Hey Bobby! I wish this site were around when I was your age... but that was almot 20 years ago....!
PS - what state are you in?
My favorite "basics" cookbooks:
Any Taste of Home cookbook - they have ingredients that are easy to find, and all taste like "real" food - no ultra gourmet stuff. (Better to start off with the basics) These are at most public libraries, or you can find them on www.tasteofhome.com
I adore my 1944 edition of "The Good Housekeeping Cook Book" I picked it up at an Estate sale and it is 981 pages of serious information, including how to choose a roast, how to slice up a turkey, how to measure ingredients, meal planning, cookery terms, etc. Go to garage sales - it'll amaze you what cookbooks you can pick up for a dollar!
As for the weight issue - first - I wish you luck! Please join our thread on the healthy eating forum. We post stuff about weight loss, exercise, and "motivating each other" stuff
Here's a step-by-step that I posted a couple of months ago for a fellow DC-er who'd never cooked/eaten an artichoke. Just thought it would be a fun cooking experience for you:
Cut just the end of the stem, and then cut the pointy part straight across about 1" from top. Then, with scissors, cut each leaf across (parallel to the bottom & top cuts) so you get rid of the sharp "hook". Then, in a large kettle of rolling boiling water (set on high), place your artichokes
in (they'll float). If the water boils over, turn the heat down to medium. I boil till the chokes are fork tender in the stem, about 35 - 40 minutes.
drain thoroughly in a collander (turn them head down till the water runs out)
and place each, stem down, in a bowl. (after all, nobody likes to share!)
Take each leaf off, and dip in melted butter. Scrape just the flesh about 1/3 of the way up with your teeth. Pure heaven. Discard leaves in your bowl.
When you reach the thin leaves, forget them. Put one hand on the stem half and one on the leaf half. Pull (think New Year's cracker) and you'll see the "choke". With a spoon, CAREFULLY take out just the thistle-looking stuff (this would be on the stem end). You will have a disc-shaped piece of heaven. Cut this into small pieces, and throw them in your leftover melted butter. (think soup) Eat these babies, and you will know why nobody shares.
Also, the part that's left (the leaf end) has what we used to call "the bite-around", which is a circle-shaped portion of the flesh that you can...well...bite around.
Also, you can eat these with a Garlic Aioli, which is good with either a hot artichoke or cold artichoke, but in my opinion, it is best as made above.