Cooking 101 (Week 1) Quick and Easy Menus, Recipes and Tips for Singles and Couples Equipping Your Kitchen

(FN1472, Reviewed April 2020)
Publication File:

You don’t need to have a gourmet kitchen to be a good cook, but having some kitchen equipment essentials can make cooking a breeze.

Lead Author
Lead Author:
Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D. Food and Nutrition Specialist
Other Authors

Katie Myrold, Student Dietitian, Lead student writer; Leah Gramlow, Student Dietitian; Joan Nagel, Student Dietitian

Web only
Publication Sections

These are some useful pieces of equipment.

Check (X) the ones you already have.

Large, nonstick skillet: probably the most important pan in your kitchen.

Chef’s knife: used for chopping, slicing and mincing vegetables and also for cutting meat.

3-quart saucepan: used to make rice, sauces, gravies and small batches of soup and to boil vegetables.

8-quart pot: used to boil spaghetti noodles and make soups and chili.

Colander: great for washing fruits and vegetables and separating liquids from solids.

Cutting board(s): protects your counters from sharp knives. Ideally, have separate boards for cutting meat and produce. Always wash cutting boards thoroughly between uses.

Dry and liquid measuring cups and measuring spoons

Heat-resistant spatula

Can opener

Paring knife and/or vegetable peeler

Mixing bowl(s)

Instant-read Thermometer: essential piece of equipment to ensure food safety. It allows you to check the doneness of foods you are cooking so you do not overcook or undercook.

Slow cooker: although not essential, it is handy to have.

Slow cooker: A Busy Cook’s Best Friend

Mix your ingredients into a slow cooker in the morning, turn it on and leave. You’ll come home at the end of a long day to a flavorful, fully cooked, ready-to-eat meal.

Pop Quiz:

What do you know already?

(The answers are on page 6.)

1. True or false? Lifting the lid off the slow cooker to check on your food is advised.

2. What types of meat work best in the slow cooker?

a) Tender, expensive cuts

b) Less tender, less expensive cuts

3. True or false? For best results, fill your slow cooker all the way to the top.

Try these tips for using a slow cooker:

  • Get your ingredients ready the night before. Then all you have to do in the morning is put them in the cooker and turn it to the desired setting.
  • Spray the slow cooker with cooking spray or use the slow cooker liner bags before adding ingredients. This will make cleanup much easier.
  • To save money, choose less expensive cuts of meat. Slow cooking these meats will result in flavorful, tender dishes at a much lower price.
  • For best results, fill the slow cooker between one-half and two-thirds full.
  • Do not lift the lid off the cooker unless absolutely necessary.
  • Divide the leftovers from a large slow cooker of food into meal-size portions and freeze for future quick meals.

Choose the Right Slow Cooker for Your Needs

Compare sizes and choose the one that works for your situation. The 6-quart option is good for preparing larger quantities of food. If you plan to freeze leftovers for future meals, this size is recommended. If you do not plan to be home when the cooking time is up, consider buying a model with a timer. It automatically will switch to a “warming” option when the cooking time is up.

Here are some cooking times for common slow cooker dishes:

Basic Cooking Times for Slow Cooking*

Figure 1

Note: The times above are estimates only. The cooking times will vary according to the amount of food being cooked, the size of pieces and the type of other ingredients cooked with the food. If using a slow-cooking recipe, be sure to follow the cooking times suggested in the recipe.

Weekly Menu Planner – Week 1

*indicates recipe is provided

Figure 2


Grocery List

Read through the recipes and check your supplies to see what and how much you need.

Figure 3

To save money, compare unit prices (price per ounce) on the store shelving.


Key to Abbreviations

tsp. = teaspoon pkg. = package
Tbsp. = tablespoon g = grams
c. = cup mg = milligrams
oz. = ounce lb. = pound
pkg. = package
g = grams
mg = milligrams
lb. = pound

Easy Slow Cooker Chicken

Figure 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 pkg. dry Italian dressing mix

1 c. warm water

Thaw chicken in the refrigerator overnight or in microwave (followed by immediate cooking). Place chicken in slow cooker, sprinkle with dressing mix and pour water over the chicken. Cover and cook on low heat for eight to 10 hours. Chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165 F.

Makes four servings. Per serving: 140 calories, 1.5 g fat, 2 g carbohydrate, 720 mg sodium, 0 g fiber

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Figure 5

1 large sweet potato

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off ends of potato, peel and slice lengthwise into strips. In medium bowl, toss potatoes with oil until evenly coated. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt if desired. Bake about 30 minutes, or until edges are crisp and potatoes are cooked through. Serve immediately.

Makes two servings. Per serving: 140 calories, 7 g fat, 19 g carbohydrate, 1,200 mg sodium, 3 g fiber

Mexican Egg Scramble

Figure 6

1 whole egg plus 2 egg whites*

¼ c. canned black beans, drained and rinsed

¼ c. shredded cheese

2 Tbsp. salsa

Drain and rinse black beans. Scramble the eggs with beans and cheese. Top with salsa.

Makes one serving. Per serving: 280 calories, 15 g fat, 13 g carbohydrate, 820 mg sodium

*Note: Using egg whites reduces the fat and calories in the dish. Egg white is an excellent source of protein.

Slow Cooker Chili

Figure 7

1 large can low-sodium (or unsalted) tomato sauce

1 lb. lean ground beef

2 cans beans (kidney beans are fine, but you can use whatever you’d like)

2 Tbsp. chili powder

¼ c. diced onion

Shredded cheese (optional)

Cook the ground beef in a separate pan until cooked all the way through. Add all ingredients, except cheese, and cook in the slow cooker for four to six hours on high. Sprinkle with shredded cheese if desired. Serve with whole-wheat crackers.

Makes six servings. Per serving: 270 calories, 14 g fat, 35 g carbohydrate, 14 g fiber, 75 mg sodium

Answers: 1. False 2. b 3. False

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