Something like the Yamaha RX-V385 would be a good place to start. Their entry level receivers are very good in my opinion. Honestly, most of the manufacturers make solid stuff in that price range. It's where most of the sales are, and thus where the competition is.
Speaker setup can get infinitely more complex than, say picking out a pair of headphones. However, the two big things to look for are still sensitivity and impedance. Make sure you understand the fundamentals of how power and volume relate to those two specs, and how much volume you need to fill your room. This can seem complex, but once you get it, you're set for life. It's worth the time to research and understand it for yourself.
Don't spend more for channels beyond 5.1 at this point. Cut your teeth building a good 5.1 system, and by the time you do that, you'll be in a good spot to upgrade to a next level system.
The acoustics of your room are almost as important as your speakers. Definitely another thing worth researching.
Oh, and to make it more fun, the wattage ratings on most receivers are misleading, so take them with a grain of salt. A useful rule of thumb is to take the wattage on the receiver power supply, cut it in half, and then divide by the number of passive speakers driven. That a more realistic estimate of how much wattage each speaker will actually get, in my experience.