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Old 07-27-2009, 03:50 AM   #1
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Looking for a little advice...

Hi all.

My name is Quinn and I'm going to be a sophomore in college this upcoming school year. I will be moving into a house with 3 roommates and it is my first time both having my own kitchen and not being able to go to the dining halls. That means I'm going to have to cook my own food, and possibly food for my roommates.

I could just go the typical college kid route: ramen noodles, frozen TV dinners and potato chips, but recently I found an old cook book that belonged to my late grandmother. I was around ten when I lost her and some of my fondest memories of her are Sunday afternoons where she cooked marvelous food. Reading this cook book has been one of the best ways to remember her. Going through, I have discovered some recipes she used to cook and it's a truly wonderful and indescribable feeling, it's almost like she's back for a second. A brief scent of her meat loaf shoots by and I can almost taste her strawberry cake on my tongue. I would really like to begin cooking some of her old recipes to make her visits a little more routine. This would both solve my problem of having to cook for myself and would also provide a link to one of the most beautiful people in my life.

But where there's a will there's always a problem: I am a terrible cook! I have really no experience in the kitchen and I am scared I will not be able to cook most of these recipes, as they are rather complex. I was wondering if anyone had some advice. Besides that, some questions I have are:

A) I don't eat beef so I'm wondering if buffalo can replace it in most recipes.

B) What are some of your favorite "beginner's" recipes?

C) A lot of these recipes have mushrooms and/or mushroom sauce in them and two of my roommates absolutely despise mushrooms! Can this ingredient be ignored or replaced?

Thank you all so much in advance,



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Old 07-27-2009, 04:25 AM   #2
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Most non-beef red meats (that is to say your aforementioned buffalo, almost all game meat, ostrich, etc) are way leaner than beef. In some cases this is good, but the down-side is it is that it can be very tough when just medium cooked. If you don't eat it rare you have to stew it ... that is to say chili or some similar preparation that is cooked long and slow. But yes, it pretty much can replace beef in most recipes, especially ground.

Favorite beginner recipe? Pierce a lemon and take it and a head of garlic (don't need to peel each clove, just break it up) and toss into the cavity of a bird ... can be a cornish game hen if you're cooking for two, or a chicken of any size, or even a turkey. Bake according to any basic instruction (your grandma's cookbook should have one). Serve with something like rice-a-roni and a salad. You look like a gourmet, the meat is infused with the lemon and garlic flavors (you discard the lemon and garlic).

Yeah, just leave out the mushrooms for your fussy roomies.l If YOU like them, leave them in whole or in large pieces and tell them to pick 'em out.

I think that the best beginners' cookbooks are Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens. Both are in 3-ring-binder format, which means when you find a recipe you like, you can write it on a sheet of paper and insert it. Both are older than the hills and can be bought in new, updated form, but also old at used bookstores, yard sales, etc.

Welcome to DC, and feel free to enter a question any place when you're anticipating preparing a meal.

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Old 07-27-2009, 07:36 AM   #3
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I will just agree with what Clair said. Buffalo and usually be used in place of beef, but because it is so lean you will have to be careful to not overcook it or it will be dry and unappealing. I think if we knew why you don't eat beef that would help us give you some suggestions.

Yes leave the mushrooms out. I am not a fan of mushrooms and have almost never had a problem with any of my recipes when i leave them out. Even when it is a major component of the dish, for some reason it seems to usually work if I just leave them out.
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Old 07-27-2009, 08:02 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Quinn1990
But where there's a will there's always a problem: I am a terrible cook! I have really no experience in the kitchen and I am scared I will not be able to cook most of these recipes, as they are rather complex. I was wondering if anyone had some advice.
Yes! Jump in with both feet!!!! What better way to honor your late Grandmother, and feed yourself at the same time? Will there be "flops"? You bet, but you can laugh, and eat those too. Will there be successes? You bet, and your grandmother will smile!! The lessons you learn, the fun you'll have, and the memories will last a life time!! So don't be afraid....jump off the cliff!!! ---- Is that meat loaf I smell???

Have Fun & Enjoy!!!!
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Old 07-27-2009, 09:11 AM   #5
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Quinn, just like with riding a bike, you will learn to be a good cook by cooking. At first, I suggest you follow recipes to the letter, and do not substitute. Once you've mastered the dish and decide what you do and do not like about it, that's the time to substitute-- start playing with the recipe.

You have the first ingredient necessary to become a good cook, tho... you WANT to be one.

Good luck, and please come around here and ask questions.
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Old 07-27-2009, 09:28 AM   #6
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Start with the basics I agree with the others, and Claire had a great point by starting with Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Garden. Also, roommates will be jealous and will likely take your food
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Old 07-27-2009, 09:28 AM   #7
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Read through the recipes a few times before hand just so there are no surprizes. There is nothing worse than getting to the "add pre-prepared *blank*" section of a recipe and not having it pre-prepared. Lay out everything you will need in advance of ever turning on the stove.

Are your room mates allergic? most people who "despise" mushrooms do not like the texture. I use mushroom broth or bullion in a lot of recipes that I have served to mushroom haters and they just loved it.
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Old 07-27-2009, 09:40 AM   #8
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How are your knife skills? years ago i checked out Julia Child videos from the library, cooking basics. They were great. Someone said you can get them through netflix.
What type of appliances do you have? Using a slow cooker (crock pot) is nice, you can put dinner in it before classes in the morning and come home with not much to do but toss a salad and cook some rice/pasta. Speaking of rice, rice cookers are very handy, too.I know lots of students also use those countertop grills.
Do you have kitchen chores determined? it helps if you can establish some kind of routine right away, keep things from getting out of hand. If someone cooks, someone else can do the dishes, and another can wipe off counters, sweep, etc. It sounds like common sense, but one can't always assume that one's room mates are thinking along those same lines. Get a dry erase board for the front of the fridge. With organization up front, you'll have more time for... studying?? ha
You sound like a great kid!!

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Old 07-30-2009, 03:09 AM   #9
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Thanks for all the replies everybody, I'm super grateful!!

First off, I have some good news: I successfully made my first dish last night. I am still living at home for two more weeks, and I surprised my family with a Buffalo Meatballs & Spaghetti recipe from Grandma's cookbook. There were some problems and some things I would do differently next time (I forgot to add chili powder!) but overall I think it was a success.

I purchased a Crock Pot book on the clearance shelf at Barnes & Noble (it was curiously placed between a book of Serial Killers and a book of X-rated movie stars), and I am very excited to try one of the many recipes. There are several ground beef chilis that I can use buffalo in, and it should work perfectly with my college schedule.

Most of the recipes require some knife work and I'm sorry to say I've never really worked with a knife before. I did some looking around for Julia Child's videos and came up empty handed; however, it seems I may have a perfect excuse to see the new movie Julie & Julia, research! I'm not sure if my friends will buy that one...

I also downloaded an e-version of Betty Crocker's book and can't wait to try out some of the simpler recipes.

Once again, thank you all so much for all the advice and I will be sure to frequent this website often as cooking is becoming one of my newest hobbies. I really like to spend time doing things that will be useful my whole life (learning languages, etc) and this is certainly one of them.
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Old 07-30-2009, 07:06 AM   #10
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Get yourself a Skillet or a Wok - this is essentially a pan in which you can cook anything and everything.

Stir-fry is a quick and easy (AND VERY HEALTHY) was to cook tasty meals. Simply heat a little oil (1 table spoon), chop loads of veggies, get hold of some prawns/fish or anything else you fancy. Chuck it in, stir it round - add a stir-fry sauce sachet - loads of different flavours available and away you go... good luck

P.S: I agree - jump in with both feet and give it a go.

The main thing is just to DO - you'll soon figure out what tastes delicious and what you won't try again!!

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