I started learning to cook when I started this adventure in to lifestyle change a few months ago (yes, I really did make it to my late 40's without cooking!). I find that approaching everything as an adventure takes the pressure off, and I've been able to have a lot of fun with it. I always make sure that I add just one new thing per meal, though, so that there is still plenty to eat if my "adventure" turns out awful! I am in complete agreement that including your family in choosing and cooking will help in having them be more accepting.
For boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, or for pork loin chops, my favorite way to cook them in the oven is to use a broiling pan (but not actually broil them). I put about half an inch of water in the drip pan part, put the top rack of the pan on, and place the meat on that. I sprinkle the meat with various spices (generally garlic powder, onion powder, sage, nutmeg, maybe some ginger) and place the pan on the middle oven rack at 350 degrees. I keep a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest piece of meat, and remove from the oven when it hits an internal temp of 160 degrees (generally works out to about 35 minutes for thighs, 45 minutes for breasts or pork, or closer to an hour if I started them frozen). I have never managed to dry out a piece of meat using this method.
For steaks, well, in my opinion they need to be grilled and never to more than medium rare, so my partner does them on the BBQ.
For beef roast, I like to use an eye-of-the-round and dry roast it at 375 degrees. I'm not much of a gravy fan, so I use the broiler pan (without the water in the bottom) so that the drippings fall through, and keep a meat thermometer in the meat. I like these no more than medium rare as well, so pull it out of the oven when it hits about 130 to 135 degrees, cover with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes before slicing.
My other favorite thing to do with chicken breasts or thighs, or pork chops, is to cook them in a sauce. There are a ton of really flavourful sauce recipes out there, and it's really easy to place the meat in to a small casserole dish, add the sauce, and cook at 350 degrees until they reach the right internal temperature. The sauce can then go over the meat, go over your side starch (rice / potatoes / whatever), or you can do as I do and add the whole dish (meat and sauce) to a veggie stir-fry.
Seriously, figuring out a few favourite sauces can be a huge help while playing with food. Any meat / veggie / starch that didn't turn out quite the way you wanted can be made quite edible with the right sauce over it! My current two faves are a simple garlic cheese sauce (which takes maybe 3 minutes to make), and a sweet/sour type sauce made with blackstrap molasses, hoisin, and apple cider vinegar (which can be used just mixed and cold, cooked with the meat, or heated separately). A good selection of spices can be a huge help, too, as they allow you to really change up the flavours, especially with really bland things like skinless chicken.
The thing to remember when using a meat thermometer is to just insert it in to the raw meat and leave it in throughout the cooking time, making sure to place it so that you can read it through the oven door. This prevents having to poke the meat numerous times, and losing the heat in the oven every time you check it. Honestly, the kitchen scale and the meat thermometer are the two things that I couldn't live without.
Try to keep in mind that this is about having a happy, healthy, fun new lifestyle. That means that there is no place for "perfection" - just lots of room for adventure and experimenting and play! Honestly, if you go in to it with the right attitude, then there is little frustration even with your "failures" (although there will be good-natured "pokes" from the family, and likely lots of giggles).
Good luck, and please try to have some fun with it!
Start weight: 240 lbs
Goal weight: 155 lbs
Afraid of a colonoscopy? Believe me - they are much less frightening than surgery and chemotherapy.
Colonoscopies allow polyps to be removed before they can become cancer, or let cancers be found before they are too widespread. If you are 50 or older, or have any symptoms, please don't let fear stop you from covering your butt.
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