IE use more/ less... bake longer/ less etc...  very good/never again!
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« Reply #16 on: December 19, 2007 09:22:56 AM »

i started cooking at 13, and since my mom is hispanic we ate a LOT of beans...burritos...sopa...gorditas growing up.  so i got my first cookbook, "chopsticks, cleaver, and wok" by jennie low.  its written for a novice cook to prepare chinese homestyle meals, and i learned every single recipe in there (except the pigsfeet.  eew.)  it covers how to shop for ingredients, how long they keep, how to store them, how to cut different vegetables and meats, everything.  and every recipe has notes on what steps can be done in advance, and how long in advance.  i can't say enough good things about this book, it literally taught me to cook. my husband got me a new copy for my birthday this year, when my old one was so stained and crusted shut it could no longer be read. (im 25.  i used that book on a daily basis for years.  it was a MESS!)  starting with this book with no prior knowledge of the kitchen, you really can make better food than you will get at most chinese restaurants.  admitteldly, there is an initial investment in ingredients you might not have on hand already, but this is the most economical cuisine you can imagine- especially if you shop at asian grocery stores. (i mean come on?  supporting mom and pop grocery stores AND getting top quality rice at 8 bucks for 20 pounds?! hells yeah.)

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« Reply #17 on: December 19, 2007 11:47:39 AM »

I agree with crockpot cooking being one of the easiest ways to make yourself a tasty and healthy meal. Every time I know someone moving out on their own I set them up with the two Company's Coming cook books (Slow Cooker Meals and Slowcooker Recipes) and a slowcooker since they are pretty cheap.

I highly suggest recipes for the crockpot where you throw all the raw ingredients in at once and leave it. Its an awesome kitchen confidence builder because you leave it on low for 8 hours, come home, and have something warm and delicious to eat! So Easy!

« Reply #18 on: December 20, 2007 12:44:54 AM »

Alton Brown's cookbooks are pretty good too. He has a book that tells you what are essential tools for the kitchen and the others are quite good at explaining things.

Of course, I ALWAYS recommend Alton's stuff. It's good at explaining things, not only the recipe but why you get that end result or why this will react with that. Which is good to learn so that later on you can improvise a bit if you are missing an ingredient or don't have enough. I agree with him that the only thing that should be a unitasker in the kitchen is the fire extinguisher!

I do agree that cooking is much more lenient than baking! Baking is very exact and changing anything other than flavorings can result in complete disaster! (We shan't discuss some of my more memorable baking disasters! they were quite scary!)



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« Reply #19 on: December 20, 2007 09:47:02 AM »

YES!  Alton Brown!  that was one of the things my husband and i got together on when we first met- we both thought he was one of the raddest, sexiest guys on tevee- we have a bunch of his dvds and 'i'm only here for the food' is a GREAT book.  (i didn't get it until years after i'd entered the kitchen, though.)

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« Reply #20 on: December 20, 2007 01:09:02 PM »

Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything."

I second that.  It's what I started on and after years of use I threw it out because it was in pieces and I can make all the recipes out of my head now.

« Reply #21 on: January 02, 2008 11:04:48 PM »

Thirding Alton Brown. Start watching Good Eats on the Food Network... start watching cooking shows period. But Alton is really good, he teaches you how to cook, not how to follow recipes. It's the whole give a man a fish thing. He takes a scientific approach to cooking and I really like it.
« Reply #22 on: May 03, 2008 01:19:38 PM »

The back left burner! I do the same thing, I'll always turn on the front left burner instead of the back one because the knobs are lined up in the weirdest order!

When I was young, like 10 or 11, I would insist on baking stuff by myself. My mom had these "look and cook" cookbooks by anne willan. They are very instructive, very comprehensive, and there's a picture for almost every step showing what you're supposed to be doing or what something should look at. Not to mention, having the recipe broken up into steps make it much easier too. There are also so many different look and cook books from pies to chicken to pasta recipes.

So as a ten year old, I never had a single thing come out badly. I credit those books.

By the way, they also have lots and lots of useful random tips in the margins and stuff.

Happy cooking!

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« Reply #23 on: May 04, 2008 04:51:25 PM »

Try "The I Hate to Cook Book". It's easy and hilarious, the absolute antithesis of all those "learn how to make perfect looking pies while wearing a lace-trimmed apron" sorts of cookbooks.

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« Reply #24 on: May 04, 2008 05:00:19 PM »

I would like to restate that it's okay if you don't cook really awesome yet. I love cooking, and want to cook all the time, but it feels like every time I try, something goes wrong. Last time I made dinner, I ended up crying (it's funny now, but it was the end of a very stressful week, and I had been so excited). One of my friends has a Kraft or Betty Crocker (can't remember which one it was, she had 1 of each) cookbook and everything was 5-6 ingredients and really easy and tasty sounding. So, something like that would be probably be good for those of us who are noobs in the kitchen.

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« Reply #25 on: May 04, 2008 05:10:43 PM »

For an online reference, check out the Pioneer Woman. She does a lot of painfully unhealthy yet tasty-looking recipies that use a lot of shortcuts and few ingredients, with photos every step of the way. The writing style is fun to read, too.

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« Reply #26 on: May 07, 2008 06:40:59 AM »

If you are looking to learn how to cook, more than just follow a simple recipe, I would suggest Alton Brown's books "I'm Just Here For the Food 2.0" and "I'm Just Here for More Food"

The first one gets into the details of how to grill, sear, broil, etc. and includes magnets showing the different parts of the cow, pig, chicken and lamb to understand the different cuts. 

The second one is his book on baking which gets into the details of different types of leavening agents are used, what things like eggs do for the final product etc.  Alton has a very humorous way of explaining the how to behind the recipes so it doesn't read like a high school algebra book. 

The books aren't cheap, but worth it.  I found them on Amazon for about $22 each.  If that's a bit pricey, check out the library.  There's a good chance they have a copy.

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« Reply #27 on: May 07, 2008 12:02:43 PM »

I hear you! I am also not a naturally talented cook, but had to learn - i went vegetarian in high school and my parents pretty much left my meals to me - i got this cookbook and i really believe it made me the much more talented cook i am today. I eat (some) meat now, but this has a great guide on how to shop for foods and the recipes are very simple and easy to follow, and cooking veggies is easier than meat so this is a good way to start. I've also found myself adding meat to some of the recipes to satisfy the carnivores. You can tell, i get really excited about this book and am always recommending it. (it also has a great chapter on mixing drinks!)

Student's Vegetarian Cookbook: Quick, Easy, Cheap, and Tasty Vegetarian Recipes by carole raymond
« Reply #28 on: May 13, 2008 10:02:25 AM »

It looks like this is an American board, however if you can get it over there - then try How to cook by Delia Smith (or Saint Delia as she is known in the UK!). There are a series of 3 books and she even tells you how to boil an egg!  She got a lot of stick for that but I reckon there are plenty of people who do not know how to.

Here's a link.


All her recipes work. However she has updated her how to cheat at cooking and has gone too far I fear - tinned minced beef and frozen mash!! Horror!

But the above one starts at the basics.
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« Reply #29 on: May 13, 2008 10:07:27 AM »

not sure if anyone else mentioned this but the student cook book is very good, nice, simple, tastey meals, generally inexpensive too
(and it has a cocktail section in the back too)

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« Reply #30 on: May 13, 2008 10:21:09 AM »

I know this sounds  aweful but cooking for dummies really is a good starter book.

church cookbooks generally are simple recipes.

BUT  most importantly  is one simple thing  my momma taught me.
never give up!  keep trying, RELAX its only a kitchen!  and you can learn alot each itme if you go slow and easy step by step.
read your whole recipe thru at least once then start. that way you sorta know what to do.

PM me if you want a few easy recipes for starters I am sure I can throw a few your way.

crock pot cooking sometimes gives you the confidence  you will need to venture further out.

looking for instant coffee from australia or russia made with mustard and champagne.  VIOLET CRUMBLES and VEGEMITE would be welcome swap items!!
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