Alright. We've figured out some important details: light and soil. Moving on...
You want to look up your zone (USDA or if you're out West, I hear Sunset's zones are more helpful). Why? The important parts are the first and last frost dates as well as average high and low temperatures. The frost dates are what you'll live by if you're edible gardening. If you're planting perennials or shrubs/bushes, look for plants that can survive in your "zone" (meaning they can live with the high and low temps your area gets. you can still grow those that don't survive in your zone, but they will be annuals, not perennials for you).
Now, with the info I've droned on about, you can start making plant selection choices. I would advocate for the first time gardener to stick, at least most of the time, to the rules. This means, you choose plants that can deal with your light situation, soil situation and climate. When plants are in their ideal environment they are less susceptible to disease and pests which means you've got less maintenance and a greater chance of success. And really, not killing something feels awesome and is the surest way to encourage you to plant something else/continue to garden/make the garden bigger/etc.
I've blogged about the growing requirements for some edibles already to help you along: ground cherries, herbs, strawberries, peppers and tomatoes. Also, there are two notable inedibles in my life: my african violet and my Unwin's dahlias.
The boost of confidence, along with the knowledge that you can only really get by DOING something yourself will, in time, give you courage to plant something outside your zone or in a totally wrong light situation. In short, to experiment. After all, trying something new and taming Mother Nature seems to be what keeps gardeners excited about gardening for decades. But that first season? You need a little success. You need to be able to look around you and see things doing OK. You need to be able to think, "Hey! I can do this." And you'll realize that gardening isn't as hard or mysterious as you once thought.
Because, seriously, gardening isn't rocket science.