Category Archives: Food

Would I Make it Again? Apple Fritter Muffins

When I was a little girl, my Uncle Donny owned a doughnut shop.

I can still remember the sweet smell of the shop, the flour smudges on my uncle’s all white uniform and, of course, the sweet treats.

Looking back, I’m sure it was anything but glamorous to be up in the wee hours of the morning making bear claws, maple bars and apple fritters.

But, oh, the deliciousness!

Fast forward let’s not talk about how long to a couple of weeks ago when my landlord gifted me a bag of apples from the tree in her backyard. Tart green apples that were perfect for baking. That’s my kind of gift, folks!

I think it was serendipity that the apples arrived when I had been taking a trip down memory lane to the doughnut shop.

I wondered if it was possible to make something close to an apple fritter without setting up my own doughnut shop. Let’s face it, you could never exercise enough to make that decision work out in your favor.

I found a recipe for apple fritter bread by The Baking Chocolatess with a variation on the recipe for muffins. Since serendipity was still on my side, I decided to give the apple fritter muffin recipe a whirl.

Even though these muffins obviously aren’t fried like a traditional apple fritter would be, there’s something about the muffin texture that definitely evokes a similarity. Maybe it’s that I did take the time, as the recipe suggested, to swirl the apple and sugar mixture in the batter after I added it to the cupcake liners. So every single bite had extra deliciousness baked in.

I would recommend using cupcake liners with this recipe – it just seemed stickier than a regular muffin – and I wasn’t sure cooking spray alone was going to make getting the muffins out of the tin easy. Although, I’m not above just eating straight from the pan – in case there was any doubt.

My pictures would have looked better if my powdered sugar glaze didn’t have lumps in it, but I can assure you, it doesn’t affect the taste.

So, would I make apple fritter muffins again?

I already have! That was mainly because they were a) delicious and b) Handy Husband shared a bunch with a coworker so we NEEDED more. Needed, I tell you.

It makes me happy when I use the eeny, meeny, miny, moe method of selecting a new recipe to make that it actually turns out. Although, to be fair, a person who names their site The Baking ChocolateTess probably knows a thing or two about baking! Thank goodness!

Other recipes in the Would I Make It Again Series:

Would I Make It Again: Rhubarb Scones

Would I Make It Again: Korean Beef Bowl

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Would I Make It Again? – Korean Beef Bowl

Sometimes I ask my kids what they want for dinner when I’m not sure what to cook.

I don’t know why I ask these things!

Their answers are always predictable and not something that counts as “well balanced for a Tuesday night when I’m still making an effort with this dinner thing.”

By Thursday Friday night all bets are off though.

When I don’t know what to cook, I cook tacos fall back on my staple of go-to recipes.

Spoiler Alert! This Korean Beef Bowl recipe by Damn Delicious has become one of my go-to recipes. I’m probably making it twice a month now.

(image: Damn Delicious)

Now, I’m a mom who is responsible for everyone’s digestive health. Fiber is important y’all.

I’m also a mom who likes to keep things simple. One pan meals speak to my soul.

That’s why I take this particular recipe and add veggies to it.

Whatever I have in my refrigerator at the time works.

Last week when I made it I even grated a zucchini into the pan with the meat and no one noticed. If someone does ask what that “green stuff” is, I just say “seasoning.” Tricky, tricky!

Other than adding veggies, I don’t tweak the recipe at all, which is a rare thing for me to say.

Would I make this recipe again? YES.

Should you make it?

If you’re in the mood for a little something sweet for dinner, then yes.

If you want a recipe that’s adaptable and forgiving, then yes.

If you want a recipe that reheats pretty decently for lunch the next day, then yes.

If you need a new way to cook ground beef, then yes.

My picture isn’t as pretty as the one from the recipe and we didn’t eat it with chopsticks, but I guarantee you it tastes delicious!

My tip would be to double the sauce part of the recipe – especially if you add veggies. I like things saucy!

No matter how you make it, just do it. You’ll be happy you did.

Again, here’s the Korean Beef Bowl recipe from Damn Delicious.

Other posts in the Would I Make It Again? series:

Rhubarb Scones











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Would I Make It Again? – Rhubarb Scones

I cook most everyday because it’s socially unacceptable to let my kids eat cereal for every meal the people in my family are always hungry.

Okay, fine. I’m always hungry too. The kids definitely take after me in this regard.

Sometimes I try a new recipe and think, “This would be fun to share with my blog friends.” I might even snap a picture of it, but then I never go on to share it because I only cooked or baked it once. I didn’t test the recipe. I didn’t make it uniquely mine. I didn’t do any of the things actual food blogs do to make sure a recipe is worth sharing.

Probably because this isn’t a food blog. But sometimes I do talk about food. You know I’m thinking about it!

I’m telling you this because I’m going to share some recipes in a new way. If I make something and feel like writing about it – this blog’s content is all about my whims, after all – I’m going to take you along on the journey and let you know if I would make the recipe again. That, my friends, is the true test of a recipe’s staying power – not whether or not it tasted good.

I really wish I had some theme music to cue this one up, but without further ado, here’s the first installment in Would I Make It Again? 

I don’t know anyone who LOVES rhubarb. Do you?

I know these mythical people are out there, but I haven’t met one yet.

I know plenty of people who are okay with rhubarb or indifferent to it or flat-out abhor it, as is Handy Husband’s opinion.

Opinions abound, but I was gifted a bag of frozen rhubarb. And I never turn down free food.

The lady who gave it to me had even diced it up. How nice is that? Seriously nice.

But then I had to figure out what to do with it. By ‘figure out,’ I mean trick Handy Husband into eating it. We’ve been married a long time and I can’t remember exactly, but it seems to me one of my marriage vows was to keep him on his toes.

Deep down, I’m sure he appreciates this about me.

Adding the rhubarb to a pie was the obvious choice.

Handy Husband is smart though. He’d catch onto that one quickly.

I eventually landed on scones. Scones are a normal bakery staple here in Ireland, so I’ve enjoyed some tasty ones. Let’s call all those trips to the bakery “research,” shall we?

I found this recipe for Rhubarb Scones from Taste of Home and it looked worth trying. One of the ingredients was something I wouldn’t normally keep on hand, so I subbed it out, but other than that, the recipe wasn’t complicated.

So, would I make rhubarb scones again? 

You want a yes or no answer, don’t you?

All of the sudden I see how this plan of mine is backfiring. Hmm…

Yes, I would include rhubarb in scones. Yes, these were tasty – especially straight out of the oven. Handy Husband ate most of them and didn’t even realize he was eating rhubarb until I did my victory dance.

Yes, I’m shameless in this regard. I’m sure Handy Husband appreciates this about me.

I’m not convinced this particular scone recipe is my soulmate though. Mainly because I never keep an ingredient like whole wheat pastry flour in my pantry. Do you?

In all fairness, subbing out an ingredient means you’re not making the actual recipe. So take my experience with a grain of whole wheat pastry flour salt.

All in all, I’m pretty happy I experimented with something new. I don’t think I’ve ever baked with rhubarb and it was long past time I remedied that!

I still have a lot of rhubarb left though.

Handy Husband is SO excited.

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Vanilla Coconut Cashews and Almonds

Our household is a bit nutty consumes a lot of nuts: cashews, almonds, pistachios, pecans.

In fact, I just ate a handful of almonds while writing this post.

I’m all about raw nuts for baking and cooking, but for snacking I like a bit of salt.

Sometimes in the afternoons around 3 p.m. I like a bit of sweet.

While procrastinating doing important online research, I saw a recipe for Vanilla Cashew Clusters on Kitchn and I could not make the recipe fast enough.

But first I had to go to the store. Isn’t that always the case? Motivation strikes and you’re missing an ingredient.

But when temptation strikes there’s ALWAYS a pint of ice cream in the freezer. Why is that?

I made my version of the recipe with almonds and cashews because…why not?

Plus, in the midst of mixing up the ingredients I remembered I had some coconut flakes in the cupboard, so I added those in too.

You should know this about me by now…I always try to use up things I have on hand when it makes sense.

I was wondering if the recipe would turn out. Coconut can be tricky to work with and I was worried about over-baking.

I hadn’t even sampled the nuts yet when Handy Husband walked into the kitchen. He was telling me something important. I don’t remember what it was because I was distracted watching him grab a handful of almonds and cashews, munch, tell me the important thing, grab a handful of nuts, munch, etc.

Finally, I said, “So…do you like those?”

“Mmm. Gahshflkjsdh. Mmm.”

I translated that to mean he really enjoyed them. I’m just happy he left me a few!

Whether you make the original recipe or adapt it to fit the ingredients in your cupboard – just make it.


  • Prep Time: 10m
  • Cook Time: 30m
  • Total Time: 40m


  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups raw almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg white


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line a baking sheet (one with a rim is preferable) with parchment paper.
  3. Mix the sugars, salt, cinnamon and coconut in a bowl. Try and make sure there are no clumps. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg white and vanilla until frothy. This might take a minute or two.
  5. Add the nuts to the egg/vanilla mixture. Stir until all nuts are evenly coated.
  6. Sprinkle the sugar/coconut mixture over the nuts, stirring to make sure the nuts are evenly coated with this deliciousness. The mixture will be wet.
  7. Spread the nuts in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Place the sheet in the oven on the middle rack to bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Stir once or twice during the baking process. Check the nuts at the 20 and 25 minute mark – you want the nuts to lightly brown, but you do not want the coconut to get too brown. The nuts will still be slightly moist when you take them out of the oven. They will harden up when they cool. When you remove the baking sheet from the oven, place it on a wire rack to cool. You can break up the nuts with your hands after they’ve cooled.
  8. If the nuts last more than a day, you can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 – 2 weeks and in the refrigerator for up to a month.
  9. The unsweetened coconut flakes will give a slightly savory taste to the sweet of the nuts. Almonds do get pretty crunchy when baked this way. If that bothers you, just replace the almonds with cashews or another nut of your choice. Pecans would be delicious.
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Fresh Raspberry Margarita

I just decided it is unofficial Raspberry Week on this blog. It might be next week too since my in-law’s said they have more berries! If you missed it, do read about how much we love Fresh Raspberry Pie. If you need a quick salad dressing, I make a Berry Balsamic Vinaigrette using raspberry jam that is divine!

Now, let’s get on with the show…

It turns out, there is a super simple way to annoy your family on a hot summer day.

Tell them you are making delicious raspberry margaritas.

Make the glorious, ice-cold margaritas.

Then let the family know they can’t drink the margaritas until you’ve take one billion photos so you can write about this crowd-pleasing drink.

I’ve never seen so many hovering people.

Handy Husband actually made these raspberry margaritas.

He’s the bartender in the family and he takes his job VERY seriously.

He’s charming AND he makes delicious adult beverages. I can now see why he’s the popular one.

Since he does take his bartending duties so seriously, Handy Husband was equal parts enamored and HORRIFIED when he asked The Junk Whisperer where she keeps her blender and she whipped out this beauty…

The Osterizer. Dual Range. Touch-a-matic.

It’s a classic!

After a quick glance around to make sure we hadn’t time-warped back several decades, he said, “does it work?”

That earned him THE LOOK from The Junk Whisperer. “Of course it works!”

I don’t know if the Osterizer can grind up golfballs and iPhones, but it purées raspberries like a dream.

Here’s the recipe:

Handy Husband’s Raspberry Margaritas
(we usually serve these on the rocks, with sugar on the rim)
2 parts tequila
1 part Patron Citronge (or any orange liqueur)
1 part fresh squeezed lime juice
1 part puréed/mashed raspberries
1 part simple syrup (recipe – it’s easy!)

Now, if you just want to make regular margaritas, here’s the recipe:

Handy Husband’s Classic Margarita
(we usually serve these on the rocks, with salt of the rim)
2 parts tequila
1 part Patron Citronge (or any orange liqueur)
2 parts fresh squeezed lime juice
1 part simple syrup (recipe – it’s easy!)

He uses “parts” as a measurement so the recipe can scale however large you want. So, parts can mean ounces or 1/4 cups or 1 cup, etc. It just depends on how many you want to make and how large your glasses are!

Please drink responsibly. Yes, that means you.

In case you were concerned, all annoyances about my impromptu photo shoot were forgotten after tasting one…or two of Handy Husband’s Raspberry Margaritas.

And he was perfectly happy to continue being the popular one.

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Fresh Raspberry Peach Pie

My in-laws love to garden – especially when it comes to growing fruits and vegetables.

I LOVE that my in-laws love to grow fruits and vegetables.

You can see where this is going, right?


Straight into my belly.

Shameless fruit and veggie moocher over here.

This week’s haul was two huge bowls of sun-ripened raspberries! You’d think my in-laws were just being generous because they were happy to see us. We don’t get to visit very often anymore since we live a continent and an ocean way. However, a giving spirit comes naturally to them. It’s really a beautiful thing.

With great flourish, I took the berries to the Junk Whisperer’s house, where I’m staying during the summer holiday. I definitely did might have even said, “TADA!” when I got home.

We briefly considered making jam, but realized we could mooch some jam off of another family member. Shameless, I tell you.

The most logical thing to do, in that case, was to make a pie. A fresh berry pie.

If you haven’t had a fresh berry pie, you need to rectify that situation straight away.

The “fresh” part of the pie description means the berries are NOT cooked and this pie needs to be refrigerated.

A fresh berry pie is like tasting summer on your tongue.

And I don’t mean an Irish summer where it rains every other day. A proper, warm, sunny summer like I’m enjoying now in Oregon.

It’s THAT good. Especially with a generous amount dollop of whipped cream on top.

Now, I know what you’re thinking…

Seriously, woman! Where are the peaches? The title of this post is Fresh Raspberry PEACH pie, after all.

This is where I get to use my favorite movie line ever, the secret’s in the sauce!

Here’s the deal. The glaze for this fresh berry pie is flavored with dry jello mix.

We didn’t have any type of berry jello and the Junk Whisperer lives in the middle of nowhere, so a quick run to the store is not practical. However, she did have peach jello. When faced with the choice of no pie or improvise, clearly we improvised.

The great debate of the evening was whether or not we preferred the peach glaze over a raspberry glaze for this particular pie.

Some families debate politics. Ours debates pie. There are no losers when it comes to pie entitlements…except for the person who misses out on the last piece.

Whether or not you play it safe with a raspberry glaze on a raspberry pie or venture out with the peach one, fresh berry pie will make everyone happy!

P.S. When peach season comes around, actual fresh peaches combined with fresh raspberries would be SO, SO good.

To Make This Pie:

For the glaze and general pie instructions, I use this one from Southern Hospitality. I always add more berries though.

For the crust, you can use your favorite recipe (I use one from Betty Crocker) or you can buy pre-made pie crust at the grocery store. Just make sure you bake and cool the crust before adding the berries and glaze. I also try to let the glaze cool a bit before pouring it over the berries – again, you don’t want cooked berries. You CAN eat the pie right away then, but it is better to refrigerate the pie for awhile in order for the glaze to firm up.


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Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup

Any Iron Chef fans out there?

Anyone like to try weird food combinations?

Well, buckle up Buttercup, because today I’m going to take your tastebuds on a virtual trip to the beautiful country of Hungary.

I learned a lot about Hungary in the last month because my daughter recently completed the mother of all a very lovely school project on Hungary and Slovenia in celebration of European Union Day. The final requirement of her project was to prepare a dish from each of the countries she studied and share it with the kids and parents at school. No pressure.

For Slovenia she made a braided bread. Read about it here.

For Hungary, we could have gone the predictable route and made goulash. I’m guessing each kid who has studied Hungary for the past 10 years has brought goulash to school on European Union Day. I know this because it was the teacher’s first suggestion. “Just make a goulash and bring that in.”

Oh, no, no, no. I’m plenty predictable about a wide variety of things. But I…I mean, my daughter…cannot bring in the food that has always been brought in. Where’s the originality in that? Plus, cold goulash sounds gross.

Okay…perhaps my response to this situation actually was predictable. But they don’t know that.

So “we” did some research and decided to make another Hungarian favorite, Sour Cherry Soup.

Feast your eyes!

It certainly does have a ‘look’ to it, doesn’t it? Whoo-Whee!!! In the southern U.S. they’d say, “bless its heart.”

Sour Cherry Soup is a dessert soup that is served chilled. It’s actually not at all sour, unless you’re using super tart cherries.

“We” decided this interesting dessert would be best sampled in a shot glass.

Always keeping it classy over here.

For the record, I did purchase cute little spoons, but the parents didn’t use them. I think there might be an Irish drinking joke in there somewhere, but I’ll just let that be.

(I swear she was excited…just not about mom taking her picture.)

This soup would have tasted better to me if I had not seen what it looked like. Does that make sense? Very visual over here. When the soup settled, it had a grainy look to it. I think that might have something to do with the ingredients not mixing correctly? I made the recipe the first time by myself and then tried to correct for this problem when my daughter made the recipe, but it didn’t work. So maybe that’s just how it is? I’m not sure. A visit to Hungary may be needed to answer this riddle.

However, Handy Husband, the man who hates broccoli, cauliflower and celeriac, ate an entire bowl of it and enjoyed it! My daughter liked it too. The parents at school also thought it tasted alright and could see how it would be enjoyable on a hot, summer day. The Irish dream about hot summer days.

The soup kind of tastes like a runny, spiced yogurt. It’s made with cherries, sour cream, cinnamon sticks, cloves, water and sugar. The clove and cinnamon taste is very strong.

The biggest thing my daughter and I took away from this project was that it wasn’t about us.  It didn’t matter whether or not we fell in love with this dish. What was important was to understand why it is enjoyed in Hungary. Different cultures have different traditions, different tastes. If we don’t try, we’ll never know! If we don’t experience it, we’ll never understand. We might not be able to walk a mile in their shoes, but we sure can taste their Sour Cherry Soup.

That said, I’m happy this project is complete. School projects seem to take on a life of their own!

If you’d like to make the recipe, you can find it on the Visit Budapest website.

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Another Vegetable My Husband Hates

Here’s the deal.

1. My husband LOVES when I write about him. It makes sense because he is my favorite writing topic. Well, one of my favorite writing topics. He’s definitely up there in the top 10 with felt, bread, embroidery thread and fabric glue. Oh, and my kids. Can’t forget them.

2. I purposefully picked a sensational headline for this post because I’m curious to see how long it takes Handy Husband to notice. Also, scandal sells.

3. This is an absolutely, completely true story. I should feel slightly bad about how it ends, but I don’t.

First, a little background information. For the entire length of our 20 some odd year (I’m losing count) relationship, Handy Husband has been steadfast about two things. His love for me, of course. And his absolute loathing of broccoli and cauliflower.

He will eat broccoli and cauliflower raw, but he refuses to eat it cooked. He doesn’t even want to be in the same house as cooked broccoli and cauliflower. So when I need a little alone time…

To put this another way, the man ate a dill pickle-flavored mint the other day, but throw a little broccoli in a stir fry and THAT is what makes him gag.

Now that I’ve set the stage with that riveting back story, here’s how it all went down.

A couple of weeks ago I was doing my usual ‘speed walk and shop’ through the grocery store when I spied something new. Something I had never heard of before. Celeriac.

Oh, celeriac.

You had me at distinctive and nutty.

That’s kind of how I describe myself, actually.

The celeriac was €1.50 ($1.50), so I decided that was a low risk purchase for a possible high reward. Plus, we’d be trying something new! Look at us being all adventurous and stuff.

I asked the checkout lady how to prepare the celeriac and she basically told me with her Irish accent to peel, cube, boil and mash it. Just like potatoes. At least, I think that’s what she said. Sometimes the Irish accent can be VERY hard to understand before I’ve had my daily coffee quota.

Handy Husband immediately spied this new oddity sitting on the counter when he got home.

He’s the type of person that reads the manuals that come with everything appliances, so it didn’t surprise me when he went online to learn more about this funny-looking vegetable.

From the other room I could hear him hollering, “celeriac can last 6 – 8 months if stored in a cool, dry place!” Some women get sweet nothings whispered in their ears. I get facts about root vegetables hollered from across the house. Try to contain your envy.

Celeriac is a variety of celery that is cultivated especially for the root. It originates from the Mediterranean, but celeriac now grows wild in Northern Europe and other places.

Celeriac can be eaten raw or cooked.

My daughter and I both tried a piece raw and it tasted almost exactly like regular celery. It gives you a little mind trip to eat something that looks like a potato, feels like a carrot, but tastes like celery.

After I had peeled and cubed the celeriac, I put it on the stove to boil.

By the way, did you notice the ‘hot hob’ label on my cooker (stove)? ‘Hot hob’ and ‘cooker’ are terms widely used here in Ireland. ‘Hot hob’ still cracks me up almost a year later.

I have not gotten around to purchasing an electric mixer since moving to Ireland, so I mashed the celeriac with a muddler. No, I don’t have a potato masher either. Cooking with me is all about the improv! One way or another, I get the job done.

I added salt, cream and butter to the celeriac as I was mashing it – much how I would make mashed potatoes.

Here’s where the experiment went off its ever-loving-rails.

It turns out that while raw celeriac tastes like celery, cooked celeriac does not.

Oh. my. heavens. You’d have thought I was trying to purposefully poison Handy Husband.

“You didn’t tell me it tasted like CAULIFLOWER!” he said.

Oh, dear. Did I forget to mention that part?

In all fairness, we tell the kids they can’t possibly know if they like or don’t like a food until they try it. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said that this week in the last decade, I’d be rich.

I thought I should apply the same principles to Handy Husband. How could I possibly know he would loathe, detest and abhor this vegetable?

Oh, I knew. I totally knew.

Handy Husband would have been much happier if I had given him a heads up about the celeriac’s cooked flavor. I should probably feel bad about not giving him a warning, but I don’t. What I feel is a bit of amusement remembering the look on his face! Plus, the next night when I left his dinner plate in the refrigerator (he often gets home super late from work), he gave it a poke and a sniff before asking me if I tried to hide any celeriac in that night’s dish.

I just smiled.

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Slovenian Braided Bread

Here’s the cool thing about going to school in Europe. You get to learn about European countries and history in great detail and so do your parents.

Your parents get to learn so. darn. much. with. these. school. projects. Aren’t they lucky?

European Union Day was on May 9th. Or 9 May as they would type in Ireland. I’m fairly certain I’m one big walking typo around these parts. Oh well.

EU Day is intended to celebrate peace and unity throughout the countries in the European Union. Admittedly, the unity part of this day has been put under some strain of late. Hello, Brexit, I’m talking to you!

On 9 May, my daughter and her class presented their European Country Projects to the rest of the school and the parents. In addition to a written project, each student prepared a food from their assigned country.

One of the foods we made was a braided bread from Slovenia. Slovenia is located in Central Europe and is next to Italy, Hungary and Austria. You’re going to have to read more about this fascinating country on your own because this post is about bread.

Which reminds me…I feel the need to share with you this song.

For those of you that watched that (or started to), how much do you hate me right now? HAHAHAHA. You’re welcome! HAHAHAHA!

To quote the song in the above YouTube video that WILL get stuck in your head, “B-R-E-A-D I love bread and bread loves me.” If you hear my children singing this song over and over and over, now you know where they got it from. I just can’t imagine why this song hasn’t made it on the Top 100 list yet.

Although, I do love bread. So, let’s get back to the very important topic at hand. Slovenian Braided Bread.

My daughter and I made two types of Slovenian braided bread. Teaching my children to bake and cook is on the list of things I’m trying to get better at. Mainly because I want them to move out some day enjoy the benefits of cooking tasty meals when they have a home of their own.

Since we were baking the day before the project was due and didn’t make time to test the recipes in advance, I decided we’d make two different recipes and take whichever one was the best to school.

The first loaf was an adaptation of a traditional Slovenian recipe for Bosman (braided bread) and it came from Slovenian Roots Quest. This yeast-based recipe includes eggs and I agree with the author, it turns out kind of like a challah bread.

After mixing the dough I was skeptical this recipe was going to turn out well. My dough seemed tough even after kneading it for 10 minutes by hand. In ‘bread kneading time’ this pretty much feels like FOREVER. I was worried the dough wasn’t going to rise, but it did. PHEW!

I served this bread warm from the oven with homemade soup. It was tasty smeared with butter and the kids liked dipping the bread in their soup. I tried the bread as toast the next day and it was good, but not as good as the day before.

The recipe creator said they used it to make french toast. I can see how that would be a great fit with this bread as it had a dense quality that would soak up the egg and milk mixture nicely.

The next braided bread recipe came from Global Table Adventure. The author called this one Pleteno Scre, which is an ornamental braided bread shaped into a heart. This is a bread that would be served at weddings or baby showers – special times.

I skipped the more ornate decorations that are typically put on this braided bread because, again, I was trying the recipe for the first time. My patience skills have their limits during special times school project time.

This recipe is yeast-based and includes eggs and sugar. Also, rum. How can anything be bad if it’s made with rum…and served at a school function?

This bread was definitely sweeter than the first recipe. I wouldn’t call it a full-on sweet bread, but it was trending in that direction. Like the first bread, it was denser than a typical white bread.

Again, I thought this bread was best served fresh that first day. I’m not sure if that’s a reflection on the bread or on my attempt at baking it. Maybe all bread is best fresh out of the oven!

My biggest takeaway from this school project experience was that it was fun, interesting and rewarding to try a bread that is quite literally foreign to me. As I explained to my daughter, it’s not so much about whether or not we like the bread (even though we did), but in understanding what other cultures enjoy and what they serve to commemorate happy milestones in their lives. Those milestones, quite frankly, are similar throughout every culture and country. The traditions might be different, but the intent of showering love on those important to them is not.

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Secret to Making Store-Bought Spaghetti Sauce Taste Good

For all of you Martha Stewart types out there who are canning your organic tomatoes and slow cooking your tomato sauce all day long, please invite me over to dinner. I’ll bring wine. And my undying gratitude.

For the rest of us who say “Crud! It’s dinner time. Again!” (and there must be plenty because I see a lot of tomato and pasta sauce on the grocery store shelves) this post is for you.

In general and in real loosey-goosey terms, I’ve found the more expensive pasta sauce at the grocery store tastes better than the least expensive sauce. I’m not sure why. Maybe they simmered it longer to let the flavors meld in perfect harmony. Maybe they only planted their tomatoes on a full moon while broadcasting classical sonatas to the young tomato starts. Maybe I’ve convinced myself it tastes better because I was just suckered into buying an $8 jar of spaghetti sauce that’s only large enough to feed a toddler.

We’ll never know. We’ll never want to know.

What “tastes better” means to me is that I do less to the sauce while preparing it. I’m not a “dump it in a pan and heat it up” girl. Although, my children might not notice the difference – so more power to you if this is your routine. No judging here. I just ate a chocolate chip off the floor. At least I think it was a chocolate chip. No judging!

Typically when I’m making pasta using a store-bought jar of sauce, I always add sautéed garlic and onion. Sometimes I add ground beef, pork or sausage. If I have fresh herbs on hand, which I never do, but if I did, I’d add those.

Mainly I’m adding salt and dried herbs to the sauce. Basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, etc. Whatever combination that suits my fancy that particular night. And don’t ask me how much I add. It’s a sprinkle it in, taste, sprinkle it in, taste, dump some more in, taste, etc. kind of process.

Oh, the other thing I do, and this isn’t the secret, is I add a hidden vegetable to the sauce. I do this mainly because I have one child who is a picky eater and he can’t tell that I grated a carrot or a zucchini into the spaghetti sauce. In fact, no one seems to notice that I do this. Not even “he who has the refined palate” aka Handy Husband. It adds important nutrients to the dish and makes the dish go farther too. Win, win.

And no, in case you are wondering, I have no aim to be authentic in my recipes. I just have an aim to eat tasty, nutritious food.

So let’s just forget I told you about that chocolate chip. Okay? Thanks so much.

The secret to making store-bought tomato-based pasta sauce taste better is (drum roll please) a sprinkle of sugar.

Yep. Sugar. Regular white sugar.

Just start with a teaspoon sprinkled into the sauce and you can add more from there if necessary. You’re not trying to make your sauce sweet. Oh no.

What the sugar does, for some reason, is it cuts that acid taste of the tomatoes down. Do you know what acidic taste I’m talking about? That’s that best way I can describe it and it is particularly prevalent in inexpensive pasta sauce. The sauce isn’t savory…it has a hollow bite to it that’s just not pleasant in your mouth. A teeny bit of sugar will cure this.

By the way, no self-respecting, authentic Italian chef would ever use this technique. They probably won’t read this blog post either, so I think we’re safe.

I’m so happy I finally get to say…the secret’s in the sauce! (Name that movie!) You know I’ve been waiting a LONG time to work that one in.

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