For The Cook Who Has Nothing

Cooking for the absolute beginner, starting from scratch

Tofu Puttanesca Scramble

Happy Thanksgiving! To celebrate my traditional Thanksgiving-morning hangover (consequent from the traditional day-before-Thanksgiving drinking at the bar), I banged out another vegetarian recipe that I’d been meaning to try.  Like the koshari recipe from last weekend, this is not strictly a beginner recipe, but I’m going to put it down here in a post anyway, because it was easy and tasty.


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 package firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 0.5 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained (this is a rare recipe where you drain the tomatoes)
  • 2.25 oz can of black olives, drained
  • 1 tbsp capers, drained
  • 0.25 tsp salt, or to taste


Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic, and cook until the garlic browns a bit, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the tofu and the red pepper flakes, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tofu has browned a bit.  Add the Italian seasoning and tomatoes, and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the olives, capers, and salt, and cook for another minute or so to heat through.



Three things contributed to me doing this recipe today:

First, I messed up this weekend for the Chicken Cacciatore recipe I was going to post.  I forgot to take pictures as I went along, and didn’t realize it until everything was already loaded up in the slow cooker!  Grr.  It turned out great, but I will have to make it again and actually document it.

Second, a couple of my friends that have been reading this blog have commented, “You need to do some vegetarian recipes!”  Vegetarian recipes have been on my to-do list, but I haven’t gotten that far yet.  I have been aiming more at the omnivore audience so far, but there’s plenty of great things to make that don’t have to have meat.

Third, I read about this delicious-sounding Egyptian comfort food called “Koshari”, which happens to also be vegetarian, and I wanted to try my hand at making it.

So here we are, my attempt at Koshari.  This is much more like “real cooking” than the beginner level cooking which this blog is supposed to be about, but it’s still pretty simple.  Rather than do a full workup and file it in the Recipes section, I’m just going to write it up here in this post.  I will write it up more formally some time in the future, when I’ve done some more of the lessons-along-the-way that a true beginner would want to learn before trying something like this.


  • 0.75 cup brown rice
  • 0.75 cup dried lentils
  • 3.5 cups water
  • 14.5 oz can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 cup dried elbow macaroni, or equivalent amount of other dried pasta (if using spaghetti, break it into short pieces)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 tsp (about 4 cloves) minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 0.5-1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 14.5 oz cans petite diced chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp vegetable bouillon powder or concentrate (I used Vegetable Better ‘N Bouillon)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp vinegar (pretty much any flavor will do, I used red wine vinegar)


Put the rice, lentils, and water into the rice cooker and set it to “Cook”.  It will take longer to cook than the rest of the recipe, so set a timer for about 20 minutes before starting the other ingredients.  If it finishes cooking before the rest of the recipe, leave it running on “keep warm” until the rest is done.

After the 20 minutes, put the olive oil into a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook the onion in the olive oil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, and red pepper flakes, and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly to avoid burning the spices.  Add the tomatoes, stir, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium, and add the bouillon powder/concentrate, salt, sugar, and vinegar, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally.  The sauce will thicken as it cooks.

When you start the tomatoes cooking, also start a small pot of water boiling for the pasta.  Cook the pasta according to package directions while the sauce is still cooking.

In a large serving bowl, mix the rice and lentils, the drained chickpeas, and the drained cooked pasta.  Serve portions of the mixture with portions of the sauce ladled on top.  Makes MANY servings, I’d say 8 or so.  Makes great leftovers.


Slow Cooker Ham and Lentil Soup

New recipe, the first of several slow cooker recipes.  This one is incredibly simple, but very tasty.

Slow Cooker Ham and Lentil Soup

Upcoming Slow Cooker Recipes

I have some slow cooker recipes in the pipeline, but they are hard for me to work on during the week because of timing reasons.  So I’m doing a ton of cooking this weekend to make practice attempts at two new recipes, and do the blog workup for a third!

The upcoming recipes will be:

  • Slow Cooker Ham and Lentil Soup
  • Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
  • Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

I have done the ham and lentil soup a couple times already, and have it nailed down for a formal recipe.  I did my first attempt at the chicken cacciatore tonight, but it came out a little watery (but still very tasty!), so I need to adjust it before I write it up.  I will be trying the chicken and dumplings tomorrow, and I’m excited to try it out!

Two more recipes!

Here are two more recipes! These are simple variations on the theme of “rice cooker recipes with completely shelf-stable ingredients”.

Rice Cooker Southwestern Chicken and Black Beans

Rice Cooker Curry Chicken and Lentils

First Recipe!

Welcome to For The Cook Who Has Nothing, a blog for absolute beginner cooks who are starting from scratch.  Initially, the recipes I will be posting will be aiming for those who really don’t have any idea how to cook, and/or don’t have any of the equipment needed.  These recipes will make every attempt to be foolproof, using the simplest techniques with the minimal amount of equipment.

As we go along, I will start introducing new equipment and new techniques.  Hopefully, this will match the hypothetical reader’s progress in what they are comfortable doing, and what they can afford to get their hands on.

The first recipe that I am providing here is an example of the minimal technique.  All it requires is a low-end rice cooker.  All the ingredients are shelf-stable, and safe to handle even when uncooked.  The first few recipes will be variations on this basic one-pot rice cooker meal template.

I intend to also provide a lot of background information on ingredients, equipment, and techniques, as we go along.  That part of things is a work in progress, but even in this first sample recipe, you will find several links to such background pages.  I expect to be doing a lot of rewriting and expanding of those support pages as we go.

So here we go with the first recipe: Rice Cooker Chicken and Vegetables!