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Old 12-23-2012, 12:00 PM   #1
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I don't like cooking and I don't know where to start

I'm a mess. I live by myself and, frankly, don't really need to cook much. Not that I'm rolling in money, but I can afford to buy a decent frozen pizza, etc. When I do cook, I like it and think I want to cook more often. The prep process feels like an unnecessary waste of time. Don't get me wrong. It IS necessary, but it's daunting and I guess I just want to eat the finished process.

I'm vegetarian. I can make pretty much only make mashed potatoes and, perhaps bizarrely, punjabi chole. I've made it a bunch of times using a recipe and a seasoning packet.

I want to like cooking, but I'm 36 and I have almost zero experience. Just getting started with the basics seems like a hill to high to climb.

Anyone have any advice?


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Old 12-23-2012, 12:37 PM   #2
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If you can make mashed potatoes you're already a step ahead of some. We recently had quite the thread here on mashed taters...

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Old 12-23-2012, 01:06 PM   #3
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You might get started by doing some research -- visit the bookstore or library and browse through the "cooking for one" oriented books; no need for you to reinvent the wheel - take advantage of the specialized recipes of the types of food you like. Cooking for one can be very freeing in that you can cook what you want when you want it. Being a vegetarian, you might want to familiarize yourself with the fresh vegetable section of your grocery store and choose things you like to eat, then Google to find a suitable recipe. Discuss Cooking is a fine place to discover new recipes.

I personally find Indian food daunting to make because of all the ingredients and prep involved, but when the recipe makes a fair quantity, I always freeze the leftovers in single portions and love being able to just microwave a bowlful for a meal.

Since it's that time of year, you might make a New Year's resolution to pick out a recipe for something you really like and make it sometime during the first week of the year.

The talented cooks here will always answer specific questions about ingredients or techniques. Just ask. Hope this helps and inspires you to just do it!
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Old 12-23-2012, 01:32 PM   #4
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Panda, you don't sound like a person with a temperament suited to cooking. Maybe you would be better served by some introspection about what activities you do enjoy and focus your effort on those.
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Old 12-23-2012, 02:04 PM   #5
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Well this is certainly the place to come for tips and recipes. Stick with simple things that you enjoy. A baked potato topped with (insert whatever you like here) is a filling and nutritious meal. Keep it simple.

BTW, there is no law that says you have to like to cook. My MIL absolutely hates cooking and gets by with whatever she picks up at the ready made section of the grocery store, fruits and fresh veg. She doesn't even own a stove or oven anymore. When the last one broke she didn't replace it. I did buy her a counter top chef's pot but I doubt she uses it.

Don't force yourself to do something that you really don't enjoy. Life is too short.
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Old 12-23-2012, 02:19 PM   #6
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My advice is to work with meals in which one or more of these is true:
- Your preparation is significantly better than what you are likely to guy ready-made.
- Your preparation can be made for significantly less than over-priced packaged or restaurant versions.
- You simply can't find something you like ready-made.

A great many things that meet one or more of those are very simply and require little preparation. You can make a pizza that's better than what you will find frozen and/or in a variety you won't find, and preparation is minimal if you buy the crust ready-made. For instance, cheese and prosciutto topped (after baking) with fresh arugula.

Cooking for one, it's hard to find good single servings. But you can make a single serve amount of pasta and dress it with a quality cheese, a good oil (olive or avocado) and fresh basil. No prep to speak of.

The other day, Ming was making different meals of fish and avocado puree with wasabi. All were very quick and low prep, as in salmon flash broiled.

Ming, on his "Simply Ming" program, frequently features dishes that need little prep and very little time.

And most recipes require no high level skills. For instance, if you cut a pork roast up into smallish chunks, brown them over high heat (look up how to brown without sticking - that's one useful bit of knowledge), put the meat into a dutch oven with chunked potatoes, carrots, onions, a cup of red wine, salt, pepper, and some sage, and put it covered into a cold oven and set it to heat to 400F and leave for about an hour 20 minutes, you get a big batch of braised pork and vegetables that you would hunt a long time for in a restaurant and not find at all frozen and have meals for multiple nights. The rave-about good, and if you can cut the materials up with drawing blood, there's not much else to know.

Look, I really like to cook, but I still like go for things that I can get better made myself.

One thing, though. Ming's usual fare excepted, much Asian cooking involves considerable prep, because the tradition was to cook quickly using a minimum of fuel, so there's a lit of cooking and slicing to make small pieces that cook quickly.
"Kitchen duty is awarded only to those of manifest excellence..." - The Master, Dogen
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Old 12-23-2012, 03:06 PM   #7
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GLC - this poster is a vegetarian...

One of my favorite "ready-made" meals is pasta with Marinara, I buy the Bertolli Marinara, I can't make it better. The hot pasta is usually enough to heat the Marinara. Do you eat dairy? Select a grated, fresh parmesan to top it, not the stuff in the green jar from Kraft. With this sauce you can add additional veggies, like mushrooms, broccoli, squash.

The same sauce can make a veggie lasagna.

Herdez makes a tomatillo salsa that is fantastic as a base for a white bean chili. There's millions of good ideas out there for quick simple meals, give us an idea of what you like to eat.
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Old 12-23-2012, 03:47 PM   #8
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Panda, I'm a long time member here and I'll share something that many will find surprising. I don't particularly like to cook either. On the other hand, cooking is my answer for eating what I like, and cooking it myself gives me that result. Actually, it's all a matter of motivation and many people don't cook because they aren't picky about what they eat. The fact is, that anyone who can read can cook, providing they are motivated to go through the trouble. At any rate, welcome to Discuss Cooking and I hope you stick around to find out if you want to cook, we'd all love to share the journey with you.
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but rather by the moments that take our breath away.

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Old 12-23-2012, 04:28 PM   #9
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Head for your local library. You will find a plethora of cook books for vegetarians. Head to your local store and pickup the fixings for a salad.

Cooking doesn't have to be daunting or a waste of time. Keep in mind the end result. Something you enjoy eating and a sense of accomplishment. Tearing up lettuce, adding and peeling cucumbers, carrots are activities that will feed you a nourishing meal. Discuss with your friends their eating habits. You may find out that one of them is also a vegetarian. You can compare notes.

And lastly, come back here. The folks here are friendly and ready at the drop of a hat to help.

Welcome to DC. A fun place to be.
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Old 12-23-2012, 04:43 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by PrincessFiona60 View Post
GLC - this poster is a vegetarian...
I missed that the first time. But the rest applies. The current fashions in vegetarian pizzas and vegetarian tacos include so many good ones requiring minimal prep. Doesn't take a vegetarian to like the one I saw recently, taco with tempura fried avocado wedges and shredded cabbage with wasabi sour cream.

"Kitchen duty is awarded only to those of manifest excellence..." - The Master, Dogen
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