"It's about finding joy in the little things"

Cold Weather Comfort Food: Bison Chili

Posted by on Feb 24, 2013 in Cooking | 0 comments

Cold Weather Comfort Food: Bison Chili

Once upon a time, Husband and I wanted to make chili. Husband remembered that his dad had a great chili recipe, so he called him up to get it.

Husband: “Dad, don’t you have a good chili recipe? We want to make chili. But I don’t like onions or bell peppers and C doesn’t like cumin or beans.”

Dad: “Ummm… I don’t think you guys like chili.”

A father’s wisdom right there, folks. But the thing is, we do like chili, so long as it’s of the onionless-beanless-meaty-easy-on-the-cumin variety. Recently when Husband requested bison chili for his birthday dinner (actually bison chili and chocolate mousse, he’s a man of diverse tastes) I was ecstatic to find that the famous recipe from Tolbert’s Chili Parlor in historic Grapevine, Texas, is basically just beef and chiles with lots of spice and a little cumin. I altered the recipe slightly to include bison instead of ground beef since it’s leaner and less processed with antibiotics and hormones, added a little bacon fat because, well, bacon fat makes everything better, and adjusted the spices to our liking.

I found the dried chiles called for in this recipe at Whole Foods. Speaking of Whole Foods, that place is like grocery nirvana. In an effort to save money and condense my shopping trips with small children to one stop, I’ve begun exclusively shopping at Wal Mart. I can feed our family of four on something like $20 a week, it’s incredible. But Whole Foods, oh man, Whole Foods is like an alternate grocery universe where the fish counter worker engages me in witty banter, I mysteriously enjoy grocery shopping, and my children skip through the aisles excitedly chattering about specialty foods. Wal Mart sucks and I never want to go back.

But anyway. Bison Chili. You should try it.

Bison Chili

Bison Chili (adapted from Tolbert’s recipe for Frank X. Tolbert’s Original Bowl of Red)

5 slices bacon

4 pounds ground bison

16 dried ancho chiles

1 heaping tablespoon ground cumin

1 heaping tablespoon dried oregano

1 heaping tablespoon cayenne

1-1 1/2 tablespoon tabasco, depending on spice preference

6-8 minced garlic cloves

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons masa harina

Cut stems off of chiles and remove seeds from inside. Be sure to remove all seeds otherwise they will give the chili a bitter flavor. Place the chiles in a small saucepan and cover with water. Simmer the chiles for 30 minutes.

While chiles are simmering, cook bacon in a pan over medium high heat to render fat. Remove bacon from pan and brown ground bison in two batches in bacon fat. Once cooked, remove browned meat to a large pot or dutch oven.

Once chiles have simmered for 30 minutes, puree them in a blender with a small amount of cooking liquid to make a smooth, thin paste. Use as little liquid as possible or the chili will be soupy. Pour the chile puree over the ground meat in the dutch oven. Pour enough of the remaining chile cooking liquid into the dutch oven to cover the meat by about 1 inch. Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

Remove the chili from the heat and stir in the cumin, oregano, cayenne, tabasco, garlic, and salt. Return the chili to the heat and resume simmering, covered, for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice.

After 45 minutes, add the masa harina. Cover the chili again and simmer for another 30 minutes, tasting often to adjust seasoning to your liking. Remove the chili from the heat, cool, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Skim fat from top of chili before reheating. Serve with cheese, sour cream, and green onion.

This chili takes a bit of time to make but makes a lot, so we eat it for several nights and freeze the rest for a later time. It is also good served in chili cheese burritos, chili dogs, and stuffed poblano peppers.

 

 

 

 

Holy Ever After

Posted by on Feb 19, 2013 in Faith, Marriage & Family | 0 comments

Holy Ever After

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to travel alone (alone!) to Hawaii for my dear friend’s wedding. Did I mention I was alone? It’s the first time I’ve travelled anywhere alone since I had children. It was wonderful, refreshing, and a brand of fun with girlfriends that I had kind of forgotten existed.

The wedding was absolutely beautiful in every way. The bride and groom exchanged vows overlooking the Pacific Ocean with strands of tropical flowers floating in the trees above them. The scenery was breathtaking, and so was the ceremony. Their hometown pastor traveled a long way to marry the bride and groom, and his wedding sermon was thought provoking and meaningful.  With great grace and honesty, this pastor shared the real story, that marriage includes ups and downs, heartache mixed in with the happiness, and that there was divine purpose in all of this. He said (my paraphrase, he was much more eloquent) that once you get married, your spouse will contribute more to your holiness than any other person ever will again in your life. That struck me as such depth of truth and wisdom that I seriously pondered it as I watched the bride and groom take communion and wash each others feet out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was one of the most profound perspectives on marriage that I have ever heard.

Websters defines holiness as “the state of being exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.” Yeah, so that’s not what I’m talking about here. I don’t think marriage makes one perfect in goodness and righteousness, at least mine hasn’t yet. Another definition is “having a divine quality.” That’s what I think marriage has the ability to do, create in us a divine quality by moving us closer to God as we confront and cast off our selfishness, character flaws, and wounds. A synonym is sanctification – “the state of growing in divine grace.” Yes. Marriage presents an opportunity for growing in divine grace.

I am not the same person I was when I got married. Standing at the edge of the ocean in the gentle Hawaiian breeze, watching my amazingly together friend make this big commitment, I was reminded that when I did the same thing eight years ago I was pretty much a mess. Why did Husband choose me in all of my messiness all those years ago? I remembered he once mentioned that something he loved about me was that my heart was tender towards God. I think part of what he must have meant was that he saw in me a willingness and desire to grow, learn, and mature that ran deeper than my flaws and weaknesses. Our marriage has been an ongoing process of growing in divine grace. Sanctification. We have both been willing to be changed. We have both been willing to be humbled. We have both been willing to become less selfish.

Six weeks before Husband and I exchanged our vows, my dad died. I had great difficulty following this life event and my difficulties manifested in our marriage, causing great strain. Husband could have left. People would have understood. But he stayed. Not only did he stay, he never once mentioned the thought of leaving. I even asked at times if he wanted to and his answer was always the same – “We’re in this together. I’m not going anywhere.” Divine grace.

Years later Husband lost his business, income, and status. He had great difficulty following this life event and his difficulties manifested in our marriage, causing great strain. I could have left. People would have understood. But I stayed. By the grace of God alone, when I could sense his question of “Will you leave?” I somehow knew to look at him and say “If I had nothing but you, our baby, and our two crazy dogs, I would be happy. I’m not going anywhere.” Divine grace.

Marriage offers an opportunity like no other to grow in divine grace – to exchange selfishness for love, haughtiness for humility, shame for a fresh view of ourselves through a lover’s eyes, fear for strength to push through the greatest challenges. I always hope when I write about marriage that people I know who are divorced feel no condemnation. Marriage takes such work, commitment, respect, and forgiveness from both people that I find it rather miraculous that anyone’s marriage can endure. My marriage is not perfect by any means. But it has been a sanctifying force for me. I can see that it has been for Husband too. That wedding sermon helped me understand why and I wished I had heard it sooner. If someone had described marriage to me before I made my own vows as a process that would not only add to my happiness but also to my holiness, my sanctification, my growth in divine grace, then I think I would have viewed each struggle and conflict along the way very differently. I would have purposed more to have a heart malleable enough to change and a willingness to let marriage grow and stretch me instead of expecting it to be continual bliss. I would have welcomed all that comes with the process of Holy Ever After as an indispensable part of my Happily Ever After.

 

 

Stinky Baggage

Posted by on Feb 13, 2013 in Mental Health | 1 comment

*WARNING* graphic poo information follows…

One of my household responsibilities is cleaning up all the dog poo in our yard. I’m not sure exactly how this not so appealing job fell on me, but somehow it did. Hmmmm. Add to list of “discussions” to have with Husband about redistribution of household tasks. Sounds like man’s work to me now that I think about it.

But anyway. This may not sound like a huge deal, the cleaning of the poo, but you just. don’t. know. We have two very large dogs. They make very large poo. And I’m not sure what exactly we’re feeding them, but they make a lot of poo. It’s a nasty job.

I try to do it every day, and when I’m able to maintain this schedule the job is gross, but it’s doable. Scoop poop, place in bag, throw in trash, wash hands, 5 minutes total. Somehow in all of the busyness, house guests, and snow surrounding the holidays, though, the task got away from me and I went more than a month without scooping the poo. Suddenly one unseasonably warm January day, I found myself out in the yard, lugging around a giant, full-to-the-brim bag heavy with dog poo, feeling like it was impossible to clean up the mess that had accumulated as the poo piled up day after day, week after week, with no tending to keep it from escalating out of control. I couldn’t even recognize the nice landscape of our yard anymore. I just saw a lot of ugly stinky crap, taking up residence and taking over where clean and pure and beauty used to live.

Where am I going with this absolutely disgusting story? Well, as I was dragging around my stinking bag of poo, I had this thought…

How many of us are dragging around a stinking bag of $&!? in some way or another? You know, hurts, anger, resentment, unforgiveness that we’ve neglected to clean up for so long that it has just taken over the once lovely landscape of our lives?

Much like my yard full of dog poo, hurts and anger that are cleaned out regularly are pretty manageable, but those that are allowed to accumulate over time until they start to take over require some serious heavy lifting to remove. And like my yard full of poo, there comes a time that it either seems easier to let the crap continue to collect, or the crap no longer seems noticeable because it has become a permanent fixture. And just like a yard full of poo, all of this eventually really starts to stink.

So the day I realized I had to clean up, I was outside with Bug and Bear and I saw that this was too much mess for them to play happily and safely. The mess was disrupting my enjoyment of our usually pleasant yard too. I figured my neighbors were probably noticing and keeping their distance as well. The crap in your heart does the same thing you know – affects your family’s enjoyment and health, grosses you out on the inside, and repels the people who do life with you.

I want to point out that I’m not talking about significant traumas or deep wounds here, those things are not so simple and the emotions involved more confusing. I’m simply talking about the day to day issues, relatively small in the grand scheme of things, that evoke hurt and anger. 2012 was a difficult and painful year. Some people, some strangers, some friends, hurt me terribly, caused my family significant harm. I’m over it. It’s not that I don’t care that these things happened, but I do care less about holding the hurt and anger than keeping myself and my family physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy and happy. In many of these instances I could have retaliated, but it would have come with the hefty price tag of my peace and joy. I think spending my days with young children who marvel at absolutely everything with wide-eyed wonder makes me very aware that the time is short and I don’t get these days back. Do I really want to look back one day and realize I sacrificed my life, my joy, my children’s joy, because someone (who may not even matter all that much) did something that hurt, but that’s over?

I am not saying that I pretend my hurts and anger don’t exist in an act of denial, but that I do the daily discipline of scooping the poop. It takes daily maintenance to keep out the crap of unresolved emotion and bitter unforgiveness, but keeping up with this daily scooping out prevents a massive shoveling job later. Yes it can be a gross job. It’s definitely messy. But taking my hurts to God every day, going through all of the messy feelings with Him until they’re not so powerful anymore, and then letting it go with forgiveness, cleans up the mess before it makes my whole life look like crap. Scoop poop, hand off to God, call it old trash, wash up my heart, then move on with no time wasted.

Of course, sometimes in the process of scooping the poop I realize there’s a discussion to be had. Husband! We need to talk about who scoops the poo…

 

Happy New Year

Posted by on Jan 2, 2013 in Faith, Marriage & Family, Mental Health | 6 comments

Happy New Year

At the start of every new year, I take some time to fast and pray, to shake off all the dust from the past year, to get fresh vision for the new year. As I seek direction for what I should fast and for how long, I usually sense God asking me to set aside something that I’ve unknowingly and unintentionally started to turn to for comfort or security that’s not Him.

A few years ago as I was preparing for my fast, I felt Him asking me to give up arguing and complaining for the entire month of January. Kind of incredulous, I checked back several times. Arguing and complaining? Is that it? I thought for sure He’d pull out the big guns – chocolate, coffee, dinner, wine. Nope. Just arguing and complaining. For one month. That’s it.

On January 1, I set about my fast with a spring in my step and deep gratitude that I could still enjoy my morning coffee and evening dessert. This was going to be sooooo easy. I wasn’t much of an arguer and complainer to begin with, right?

Wrong. Of course, it turned out to be the most difficult fast I’ve ever done. I could hardly keep myself from feasting at a table of arguing and complaining for three square meals a day and snacks in between. I felt like I was starving without it. Wasting away.

During this time, God revealed to me how much arguing and complaining I was doing in my marriage. He showed me that the problem wasn’t just that I was arguing and complaining, but that my arguing and complaining had become tools I used to defend and protect myself. They were bad and unsuccessful ways to cover up and manage a lot of hurt and resentment I held in my heart towards Husband. Because I was not handling this emotion in the right ways, I was acting it out in all the wrong ways.

God used my month long fast from arguing and complaining to show me the truth underlying my actions, to help me clean out my unexpressed emotion, and to begin healing my heart. He gently redirected me to pour out my concerns about my marriage to Him so that He could help me, rather than erecting impenetrable walls of defensiveness, rudeness, and hardness towards Husband because I did not know how else to help myself.

At the end of the month, I felt impressed to tell Husband about my fast, to apologize for all of my arguing and complaining, and then to talk to him about my hurts and anger. In that order specifically. Honestly, I can’t remember exactly what the outcome of that conversation was. I imagine that it was great in some ways and hard in some ways, that it brought some resolution but left some conflict to be worked through at a future time. What I do remember vividly, though, is that my heart felt cleaned out of bitterness and resentment afterwards. I did not need to argue and complain to protect myself any longer, I needed to focus on keeping my heart healthy regardless of what Husband or my marriage made me feel in the course of a day. I remember with great clarity that, following this experience, something changed and shifted in me and my marriage for the better, and it has remained better since.

As I was preparing to ring in 2013 with a time of quiet reflection, this story popped into my head and I wanted to share it. I do not think this is an uncommon pattern in marriage. Changing this way of relating in my own marriage freed me up in so many ways and left me feeling better about myself, my life, and my family.

I plan to spend this next month of January as I usually do, and this year that includes taking a break from social media and blogging. Happy New Year! I’ll see you in February ~ Celia

 

Merry Christmas

Posted by on Dec 24, 2012 in Faith | 0 comments

Merry Christmas

Several weekends ago, our little family was driving down a rough mountain dirt road, dust flying everywhere, when we passed a woman carrying a toddler on her back. As you might imagine, it’s not the kind of road that sees a lot of pedestrian traffic, especially a lone woman wearing a small child. This road is isolated from anything resembling civilization and extremely rugged. It was an odd sight, so Husband rolled down his window to ask the woman if she was okay. As she turned her head to answer, “Yes,” we were stunned to see how young she appeared. She assured us she was fine, so Husband rolled up his window and started to drive away, but we were both concerned and I just couldn’t bear to leave her there all alone. I jumped out of the car and called out as I walked towards her, “I don’t want to bother you but I just want to make sure you’re okay – what are you doing out here?” She told a story that seemed innocent enough, but something still seemed off and I didn’t want to leave her, so she accepted a ride to where she was going, admitting it would be helpful. She squeezed in the front seat of our car with her daughter on her lap and I squished myself into the very back of our SUV. We chatted as we drove, got to know her a little, and I, still feeling concerned about her, prayed silently on the way. We drove for miles to get to her destination. On a rough, one lane, downhill, isolated, mountain road. She really needed our help – walking this path shouldering the weight of a toddler with no  help at all would have been absolutely back breaking for her.

This experience, really just a blip in the course of a very busy day, stayed with me and left me thinking. It served as a metaphor to me for the primary lesson I learned about helping people over this past year:

You have to look. You have to be willing to be inconvenienced to see people and their needs. Sometimes, you have to be insistent that you’re not leaving someone who’s obviously struggling alone on their rough road, even though they don’t know what help to ask of you. Just ride with them and be a presence. Just pray.

This Christmas, I am talking to my girls about why we celebrate Christmas, explaining to them that Christmas is the time that we celebrate Jesus’s birthday. In our family, Bug, Husband, and Bear celebrate their birthdays all in a row, starting mid-November and wrapping up mid-December, so my girls are well aware of the concept of birthday celebrations, birth stories, and reflecting on the excitement that they created when they came into this world. Because of all of the birthday celebrations we have just enjoyed, they have an understanding of what celebrating a birth is all about that translates easily to understanding Christmas as a birthday party. Of course, they want to celebrate Jesus, to get him a present for His birthday, so this has given us many opportunities to teach them that Jesus tells us that whatever we do for others is a gift to Him. He tells us that anything we give to bless or help another person, we are actually giving to Him. I am reminded as we give Jesus our gifts this Christmas that this is our calling all year long, not just at Christmas, to celebrate Jesus’s birth, to give him gifts by investing in and giving to the people around us.

To all of my friends and family, you are loved and appreciated more than you know and I am grateful for the gift that you are in my life. I don’t know everyone who reads what I write here, but I can see that the readers have increased by hundreds since I started – to everyone who takes the time to read, thank you, your presence here is a gift to me. Merry Christmas to all of you. I hope and pray that this holiday season finds you in great joy and peace.

With much love,

Celia

Gobble Gobble

Posted by on Nov 30, 2012 in Cooking | 1 comment

Gobble Gobble

It feels as though we have been eating turkey for a lifetime. Or longer. Three days of leftover turkey dinner. Turkey enchiladas. Turkey and asparagus in cream sauce over rice. Turkey tortilla soup. Too. Much. Turkey.

Yet I am determined to use all 20 pounds of it. Inspired by this recipe from Giada, I made Turkey Bolognese tonight. It was surprisingly delicious, and surprisingly tasted nothing like turkey. If you have leftover dark meat, you must try!

Turkey Bolognese

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

8-16 oz sliced baby bella mushrooms

4 cloves garlic, minced (I used 8. We heart garlic)

2 pounds shredded dark meat turkey

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

2 15 oz cans tomato sauce

1 8 oz can tomato paste

Salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary, crushed red pepper to taste

1/2 c finely chopped fresh basil

Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Sauté carrots, mushrooms, and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes
Add turkey, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, seasoning, and basil
Simmer until flavors are combined

To make this even easier, I sautéed the carrots and garlic, then threw everything in the crockpot (did not cook mushrooms) and cooked it on low for 8 hours. I also added a splash of red wine. It was yummy. And it used up all of my remaining leftover turkey.

Thanksgiving

Posted by on Nov 22, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Faith, Marriage & Family, Mental Health | 0 comments

Thanksgiving

The past year has easily been the hardest year of my life. When it started, I thought I would crumble under the weight of it. As it progressed, though, the strangest thing happened. I found joy in the little things. I realized that life goes on, and I had a choice – I could crumble, or I could rise above. All it took was one glance at my babies, my little girls full of wonder and excitement over absolutely everything in the world, and the choice was clear.

Years ago I made a habit of writing down ten things that made me happy at the end of each day.  It changed my perspective. I found myself looking for the positive in my life, job, and relationships instead of noticing the negative because taking note of good things throughout the day made my list easier to construct at night. That simple task changed my heart.  I learned that circumstances really have very little to do with how we feel and perceive life. The choice we make of where to place our focus affects the condition of our hearts, and our heart condition has everything to do with the level of joy and gratitude we experience.

“God sometimes brings joy into distress to give us comfort.” Beth Moore

This Thanksgiving I’m so incredibly grateful for all of the joy that has brought comfort in the midst of distress.  The happiness I’ve found in the mundane of the day to day – my family, my marriage, my children, my crazy dogs, my wonderful friends, the beautiful scenery surrounding our new home, the simple things like cooking and driving and running and praying.  I’m grateful that this year has taught me gratitude as a lifestyle and cultivated an attitude of joy in my life.

 

 

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