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#1 of 22 Old 12-30-2012, 05:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi all,

 

I am a novice in the kitchen. I struggle greatly with meal planning for me, my dh and 19 mo. dd (I am also 17+ weeks pregnant).  I never really learned how to cook anything and must usually follow a recipe.  The problem is I go online and get a recipe but they just never seem to taste very good. I could really use some recommendations for easy recipe cook books. I have a small kitchen which also poses a bit of a challenge. Like I said, I struggle greatly with meal planning - maybe I'm not organized enough? -  and could use any pointers with that as well.  I tend to eat very healthy, however, my husband is just the opposite and usually re-cooks (fries) what I've made in a pan of oil to grease-it-up. :)  We are in a rut of eating the same few dinners that I know how to make.

 

Thanks for your help!

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#2 of 22 Old 12-31-2012, 07:51 AM
 
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Joy of Cooking is a comprehensive cookbook packed with information about ingredients and technique.  When I was teaching myself to cook, it was indispensable. These days, with the internet and Youtube, you may not need so much detail on technique in a book. I still find myself turning to it often if I have a question or if I'm searching for a tried-and-true type of recipe. Also, it won't necessarily help you with weekly or monthly meal planning. There are a few threads in this forum that will give you lots of ideas for meal planning. 

 

For a good internet source, try Epicurious.com. The recipes are rated, so look for 4 and 5-star rated recipes. The valuable aspect of Epicurious is all of the suggestions and recommendations in the comments section for each recipe. That's where you will get important information about what works and what doesn't. Be careful - some recipes are very challenging for novice cooks, but if you read through the recipe and the comments you should get a sense if something will be too difficult.  

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#3 of 22 Old 01-01-2013, 08:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks. So you recommend the recipes in J.O.C.? I actually prefer a book as opposed to going online. I am very much a hard copy kind of person! smile.gif. I just want to find a cookbook with a variety of good recipes. Someone gave me a Better Homes & Garden cookbook and I have made many recipes from it and all are mediocre at best. Though they are fairly easy, they are bland and not too tasty. Maybe that's why they are easy? Too simple? We very much like ethnic foods so are used to a little more spice. I just hate to randomly buy a cookbook not knowing if the recipes are good and also if I can make them given my skill level.
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#4 of 22 Old 01-01-2013, 08:38 PM
 
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I like the Taste of Home cookbooks--I've had good success with them, and most recipes are fairly easy with regular ingredients.  Here's their website...

 

http://www.tasteofhome.com/  (click on "Cookbooks")

 

Most libraries seem to carry at least a few Taste of Home cookbooks--that is an easy way to try them out.

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#5 of 22 Old 01-01-2013, 09:59 PM
 
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Originally Posted by txreader View Post

Thanks. So you recommend the recipes in J.O.C.? I actually prefer a book as opposed to going online. I am very much a hard copy kind of person! smile.gif. I just want to find a cookbook with a variety of good recipes. Someone gave me a Better Homes & Garden cookbook and I have made many recipes from it and all are mediocre at best. Though they are fairly easy, they are bland and not too tasty. Maybe that's why they are easy? Too simple? We very much like ethnic foods so are used to a little more spice. I just hate to randomly buy a cookbook not knowing if the recipes are good and also if I can make them given my skill level.

 

I think the recent versions of Joy have more ethnic recipes but I have an older edition. It definitely leans toward classic American/British with some French food. You may find it too bland for your taste. 

 

Is there a particular ethnic cooking tradition that you would like to explore? Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks get good recommendations for Indian food. I have a number of Donna Hay books. She is an Australian who offers a number of fairly straightforward recipes with Asian (lots of Thai, some Japanese) and also some Middle Eastern influences. She also has a bimonthly magazine if you don't want to invest in a cookbook. I don't think she is as strong in explaining technique as the authors of books like Joy of Cooking, but the recipes aren't too complicated. 

 

Cook's Illustrated (monthly magazine as well as cookbooks) is very good for providing tested-to-perfection recipes with lots of explanations about ingredients and technique. Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything gets good reviews but I haven't used it myself. 

 

I second the recommendation to try your local library before you commit to buying an expensive book. 

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#6 of 22 Old 01-02-2013, 09:15 AM
 
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I have joy of cooking, better homes and gardens, and america's test kitchen.

I like a lot of the stuff in ATC, but it's HUUUUGE and even hard to read or use because of the size, and there is just a TON of info in there. like overwhelmingly so. I wouldn't reccomend it for a newbie.

 

my mom got better homes and betty crocker when she got married, and she still only has those 2, and still uses them nearly every day.

my big complaint is that the oatmeal cookie receipe from one of the two was changed and isn't the same. GRR!

 

My cooking generally uses reciepes as a vague suggestion. LOL.

 

One of the books I use THE MOST is my own however. I found a blank receipe book (binder with cards and dividers) from barnes and noble for like 7 bucks in the bargin area, and i've seen it several times since (I bought mine in 2000 maybe?....i've seen it as recently as a few years ago)

when I find something I like, and try a few times i'll write it down with whatever tweaks i've done to it....

some are as vague as 2lbs meat/seasonings/cook @ 400 for 20-30....

some actually include instructions. Again, I consider them a suggestion ;)

 

I've gotten to the point where I couldn't remember if I liked the cookies in cookbook A, B or C better....and so on.

so my little fill in your own cookbook is my #1 most used. You can tell by the flour and egg white and batter stains :)

 

Checkout bargin area of bookstores like BN (not just because I worked there in the late 90s. LOL) because they will often have good basic ones for cheaps....

they will often have like campbells cookbooks, or crockpot cookbooks....

 

I'd suggest the essential betty crocker and build on it. it's a really good basic one, but it really depends on what kinds of foods you like!

 

I was just explaining the art of cooking to a friend the other day tho, how if you gave same info to me, my mom, and my sister you'd end up with 3 diff tasting meals.

I'd put money on me winning the cookoff on that front as well. I can't make a failed baked item if I tried, and I was making blue ribbon biscuits when I was 9....

my mom seems to make everything taste flat and blah. it's something about instinct and love and enjoyment....dunno!

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#7 of 22 Old 01-02-2013, 01:09 PM
 
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My favorite cookbooks (and I bet I own over 50) are Better Homes & Gardens, and The USA Cookbook, by Sheila Lukins. 
 


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#8 of 22 Old 01-02-2013, 09:55 PM
 
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I have joy of cooking, better homes and gardens, and america's test kitchen.

I like a lot of the stuff in ATC, but it's HUUUUGE and even hard to read or use because of the size, and there is just a TON of info in there. like overwhelmingly so. I wouldn't reccomend it for a newbie.

 

 

 

Hm, I guess it depends on the newbie. Confession - I have always tended to over-research before I try something new like cooking with unfamiliar ingredients or a different style of cooking. I'll read at least a half-dozen recipes and blog posts and magazine articles in search of a thorough understanding. I like learning about the science and the art of preparing the dish such as what happens when the ingredients combine, what difference various cooking vessels (glass vs stainless vs copper etc.) make, and how things like temperature and humidity influence the outcome. Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen suits my need for reliable, detailed information about all of that sort of thing, as did Joy of Cooking, which I discovered first when I started cooking for myself as a teenager living away from home in my first apartment. Instead of reading novels or watching t.v., I used to browse through Joy of Cooking and read all the interesting tidbits about the history of various dishes, the substitutes for various ingredients, and the fascinating information like how to pluck a chicken, field dress a deer, build a champagne tower or create a croquembouche. I've always appreciated overwhelming information, so when I discovered Cook's Illustrated magazine, I was an instant fan.

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#9 of 22 Old 01-06-2013, 12:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Most libraries seem to carry at least a few Taste of Home cookbooks--that is an easy way to try them out.

 

Great idea!  I never thought to check out cookbooks at the library. I'll go this week. Thanks!

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#10 of 22 Old 01-06-2013, 12:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

 

Is there a particular ethnic cooking tradition that you would like to explore? Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks get good recommendations for Indian food. I have a number of Donna Hay books. She is an Australian who offers a number of fairly straightforward recipes with Asian (lots of Thai, some Japanese) and also some Middle Eastern influences. She also has a bimonthly magazine if you don't want to invest in a cookbook. I don't think she is as strong in explaining technique as the authors of books like Joy of Cooking, but the recipes aren't too complicated. 

 

Cook's Illustrated (monthly magazine as well as cookbooks) is very good for providing tested-to-perfection recipes with lots of explanations about ingredients and technique. Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything gets good reviews but I haven't used it myself. 

 

I second the recommendation to try your local library before you commit to buying an expensive book. 

There is no specific ethnic flavor we eat exclusively, but we like a lot of variety and flavor. We tend to eat all types of food. I love Indian and have tried unsuccessfully to make a couple of dishes. My husband thinks b/c I tried to make them too healthy. :) I may have used chicken breast when it called for dark meat?

 

Thanks for the Cook's Illustrated recommendation. I'll look into that as well! 

 

Appreciate you ladies! :)

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#11 of 22 Old 01-06-2013, 12:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I used to browse through Joy of Cooking and read all the interesting tidbits about the history of various dishes, the substitutes for various ingredients, and the fascinating information like how to pluck a chicken, field dress a deer, build a champagne tower or create a croquembouche

 

Wow!  I'm still trying to perfect the hard boiled egg. ROTFLMAO.gif

 

One of my issues (among many) is I live in a house built in 1969 with all original appliances!  The oven is super small and does not heat accurately. It is about 10 or 15 degrees hotter than indicated on the dial so I'm always trying to compensate but usually overcook things. I have a phobia of undercooked food I think! :)

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#12 of 22 Old 01-07-2013, 04:52 PM
 
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Quote:

I used to browse through Joy of Cooking and read all the interesting tidbits about the history of various dishes, the substitutes for various ingredients, and the fascinating information like how to pluck a chicken, field dress a deer, build a champagne tower or create a croquembouche

 

 

Wow!  I'm still trying to perfect the hard boiled egg. ROTFLMAO.gif

 

One of my issues (among many) is I live in a house built in 1969 with all original appliances!  The oven is super small and does not heat accurately. It is about 10 or 15 degrees hotter than indicated on the dial so I'm always trying to compensate but usually overcook things. I have a phobia of undercooked food I think! :)

 

Oh, hey, I read about all that stuff. I've never tried to do any of it. Although I would like to tackle the croquembouche some day. 

 

Honestly, I don't even try to make a perfect hard-boiled egg. I just boil them until they will work in whatever dish I'm making. The story about the time I put some eggs on to boil while the kids and I started watching something on t.v., then forgot all about them until we heard an EXPLOSION!! in the kitchen is a family legend. I don't think I ever completely scrubbed that egg off the ceiling. 

 

I have the same difficulty with a small kitchen and so-so appliances. We once had an oven so small that my cookie sheets and 12-muffin pans couldn't fit in it and it still had uneven heating with a weird hot spot. I've found that cooking is all about trial and error, adjusting as you go, having faith and being as fearless as possible. And having a good sense of humour when it inevitably goes wrong. 

 

 

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#13 of 22 Old 01-10-2013, 08:12 PM
 
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Crock pot cooking really became my salvation after I had my son - especially being a mom that works full time outside of the home. The best crock pot book I've come across is Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever. Crock pots are more than just pot roast and chicken and potatoes!


Apartment Farm - the chronicles of my cooking, gardening, crafting and other such things. 

 

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#14 of 22 Old 01-12-2013, 08:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm definitely trying to us my crockpot more. Ive had some hits and misses but do love the convenience!
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#15 of 22 Old 01-13-2013, 07:16 AM
 
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Joy of Cooking is a comprehensive cookbook packed with information about ingredients and technique.  When I was teaching myself to cook, it was indispensable. These days, with the internet and Youtube, you may not need so much detail on technique in a book. I still find myself turning to it often if I have a question or if I'm searching for a tried-and-true type of recipe. Also, it won't necessarily help you with weekly or monthly meal planning. There are a few threads in this forum that will give you lots of ideas for meal planning. 

 

For a good internet source, try Epicurious.com. The recipes are rated, so look for 4 and 5-star rated recipes. The valuable aspect of Epicurious is all of the suggestions and recommendations in the comments section for each recipe. That's where you will get important information about what works and what doesn't. Be careful - some recipes are very challenging for novice cooks, but if you read through the recipe and the comments you should get a sense if something will be too difficult.  

 I second both of these resources. I learned how to cook initially and have continued to grow my skill thanks largely to JoC and Epicurious. 


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#16 of 22 Old 01-25-2013, 06:16 PM
 
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My favorite beginner cookbook is How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. It's a great book to own.
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#17 of 22 Old 01-29-2013, 07:39 PM
 
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My favorite beginner cookbook is How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. It's a great book to own.

 

Can you tell us a bit more about it? I keep running across recommendations for this one online, but I'm not sure what sets it apart from the classics (like Joy of Cooking, etc.). 


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#18 of 22 Old 01-29-2013, 07:51 PM
 
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Umm. I find it more modern, more approachable, more international, more fun to read and has a nice menu section. He's also the writer of the ny time "the minimalist" column - very tasty but simple. And he's an environmental local sustainable thinker.
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#19 of 22 Old 01-29-2013, 07:53 PM
 
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Umm. I find it more modern, more approachable, more international, more fun to read and has a nice menu section. He's also the writer of the ny time "the minimalist" column - very tasty but simple. And he's an environmental local sustainable thinker.

 

Hmm, interesting. Maybe I'll try to get a copy at the library and check it out. 


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#20 of 22 Old 01-29-2013, 07:54 PM
 
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P.s. DH is a professional chef so i have many many cookbooks in my house. I also love the new ny times cookbook by Amanda Hessar for fancy cooking and her site food52.com for unique recipes.
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#21 of 22 Old 02-02-2013, 10:29 AM
 
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Truthfully, I think the books that helped me learn to cook most were the Rachael Ray books.  She is great at using everyday ingredients to make simply, family-friendly meals, and by making her recipes over and over again, I grew really comfortable with making my own substitutions, understanding ingredients, etc.  She is great about introducing a well-stocked pantry that you can pull a quick meal out of any time.   Her show is fantastic, too -- and her magazine!  Her magazine has a meal planner every month with inexpensive ideas, and again, the recipes really help with learning what flavors/etc. combine well and compliment one another.  I can't wait for hers and my Food Network magazine each month -- they are full of great ideas.

I see her cookbooks for sale at the library in the Friends' bookstore all the time.  Garage stores, too, and maybe inexpensive used on Amazon.

I like watching Chopped, too.  Those chefs come up with some great ideas!

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#22 of 22 Old 02-02-2013, 05:11 PM
 
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I also like rachael ray - she's very approachable and the recipes are tasty. They are NOT low fat or low calorie. I use her cookbooks for low stress dinner party recipes.
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