Cook at Home

If you are serious about trimming your budget (or your figure), there’s no substitute for cooking at home. “Convenience foods” are high in cost and calories, low on nutrition. Not only are home-cooked meals usually more healthful, but they are roughly a third of the cost of dining out. Plus, if you learn to be creative with the leftovers, you will multiply your savings.

Flanders Family Favorites

When Doug and I married, about the only thing I knew how to cook was brownies, and I usually burned those. In fact, I burned so many of the meals I prepared during our first years together that Doug would often tease me, “Who needs a dinner bell when you have a smoke alarm?”

Nevertheless, I eventually did learn my way around a kitchen. By God’s grace, I can hold my own now whenever I’m given the opportunity. Below you’ll find some of our family’s favorite dishes, with creative tips for using up leftovers, if you ever happen to have any.



Homemade Blueberry Muffins

6 cups of flour
2 cups of sugar
3 tablespoons of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups of milk
1 1/2 cups of oil
3 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Instead of blueberries, try substituting
3 cups of chocolate chips, or
3 cups of chopped nuts, or
1 cup diced apples, 1 cup raisins, and 1 cup walnuts.

Preheat oven to 400º. Grease muffin tins (or use paper liners). Mix dry ingredients thoroughly (I usually mix several batches at a time and store in ziplock bags, then add wet ingredients when I’m ready to bake). Combine milk, oil, and well-beaten eggs. Stir into dry ingredients just until batter is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Fold in blueberries (or chocolate chips, nuts, etc.). Spoon into prepared muffin tins, about 3/4 full. Bake 18-20 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Makes 3-4 dozen muffins.


Chicken Tortilla Soup

2-3 chicken breasts
1 yellow onion, diced
dash of olive oil
2-3 yellow squash, sliced
2-3 zucchini squash, sliced
1 can hominy
1 can rotel tomatoes
12 cups chicken broth (or water with boullion)
1-2 Tbsp. dried cilantro
salt and pepper
2-3 ripe avocados
grated cheddar cheese
sour cream (optional)
tortilla chips

Saute onion and chicken until chicken is cooked and onion is translucent. Add canned vegetables and sliced squash, seasonings, and broth or water. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer until squash is tender. Serve over chips, and garnish with avocado, cheese and sour cream.

Hint: I often make this soup the day after we eat King Ranch Chicken, and add whatever is left of that casserole to the pot. In the rare event that I have any soup left over, I convert it to a casserole by draining excess liquid, mixing in the leftover sour cream, and layering in a 9×13 casserole dish corn tortillas (or leftover chips), soup mixture, cheese, tortillas, soup, then cheese. Serve it for lunch the next day after warming it in the oven at 350° F for about 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly. Yum! Yum!

Minestrone Soup

1 pkg beef smoked sausage
1 onion
minced garlic
3-4 zucchini
3-4 carrots
1 head of green cabbage, shredded
8-10 cups beef stock (or water with boullion)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can great northern beans
2 tsp Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Slice sausage very thinly (I use my food processor) and saute with onion until onion is transparent. Add minced garlic, sliced zucchini and carrots, and shredded cabbage. Saute a few minutes longer, then add beef stock and bring to a boil. Add seasonings and tomatoes, reduce heat, and simmer for at I put this soup on to cook during morning recess, then let it simmer while I read aloud to the children. Two chapters later, I add the great northern beans and dish it into bowls.

Hint: This recipe doubles easily and can also be frozen. Warm it in a crock-pot the second time around and serve with fresh bread or crackers for a truly fuss-free meal.

Chicken Noodle Soup

2-3 large chicken breasts
1 yellow onion
3-4 carrots
3-4 stalks celery
6-8 cups chicken stock
garlic, salt and pepper to taste
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 10-12 oz pkg. egg noodles

Saute diced onion and cubed chicken breast over med-high heat until chicken is done. (I usually keep about 3-5 lbs of chicken breasts marinating in a bottle of Italian salad dressing in the refrigerator at all times. This is what I use for making soup and casseroles or grilling). Add sliced carrots and celery and chicken stock (use homemade stock, canned, or boullion cubes — whatever you have on hand). Bring to a boil. Add seasonings, stir in noodles, and reduce heat to lowest setting. Cover and let sit 10-15 minutes. Stir in cream of chicken soup to thicken base (optional) and serve with saltine crackers or wheat thins.

Hint: I frequently double and triple this recipe for our crew. Whenever I have any left over, I mix in a cup of frozen peas, transfer it to a casserole dish, top with shredded cheese, and viola! lunch for the next day is already prepared.

Taco Soup

1 can of Ranch Style Beans
1 can of black beans
1 can of great northern beans
1 can of garbanzo beans
1 can of kidney beans
1 can of Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies
1-2 lbs of ground beef, browned (I keep 1 lb portions in my freezer, pre-cooked)
1 diced onion
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
crackers or chips
sour cream (optional)
grated cheese

In a large stew pot, sauté the onions and brown the ground beef, if it’s not already cooked, then dump in all the cans of beans, plus a little extra water. Heat for at least 15-20 minutes. Eat the soup with crackers, or pour it over tortilla chips and top with grated cheese, sour cream and diced onions. Mmmm, good!

Hint: Leftovers from this soup also make a great Mexican Beef Casserole. Just stir in a can of cream of mushroom soup, then layering the mixture over corn tortillas or leftover chips, and and top with grated cheese. Put it in the refrigerator for tomorrow’s lunch, or tuck it in the freezer and use it for dinner sometime next week.


Mom’s Signature Salad

2 lb. pkg. mixed baby greens
2 ripe avocadoes, diced
2 cups grape tomatoes, cut into halves
1/2 red onion, sliced paper thin
1 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
olive oil and red wine vinegar, to taste

Combine ingredients in a large salad bowl (I usually use a cut glass punch bowl). Toss to mix. Serve immediately.

Chicken Salad

2-3 cooked chicken breasts, cubed
2 cups of grapes, cut in half
1 cup sliced almonds
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine ingredients, mix thoroughly. May be chilled in refrigerator for 24 hours. Serve on a bed of lettuce or as filling in croissant sandwiches. Mmmm, good!

Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad

1 head of iceberg lettuce, torn into small pieces
2 cups of broccoli florets, chopped small
2 cups of cauliflower florets, chopped small
1/2 red onion, sliced paper thin
3-4 strips of thick sliced bacon, fried crispy and crumbled
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sugar
1 cup parmesian cheese

Mix last three ingredients to make dressing, set aside. Wash and dry lettuce and vegetables, then chop, slice, and tear into pieces per directions. Combine in a large mixing bowl. Add bacon, then toss with dressing until thoroughly coated. Transfer to salad bowl and serve immediately.


King Ranch Chicken

2-3 broiled chicken breasts, sliced thin
1 yellow onion, diced
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 can yellow hominy
2 dozen soft corn tortillas
1-2 cups grated colby jack cheese

Combine chicken, onion, and canned goods in a large mixing bowl. Tear half the tortillas into small pieces, place in the bottom of a greased 9×13 baking dish. Spread half the chicken mixture over this, then top with half the grated cheese. Repeat with another layer of tortillas, chicken mixture, and cheese. Bake in a 350° oven for 25-30 minutes or until cheese bubbles.

Hint: Use any leftovers as a starting point for making tortilla soup (see recipe).

Seven Layer Dip

1 large can refried beans
3-4 ripe avocados (or 1 pkg prepared guacomole)
1 cup sour cream
grated cheddar cheese
1-2 large tomatoes, diced small
4-5 green onions, cut to pieces
1 sm. can sliced ripe olives (optional)

Layer ingredients in a 9×13 baking dish. My guys prefer that I use refried black beans instead of pinto. If they are leftover cooked beans from the frig, I will warm them in the microwave for about 3 minutes before adding any other layers. Serve with totilla chips and/or warm tortillas (we like corn). This is quick and easy, but leftovers don’t look very pretty, so I try to make only what we’ll eat in one sitting. Anything left gets stirred into a pot of taco soup next day.

Easy Cheese Enchiladas

cooking spray
corn tortillas
grated cheese (we usually use Colby-jack)
diced onions
1-2 cans of chili

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Stack tortillas in a tortilla warmer after lightly spraying the top of each tortilla with cooking spray. Microwave for 3 minutes. In a 9×13 pan, sprinkle a little cheese and onions on two tortillas at a time, then quickly roll them up to form enchiladas. Be careful, those tortillas are steaming hot! When you’ve rolled as many as your family can eat (we usually make 2 pans full – about 3 dozen), top with chili, sprinkle a little cheese and onion over that, and bake at 350-degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese begins to bubble. Serve with tortilla chips and a salad.


Ben’s Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg

Just these three ingredients, and that’s it! Cream them together. Drop by rounded teaspoon on a cookie sheet. Flatten with a fork. Bake at 350º F for 10-11 minutes. Let cool before removing from the pan. This recipe makes about 3 dozen small cookies, or 1 dozen large ones.

Rebekah’s Rice Crispy Treats

1 stick of butter
1 10.5-oz pkg of mini-marshmallows
6 cups crispy rice cereal

Melt butter and marshmallows over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and begins to bubble. Remove from heat, stir in cereal, pour into 9 inch x 13 inch pan (spray first with cooking spray), and pat it down smoothly (it’s less messy if you’ll spray your hand with cooking spray before attempting this step. We use disposable, food-service gloves, which we also spray liberally with cooking spray). Let treats cool, then cut into squares. Yum-yum. For all you chocolate lovers, these are also very good made with Cocoa Crispies cereal.

Baby’s Banana Pudding

3-5 ripe bananas
6 cups of milk
2 large pkgs. instant vanilla pudding
vanilla wafer cookies

This is another quick dessert the kids can make without help. They mix the milk and instant pudding powder in a blender, then pour it over sliced bananas, usually in a 9-inch by 13-inch glass pan, and top with nilla wafers (arranged neatly in even rows by little fingers. For creamier pudding, we sometimes fold in a small container of Cool Whip (thawed).

Fresh Berry Crsip

2 sticks butter
2 cups flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar (plus a little more to sprinkle on top of berries
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
2-3 lbs of seasonal berries

This is what we traditionally make for Isaac’s birthday instead of cake, since the wild blackberries that grow near our house are ripe and ready for harvest at just that time. It is also delicious made with blueberries, which happen to be in season about the time we celebrate Rachel’s birthday! There are several local farms that let us pick our own.

Pre-heat oven to 375º F. Spray 9-inch by 13-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Rinse and drain berries and layer into the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle liberally with granulated sugar. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl (we use a Bosch with cookie paddle attatchments), combine flour, sugars, and salt. Cut in the butter until large clumps form, then mix in the rolled oats by hand (we use a large rubber spatula to do this). Crumble this mixture over the berries, covering them evenly. Bake until brown, about 45-50 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Special Request Carrot Cake

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
3 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb. large carrots, peeled and grated
1 cup chopped pecans

Pre-heat oven to 350º F. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, milk, oil, sour cream, and vanilla. Blend with dry ingredients, then fold in pecans and carrots using a rubber spatula. Pour into oiled and floured bundt pan, and bake 35-40 minutes, or until inserted wooden scewer comes out clean. These also make good cupcakes. I usually top the bundt cake with a milk glaze (1 cup powdered sugar and 2 Tbsp. milk, blended until smooth, and drizzled over top of cake). For cupcakes, I use the cream cheese frosting (recipe follows). This cake is nice and moist — an especial favorite of Jonathan and David.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick of butter, room temperature
2 pkgs. cream cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in bowl of electric mixer, using a paddle attachment and scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. Spread on cupcakes after they’ve had time to cool a bit.


  1. I love your website! I’ve been looking at it for almost 2 hours now! So many great ideas, printables, and tips! I have one tip for you… For Rice Krispy treats, I use wax paper to press it down in the pan. I works great, and no mess!

    1. I usually wear gloves, but wax paper sounds faster, easier, less expensive, and — for most households, at least — more readily available. Thanks for the tip. I’m glad you’re enjoying the site, Christine, and hope you’ll come again soon!

    1. Most of the recipes would feed 6-8 adults, which translates to a family of 14 when you throw in a lot of scant portions for little ones.

  2. Another suggestion for your chicken tortilla soup is to rip up corn tortillas and add to soup during the last 15 minutes. It thickens it up and makes the soup stretch a bit further for big families or groups. 🙂

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