Any other novice chefs out there?
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11-04-2016, 09:35 PM
Any other novice chefs out there?
I'm great at baking, but cooking - not so much. I'm not familiar with cooking techniques, don't have much experience with prepping ingredients, and there is so much I had never prepared until recently - lamb, fresh herbs, asparagus, fish, squash. My diet consisted primarily of sandwiches, fast food, take out, frozen dinners, and a couple of familiar comfort foods I grew up on (meatloaf, casseroles, pasta dishes, etc).

I was ready for a change, and a friend offered me a free trial of one of those meal ingredient subscription services. I get 3 meals per week, and each meal is supposed to be 2 servings. In reality, most make 3 or 4. You get all the ingredients you need except for oil, salt, and pepper, and you get a detailed recipe card on how to prepare it. It doesn't just say "roast the asparagus". It tells you how LONG it takes, and how to season it. I have always hated veggies, but actually like them as prepared using these recipes. For the past month, I've eaten almost exclusively fresh food I prepared myself with an occasional dining out. I've had a frozen dinner once, and fast food once. In order to afford the service, I stopped buying chips and other expensive snacks, and have started snacking on carrots instead. I've lost about 8 pounds without even counting calories, and I feel like it's Christmas every time I open a box! I even bought a decent chef's knife, and googled "how to chop stuff". Tonight, I had panko crusted chicken with Italian seasoning on an arugula and tomato salad with roasted squash.

Overall, I have saved money on food since I'm not getting takeout or buying snacks. I did try downloading recipes one week from the website and buying the ingredients myself, and was surprised it cost almost as much as the delivery box. I also priced out ingredients at the local Aldi (discount grocery chain), and on-sale items at various other stores, and THAT is definitely cheaper than the subscription service. Once I'm a little more comfortable planning meals, I'll probably switch to shopping for my own ingredients if I can find the time to shop around for meats and produce on sale, and compare prices.

I'd love to hear from others who have tried subscription services, or otherwise recently started learning to cook.
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11-04-2016, 10:33 PM
RE: Any other novice chefs out there?
I'm obsessed with cookbooks. I LOVE the Williams-Sonoma cookbooks. That being said, a great starting point is the Betty Crocker cookbook. I have at least 10 coq au vin recipes, but I still go back to that one, just with minor tweaks I learned from other recipes.

John Besh My Family Table has some great recipes and ways to incorporate your Sunday roast leftovers into meals later in the week. Like "any meat ragout." It gets you thinking about how to use stuff that's already stocked in your pantry rather than buying specific items - I spent a small fortune using Rachel Ray recipes.


Make your own roux - buying it is not only expensive, it doesn't taste good. It's not hard and doesn't take long. Watch a YouTube video on it. Same thing with how to cut up a whole chicken.


I've never done a subscription service. I would like to, but I have too many allergies.

"If there's a single thing that life teaches us, it's that wishing doesn't make it so." - Lev Grossman
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11-04-2016, 10:43 PM (This post was last modified: 11-04-2016 10:49 PM by Thumpalumpacus.)
RE: Any other novice chefs out there?
I've been cooking for twenty-five years, and within my limitations I'm good at it. I don't use cookbooks or recipes for anything but general ideas, but I think that'll be changing soon as I want to start exploring Indian and South Asian cuisine. I am best at Mediterranean and Mexican food, do up a damned good grilling session, am pretty limited with Oriental stuff but have the basics down, and if I do so allow, my chili is as rockin' as you'd expect from a Texan. My stews and soups are pretty good, but occasionally not up to snuff.

Anyway, can't say anything about subscription services as I've never used any, but I will say that going fresh is a great way of eating. You'll cut much salt and sugar from your intake, and your food will taste better. I've found that planning my cooking for the week and then shopping for that menu helps keep costs under control. And if I buy too much of this or that vegetable, if it'll go into a stew, the excess will go in the freezer.

One more thing: if you can afford it, use fresh herbs rather than the dried and bottled. Your food will explode with flavor from it.
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11-04-2016, 11:10 PM
RE: Any other novice chefs out there?
Nurse, I didn't know you even could buy roux. I've always made my own. I also learned how to make a fast roux the Chef Prudhomme way. Roux was one of the few things I taught my mother.

beeglez, the first thing I'd do is learn your basic or mother sauces. They're very easy to make. All but one have a thickener:
béchamel - milk/white sauce, from which you can make cheese sauce (for mac & cheese) and others - milk and white roux
velouté - white stock (fish, chicken, veal) plus blond roux (or liaison, but learn that later)
espagnole (brown) - chicken or veal stock plus brown roux
hollandaise - egg yolks and butter, preferably clarified
tomato - tomatoes -- raw, paste, stewed, pureed, etc. -- can use a roux, but usually reduced

The most important rule that I was told was the main difference between cooking and baking is that baking (as you know) is a lot more precise. If your ratio is off in baking, you make a brick. Cooking has a lot more leeway. So just play with it. See if you find cookbooks by Jessica Steinfeld; she has good ones that aren't hard to follow. Mark Bittman has some good ones. Try to find The 4-Hour Chef by Timothy Ferriss; I got one on clearance, so if you have an Ollie's or something, check there. I have books from Pepin, Escoffier, Culinary Institute of America (those books are fricking huge), Corriher (heavy on the science, which is why I love it), and so on. In fact, my brother wants us to start a YouTube series with us showing recipes and techniques. I was accepted into cooking school before Katrina destroyed the school.

To be honest, I'd ignore most of the Buzzfeed "cooking" videos. They're more like "let's throw some stuff together." It's not bad, but you may not learn much.
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12-04-2016, 05:35 AM
RE: Any other novice chefs out there?
I am a chef, retired. I was also a culinary instructor. I have been cooking since age 6 (53yrs) and you never stop learning new stuff, new ways. One of the things I love about cooking. Baking is science. You are compound and chemicals and in precise measurements creating something else. Cooking is art and they can both be interchangeable in this. I love both.

Trial and error is a good method to explore food if you have the money for it but if your funds a limited then recipes would be the way to go until you get some experience under your belt. The internet is full of recipes. I like the food network, allfoods.com, MarthaStewart.com and of course the standard cookbook sites like Betty Crocker. I have several cookbooks and even one my daughter and I created years ago of my own recipes.

I find I like making a recipe by the book 2 or 3 times before I start tweaking it. This way I'm familiar with how the original chef intended you to experience it before I add my own flair. But to each their own. Sounds like this is something you enjoy and there's no right or wrong way to do that. Be creative, have fun and feel free to post recipes you find are delicious. Smile

PS... another good place for recipes for using your local foods is your county/state extension office or website. Also, lots of local markets will have recipes to offer with their produce. Check those out too. I'm big on supporting the local markets in my area.

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12-04-2016, 06:23 AM
RE: Any other novice chefs out there?
I like to cook and I tend to follow recepies to the letter. I use the internet for recepies, usually the BBC Good Food site. I look for recepies that have ingredients that are handy and readily available to buy. I hate when you have to buy a whole bush of some obscure herb to to use one leaf Tongue. Baking is something I never got into.

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12-04-2016, 07:24 AM
RE: Any other novice chefs out there?
I never use cook books or recipes unless I try an ingredient I have never used before. Then I read a lot of recipes, look at different ways to prepare it, and end up cooking it on my own.

So, no classic recipes here. I grow my own herbs and spices on the deck just outside the kitchen. I have a veggie garden and grow a little of everything, and a lot of some things (like heirloom tomatoes). I also grow a variety of fruit and berries.

I buy fresh fish, poultry and meats depending on availability and quality. Same for veggies and fruit I don't grow myself. I rarely go to the store to buy a set of ingredients, I pick and choose what's best at the time and whatever turns me on.

I rarely make sauces, anything with flour tends to make me gain weight. I like clean tastes as a rule, and I love to roast or grill.

Leftovers go into soups and stews and casseroles and wraps. Lately I've been into lettuce wraps a lot.

While a lot of my peers stop cooking when they start living alone, I find I enjoy it even more now. I feel free to cook just by and for my own taste. When I do feed others, everyone loves it.

I guess it's just my personality, following recipes is somewhat stressful to me, while composing my own is just fun. I cook just about every day - I find it relaxing and I get to eat good quality food at a much lower cost than eating out or fast food. And I have gotten to disliking processed foods, when I was young I ate all kinds of stuff, now it just tastes bad to me.

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12-04-2016, 08:06 PM
RE: Any other novice chefs out there?
(12-04-2016 05:35 AM)Heatheness Wrote:  I am a chef, retired. I was also a culinary instructor. I have been cooking since age 6 (53yrs) and you never stop learning new stuff, new ways. One of the things I love about cooking. Baking is science. You are compound and chemicals and in precise measurements creating something else. Cooking is art and they can both be interchangeable in this.

I find I like making a recipe by the book 2 or 3 times before I start tweaking it.

I think that is precisely why I like baking. I enjoy knowing step by step how to create something, and precisely how much of which ingredient is needed. I know what flour, sugar, and eggs do, and what happens when you mix them. I'm not very artistic.

I'm still learning how to use herbs and spices, and what they do to food when you add them.

I follow the recipes exactly unless there is an ingredient, like broccoli, to which I have a serious aversion. After just a few weeks though, I am already thinking about the recipes and thinking "if I make that again, I'll use this instead of that". I'm really having a lot of fun with this!

Thanks, everyone for the suggestions.
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12-04-2016, 08:39 PM
RE: Any other novice chefs out there?
I have been a very keen cook in my time. I became quite famous for my dinner parties and I would cook cuisine from all over the world. When home from a musical tour I would put on dinner parties. Often I would spend two days preparing dishes. Many famous actors and musicians attended. Some you know, some you don't.

When younger I actually put on a Roman dinner party complete with slaves who I had hired. I used the ancient recipes that have come down to us. Using Fish sauce in place of the unknown Roman style fish sauce that is so famous. Baked chicken in honey and peanuts was a particular favorite.

Of course I owned the book containing the recipes. Sadly some ingredients no longer exist. Certain spices and plants now being extinct.

I hired some prostitutes to act as slaves so will not go into further detail as to how the night went. One must use one's imagination. Wink

Here is a guide to ancient Roman cuisine.

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12-04-2016, 08:48 PM
RE: Any other novice chefs out there?
I can't say I'm a novice chef, but I am trying to cook more at home Wink I think the subscription recipe service sounds cool. I don't know that I would use it unless they had vegan recipes, but I still think it's a cool idea. I'm going to attempt to make pizza from scratch tomorrow, so I'm hoping all goes well. As you can see, I'm not the best chef since this is a major feat Big Grin

"Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and stars mirrored in your own being." -Rumi
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