I can cook pre-made stuff, like pasta with jarred sauces, chicken pieces in the oven topped with salt and some spices, hot dogs in a pot. I do make a mean chili, but it never tastes the same way twice because I just throw reasonable stuff into the pot and cook it for a couple of hours. With lots of hot pepper. However, recipes make me nervous. They often involve terms that I don't understand (poach? braise? fold?), and I don't have anyone around to ask. TheHusband's cooking skills make me look positively cordon bleu, so he's no help. (And he hates things with sauces and vegetables and mixed up food like stir-fry, so I am not inspired to cook for him either.) The internet can answer all questions, but it (mostly) lives in the basement in my house, not conducive to the kitchen and quick answers.
Luckily, I do have people in my life who can cook and cook well. And don't make me feel like a moron when I ask simple and basic questions (such as "what is folding in?" or "what is medium-high heat on my stove?"). One of these people is my aunt. She cooks for a living. She writes cookbooks. Good cookbooks. Prize-winning cookbooks. And lets me ask questions and gives me ideas. This wonderful aunt lives in NYC and rarely ventures out of those environs. But she came to visit this past weekend, and she sat me down with a couple of her cookbooks, and we discussed recipes. And she told me how to modify some of the recipes so TheHusband might eat the outcome. She moseyed through my selection of spices and made up a few "shakes" for me. A shake apparently is a mixture of spices that you shake on meat, chicken or fish before broiling. I am sure they have other uses, but the atrophied cooking area of my brain could only absorb the one use.
Some of her advice to me:
- Get a grill. TheHusband is a meatatarian and doesn't like sauces or "fancy" stuff. We had a charcoal grill, which I never used, because TheHusband had to get the fire going. It got blown into our neighbor's yard a couple of months ago during a storm and gave up the ghost. We were planning on buying a propane grill anyway.
- Experiment with soups. I like soups of various kinds (as long as they don't contain lima beans or are split pea). They are easy to make in large batches and freeze well.
- Browning the meat before cooking in a sauce is the best way to seal in flavor and juices. Gotcha.
- Potato bread is boring. Buy other types of bread and freeze the loaves. Make the sandwich on the frozen bread, and by lunchtime, it will be good to go. Check. Will send TPT with peanut butter or cream cheese on raisin bread.
- Buy a small freezer and put it in the basement. Keep the long-haul frozen stuff there, and use the (crappy) freezer in the kitchen for stuff used frequently.
- "I told you so" -- she told us that a freezer on the bottom fridge is really annoying, and she was right. We hate it.
- Buy a knife sharpener to keep the knives sharpened. Dull knives do not work well.
- You can look up just about any recipe online. Do it, print it out, and make it.