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Old 10-16-2014, 11:51 AM   #1
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I know nothing...

Background: I'm facing the possibility of being Mr. Mom (five children) and that means cooking - formerly my wife's responsibility. That means there are things in my kitchen to cook with but I don't know what they are.

Request: Where do I begin? I know what a knife is but I have no idea what a (Fill-in-the-blank) knife is. I know what a microwave it but I don't know what all those buttons on it do. I've taught my children everything I know about the oven: "Stay away. Hot. Don't touch."

Rules for answering:
1 - For those of you who believe anyone who can read a recipe can cook - I don't believe you and I'm not listening - I've tried that before: Picture dense, black smoke, alarms, burnt appendages, melted utensils OR undefinable goo that tastes bad, smells bad, and never became anything vaguely like what it was supposed to be. So a book of 1,000 recipes is NOT what I'm after.

2 - If you recommend a resource - be sure it defines EVERYTHING. If it starts with a list of tools, I'm in trouble. I've found several references online that start with telling me I need a "skillet" and then proceed to tell me what kind of a skillet I need. Why not simply say, "The first tool you need is a jkwefbvbaisdvb. Look for a jkwefbvbaisdvb that measures 10" across it's hdgjhsbvjdnsjk. You might want one that is made of iron." That's not helpful.

3 - Regarding equipment - I'm not buying any. Who knows? It might already be there, I can ask. But I've browsed enough threads suggesting $100 knives to start with to tell you that I'm going to be cutting things with whatever kind of knives I've got. If you provide a detailed description and a picture, I'll try to find something similar.

4 - Think REALLY BASIC. Don't tell me to crack an egg. I don't know how. I've tried. It always makes a mess and I end up picking out the biggest bits of shell and as for those little pieces...

You get the picture.

5 - Please don't tell me what a lost cause I am. I understand that but survival dictates I do something.

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Old 10-16-2014, 12:01 PM   #2
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Three things come to mind ...

An open mind about the task at hand

Patience

"How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman

How To Cook Everything
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Old 10-16-2014, 12:03 PM   #3
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If you are truly serious about your lack of knowledge and, truly no offense, but it's kind of hard to believe that someone has absolutely no knowledge of cooking, I would suggest finding somewhere you can take basic cooking lessons. Perhaps you might call the high schools and see if they offer any adult education classes or if a home education teacher might be willing to give you private lessons. Alternatively, ask someone that you know to give you cooking lessons, offer to pay them if necessary or trade favors by offering to do something for them. It will be very difficult to try to tell someone over the internet how to do something when they have no basic skills whatsoever and don't even know what kind of tools they have. Don't mean to discourage you but you'd probably do a whole lot better with some hands-on help.
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Old 10-16-2014, 12:16 PM   #4
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Jennyema, I've looked at the preview of "How to Cook Everything." It starts with a list of tools, tells me what things to look for in those tools but still doesn't tell me what they are - and yes "skillet" is on the list.

medtran49, I'm not offended but, yes I truly am serious about my lack of knowledge. I've never lived alone and never had to do this before. On the rare occasions that I've had to provide for the kids because my wife has been gone, McDonalds and PizzaHut have been there to assist. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find any local classes that aren't designed for people who know a little bit and want to get better. I don't think private lessons are an option either but that would be great.
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Old 10-16-2014, 12:32 PM   #5
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Okay then, as far as learning what things are and what they look like Google Images is your friend. Just Google "skillet images kitchen" and you get tons of pictures of skillets. Same thing for lots of other kitchen tools.

Found a site that tells you about knives and their uses. Kitchen Knives - Blade Styles and Uses

And here's a website with some basic skill videos
Cooking Skills Videos

Hope this helps to get you started.
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Old 10-16-2014, 12:34 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CluelessDad View Post
Jennyema, I've looked at the preview of "How to Cook Everything." It starts with a list of tools, tells me what things to look for in those tools but still doesn't tell me what they are - and yes "skillet" is on the list.

medtran49, I'm not offended but, yes I truly am serious about my lack of knowledge. I've never lived alone and never had to do this before. On the rare occasions that I've had to provide for the kids because my wife has been gone, McDonalds and PizzaHut have been there to assist. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find any local classes that aren't designed for people who know a little bit and want to get better. I don't think private lessons are an option either but that would be great.
I'm a self taught cook. I learned by watching cooking shows. Not what passes for cooking game shows/contests/useless (for the most part) shows. Shows on PBS or Create are your best bets,IMO.
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Old 10-16-2014, 01:00 PM   #7
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I think we're going backwards here. Get your wife to explain all the pots, pans, utensils, and gadgets you have to work with. Take notes!

What do the kids like to eat? How old are they? Do you have an indoor grill, such as a George Foreman grill? Those are easier to deal with than the oven broiler or stovetop frying at first.

Think: simple, wholesome. Canned vegetables are a good start, which do not require incorporating sharp objects, unless the can opener is a problem.

Get two cans of cut green beans and two cans of corn. Get two 1 or 2-quart pots with lids. Open the cans, dump the beans into one pot and the corn into another pot. Put enough water in both so that the water barely covers the veggies and get out the butter dish. Put a 1-inch chunk of butter into each pot. Put the pots on the small eyes of the stove and turn the heat no higher than 5. Cover the pots and watch until the bubbles come up from the bottom and burst on the top. They're done. Turn the pots to low, about 1.

Get some frozen family-sized meat entrees, such as salisbury steaks. You'll need two of these for seven people. There will be six to each box. Open the boxes and pull out the cardboard trays. Turn the oven on BAKE at the temperature it indicates on the box, and wait until the oven is pre-heated. Put both trays on a cookie sheet (it's a flat rectangular metal thing with about a 1/4" rim, usually bigger than the trays, or a pizza pan, which is round) and put them in the oven when it beeps. Set a timer or watch the clock for however long the box says to heat it, usually about 50 - 55 minutes.

Start the above-mentioned veggies after putting in the entree trays and follow the afore mentioned directions. Dinner is served!

Does that help?
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Old 10-16-2014, 01:01 PM   #8
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medtran49,

1st, let me say I now feel rather foolish for not using Google images. After first looking up many images of the band, I noticed you added the word "kitchen" and what do you know? I have three of those things. (Next step: figure out WHY I have three...)

The kitchen knives site is AWESOME! Lot's of pictures and clear descriptions. If I could find something like that to cover the rest of the things in the kitchen, then I might be able to use it with the Mark Bittman book that was suggested.

Thanks for the help and keep it coming.
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Old 10-16-2014, 01:09 PM   #9
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Hi CluelessDad, and welcome!

It sounds like you just need to start with the most basic of basics - get your hands in there and try something simple - like eggs.

I would start with a 10-12" Teflon skillet and a rubber spatula, any employee at a big box store can point you in the right direction. Buy a dozen eggs...they're cheap, and just go ahead and practice. If you have to go through nearly the whole dozen before you learn how to crack an egg without getting egg shells in the eggs, you haven't lost much $ and will surely have learned something. You'll gain a lot of skills by just getting in there and doing, hands on. YouTube videos do help.

Best of luck to you, and stick around! There are so many here who are willing to help, and we all had to start from scratch at one point.
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Old 10-16-2014, 01:22 PM   #10
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CrazyCatLady,

Thanks for the help. I added the line about not telling me I'm a lost cause in part because I've learned that asking my wife about things in the kitchen is quick way for us to engage in conflict. If I want a happy marriage, I don't ask my wife to teach me things, that's an unfortunate dynamic of our marriage in this case.
The kids are 7,5,3,3&1. They like pizza, tacos and pancakes. After that they don't all agree but things my wife normally fixes include, meat loaf, hamburger helper, spaghetti, chicken with some kind of bread coating, and probably other stuff that I don't recall just now. Most meals we have salad (I actually think I can handle that) and some kind of rice or potato for a side dish.
I don't know if we have an indoor grill. I Googled that and we have something that looks similar but it's not bumpy like those. It's smooth and my wife makes pancakes on it. I'm not sure if that's the same thing.
Regarding ovens: I don't know what a broiler is. My oven doesn't have numbers, on the knobs for the top part, just "High" and "Low." Nothing says "Bake" that I can see but the center knob does have temperature settings. It's a gas oven and I need to make the top burners click for a minute before I get fire. I can't seem to make the bottom part click. I'm not sure if I need to or if it has a pilot light - I'll ask, later.
Other questions, what do you mean by a 1" chunk of butter? I would have expected more of a liquid measurement for that. Otherwise, 1" x what? What do I cover the pots with? I think I have both cookie sheets and pizza pans but the pizza pans have little holes in the bottom and the cookie sheets don't. Does that matter?
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Old 10-16-2014, 01:25 PM   #11
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Check out this link for explanations of different pots and pans. Cookware Tutorial

Then browse the rest of the site for more detailed information.
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Old 10-16-2014, 01:37 PM   #12
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I use those sticks of butter, not the butter that comes in those round containers. The sticks are wrapped in paper and have the measurements on the papers. I just hack off a piece that is about an inch long and put it in the veggies.

Cover the pots with the lids that go with them, and use the cookie sheets for the trays. I have an electric stove, so maybe someone else can help with the gas stove. I would guess the medium heat would be in the middle of high and low on the knobs.

The thing she cooks pancakes on is a griddle, which is flat. The grill has ridges and grooves on the surface to let the grease drain away. I don't know if you could cook burgers on a pancake griddle, as I've never tried it.

Hopefully someone can help you with that. I cook pancakes in a skillet, a 10" non-stick Calphalon skillet over medium heat. And do practice with the eggs. That's a great idea!

Good luck, and no, you aren't a lost cause. Never thought that!
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Old 10-16-2014, 01:42 PM   #13
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Andy M.,

That's a fantastically helpful site too. I looked at their tools page and without being terribly thorough, it looks like my kitchen has pretty much everything marked "Starter Kitchen", most things marked "Standard Kitchen", and a at least a few things marked "Well Stocked Kitchen." I didn't even bother with Luxury and Specialty Kitchens" because I figure if it's in that list, I'm not going to be using it.
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Old 10-16-2014, 01:47 PM   #14
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We here will gladly help you where we can. If there is anyone who can actually come into your kitchen and give you some face to face basics, that would go a long way.

Don't forget the "Dummies" books. Cooking Basics For Dummies, 5th Edition:Book Information - For Dummies
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Old 10-16-2014, 02:05 PM   #15
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All right,

So I returned to some of my earlier searches before finding this site and I can now begin to sift through some of the reading. Google images and a couple of the reference links given here are going a long way to helping me interpret things.
I appreciate the eggs suggestion as well (that's gonna be messy but it makes sense). I have hope now that I might be able to figure out enough to keep us from starving anyway. If I do have to be Mr. Mom I'm sure I'll be back on here a lot. In the meantime, I think I've got a better grasp at least on what homework I can do before then. Thanks for all of your help.
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Old 10-16-2014, 02:36 PM   #16
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I suggest making RESERVATIONS! At least until you calm down and get your head on straight.
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Old 10-16-2014, 02:49 PM   #17
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I think you need to jump in and start cooking! Start slowly and go back to basics to feed your family. If you have kids, you are going to need to keep menus simple anyway.

menu suggestion:

Baked chicken pieces
Salad (you said you could do this...)
Roasted small red potatoes
Applesauce


Shop:
1. Buy a cut up chicken. They sell whole chickens that are cut into pieces and packaged. Make sure it has the skin on.
2. Salad fixins and a bottle of Italian or ranch dressing (consider learning how to make this to save money)
3. Small red potatoes (these are raw and in the produce section). They should be smaller than golf balls.
4. A jar of applesauce.

Cook:

Preheat the oven to 400

Place the chicken on a sheet pan or in some oven safe dish (make sure your pan has a side on it so that juices stay IN the pan), skin side up. Don't crowd the pan. Pieces should not touch. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and if you like, some dried sage or garlic powder. There's no need to grease the pan, the fat in the chicken skin will do the job as it heats. Wash your hands with soap and water after handling raw chicken as well as any surfaces you got chicken juice on.

Wash and cut the potatoes in half or quarters so they are large bite size pieces and drop them into a plastic bag or medium bowl. Add a 1/2 cup of Salad dressing and toss them to coat. Then spread potatoes on an oven safe dish - and again don't crowd them.

Bake the bird and the potatoes in the oven at the same time but on separate racks and cook for 45 mins.

While the bird is cooking: Make the salad. Open the applesauce. Set the table. Tidy up kitchen, feed the dog, call the kids.

Fancy last minute twist: Make a light gravy. When the chicken is cooked and while the pan is still hot from the oven, pull meat off the baking pan. Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of flour over the pan drippings and stir in with a fork or whisk. Next add 1/2 C or a little more of water or canned chicken broth onto the pan, again mixing with fork. It will be a little lumpy but very yummy and you can spoon it over potatoes.

Be brave - you can do this.
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Old 10-16-2014, 03:02 PM   #18
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There are all sorts of cookery demos on Food Network on the television. Not all of the cooks who demonstrate assume that you know it all and it might help to watch a few of them. I like Ina Garten on "Barefoot Contessa" as she explains what and why as she goes along and cooks simple every day but tasty dishes. Just watching with a cup of coffee and a cookie is therapy!

My best piece of advice is "Don't Panic".

Start at the beginning and choose the best quality and freshest ingredients that you can afford - it tends to be cheaper in the long run.

Then start with simple dishes that you like and you know how they are supposed to turn out. For example, meat loaf is dead simple to make, tasty and if you do exactly as the recipe says it can't go wrong. You can serve it hot with vegetables (buy frozen and read the cooking instructions on the pack), cold with salad and in sandwiches.

Do you have a mother, aunt, mother-in-law or older friendly neighbour on whose mercies you can throw yourself and who will teach you to cook? There's nothing like hands-on teaching to point you in the right direction.

I can't recommend a basic book for you because I'm not in the USA but supermarkets here often have inexpensive paper back books of simple recipes with fool-proof instructions. You might find something like that in your local store. In Britain we have a cook (NOT a chef!) and cookery writer called Delia Smith who has written a couple of books for people who don't know how to cook - "How to Cook" is her most recent and comes as three separate volumes or as a collection of all three in one book. I don't know if she is published in the States but there must be similar books. People on DC also recommend "The Joy of Cooking" as a good basic book.

And to answer one of your dilemmas:

The Mysteries of Cracking Eggs De-Mystified

You take the egg and GENTLY tap one side of it on your work surface so it cracks the shell just in one place but doesn't break the membrane that lines the shell.

Hold the egg over a bowl or cup between the fingers of both hands and GENTLY push the tips of your thumbs into the cracked area and ease the two halves apart, tipping the contents into the bowl or cup. With your first few attempts you may break the yolk into the white but this doesn't really matter (unless you are making meringue which, at this stage you probably won't be doing).

Practice makes perfect.

Hope this helps. Remember that every single cook and chef started life with no cooking skills or knowledge at all.
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Old 10-16-2014, 03:31 PM   #19
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Next suggestion: Master the grilled cheese sandwich

Menu:
Grilled cheese sandwich
Canned soup
Veggie sticks and cut up fruit

Shop:
Sliced bread
butter or margarine
sliced medium cheddar (2 slices per sandwich)
two cans of soup (you have a lot of kids)
Carrot and celery sticks and/or some sliced apples or other fruit.

Cooking gear needed:
Frying pan - note the video says cast iron but any pan will work
Spatula or fork to flip half cooked sandwiches
Pot to heat soup in
knife for cutting veggie and fruit as well as spreading butter on bread.

Here's a video about how to make a grilled cheese:




The canned soup is generally heat and eat. Kids like chicken noodle. Traditional campbells soup is perfect and easy. Open the cans and add to pot, add one can of water per can of soup used. Turn on the burner and stir it a bit until hot. (only takes a few minutes).

Carrot and celery sticks - either hand cut or purchased already cut and sliced apples round out the meal. Perfect kid friendly meal.
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Old 10-16-2014, 03:32 PM   #20
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YouTube is an awesome resource. Just look up cooking for beginners. Don't try to follow along at first, just watch a bunch of videos and watch what they do and how they do it. They will often include a link to their website for the recipe. There is a ton of useful information on there
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