What every novice needs to know to prepare simple, substantial meals that come out right--on time. After a glossary of common cooking terms are Family Dinners: the menu (for a specific number); a market list and staples to check; utensils needed (to be set out at the start); a precise time schedule; the recipes in order of preparation, These are meat-potato-vegetable-sweet meals, the common denominator of the American kitchen; featured also are quasi-French, Italian and Mexican dinners and a smorgasbord. Casseroles are limited to leftovers, unfortunately, and some of the parties--Halloween, St. Patrick's and St. Valentine's Day--won't tempt many teenagers today; but the Mother's Day Breakfast (in bed) and the suggestions for informal gatherings--including a cook-out--are sure to please. Much is made of canned, prepared and premixed products, currently popular but costly (especially all those 8 oz. cans of mushrooms); the choice of loin lamb chops is a sign, anyhow, that this isn't ""cooking on a budget."" Its chief--and considerable--value is in teaching the methods basic to a confident, competent cook.