Newbie - needing advice for cooking

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by firehawk, Apr 17, 2015.

  1. firehawk

    firehawk

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    Hello all.

    Apologies if this is the wrong place to post this.

    I live in the UK and I am a vegetarian. I don't cook as much as I should but instead, everything here is more about convenience.

    I can cook the odd pasta dish... and that's the extent of my skills. Needless to say, its embarrassing and I need to learn a lot more in a short space of time.

    I can also cook some chilli too using the Quorn mince.

    Now the question I have is, for someone who is busy and a complete novice at cooking - what do you recommend for me to be able to learn cooking especially for someone with my dietary requirements? (BTW, I don't do mushrooms...go figure!)

    I will be relocating to the US and from my experience, it is difficult to find such foods/products like in the UK/Europe.

    Brands are different or non existent, things are not as convenient - it is indeed going to be a massive culture shock in many aspects. So, I thought I would learn to cook before I leave so I can actually do it for myself.

    I am certainly not a lazy cook - I do enjoy it (when time permits) but I just don't have the skills to learn or do and want to learn and do.

    what kind of books or website/recipe's do you recommend which are tasty but also healthy?

    for those who are in the US - what grocery stores are available and which ones have more variety for vegetarians? I know that the Quorn products are very hard to find which is going to make things difficult for me.

    The one big fear I have is... I don't learn and when time comes to move, I will land in the land of the unknown, not knowing where to go or what to do for food - how awful is that? So I need to learn as much as I can before making the plunge and to be able to "survive" and get going with exploring more of what is available when I am in the US for longer.

    Thank you.
     
  2. mtullius

    mtullius

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    In the U.S. supermarket chains tend to be regional. There are national chains, but in some smaller towns the only one you will find is Walmart. Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are two chains said to focus on natural foods. I don't have them in my city though so I can't advise on their selection and prices. It appears that Quorn is available at Whole Foods.

    I live in a small midwestern city and the local markets have a large selection of organic fresh produce, canned goods, gluten-free aisle, tofu, almond milk products, whole grains, etc. I hope you will be pleasantly surprised by what is available. It really depends on where you will be living though.

    I'm not a vegetarian so I can't give a personal recommendation on a cookbook. I do know that Asian and Indian cuisine have many delicious dishes that are vegetarian.  You can find most recipes online.  Even in the smaller cities, supermarkets have an ethnic aisle and there is often an eastern Asian import store where you can find the ingredients needed for these dishes.

    My advice to any novice cook is make soup. If you can make chili you can make soup. They take a bit to cook but then you have leftovers to eat on busy days, Most freeze well. You are limited only by your ingredients and imagination.

    Here's an easy and fast Lentil soup. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/lentil-soup-recipe.html

    As long as you don't boil all the liquid off or over salt it, it's pretty fail safe. Also can be used as a framework for your own soup. Don't have grains of paradise? Leave it out. Fresh tomatoes look vapid? Use half a can of stewed tomatoes. Like green peppers? Toss them in. Don't like cumin and coriander? Use basil and fennel.

    When I buy fresh produce I wash and semi prep it. Peel the carrots, break celery into ribs, halve and deseed peppers, wash and spin leafy greens. I don't chop things because then they go bad faster. But this preprep makes it go faster on busy days.

    I'm a little surprised you experienced a lack of convenience foods in the U.S. I find that the perimeter of grocers are produce, meat, dairy and eggs and the entire center is mostly convenience foods.
     
  3. cerise

    cerise Banned

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    I know what a challenge making a meal can be, since I'm on a low carb/no carb diet - for medical reasons.  I do like fresh fruit, vegetables, salad etc; and have been doing lots of research.

    One source, I like for inspiration and learning, is Pinterest, Perhaps something will interest you here:

    https://www.pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=vegetarian

    The US is not a third world country ;-) The markets (in my area) are huge. Additionally, there are Farmers' markets as well as  "ethnic" markets, with any product one could think of. Familiarize yourself with your new neighborhood, and explore your new area.

    We have Trader Joes and Whole Foods here, but, honestly, for me, there's more than enough, and a huge variety, of Seasonal fresh produce etc. at the local markets.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2015
  4. skyler

    skyler

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    Can you tell us what part of the US...or will you be moving around?  
     
  5. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    It depends on where you're moving to.  Large cities have an abundance of variety in markets and grocery stores.  You're moving to America, not some village on an island in a third world country lol.  Trust me, we have plenty of crap   convenience foods here, we invented them all haha.  

    Instead of being afraid try to get excited about the wonderful opportunity ahead.  You may not have all your comfort foods at hand in the same way but you will find plenty of things here.  Maybe if you sign up for a cooking class at a local YMCA or cooking school you may even meet people and socialize as well.  And if "quorn" is really what you're looking for you can always order it from amazon 
     
  6. cerise

    cerise Banned

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    I think Terry gave you some excellent advice.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2015
  7. chicagoterry

    chicagoterry

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    I was vegetarian for over 30 years. Not anymore but I still do lots of meatless meals.

    I'd suggest looking for a copy of Deborah Madison's New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone or an older edition, just called Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone (without the "New" in front of the title.)

    There are lots of other good vegetarian cookbooks out there but this is probably the most comprehensive, with the most interesting food.

    People either love or hate Mark Bittman, but his How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is another massive book that aims to be comprehensive. He is also very much a "you can do this!" booster...though his recipes may sometimes fall a bit shy of the mark. He is a bit careless about good technique. 

    Where you will be moving will make a big difference in how and where you shop. My best advice is to try to live somewhere where there is a good fruit/produce market nearby in addition to or instead of a supermarket.  Much cheaper, better quality produce will usually be found in one of those.

    I know my biggest hurdle in the kitchen if I were going to Europe to live would be adapting to metric measurements. I'm guessing the reverse adaptation might pose an issue for you, especially if you are not keen enough in the kitchen to have a general sense of what proportions should be. You might want to take that into consideration when buying a cookbook. 
     
    cerise likes this.
  8. firehawk

    firehawk

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    Thank you all for your helpful comments.

    I don't know where exactly I will be relocating yet. I am deciding on this. Either on the outskirts of Houston or the Seattle areas. It's a tough decision for me and still trying to find the best place for me to be more comfortable and as stupid as it sounds... need to make sure I have the "comfort" foods available to me.

    I see the helpful response and link to the quorn products on amazon but holy cow! That's expensive.... :)

    The problem with Texas is that, things are spread FAR out. So if I wanted to grab a loaf of bread or milk, I gotta drive like 15 minutes to the nearest place to get some essentials. Not so much in the Seattle areas.

    The difficulty I have is to first and foremost - making myself some meals. Knowing where to get the ingredients and then finally mixing them and cooking them.

    Over here in the UK, we get wonderful pasta sauces from the Lloyds Grossman range. Also some nice OXO stock cubes too. Adjusting to the brands and the taste is indeed going to be yet another challenge.

    as you can imagine, right about now I feel like a right failure - we are so spoilt in the UK. I don't mind working at all, I guess the day to day jobs/tasks I do of running my own business is indeed going to take over as it does in the UK..so knowing I can whip up something quick does help and put the mind at ease but this wouldn't be the case in the US I don't think since I need to cook and would prefer to cook from scratch.

    So yes, I  just need to learn how to cook and what to cook and keep that flow going :)

    Thanks again everybody, it means a lot when the helpful community comes together to help a lost soul out.
     
  9. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    I live at the end of the earth, I can get bread and milk two miles from home. Your perception of the US seems flawed, this is NOT a third world country. Have you been to Houston & Seattle?

    2.2 Million people reside in the greater Houston area, don't think you will starve.
     
  10. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    I don't know where you're getting your information about the US, certainly not from a reliable source.  I don't see how you're spoiled in the UK, the US and the UK are 2 of the most economically powerful countries in the world, we're all a little spoiled and when it comes to convenience foods I'm sure we're about the same.

    If you're used to jarred pasta sauces and other convenience foods you'll easily adjust here, I'm sure the UK brands taste just as bad as the US brands.  We're here to help with cooking fresh foods which will indeed taste better than anything you can find in a jar or a can or a package.  
     
  11. jake t buds

    jake t buds

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    There are many many vegetarian cookbooks out there. Many. As Terry said, Deborah Madison's book is definitely a keeper. I would also recommend Ottolenghi  Plenty and Meat Free Monday with forward by Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney. It has full daily menu's. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on each page, organized by season. Measurements are also in metric. It will give you a good idea as to what is available when, and you can go on to look at other cookbooks to learn how to use seasonal ingredients. Once you get into a routine, it gets easier in using ingredients and minimizing waste while increasing convenience. 

    Having said that, go to Seattle. Seattle has good culture, atmosphere, and friendly "live and let live" people. I've spent a decent amount of time there, although I haven't lived there. The weather isn't as sunny, but it is not Texas. On the other hand, there is Austin, which I hear is a nice city, albeit a college town. I'll stop there for fear of engaging in discussions not appropriate for a food forum. I'm sure both cities have all the ingredients and foodstuffs you could hope for. Seattle certainly does, and there is always mail order, as has been mentioned. 
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2015
  12. cerise

    cerise Banned

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    The Asian markets here (in so california), have amazing produce.  Try the long beans, eggplant, etc. The prepared salad/deli section of our local supermarket, had the best eggplant with spicy peanut sauce.  I'll have to experiment with tofu.  Another fave, was Panda Express's eggplant and tofu stir fry(?).  There are copycat recipes online. 
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2015
  13. firehawk

    firehawk

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    Thanks all.

    it seems I have offended some people unintentionally! :)

    yes, I have been to both Seattle and Houston. in fact I recently came back from another trip but there is only so much one can do in a short period of time and staying in hotels, right?

    from the co-workers and people I have spoken to, they just don't know much about vegetarian options. From my experience, Seattle areas are more easily accessible and have a little more variety for me compared to Houston.

    Like I say - I need to learn to cook and need recipes to get me going and to be able to do the same thing when I transfer over and be out there for a period of time.
     
  14. firehawk

    firehawk

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    excellent response - thank you.
     
  15. chicagoterry

    chicagoterry

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    If Houston is one of your options, you might want to locate near one of the Fiesta Supermarkets. There are several. Friends of mine who have been to or relocated from Houston say wonderful things about them, including the availability of wonderful produce and an abundance of international foods:

    http://fiestamart.com/departments/international/

    You also might want to take climate into consideration. Seattle is much closer to what you are accustomed to. Houston is hot and incredibly steamy much of the year.
     
  16. flipflopgirl

    flipflopgirl

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    Have never been to the northwest area but is on our list of road trips to be taken.

    Have lived in Texas all my life and the Houston area for many decades.
    @ChicagoTerry is spot on re Fiesta grocery stores.
    Of course the largest are located in the ethnic areas but even the smaller stores are jam packed with good raw ingredients for cooking from scratch.
    Vegetarians included.
    HEB And Kroger stores are regional but both offer large amts of organic whole foods as well as the frozen convenience products.
    I live in a suburb that boasts large Asian as well as Indian populations and there are scads of restaurants from which to choose.
    Even the upscale steakhouses are climbing onboard the vegetarian bandwagon with huge salad bars and at least a few hot dishes to lure in this until now underserved population.
    Of course the weather still s u x lol.

    Funny comment re Austin....home to the first Whole Food store in the 1970s.

    mimi
     
  17. flipflopgirl

    flipflopgirl

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    How about we take this to another thread?
    Our bread discussion will only serve to distract @firehawk from his quest for food in America.

    mimi