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Polly Conner and Rachel Tiemeyer: Now We’re Cooking!

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It’s been an organic evolution for Polly Conner and Rachel Tiemeyer, founders of Thriving Home, self-described freezer cooking evangelists, healthy lifestyle bloggers and, in January 2020, authors of their second unique, whole-foods slow cooker and Instant Pot® cookbook, From Freezer to Cooker.

Through Thriving Home, Polly and Rachel reach health-conscious moms who place a high value on family and home life, women who, like themselves, are raising young children, trying to create healthy meals for their families, and balancing work and home life. Their goal is to offer realistic solutions and inspiration for this journey.

Polly was born and raised in Camdenton, Missouri, and earned a degree in communications and a master’s in educational counseling psychology from Mizzou. “While I grew up in a family that valued having meals together, I didn’t grow in my love for cooking until I had my first child in 2011,” she shared. “As a new stay-at-home mom, I was struggling with how to juggle my new role and feed my family healthy, affordable meals. It was at this time that we started Thriving Home with the vision to create a space to equip and encourage moms. We shared recipes, home hacks, parenting resources and home management tips. Our audience has continually grown and we published our first cookbook in 2017.”

Rachel grew up in the Cape Girardeau area and attended Mizzou. “I met my husband at MU, and we’ve lived in Columbia ever since coming to school here,” she indicated. “My mom always cooked delicious, simple homemade meals when I was growing up, and I began the same tradition when I got married. However, I didn’t know much about cooking then and floundered quite a bit in the kitchen.

“After I had my first child, a group of my friends and I began a freezer club. We would meet once a month, plan a menu, cook large-batch meals for everyone’s families on our own time, and then swap meals at our next meeting. Over these seven years of cooking in community with my friends, I learned how to prepare healthy, simple meals that my whole family loved and how to make them into freezer meals. This group was the inspiration for our first cookbook and many of the recipes on our website!” 

As Thriving Home grew, Polly and Rachel had a steady stream of readers asking if they had a cookbook or printable version of the freezer recipes, so they began putting together an ebook. They learned that it would be a massive project requiring experience they didn’t have. Simultaneously, two editors randomly contacted them about publishing a book with them. So the novice authors took the plunge that resulted in From Freezer to Table. “Literary agent Maria Ribas of Stonesong shepherded us through the process and connected us with the right publisher and a solid deal,” Polly said.

As the mompreneurs began work two years ago on From Freezer to Cooker, they assumed an extra challenge. “We wanted every recipe to work for the Instant Pot AND the slow cooker AND as a freezer meal. This means we had to test every recipe four different ways,” Rachel noted. “To develop a recipe, we would start by collaborating on ideas on what we think would make it delicious. We’d then delegate one of us to write and test a ‘first draft.’ We tested all of our recipes on our families, who give us the most honest feedback! Testing recipes for the cookbook took about a year, then we needed to write and edit the content for the book chapters. Following the submission of the manuscript came the copyediting and design. When everything was finalized, it went to print.”

“It’s worth noting that we rounded up and used an online recipe testing team of 500 volunteers for From Freezer to Cooker. Once a week, we would send them one recipe to try out, usually one that we needed specific help with, such as cook time, directions or seasoning. Their feedback was incredibly helpful to us!” Polly noted.

“Thankfully, the photography for the book was done by a professional team in Charleston, South Carolina. We were able to be on site and loved seeing the process of how food photography comes together for a book like this. The photography team of four women spent eight to ten hours a day for seven straight days photographing our book.”

Do these two ever get tired of cooking? “Absolutely! Who doesn’t!?” Polly laughed. “While I do value home cooked food and time around the table with my family, sometimes a ‘snacky dinner’ is all I have in me at the end of the day. I try to meal plan each week but hold it loosely enough for nights that I’m just not up for it. I also have made freezer cooking part of my routine so at least once a week I am pulling out a meal that has already been prepped. Those are the best nights!”

“Cooking is a great love of mine, but during the week I’m often either driving kids around or just wiped from working that day. Momma don’t want to cook on those nights!” Rachel added. “I’ve started using Sunday afternoons as meal prep day and it’s been incredibly helpful. I make a few breakfast items like hard-boiled eggs and overnight oats from our website and Banana Breakfast Cake from our first cookbook. I also prep ahead a few lunch and dinner items to have in the fridge for the week, like a big batch of soup, cooked taco meat, whole grain pasta, brown rice, and roasted root vegetables. Then, on weeknights, I can throw together something simple like a taco bar, soup with a baguette, burrito bowls, or pasta with marinara sauce.”

Rachel and Polly began Thriving Home as a hobby and business idea with a vision. Today, it’s still a labor of love and a sustainable career option. “For how I’m wired, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t find a more ideal job. I’m incredibly motivated when I see our recipes and content having an impact in others’ homes,” Polly asserted. “This job challenges me to continue to learn and grow in so many different ways: writing, photography, graphic design, marketing, project managing and other areas. It serves as a creative outlet and provides the much-needed flexibility required when having three young children. One of the best parts is working with a motivated, like-minded friend.”

Rachel agrees; she’s spurred by the collaboration. “Creating practical resources and delicious recipes to help moms thrive at home really energizes me,” she affirmed. “I especially enjoy researching, developing, testing and writing recipes. Two other favorites are the synergy of working with my talented, driven friend who has different strengths than I do and the flexibility of being my own boss so I can be available at home with my own family.”

Rachel’s family includes her husband of 19 years, Nathan, and three children. “Some of our favorite things to do as a family are reading books together, hiking around our local state park, coaching and playing sports and watching movies.”

Polly has been married to her husband, Austin, for ten years; they have a busy family, with three children and two dogs. “Motherhood has been a harder road than I ever expected it to be,” she shared. “Because of the challenges I’ve walked through, I truly have a heart for the struggling moms out there. I strive to be authentic and honest about the struggles we face as moms because it is so desperately needed in our filtered culture.”

Balancing personal life with a public life, including professional blogging, has been a continual conversation between the friends and business partners. “We both have established that we want to prioritize our kids and family and our friendship, and this has looked different in every stage of family life. The internet never sleeps and there is no maternity leave when you’re self-employed. Let’s just say the newborn days were not easy!” Polly said. Rachel concurred. “In order for our jobs to not take over our lives, which could easily happen in the online industry, we have to guard our time and say no to a lot of opportunities. As we’ve grown as a business, we’ve begun to hire out more and operate under the motto of ‘Only do what only you can do.’ It’s a continual work in progress and we give a lot of grace to each other when a personal or family issue needs more attention than the blog.”

Rachel’s advice to other women is to stay humble, work hard and seek to serve others. “Chasing my dreams has been a process of learning about my own unique skills, talents and passions so that I can work hard to help others. It’s been a humbling journey of learning about my weaknesses and strengths, relying on and working with others who have different strengths, and ultimately trying to look outside myself to serve others. That’s what it means to me to write cookbooks and a food blog for the glory of God.”

“Just take the first step and see where it goes. Do your best to fight comparison; it’s the thief of joy,” Polly affirmed. “We truly want to love God and love others in the role He has put us in. We hope this flows over into everything we do, whether it’s developing a new recipe or writing an encouraging email to the overwhelmed mom. Our hope is that we can encourage and equip moms to take one small baby step to do the same thing in their homes.” 

From Freezer to Cooker hits bookstore shelves and online retailers January 14, 2020. Pick up your copy at Plume or Barnes and Noble in Columbia, Missouri.

You can visit their social media pages at, and

Honey Bourbon Chicken
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup organic or all-natural ketchup
1/4 cup bourbon or other whiskey
2 tablespoons avocado oil or olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (decrease to 1/8 teaspoon, if sensitive to heat)
1/2 cup sliced green onions, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless, skinless medium chicken breasts
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Cooked basmati rice or brown rice, for serving
Stir-fried vegetables, for serving (optional)

Makes 4-6 Servings

Slow cooker instructions:
Make it now:
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, ketchup, bourbon, oil, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, and green onions. Add the chicken and stir to coat with the sauce.

2. Place the chicken and sauce in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on Low for 2 1 ⁄2 to 3 1 ⁄2 hours or until cooked through. (The chicken is done when it is no longer pink inside and/or registers 165°F internally.) Carefully transfer the chicken to a wooden cutting board, dice or shred the meat, and set aside.

3. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water until smooth. Carefully pour the juices from the slow cooker into a medium saucepan. Add the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened, about 3 minutes. 

4. Return the chicken and sauce to the slow cooker. Stir gently to combine. Serve over basmati or brown rice. Garnish with green onions and serve with stir-fried vegetables, if desired.

Freeze for later:
Follow step 1. Pour the sauce and chicken into a gallon-size freezer bag or container. Seal and freeze.

Prepare from frozen:
Note: Have cooked rice, cornstarch, and (optional) stir-fried veggies on hand to complete this meal. Thaw. Follow steps 2 through 4. 

Reprinted from From Freezer to Cooker. Copyright © 2020 by Polly Conner and Rachel Tiemeyer. Published by Rodale Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC. Full preparation instructions for this recipe are in From Freezer to Cooker.