Cooking Skills and Weight Loss

January 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

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Gorton’s fish is convenient, quick and easy.  I mean you see my stash, right?

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But  I’m really getting sick of it.  I’m the only one who will eat it.  Maybe if I knew how to cook fish correctly that would be different.  I’ve tried though.  The problem is I don’t really even know what kind to get.  I do make Tilapia in the pan–a recipe my brother taught me for fish tacos.  I only know to choose Tilapia over some other kind of fish because that’s what we got the time he taught me to make it.  And I haven’t been able to gain any other knowledge since then.  It’s not bad either and not hard to make although I’m not thoroughly convinced I’m really doing it right.  When what I cook comes out burned and dry, it’s not that appealing.  It’s not for lack of trying but it seems the best experience my kids have had with fish is either frozen fish sticks or a Fish Fillet sandwich from McDonald’s.  Neither of which makes me feel like a great Mom.  Neither of which helps me at all in losing weight.  So the best I can do is Gorton’s.  And the occasional effort at Tilapia.

At least I know how to make my own tartar sauce by mixing mayonnaise and sugar free relish.  But that’s my extent of creativity.

And so back to the packaged and pre-made foods I often go.  Or worse—the drive through.  And I think I’m beginning to realize that this could be one of the biggest reasons I’m not having long term success. I never really learned to cook anything on this journey.  Certainly I have the “things” that I eat which I’ve listed on here but almost all of them are very easy foods that take almost no skills to cook.   I have just gotten by with throwing some things together.  Rolling cream cheese into ham slices.  Buying pre made jalapeño poppers and rotisserie chicken that I dip into dressings or salsa.  Atkins shakes by the thousands.  And that’s all fine for ME. But the kids want a real meal and since I am so inept in this area I just end up going back to what I know.  Hamburger Helper.   Tacos (and not the healthy kind).  Dominoes.  And can I make that for the kids without it infecting me too??  At first, I was really good at foregoing it, ya know?  But as the years go on, it becomes harder and harder for my resolve to say no.  If that’s what I’m cooking that tends to be what I’m eating.  So is it any wonder I can’t lose weight?

I didn’t really learn how to cook growing up.  We ate a lot of the basic things that many eat.   Chicken and rice,  Pot Roast, Spaghetti.  My mom grew up in the south as a very poor child.  Even after that changed, she still made a lot of cornbread and beans.  It was actually one of my favorite meals.  Not that I can make it because I never learned how.  But that’s ok because cornbread and beans isn’t exactly the staple of a low carb diet.  Aside from these basics, we ate a lot of canned things and packaged foods.  I always loved to eat but cooking never really interested me.  It was only when I got married in 1995 that I found myself needing to think about that.  In college, I had a food plan at the cafeteria and then there was always Taco Bell.  To be honest my relationship with food consisted of swinging between binge eating fast food meals and bakery items at one extreme to trying to starve myself completely on the other.   What I never seemed to possess though was any kind of balance.

When I got married, I had to learn to cook.  But at the time we didn’t really have the internet in full bloom as we do today.  There was no You Tube.  There was just me and a few cookbooks.  As I’ve mentioned before, I seem to lack something when it comes to reading a recipe.  A lot of my problem stems from lacking the most basic knowledge that they assume you have.  For example knowing what certain ingredients are or where to find them.  It’s kind of embarrassing to admit this but I realize now that the reason I fail at cooking is because I am missing the foundational knowledge that most people have.  It’s not the recipes that give me a problem.  It’s what they  DON’T put in recipes because they assume you already know it.  You see, I lack the basic cooking tools even.  The right kinds of pans more than likely to do it right.

To be honest, I barely know how to boil an egg properly.  I actually buy pre boiled eggs.  Not often but I do it.  Many times i’ve said that I do a lot of convenience foods because they’re quick and easy and that’s true.  But much of it comes from frustration.  Just not having the basic skills required to complete a recipe without failing at it. Here’s an example of why I either fail at most recipes or quit before I start.   I tried not long ago to make cauliflower crust.  The problem is that I could not really figure out how to get the cauliflower broken off.  It was flying all over the room.  I shoved it in the Vitamix to try and blend it but that didn’t work either.  I had numerous people leave me comments though explaining how to get the cauliflower off more easily or with tips and tricks on other ways to make it easier.  But it all boiled down to not having the very basic knowledge of how to cut cauliflower off the stem! It’s the same reason I don’t know what to do with asparagus I suppose.  If a recipe says to put water in a pan I need to know how much.  Like…EXACTLY how much.  I also need to know what kind of pan.  In a very detailed way.

I know how to eat to lose weight.  For me, low carb/Paleo is the best way to go.  I prefer to keep it simple.  Cooking chicken, steak, pork chops.  However I’d be lying if I said I can even cook those well.  I tend to buy rotisserie chicken a lot because it’s just easy.  When I look at a chicken, I don’t know what to do with it.  Do you pull the skin off? What do you do with the stuff inside? And when I pulled up a video on how you’re supposed to tie the legs off with a string, I wonder—what kind of string? Where do you get this string? Won’t it burn in the oven?  I watched 3 different videos on the proper way to roast a chicken in the oven and all of them said you should “truss” the chicken.  I even watched them do it.  But I still don’t know where you get this string from.  The craft aisle? I’ve never seen it in a store.  I’m literally afraid I’ll light the house on fire by putting string in the oven.  Already stressed I just give up and go back for my rotisserie chicken.

Now I can cook chicken breasts pretty well.  I just get frozen ones and put them in a pyrex pan.  Then throw them in the Smart Oven for awhile.  They usually come out ok.  Years ago I got a Smart Oven that sits on the counter because I had all but given up on needing the real oven as anything I cooked in it was usually a failure.  Just ask my kids!! About the only thing I can cook that they are willing to eat is Hamburger Helper.  And I’ve even screwed that up!  I’m decent at spaghetti and I can usually manage to cook a Stouffer’s Lasagna without burning it.  The one thing I CAN cook with no issues is tacos.  I use my mother’s recipe that I DID take the time to learn . It’s 1 pound of ground beef and taco seasoning mixed with a big can of refried beans.  It’s hard to screw that up.   But it’s not exactly low carb.  I also like it too much and it leads to overeating for me. I’ve actually raised one child all the way through to 18 years old.  And I realize now that I gave her no skills at all on how to cook.  I’m looking at my other three children and seeing that I’m doing them a disservice.  But more than that, I really feel my inability to have solid weight loss success is due to the fact that I just can’t cook for ANYTHING.

I get inspired by recipe ideas but I’m in over my head before I get out of the starting gate.  I don’t know what to do with garlic so if a recipe calls for that I’m screwed.  I do sometimes get minced garlic but I’m not even sure about that. Convenience foods and fast foods are usually the only thing I can manage.  I have always said that being too involved with food preparation can be a problem for me and that’s true.  Because the more time I spend around food the more I tend to get hungry.   I don’t like to spend too much time thinking about or planning food.  It literally just draws me into the dance and makes me crave food even more.  But it’s a double edged sword because not being able to cook basic food dishes WELL is a problem.   If it’s not at least somewhat appetizing no one wants to eat it.  And that leads back to the easy (but bad for you) foods that I CAN make.  It’s not that I don’t cook.  Or that I can’t cook.  It’s just that I can’t cook WELL.  It’s just not very good.

If I knew how to really roast a chicken the right way that would save me money and it would take me a long way.  If I knew how to truly cook a steak WELL that would be awesome.  If I could just make a pork chop in the pan without drying it out and burning it…that would be amazing.  It doesn’t need to be fancy.  I like to eat very simply.  I have personally found (as I’ve mentioned many times on here) that intermittent fasting during the day with coffee, water and some low carb shakes is the best way for me to get through the day.  However I want to provide my family with a healthy dinner and one that I can eat without going crazy.   I know that when I eat meat, fish and salad for dinner along with some vegetables—-that is the best way to keep me on track.  I can get by with the crockpot usually but I haven’t totally mastered that either.  I mean how can you screw THAT up, right?? Maybe this whole lack of cooking skills thing really is my downfall.

However I’m tired of buying frozen Gorton’s fish in the freezer section.   I’d like to learn for once how to make fish.  REALLY make it.  I keep saying it can’t be that hard to really learn how to cook but yet here I am in my 40’s still lacking the real skills. I mean I do cook but the problem is that my skills consist of all kinds of generally unhealthy and easy to make casseroles and things of that nature.  Or baking things that no one needs to eat! Most of all me!

Over the holidays I ended up watching a movie called “Julie and Julia”.  It’s a movie from a few years back with Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.  It’s about a woman who decides to cook all of Julia Child’s recipes in a year.  Intertwined with that story, the movie does flashbacks to Julia Child’s experiences of living in France.  I actually didn’t mean to watch this movie.  I tend to avoid movies with food themes for obvious reasons.  I have always hated cooking and felt it was best to avoid it.  I certainly tried extensively over the 10 years I was married to be the best Betty Crocker I could be.  You have no idea how hard I tried.  I studied cookbooks and tried to do my best.  I cooked and cleaned and baked.  But clearly I fell desperately short. I made a huge effort at it and for me it wasn’t easy.  But it was never good enough.  So once I became divorced I gave up.  And that’s when I fell into the hopeless pattern of everything frozen and fried.  Sam’s Club became my best friend.  Stouffer’s my 2nd best.  All those bags of things pre made that you just dump in a pot and cook.  I had accepted that maybe I just wasn’t good at being a housewife.  I had failed.  So who cared anymore, right?

But  somehow I got sucked into this movie.  It was really nice to see someone else struggle so much with cooking.  Flailing herself on the floor in frustration at having tried a recipe only to have it come out exactly the opposite of what it should.  I also found Julia Child’s story of learning to cook surprising!! I had no idea that she wasn’t just born knowing how to cook.  I guess I just always assumed that she had a talent for it.  I think I assume that about most people who are good cooks.  But apparently that wasn’t the case.  She decided that she wanted to learn while in France so she went to professional cooking school.  Not only did she have to learn the french techniques but she had to learn all of this while not speaking French!!  There is this one scene where she has a mountain of onions on her counter that she is repeatedly chopping.  She is absolutely determined to learn how to chop up the onions the RIGHT way so that she can compete with the other students in her class.

In watching this clip, I suddenly realized that maybe not everyone is born knowing these things.  And I really related to it.  I don’t know how to chop an onion the right way either.  I don’t know how to press garlic, open an artichoke, peel a potato or a carrot. In fact it’s really shameful I guess that I’m saying all this.  You probably wonder what I’ve been feeding my kids all these years?  Perhaps suddenly the fact that I’m divorced isn’t such a mystery right?! Well this is what I’ve done.  I’ve just gotten by.  I’ve cut the darn things up and thrown them in trying my best to muddle through.  I’ve cooked potatoes and carrots in a pot roast and hoped for the best.  Yet the frustration at not really being able to ever make things so that they taste very good holds me back.  It’s always so much easier in that case to just buy a pre made Stouffers Lasagana and then order Dominoes the next day. And I do believe that THIS is what makes it really hard for me to ever make a true lifestyle change.  You can only subsist so long on Atkins shakes and pre made convenience foods that are low carb.  After awhile the kids want something other than Suddenly Salad, Grilled Cheese, Hamburger Helper and the few crockpot creations I’ve managed to make edible.  In the end, that’s why I always just go back to bad habits.  Ordering pizza and doing whats easy but what is NOT healthy.  It’s why I’m probably leading my kids to a destiny of knowing very little other than how to follow the directions on the side of a macaroni box.

You see, I realize I’m failing.  My daughter is in college this year and living in her own apartment.  Aside from Ramen Noodles, macaroni and cheese and sandwiches—she’s pretty much at a loss.  That is perhaps the reason so much of the ATM charges seem to be going to Subway.  Refusing to learn or accepting that I CAN’T learn is probably one of my biggest problems.  I just have always believed that I don’t have the “gene”.  There are good reasons for this long held belief though.  I have tried.  I have watched cooking shows.  I have bought cookbooks.  My kids could all tell you of the tragic times I made an effort to cook things that came out horribly and then they were all subjected to eating it. The joke around here is that if the smoke alarm is going off it means that Mom is cooking . Sadly, that’s true.

If you want solid proof that I have something seriously wrong with me in the kitchen—then let me just tell you what happened only yesterday.  You know the grilled cheese I said I can make? Well sometimes I can’t even make THAT.  My son wanted a grilled cheese and I set out to cook it.  For some reason, I couldn’t even get it to cook right and I don’t know why.  I have no idea what happened . I sprayed Pam in the pan.  I was going to butter the bread but I was out so instead I used mayonnaise.  I’ve done that before and it turned out fine but not this time.  For whatever reason, it just was not really cooking it right! I put oil in the pan instead but that made a mess.  What I was left with was this awful looking grilled cheese that had fallen apart. Instead of really grilling, it just seemed to be soaking it in.  It was weird!

In trying to figure out what happened I began to think that maybe it was due to my mayonnaise being the reduced fat olive oil mayo.  Could that be the problem? Or could it just be ME?? Am I just cursed with cooking?? I’m not sure.  I do tend to believe, though, that it’s ridiculous that I cannot make a grilled cheese after all these years without a problem.  Or that I can’t even decipher what the problem is!

After seeing this movie I realized that Julia Child had to learn all the basic things that I need to know.  Even how to properly hold a knife.  Not only do I need to know this but I need to know what KIND of knife.  Honestly, it was in watching this movie that I started realizing my “cooking” problem is much like the problem someone would have in school if they were placed in Algebra before they learned how to add or subtract.  Most people know the basics. They probably learned somewhere along the way how to use a meat thermometer.  Or how to baste something.   But somehow I never did.  And when I’m told to do things in a recipe that seems to come with “understood” skills, I realize I’m in over my head.   Most people probably know what it means to steam something or sautee it.  They probably know what a cheesecloth is (something a recipe told me to put in a strainer to do something with making chicken soup). Don’t ask! I gave up.  Too clueless! But if Julia Child had to spend that much time learning how to chop up an onion then why should I assume that I can learn it without more effort than I’ve put in?  Maybe there is hope for me yet.  After all living in constant denial that my horrible cooking skills aren’t playing a role in my inability to keep weight off is not something I should continue to do. Nor is it good to pass this on to my kids.

I still believe in keeping it simple . But eating a pork chop should be simple.  If only I could cook it properly. The problem isn’t that I have a lack of recipes or that I can’t read them.  The fact is that when they tell me to DO certain things—I just don’t know how.  I can’t fillet something.  I don’t exactly know what they want me to do when they tell me to strain something in a particular way.  Part of the problem no doubt is lack of tools to do it right.  But I guess I have to admit that what I need more than a recipe book is something that comes PRIOR to that.  A basic book in the skills you need before you can even arrive at a recipe.  Like someone who tries to learn to read before they even know the alphabet.  I think it was in watching this movie that I began to realize that my real problem with cooking is in a lack of foundational knowledge.  I should have learned it long ago but I didn’t.  So here we are. For once my New Years Resolution is not to lose weight.  After all, that’s a daily resolution so why make it something for New Years?

No–this year my resolution is to learn how to cook.  REALLY cook.  But not in any fancy way.  Not in any complicated way.  I just want to learn to cook some very basic things.  And I do mean BASIC.  But while it seems I already know how to cook them—there is a difference.  Because I can’t cook them WELL.  And that’s what I need to learn.  I need to really be able to cook healthy food for myself and my kids so that convenience, prepackaged and fast food STOPS being what I fall back on.  Or what THEY fall back on when they grow up and go off to live their lives on their own.  I’ve already seen this happening now with my oldest.  And it’s time I turn the tide.

This year, I am going to learn how to roast a chicken.  Like REALLY well.  Using the right kind of pan and the right kind of ingredients.  It’s not like I don’t make turkey at Thanksgiving.  I just get the fool proof turkey that comes in a bag.  I can still manage to screw it up most of the time and I never know how to make the broth from it so that I can come out with a decent soup.  What if I could do THAT?  I read that a lot of people roast two chickens a week and then use the leftovers to make chicken soup.  How healthy is that? I’ve tried but I’m doing it wrong.  And it’s time I learn to do it right.

I am going to learn how to properly cut up vegetables and cook them.  I want to learn how to steam things.  I don’t know how to do that either.  I can’t even boil rice (not that I eat it because it’s high in carbs) but if I make it for the kids I just buy it in the microwaveable bag.  Simply because I never learned.  What’s wrong with me?!  Do I want my kids to inherit this nonsense? To grow up unable to cook decent meals for themselves so that restaurants and pizza always look more appealing? I don’t want that for them and I don’t want it for me.  I’ve gotten by easy on making a few things that taste OK but it’s not going to cut it if I want to really succeed. I am going to learn how to cook a steak in the pan and in the oven.  I don’t know how to grill and I can’t even cook on my George Foreman without screwing it up.  I’ve tried but like I’ve said before—something isn’t connecting in my brain.  Yet this movie inspired me to believe that I can overcome that with enough effort.

Perhaps if I cook the same meal 10 times in a row I will finally learn what I’m doing wrong.  So this year I am going to learn how to cook a steak in the oven.  And pork chops.  I have already looked up that I need a steel roasting pan not a glass baking dish.  I need a cast iron skillet too.  I seem to remember Mom having one of those to make cornbread.  My goal is to not be a chef.  But to just learn how to cook meat and vegetables.  The staple of any low carber or Paleo eaters diet.  If I could learn how to do a really good job with something as basic as this I would be going a long way to making my life easier with weight loss. In an effort to get started, I’ve bought the Julia Child book “The Way To Cook” which I was told is more than a recipe book but a how-to book.  A teaching manual for those like me who just don’t have the background knowledge we need.  Here it is!

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When I finally master the basics of chicken, pork chops, steak and vegetables—I’ll let you know!!

(I also want to learn how to use that Inspiralizer to make zucchini pasta.  But that’s getting fancy.  So maybe not yet.)

Here’s to cooking!!

P.S.  Looking for any recommendations on what kind of cast iron skillet to get (as in what size, brand etc) Also I don’t understand seasoning it but I’ve heard this is good to have for steaks.   Same question on roasting pan for chicken.  Thanks!

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{ 77 comments… read them below or add one }

LuckyMama January 2, 2015 at 7:18 pm

I’m glad you’re gonna try this. In reading most of your post, I was a bit concerned at the “can’t” coming through. They amount of money you’re gonna save is going to be measureable for sure.

There’s tons of stuff I don’t know how to do, but I plow through – you can too.

JUST DO IT! It’s progress, not perfection.

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PaulaMP January 2, 2015 at 7:29 pm

Fresh tastes a thousand times better than frozen everything. You can do it, just start out with simple recipes. If I look at a recipe and it needs fifty ingredients and takes forever to prepare, I pass right on by.

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Marianne January 2, 2015 at 7:38 pm

Hi Holly,
Loved this post. I taught myself to cook–my mom was a good basic cook, but never taught me anything. I remember my first meal was steak and baked potatoes and I started them at the same time. That was one of the hard things for me, getting the separate components of a meal to finish at the same time.
Anyway, I believe that if you can read, you can cook; Unfortuneately, a lot of cookbooks are poorly written and assume a lot of prior knowledge. Or have steps out of order. That’s not your fault. My primer was Joy of Cooking, but that was back in the late sixties and I hear the new editions aren’t great, so I won’t recommend it. One of the good things about it, though, were the introductory sections that did explain cookware and cuts of meat and the different fishes. Really basic stuff I needed to learn. You’re sure to be in good hands with Julia Child. My copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking is still a often-used reference work.
One book I do like to recommend to beginning cooks is Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. He is a bit more health conscious than Julia Child and he does cover basic cookware and knives in the intro. You could think about adding it to your cookbook library if you decide you want to further your cooking education.
One tip (no matter how well written the cookbook): read the whole recipe first, try to visualize the steps and assemble the ingredients before you start to follow the procedures.
You will make mistakes, you will have disasters. Try to keep a sense of humor and don’t be hard on yourself when bad things happen. Usually you learn something – but I have no idea what you could learn from that grilled cheese misadventure. Besides “don’t to that again!”
Marianne
Happy New Year. Bon Appetit!

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 2, 2015 at 8:07 pm

Ok bought the Mark Bittman book!!! Thank you so much!

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Wendy January 5, 2015 at 12:31 am

Hi – Can I also suggest another Mark Bittman book – similar title – “How to Cook Everything – The Basics”? He goes through everything from how to stock your pantry, what herbs/spices you need, what pots/pans and other tools you need, etc. It’s a great “from the ground up” book, with lots of great, fast, easy recipes.

For steak – I suggest Montreal steak seasoning (in the spice section, bu other spices). I also use salt, pepper and granulated garlic on my steaks. First I rub them with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil – just drizzle a little oil over each, and rub it in. Then sprinkle the seasonings on, one at a time. I like a LOT of seasonings, but I suggest starting with a little, and seeing how you like it. I cook it over medium-high heat on a grill or in a pan for 4 minutes per side, for a steak about 1 thick, to get to a “medium” steak temperature (for a thinner steak, this time would make it more “medium-well to well”; for a thicker steak, 4 mins/side would definitely be a bit rarer.) Once you put it on the heat, don’t move it around; just put it on the heat, set your timer, and walk away. When it’s time to flip, do the same thing.

PS I only recently learned to cook myself! And I’m 45!

For cast iron skillets, the one they sell at Target, Lodge brand, is the same one you’ll see at high-end places. Pretty cheap, should be $25-$30 for the pan.

You are going to be so proud of yourself for conquering this!!! Good for you for identifying the “area for improvement” and diving in! You are inspiring!
Wendy

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Connie January 5, 2015 at 8:06 pm

Wendy, great advice. I’m going to get the Mark Bittman Basics book. I cook, but it never hurts to have extra advice. My mother was not much of a cook, so I had to learn on my own. My first chicken was pure disaster. Burnt to a crisp on the outside, raw on the inside! Cooking is an on-going learning experience.

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ophir03 January 2, 2015 at 8:00 pm

This post makes me want to drive over to your house and cook with you! I am an avid home cook and baker, and I think somewhere along the way, a lot of people got it in their minds that cooking is difficult. And really, food companies want us to think it is, right? That way we buy their packaged and convenience foods. But it’s a huge myth! Yes, you can spend hours cooking if you want, but with a little planning and the right shopping list, it is faster than going out to eat, and a lot better…and maybe even fun!

Two pieces of unsolicited advice…get a sharp knife. Victorinox Fibrox is a great one – the 8″ chef’s knife is about $30. Chopping is terrible unless you have a sharp knife. Also, buy a meat thermometer. I have the CDN ProAccurate Quick Read thermometer. This will help you cook meats to the right temperature, especially when roasting a chicken or cooking pork chops.

Good luck!!

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 2, 2015 at 8:07 pm

Let me ask you a silly question. Where do you store this singular knife? I have a set of knives on the counter (not that I really use them). If you buy a special knife like this, where do you keep it? I’m also bad at organizing…can you tell! And I have both items in the cart. Thank you!

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ophir03 January 2, 2015 at 8:26 pm

You had to ask! 🙂 I have a small drawer that is dedicated to knives. That’s the wrong answer. It’s not good for keeping knives sharp and it’s a little dangerous. However, knife blocks don’t really work for me because I hate clutter on the countertops, and I have a strange collection of knives. I could get by with just chef’s knives alone, (I have three), but I also have a paring knife (3″), some steak knives and a bread knife. That’s it.

They make universal knife blocks that you can put anything in. I just haven’t gotten one because of the clutter factor.

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 12:55 am

Thank you!! I got both things you recommended!

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Lauren January 3, 2015 at 2:52 am

You can also put craft foam in a sturdy container and stick your knives in it until you find a decent knife block or set.

Greta January 4, 2015 at 1:01 am

I store my knives on a magnetic bar that is screwed to the wall. I bought mine at IKEA.

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 4, 2015 at 1:16 am

I have absolutely never heard of that!! I will check it out!

Katie January 2, 2015 at 8:21 pm

Wow I think this is a great idea!! Easy? NO! Cooking is annoying and frustrating when you are not sure you are doing it right (can you tell I’m not so keen on the whole cooking thing?) but it will be totally worth it. Start with simple meals and maybe only one meal – like dinner, keep on keeping on with your standard breakfasts and lunch – and plan ahead. If ever there is a time for the turtle mentality this is it. Maybe check out the cookbooks at your local book store or library. Everyone explains things differently and having more than one source may be helpful…or not. If it gets too confusing stick to one! You are not alone in this believe you me. (And someone just gave you sharp knife advice, I second that!)

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Amy January 2, 2015 at 8:24 pm

I recommend poking around the Cook’s Illustrated website, I believe they offer a free trial membership. http://www.cooksillustrated.com/
They run two shows on PBS, Cook’s Country and America’s Test Kitchen and there are videos on the website. I love their stuff because it’s presented in a scientific way and even in their cookbooks they explain not only exactly what kind of pan to use, they detail why they used that particular pan instead of others. It might backfire and be overwhelming, but you might find it useful. Good luck!

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kelly January 2, 2015 at 9:00 pm

Have you tried any recipes from the world according to eggface? Great blog and all of her recipes look delicious!

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 12:55 am

absolutely! I make her mini egg muffins all the time but for some reason I am the only one eating them. The kids are so particular and that is what gets me

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Tori January 2, 2015 at 9:38 pm

Pardon my language but I suck at cooking. Which could be why the hubs wants to eat out so much. My mom wasn’t the best cook either-grew up on a tight budget, spent most of her marriage on a tight budget-every Friday it was left over day-sometimes she would grind it all up, put it in a pot with ragu and noodles (gag) BUT she was still a much better cook than myself. I’ve tried the typical cook books (I have a REAR END load of them if you’d like me to mail them to you) but most of the time the dishes are barely edible when I’m finished. I’ve gained 50lbs since marriage (not too shabby-however it bothers me).

HOWEVER I saw this “Dump it and Cook it” cookbook (As Seen On TV thing) and thought, hmmm…wouldn’t that be great! cuz surely I cant muck that up (Did I mention how poor of a cook I am, that majority of the times I would try and cook something out of a “cookbook” that inevitably it would not turn out right..sometimes barely edible?).

Anyhow, I’m sick of eating out or eating frozen. I’ve been looking for a way to eat at home more (which will require me doing the cooking) and saw the book on some channel. and yes, bought it. While the title turns out to be a bit deceiving (I was expecting only recipes that you literally dumped it all into a pot and cooked) the recipes are REALLY easy. AND foods that at one time or another I have eaten somewhere. And NO FANCY ingredients. While some of the recipes might not be the healthiest (requires noodles or rice) surely it’s still better than eating out? List night we had Tuna and noodles (recipe called for turkey but I substituted) and wow, I was pleasantly surprised and the hubs stated he was gonna eat more for lunch today!!

if you’d like I could email you copies of some of the recipes to see if you’d like it. The book is SO easy…I like easy…I also like edible and left overs for lunch. People laugh at those info-mercials but some of those products are super convenient (I have the veggie dicer thing too).

Good luck….but I know you can do it…you just have to start small and stick to it.
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diane January 2, 2015 at 9:54 pm

go with an enameled cast iron as you don’t have to season it. if you’re not a pro with that, you’ll end up with a rusted pan. just a pain in the booty. I always go with the KIS method, “Keep it simple”.
A crock pot may end up being a good tool for you.
For veggies, try to cut the veggies to the same size and toss them in the crock pot with a box of stock and you’ll have a nice soup in a couple hours. If you have a william sonoma, or a community center “nearish” (I live in the country so you may so i get the being away from stuff) see if they offer cooking classes. Many mom and pop restaurants will offer demos as well.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ydc_SaQ_eRQ
is a great video, all recipes is a great channel in general.

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16blessingsmom January 2, 2015 at 10:48 pm

As a mom of lots of kids, 9 still at home, I can give you some pointers. Buy fresh chicken breast, marinate it in a little bit of Italian dressing and some pepper, and it will taste so much better when you bake it in the oven. 9’by13 inch glass Pyrex baking pans are great to cook chicken in, easy to wash afterward, too. Make enough for dinner, and leftovers for lunch. Chicken thighs with the bones and skin on are very cheap, and very tasty. You don’t have to marinate these because of the skin and fat, but put salt and pepper or some sort of chicken seasoning on the top, like Jerk Chicken. Easy and yummy. The other day when my kids had pizza, I just microwaved a bowl of frozen cauliflower, added a little bit of mozzarella cheese and a few slices of pepperoni, microwaved it a bit longer, and voila! I had a bowl of filling dinner, that wasn’t quite pizza but it did the trick. You could add some sauce, or diced tomatoes. Chili: brown some hamburger or ground turkey, add onions and green peppers, some diced tomatoes and crushed tomatoes, lots of chili powder, pepper…and some black beans or kidney beans. Quick, easy, good. My kids eat theirs with brown rice or tortilla chips or with corn. I am a very simple cook, but I can make a soup with leftover chicken (just add the chicken to lots of water, and pan drippings, and then add veggies later.). I used to use lots of boxes and mixes and cans, but have tried to switch over to more natural and healthy food…it is the most challenging part of my life to feed all of these people all of the time! You can do it though, just keep it simple. You don’t need a lot of expensive gadgets!

Della

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 12:55 am

Thanks Della!!

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Barb January 2, 2015 at 11:21 pm

check out the cooking for dummies series ( not that your a dummie!). There website even has a lot of basic how to stuff. Take it slow and try just one new thing a week so you don’t get overwhelmed. Google any questions you have. Heck I’m a pretty good cook and I don’t have a clue what trussing a chicken means and I have no idea about what string to use either. I’d have to google it. I just learned this past year how to pan sear chicken. I watched a video to figure it out. Cooking is a forever learning process!

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 12:54 am

Good idea!

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Calleigh January 2, 2015 at 11:26 pm

When I first left home I didn’t know how to cook. I also had no money so take out wasn’t an option.
I ended up teaching myself through trial and error. I watched the food network and learned as much as I could and then I just took a leap of faith and gave it a go. Not everything turned out. In fact I have a pretty funny story about one recipe being so bad even the dog turned his nose up at it.
Don’t be afraid of messing up. Don’t be afraid of it not being perfect. If it is a disaster thats ok because you just learned what not to do next time. Start off small and easy and build on it over time.
You can do this Holly!
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 12:54 am

Thanks Calleigh!! I have tried but it always comes out wrong. I guess I need to stick with one thing until I get it right!

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Jane t. January 3, 2015 at 12:15 am

I agree with using an enameled cast iron skillet. I got one from Lodge and I love it. They’re affordable, too. I wonder if you have a friend that is a good cook who could guide you through a few lessons and show you how to do things one on one. If I lived closer, I’d do it!

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 12:53 am

Oh they actually tweeted me about this!! I am going to buy one. They said they come pre seasoned so that’s good!

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Stacy T January 3, 2015 at 1:41 am

I cook whole chickens in the crockpot and it’s so easy!
http://www.food.com/recipe/crock-pot-whole-chicken-33671

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Stacy T January 3, 2015 at 1:47 am

Hit enter too quickly! Can you try and focus on one recipe a week (or even a month) so it’s not so overwhelming? Mastering a recipe will give you more confidence. I use websites where there are ratings and suggestions to help me along

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 2:23 am

thanks Stacy!

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Margaret January 3, 2015 at 2:43 am

Hi Holly,

I totally believe you will master cooking, but just in case you are like my sister who is very talented in many things and cooking isn’t one of them… she uses a program called Personal Trainer Food. She got to goal on it (153 and she’s 5’8, 44 years old) and stays on it for maintenance. She just never got the hang of cooking though I believe you will. PTF is low carb.

Happy 2015
Margaret
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 2:58 am

Thanks Margaret!!!!

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Natalie January 3, 2015 at 2:50 am

I left home at 24 with no idea how to cook. My mum was a terrible cook so maybe the fact that she never even tried to teach me was a benefit! I lived alone and worked it out by trial and error. I thought I was pretty good, too, until I started watching all those fancy cooking shows. They make everyone feel inadequate.

I was going to suggest you do some cooking classes, but I know you are basically out in the country now so there probably isn’t anything near you.

I think you’re in the same mindset I’m in with technology. It all seems too hard so I just put the responsibility elsewhere ( my husband) like you do with outsourcing cooking.

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 2:58 am

Thanks Natalie! It’s good advice. I just need to stop giving up!

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Tina January 3, 2015 at 3:50 am

Hi Hollie, have you watched “Jamie’s ministry of food” by Jamie Oliver? I’m not sure how much it would help exactly, but I think you’d find it really interesting. It’s based on the premise that a lot of people can’t escape from their cycle of obesity because of a lack of fundamental knowledge about fresh food and cooking. He aims to educate a few people in a small town, and gets them to start a “pass it on” program.

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 3:56 am

No but I will check it out. Thanks!!

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Rhonda W January 3, 2015 at 4:03 am

Hi Holly, You have set a great goal for the year! Woot! I have to tell you that I used frozen convenience foods for YEARS but no more! I started learning how to cook a few dishes and have expanded from there. I even do soups from scratch now… yip! I recommend you get two seasonings for pork chops, chicken and steak. Johnny Salt and Steak seasoning. I use both on all 3 meats. Both are available at any grocery store. I buy mine at Costco. I use a non-stick grill pan, (the kind with a bottom that sort of looks wavy like a grate) Thaw your meat, spray the pan lightly with olive oil, heat pan to medium low (about 4 on scale of 1-10) and place meat in pan. Lightly sprinkle with Johnny Salt and a little steak seasoning. Cover pan leaving opening for venting and cook 5 minutes. Turn meat and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes flipping every 3-5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Thanks Rhonda!! I love how specific and detailed your instructions were!! I will try it!

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Steph January 3, 2015 at 4:52 am

I see a cooking blog in your future 🙂 I’d be happy to contribute 🙂

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Thanks Steph!

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Brittany January 3, 2015 at 4:53 am

It just takes practice! You can do it! I was a vegetarian for a long time so I’m still learning how to cook real meat. I use this recipe for a whole chicken (http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/02/25/recipe-the-best-whole-chicken-in-a-crock-pot/) which does not require a string (I also don’t know where those are!!) and while the chicken isn’t crispy like an oven-roasted chicken, it requires little hands-on work and then you can shred it for salads/wraps/etc.

Also taco meat is excellent for low-carb! Just don’t put the beans in it when you make it. Do the beans make it creamy or something? If so you could mix in sour cream or cream cheese or melted cheese, which are low carb. If the kids really really like the beans, then just have those on the side for them. 🙂

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Thanks!! I read the recipe on her website and this looks like a really easy way to make a whole chicken and then make the soup from it as well. The one thing that confused me is when she said to pass the liquid through a sieve. Going to have to google that!!!

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Brittany January 3, 2015 at 4:55 am
Anneli January 3, 2015 at 4:21 pm

Awesome resolution!! I consider myself a pretty good cook, but I finally had to take 2 minutes and look up how to boil an egg. It’s just one of those things you think you ought to know, but I didn’t. So don’t feel bad!!

I wish you could watch my daugher–she’s the real thing. A fabulous cook. And WOW does she have failures in the kitchen. Often. That’s the real secret to greatness I think. Try and try and try again until it works in your home in your oven in your pans. The wonderful thing about cooking is that you literally get to enjoy the process. So the porkchops are a little dry? So what? Enjoy them! So the kitchen smokes up? It’s a family adventure and enjoy it. Total disasters make stories too. Just relax and have fun.

One super helpful thing I’ve learned is that NOT EVERY RECEIPE IS GOOD. Especially diet ones. Sometimes, it really isn’t you—it’s the receipe. Throw that receipe away and think, “Thank goodness I never have to eat/make that again.!”

I love how you talk about balance. True here too. Before you are able to roast a chicken like a five star chef, you’re going to roast one like someone who can’t cook. Then a barely passable one, eventually like a normal Mom, then someone who’s a pretty good cook, then someone who’s a really good cook and so on. Don’t forget that alll those steps in between are success too.

Happy cooking!
Anneli

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 5:01 pm

Thanks Anneli!!

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Anneli January 3, 2015 at 4:23 pm

By the way. String is just that. String. Buy it at home depot. There is no magic “correct string.” My mom used everything from sewing thread to rope–whatever came in handy.
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Laura January 3, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Holly – Cooking is beyond easy WHEN and I repeat WHEN you do not allow the task to burden you. Start simple and build your confidence. There are youtube demos but the best is your nose.
I love fish, start with a pam ed pan and then add the fish filets. You can then add some V-8 on top or some Walden Farms and then simmer. If it smells fishy you cooked it to long. Anytime you need moisture just place a lettuce leaf over. Start small and you will be surprised. Use recipes a year from now, when you have rocked the kitchen and will not doubt your given cooking skills.
Who made them the chef, your way will be better!
I just throw good ingredients and my food is unreal, no recipe just try
Laura

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Susan January 3, 2015 at 7:03 pm

I also have a George Foreman grill and use it often. I have been through 3. My favorite has removable grill plates. It frys bacon to a nice crisp, and all the grease goes in the little drain dish to be discarded. It is good for burgers too. I season with Mrs. Dash on the burgers – just sprinkle on the ground beef, then form into patties.

I also cook pork chops on GF grill. Buy the thinnest chops at the store. Turn on the grill 350 to 375 if yours has temp setting. Just pour olive oil in a plate – probably about 1/4 cup. Then sprinkle a bunch of Mrs. Dash on top of the oil – probably a tablespoon. Throw a layer of those raw thin chops in the oil/spice plate (enough to fill the GF grill). Turn the chops once to get the oil/spice on both sides. Grill about 10 minutes. Use tongs to flip the thin chops, and cook about 10 more minutes – or till lightly browned. Ready to serve.

This works with thin sliced chicken breast. Thin chicken cooks faster – about 5 to 7 minutes per side. The trick with GF grill is to use oil if it is a lean meat. It makes the meat moist, and the oil drains away. Try these, you may learn to love Little George too!

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Nanette Nielson January 3, 2015 at 7:34 pm

HOLLY!!!! GIRL!!!!

I totally understand where you are. I have been teaching myself to cook in a very similar manner the past few months. Basically just stuff that I could make myself en masse and have cheap, healthy options ready to just heat up when I get home. But I mean it started with learning to roast a chicken and make a stock out of the bones.

Best, least complicated way to roast a chicken.
http://www.chow.com/recipes/30264-basic-whole-roasted-chicken

As far as the most used items in my kitchen…
– a sharp knife (doesn’t even have to be crazy expensive) – buy a sharpener.
– 3-4 plastic cutting boards (laminate countertops can’t handle it).
– A large cast iron skillet (seasoning is basically making sure that there’s oil on the pan so it doesn’t rust).
– A large dutch oven/ceramic coated iron pan with lid.
– A good, large metal mixing bowl.

Most cooked items?
Chicken and veggie soup (super easy).
Meatballs (not hard at all!)
Split pea soup (takes some time but it’s worth it).
Roast chicken
Chicken stock – SO MUCH HEALTHIER!
Cottage stew (veggies, lentils, beef stock, beef + pork, whatever else is laying around).

If you would like… you can email me and I will give you my number and we can talk/walk through whatever recipes you want, or how to season that pan, or which side up does the chicken go? What do you do with the giblets? Did I get them all out? etc etc etc. There is no question to stupid. I’ve asked a lot of them recently to a very patient boyfriend who is a bit of a culinary whiz.

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 11:46 pm

Thank you Nanette!!!!! I really appreciate this. I have ordered the knife and cast iron skillet. I have always wondered what a dutch oven is. I see it called for in a lot of recipes. I may have to take you up on your offer!! Thank you!

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LosingTheRolls January 3, 2015 at 8:59 pm

Holly, I know you can do it and look forward to reading all about it. My parents were both great cooks, but they didn’t pass on the skills. They let my sister and I keep ourselves busy with school, sports and friends. We had other chores, but never cooking. I wish they would have made cooking a weekly chore. Because they didn’t, I never formed the habit of cooking. When I moved out (with my sister), fast food and restaurants became my lifestyle. That type of eating lead to weight gain.

Over the years, I have learned to cook but I only do the basics. I couldn’t make you a loaf of bread or pie from scratch, even if you paid me. When I first got married in 1998, I cooked for awhile, but all easy throw-everything-in-the-pot-and-add-cheese kind of meals. I don’t know when it happened, but I stopped cooking. Now days, either my husband cooks or we eat out. Let’s just say we eat out a lot. Like you, I know that cooking and eating at home is healthier than the way I have been eating. It must be, this route has gotten me to 400 lbs.

What I would like to do this year is start cooking again. I can’t leave the burden to my husband. When I say I don’t cook anymore, I mean I don’t cook ever unless my husband is out of town. I will have to put some thought into how I want to approach this goal, but I know I need to start soon. 2015 will be the year of cooking, for both you and me.

I wish you the best on this adventure Holly, I really believe you will succeed and sooner than you expect. Keep asking questions, no matter how small you think they are and the best advice (already given by someone else) is to always read the entire recipe before starting. You will save yourself many headaches. Happy New Year!
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 11:45 pm

I totally relate!! Especially when you said “Throw everything in the pot and add cheese” kind of meals! That is me. I cook for my kids but aside from baked chicken breasts I can’t make meat. I have failed always at that. EVEN Meatloaf! And I’ve tried. I’m pretty much in the same boat with vegetables which is why I buy canned or the steamable ones. I can cook frozen corn on the cob!! But it’s also a lot of tacos, spaghetti, baked chicken and a variety of throw it all in a casserole dish and call it something! A lot of very easy and thrifty things that are economical but generally horrible for you. A lot of them actually taste good but they aren’t helping me stay on track. I am totally determined to learn how to cook meat and vegetables WELL. I have narrowed it down to that. Nothing fancy. Just a piece of meat (other than chicken) that people will actually find edible! Thanks for the encouragement. I know we can do this!

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Karen P January 3, 2015 at 10:02 pm

Once I transitioned off Medifast and onto a Paleo-ish style of diet (Medifast for weight loss, Paleo-ish to maintain)… I had to do a lot of cooking. Fortunately, I helped my Mom in the kitchen a lot.

Now I’m cooking for myself and my daughter all 3 meals. I rarely eat out due to sticking to my weight maintenance template. I found several recipe authors that I really loved. They taught cooking skills as well as recipes that were in my food template (no sugars, no grains).

Here’s to learning this key skill as a part of weight loss and weight maintenance. 🙂 Your kids will learn those skills too, double bonus. Karen P
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 11:47 pm

Oh that is great Karen!! This is what I need to find. The recipes AND the skills!

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Cheryl January 3, 2015 at 10:13 pm

I have the Julia Child “The Way to Cook” book and I found it rather daunting (and I know how to cook.). My dil got the cookbook “What to Cook and How to Cook It” and it has such lovely step by step instructions with pictures and covers all the basics. http://www.amazon.com/What-Cook-How-Jane-Hornby/dp/0714859583/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420323023&sr=8-1&keywords=What+to+cook+and+how+to+cook+it The only issue you might have is that some ingredients are measured by weight. If you have a scale already it wouldn’t be a problem. Good luck and have fun. This is a great project.

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Mrs Abella January 3, 2015 at 10:21 pm

You can do it! That’s awesome that you’re trying to learn more about cooking!!

This is rather simple, but try basic recipes, like in Betty Crocker. They are super simple, and easy to change the ingredients to lighter versions or sugar free versions. Betty has been a staple in kitchens for a few generations now, and she was my first cookbook way back when…and I still go to her often for ideas.

The previous comments have lots of good ideas! Use what you know so far about eating healthy, combine it with what you learn reading recipes and practicing, and you’ll do awesome!

I do tons of scratch cooking–it helps keep the budget under control, and keeps the family fed for much less than if I bought frozen/premade/boxed mixes, etc. I prefer baking meats, or slow cooking in the crock pot, and then taking bones off the meat and boiling them into a stock to make soup with–that’s my mainstay for losing weight, lots of soups from scratch. I also bake our breads/goodies most of the time, and make a healthier bread than what is found on the shelves. It keeps the teenagers in the house full. We also do a lot of rice, dry beans, and other things that are inexpensive and easy to make.

You’ll learn in time to make your own meals from scratch, and you’ll be very proud of yourself! You can do it!!
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 11:48 pm

Ok I really have been hearing a lot about this and I’m going to try it. I bet you are right about making soup in the crockpot from stock will help. I am so going to try!

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Mrs Abella January 4, 2015 at 12:45 am

It comes out usually pretty good–just use your favorite meat, boil the bones for a few hours and add in any herbs you enjoy. I use a lot of fresh ones in the summer and fall when my little herb patch is growing. Then when that’s done, take out your bones (slotted spoon works or pour it through a sieve into another pot or bowl, discard bones and put it back into your original pot), and then add in whatever veggies you like. I use lots of fresh carrots cut up, celery, and whatever else is on sale at the time, plus frozen veggies like mixed, corn, peas, etc. We have some stored from the garden, so those go in as well. I LOVE tomato, and since it’s not tomato season, I buy large (industrial) cans of tomato sauce and some V8 and add in for the tomato taste. I also use my big water bath canner to make a big batch and freeze it into smaller more manageable portions to take out and use daily. So the industrial can of tomato sauce works well. It’s really just putting things you enjoy together into a stock, add meat if you want, and use it as your first part of any meal, or use it as the whole meal. You get full faster, you’ll take in less calories, and get nutrition without all the added salt and fat that’s in canned soups. And you get the joy of knowing you did it yourself. 🙂

You can do it! Small steps, you can do it. 🙂
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Shay from Trashy Blog January 3, 2015 at 11:55 pm

If I can learn how to cook, ANYONE can learn how to cook. I actually wrote a post on my blog once about the first time I had to brown hamburger. (I called it “cook” hamburger back then.) I was 22, fresh out of college, and asked my roommate if I had to add grease to the pan or not. If you don’t get that, then you might very well be as bad as I was back then–and it’s okay. You can do it!! I have a section on my blog called Trashy Recipe Recommendations that’s full of fun and easy recipes–but they’re not necessarily healthy. Not totally unhealthy, either, but more fun things we’ve done around here that I’ve turned into stories as well as recipes. Anwyay, check it out if you feel like it, and good luck cooking! It gets easier, I promise. Oh–and by the way–I ALWAYS mess up grilled cheese!
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Mrs Abella January 4, 2015 at 12:48 am

Oh get this–I *do* spray down the pan with pan spray before putting in hamburgers, sausage, or any other meat, especially bacon. It doesn’t stick as bad. Hamburgers here are meat mixed with egg, crackers or bread crumbs, and herbs (like making meatloaf) and fried with pan spray.

And for what it’s worth, my grilled cheese is awful, so hubby has that job. He makes a mean one, always comes out good. Mine…not so well.
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 4, 2015 at 12:54 am

Oh Shay you made my day!! I feel so much better about my grilled cheese SHAME! I am totally going to check out your recipes and stories!

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Jenny January 4, 2015 at 1:43 am

Thank you for sharing your inadequacies and being honest about where you are in life with cooking. I just moved in with my 88 year old grandfather, who is a foodie and a very particular eater… Needless to say, I feel intimidated. I can cook things, but my basis before has been healthy and what I like, not involved meat dishes and time-consuming recipes from scratch. I am interested to see how your education on cooking continues; please share as much as you can. I appreciate you and your blog so much!

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 4, 2015 at 1:46 am

Hi Jenny! I hope it is going well with your grandfather. That sounds like a lot of pressure to have to cook for a foodie with particular preferences!!! I have to say I am really amazed at how many people relate to my cooking issues. I was kind of embarrassed to admit how inept I am in this area. I guess I always thought everyone else out there can cook and I’m the lone one who can’t. Thank you so much for your encouragement!

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Terri in BC January 5, 2015 at 6:02 am

Good for you, Holly! I can cook, but my challenge is that I am only cooking for one (me) and I take the lazy way out. The cookbook I gave my daughters when they moved out was Better Homes and Garden. It has a red plaid cover, and has been a standby in our family kitchens since before my mother got married. It’s continually updated to reflect current trends and new findings regarding cooking methods, nutrition, etc. It covers everything from the basics such as cooking tools, etc. all the way to the fanciest meal. One thing I can suggest – stay away from frying meat or fish (i.e. the cast-iron fry pan) unless you use low-calorie methods of cooking such as cooking in broth, small amounts of olive oil, etc. Grilling is your best method of cooking meat and fish until you learn more. Also check out your local community college or specialty kitchen shop and see if they offer cooking classes, and convince a girlfriend to join with you!

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Amanda January 5, 2015 at 1:48 pm

Good for you! You are absolutely correct in that not everyone is born knowing how to do this. In fact, NO ONE is born knowing how to do this. There’s that a joke that men eat burnt dinners the first year of marriage and it’s because that’s when the woman really learns how to cook, after a whole lot of mistakes. I don’t do fancy but I can cook OK. Is it proper technique? I don’t know but I do my best. I’ve thought about taking a cooking class at the community college nearby, thinking it might be fun. Good luck to you!
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Steelers6 January 5, 2015 at 5:08 pm

I see you have lots of comments, so maybe I shouldn’t be leaving yet another!
Grilled cheese- don’t be so hard on yourself, you were out of butter. And in general don’t be so hard on yourself w cooking. Not everyone grows up cooking w their parents teaching them everything! I’ve come a very long way myself; I just kind of muddled through, figured it out.

I suggest initially avoiding the recipes that have foreign-to-you ingredients & instructions. There are meellions of recipes out there; choose Holly-friendly ones that seem to make sense.
Eventually, you will even feel comfortable making the call on omitting ingreds, & modifying recipes! Imagine!
You don’t need to buy lots of specific/unique kitchen equipment or ingreds to get started. In fact that might make things more intimidating. Make the recipes that are basic, and require basic cookware. THEN expand your experiments. You may also want to consider recipes with few ingreds. I think Paula also mentions this.

I’m thinking maybe Amanda can advise you. ? The Amanda Hotline? And some beginner cooking classes w your kids might be fun. Even if you don’t do classes with them, I highly recommend trying new recipes as a family adventure. Get everyone involved when you can. (kids can stir, learn to chop, etc.)

I am proud of you for recognizing that better home cooked foods are important. I can’t help but think of the sodium content in all the prepared foods.

Lastly, Lodge is a fairly easy to find, affordable brand for a cast iron skillet. I would advise you not to get one that is too big, as the bigger they are, the heavier! Mine is 10″. I don’t think a family your size would require a larger one. Possibly even 8 or 9″. (did I mention they’re heavy? haha) The pans come with care instructions.
ps-I make frittatas in mine. I will get that recipe to you sometime. I don’t want you to have 70 suggestions in the comments & be overwhelmed. I think you may need to be cautious on asking in this forum, bc you will get soo many opinions and suggestions.

BABY STEPS!!
Chrissy

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Cat January 5, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Learning to cook is great. I kind of self taught myself and if I can learn how to do it – anyone can! One thing you might consider to help make it easier on yourself, however, is to look at getting a George Foreman grill. They heat quickly and it even comes with a little book to tell you how long everything needs to cook. Then – all you have to worry about it what to season the meat (or vegetables, etc.) with. I use a lot of olive oil and rosemary although salad dressing marinates meat well too.
Good luck on your adventure!

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John (Daddy Runs a Lot) January 5, 2015 at 8:21 pm

Good luck with everything — for the cast iron — I have a coated cast iron set that I got from Walmart — it was ranked up there with La Cruet, but cost about 1/5 the cost . . . don’t remember the name, but I’m pretty sure they still sell them.

I learned to cook in high school, because I love to eat . . . what happened was that my mother was in a horrible car crash. She survived, but was barely able to function for months afterward. Well, takeout got old and I wanted my mother’s homemade cooking . . . so she started telling me what to do, and I started doing it.

Now? One of the secrets to my maintenance success (he says, having gained 20 pounds over the holidays) is that I use my crock pot to great advantage – lunches this week involve me putting (in this order): sliced onion, two bags of sauerkraut, 3 chopped & peeled sweet potatoes, 5 boneless/skinless chicken thighs, a box of chicken stock, and a cup of white wine in the crock pot and cooking for 8 hours. I split that into 5 containers, and I’ll have one/day for the week.
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Stacey January 6, 2015 at 5:10 am

Hi Holly,

You have so many great questions/points/ideas! I thought all those things at one point, too….the string is the funniest one though! That’s so me, I’d be thinking up all those questions about that darn string also! I have roasted over 1,000 chickens not kidding) and NEVER trussed one. It comes out fine. Better than fine… great, good! Just spread some butter (you can do a teaspoon of butter or a 1/4 cup! whatever you feel like) or oil (any oil) and shake salt and pepper all over the top. Some people roast chickens at high temp (425) for crispy skin and juicy meat but my oven smokes terribly at that high temp! Not worth it! So i roast for 2 hours at 350.

As far as pans are concerned. Le Creuset is great (and expensive). This 8 quart Martha Stewart Dutch Oven is a replica of Le Creuset and will work just as good.
http://www1.macys.com/shop/product/martha-stewart-collection-collectors-enameled-cast-iron-casseroles?ID=643436

You can make EVERYTHING in it. Roast a chicken, roast pork chops (get a box of Shake n’ Bake, it’s excellent and easy!), make your Hamburger Helper on the stove in it, boil water….it does everything.

Love reading your posts. You’ve given me a lot to think about over the years, so now I’m hoping I can help you a little bit! Thanks,
Stacey

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Jessica January 7, 2015 at 3:46 pm

I’m a terrible cook too, but have found my way to “faking it”…

Number 1: I want to reiterate what others have said about keeping it simple! If a recipe has more than 5-8 ingredients, takes more than a few steps, or will take over 20 minutes to prepare – I’m not going to do it. I highly recommend Betty Crocker (like someone else said) for basics, and the Biggest Loser Family Cookbook.

Number 2: I use a lot of prepared INGREDIENTS to help me out, both from a simplicity and time perspective. For example, at Publix I can buy packaged diced onions, or onions and celery, etc; I buy already minced garlic in a jar (it’s near the potatoes on an end cap at my store); I buy fresh herbs in a tube; I buy already cut veggies like cauliflower and broccoli, etc etc etc.

Number 3: Get and use a crock pot. It’s the ultimate ‘open and dump’ tool. Here are five super easy recipes: chicken tacos (chicken breasts + a jar of salsa), roast a whole chicken (just put it in and turn it on with little potatoes and baby carrots), chili (beef, stewed tomatoes, beans, salsa, and chili seasoning), soups (remember those pre-cut veggies? plus pre-cubed steak from the meat counter); pork loin (put it in and slice an apple on top with some water or juice).

Number 4: Get proficient at about 10 meals (including the five above lol). You’re set for almost two weeks. Repeat

Good luck Holly!

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Danna January 7, 2015 at 8:30 pm

Hi Holly, My name is Danna. I had RNY 3/2012. I cook, well and from scratch. I have taught a fair number of people how to cook (I taught my 6 & 8 year old sons to make and roll homemade egg rolls and won tons from scratch, they can also make cinnamon rolls from scratch just last month). If you want to e-mail me, I would be happy to give you my phone number and walk you through cooking whatever you’d like either on the phone or via Skype. I’m in Phoenix AZ or I’d invite you over and cook with you in my kitchen.

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 8, 2015 at 12:10 am

Well Danna that is absolutely WONDERFUL of you!!!!!!! I appreciate it so much!

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Donna January 12, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Holly, oh how I wish you lived near me! 50 years go I married a farmer and had to learn fast , having to cook three big meals plus a morning and afternoon lunch. I have learned to love cooking and baking and must admit I am very good. My advise is to watch Ina Gardin on TV also her cookbooks are awesome. Martha Sterwart’s TV cooking shows are good too. Cooks country and American Test Kitchen on TV and their magazines you won’t go wrong. Cooking at home from scrath so much better for you and so good for the budget! Hoping you keep us updated on your progress.

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 13, 2015 at 12:08 am

Wow that sounds like a ton of pressure!!! He is glad he didn’t marry me!!! LOL I am so impressed you were able to learn those things. I will admit I’ve been watching food shows on tv lately trying to learn. And I like Ina Gardin too!!!! Thanks so much for the advice Donna!

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Ren January 16, 2015 at 6:38 pm

When you search the web or youtube for cooking tips try to get as specific as possible with your search questions.. For example; I entered “what kind of string to truss a chicken”. I found a website right away that said to use kitchen twine. Then I searched “where to buy kitchen twine”. Answer, Walmart.. *there is a really cool way to keep the chicken legs together without using anything but the chicken too 🙂
I don’t mean to be demeaning in any way, but have you tried cookbooks for kids? My daughter has a book that we gave her when she was younger (she’s 18 now and an awesome baker) that teaches the basics like how to boil an egg (with step by step instructions).. I would also search for things like “what is simmer?” Or “what does braising mean”.. I’m a pretty good cook but couldn’t poach an egg to save my life.. I got really specific when searching for how to make one.. Last night, I made a poached egg!

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Emily January 23, 2015 at 8:20 pm

I’m going to sound like a huge jerk right now, so if you care to keep reading, keep going… I don’t read your blog often, I read it randomly once (I have an ed, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, I get how you see how people with either issue could relate). ANYWAY, when I happen to read your blog, every few months, I hope to see progress, but all I see are so many weak excuses. Please don’t take this the wrong way, I wouldn’t write if I didn’t think you could reverse the trend. But, seriously, everyone has to LEARN to cook, why haven’t you? Everyone has to learn to eat properly/deal with emotions. You’re not a special snowflake. Just try. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but come on now, you have it in you. Quit blaming situations we all face. Ok that sounded mean, seriously it comes from a rooting for you place. Its just sometimes hard to do when you seem so complain-y.

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down January 3, 2015 at 2:58 am

Oh great idea Lauren!

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