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Basic Cookbooks for a Woodworker

PeterJ's picture

First off, I'm way outside my element here, so be gentle ;-) I typically hang out at Breaktime. My story:


I'm not much of a cook. I apparently wasn't born with the barbecue gene that's prevalent in some (most?) men, either. I appreciate good food and am kinda fascinated by the tools of cooking, but just have difficulty spending a lot of time preparing a meal. I'm better at remodeling kitchens than working in them!


I'd like to round up a couple or three cookbooks that  focus on simple, quick and healthy cooking. I can read instructions, but will glaze over if it gets too in-depth, and likely resort to a microwave popcorn meal-in-a-bag, so brevity is a virtue.


 Honestly, I doubt I'll ever become a gourmet, but I've spent time around, and admired intuitive cooks who seem to have a knack for "whipping something up". My efforts along those lines have been....let's say....unique. At times, even edible!


In my methodical mind I'm thinking in terms of themed books. Like BBQ, crockpot, stovetop and oven. But what do I know, heck that's why I ventured here.


Considering the above,  I'd appreciate recommendations from those who know better than I. 


PJ


Everything will be okay in the end.  If it's not okay, it's not the end. 

 

Everything will be okay in the end.  If it's not okay, it's not the end. 

ashleyd's picture

(post #30936, reply #1 of 25)

So what you want is reliable and simple, yes? If you are a relative novice then you could probably do with a general book as a foundation then look at specialist books, BBQ etc as your interests and skills grow. For the basic book I would highly recommend The Way To Cook by Julia Child, covers all the topics you need to know about, simply and clearly written, well illustrated, good stuff but nothing too fancy. Big on technique (how to do things) as well as a bunch of good recipes.


“In victory you deserve Champagne, in defeat you need it.”
Napoleon Bonaparte

Age is unimportant unless you’re a cheese.

soccermom's picture

(post #30936, reply #2 of 25)

Hi Peter,


I tend to get lots of cookbooks out of the library to save $ and space. You can expand your knowledge tremendously without commiting to a particular style of cooking at this point.


I agree with Ashley that you need a book on technique, with recipes. I don't get the food channels, but some of those programs are probably useful for a beginner. Cooking magazines, too, may clearly explain procedures. Have you bought Fine Cooking? You'll learn lots there.


Also, don't be afraid to ask for advice here, before or after you cook something. There are lots of good cooks here who want to help.


 


 


 

 

 

AmyElliesMom's picture

(post #30936, reply #3 of 25)

I'll go a bit against the grain here, and recommend some very basic cookbooks - try the Betty Crocker cookbook or the Better Homes and Garden cookbook.

I have the Better Homes and Gardens one, and I still use it weekly. The recipes are very easy to make, very quick and written so a 12 year old could make the food.

It's a great place to start if you are totally clueless.

One problem I have with their recipes, as written, is that they don't use enough herbs and spices, but as you get more confident, it's very easy to adapt the recipes to your own tastes.

If I were you, I'd read the cooking magazines, but actually cook from the basic cookbook for awhile. Practice learning what low heat versus medium heat does to food.

Also, ask someone you know who is a good cook HOW to do certain things - folding, whisking and chopping are not as intuitive as you would think. Learning the proper technique can save you alot of time and hassle in the kitchen. The Julia Child cookbook mention may have good descriptions of those techniques (I don't have that one); the two I mentioned do not - well, that I've seen anyway! They may be tucked in the back where I never go, lol!

But my advice would be to start small, with simple food. Pasta and sauce, baked chicken, macaroni and cheese made with a white sauce. It's just like learning to work with wood - the first thing you ever built in shop class was a cheesy napkin holder, but now you can do much more. If you are not very confident at all, start with the "napkin holder" recipes and as you gain skills, move onto more complicated ones.

I'm a cook; a chef does paperwork. Forget that!

 

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with wine and chocolate.

MadMom's picture

(post #30936, reply #4 of 25)

My favorite, most often recommended, cookbook for novice cooks is Pam Anderson's How to Cook Without a Book.  (This is not the Pam Anderson of silicone fame.)  Take a look at it.  She focuses on technique, and offers some basic recipes that can be modified to suit your taste and ingredients on hand.  Her techniques are good, and her recipes are simple, and her message is outstanding...you don't have to have a set "recipe" to make good food.



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jrobin's picture

(post #30936, reply #5 of 25)

I agree about 'how to cook without a book'.


Why don't you take some 'hands on' cooking classes. There is a show on Food Network called 'cookworks' which is what cooking classes should be.  They show how scared people are of some technique and they learn....and if you know people who can cook I bet they would LOVE to teach a few things they have learned.


Also, know the difference between following recipes and cooking.  People who seem to be able to throw things together know how to COOK. 

KarenP's picture

(post #30936, reply #6 of 25)

You've already gotten some great suggestions, but since you said healthy I'm going to throw out "A New Way to Cook" by Sally Schneider.  She created some big flavor items with minimal damage. 


Steven Raichlen as has some good BBQ books.  How to Grill, BBQ U, and BBQ USA if you're looking for BBQ books. Some people like him, some don't...

Jean's picture

(post #30936, reply #7 of 25)

Delia has some on-line instructions you might appreciate.


http://www.deliaonline.com/cookeryschool/howto/index.asp


Veni, vidi, velcro        I came,  I  saw,  I stuck around.


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SondraG's picture

(post #30936, reply #8 of 25)

I was about to make the same suggestion.  The book covers techniques you will use over and over.  And the diversity is superb - same technique, different meats, different sauces.  So it lets a newbie practice a technique with many variations.

 

 

AmyElliesMom's picture

(post #30936, reply #9 of 25)

Hmmm, maybe I'll get this book, too! I could always use a good basic reference book, and the old standby BHG is getting a tad boring.

I'm a cook; a chef does paperwork. Forget that!

 

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with wine and chocolate.

Cissy's picture

(post #30936, reply #10 of 25)

I second the recommendations for Pam Anderson's Cooking without a Book and getting a subscription to Fine Cooking.  Don't cut out recipes from FC, just save each issue.  It's great to be able to pull out last summer's issue to see what you can do with the fresh veggies that are so bountiful.

ashleyd's picture

(post #30936, reply #11 of 25)

And don't forget copious cocktails. Even if they don't eat they probably won't remember!


 


Govt Health Warning. Alcohol may be injurious to your health. Always exercise moderation in your consumption.


 


 


Frequently.



“In victory you deserve Champagne, in defeat you need it.”
Napoleon Bonaparte

Age is unimportant unless you’re a cheese.

chuckkeller's picture

(post #30936, reply #12 of 25)

You must be out there right now!    Your right!!   Would you believe I have a New Husband and his Lovely, Russian, Bride, visiting me next week!! Stay in touch, I know they would love to talk with you. Wow, how ironic!!    Best wishes, Chuck Keller

If, at first, you fricascee, fry, fry a hen!

If, at first, you fricascee, fry, fry a hen!

PeterJ's picture

(post #30936, reply #13 of 25)

Great! And thanks to y'all for taking the time to respond and especially your reccomendations. The Pam Anderson book was more intriging before the fantasy collapsed, but it sounds like a good one anyway :-) 


Not to different from designing and building a cabinet, I suppose....technical skills first, personal flair and creative stuff later.


And the library....of course! I forget about the library with the web close at hand.


Wish me luck, I'm gonna cook for my sweetie one of these days and surprise her. I better experiment on me first.  Any sure fire meals-for-dummies-that-want-to-impress-without-poisoning suggestions?


PJ


Everything will be okay in the end.  If it's not okay, it's not the end. 

 

Everything will be okay in the end.  If it's not okay, it's not the end. 

KarenP's picture

(post #30936, reply #14 of 25)

The Pam Anderson book was more intriging before the fantasy collapsed, but it sounds like a good one anyway :-)


LOLOL! ;-)  Different Pam Anderson.

AmyElliesMom's picture

(post #30936, reply #15 of 25)

Basic Italian-style cuisine is usually pretty foolproof. Pasta from a box, make your own sauce with ingredients out of cans and fresh herbs, onions and garlic, add a salad, some homemade dressing (dead easy and very impressive to most people) and some garlic bread from the bakery, and you should do fine.

It's nearly impossible to overcook a spaghetti sauce (unless you burn it, which you won't do), and it can make a very nice presentation with the green salad, the red sauce and some nice wine.

I'm a cook; a chef does paperwork. Forget that!

 

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with wine and chocolate.

jrobin's picture

(post #30936, reply #16 of 25)

Peter, I saw you are in cabinetry....are you a CKD? Just curious, I used to be in that business.

PeterJ's picture

(post #30936, reply #17 of 25)

I'm guessing that's Certified Kitchen Designer?


I'm what I'd call a SOP Kitchen Designer...Seat-of-Pants.


Mostly remodels and refacing and upgrading of existing cabinetry now, with some trim and countertops thrown in. The new cabinet game around here seems to be a race to the bottom...both price and quality.... ahh, the stories I coulds tell...


 


PJ


Everything will be okay in the end.  If it's not okay, it's not the end. 

 

Everything will be okay in the end.  If it's not okay, it's not the end. 

Marcia's picture

(post #30936, reply #18 of 25)

Peter, the Pam Anderson book is a good one, but I recommend that you go to a bookstore or library and brouse in the cookbook section. You might be able to tell just what will be best to help you along the path to cooking with a first hand look, since everyone is different and we learn in different ways.

Risottogirl's picture

(post #30936, reply #19 of 25)

I think that's good advice. Format matters too. I know that A New Way to Cook (Schneider)is a good book, but I hate the size and the format so I rarely even open it


Water is a great ingredient to cook with, it has such a neutral flavor


Bobby Flay

Water is a great ingredient to cook with, it has such a neutral flavor - Bobby Flay

Marcia's picture

(post #30936, reply #20 of 25)

I agree with you about format, and have the same trouble with A New Way to Cook. But heck, I don't follow recipes anyway, although I get ideas from cookbooks.


Some cookbooks are also too large and unwieldly to be of practical use, IMO.

Risottogirl's picture

(post #30936, reply #21 of 25)

If the format doesn't appeal to me, I don't even pull it off the shelf to read for ideas. I think the format matters EVEN MORE for reading than it does for actually using the recipes to cook with.

Water is a great ingredient to cook with, it has such a neutral flavor


Bobby Flay

Water is a great ingredient to cook with, it has such a neutral flavor - Bobby Flay

Marcia's picture

(post #30936, reply #22 of 25)

I'm inclined to agree about the reading mattering more, but once in a while I get the books out. I do notice that they mostly just sit there, however. It's a shame, really.

debe5t's picture

(post #30936, reply #25 of 25)

Roasted chicken stuffed with garlic and lemon in cavity.I saw Julia Child cook this once on TV and it forever changed the way I roasted chicken.She did it high heat(400') for about an hour,I think.Someone here probably has the exact directions.Mashed garlic potatoes and some lovely fresh green veg in season and you are a star with your sweetie.Cheat and patronize a good bakery for dessert.A lot of this can be prepped before your company arrives and the roasting time gives you a chance to calm down. good luck and your sweetie will be wowed  that you are even thinking along these lines.Deb

chuckkeller's picture

(post #30936, reply #24 of 25)

Oh, yes, I forgot to mention that they lived in UK for two years!

If, at first, you fricascee, fry, fry a hen!

If, at first, you fricascee, fry, fry a hen!

bizanne's picture

(post #30936, reply #23 of 25)

To Peter,


The cookbook I strongly recommend is   "The Best Recipe" , it's by the authors of Cook's Illustrated.   Before each recipe there is an explanation of technique,  and explanations of failed methods, and which way worked the best, voted by a  tasting panel.  It's not fancy, no pictures, just straight forward facts.     The recipes range from frying eggs to Roasted Goose.      I have even purchased two copies for my children,(age 5 & 6)  for when they have their own homes and families.  I always want them to have Mom's favorite cookbook.