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Old 03-07-2009, 09:33 AM   #51
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Just remember, when a recipe calls for a "clove" of garlic, that's one of the little pods inside the garlic bulb, not the whole bulb itself :)

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Old 03-07-2009, 10:21 AM   #52
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Thanks for hearing me out on that one expatgirl, bread is another one people are terrified with! And it is so worth it once you complete your own bread recipe. So rewarding.

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Old 03-07-2009, 11:04 AM   #53
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a bread machine is a handy gadget to mix up the yeast dough in but to experience it in your hands (yes, it makes a flurry of flour) but it's so aesthetic and appealing to the senses and to feel the gluten being formed as you pummel it and pound it (mad at someone? make some bread......and imagine their face in the dough........jest kidding) but it's a very unique feeling and then to smell the bread baking........my German gramma always kept bacon grease on top of the stove and that's what she rubbed her 6 loaves a weel with when we stayed with her........I just use butter.......it's worth throwing crud in the garbage if you are improving on your cooking skills......don't ever give up, like Chef Paul says
The only difference between a "cook" and a "Chef" is who cleans up the kitchen.
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Old 03-07-2009, 10:51 PM   #54
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I learned to cook as I did not want to go hungry :-)

By the time I was eight years old, I was typically left to my own devices (Siblings were never home, Mom was divorced and as a waitress, was out working 12 ~ 16 hours a day. Therefore, I am a self taught cook.

"The Joy of Cooking" cookbook, was my guide, and my taste buds, my judge. The cookbook I reference has tons of information about "how" to cook, as well as a number of tasty recipes.

I generally don't use recipes for other then ideas these days (except for baking), but they certainly got me started.

If eating tasty stuff is a sin, I am certainly going south.
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Old 03-08-2009, 07:29 PM   #55
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I think a very good way to learn is to pick one Cuisine or Chef that you like/admire and start with that.

It is sort of like learning a language. This girl who spoke 5 languages told me the trick was to only learn one at a time otherwise you will get confused.

I started with Chef Paul Prudhomme and got a real basic book that was promoted with tabasco sauce. but that taught me the vegetable medley as well as certain techniques for rice, soup, etc.

That I started watching Martin Yan and I got into that. And learned basic stir fry techniques, ingredients, spices, dishes etc.

Then I got into Mario Batali and Iron Chef Chen Kenichi and studied their stuff..
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Old 03-08-2009, 11:09 PM   #56
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one is at such an advantage (both guys and ladies) if they can cook and or prepare at least 2-3 main dishes and sides as well.......the sides are easy........if you need pasta or seasoned rice you can use the packets...or rice is easy by itself cooked in a pot...if you know and will follow directions......salads are easy and everyone loves salads these days.....just invest in a good bottle of salad dressing....for me it's a good ranch or balsamic........veggies......for those starting out simplest is best just don't overcook......when they are almost fork tender (not fork tender) take them off the heat source and set them aside ......they will continue to cook.....adding a bit of sugar and butter doesn't hurt either....they can add their own salt to taste.......I love adding Mrs. Dash though........and now the main dishes for company......mine are beef stroganoff, seafood gumbo, chicken cacciatore, beef stew, knowing how to grill a few things is also a good skill to have or if you're on a tight budget invest in a hibachi............be prepared to make mistakes and learn to laugh at yourself and move on.......one mishap does not mark you as a bad cook for life.........
The only difference between a "cook" and a "Chef" is who cleans up the kitchen.
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Old 03-09-2009, 04:16 AM   #57
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I agree with chefpaul, in that most people are scared to cook. There are some dishes that are easier to make than others, but there is nothing to be scared about. The worst that can happen is the dish does not turn out perfect and you learn from your mistake. Either way you are learning and that is the goal. Like one of the other posters said, whole foods does do some cooking classes every once and a while. There are also some high end kitchen equipment stores, that offer cooking classes.

Cookbooks are a great way to learn, as many have said. Food shows on tv are also a great way to learn like many have said.

When I first started cooking I followed recipes and learned a lot about ingredients. Knowing what ingredients are is very important. If you are cooking with an ingredient that you know nothing about, how can you expect to cook it right. The internet is a great way to find out information on any ingredient, this forum being one of the places online for great info.

Now that I am a much better cook, I just look at couple of different recipes for the same dish and make up my own variation of it. I also just make up stuff as I am cooking. If I think something might work well in the dish I put it in. Sometimes that extra ingredient makes the dish taste better, and sometimes it ruins the dish. Experimenting is one of the best ways to learn.

As for ingredients and where to buy them and what are some of the basic ingredients you should have on hand and almost all times, I will share what I think works. Meats can get pretty expensive, so pratice your basic cooking techinques on chicken or other inexpensive meat. Chicken can pretty much be bought at any grocery store and be good quality chicken. You will not always find free range and or organic chicken at all grocery stores, but you do not need to buy those more expensive chicken. As for more expensive meats, I tend to stay away from the cheapest grocery store. I am not saying all of those grocery stores have meat that does not taste very good, but I have found in most cases that is the case. No matter what store you buy meat from always inspect the meat and make sure it looks fresh.

Fish, I tend to buy almost anywhere. I always ask to smell the fish before I buy it to make sure it still smells fresh. If I am buying salmon, or some other basic fishes the quality seems to be good enough at most grocery stores. You can buy salmon and other basic fish at whole foods. The quality will almost always be better, but the price is way more expensive, and the quality is fine at the less expensive grocery stores. As for more expensive fish like sea bass, I shop at whole foods.

Vegetables and fruit are good quality at most stores. Always look to see if the fruit and vegetables you are going to buy are fresh. If you are curious about how to pick out fruits and vegetables that are fresh ask on this forum and we will be glad to help. I am sure the person in the produce department at the grocery store would aslo be glad to help you. As for organic fruits and vegetables, there is no need to buy them. They cost a lot more, and are not worth the money.

Now for the basic ingredients I think you should have on hand. Onions and garlic are something I use all the time. Yellow onions are what I buy most of the time. Red onions are also great, but since you are on a budget stick with just yellow onions for now. I use onions in scrambled eggs, pasta dishes, chinese dishes, and many other things I cook. Garlic is also one of those things I use in a lot of dishes. The only thing you have to wory about with garlic is burning it, because it will become bitter. Also try to never have huge chunks of garlic in a dish, because no one wants to eat huge chunks of garlic.

Pasta and rice are also great to have on hand. I would have spaghetti and penne pasta. Spaghetti is great with a simple tomato sauce, and penne is great in caseroles. Rice just stick with any medium or long grain rice will do.

Always have oil and butter on hand. You do not need ten different kinds of oils. Two kinds of oils will do. A neutral falvored oil with a high smoke point, canolia oil being the one I use, and extra virgin olive oil for making salad dressings or adding finishing touches to stuff. As with butter always buy unsalted butter. You always want to be able to control the ammount of salt that goes into a dish.

Canned tomatoes are also another thing I have at all times. Sure, it is much better quality if you use fresh tomatoes, but it is quicker and cheaper if you use canned. A can of diced tomatoes is great when making a quick easy tomato sauce.

As for spices and seasoning there are a lot out there so stick with the most common used ones. I am fortunate enough to have 30 to 40 different spices in my spice cabinet, but you do not need that many if you are just starting to learn to cook. Salt and pepper are of course something you always need. If you like spicy food I would buy a ground chili pepper. My favorite is ground cayenne pepper. If you are going to bake a lot ground cinnamon is a must, and adds so much to baked desserts. As for herbs, always go with fresh if you can find them and can afford them, but since you are on a budget buy some dried herbs. Dried rosemerry and thyme are the two I would have. Just remember dried herbs are a lot stronger, so don't use as much in a recipe if the recipe calls for fresh herbs.

Potatoes are also very cheap and great to have around. I mean simple mashed potatoes and so many other dishes can be made with potaotes, and few other ingredients.

If you want a more detailed list of what ingredients I have at all times I will tell you, but I realize you are on a budget so I just said the basic ones. I am fortunate enough to have lots of ingredients on hand at all times, but having this many ingrdients can get pricery sometimes. If you ever need any help with recipes that sound hard just ask and me or someone else here would be glad to help.
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Old 03-09-2009, 06:15 AM   #58
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Originally Posted by 1StarRestaurant View Post
Where do you start? Cooking is so confusing.... I look at some recipes online and there's a whole bunch of ingredients I never heard of. Can I really find everything at Lucky or Safeway?

Imma be so screwed when I move out alone and don't know how to cook good food....SCREWED!!!!!! I can make eggs and instant noodles. (And I hear cooking gets the ladies )

Seriously...this whole thing is so unnatural...where do you begin to learn to start cooking?
When I got out of "home" I had a good job, some money and some clothes. I knew nothing of cooking and sewing and all those things that makes a girl a "woman". I eat out for quite sometime, if I do not get invited to some friend's house...but then, it get so boring and I was running out of money at times and have to make do with sandwiches. One time after dinner, I walked around the shopping centre and found a newsagent and saw a cooking book. My first book -- Encyclopedia of Cooking. Flipped through the pages, found some nice looking pictures of food and decided then and there that if I know how to read, I may be able to follow the instructions written on it. Wrong...

I know how to read all right...but the book that I bought assumed that I know some basics in the kitchen. NOT!! It did not tell me that a frozen chicken needed to be defrosted before you can do anything with it. I was used to having freshly killed chooks when I was living at home and we have maids doing our most basic and necessary chores...but that's a story for another day.

Anywhoooo....I was so excited about having to cook, so I invited a friend for dinner. I did the whole preparation according to the book. I liked the look of that baked chicken in the book. 'Followed the instructions to the letter, preheat the oven and timed my cooking. You can imagine the rest...two hours in the oven with a frozen chook, what do I expect? And what do I know of "ovens"? As young children, we were shoooed out of the kitchen when the maids were doing their chores...It is funny now but not when when my visitor came and I served my chicken oozing with red fluid coming out of it as I tried to cut portions of it -- right in front of my visitor!!! --and being asked if I defrosted the chook first? My reply? "Do I have to?"

I was 25 at the time...it seems decades ago now...Now I can look at my pantry, my freezer and my fridge and invent even something stylist for lunch or dinner in a jiffy. Most times I use a recipe but then I still have the habit of not following any of them to the letter...you'll learn...I did. As long as you wake up every morning to start a new day, you have time to learn something new each day. Age is only a number.

Tucker's Mum aka Cooper's Mom
Tucker's Mum aka Cooper's Mom

--Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.
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Old 03-09-2009, 07:43 AM   #59
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That's too funny Cooper and Tucker's mom.........we had no maids but my mother could not cook unless you called the meat "charcoaled".......and her cheese sandwiches were made with mustard......most kids are not going to eat that.........as I've said before she was great in so many other things but cooking wasn't one of them........and we had two spices.....salt and pepper.........great to hear that you "evolutionized".......
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Old 03-09-2009, 09:14 AM   #60
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cook with people you know can cook: friends relatives whatever. Start with learning a set of basics:
portion sizes, timings, methods of cooking, food pairings (what goes with what).
and some basic recipes from which you can build: a good pasta sauce, a good chili, a good stew for beef or chicken, and how to broil salmon, steam veggies etc.

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