Recipe – Prize-Winning Chili

prize-winning chili - the perfect recipe for fall!

 I am planning to make this on Halloween for our family to enjoy after a crisp, fall afternoon of Trick or Treating in 80-degree South Florida.

:-)

Prize-Winning Chili

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs ground beef

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

28 oz. can diced tomatoes

29 oz. can tomato sauce

2 cubes beef bouillon

2 (1 1/4 oz) pkgs. chili seasoning mix

7 oz. can diced green chiles

16 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

16 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Garnish: shredded Cheddar, cheese, sour cream, minced onion

Directions:

Step 1 – Brown beef, onion, and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat; drain.

Step 2 – Mix remaining ingredients together and add to beef.

Step 3 – Cover and cook on low heat for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Step 4 – Top servings with shredded cheese, sour cream, and minced onion.

amazing chiliIn case you are wondering, I didn’t win the prize for this delicious chili recipe.

Some lady named Jan from one of my Gooseberry Patch cookbooks did.

I think you will find that the prize was, indeed, well deserved. :-)

Happy Chili-ing!

*This chili tastes EXCELLENT alongside my famous cheese biscuits!  Recipe HERE!*

Why We Say Grace

why we say grace at happyhomefairy.comWhen the Happy Buddy was born I was completely overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for a HUMAN.

There were ridiculous amounts of what I thought were life or death decisions to make.

I would go online to try to find information about how to best care for my baby and I would end up walking away from the computer ready to take a Valium.

A simple Google search brought me tons of articles about the atrocities of GMOs, the shocking truth about pesticides and the Dirty Dozen, the ever-evolving conversation about carbs are bad vs. good, why diapers could cause cancer, how Johnson and Johnson corporation is run by the devil himself, why breastfeeding and making homemade baby food is the ONLY WAY, photos of kids happily guzzling green smoothies, and detailed horrific videos about where our grocery-store meat and milk actually come from.

The pressure these ‘voices’ put on me to do the perfect right thing for my kid was a very large burden in my life.

And I am already a bad combination of Perfectionist and Person-who-used-to-have-an-eating-disorder, so the level of fear and expectations I had going was kind of nuts.

I found myself frequently wishing that I was an Israelite who never had to wonder if manna had antibiotics in it.

Then one day I was hanging out at my in-laws’ house and was feeling quite depressed that I wasn’t doing what I thought was a good job of feeding my family.  I think that one of my friends had just started grinding her own wheat for bread and making her own yogurt and was also considering buying a cow for her condo and suddenly the Publix-brand sliced whole wheat bread and vanilla yogurt from the tub I bought seemed insufficient and downright toxic.

Seeing my despair, you know what my father-in-law said to me?

He put his hands on my shoulder and said this,

“Julie.  Everyone is going to die one day.  GOD knows that date and what you feed or don’t feed your family is not going to change that date.  You do the best you can to eat a balanced diet, and then you trust that when you pray before a meal – He hears it.  He is in control.  He loves you.  The end.”

I guess somewhere along the way I had gotten the idea that what I did or didn’t put into my child’s body (or my own body, for that matter) was going to determine his future health.

Like he’d become terminally ill if he didn’t have organic this or straight-from-the-cow’s-udder that AND IT WOULD BE ALL MY FAULT.

But my father-in-law’s words opened my eyes to an aspect of faith and trust in God that I had let go of in my quest of what I perceived to be the ‘perfect’ mom, wife, and homemaker.

God will not say to us when we get to heaven, “Did you grind wheat for your child’s sandwich bread?”

God cares about the condition of our hearts.

When my heart gets filled up with fear about things like the pesticides and refined flours in this world, I am no longer trusting Him.

Most of the time, we cannot afford to buy organic meat.  So I am learning to buy the regular kind, prepare it faithfully and lovingly for my sweet family, and then when we hold hands around the table and say grace, pray that God will have the final say on how that meat is processed in our bodies.

Now, hear me out.  I am NOT saying you should just scrap everything, buy KFC every night and think that grace will cover all the blocked arteries you have coming in about 10 years.

No, we still need to be responsible.  We need to make good decisions for our families and feed them the best we know how.  We need to strive for balance in our eating.  We can learn to listen to His voice if we think He is calling us to try something new (like making bread from scratch, cutting back on processed foods, exploring Paleo, or the Mediterranean Diet, or finding the best menu options for an ill child’s struggling digestive system – like Happy Buddy had to go mostly dairy free after THIS happened and I was having a ton of tummy trouble awhile back, so gluten free helped me get back on track).

But we cannot get into the idol of thinking that WE carry the burden of our loved one’s or our own health for the rest of life on this earth.

Because what happens when you see things on the news like those bags of organic frozen berries from Costco that made 119 people sick with Hepatitis A?

Or what happens when you hear of a bunch of people who were enjoying some spinach (SPINACH, for crying out loud) and ended up with E. Coli?

Or what happens when you take all-natural pre-natal vitamins and eat 98% organic food during your pregnancy and your child is born with life-threatening health issues and has to stay in the hospital for 96 days?

Are we going to shake our fist at God and get angry at Him because we thought we were doing everything ‘right’???

Our world is BROKEN, dear ones.

BROKEN.

The point is, eating (like driving a car, getting on an airplane, and pretty much everything else) is an act of faith.  We could eat as ‘clean’ as we possibly could and there would STILL be disease and sickness.

At the end of the day, our job is just to do our best to be good stewards of the body Christ has given us (and those of our children) – the bodies that Christ died for – and then we allow GRACE to fill in the gaps.

Remember, whenever Jesus sat down to eat, He gave thanks to His Father.

He acknowledged the Giver of ‘daily bread.’

How awful would it have been if the people on the hillside said to Jesus as He passed out miraculously multiplied loaves of bread and fish, “Does that bread have gluten in it?” or “Does that fish have mercury contamination?”

Instead, they were thankful.

So when you sit down as a family to eat peanut butter sandwiches on store bought bread, don’t forget to bow your heads, close your eyes and truly give thanks.

He’s got this.

The whole baking your own bread works for some super amazing people.

But this mama prefers to buy hers at the store.

I’d rather use the time I’m not kneading dough to blog. :-)

- Julie

“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” Luke 12:29-31 (NLT)

Making Lunch Boxes Happy

I am not a Bento-boxing mama – I am half asleep when I pack my kids’ lunches, so there isn’t enough brain power going on to mold their cheese cubes into porcupines or spell out their names using fruit leather.

But I do like to use the lunch box as an opportunity to throw a little love their way by adding in a special surprise or treat now and then.

These are some of the things I have done in the past to bring a smile to my boys’ faces in the middle of the day.cute lunch ideas at happy home fairySince I am working full-time this year, I won’t have time to do my annual Lunch Box Week, but I can confidently say that this site has more than enough inspirations for you to pick from!

**You can find all my Lunch Box Ideas and FREE Printables HERE.**

Happy Lunch Box Happy-ing! :-)

Easy Apple Tree Craft

easy apple tree craft - adorable!

 

I guess I have a thing for toilet paper roll crafts!

The hubs is always razzing me for lining them up on our bathroom window sill for weeks on end as I save them for projects like this.

What you need -

apple tree craft 1

Large sheet of construction paper with cut out tree glued to the center

Red paint

Toilet paper roll

Instructions -

apple tree craft 2Step 1 - Have your child dip the TP roll in red paint.

apple tree craft 3Step 2 - Then press the roll gently on the top part of the tree.

apple tree craft 4Step 3 - Let dry.

I thought they turned out pretty cute!

**You can find all my other easy apple crafts HERE.**

Happy Easy Apple Tree Craft-ing! :-)

How to Make Homemade Applesauce With Your Preschooler

how to make homemade applesauce with your preschooler

I love celebrating apples with my students during the month of September because Johnny Appleseed’s birthday is on the 26th.

One of the brave things I chose to do this month with my preschool class was to make homemade applesauce in the crock pot.

It was kind of hectic and the end result probably had Hepatitis A, B, and C in it, but the kids had SO much fun.

And that makes all the chaos worth it!

Here is what you will need -

applesauce 1A large crockpot

8-10 apples (we used Golden Delicious), peeled and chopped

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup water

1/4 tsp cinnamon

What we did -

Every morning when my students walk in the classroom we have Table Time.

I knew that the applesauce needed several hours to cook, so I had all the ingredients set out on the table when they arrived.

I put a trashcan next to the table and began peeling the apples in front of the children (I would NOT recommend letting a preschooler use a peeler).

So that the children stayed involved, I asked them to peel the stickers off the apples, wash the apples in our sink, and help pick up any peels that missed the trashcan (I may have ‘accidentally’ missed the garbage more than I actually got the peels in – lol!).

Next, I showed the kids how an apple corer works.

They were completely fascinated (I think I went ahead and peeled an extra apple at this point because I did not take into account what hungry vultures my students could become at the site of neatly sliced apples).

Then we dumped the apples in the crock pot.

I opened the cinnamon and let the children each get a chance to smell this comforting spice.

We measured 1/4 tsp and one student sprinkled it in.

We did this with the brown sugar and water as well.

applesauce 2Then we covered the crock pot and I set it in a safe spot on HIGH.

One of the best things about making applesauce is how lovely it makes your room smell, which is always an added bonus when working with 2 year olds and one has a bad poop.

The applesauce smell kind of cancels out that sewage smell.

Around noon, I opened the lid and spent a few minutes stirring and mashing the apples.

applesauce 3Then I spooned a small portion in little bowls for each of my students.

Be prepared that your preschooler might bypass the spoon and just go for it – possibly even head first.

applesauce 4It was a hit!

I’m glad I took the risk and did this with my preschoolers.

I’m also glad I fed it to them right before they went home so that I didn’t have to deal with the aftermath of a 1/2 cup of brown sugar.

:-)

Happy Homemade Applesauce-ing!

We Win In the End

happy babyThe Happy Baby was freeeeeaking out the other day because he lost his favorite DVD and as his cries escalated into hysteria I found myself frantically searching the house and praying, “Oh, Lord please help me to find my boy’s lost DVD!”

And then I was immediately plagued by this thought -

“How can you pray about something so silly? There are women in parts of the world whose children are being beheaded.”

I get grumpy because I have to wake up early and make lunches for school…

“But what about these women and children in Iraq??!”

I fuss about the tornado-like state our house is constantly in…

“But what about these women and children in Iraq??!”

I find myself longing for that cute lamp I saw at Target.

“But what about these women and children in Iraq??!”

Lately it seems like there is pain and evil and tragedy and darkness growing in leaps and bounds across the world.

These horrific events that pour out from every channel and website make me feel so unsettled and I find myself wondering why is God letting this stuff happen and what is my place in the midst of it?

Then the Holy Spirit whispers across my soul…

Read my Word.

And instead of spending so much time glued to the news channel filling my head with more things to fear, He invites me to spend time filling my head with Truth.

Light to obliterate darkness.

As I read, I am reminded that this wickedness we are hearing about in the news, it really isn’t anything new.

happy baby 2At the time of Moses’ birth, hundreds of Israelite babies were thrown into the river at the hand of an unrelenting and proud Pharaoh.

Then again when Jesus was born we read about the hundreds of baby boys under the age of 2 who died at the hand of jealous King Herod.

No, this evil – it’s not new.

And while I do not know the pain of losing a child to a heartless, wicked act, I vividly recall the feeling of watching my child suffer.

The night that we walked in and saw our child looking like this, I remember the gasp – the sob that racked my body and made me physically lean into my husband.

We watched in horror as a machine pumped hard and steady blasts of air into our tiny baby’s lungs.

I remember feeling so troubled by the way the machine pressed his nose upward – almost like a pig’s – and how the nurse casually said it might get stuck that way.

It was torture – to me.  And to him, no doubt.

But that same evening the elders and deacons and pastors of our church were coming to pray for us.

So I stumbled from the room, anxious to go but yet longing to never leave my baby’s side, and the hubs and I headed toward the hospital’s conference room.

And as we walked down a long, cold corridor feeling utterly defeated and without hope, there was a sudden shift in the air.

I raised my head and saw about 20 men – tall and strong – walking in our direction.

It was like an army of God’s angels were making their way toward our desperate, thirsty souls – their presence alone tangibly redirecting the downward spiral of my weak and weary flesh.

While we did not receive an immediate miracle that night, nor were specific prayers answered in an instant, our spirits were reminded that we were not alone in the battle.

And that the battle we were fighting alongside our little baby was a battle already won.

Because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

That same power that conquered the grave was the same power with us in that NICU room.  A power that filled us with confident hope that God was, indeed, doing something in the midst of the CPAPs and chemotherapy treatments and feeding tubes and misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis.

Just as He was doing something in the midst of all the lost lives of innocent Hebrew babies -

God was raising up a deliverer named Moses.

Just as He was doing something in the midst of the deaths of all those innocent boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity -

God was raising up a once-and-for-all Deliverer named JESUS.

first day photo 2The enemy is doing what he does best – deceiving, confusing, hurting, destroying and making it seem like all hope is lost.

But his acts of cruelty WILL NOT destroy or interfere with the greater picture – the Greater Power that is at work.

Because He is a Father, after all.

The feeling of compassion and desire to help my boy find his lost DVD – the hurt and agony I felt with him in the NICU – on a small scale, is reflective of the way our Lord is stirred when ANY ONE of His children suffers.

first day photoSo, dear readers, let’s put one foot in front of the other, faithfully carrying out the duties He has called us to at this time – in this season (like searching for lost DVDs and making lunches and raising little warriors of Light and Truth and possibly staying away from Target for a little bit). :-)

And while we are doing these things, let’s pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters – pray for our broken, messy world.

Then let’s rise as Moses’ mother, who during a time of great uncertainty bravely trusted in God’s power.

Let’s rise as Mary and Joseph who chose to listen carefully for direction from the voice of the Lord rather than panic about the disturbing events around them.

And let’s remember that the battle is already won.

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1 (NIV)

Recipe – Super Easy Crockpot Lasagna

crockpot lasagna - SO easy! PErfECt for fall!

 On the first week back to school I came home admittedly feeling quite pleased with myself because I had actually put a meal in the crockpot before leaving for work.

I was seriously ready to give myself a gold medal for being so prepared in spite of a total life change.

I may have even said out loud,

“Work full-time?  Psh.  I got this.”

But fast forward 4 weeks and I am fairly certain my children don’t even know what a home cooked meal is.

If you happen to be better planned than me, then I know this recipe will be a blessing for you in the back to school rush.

crockpot lasagna 1crockpot lasagna 3crockpot lasagna 2crockpot lasagna 4crockpot lasagna 5crockpot lasagna 6crockpot lasagna 7crockpot lasagna 8

Crockpot Lasagna

Ingredients -

1 lb cottage cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

2 (26 oz) jars marinara sauce

2 lbs lean ground beef, browned and drained of fat (not shown in above ingredient photo)

1 (9 oz) pkg lasagna noodles

Directions -

 1. Place cottage cheese and mozzarella cheese in a medium bowl and stir to combine.

2. Add a thin layer of pasta sauce to the bottom of slow cooker.

3. Add a thin layer of cooked beef and a layer of noodles, breaking the noodles to make them fit.

4. Add a layer of cheese mixture.

5. Repeat until all of the ingredients are used, ending with sauce.

6. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.crockpot lasagna 9

Enjoy!

Happy Crockpot Lasagna-ing! :-)

*You can check out some of my other favorite slow cooker recipes HERE.*