Saturday, January 28, 2012

Joyful Cooking or Grace in the Kitchen

so this week went by super fast....and it is now!

Tuesday was an amazing day in the kitchen for me. In a matter of 2 hours I had prepared:
1 large meatloaf
1 pan of lasagna
Browned meat for Wednesday's pizza
Started spaghetti sauce for a later date
Had dough rising for 2 loaves of home-made bread to be baked later in the evening
Cleaned the kitchen
Did a load of laundry

Now before you think 'stop bragging on yourself Lisa', let me explain. Tuesday was amazing for me because it showed me God's grace in the area of cooking. When I first got married my poor husband endured batches of dry ground beef and dry rice, just ask him! Needless to say, we had nachos almost every night since he was not fond of the dry hamburger. Once we started having children I started to learn to cook more, but there were more failures than successes. Then, for 5 years I worked full time outside the home and my husband did the majority of the cooking and grocery shopping. Well, that all changed this past August when I joyfully returned home full-time.

I had to re-learn how to grocery shop for our family and I am just now getting the hang of menu planning. I have even dabbled with using coupons, though so far it has been a laughable joke. One thing has changed though, much to my and my family's delight - cooking. There is a new found, never before experienced, grace on me to cook. I cannot explain it other than God's mercy (especially on the ones who have to eat it!) and perhaps the fact that I have a new attitude.

I no longer look at cooking as a drudgery. I am excited to minister to my family in this way and have watched God begin to bless the work of my hands. He tells us that He will bless what we put our hands to (Deut. 28:80). But, He also tells us to do everything without complaining (Phil. 2:14). That includes unvoiced complainings in our hearts. Our attitude counts!

Once I got that straightened out, I began to get excited about cooking and planning for my family. And, I have been blessed to see my family's appreciation. This is new territory for me and I am excited to walk this journey of cooking with the Lord helping me and teaching me all the way.

In case you are interested, here is the step by step of what I cooked Tuesday:

I started with two 3lb packs of ground beef (ours is actually "Boston Burger").
I took about 2 lbs and put in a large bowl - for the meatloaf.
I then took the remaining 4 lbs and put in a large skillet pan breaking it up as I went.
I turned the pan on med and started browning the meat - I eventually covered.

While the meat was cooking, I went back and prepared the meatloaf. I used Betty Crocker's recipe for basic meatloaf and doubled it, and I combined some homemade bread pieces with Italian bread crumbs. We had it for dinner last night and everyone liked it lots! Once the meatloaf was prepared (15 min max) I covered it and put in fridge for hubby to put in oven later.

I then drained the browned meat.
I scooped out about 1 lb and put aside in a plastic container to be used the next night for homemade pizza.
I scooped out another 1 lb and put in second plastic container - for spaghetti sauce.
I added 1 1/2 cans of 26 oz. Spaghetti sauce to the pan and poured the remaining 1/2 can of sauce in with the spaghetti meat in the plastic container.
Now, I added 1 cup of water to the meat and sauce mixture and simmered for 5 minutes.

I got out a 9x13 baking dish and started the lasagna with a recipe given to me by my mother-in-law; who, by the way, is a Martha Stewart for the rest of us. Her ideas and practical advice are great!

Mary's Easy Lasagna revised -

1 2/2 to 2 lb of meat - browned
39 oz (approx) spaghetti sauce - I used a can and a half of Hunts 4 Cheese
1 cup of water
Lasagna noodles - no need to be oven ready
15 oz. cottage cheese (or ricotta)
1 egg
McCormick Italian Seasoning grinder - 1 to 2 teaspoons
16 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
Black olives - optional

mix cottage cheese and egg and put about a teaspoon of grinder in mix - I also sprinkle some over cottage cheese layer if I don't think I have enough. Totally according to taste

Pour 1 1/2 to 2 Cups of sauce mixture on bottom on pan
put a layer of lasagna noodles
top with half of cottage cheese/egg mixture
top with half of shredded mozzarella cheese
repeat - sauce, noodles, cottage cheese mix, shredded mozzarella - end with a final layer of sauce
sprinkle parmesan cheese over top and add olives if you like.
cover and put in refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
Bake at 350 for 50-60 min - let stand for 5-10 min

At the end of the 2 hours, I had a large meatloaf ready to bake, a large pan of lasagna in the fridge, hamburger meat ready for pizza the next day, spaghetti sauce started for a future meal, bread dough rising on the counter to be used for breakfast the next day, a clean kitchen and some laundry done!

It was gorgeous outside so I was able to let the children play outside and get some fresh air and vitamin D. :-)

God is so good and so willing to help us if we are willing to let Him!

Joyfully His,

p.s. - my 9 year old, who normally says he DOES NOT like lasagna said he liked it - for the first time ever!  I had made 2 changes in the recipe - used cottage cheese instead of ricotta and McCormick's Italian seasoning instead of other herbs.  This made for a much more peaceful evening meal that everyone enjoyed.  God knows what will bless our family and aid in peace!

Monday, January 16, 2012


All my life I have been a "serious" thinker, not something I am proud of.  I remember when people would stop and ask me if something was wrong and I would be startled. Nothing was wrong, I was just deep in thought. 
I have noticed recently that I need to smile more, especially at my children.  If you are like me and need to work on this, smile on purpose at someone and watch what happens.  I remember when I first did this some months back.  I, on purpose, smiled at my daughter. It took her a moment, but after the initial surprise, she smiled back.  It was wonderful, and a little sad at the same time. The fact that my smiling unexpectedly would take her off guard revealed to me that that this was something she was NOT used to.  
How many times have I missed opportunities to smile at my children, my spouse, and others?  Not anymore!  A sincere smile is a valuable gift that we have the ability to offer freely to others.  It can to brighten days and instantly offer encouragement.
Did you know that a smile is not just good for those around you, but it has health benefits for you as well?
So, in addition to counting my blessings and personal devotion time discovering joy, my challenge for this week is to practice smiling more often, intentionally, to bless others...
joyfully yours,