A Cooking Newb Needs Help

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 02, 2013 at 2:13 AM

I need help.

I am new to cooking and nutrition, and while I know next to nothing about how to cook and what to cook, I do know that I am committed to the paleolithic diet. Yet since I have moved out on my own to fend for myself (graduated from college and got a job), I have come to realize that I have very little time to research nutrition and learn how to cook. It???s actually been a bit discouraging.

It goes without saying that I could use a guide, or a teacher ??? someone to tell me what to do, how to do it, and why I am going to do it??? although I realize that???s probably a bit out of reach. However, I thought perhaps there might be people out there who could help pick me up, dust me off, and point me the right direction.

Can someone please tell me what the best resources are for cooking and nutrition newb that needs help creating a weekly shopping list, doing a weekly cook-up, utilizing the freezer to its fullest potential, as well as understanding what to eat, when to eat, and why? I???m also planning on getting back into lifting and running via a local CrossFit gym, so I would like to understand how I need to adjust my diet for the demands I put on my body.

The variable that I have to optimize is time. I don???t have very much of that particular resource. Ideally, I would like to just know what I need to do so I can go do it. I don't have much time to research and plan.

Thank you so much for reading.



on January 02, 2013
at 11:39 AM

I was just going to suggest Well Fed also. I was really impressed with how it wasn't just a recipe book, but more a strategy book. (And, being on day 2 of my 3rd Whole 30, I find it's nice to have some strict paleo strategies to turn to!)



on January 02, 2013
at 08:53 AM

To be clear, my salads usually involve a big steak!



on January 02, 2013
at 06:24 AM

Good recipes here, too: http://neo-homesteading.blogspot.com/2012/02/cowgirl-beef-oven-dried-peppered-beef.html



on January 02, 2013
at 05:58 AM

CHOW - The Basics: http://www.chow.com/food-news/the-basics/



on January 02, 2013
at 02:55 AM

whats your email? I'll send you a pdf I made on bonehead cooking for high school and college athletes I work with.

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on January 02, 2013
at 05:30 AM

The cookbook "Well Fed" by Melissa Joulwan has great info about how to plan and do a weekly cookup.

The book "It Starts With Food" by Melissa & Dallas Hartwig talks at length about nutrition, but also has a great section on quick and easy meal preperation that includes tables of what to cook and for how long, etc. They also talk about how to eat to support working out.



on January 02, 2013
at 11:39 AM

I was just going to suggest Well Fed also. I was really impressed with how it wasn't just a recipe book, but more a strategy book. (And, being on day 2 of my 3rd Whole 30, I find it's nice to have some strict paleo strategies to turn to!)



on January 02, 2013
at 08:09 AM

The best website for learning to cook is probably this one: http://www.simplyrecipes.com
Check "gluten free" and "low carb" on the sidebar.

Get "Nourishing Traditions" cookbook at the library, it's not just a cookbook but explains quite a bit about traditional nutrition.

If you don't have time to read a whole book, Weston Price foundation has a lot of information on their website, such as a tour (http://www.westonaprice.org/about-the-foundation/beginner-tour). Definitely read the principles of healthy diets and the vitamin A saga on that page. Then, check the Health Topics at the top, specially ABCs of Nutrition, Myths & Truths, Making it Practical, and Know Your Fats.

Here's a starter routine, if you're busy and prefer to prepare most things ahead of time while having a balance of leftovers and fresh meals.

I really recommend buying a whole case of quart sized mason jars and a case of pint sized mason jars. You can use these instead of ziplock bags, for stocks, soups, marinated meat and pre-sliced vegetables, to freeze cooked meatballs, or bring lunch to work.

Sunday evening:

  • Marinade pork chops (lots of red chili paste, whole cloves of garlic, cooking sherry, soy sauce... ginger and mustard powder is great too) (Tip: if you can't find something at the grocery store, go over to the customer service desk and ask someone where to find it)
  • Cut chuck beef into tiny slices and marinade(same as above but replace soy sauce with worcestershire sauce, and leave out the mustard powder). You'll use this for 5 days of breakfast soup.
  • Slice: mushrooms, shallots, carrots. (enough for 5 days of breakfast soup.) Ziplock.
  • Hard boil or steam 6 eggs so it's ready for a breakfast, snack, or to bring to work
  • Bake about 6 pounds of beef soup bones. Drain the warm liquid marrow into a jar and keep in a cool cupboard to use as cooking fat. Remove meaty and fatty bits from bones with a knife (give to a lucky dog!). Place bones in a large soup pot and fill with very cold water. Cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for two days (transfer to a crock-pot when you go to work). You'll get about a gallon, if it's not enough for two weeks, you can dilute with water.
  • Remove whole roast chicken from the freezer and keep in the fridge.
  • Slice thin ribbons of red cabbage and red onion. Ziplock.
  • Slice thin strips o carrots and parsnips. Ziplock.

Pat yourself on the back and go to sleep.

The first morning, eat some hard boiled eggs if you're in a hurry.

When you come home for dinner, your chicken should be defrosted. The instructions for roasting it are written in the package. Do that now. Remember to remove the bag with neck and giblets from inside the chicken. Just discard the bag and bake the neck and giblets along with the chicken. While you're at it, wrap two sweet potatoes with aluminum foil (individually), place them on the rack.

You have marinated pork chops, so cook them up in that marrow fat, bacon grease, or butter. When done, add more fat, and cook your red cabbage and red onion together until soft. (I use about 2 or 3 tablespoons of fat each time, so a total of 4-5 tablespoons for me)

By the time you eat your pork chops and do the dishes, the chicken should be ready.

  • Cut off the drumsticks, ziplock.
  • Cut off the thighs, and wings. Shred, and ziplock.
  • Cut out the chicken breast, cube.
  • Toss all the remaining bones, neck and giblets in a pot, cover with cold water, boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook until the next morning. You now have two stocks going on at once.
  • Sweet potatoes go in the fridge.

Done for the day.

Tuesday, both your stocks are ready to be put in the fridge, and you can start eating soup for breakfast each day. Or you could have it for lunch at work. Bring a cup of beef stock to a boil. Drop some of the marinated beef, cook for 30 seconds. Drop some of the sliced vegetables (carrots, shallots, mushrooms), cover, and turn off the burner.
I like to slice some scallions (green onions) and scatter on top of my soup (raw).

Tuesday dinner, warm your cubed chicken breast in a pan with lots of butter. Take your pre-sliced carrot and parsnip sticks and cook in a pan with lots of butter. If for some reason it gets too dry, add a couple tablespoons of chicken stock. This is also pretty cool with apple slices, cooked in butter.

Take some salmon from the freezer and leave in the fridge (enough for tomorrow's dinner).

Wednesday morning you have your soup for breakfast.

For dinner, cut green beans in half. Cook your salmon with butter in a pan, (I'm a salmon noob so I just place it skin up!). Set salmon aside when done, add more butter to the pan along with a couple tablespoons of chicken stock, and cook your green beans. Have one of your sweet potatoes (either cold, microwaved for 2 minutes, or remove the skin, warm a couple tablespoons of chicken stock, and cook mashed potato for 2 minutes, stirring the whole time)

Thursday dinner, how about Mustard Greens salad with your chicken drumsticks? Might be good with cooked onions too.

Before bed, remove a beef roast from the freezer, leave in the fridge to defrost(rump roast, shoulder roast, chuck roast... ask the butcher and he'll help you).

(Friday, Saturday, Sunday)

Friday night you're probably hungry, so make a quick curry: slice red bell peppers and yellow onion. Cook with butter (or coconut oil). Add your shredded chicken thighs and wings, powdered ginger, curry paste (or powder). Add enough coconut milk to cover meat and vegetables, simmer for 10-15 minutes.

You have your beef roast which you can cook tonight or tomorrow. It should last you all weekend and possibly monday and tuesday! So just chop some vegetables of your choice ahead of time like you did sunday, and when you want to eat, just take a slice or two of your leftover beef roast, and simmer it in some butter and stock in a pan to warm it up.

(Pot roast: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/pot_roast/ )
(Alternative: beef short ribs: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/braised_beef_short_ribs/ )

So the shopping list for this week was:

  • beef marrow/soup bones
  • pork chops
  • chuck steak
  • whole roast chicken
  • beef roast (or beef short ribs)
  • a large bag of frozen salmon fillets (will last a few weeks)
  • red cabbage and red onion
  • sweet potatoes
  • carrots and parsnips
  • green beans
  • onions
  • shallots and mushrooms
  • optional: scallions / green onions
  • mustard greens and yellow onion
  • red bell peppers
  • whole garlic
  • butter
  • coconut milk
  • curry paste
  • spices and sauces which I already had in my pantry (chili paste, garlic, ginger, tamari soy sauce, mustard, cooking sherry, are my favorites and the ones I use the most, but you'll find your own favorites with time and experience)

Things I make in big batches:

  • Tiny meatballs for soup (chicken liver, ground beef, minced onion and garlic, egg, lots of parsley, salt and pepper, and chili paste) ... freeze
  • One quart of carrot and green cabbage sauerkraut
  • Small marinated slices of beef heart and chuck beef (great for stir-fry)
  • Chopped vegetables for each meal, if I know I'll be busy



on January 02, 2013
at 03:48 PM

I think your best bet for maximizing the return on your time is going to be slow cooking. Buy a slow cooker and a paleo slow cooking book. You'll be able to cook several meals worth of food at once without much effort on your part.


on January 02, 2013
at 03:42 PM

Don't get too wrapped up in recipes to start; master a few basic items first and then you can build on that as you gain confidence. You have some good suggestions here: roasted chicken, bone broth, egg bake/casserole, hard boiled eggs. I also like Robb Wolf's matrix.

Vegetables can be as simple as throwing them in a steamer until desired doneness and seasoning with sea salt, pepper and some fat like butter, olive oil or coconut oil. Done.

Rather than spending time measuring out individual spices for your dishes, pick up some blends, i.e., Mrs. Dash, Old Bay, Italian Herbs, Trader Joe's has some good ones and you can order from Penzeys online. You can get garlic cloves already peeled and sealed in individual packets (in the produce section). Mustard and hot sauce are other nice flavorings to have around.

Cooking bigger batches over the weekend can be another time saver. Freeze portions in containers and after a few weeks you'll have a variety of things to pick from.

Another weekend prep you could do is clean and cut up salad fixings so you can literally throw together a salad on weekdays in a few minutes. Dressing can be as simple as olive oil, an acid like vinegar/lemon juice, salt & pepper. Keep it in a lidded jar and shake it up to use.

One trick I use frequently is buying meat when it's on sale and freezing dinner portions in large ziploc bags, adding marinade if applicable. I pull it from the freezer the night before I need it and it marinates in the fridge as it defrosts.



on January 02, 2013
at 01:09 PM

For newbies, I like Robb Wolf's matrix and shopping list:

Buy These: http://robbwolf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/shopping-list.pdf

Take one (or more) from each column and cook: http://robbwolf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/thePaleoSolution_FoodMatrix.pdf



on January 02, 2013
at 08:52 AM

It's always worth remembering that if you buy beautiful ingredients and combine them well you really don't need to be a very good cook. Things like salads and "grazing plates" are a lovely way to eat and will give you some food confidence. Just remember to buy the best stuff you can, and take some extra time to slice it well and present it beautifully. You'll be surprised how much "good cooking" is actually good presentation. The French and Japanese are both masters of the cooking-without-cooking method.



on January 02, 2013
at 08:53 AM

To be clear, my salads usually involve a big steak!



on January 02, 2013
at 07:18 AM

A good resource for cooking newbs is this one here:


For general diet info I'd start with The Perfect health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet, it's a great book based on a lot of good research. They have a lot of free info on their website too.


As April mentioned above Well Fed by Melissa Joulwan is a great cook book to get started with and she's got a free 30 page pdf sample I just saw on her website:


Or if your more of a visual person then I'd recommend Nom Nom Paleo.

Also Paleo Hacks is not too shabby either.



on January 02, 2013
at 06:23 AM

When you make your marrow bone soup, also throw in some beef shank bones. The meat will cook down to fork tender and it's inexpensive. I add an onion, carrot and celery to make my broth. You can freeze broth and take out whatever you need to make a soup meal. I throw in kale and sweet potato, season with fresh ginger or fresh herbs. Google cooking blogs. It's trial and error. Don't be afraid to experiment. There is a three day rule, don't eat anything past the third day you cooked it. Bacteria forms even on cooked foods.

Here is one of my favorite easy recipes:

Roast chicken:

375 degree oven

One whole chicken, washed. Place in a roasting pan and: Rub with oil or coconut oil all over. Stuff with garlic cloves (I cut them in half and use a small handful), sprigs of fresh or dried rosemary, lemon sliced thin (usually a half lemon) and thyme. Tie the legs together with twine (it makes the chicken cook faster and uniformly). A six lb chicken usually cooks between 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. You can tell if it is done by piercing the breast and into the thighs. If the juices are clear and the chicken has a nice brown skin (some spots may get dark brown), it's probably done. We get about 4 meals out of it and save all the bones and carcass to put in a stock pot with good water, onion, celery and carrot and let it simmer for a few hours. You can clean the bones of the meat and add it back into the soup, eat some and freeze the rest for later usage with whatever you want to add in! I always discard the carrots, celery and onion that I use to make the broths.



on January 02, 2013
at 06:24 AM

Good recipes here, too: http://neo-homesteading.blogspot.com/2012/02/cowgirl-beef-oven-dried-peppered-beef.html


on January 02, 2013
at 05:06 AM

Before I started paleo I didn't cook much either. I'm still not a good cook but I am getting better. Just get in the kitchen and start cooking. You'll get better with more practice.

Here are some web sites to get you started:







on January 02, 2013
at 02:54 AM

Daniel, casseroles are your friend. If you buy yourself a good-sized casserole dish and you can set aside a chunk of time once or twice a week to make a big casserole, then they are easy to cut into portions and freeze to reheat, and since your portions will be more or less uniform in size, you can stack them neatly in containers and stack the containers in your freezer. Then you have healthy options as easy to grab as a TV dinner!

Use regular recipes, and substitute in for non-paleo ingredients as necessary.

Some casseroles I like to make in bulk: lasagne, use slices of butternut squash instead of noodles, and load up with spinach. You can add lots of chopped veggies into the sauce. Actually, you can add in lots of extra veggies to any casserole. That's why I love them.

Shepherd's pie, minus the peas and corn.

Omelettes and quiches are also your friends. Egg dishes in general are great because they are usually quick to make and eggs (even high-quality eggs) are pretty inexpensive.

Bone broth takes a long time to simmer, but it's quick and easy to get going, so throw some bones into a stock pot with vinegar and salt and a bay leaf if you are going to be at home for 6-8 hours (or overnight). Then it's a trivial matter to throw any leftover chopped up meat and some fresh veg in a pot with some bone broth, heat, and BAM! You 'be got soup!

Hope it helps.

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