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Lost Cooking Skills: Need Help Relearning Basics


I have brain damage and forget things easily once there's a break in my routine. Once I have that break, it is very stressful to reintroduce activities (due to autism, ADHD, executive dysfunction, multiple processing disorders, problems with memory, etc.).

I had a severe break a couple of years ago lasting into today, and the result is that I've forgotten how to cook and prepare food. It'd causing significant issues in my daily life. I am trying to gain weight (in muscle preferably but I'm not trying to lose weight, is my point).

Things I do remember:
- how to brown butter
- the concept of. what's it called. soaking the meat overnight in a mixture, whatever that's called
- how to microwave veggies. I forgot how to steam though, somehow....? But can use stove top.
- concept of a frying pan
- how to make rice
- how to chop most veggies or how to look it up
- that I used to get produce at a chain store called Kroger after the local butcher shop was shut down
- how to make eggs
- how to toast toast (toaster is currently on a broken circuit)
- how to make yogurt drinks
- how to make quiche, mostly
- how to heat frozen chicken nuggets (I used to make them in a sauce, not sure but might be able to remember how with time)
- how to follow directions for boxed noodles
- that I used to start the day with oatmeal,

Things I'm struggling to remember:
- how to start cooking
- meal times? Meal sizes?
- what do I eat?
- how do I get ingredients for food? Like how do I know what ingredients to get before I know what I need to eat?
- ???

I'm just struggling a lot. If someone who feels like it could send me some tips as if I were right years old, just as you do them or think of them, I'd really appreciate it

There's already a thread for recipes, so if you write out a recipe you can put it there for everyone, because I do see those and I don't want to have hidden secret special recipes in two different threads lol (I can't tell you what to do, though 😆)

Thanks for anything and anyone ❤️
How do y'all get energy to cook?
I don’t always have energy to cook. But having a meal plan for the week posted on the fridge is half the battle for me. If I planned something fancy and it turns out I don’t have the energy I switch to something else on the meal plan. Trail mix? Can do. Eggs? Easy. And so on. Also, really important for me to not just plan meals but also snacks. 3 meals, 3 snacks. Don’t always hit them, but thinking about what to make is what used to exhaust me.
How do y'all get energy to cook?
When my PTSD is bad, I can’t even boil water for ramen on a consistent basis. There are just too many steps to follow. Too many things to think through.

When I’m sick? (Like now) It can take me all day to make a sandwich, even with “everything” right there in front of me. And fo’geddaboutit if I have to go to the store. If I have to go to the store? I’m not cooking anything, after.) It’s not the steps, in order, that are hard… like when my PTSD is flaring… but being physically able to accomplish those steps.

Which is why I cook a LOT, when I can cook, and freeze it… so I can zap it in the microwave… when I can’t cook. And keep around a crate of meal-replacement shakes, for when I haven’t been able to cook for so long I don’t have any reserves left / set aside. (Also for when zapping something in the microwave is too much work. Which also happens.)
Which is why I cook a LOT, when I can cook, and freeze it… so I can zap it in the microwave… when I can’t cook. And keep around a crate of meal-replacement shakes, for when I haven’t been able to cook for so long I don’t have any reserves left / set aside. (Also for when zapping something in the microwave is too much work. Which also happens.)
That's one of my go to's. Make and freeze or make ahead stuff. I do the Turkey and the green bean casserole for Christmas and both the green bean and stuffing are make ahead and really pretty simple. Christmas morning - everything is already prepped just have to prep and stuff the bird, then cut the beans and dump them in the slow cooker.

Americas test kitchen has a great 30 minute meals recipe book too. Very useful.

And if all else fails there is a place here called M&M Food stores that sells packaged frozen meals. Real meat, real food, and all that goes in the bin is the cover plastic sheet because even the container is compostable,,,,,,
ETA: I think I'm also struggling a bit with anything that requires me to do something I can't picture clearly?

It's helpful for me to have a recipe to go off of, usually on my phone, and then modify it as I need or want to. Recently, I made a soup but didn't have some vegetables so I added others, and it turned out lovely. Making more substantial meals like this has been really helpful for me, I can have a regular meal and other times when I don't feel like I can eat it's nice to have food that seems edible. Another nice thing about most soups are that they are easy to freeze and reheat. They can also be extended by adding other quick foods like rice. I will look for that recipe thread too!
I think this is relevant as I’m going to try to teach myself a new thing to improve my cooking efficiency and skills.

Been exploring recipes for a while now, mostly focused on veggies and beans but not limited to that, from many different cultures. Been having a hard time managing my time with cooking, it’s all over the map. I do enjoy trying new recipes.

Was listening to an interview with chef Anya Fernald of Bel Campo farm. She teaches about sustainable farming and is pro-meat. I suspect that me and my daughter probably need to be eating way more beef to be healthy. So going to try that.

But anyway in the interview Anya said that if you want to get good at cooking it helps to choose a pallet of flavor and try to limit your regular ingredients to about 20-30 items. So choose your favorite fats, acids, proteins, carbs, etc and then get really good at cooking those. Because the simplest meals with quality ingredients are what nourish. Having lived for a short time in Italy and also the South Pacific I fully agree.

So today I chose my pallet and wrote out my ingredients! Pallet will be Provence/Pyrenees (Southern France) and Mexico. I know they sound pretty different but we’ll see what happens.

And here’s all my staple ingredients in case you’re interested:

Fats: Butter, Olive, Lard
Acid: Citrus, Apple Cider Vinegar
Heat: Chilies, Black Pepper
Salt: My beloved Celtic Sea Salt
Sugar: Cane, Agave, Honey
Protein: Grass-Fed Beef, Turkey, Lamb
Carb: Wheat, Corn, Rye
Nuts: Almond, Hazelnut, Pistachio
Dairy: Eggs, Milk, Cheese (Manchego, Cotija and other Mexican cheeses)
Beans: Pinto, Garbanzo
Vegetables: Onion, Garlic, Shallot, Carrot, Tomato, Greens, Lettuce, Squashes, Spinach, Olives, Artichoke, Eggplant
Herbs: Parsley, Cilantro, Basil, Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, Cumin
Fruits: Melons, Peaches, Figs, Oranges, Pomegranate, Plums, Banana, Blueberries, Raspberries, apples

I feel empowered by this idea and am hoping the restrictions will spark creativity and continuity. I give myself full permission to eat whatever I want but I wonder where this idea will take me.

I had no idea how many dishes in southern France are made with corn meal or garbanzo flour until researching this. I’ve dropped fish and seafood which is a noteworthy change, because I always thought about the omegas but apparently grass fed beef provides good omegas provided its 100% grass fed and eating live grass as opposed to hay. Also no lentils, dal, or mung beans… we’ll see how long that lasts. Also noteworthy is no potatoes, which might be hard. I’ve got lots of staples still in my pantry so it will take while to finish all the old stuff but my new purchases I will try to limit to this list, with full permission to edit and change my mind as needed.
ETA: I think I'm also struggling a bit with anything that requires me to do something I can't picture clearly?
The Pioneer Woman was the first food blogger I ever read that took a photo at each step (and made snarky/hilarious commentary about various things which just cracked me up)… way back, in I wanna say 2006? 2008? Something like that.

It’s become almost standard, now, because. it. is. just. so. darn. USEFUL.

Similar to how cookbooks didn’t use to have pics in them, at all, and then BAM! Now? They all do. A few even follow blog format, with pics at each step.

Next best thing to cooking WITH someone, in learning to cook new things. Or in new ways.

So the whole needing to be able to picture it?

Totally human.

X1000 if you’re a kinesthetic/visual learner!!!


I get that (not being able to see/picture clearly) plus a great big whomping dose of FEAR whenever I’m baking. ((I don’t bake. (Except for 2 things.) Baking scares me. Unless I’m depressed, and all of a sudden I start baking like crazy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ))

So looking up bloggers who do that picture/picture/picture thing AT each step, instead of cookbooks, might help out.

Ditto, if 180 degrees different, you might check out Cooking For Engineers… if standard cookbooks/blogs just make you want to throw things. Which has info like WHY we add oil when sautéing veg (to distribute heat evenly across a variety of surfaces, as a conductor of that heat / allowing it to penetrate the food instead of just burning half & steaming off leaving the other half raw )… as well as a design that thumbs it’s nose at what the masses ljke best… but makes engineering brains sigh in relief. Or so I’m told. The aesthetics of the site make ME wanna throw things! 🤣 But I’ve been told by too many reliable sources that it’s bliss for them!

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Imma eedjit >.<

I totally forgot about “The Game”

This was born out of poverty (Ex spent all the grocery money not on groceries, because he could eat at the free cafeteria at work, he didn’t care) so TheKiddo & I had to fend for ourselves. All we had, was a crate of eggs (roughly, if I’m remembering correctly) 5x36 & 5lbs of bacon… and whatever was in the cupboards/fridge from last month. So we had bacon & eggs for a month! In. As. Many. Ways. As. I. Could. Think. Of. (Pasta Carbonnara, Egg salad sammies, Caesar salad, BLT, quiche, egg fried rice, bacon wrapped jalapeño popper, devilled eggs, etc., etc., etc.)

…but it became a FUN way to flip off my eating disorder, and could slog through PTSD making boiling water hard.

Instead of core ingredients? I usually use a core “thing” (like sandwiches, or pasta, or salad, or frozen food), and I “just” eat that for the month. Or fortnight if I start getting brave, and want to do a different game. 😉 Sandwiches for every meal? Means I start getting my confidence back after a few days/weeks, and start getting creative. And, yep! It involves “real” cooking. Because there are fancy ass sandwiches out there!!! As well as sandwiches I can make ahead and freeze (like breakfast sandwiches), or make a lot of filling for (BLTs, Philly cheesesteaks, Cuban, chicken&peppers, etc.) and have an easy time for a couple/few days. Or prep the bread for (like French toast, frozen, pops in the toaster & loves easy things like jam, or cooky things like sausage).

By limiting myself to this ONE type of food? Over the course of a few weeks I reeeeally start eating well / getting creative. Different breads, different middle parts, creative “what IS a sammie, anyway? Bruschetta? Totally an open faced sandwich!”

Anyhow, the Game, keeps my focus so narrowed (from grocery shopping, to cooking, to assembly, to choices overall) that it -conversely- opens up a lot of possibilities for me.
Oh that might be great for me 👀

Is French toast an egg sandwich? :P
In a way yes.....eggs and bread are the main ingredients...

I totally forgot about “The Game”
I play that when the fridge needs cleaning out. See what I can make to use stuff up. It usually works out.......and sometimes it doesn't.

But it can work well too when you can't get your stuff together in the kitchen. Sandwiches are an awesome thing to work with - so many ways to finish them. 4 ingredients and 4 condiments and you can make a lot of different sandwiches.