Hello Lifesavin. I learned a lot from good cookbooks, and I would recommend anything from Australian foodwriter Donna Hay for her simplicity. Look for her Modern Classics, an overview of french, Italian and Asian dishes with a contemporary update. She also has a new book out, I just looked in it but haven't bough it yet.
The best school however is a hands-on approach. Since you're eager to start your own recipes, do as I do many times; select one item dry food such as potato, rice, polenta, pasta... open your fridge, select a few ingredients or left-overs from which you are certain they match together and start cooking! My advice; keep it simple! Cookbooks are allowed of course. When done, write down your recipes! By next week you will no longer remember them exactly. I take pictures and save them with the recipe. I'm also a photo-amateur, but I work with a simple Canon Powershot 5 Mpix for my foodshots + a little Photoshop hokus pokus!
This is an example of something I made with left-overs a few days ago; http://s673.photobucket.com/albums/vv92/ChrisBelgium1/Jam/?action=view¤t=linzen1.jpg
I had some left-over lentils which I only use maybe once a year or even less. I took from my fridge a carrot, a cucumber and a piece of chorizo. I used some frozen salmon as you can see.
There are a few things you must have in your kitchen; cooking oils, herbs and spices, but certainly bouilloncubes such as Knorr or Italien Star, a tube of very good quality tomatopaste...
- rince lentils in cold water, put in a cooking pot, cover -2 fingers high- with water and let simmer for 45 minutes. Taste from 30 minutes cookingtime on for doneness! Absolutely no salt, but you could add aromates such as carrot, onion, celery. Throw these aromates away when cooked.
Meanwhile, cut everything else in nice small cubes;
- sweat a chopped shallot in sunfloweroil on medium fire. Add the cubed chorizo and stirfry. After a few minutes, remove the chorizo and add quite small carrotcubes and let soften quite a long time. Add cubed cucumber and just a pinch of chiliflakes. Add a few tablespoons of water. Brake off maybe no more than 1/5th of a bouilloncube (chicken is OK, or other if you like) and crumble it over the veggies. Let simmer.
- Squeeze no more than 2cm of tomatopaste from the tube, this will glue the sauce to the veggies instead of running off. Add chorizo again and the strained lentels when done. I also added some dried sarriette (don't know the english name), chopped parcely and a teaspoon of left-over sourcream. Absolutely delicious!
The salmon is panfried after defrosting and drying the fish. The herb on it is dried citronelle P&S.
Keep cooking, hope this inspired you! And remember, I only keep my successes but dumped a lot more failures.