Kitchen Fires and Four Steps to Scratch Cooking



Click on the graphic to enjoy more of the bloggers on the tour!

It’s a Give Away Day! At the bottom of the post, I’ll share a way to make your meals both healthy and easier with a great give away today!

Ok…so I just pulled this picture off Instagram. My daughter, Mariah, posted this with the caption:

“Wouldn’t be my last dinner at home with a grease fire.”

Pot on FIre

Yes, I was trying to make her homemade onion rings and got a bit wrapped up in the roasted zucchini and corn and forgot about the grease! This is my man coming to my rescue. I’d like to say I have come a long way. Maybe it would be better to just say I’ve come a bit.

As a very young  bride who just turned 20), I absolutely believed the lady on tv who said I could bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never, ever let him forget he was a man!

So my first day back to work after my honeymoon, I set out to prove it! Early in the morning, I put that goulash I had eaten a bizillion times as a child in a crockpot and headed off to work a happy bride. Pretty proud of myself too! But as the time ticked by, so did my confidence. By the lunch hour  I was headed home to check on my pretty project. Only it wasn’t so pretty! It fact, it had taken on a grayish hue  and a blob of a form. “It will get better” this eternal optimist said to herself.

Dinner time rolled around and I rolled out my first meal. I still could not figure out what was wrong. It looked nothing like Mom’s. Putting a large portion on my new dishes, I set the table for my man. What a gracious man he was! He ate that blob with a smile. But when it came time to put away the left overs, he gently said, “It’s ok, we don’t have to save them.” I knew I had to call my mom. Where had I gone wrong?

“Did you brown the meat first?” she asked.


“Did you wait to mix the noodles in right before you served it?”


The more questions she asked, the more my mistakes were apparent.

The days of gooey goulash and trout cheese casserole are behind me, but life in the kitchen is just around the corner for my daughters and for many of you too! I don’t want them to be the complete novice I was when it comes to cooking.

This week I am partnering with my friend, Karen Ehman, and many other bloggers to bring a bit of what we have learned through our mistakes to those coming behind us. I’m hoping you will join us!

The average American eats out 4 1/2 times a week (I guess that half is a trip for a fancy coffee). From the first day we were married, Greg and I thought those averages we weren’t good for us. I’d like to say it’s a health thing, but to be honest, I’m just too frugal to hand over our hard earned money for a very poor return.


Old kitchen

How is today’s 2013 mom suppose to avoid being part of that eating out statistic?

Here are my 4 simple steps for cooking healthy and saving money too:

1) Make a menu

Meal plan


While I’m watching TV with my hubby, I write down one meal for the next seven days. They say the average American family rotates the same six meals. Unlike some of you, I don’t really like to cook; it gets boring to me. To shake it up a bit, every few months I get a new cook book and cook my way through it. My latest is:



I found Jillian’s meals super tasty and good for my family too!  Since they take a little more time, you’ll see I pick three or four of these meals and then fill in on our busy nights with really easy choices like grilling out or tacos.

If I own the cookbook, beside each recipe I write a little note, “Loved it!”, “Fantastic”, “Don’t do again”. This way I’ll remember the good ones. Also, one day, my girls will have a record of the ones we all liked too!

2) Make a grocery list

While I am making my menu, I make my grocery list at the same time.

Listing the items I need to purchase to make those meals (minus anything I already have on hand), I the items into two categories (remember I like to save money?) – Aldi and Bi-Lo. As I put them on the list, I also write them down in order according to what comes up first in the store as I enter it.

Grocery list


(The question mark tells me to check my frig before I head to the store!)

3) Shopping

I stop by Aldi on my way home from Proverbs 31 Ministries.I keep my other list for the another day when I forget something and have to run to the grocery store!

4) Cooking

Even though I actually make a full week schedule, each night I choose what meal to cook based on how busy I am and whether or not I made my second grocery store stop. On ball game days or small group nights, I make good use of my crock pot. I plop some meat, often frozen still, along with a seasoning packet and relax.

One of my favorites is to put in 2 – 3 boneless chicken breasts along with a packet of taco seasonings. Right about dinner time, I have the most tantalizing Mexican meal! I just have to pull out the shredded cheese, taco shells, lettuce and tomato and we’re set!

I also do the same with chicken and a jar of spaghetti sauce.

If all of this sounds overwhelming to you, let me share with you a secret I discovered during the busiest time of my life.

E Meals 

E Meals does the first two steps of my system for you! You simply choose what type of food your family likes or where you shop. They provide the menu and the shopping list! The great thing is you save so much time and money too since you are only buying what you need rather than guessing.

This week, I am giving away a 3 month subscription to eMeals valued at $27!

To enter, simply share with us your family’s favorite meal in the comments below! If you’re in a hurry, just say “I’m in!” Winners will be announced here on my blog on Tuesday, September 3.



I’d love to have you join our community of women purposing to become wise and raise wiser daughters! If you choose to start receiving my posts today, I’ll send you my recipe for my family’s favorite birthday treat – The Cowell Cheesecake! Just send your email address to [email protected]. We’ll get you signed up and the recipe right out!


Madi's birthday






  1. I go back to my job at school today. Every year I start out good and before you know it I’m back in the bad routine of just getting by. I desire to make good meals for my family and to stay on top of everything.
    This would be a help in making this school year the best ever.
    Thank You

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Cindy, Emeals would be PERFECT for you! Thanks so much for commenting!

  2. Debbie Hollingsworth says:

    My family’s favorite meal would look something like this:
    Turkey, even if it’s a frozen turkey breast or turkey roast
    fresh, snapped green beans
    mashed potatoes
    Working two jobs right now for me, many times 7 days a week, daughter in college and hubby who works 60 hour weeks…this hasn’t happened in a while. I think, though, I’ll buy the crockpot worthy turkey breast and plan for it soon. 🙂 Who knows, we may all sit down and eat it at the same time!

    Time to begin planning, thanks for the reminder!

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Debbie, I love the turkey in the crock pot idea. Such a good feeling to know while you are busy at work, the crock pot is busy making yummy food!

  3. Our Family Favorite meal is:
    Bacon Wrapped chicken/ stuffed with cream cheese with chives
    Bow-tie Basil & cheese pasta
    Fresh green beans w/bacon
    Chocolate pie
    Sweet Tea
    Fresh squeezed Lemonade

    I usually make this on special occasions such as Birthdays, “Just Because” days!

    Family meal time is a very important part of our family, so I try to have a sit down dinner 4-5 a week.
    With 2 kids still at home with busy schedules, some days it is easier than others.
    I enjoy your blog very much!! Thank You for sharing with us mothers what God has been teaching you!!

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Wow, Linda. Can I come to dinner at your house? I am usually really, really bad at having side dishes. I feel like I am doing well if I get the main course with a salad on the table. I know from the title of your chicken my family would LOVE it! They love anything cooked with cream cheese.

  4. We love to eat Bubble Up enchiladas. They are so easy and yummy too!

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Ohhhhh Mexican! Always a hit at the Cowell’s house!

    2. nancys1128 says:

      Do share the recipe for Bubble Up Enchiladas! Always looking for new things to try and that might be just the dish to spice up the standard rotation.

  5. nancys1128 says:

    The one meal that everyone in the house really likes is grilled marinated flank steak with sweet potatoes for mom and dad, and mashed for our 12yo daughter, and broccoli. If there’s time we might add a salad as well.

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Nancy, what do you marinate it in?

  6. I would have to say Walking Tacos. Kids just love putting all there ingredient in the single serving Doritos bags and best part I don’t have a lot of dishes to wash. Now that I think about it, I might not have a lot of dishes to wash but I do have a messy floor and table when it’s all said and done. Lol. still a family favorite.

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      I just learned about those when they had them at a “His Revolutionary Love” conference in Lemmon, SD for lunch! It was perfect! I also used them this summer when I had a house full of company!

  7. My husband’s favorite meal that I make is my baked spaghetti. While I’m browning a pound of hamburger meat, I make my sauce! Nothing fancy. Just a jar of garden combination Ragu (any flavor will work); a small can of oregano and basil tomato paste, and a teaspoon of sugar (to help cut the acid). Let the sauce cook about an hour. Once the meat is browned, drain and add to the sauce for the remainder of the cooking time. Pre heat oven to 350. Start the spaghetti noodles, 8 oz. once they are done, rinse them in cold water to prevent them from sticking together. Once the sauce is done, mix the noodles with the sauce and add a cup of colbyjack shredded cheese. Once thoroughly mixed, put mixture in a greased 9×11 casserole disk. Evenly sprinkle1 cup of shredded Colby jack or casserole cheese. If you like to kick it up a notch, mix in a separate bowl a cup of sour cream and a cup of cottage cheese and a tablespoon of oregano. Place this mixture in the casserole dish first, then the spaghetti mixture. Bake for 10 min or until the cheese is melted. If you add the cottage cheese, cook for 15-29 minutes. Let cook for 5 min! Quick, easy, and awesome!

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      That is some comfort food!

  8. Great post!!! I remember my first dinner…many, many moons ago (I was 19!!!). Shortly afterward we had company for dinner…maybe we cooked out for them or something ….. Anyway, during the meal the conversation turned to my ‘cooking’…my newly wed husband said I was a good cook, why “the other night she served something, I’m not sure what it was, but I ate two of them… 🙂 I think it was hamburger patties in mushroom soup gravy…he never complained and eventually, I became a great cook…practice and cookbooks make perfect…

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Renee, my mom used to say she hated to come to my house for dinner I was so bad! Now, she enjoys it! Like you said, practice and cookbooks are the key!

  9. My family goes nuts for the ultimate comfort food. SOS. I make it with Hamburger and serve it over mashed potatoes. Pure love on a plate.

  10. Have always read and loved your posts, Lynn! Recently had the chance to share your book (His Revolutionary Love) with a friend whose daughter needed some encouragement after a break-up. I’ve had my two oldest read it and have 3 more daughters in line 😉 Thank you for your ministry! As for the family’s favorite meal…you would probably have 9 different answers! I made Chicken Pot Pie last week and that always received really well! My favorite is French Dip (made in the crock pot). I’m so glad to see you shop at Aldi! My favorite store 🙂

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Thank you so very very much, Kara, for investing in your girls and your encouragement to me! I’ll be turning in a new manuscript next month and will have a new book for your girls in fall 2014!

      I would LOVE the french dip recipe! Those are toooooo yummy. Add the crock pot and they sound easy too!

      1. I will be on the lookout for your new book! You have such a vital ministry and message!

        Here is the French Dip recipe:
        10 beef bouillion cubes
        3 bay leaves
        3 cloves of garlic, crushed
        2 Tb sugar
        2 large onions, thinly sliced
        1/2 tsp seasoned salt
        coarse ground pepper
        1 can beer
        3 beer cans of water
        3-5 lb rump roast

        1. Combine all ingredients except for roast in large crock pot.
        2. Add meat, raw (I usually trim off fat and cut the roast up in large chunks)
        3. Cover and simmer for 8 hours on low (depending on size of roast)
        4. Slice meat or shred it with forks.
        5. Serve on steak rolls. (For added pleasure…butter rolls and top with monterey jack cheese and stick under the broiler for a few minutes. Have to watch carefully or you will have burnt buns!)

        Blessings to you!

        1. Lynn Cowell says:

          Just printed! I’ll be using this the next day out on the ball fields!

          Thank you for your kind words about my new book. I am just SO EXCITED about it! I truly love this next generation of girls and am asking God to use us women to pour His truth in so that THEY might be world changers!!!

          1. Amen and AMEN!!! Our prayer for our kids, especially as children in public schools…Philippians 2:15 🙂 So nice to chat with you 🙂 Enjoy your new crock pot creation soon!

  11. Jane Lorenz says:

    My family’s fave is my homemade pizza. I make a double recipe of crust and divide it into 3 med-lg sized pizzas and a personal for my 6 yr old. Cast iron skillets and stones make the crust perfect…unless you forget the salt like I did last week! Spaghetti sauce and frozen sausage patties speed up the process. (Originally I made the sauce, too, but I didn’t care for it and ran out of time.) I also buy the big chunks of cheese, grate it all and freeze it in zipper bags in the portion I need to use. It does take some ahead of time planning to save time and money but it pays off in the end!! I’ll throw in a salad someitmes but usually everyone gets too full on the pizza!

  12. Jessica F says:

    I am from Peru, and my kids love pasta with homemade meat sauce, which includes grating the carrots and tomatoes and cooking them with the meat for over an hour. We have it almost every week. They don’t even realize they are eating veggies.

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Jessica – what a great way to get those veggies in!

  13. I remember when I was married for only 2 yrs. 20 some yrs ago and we were expecting our son. I was extremely nauseated both night and day and for whatever reason I decided to try out a Hamburger Casserole Recipe that was topped with tater tots. However, I didn’t realize that you had to COOK the hamburger first. It was such a mess when it came out of the oven it even made my husband nauseated and that requires a lot to do that : ) needless to say we ordered pizza that night and I started reading and re-reading recipes. Now I utilize my Crockpot quite frequently. My family’s favorite meal would have to be Roast Beef, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans and warm rolls with cinnamon butter. I also shop at Aldi’s- they have the best frozen green beans hands down!

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Donna – your story sounds like me and the goulash! Oh the things we need to teach our kids before they head into their own kitchens!

  14. Hazel Hatcher says:

    Any type of Mexican food would be a favorite in our house!! 🙂

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Mexican is big here too!

      Especially my jalapeno poppers:
      Cut jalapeno in half
      Hollow out jalapenos
      Pack the the “boat” full of cream cheese
      wrap in bacon

      Cook at 375 until brown (about 25 minutes)

      WAY TOO GOOD! Make sure you wear gloves or the juice from the jalapenos will get in your cuts, eyes, etc. and BURN! (Learned that the hard way too!)

  15. Love this post. I am really in need of new healthy, easy recipes. Work full time outside the home and it seems like I cook the same things over and over? I love your idea of getting a new cookbook and cooking through it!

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Kim, sometimes I borrow cookbooks from friends or the library. Then I copy them so I have them.

  16. Mary Beth says:

    My family loves pizza! homemade, frozen, carry-out, or delivery! We also love Mexican and any kind of pasta!

    1. We’re pizza lovers too, but that is one thing my husband makes. Not me!

  17. Rachael M. says:

    My family loves Chicken Divan. My husband never ate asparagus growing up, but he loves it in this dish. And my kids love it because it has rice 🙂

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Rachael – my mom always made this dish the day after Thanksgiving and used turkey. Although she used broccoli instead. I LOVE asparagus; especially when I roast it at 375 for about 25 minutes. Easy and yummy!

  18. My family’s favorite meal is a crock pot LOADED with all different kinds of beans, corn, tomatoes, sausage and several spices and cooked ALL day long. Then we top it with sour cream, cheese, and of course AVOCADOS!!

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Wow! Sounds perfect for the upcoming fall nights!

  19. Our favorite meal is Crockpot pinto beans and cottage ham, fried okra, collard greens and sweet cornbread. Wash it all down with sweet tea. Yummy!!

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Good ‘ole Southern cooking!!

  20. Heather P says:

    Don’t have a favorite recipe as we love to eat. In trying to get a full-time teaching position this year and my husband finishing school and starting a new profession as a Paramedic, we will be strapped for time. I already cook a lot at home, but do not like to take an hour to cook before we eat. I am also already subscribed to your blog. Thanks!

    1. Heather, I bet you have some great quick things you have learned to pull together!

  21. Chicken fajitas. I marinate the chicken and have hubby cook it on the grill. Saute onions and peppers and grate cheese and have some good salsa and tortillas (which sometimes we pick up at our local mexican restaurant). Put it all together and it is a favorite!!
    I just found your website and and enjoying it very much. I have daughters ages 10 and 12.
    Thank you.

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Debbie…those sound terrific! Do you make a marinade? I have used a seasoning packet from the store. Would love to hear what you use if you make your own!

  22. Michelle S says:

    I’m in! OK, in general we love casseroles, meatloaf – all of the old school comfort foods!

  23. Love ALDI! Such a great place to save and feed a family well. We love chicken in the crockpot. Most recently I used the Italian seasoning packets from Aldi, frozen chicken breast, a little vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Put it all in the crockpot on low for 6 hours about 4 hours into it I added fresh potatoes from our garden. 2 hours later we sat down for the meal and my husband said, “You out did yourself this time.” WOW…a simple throw it in the crockpot meal made one hungry man and 2 hungry girls happy. I can’t say that it has always been this way (we do eat out often and I am trying to work on this) as I prefer to bake rather than cook. Thanks for offering up a giveaway. Loving the Vintage Week!

  24. I’m a lucky wife because my husband isn’t picky and eats everything I make. I wish my kids were the same way. Our new favorite meal this summer has been BBQ, which is beautiful because my husband is the BBQ of the family. We can make everyone’s favorite dish on the grill…I get some fresh corn, salad, fruit and our favorite bread. I love easy meals that everyone enjoys and I need some help in that area! Thanks for offering such a great giveaway!!

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      We love BBQ too! I put a brisket in the crockpot (frozen even) with some BBQ seasonings from the store, turn on high and cook all day. At dinner time, it’s just a matter of chopping it up, throwing on some sauce and spooning it on the buns!

  25. This will be our busiest year ever and I’m saying never again after it. I’m going to have to get really good at the crock pot. Need good all in one recipes. Is there a favorite cookbook for crock pot? I have fix it and forget it but they all seem the same for choices in it. And my “new” 2 years old crock pot doesn’t work like my old one did. It cooks faster so I can’t determine whether high or low to cook and for how long. And I love the thought to add frozen meat (I always thaw it out first), but does how much longer should you cook it? Thanks for any help. This is great!

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Hey Amy,

      I’d start by printing out the great ideas printed here in these comments! I sure am! 🙂

      Anybody have a good crock pot cook book?

      I add 2 – 3 hours for frozen based on the poundage of the meat. The brisket I cooked from 7ish to 6ish at night was about 2 pounds.

      I know that is not super helpful to those who like clear directions! I come from a family of 8, so I learned “add a little here, a bit there”!

  26. So many favorites, so little time! I love to cook on the weekend and have things that will be quick and easy to finish off after work during the week. The crock pot is also a wonderful thing. There’s nothing like coming home from work and being greeted by the smell of dinner already done!

    Probably one of the most loved favorites in our house is a ham dish. If I peel and quarter the potatoes in advance, it can be done and in the oven in a flash. I spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Take a ham steak (or steaks, depending on the number you’re feeding) and rub in dried mustard and brown sugar on both sides. Place in the baking dish and surround it with peeled/quartered potatoes. The next ingredient SOUNDS weird, but you’ll have to trust me. Pour milk over the whole thing, covering the ham steak(s). Put it in a 375 degree oven for about 45-60 minutes (until potatoes are tender). Serve with salad or veg of your choice. My nephew (who we raised) would walk to the end of the earth for this dish.

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Don’t you love when your food is loved?!

  27. My children’s favorite dinner is “Popeye Patties.” Basically, they’re like hamburgers, but made with chicken and spinach. They are bright green, which is off-putting for adults at first, but the children love to eat them. They are easy to make and I usually make a huge batch and freeze them in meal-sized bags for easy lunches. For a single batch (about 10 little patties), put 6 oz. of raw boneless, skinless chicken breast in a food processor. Add 1/2 cup fresh spinach, 1 egg, 1/2 to 1 slice of whole wheat bread torn into chunks, a dash of onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Grind it all up in the food processor until it makes a chunky paste that sticks together well. Make little patties with it and cook them in a non-stick frying pan sprayed with cooking spray. Brown one side, then turn over and brown the other. It only takes a minute or two per side. The children don’t taste the spinach, so it’s a tricky way to get a good vegetable into them without any fuss.

  28. Rebecca Ann says:

    My husband makes homemade Alfredo sauce and we all love Fettucinni
    Alfredo with grilled chicken. I have a new cookbook that uses a creamy cauliflower sauce instead of Alfredo, We’ll see if they notice the switch 🙂

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      I had a recipe that used cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes. They definitely noticed!

  29. Spaghetti and Meatballs with the frozen cheesy garlic bread! So good!!!

  30. Our favorite meal is our version of chicken stir fry!

  31. I am so in! Due to a crazy-busy schedule, I have just about given up cooking altogether. An outsider would think our favorite meal is Little Caesar’s pizza! Lol! Haven’t used my crockpot in forever, but will have to try the recipes listed here; they sound wonderful! Thanks for your suggestions!

  32. Stephanie Cohrac says:

    my fav meal is anything crock pot! lol, its my nest friend. 🙂

    1. Stephanie Cohrac says:

      *best friend lol

  33. My family loves it when we cook together, and with a house full of busy teens (some in college and some still in school), we don’t get to do that too often anymore! However their favorite meal is usually venison roast or steaks with potatoes and a salad from our garden. Then they talk about who harvested the deer, and how good the salad from the garden is. Even as busy as we are, each person in the family contributes to the meal, some gathering from the garden, some hunting for the venison, some doing preparing and some doing the clean up. The best part is always the visiting!

  34. Stuffed chicken shells. Got it from a MOPS cookbook when my kids were little. Its also my go to meal when I cook for others.

  35. Julie Haldeman says:

    My family loves honey apple chicken stew!

  36. Roasted chicken:
    Little butter under the skin and on the inside. I then put olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic salt on the outside.

    Then we cook roasted asparagus and cherry tomatoes with a little olive oil and parm cheese.

  37. My families favorite meal is Taco Salad. I When I make the meat I grind fresh spices for it. We have it every Thursday night without fail. We eat together every night, with no tv, and we do not answer the phone if it rings. We have a lot of fun and laughs as we talk about our day, and then recount stories of trips, fun times together, stories of when my husband and I were kids, stories from before we had kids, etc. It is one of the most important times of the day for our family and I know once they get older and more involved in after school activities these times will be precious and few. Love eating around the table with my family!

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