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Aug 10, 2006 08:55 PM

need some quick and easy dinner ideas for a single non-cooker

hi everyone i'm embarrassed to admit this, but i am 28 and don't know how to cook (and my mom's italian too)! i mean i think ive made like 3 things in my life ever, 2 of which were pies! i'm sure this topic has been mentioned millions of times, but i need your wise counsel. btw, i am low on funds and don't like to eat meat too often (but love salads, seafood, fruits and veggies). all i know is i need me some home cookin (and yes i intend to buy a cookbook or 2 in the future, but i like going straight to the source). thanks SO much for your help!

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  1. You might start with eggs and teach your self how to make all of the basic egg dishes, omelettes, scambles, hard cooked (not boiled...never boil and egg it makes the whites too tough and the yolks to firm)frittatas, etc. Graduate to more involved egg dishes like quiche and souffles, The combinations of ingredients you can use in them. There are also egg based desserts like flans and pubbings and custards again an infinite variety and eggs are good for you and cheap.

    There are lots of cookbooks out there and almost every single one of them expects a user to have a rudimentary knowledge of the terms used and techniques. If you are really a novice and are not real sure of your self in the kitchen I would suggest your first book purchase be Lora Brody's Kitchen Survival Guide. She wrote it for her son's when they were moving into their first apartments. It is fun to read and she will walk you through what you really need to know, have on hand and techniques. I often give it as a closing gift to young buyers buying their first home or condo and I have learned through the course of the purchase that they are kitchen novices and with a mortgage there is not going to be a lot of dining out or take out.

    2 Others which might be nice for a bigginer are Marion Cunningham's Breakfast Book and Supper Book. Before investing much in cook books get yourself down to your public library and check out cook books you think you might like to own. Read them see if the author suits your style or inspires you to want to cook from the book. Test drive before buying.

    1. I love to make pasta salads, they are so easy and cheap. Cook any type of pasta and add chopped vegetables of your choice (broccoli, squash, etc), olives, cheese, beans such as chickpeas and then add olive oil and vinegar to taste. Its great and easy.

      1. Learn how to make a few pasta sauces, and then have fun buying all the different shapes and sizes of pasta and adding your favorite vegetables to the sauce to change them up a bit. You'll of course want to start with a marinara. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you want. Simple would be opening up a can of prepared sauce and just adding to it. Medium simple would be starting with tomato sauce, tomato paste, and/or canned tomatoes and building your sauce up with spices, herbs, meat, vegetables, etc. The most complicated would be buying tomatoes and going from there.

        Other simple sauces would be:

        pesto (if you have a blender or food processor it's just a few ingredients: basil, pine nuts, salt, pepper, parmesan cheese, and garlic.)

        alfredo: just cheese and cream

        I'm sure others will chime in. Also consider a "raw" pasta sauce, which has been popular on this board this summer. Start with this link and add whatever suits you

        A GREAT way to start a small repertoire of easy recipes is to check this board daily. Follow along, see what looks easy enough, and cook what others are cooking. That way you'll have people to bounce ideas off of, and if anything goes awry there will be others to chime in.

        1. When cooking for one, some of the best things to learn are how to economize! Things like buy a pack of chicken and freeze the other breasts, legs, wings, things etc in individual portions. Buy in bulk and learn to reinvent ingredients so last nights beef stir fry is tonight fajitas.

          One thing I like to make that is fast and simple is a recipe I dreamt up for salmon. Salmon is great because you can often buy it in individual serving sizes.

          Sprinkle some regular and black (or just regular or black if that is all you have) on to a plate. Take a portion of salmon (or make double for other uses) brush the non-skin side with a marinade of your choice (terikayi, oyster sauce, mustard, hoisin) then put the salmon with the marinade side down into the sesame seeds. This will give a sesame seed "crust".

          Heat some oil in a frying pan with a heat proof handle and place the salmon seed side down in to the oil. Fry the salmon for a few minutes and then gently turn over. Fry for a couple minutes. Finish the salmon off in the oven or a toaster oven.

          I make a wasabi aioli to go with it. Sounds fancy but is just wasabi powder in mayo.

          Hope that helps!


          1. i decided to give my sister and her hubbie and introductory cooking lesson a few months ago, and got some great suggestions on simple foods for cooking novices on this thread:

            this board is a great resource, and a basic cookbook (like one of the moosewood books, or the bittman how to cook everything book) will get you started.


            rose water (f/k/a freddie)