A sloppy joe recipe your family will love

This sloppy joe recipe is both easy and delicious!

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

When it comes to recipes that are tried and true in my family, this sloppy joe recipe is one of them. This is one of the very first recipes I developed on my own many years ago. And for some reason I haven’t shared it, yet. This week is the time to do so!

My guys are particular eaters. But, both of them will eat this sloppy joe recipe. My son won’t eat even thin hamburger patties, but he will eat my sloppy joes. That makes me feel good!

When I first came up with this recipe, I did some experimenting. I was trying to get away from using canned sloppy joe sauce because it contained vinegar, which sent me into an interstitial cystitis flare. I’ve refined it and, even though I can now eat barbeque sauce without flaring, I still prefer this sloppy joe recipe to any other.

Commissary BBQ seasoning that is available on Amazon

In terms of economics, making homemade sloppy joes is also cheaper than buying a can of sloppy joe sauce, especially since you probably have the ingredients in your house. The one caveat to that is the barbeque seasoning I use. I highly recommend this Commissary BBQ Seasoning. It costs more than I usually pay for seasonings, but the stuff is soooooo good. Like sooooo good. However, you can use barbeque sauce instead. I have tried other BBQ seasonings for this recipe and not liked them, so go with sauce if you don’t want to order this rub. (It’s also so, so, so good on grilled burgers!)

In fact, I used the very last of my seasoning when I made the sloppy joes for this post. I’ve got to order some more for myself! (I also have no affiliation with Commissary BBQ Seasoning of any sort. It just makes my taste buds happy!)

The meat for sloppy joes

I use 1 pound of ground chuck (80/20) for making sloppy joes. This more than feeds my family of four. In fact, last time I had enough left for two sloppy joes as leftovers. However, we don’t pile on the meat in my family. My husband and son, in particular, use probably about 1/3 of the sloppy joe meat you’ll get at a restaurant. So, use your best judgement for how much meat to use.

(I will add that this recipe freezes really well. My mom often doubles her batch to put some in the freezer.)

In a large skillet, cook the 1 pound of ground beef over medium-high heat, chopping it into small pieces. (I chop mine really small, but you can do the size your family likes.) Once the pink is mostly out of the meat, drain off the excess grease. Add in 1/3 cup of diced onion and cook for about three more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to turn translucent.

The mostly cooked ground beef with the diced onion added in
The fully cooked ground beef with the cooked onion that is starting to get translucent

Time to get saucy

Next, pour 1 can (15 ounce) can of tomato sauce into the skillet right over the beef and onion. If you are making more than 1 pound, you may need to use more tomato sauce. The ratio of 15 ounces of sauce per 1 pound of ground beef works best.

Adding the tomato sauce for the sloppy joe sauce to the skillet with the ground beef and onions

Stir the sauce into the meat, leaving the temperature on medium-high. Now it’s time to add in the seasoning. I use 2 tablespoons of BBQ seasoning (preferably the Commissary BBQ Seasoning) and 3 to 4 tablespoons of brown sugar. If you like it sweeter, add more brown sugar; if you like it less sweet, add less. I tend to be in the sweet sauce camp!

If you are using BBQ sauce instead of BBQ seasoning, add in two tablespoons of sauce. If you have sweeter sauce, you may not need as much brown sugar. Or if you have spicier barbeque sauce, you may need more brown sugar. It really is to taste!

The sloppy joe recipe with the seasoning on top before being stirred in

Stir it all together to combine. Let it bubble for about 2 minutes and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer on the stove for 5 to 10 minutes and it’s ready to serve.

The finished sloppy joe recipe ready to go onto a bun and be eaten

Serving a crowd

You can make this sloppy joe recipe and keep it warm in a slow cooker to serve a crowd. In that instance, use 15 ounces of tomato sauce per 1-1/2 pound of ground beef. The slow cooker will get condensation on the lid and add liquid to the sloppy joes.

Because of the added condensation, you also need to add an extra tablespoon of the BBQ seasoning or sauce as well as the brown sugar for every 1 to 1-1/2 pounds of meat.

A finished sloppy joe on a bun, ready to eat
Sloppy joe recipe Pinterest image 3

Homemade sloppy joes

This easy sloppy joe recipe is homemade and so much better than canned sauce. It's a great weeknight family dinner and can serve a crowd!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people


  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • 1 can tomato sauce 15 ounces
  • 1/3 cup onion diced
  • 2 tablespoons BBQ seasoning or BBQ sauce
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar


  • Cook and crumble the ground beef over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When the meat is mostly cooked, drain the grease.
  • Return the meat to the stovetop and add in the diced onion. Cook for 3 to 5 more minutes to let the meat finish cooking and until the onions soften and become more translucent.
  • Add the tomato sauce to the skillet. Stir.
  • Add the BBQ seasoning or sauce and brown sugar. Stir together and continue cooking over medium-high heat until bubbly (about 3 minutes).
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve on buns and enjoy!
Keyword dinner ideas, easy dinner, family dinner, ground beef, ground beef recipe, picky eaters, sloppy joe, sloppy joes, weeknight dinner

Find more delicious family recipes like this one in the “Favorite Recipes from Families with Grace” cookbook. Download your FREE copy today!

Favorite Recipes from Families with Grace cookbook

Ideas to teach kids about Easter

Ways you can teach little ones the real Easter story

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

As a Christian mom teaching my children the real Easter story has always been important to me. But, it’s not always easy to teach kids about Easter when they are young. The story is quite disheartening and even gruesome for young minds. However, the message is the same, no matter how many details we share or don’t.

Easter is about celebrating how much God loves us.

That’s the message I most want my children to know. And that’s the message I shared with them most when they were toddlers and preschoolers. Between having my own two children and teaching a Sunday School class for children ages 4 through 2nd grade, I’ve thought about this a lot and figured out some good, age appropriate ways to share the story of Jesus’ Crucifixion with little ones.

The right words to teach kids about Easter

Easter is about celebrating how much God loves us.

Before we get into any specific ideas, we need to figure out the general words we’re going to use as we teach our kids about Easter. Deciding what words to use to talk about Jesus’ death and resurrection with your children really does depend on their ages. Here is what works best for my family.


Keep your language very simple. The biggest message to convey when children are 1 to 3 is that Easter is about celebrating how much God loves us. This is the main point of the events and the simplest way to state it for toddlers.

Preschool through early elementary:

Children ages 4 to 7 are able to start grasping what happened during the Easter story. The best way I’ve found to describe Jesus’ sacrifice is to put it in their terms. So to talk about how Jesus took on and died for our sins, I compare it to someone taking all their timeouts and punishments. That’s more relatable for little ones.

I do share more details about the Easter story at these ages without getting too graphic.

Upper elementary and beyond:

This is the phase I’m currently in with children who are 10 and 13. Now we do talk about a few more details about Jesus’ death and how nail pierced through His skin. We talk about how Jesus was willing to sacrifice Himself to save everyone — even those who were killing Him! As kids get older and know the facts of the Easter story, it’s a great time to delve into what that means for our lives now.

Resurrection eggs to teach kids about Easter

Resurrection eggs are a great tool to teach kids about Easter. However, I found that using 12 eggs was a bit too much when my children were little. Instead, I opted for six eggs. So, starting six days before Easter, your children open one egg each day. Inside is a Bible verse about the Easter story along with something tangible to go with the verse: bread, rocks, etc.

This is an incredibly simple way to focus on the real Easter story in shorts amount of time for busy families or young minds. You can download a free version here or find a more detailed paid version here.

An image of the 6-day resurrection eggs that are good to teach kids about Easter

Use books to teach kids about Easter

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Obviously the Bible is the best source to find the Easter story, but when kids are younger, they won’t understand more adult translations of the Bible so well. There are a few versions of the Bible that Christian moms and dads can use to teach their children about God. These work well for the Easter story. My all-time favorite is The Jesus Storybook Bible from Sally Lloyd-Jones.

Not only is this Bible great overall, it also tells the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection in a straightforward, simple way that focuses on God’s love. It is perfect for preschool through early elementary. Honestly, it’s even perfect beyond that. As an adult I am moved each time I read this version.

Another great book for teaching your kiddos about the Easter story is “God Gave Us Easter” by Lisa Tawn Bergren. Bergren has a whole series of “God Gave Us” books that are incredibly great. We started with “God Gave Us You” with our daughter and then “God Gave Us Two” when we were expecting my son. We got more after that. These are great picture books for sharing about God with our children.

Easter story activity and color pages

You can find a variety of activity and color pages about the Easter story. These can be a great way to teach kids about Easter. Not only can they learn from the pages themselves, but while they are coloring or doing the activities, you have the opportunity to talk with them about the pages and the Easter story.

Having something to do with their hands — like coloring — can help children settle in and actually listen for longer. This printable activity pack comes with eight pages you print at home and can use right away.

This 8-page Easter Activity Bundle takes kids through the story of Easter from Jesus’ Triumphant Entry to His Resurrection. It’s designed for preschool through early elementary ages and includes 2 unique mazes, 2 color, cut & glue pages, 1 matching picture page, 1 Who Am I page, and 2 coloring & drawing pages. All pages are in black and white for easy printing and copying. This Religious Easter Activity Bundle makes a great – and easy – activity for Sunday School or home!

You can also find activity and coloring books to order and have shipped to you within a couple of days.

Our Daily Bread for Kids Easter Coloring and Activity Book
The Beginner's Bible: Come Celebrate Easter Sticker and Activity Book

Crafts to teach kids about Easter

Just like with coloring and activity pages, crafts can also be a good way to reinforce the true meaning of Easter with your children in a fun way. And also like with coloring and activity pages, you can find options to download and use immediately.

Easy and simple Easter cross craft for children
Jesus died for us surprise folding craft
Reusable sticker sheets with the Easter story
Foam cross craft

Easter snacks

What kiddo doesn’t love snacks? (Um, what adult doesn’t love snacks either?!) There are some fun and simple Easter-themed snacks that can help teach kids about Easter. One of my favorite is the Resurrection rolls. Not only are the cinnamon-y goodness, but they’re also easy. And, even better, the kids can help make them and see that the roll is empty after it bakes — just like Jesus’ tomb!

I also really like this clever Easter snack mix. It would be very easy to make and each item included in the mix represents part of the Easter story.

Summing it all up

No matter their ages, you can teach kids about Easter. Before the Easter season begins, think about how you’re going to approach the topic with your kids — especially if they are new to the story. Pray and ask God for His guidance as you go.

I’m good at messing up, but God is good at having my back through it all. I’ve learned many times through the years that sometimes I just have to trust that He’ll help me when I need it, because He always does. He wants your kiddos to know the real Easter story even more than you do. He will help guide you as you teach them.

Join in discussion with other moms about teaching your kids about Easter and Christian mom life in general in the Moms with Grace private Facebook group!

A gratitude and prayer journal for Christian women

“The Christian Woman’s Gratitude Journal” helps you manage anxiety and grow closer to God!

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

In the past, I’ve had so much luck using a gratitude journal and using a prayer journal. I also love devotionals. And I enjoy inspirational quotes. But I’ve never had them all together in one place — until now. “The Christian Woman’s Gratitude Journal” is my latest book release that combines a gratitude and prayer journal into one. You’re going to love it as much as I do!

Through the years, I’ve used prompted and blank journals to help manage my anxiety and grow in my walk with God. So, I’ve included both in one journal, because it just makes sense to me. Somedays even I as a writer need prompts to get my going. Other days, I have thoughts waiting to pour out of my head and onto paper.

The benefits of a gratitude and prayer journal

Throughout my lifetime I have struggled with anxiety. If I’m being completely honest, I know depression and anxiety have gone together at different times in my life. I have never stopped trusting in or believing in God. In fact, I’ve found anxiety and faith can co-exist and that doesn’t make me a bad Christian or mean I don’t trust God.

However, I don’t want to get stuck in those places. I have been stuck before and had my faith shaken. Healing after some of the most difficult times in my life has best been done at least in part by focusing on the things for which I’m grateful. Not only did that give me an attitude shift in general, but doing so also helped me to see God’s goodness and blessings in the midst of the struggle.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (NIV) And, quite frankly, that’s easier said than done in some circumstances. Keeping a gratitude journal helps us remember to truly give thanks, even on the difficult days when we are struggling to see any good.

What is a prompted gratitude journal?

When I think of writing prompts, I tend to think of language arts classes. Maybe you do, too. But, when it comes to journals, writing prompts aren’t designed to elicit long essays or short stories. Instead, they are often just simple.

In “The Christian Woman’s Gratitude Journal,” the prompts are designed to take no more than 5 minutes a day total per page. You’ll find three different types of prompts in this gratitude and prayer journal.

“List Three” prompts

Throughout the journal are 30 different “List Three” writing prompts. These are lines for you to list three of something for which you’re grateful. So, the first time I did a gratitude journal, I didn’t use a prompted version and really struggled some days to think of three new or different thinks for which I was thankful.

The “List Three” prompts are themed to make it easier for you. Here are some examples from “The Christian Woman’s Gratitude and Prayer Journal:”

  • List three ways you’ve felt God’s love this week.
  • List three of your favorite beverages.
  • List three of your biggest blessings.
  • List three of your favorite movies.
  • List three happy moments from the day.

“Question” prompts

The gratitude and prayer journal also includes one “Question” prompt. Thirty questions total are included. These are questions you can answer usually in just one or two sentences. But, if you need more writing space, 10 lined pages with inspirational quotes at the top are included after three pages of prompts.

The “Question” prompts also help you focus on something in particular that is positive or for which you are thankful in your life. Here are some examples:

  • How did you feel love from someone else today?
  • What made you laugh today?
  • What is your favorite Bible verse and why?
  • Where and when were you able to spend time with God today?
  • What did you accomplish today that makes you feel proud?

“Today’s Mood” checklist

Also on the prompted pages of “The Christian Woman’s Gratitude Journal,” you’ll find a checklist to mark off your mood for the day. It’s straightforward and easy. The following moods are included: happy, sad, angry, anxious, excited, afraid, lonely, jealous, calm and disgusted.

What is a prayer journal?

Along with the three writing prompts on 30 of the pages, the gratitude and prayer journal also include a box simply labeled “Prayers.” This space is designed for you to use however you’d like and can change from one entry to the next.

You can use the space to do any of the following (or whatever works best for you!):

  • List prayer requests for the day.
  • List praises for the day.
  • Write a prayer for the day.
  • Track prayers God has answered.

What else is included in the gratitude and prayer journal?

Along with 60 different writing prompts over 30 pages that have mood and prayer boxes as well, “The Christian Woman’s Gratitude Journal” also includes 10 lined pages that have inspirational quotes at the top. All of the quotes are original ones. For example:

  • Find something in each day that makes you happy.
  • You are important. You are special. You are smart.
  • Doing the best you can doesn’t mean you have to be perfect.

You’ll also find 10 devotionals throughout the gratitude and prayer journal as well. These are paired next to the blank journal pages to give you space to write about them if you would like. The devotionals are uplifting and helpful in both spiritual and practical ways. You’ll find topics such as:

  • Three ways to be kinder to yourself
  • Understanding God’s love for us
  • Prayers for women

Get your own copy here:

"The Christian Woman's Gratitude Journal" cover image
A gratitude and prayer journal can be a great way for Christian women to manage anxiety and grow in their relationship with God. #GratitudeJournal #PrayerJournal #ChristianWomen #ChristianMoms #Anxiety #MentalHealth

Join me for a Gratitude Journey!

While you definitely will get a lot out of using this gratitude and prayer journal on your own, I am also running a weekly discussion group about gratitude that starts April 4, 2023 and will be based on “The Christian Woman’s Gratitude and Prayer Journal.”

The group will meet in the private Facebook group, “Moms with Grace,” which is a part of the Families with Grace ministry. Each week, I will list five questions related to five pages from the journal as we work our way through it to end on June 6. Along with listing the questions, though, later in the week I will host a Zoom call to discuss our answers and how our Gratitude Journeys are going. (These will be recorded and shared in the “Moms with Grace” private Facebook group only.)

I’d love to have you join us and really grow in your relationship with God. We weren’t meant to “do life” alone!

Moms with Grace private Facebook group

Moms with Grace: Mandy Farmer

Tips for Christian moms with a good dose of encouragement

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

The “Moms with Grace” series takes a look at modern Christian moms and how they handle daily life with raising children. You’ll find monthly posts from moms with older kids, younger kids and all those in between. Let real-life moms encourage and uplift you!

Today is the kick-off for the “Moms with Grace” series. Mandy Farmer is the featured Mom with Grace this month. Mandy has a blog, “Mandy and Michele,” for which I have shared guests posts a few times. I am thrilled to share her story with you.

Mandy is a 62-year-old mom to four children ranging from 26 to 48. The oldest two belong to her husband from a previous marriage, but Mandy has raised them completely since they were 9 and 14 and lost both their mom and sister in a car accident.

Her experiences as a mom and stepmom (though she says they never use the term “step”) are uplifting to those of us still in the thick of everyday life with kids. Mandy has survived the young years and is now reaping the benefits in her relationship with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren!

Please share a little bit about your background. Are you married? If so, for how long? What is your occupation? 

I was born near Canton, Ohio, and raised on the family dairy farm. At the age of 13, we moved, cows and all, to Wisconsin where I graduated from a small high school. I acquired a B.A. in computer science at Asbury University outside of Lexington, KY and went to work in Columbia South Carolina for about five years.  

At that point, my pastor’s wife introduced me to Michael Farmer, a pastor in her hometown of Barnesville, Ga. Michael had recently lost his wife and daughter in a fatal car accident. He had two boys, 9 and 14 at the time. She had been after me for months to go to Georgia with her and meet Michael. I didn’t think I was interested in a pastor with two boys but I finally went…just to get her to quit bothering me about it. 

Four months later, we were married! Now 32 years married!  

Fun note: I said I didn’t want to be a farmer’s wife or a pastor’s wife…I married Pastor Farmer! 

We added another boy and girl to the mix and continue pastoring around Georgia and for six years in Milwaukee, Wis. – my home state. 

I never worked outside the home or church after marriage and my degree quickly became obsolete, but my education was well worth it. 

I jumped full-time into my love of children’s ministry. Homeschooled our two youngest and founded a homeschool co-op. In between that, sometimes I served as Michael’s secretary. 

In 2011, I was struck with chronic pain. This changed a lot. Our daughter was 15. She became chief cook and bottle washer, making most meals, doing the laundry, keeping the house. She also, became my chauffeur! In 2016, we retired and moved to Savannah, Ga., and I began writing.

At first, I wrote about chronic pain and then I moved into writing Bible Studies for our denomination and an online group called Gracefully Truthful. Last year I decided to try to publish a book of devotions. That is still in the works, but in the learning process I wrote a children’s picture book about milk cows: Holly the Holstein Talks About Milk Cows.  I will publish another picture book about a family whose mommy has Fibromyalgia. You can follow me at my writing website to keep abreast of my publishing. 

How have you changed from the beginning of your mom journey until now? 

Another piece of my backstory is that I was number three of six children growing up. My youngest brother was 12 years behind me. My mom had a bookstore, so I did a lot of caring for him. This gave me a great deal of knowledge about childcare. I loved being a mom, and I can hardly wait to have grandchildren. (Our oldest has children and grands, but they have always lived far away.) 

Our children are all grown now. We live in the same city. Two kids are married. They all pop in all the time to check on us. Our oldest has two grown sons and a daughter. And we have six great-grandchildren! 

What are some challenges you’ve faced as a mother? How have you worked to overcome them? 

My initiation into motherhood started right off with a preteen and teenager. One got the chicken pox while Michael and I were on our honeymoon, and the other got them when we arrived home!  

My husband and I sat down with them before we married and talked about things. They wanted me to adopt them but because of moving several times it never happened. Michael told them that I would end up being their mother longer than their biological mother. And we decided they would call me “Mom.”  

Michael said he would always back me up when it came to discipline, and they were not to try to play us against one another. What I said would be “law” and if I dealt out a punishment, only I could change it. We had some of the typical teenager-mom issues. But really not many big issues that all moms don’t have.  

I love them like my own, and they love me the same. As a matter of fact, one of them sends me flowers every year on the anniversary of their mother’s death. The card always reads, “Thanks for being my mom.”

In what ways have you and do you share your faith with your children?

It’s a lifestyle. Everything seems to have something to do with faith in our lives. We have had many discussions around the dinner table. (Dinner table: what an important routine for the family!) 

Being a pastoral family, our kids were saturated in our faith. I wanted to have a family devotion time, but my husband felt that they got so much from being at the church A LOT that he didn’t want to do it. I did get them to have Advent devotions with me most years. We also homeschooled our children, and they received Bible training through that. Our church had children’s and teen’s Bible quizzing, and we were deeply involved in quizzing. 

Once they were old enough, they were involved in any special programs we had at church. They enjoyed every minute…well, maybe not every minute. 😊 

Pray for and with your children. After the car accident, going to school was very traumatic for Brian. He was dropped to his school that day and the accident happened on the way to the high school. We ALWAYS prayed with him before he got out of the car. ALWAYS.  

What are some of your favorite parts of motherhood? 

I loved it all. From as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a mom. I was involved in their lives and they in mine. I loved cooking and baking with them from an early age. Also, I taught them music, and we played and sang together often. Homeschooling was wonderful. I was nervous about it at first. But my sister was doing it, and so I tried kindergarten (which wasn’t required) and we enjoyed it. That was the year my daughter was born and it gave Brett and me bonding time. If Mikaela was fussy, she was in a snuggly around me which left my hands free to teach. I think she learned a lot that way, school came easier for her. We considered every year what we would like to do the next year. Every year the kids chose to homeschool. 

How does grace play a role in your daily life? Do you have any tips or advice for how moms can show more grace to their families? 

3 John 1:4 image

Oh, goodness! Grace. Grace is the central theme. There are always mistakes made. On my side and theirs. Apologies and forgiveness are vital in a good family relationship. 

When discipline is necessary, it’s a good time to talk about the forgiveness of God. Be sure to tell your child how much you love them and that discipline is for teaching. Never discipline when you are angry. Always pray with your child after discipline. 

 What are you most proud of as a mom? 

 ”I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” – 3 John 1:4 (NIV)

All four of my children are serving the Lord in some capacity. Daniel is on the church board and serves in so many basic ways. He does a lot of those things that no one notices – lawn care, general checking on the building, usher. Brian served as a pastor in a small church for about 10 years until his health failed. Brett is the tech guy. He runs the sound and live stream at church. Mikaela and her husband serve as youth ministers and are both on the worship team. 

Do you have any resources that help you be a mom with grace?

You have to have a strong marriage to have a strong family. 

These are some of the parenting books I highly recommend:

Do you have anything else to add that we haven’t talked about? 

Prayer is a big key. Pray for guidance and wisdom. Pray for your children and their future spouses. Be specific as much as you can. Pray more than “Be with my child today.” Ask for wisdom and knowledge and protection. If they are attending public school, pray even harder. 

Make sure your children know that their parents love each other. Yeah, they might get disgusted, but let them see you hugging and kissing occasionally. This makes your child feel safe.  

Tell them you love them every day! Hug them even when your teenager doesn’t want you too. 

Have rules and abide by them. Children need boundaries. Back each other up. 

Connect with other Christian moms for support and encouragement in the private Facebook group, Moms with Grace!

Fudgy chocolate cake recipe

The best chocolate cake recipe you’ll ever make!

I love all things chocolate, but I’ve struggle with chocolate cake. So many times, I get bakery chocolate cake that is dry. Ugh. While I’ve tweaked a chocolate cake mix with great results, this fudgy chocolate cake recipe tops them all hands down. It’s a mic drop sort of cake.

My parents don’t even eat chocolate cake and they love this cake. Same for my husband. It’s just its own level of yum! It’s somehow airy yet moist. And it just plain works. So, when I made it most recently for my son’s birthday, I knew I had to share it on the blog.

Usually I only make this chocolate cake recipe for birthdays, because we don’t have cake too often at home. Unfortunately, my daughter opts for Oreo ice cream cake for her birthday in October. But my son asks for this chocolate cake for his January birthday, and I always make it for my own birthday in May. I can hardly wait the two more months until my birthday!

And, I also encourage you to try this recipe even if you haven’t made a cake from scratch before. This is literally the only cake I make from scratch. Usually I do just tweak a box cake mix with awesome results, but this one is worth making from scratch. I promise you can do it — and you don’t even need special cake flour or other uncommon ingredients. In fact, I’d guess you have everything you need to make this cake in your kitchen right now!

Making the fudgy chocolate cake recipe

Like any baking recipe, start by preheating the oven. Turn the oven to 350-degrees and then prepare your baking pan(s). I usually bake this cake in a 9×13-inch pan, but this time I used to 9-inch cake pans to make a layer cake for my son. He wanted the cake to look like the one in a video game he likes.

Grease the pans or spray them with non-stick cooking spray, and then dust them lightly with flour. I use non-stick cooking spray because it’s easiest — and at least a bit healthier!

Sprayed and lightly floured cake pans ready for this fudgy chocolate cake recipe

Next, stir together 2 cups of white sugar and 2 cups of all-purpose flour in a large mixing bowl. I use the bowl of my stand mixer, because this is the bowl you’ll be mixing the batter in later.

The flour and sugar mixed together in the bowl of my stand mixer for this fudgy chocolate cake recipe

Let the flour and sugar hang out while you get out a medium saucepan. Put 2 sticks of butter, 1 cup of water and 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder into the saucepan over medium heat.

The butter, cocoa powder and water in a medium saucepan of medium heat
Part way through cooking the butter, cocoa powder and water in a medium saucepan of medium heat

You want to bring it to a boil so that the liquid is bubbly and moving around. While I wait for it to boil, I move on to the next step of whisking 1/2 cup of milk, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 2 eggs together. I measure the milk into my 2-cup measuring cup and then add in the rest of the ingredients. It’s easier to pour that way and I don’t end up with a dirty measuring cup and a dirty bowl!

The milk, vanilla, baking soda and eggs mixed together in a 2-cup measuring cup for this fudgy chocolate cake recipe

When the butter, water and cocoa powder reaches a boil, then it’s ready to remove from the stove.

The boiling cocoa powder mixture

Pour the boiling mixture into the bowl with the flour and sugar mixture.

The boiling cocoa mixture poured over the flour and sugar mixture

Stir the flour mixture and cocoa powder mixture together by hand or using a mixer. I use my stand mixer to make life easier. If you are using a mixer, start out on low speed until the ingredients have combined a bit before moving to medium speed to mix completely. If you start out too fast, then the boiling cocoa powder mixture will splash out. When it’s all combined the mixture will be loose.

The flour mixture and cocoa powder mixture all combined for this fudgy chocolate cake recipe

Add in the egg mixture and keep stirring or mixing until it’s incorporated. I usually add this in slowly while the mixer is running.

Once the egg mixture is incorporated, the cake batter is ready. It is going to be a thinner consistency than you might expect for cake batter, but that’s exactly correct!

The chocolate cake batter ready to be poured into the prepared cake pan(s)

Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan(s), and place them in the oven.

The filled cake pans ready to go into the oven.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes for two 9-inch pans or 30 to 35 minutes for a 9×13-inch pan. You’ll know the cake is finished when it begins to shrink away from the sides.

The baked fudgy chocolate cake shrinking away from the sides of the pan.

Let the cake cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan.

The finished cake out of the pan

Let it cool completely before topping it with icing. This time around, I used my favorite quick, easy and oh-so-delicious homemade buttercream icing. I tinted it for the color to match the cake in the video game and did the swirl design in white like the same video game cake.

The completed and decorated fudgy chocolate cake

Look at the airy, yet moist inside of this fudgy chocolate cake recipe!

The inside of the completed fudgy chocolate cake recipe is both airy and moist!
Chocolate cake recipe Pinterest image 3

Fudgy chocolate cake

This is the all-time best fudgy chocolate cake recipe. It's both airy and moist. And this chocolate cake is way better than a bakery one!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American


  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs


  • Preheat the oven to 350-degrees (F). Prepare on 9×13 or two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with non-sticking cooking spray or coating with grease and then lightly sprinkling with flour.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and sugar, then set it aside.
  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, water and cocoa powder. Stir occasionally and cook until it comes to a boil.
  • While you're waiting for the cocoa powder mixture to boil, whisk together the milk, vanilla, baking soda and egg. Set aside.
  • Remove the boiling cocoa powder mixture from the stove and pour into the large mixing bowl with the flour and sugar. Stir together by hand or use a mixer to combine them thoroughly. (If you're using a mixer, be sure to start on low until the liquid has combined a bit before turning the mixer to medium.)
  • Once it is combined, pour in the egg mixture and mix until that is completely incorporated.
  • Pour the prepared batter (which will be relatively runny) into the prepared baking pan(s).
  • Bake in the oven for 35 to 30 minutes for 9-inch pans or 30 to 35 minutes for a 9×13-inch pan. You'll know the cake is finished when it starts to pull away from the edges of the pan.
  • Cool for 10 minutes before removing the cake from the pan. Cool completely before icing the cake.
Keyword Birthday cake, chocolate cake, fudgy chocolate cake, holiday baking, homemade cake, layer cake, scratch made

Find more delicious family recipes like this one in the “Favorite Recipes from Families with Grace” cookbook. Download your FREE copy today!

Favorite Recipes from Families with Grace cookbook
The Favorite Recipes from Families with Grace is a cookbook for modern families filled with easy-to-make, kid-friendly recipes you’ll love! #Cookbook #FavoriteRecipes #Freebie #DigitalDownload #WhatsForDinner #WeeknightDinner

The best Psalms for anxiety

10 Psalms to bring your peace when you’re anxious

Of all the people in the Bible, I have most related to David in the Psalms for many, many years. We certainly haven’t had the exact same life experiences, but David goes from grief to joy to everything in between within a chapter. And that’s how life is for me. I get David. He’s real to me in that way.

I also feel like David’s thoughts could get carried away and overdramatic sometimes. Anxiety rears its ugly head like that in my life. I completely trust God, but I have also learned that anxiety and faith can co-exist. So when I think of looking in the Bible for verses of comfort, it makes sense to start with Psalms for anxiety.

Did David struggle with anxiety? It’s quite possible! In 2004, History of Psychiatry researched whether David had a mental disorder and concluded that it’s highly likely he did. Major depression seems to be the most likely candidate. Depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. So maybe that’s why I relate to David.

Whether David had a mental disorder doesn’t matter as much as knowing that God is behind all the words he wrote. And we can draw comfort in the book of Psalms for anxiety. Read these verses and let them minister to your heart today.

(All Scripture is taken from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Psalm 27:1-3

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?
When the wicked advance against me
    to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
    who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
    my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
    even then I will be confident.

These verses are awesome reminders of God’s power and faithfulness. He will protect us, so we don’t have to be afraid. I’ve been afraid so many times in my life. I recently heard someone say fear is at the root of anxiety. While I’m not sure that’s completely true, I do find great comfort in knowing God is in control and on His throne, so I don’t have to be afraid.

Psalm 61:1-3

Hear my cry, O God;
    listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
    I call as my heart grows faint;
    lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the foe.

The New King James version of the Bible says instead that “my heart is overwhelmed” rather than “my heart grows faint.” I like that even more. Because, I get overwhelmed. Life is full of so many responsibilities and tasks. As a mom, it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed thinking of all the things I’m juggling mentally at any given time. But, God is there to listen to my prayer. He hears me and sustains me. He shelters me when I grow weak. Thank you, God!

Psalm 51:10-12

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Of the Psalms for anxiety, this one is one that makes an especially great prayer. I want God to purify my heart so that I’m not distracted by the wrong things. There are times I desperately need a steadfast spirit and willing spirit to sustain me and keep me going. I also want to always be in God’s presence and never forget the joy of His salvation.

I will always remember going to church one Sunday after one of the very worst weeks of my life. My heart was broken and I was feeling low. During the sermon, I got distracted by the cross. God reminded me that in the end, what matters most is how much He loves me that He sent His Son for me. It soothed my soul that day in a way nothing else could.

Psalm 121:1-5a

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
 The Lord watches over you.

When I was in college, a member of my Bible study group shared that she used to feel bad about falling asleep while she was praying. But then she just imagined that God was holding onto her like a parent does a child and letting her sleep. That image has stuck with me. In my hardest nights, I have prayed for God to surround me and hold me tight. I love knowing that He doesn’t ever sleep. He watches over us day and night. In my head, I feel like that gives me permission to let down my guard and trust that He is completely in control. That’s a relief when I’m struggling with anxiety.

Psalm 32:5

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

In the four verses before this one, David talks about how he has been consumed by tears day and night. He remembers the good times with God, but he feels far apart from them at this moment. But then this verse is his pep talk. We all need pep talks sometimes. When we are depressed or anxious, David reminds us that we can put our hope in God. We can praise Him in the storm and trust He is there even when He feels far away.

Psalm 77:11-12

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

David spends the first 10 verses of this Psalm talking about how he felt God had rejected him. He was grieving the silence of God and feeling heartbroken. But then he stops to remember the good things God has done in the past. I have learned to do this very same thing when I start getting anxious. I go back in my head to all the times God has been working for my good when I couldn’t see it. And I know that God won’t fail me now. Sometimes the best thing I can do is think about my history with God’s faithfulness and focus on the blessings He’s given me in the present.

Psalm 116:1-7

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
    he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me,
    the anguish of the grave came over me;
    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “Lord, save me!”
The Lord is gracious and righteous;
    our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you.

God hears our pleas and cries for mercy. He is there and listening, even when it feels like He is not. David talks about seeing that happen in his life. I’ve seen it happen in mine. So now I find this one of the Psalms for anxiety that brings me comfort. I can be reminded that God will see me through time and again.

I also especially love verse 7: “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” This is a verse to memorize and hold close for the dark nights when anxiety is high and life is hard. God is good all the time.

Psalm 40:11-13

Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
    may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
For troubles without number surround me;
    my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
    and my heart fails within me.
Be pleased to save me, Lord;
    come quickly, Lord, to help me.

The Bible tells us that Jacob physically wrestled with God, but David does some of his own wrestling in an emotional way. If you read the entirety of Psalm 40, David is at a low point but also asking God to bless those who trust in Him. Verses 11-13 really stuck out to me as being a sincere prayer to God for times when we are overwhelmed by our circumstances. We can call out to God: save me, come quickly and help me. And we can remember the times God has protected us by His love and faithfulness before to keep us going as we wait.

Psalm 62:5-8

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
    he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.

This is a great Psalm for anxiety. It reminds us that we can find rest and have hope in God. With God as our protector, we can withstand the storms of life. We weren’t made to go through life alone and God will hold us through all of it. If we allow Him, He will be our rock in whom we can trust at all times. I love the idea of God being our refuge. A refuge is somewhere you run to when you’re in trouble or in distress. And that’s exactly what God is for us. We can run to Him and know He will hold us tight through everything.

Psalm 46:1-3

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

Again, David refers to God as our refuge. When we are anxious and overwhelmed, a refuge is what we need. We need a break and peace. There are moments when God truly gives us peace beyond understanding. He can calm our anxieties and fears, even if just for a few moments, as we fully rest in Him.

How to make bacon in the oven

Making bacon in the oven is the easiest way to prepare it for your family!

My family isn’t big on eating meat. My husband and son, especially, don’t eat much meat. But one thing our whole family can agree on is crispy bacon. Cooking bacon on the stovetop and getting splashed with hot grease has always stressed me out. So, I make bacon in the oven. It finishes at the same time and keeps me from stressing about hot grease. It also lets me easily work on other food items while the bacon cooks. It’s a win all around!

When I make bacon in the oven, I get it nice and crispy — nearly burnt — because that’s how we like it. However, you can cook it to your own preferences of doneness. (Though I will fully admit that I don’t understand the chewy bacon people. Yuck!)

Once you make bacon in the oven, you won’t make it another way! Cook it up for BLTs, BLT pizza, bacon ranch cheese bread or a breakfast food side. So good!

Get started

Preheat your oven to 400-degrees (F). While the oven is preheating, get out two baking sheets with sides for one pound of bacon. You need those sides to keep the grease from rolling off into your oven. Line it with aluminum foil and spritz it very lightly with non-stick cooking spray. (You can also use non-stick aluminum foil if you have that.)

A baking sheet with sides that has been lined with aluminum foil and spritzed very lightly with non-stick cooking spray

Separate the bacon into slices and place them on the two baking sheets. They can be near each other but not touching.

Bacon placed onto the prepared baking sheets and ready to go into the oven

Place the baking sheets into your preheated oven and cook for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, the bacon is part way cooked. In order for it to cook more evenly, I switch the racks for the baking sheets at this point.

The bacon in the oven, halfway cooked and ready to switch racks

Cook for 8 to 12 more minutes until the bacon is your desired level of crispness.

Cooked bacon hot from the oven

Remove the bacon from the baking sheet right away and place onto a plate lined with paper towels to drain the grease. I layer the bacon and paper towels to absorb the grease even more.

Cooked bacon on a paper towel-lined plate

The final tip is to leave the baking sheets sitting out until the grease solidifies. Then you can pull off the sheets of aluminum foil and just throw the grease out without having to worry about how to dispose of it. Usually a small amount of grease gets underneath the foil from me moving the pans around, so I still wash the pans, but the foil makes clean up a heck of a lot easier!

The baking sheets with solidified grease ready to be thrown away
How to make bacon in the oven Pinterest image 1

Bacon in the oven

Making bacon in the oven is super easy and works well for feeding a family. It gets done all at once and frees you up to cook other things!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 22 mins
Total Time 27 mins
Course Breakfast, Side Dish
Cuisine American


  • 1 pound bacon


  • Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.
  • Line two baking sheets that have sides on them with aluminum foil. Spritz the foil very lightly with non-stick cooking spray. (You can also use non-stick aluminum foil if you prefer.)
  • Lay the bacon out on the baking sheets without overlapping the slices.
  • Baked in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then switch the racks the pans are on. Bake 8 to 12 minutes more until the bacon is the desired crispness.
  • Remove the bacon from the pan to drain immediately on a paper plate lined with paper towels.
Keyword bacon, bacon in the oven, breakfast food, cooking for a crowd, easy recipe, family cooking

Find more delicious family recipes like this one in the “Favorite Recipes from Families with Grace” cookbook. Download your FREE copy today!

Favorite Recipes from Families with Grace cookbook
The Favorite Recipes from Families with Grace is a cookbook for modern families filled with easy-to-make, kid-friendly recipes you’ll love! #Cookbook #FavoriteRecipes #Freebie #DigitalDownload #WhatsForDinner #WeeknightDinner

20 Spring break activities and ideas for at home

You don’t have to leave home for spring break fun!

Though spring break can be a time to travel, it can also be fun at home. Whether you’re staying home by choice or for budgetary reasons this year, these spring break activities will keep your family entertained and making memories. No need to pack a suitcase!

Before you start

The first rule is you have to treat spring break at home like a vacation. That means no chores! OK. You are going to have to do some basic chores like dealing with dirty dishes and preparing food. You may even have to do some laundry. But do your best to treat the time like you would if you weren’t home.

You also can designate your staycation days if you aren’t able to take the entire week off. Just plan for your spring break activities on Monday through Wednesday or whatever works best for your family. Whatever you pick, communicate about it so you, your spouse and your kids are on the same pages and know what to expect.

Another neat idea that we’ve done in the past and are doing again this year is a combination vacation and staycation. We’ll spend a couple of nights away on a family trip and then a few days at home for spring break. It’s the best of both worlds and, quite literally, what my children opted to do this year when we gave them choices.

Our family does like to have a meeting ahead of time to talk about what we’d most like to do. This helps us to prioritize our time and our budget for spring break activities. You can give your kids a list to pick from or just ask them for their ideas or both.

Finally, remember simple activities can be just as fun as more complicated ones. My kids’ biggest requests for the staycation part of our spring break this year were going to eat hibachi for lunch and playing games together.

1. Go see a movie.

We love movies in my family. Whether you go to the theater or watch something at home, a good movie is a great spring break activity. Find a movie you’ll all enjoy, have snacks at the ready and enjoy!

2. Check out local exhibits.

My family lives in a mid-sized Midwestern city. We’re not overwhelmed with choices of exhibits to visit, but there are always a few things going on. In fact, we have one art exhibit we’ve been talking about checking out and haven’t found time for. Spring break is a great time to make that happen.

3. Explore other nearby cities.

Because we do live in a city that’s not so big, exploring nearby bigger cities is a good option. We can drive an hour north or south and be in bigger cities that have more activities and things to do. Then, we come back home and sleep in our own cozy beds. Where you go will depend on what you do, but think about children’s museums, zoos, aquariums and any other family friendly venue.

4. Eat out.

Thanks to meal planning, preference and time constraints, my family only eats out on Sundays after church. Some weeks we have another meal out as well, but we don’t eat out very much these days. When we travel, though, we definitely eat out more often. So, another great spring break idea for at home is going out to eat. Go somewhere special or different. Or try a new restaurant.

5. Have a board game day, afternoon or evening.

We love playing games in our family. They can be a great way to pass the time and make some great family memories. Use games you already have, buy a new one or make one up.

6. Try out a new recipe.

Spring break can be a great time to try out a new recipe together as a family. Even better, find a recipe your whole family can prepare together like pizza subs, peanut butter honey nut cereal clusters or puppy chow. For even more awesome family recipes, be sure to get the “Favorite Recipes from Families with Grace” cookbook for free!

Spring break activities Pinterest image 3
If you’re staying home this year, these spring break activities will keep your family entertained and making memories. No suitcase needed! #springbreak #staycation #familyactivities #familyfun

7. Set up an obstacle course.

During remote learning, we had a gym assignment to set up an obstacle course at home. It was easier than I’d expected and we had way more fun with it than anticipated. Since then, we’ve done this a couple of other times. Use your chairs, pillows and whatever you have around to make a simple obstacle course. If you want, time each other to see who can do it fastest.

8. Have an indoor campout.

If you live somewhere warm, you can have an outdoor campout if you want. But for those of us in colder weather, an indoor campout is a much better spring break activity. Pull out sleeping bags, air mattresses or whatever works and sleep in the same room together. We used to campout in our living room, but now we campout in our bedroom.

9. Buy some “souvenirs.”

Our kids love buying souvenirs when we travel. They don’t have to be big purchases, but just something. Make souvenirs a part of spring break at home. Hit up the Dollar Tree and let them pick something. Or budget a set amount of money for souvenirs and head to their favorite store(s). Don’t forget a little something for yourself and your spouse, too!

10. Go to the playground.

Going to the playground can be a great spring break activity to help burn off some energy. Keep a check on the weather and pick a good time to go. Let your kids pick which playground they want to go to and plan to spend an hour letting them have fun. Be sure to get involved with them. (Personally, I love swinging with my kids!)

11. Play video games together.

If you’re a video gaming family, play together. Recently, my son was so excited to play Minecraft with both my husband and me. It was a treat for him to share that with us, and we all had fun with it.

Another great video game option is to have one person be in charge of the controller and everyone helps decide what he or she does. For example, we once had a blast playing Monopoly on the Xbox. My husband had the controller and we played against computer players. Our whole family talked strategies and made decisions for what to do in the game. It was incredibly fun!

12. Go to the library.

Libraries are awesome resources and can be great fun, even over spring break. If your town or city is small enough, chances are the library probably has some spring break activities of their own planned with extra story times and crafts. Check out those events or even just go and get some books to read together or individually (or both!) over break.

My kids always liked to play at the library when they were smaller. Our libraries offer a variety of toys and imaginative play items that are a hit. Explore the toys the library as well.

13. Try geocaching.

Geocaching was super popular a few years ago, but it still around now. We’ve had some fun with geocaching as a family. (It can also be a great date idea for parents!) Download a geocaching app and find locations around you. We’ve been surprised at the places we’ve found items. Our kids really enjoy it.

14. Get crafty.

Crafts aren’t really my jam, but small art projects together as a family can be fun. Color together at the kitchen table, use some of the craft kits you inevitably have stockpiled in your house, make cards or sweet crafts to send to grandparents or whatever you enjoy.

15. Volunteer.

Spending time together helping others is a great spring break activity. Not only do you get a chance to impact your community, but you show your kids the importance of helping others and get that warm. fuzzy feeling as a result.

16. Have a family yes day.

Having a family yes day can be great fun for kids and adults alike. Pick a day where you say yes to whatever your kids ask to do. We’ve done this a few times and do have some rules. For example, the kids can’t ask us to travel out of town or spend more than a set amount of money on something. We’ve been pleasantly surprised, though, at how well they work together and the fun activities they come up with. (Read more about how to have a family yes day.)

17. Make videos.

Speaking of family yes days, during our most recent one, we made movies together. My daughter and I paired up and my husband and son paired up. Each pair picked a song for the other to lip sync and make a video to. We had so much fun making the videos and then watching them together!

18. Have a cake decorating contest.

Our family enjoys watching baking shows on television. (Well, my son doesn’t so much if I’m being honest!) Seeing contestants bake and decorate cakes is especially fun. So we tried our hand at it. I baked a cake in two pans like it would be two layers. Each pair got a cake and a bowl of homemade buttercream icing. We picked a design to copy (a cartoon bear) and got to work. Without telling them who decorated which cake, we sent photos of the final versions to my parents and my husband’s parents to pick the winner. But, you don’t have to pick a winner.

And you can use store-bought cake, cupcakes or cookies along with canned icing to make it even easier. No matter what, it’s a great spring break activity that results in having some sweet treats!

19. Plan intentional one-on-one time.

When our two children were really young, we started having what we called “one-on-one playtime.” We’d set a timer for 30 minutes and separate so each child got one parent for a half hour. Then we’d switch kids and parents. During their 30 minutes with each parent, our children got to pick what we played. It’s a bit different now that they’re 10 and 13, but they both still enjoy having us to themselves. Spend the time talking, playing, reading or whatever you like to do to connect with each other.

20. Be lazy.

We all need downtime. Some of my favorite memories with my kids come when we are being lazy together. Put down electronic devices and see what you come up with wanting to do. Maybe you talk or make silly jokes. Maybe you put on a talent show or have a dance party. Unstructured time with our kids can result in the most awesome moments!

The best baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping

You’ll never have a better baked mac and cheese than this one inspired by a restaurant in St. Louis!

Nearly two years ago, we took a family vacation to St. Louis. We had a great time exploring the city and making lots of family memories. We also tried some incredible food. The hamburger from Hi-Pointe Drive-In was fabulous. Cookies from Insomnia Cookies hit a sweet spot. Floats from Fitz’s Root Beer were in their own category of sweet treats.

But, hands down, the most memorable for me was Salt + Smoke BBQ. My daughter and I went there solo while the boys ate elsewhere. The barbeque was good. Stupidly good. However, the baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping stole my heart.

I literally said to my daughter as we were eating, “If I wasn’t already married to your dad, I’d marry this mac and cheese.” That may sound dramatic, but the mac and cheese really was that good. (I’m not even a big mac and cheese fan.)

Since we live a few hours away from St. Louis, I knew my odds of having that baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping again were slim. If we go back someday, I’ll definitely hit it up. But until then, I’ve found and tweaked a recipe that tastes incredibly similar.

This baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping has become a regular for Thanksgiving dinner at my house. I’ve served it to up beside sloppy joes. Most recently, I made it as a main dish and enjoyed every single bite of it. So much so that I seriously debated having its leftovers for breakfast the next day. You have got to try this simple recipe that only uses six ingredients (besides a bit of salt and pepper)!

Baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping ingredients: triple cheddar shredded cheese, heavy whipping cream, flour, pasta shells, butter and Ritz crackers

Stovetop prep for the baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping

Salt the water in a large pot and let it come to a boil, then add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes. While the pasta cooks, preheat the oven to 300-degrees (F). The Salt + Smoke mac and cheese uses pasta shells, so that’s what I have used. You could use any pasta shape you prefer.

About four minutes before the pasta is finished getting, melt 2 tablespoons of butter into a medium saucepan over medium/high heat.

Butter for the baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping melting in a medium saucepan over medium/high heat

When the pasta is finished cooking, strain it and return it to the pot, removed from the heat. Once the butter has melted, stir in 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Here’s how it will look start to finish:

The flour and butter starting to be mixed for the baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping
Add the flour to the melted butter.
Part way through mixing the flour and butter for this baked mac and cheese with Ritz crackers recipe
Stir the flour and butter constantly for 1 to 2 minutes.
The flour and butter mixture completely mixed together after cooking for 2 minutes over medium/high heat
How the butter and flour mixture looks when it is finished cooking.

Once the flour and butter are well combined and cooked together, begin adding in the heavy cream about 1/4 cup at a time. Let it mix in each time completely before adding more. It will go from a texture of runny oatmeal to mashed potatoes to pudding to sauce.

Starting to stir in the heavy cream for the baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping
Adding the first 1/4 cup of heavy cream into the flour and butter mixture looks a bit like runny oatmeal.
Continuing to gradually stir the heavy cream in for this baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping
As you keep adding, the cream, it starts to be more of a mashed potato consistency.

Once the cream is completely stirred in and the mixture is more sauce-like, continue cooking it over medium/high heat, stirring frequently. When it just starts to move around a bit, remove it from the heat. Do not let it boil. It will look like this:

The cooked sauce removed from the heat for this baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping

Next, stir in 8 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese. Salt + Smoke uses white cheddar, I think, but I use triple cheddar blend because it’s easier for me to find. Add a dash of salt and pepper.

Stirring the cheese into the sauce for this baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping
Pour the shredded cheese into the sauce.
Stir well until the cheese melts completely.

Getting it ready to bake

Once the cheese sauce is totally together, pour the sauce over the cooked and strained pasta.

The cooked pasta with the cheese sauce poured over the top of it for this baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping

Stir together the sauce and pasta so it is well mixed and all the pasta is covered.

The pasta stirred together and coated with the cheese sauce for this baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping

Transferred the coated pasta into a 9×13-inch baking dish, lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Use a spoon to spread it evenly throughout the dish.

The prepared mac and cheese being spread into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish

Crush the Ritz crackers for the topping and spread over the top of the prepared mac and cheese. I use about 8 to 10 Ritz crackers for this. I have store brand ingredients for everything except the crackers, because the buttery flavor of Ritz really does work best for this recipe. (Please note that I am in no way affiliated with or sponsored by Ritz crackers.)

The baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping ready to go into the oven

Bake it in the preheated 300-degree oven for about 12 minutes until heated through. I often serve this with additional crackers on the side for added crunch if people want. Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers.

I promise this will become your favorite baked mac and cheese recipe! Look at this cheesy, yummy goodness!

A finished dish of the baked mac and cheese with Ritz topping
The cracker crust gives just a hint of crunch and extra buttery-ness!
A forkful of the finished baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping
Doesn’t that just make your mouth water?!
Baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping Pinterest image 4

Baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping

This baked mac and cheese with Ritz cracker topping recipe is the best ever. With only 6 ingredients, it will quickly become a favorite!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 12 mins
Total Time 32 mins
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 8 people


  • 1 pound medium pasta shells
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8-10 Ritz crackers crushed
  • salt & pepper to taste


  • Bring a lot pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 300-degrrees (F).
  • About four minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium/high heat.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of flour to the butter and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Drain the pasta and return it to its pot off the heat; set aside.
  • Slowly add the heavy cream to the butter and flour mixture. Stir in about 1/4 cup at a time, waiting until it's completely mixed in to add more.
  • Once the cream is all added, continue cooking over medium/high heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid starts to move. Do NOT let it come to a boil.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the 8 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese until completely melted and smooth. Add a dash of salt and pepper. (If you use unsalted butter, you may need to add more salt.)
  • Pour the cheddar cheese sauce over the cooked and drained pasta. Mix well so the sauce covers all the pasta.
  • Spritz a 9×13-inch baking dish lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the pasta into the baking dish and spread it out evenly.
  • Crush the Ritz crackers by hand and sprinkle evenly over the top of the pasta.
  • Bake for 12 minutes until heated through. Serve immediately, and enjoy!
Keyword baked mac and cheese, carry-in, carry-in recipe, Christmas, family dinner, family friendly, family recipe, kid friendly, mac and cheese, macaroni and cheese, potluck, salt + smoke mac and cheese, Thanksgiving, weeknight dinner

Find more delicious family recipes like this one in the “Favorite Recipes from Families with Grace” cookbook. Download your FREE copy today!

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7 Prayers for moms

Prayers to help you and other moms like you!

Every day, I pray for my husband and children. In fact, my usual prayer order is exactly that: husband, children and then me. Truthfully, a lot of times the prayers for myself are almost an afterthought. I get caught up in what my family needs. I don’t think I’m alone. We moms tend to put ourselves last, but when it comes to prayer, we need to make sure we are covered as well.

This list includes seven prayers for moms you can pray for yourself and for the other moms in your life. All moms need prayer. Motherhood challenges you physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I like to say motherhood is neither for the faint of heart nor the weak of composition!

But, I’m thankful for a God who understands and knows that. Our Heavenly Father is right there in the midst of motherhood with us. As much as we love our babies, He loves them – and us! – even more. We can lean on Him during the easy times and the difficult ones.

Prayer for moms: strength and endurance

“being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”

Colossians 1:11 (NIV)

Does anybody need more patience than moms? If they do, I haven’t met them! Motherhood is often a test of patience, strength and endurance. It starts from the very beginning when that perfect little human won’t let you sleep or have a minute to yourself.

As our kids get older, we may get to sleep more, but we still spend a significant amount of energy thinking, and perhaps worrying, about them. Motherhood can be draining in every way. All moms need prayers for strength and endurance.

Father, I ask that you strengthen me with all power according to your glorious might so I may have great patience and endurance. Lord, hold me up when I am weak today. Give me strength beyond my own when I’m tired and ready to give up. Help me to keep going until the day is done. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Prayer for moms: wisdom and discernment

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

James 1:5 (NIV)

Moms have so many decisions we need to make. There’s big stuff like what school to send our kids to or how to handle discipline. And there are smaller things like what to make for dinner and which movies to allow. All of these decisions take wisdom and discernment, because our decisions impact our children.

Lord, please give me wisdom as I am raising my children. Help me to discern the best choices for them and for our family. Guide me to know what your will is for me as a mom. Father, help me to be the mom my children need to raise them according to your will and plan for their lives. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Prayers for moms: rest and peace

“In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety.”

Psalm 4:8 (NIV)

Even when our babies start sleeping through the night, it’s hard for us mamas to get a good night’s sleep. Somehow we stay alert even in our sleep to hear if they need us. Then add in the worries of motherhood, and we really struggle to get good rest.

Moms long for peace in a world of chaos and stress. I love this verse for its reminder that I can relax and rest knowing God is in control. I imagine myself tucked safely and snuggly in His arms. On difficult nights, I pray for His peace and rest. I even ask Him to help me sleep well but wake up if someone needs me.

Heavenly Father, I ask you to give me peace to lie down and sleep. Lord, remind me you are always in control and keeping my family and me safe. Grant me your peace that passes all understanding. Hold me close and let me rest fully in you. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Prayers for moms: protection and safety

“Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.”

Job 1:10 (NIV)

This verse is actually Satan talking to God about how God is protecting Job and his family. What I love is the idea of a hedge of protection. It’s easy to feel unsure and unsafe in the world. When we have children, I think we become aware of the dangers even more.

Father, I ask that you place a hedge of protection around me and around my family. Protect us in every way, Lord: physically, emotionally and spiritually. Remind me of your presence when I feel afraid. Let me rest in your protection and safety. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Prayers for moms: emotional and mental health

“When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy.”

Psalm 94:19 (NIV)

When you are consumed with taking care of everyone else, like we moms are, your emotional and mental health can suffer. If you already had struggles before having children that compounds even more.

I’ve struggled with anxiety for years, but I didn’t have a name for it until more recent years. I’ve learned anxiety and faith can co-exist. And I have also learned God is with me every step of the way. I need His help every day.

Lord, when I have anxiety great within, I ask that you console me and bring me joy. Strengthen me mentally and emotionally. Give my mind rest. Help me show my children what good mental healthcare looks like. Father, give me courage to seek help when I need it. Heal me from past hurt and trauma. Remind me always of your goodness and presence in my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Prayers for moms: relationships with others

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

Moms’ lives are filled with relationships. From our husbands to our children to our co-workers to our extended family to our friends, we are surrounded by relationships. Prioritizing the relationships most important to us matters. Learning how to navigate and mange those relationships is important.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the loved ones you’ve surrounded me with. Help me to encourage and build them up. Show me how to best communicate with my husband and with my children to strengthen and grow our relationships. Please help my relationships with other people to be healthy and good for me. If someone is hurting my walk with you, help me to realize that and give me wisdom to address it. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Prayers for moms: spiritual growth

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5 (NIV)

In order to make everything work and be the moms, wives and people God created us to be, we need to stay connected to Him. Growing spiritually is important, even when as a mom finding ways to connect with God in the midst of raising a family can be challenging.

Growing spiritually needs to remain a priority, perhaps even more so as moms. I want to have a strong faith and relationship with God for myself but also so I can pass that along to my children. Modeling what faith truly looks like to my children is important to me.

Lord, I ask that you help me to remain in you and to bear much fruit. I know apart from you I can do nothing. Open my heart and mind to hear you. Help me to know you more completely. Father, remind me to connect with you during my busiest times. I want to spend time with you. Show me ways I can make that happen. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.