Category Archives: Food

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.

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.

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.

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.

Recipes (Mainly) From Ireland

I’ve done some “research” and came up with a sampling of Irish recipes I’d like you all to try in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day. If I tried them all in the next week, I’m sure my body would protest in one way or another. So let’s spread the love around!

While I tried to skew this list in favor of authentic Irish recipes, I did make a couple of exceptions in the interest of culinary expressionism. In other words, I lead with my stomach.


Irish Cream

The Irish do love their whiskey and Irish Cream is typically made with Irish whiskey. This recipe from Good Housekeeping is not from Ireland, but it looks delicious. There’s a non-alcoholic version as well…which is probably why the recipe is not from Ireland.


Irish Brown Bread

Brown bread is served with almost every meal in Ireland. I exaggerate, but not by much. If you are ordering soup or salad in a restaurant, it will be served with brown bread.

Brown bread is a baking soda-based bread instead of a yeast bread. I’m not completely sold on the brown bread concept, but that’s mainly because I find the results completely inconsistent from restaurant to restaurant and bakery to bakery. When it’s good, it’s quite enjoyable.

I have not tried to make Irish Brown Bread myself, but that’s mainly because I’m still infatuated with my Dave’s Killer Bread knock off recipe and I can buy brown bread in any grocery store or bakery here in Ireland.

Here’s a brown bread recipe from an Irish site.

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Irish Stew

What I liked about the recipe for Irish Stew on We Love Donegal was the author explained the history of Irish Stew and why it was made the way it was made. Modern day versions that include alcohol cannot claim to be traditional Irish Stew because peasants in the early days prior to 1759 would not have had Guinness. 1759 is when Arthur Guinness started brewing beer.

Even if you don’t plan on making this stew, learning about its origins is interesting. Really.

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Boxty (Irish Potato Pancakes)

Another food that’s not hard to find at a restaurant in Ireland are potato pancakes. Locals will probably refer to them as Boxty.

The recipe is easy to make, but this one requires using raw potatoes and leftover mashed potatoes. Having leftover mashed potatoes on hand would require some planning for this household.

Get the recipe at Irish Central

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Irish Barmbrack

Barmbrack is a sort of fruitcake-like bread that is really popular in Ireland around Halloween. However, you can buy it in Irish grocery stores year-round. I saw it this week!

When the recipe refers to a “fruit mix,” it’s largely talking about raisins and sultanas. To me, raisins and sultanas are all dried grapes. Technically speaking, raisins are dried white grapes. Sultanas are dried white seedless grapes from Turkey. Huge difference, huh? Here’s where I learned so much about dried grapes. I am committed to the cause of sharing the smallest details with you. You’re welcome.

Get the recipe at Donal Skehan.

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Guinness Brownies

I have to include a recipe with Guinness, don’t I? Guinness is based in Dublin, if you weren’t aware. We (along with the kids) have toured the Guinness Storehouse and we all enjoyed it. Even us non-beer drinkers in the family. And no, we weren’t the only ones who brought kids on a tour of a brewery.

Guinness often finds its way into our house, so this recipe is on my to-bake list. I think Handy Husband would be okay with sacrificing 3/4 cup of Guinness for some delicious tasting treats.

Get the recipe at Life, Love and Sugar.
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If this list seems a bit overwhelming to you, might I suggest it would be easier, albeit more expensive, to travel to Ireland and experience this country’s cuisine firsthand. You’ll be so happy you did!

Living in Ireland: Grocery Shopping

I don’t want to brag (or do I?), but I feel like quite the pro when it comes to procuring groceries for our family sans automobile.

(If you’re new here: We moved to Ireland from the USA. We haven’t tried driving here – yet. Public transportation and walking for the win!)

Grocery shopping without a vehicle requires a bit of planning. For instance, I don’t want to purchase all the heavy stuff in one trip because I have to carry it home in a backpack or reusable shopping bag.

More or less, I’m purchasing what we will consume that day or the next. No bulk shopping here. A jumbo pack of toilet paper is AWESOME – except when you have to haul it a mile down the street. It becomes awkward. On so many levels.

Today I want to take you on a virtual shopping trip of my local grocery store. By and large, the store’s presentation is similar to what you’d see at your local Safeway, Kroger or Walmart.

The differences are in the details.

For instance, this section of the meat case is devoted entirely to lamb. I’d say lamb meat is much more prevalent in Ireland than in the United States. They must not sing Mary Had a Little Lamb as kids.

(The dollar and the euro are getting close to 1:1, if that helps you decide what the prices mean. )


The Irish also LOVE their pork.

This is an entire section devoted to “rashers” or bacon. (There’s another 10-foot section for other cuts of pork out of camera frame.)

These types of rashers are what I would equate to super thinly sliced boneless pork chops. They taste great, but they aren’t bacon. If you want American-style bacon you need to purchase streaky rashers. That will be closer, but they still don’t crisp up quite the same.

Then there’s a special sort of Irish meat: black and white pudding.

Calling it meat might be over-selling it.

Black pudding is a type of blood sausage. It’s made with pork blood, fat and oatmeal. There might be a few other ingredients in there, but I think we can stop with blood.

I had the pleasure of eating black pudding at Christmas dinner and I actually enjoyed it. It was prepared in such a way that it was a little crispy and quite flavorful – not at all off-putting. I’m not sure I’d go out-of-my-way to order it at a restaurant though.

White pudding is pretty much the same as black pudding, but without the blood. Oh, yay.


Let’s move on to the condiment aisle.

Need some salad dressing? How about salad cream?

I just haven’t been able to bring myself to try it yet…should I?

I’ve been making this easy berry balsamic recipe at home instead.


Interestingly enough, ranch-flavored salad dressing is not a thing in Ireland. There are garlic and herb dressings, but if you’ve grown up with American-style ranch dressing you will know it’s not the same. The ONE brand of ranch dressing I’ve found here comes from the USA and it is Newman’s Own brand.

Moving on to soups, I haven’t tried this doozy.

Oxtail soup.

But it was on sale!

I should have gone for it.


Bread is pretty inexpensive in Ireland.

I’m not sure why that is, other than bakeries are very common. The Irish seem to prefer bread and pastries over crackers for snacks. Crackers aren’t that prevalent. This has been hard for my kids to get used to. I think my son survived on crackers and grapes for an entire year once…or so it seemed. Those toddler years are a bit of a blur.

Barmbrack is a sort of sweet bread – usually with raisins and sultanas inside.

I think I’ve mentioned waffles before on the blog. Waffles and pancakes are sold on-the-shelf. Much to my children’s dismay, they cannot get blueberry freezer waffles here. They can’t get any frozen waffles. Perhaps I should break down and purchase a waffle maker?

I’m sure it’s becoming apparent to you that my children have highly refined tastebuds.

I will leave you with one final picture.

It’s of another product that I cannot bring myself to try. At least not yet.

I think it’s something to do with the name.


Have you tried mushy peas? Did they make your tastebuds so happy you bought the value pack? Mushy peas are served a lot in restaurants in Ireland, so it’s quite the normal thing around these parts.

Well, this concludes today’s virtual shopping trip. Let me know what other things you are curious about in Ireland. I’d be happy to share more of life in this great country with you through my expat lens.

Recipe to Try: Dill Bread

This post is all about delicious dill bread, but I have to tell you the back story first. There’s always a back story.

Much to my utter dismay and disbelief, I have discovered that pickles are not big in Ireland. There is no section for pickles at the grocery store. There are not multiple shelves for pickles. There are not countless varieties of pickles: sweet, spicy, dill, stackers, hamburger chips, spears, etc. Nope. None of that delicious excess exists here. How do they survive?

Each of the two grocery stores in my area carries one type of pickle. One single type and it can be found in the section with the Polish food.

The pickles aren’t bad, but they aren’t “drop everything and eat the whole jar” good. Apparently, that’s my standard. When they go low, I go high.

It took me six months, but enough was enough. I decided to make my own pickles. Except you can’t buy pickling cucumbers in Ireland. At least not in January. I’m guessing not ever. My husband tells me to stop being so optimistic. I had to use regular cucumbers instead.

I also couldn’t find pickling spice, so I needed to make my own. It’s easier than you think! Especially when you only use half the ingredients.

I was pretty stoked to find fresh dill though! I got a little carried away when I purchased the dill because I didn’t really know how much I’d need and measuring isn’t really my thing. I’m more of a “wing-it and hope it works” kind of gal, which is why the Food Network is never going to ring me up. I stopped crying over that before I even started.

The homemade pickles turned out fantastic, which is a shame because I’ll never be able to recreate them exactly the same way. When I was done making my spicy dill pickles I had a bunch of leftover dill that I did not want to go to waste. I remembered that a long time ago in a country far, far away I used to bake a dill bread recipe shared by The Pioneer Woman. It was delicious. It was time to bake this great recipe again.


The interesting thing about this dill bread recipe is that it includes a cup of cottage cheese.

Cottage cheese is one of those things that you eat on diets, right?

So this bread is practically diet-approved. You’re welcome.

Here’s what the dough looks like when it rises.


The first thing that I should have done when making this bread was to cover my dough halfway through the baking process.

My oven browns food a little too quickly for my liking. Ovens are quirky, aren’t they?

While my bread would have looked prettier if I would have covered it with foil during the baking process, it was still quite tasty. Thank heavens.


The other thing I shoulda, coulda, woulda done was actually follow the recipe.

I know, I know. Details, details.

The recipe called for dill seed. I didn’t have that ingredient, but I had fresh dill!

Normally, fresh ingredients are always better, but in this case, I think the dill flavor comes through more clearly when using dill seed rather than fresh dill. Just my opinion.


What I do not regret is the next picture.

Butter is life. Say it with me, “butter is life.”

You won’t regret it. Unless your doctor puts the kibosh on butter. Don’t come here for medical advice, folks. I have none. I just bake stuff and eat it. Then I walk five miles.


I served this dill bread for dinner with a salad on the side. See? Totally healthy! My kids loved the bread too, which really surprised me. Sometimes new flavors freak their little tastebuds out in all the wrong ways. I’m happy that didn’t happen this time. Except that meant I had to share. The struggle is real. The struggle is real.

If you want the recipe, find it here. You do want it. You do.

Cheesy Sweet Potato Sausage Bread Knots

Cheese. Italian Sausage. Bread.

Seriously. What’s not to love about this scenario?

Besides. We’re in the holiday season…I think we can all use a little comfort food right now.

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These bread knots are like having a sandwich all wrapped up in a nice, convenient, easy-to-devour bundle.

If you wanted to be really healthy you could serve these bread knots with a salad. You know, to make it a well-rounded meal or something crazy like that.

That’s actually what I did, but my judgment is a little questionable.

I recently asked my hair stylist to cut my hair in such a way that when it was whipped by the wind, pelted by rain and smashed by my jacket hood I wouldn’t look like a crazy lady picking her kids up from school. That should be no problem, right?

He replied to me completely deadpan in his Irish accent, “the hair isn’t going to help that, love.”

Hahahahaha. I adore that man.

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This breadapoolza is the adaptation of the Sweet Potato Bread Knots recipe from the Tasty Kitchen site.

I’ve made the original bread knots recipe countless times and wrote about it here. The rolls are always tender, flavorful and a hit whenever I serve them. I enjoy these rolls so much more than a regular dinner roll.

Plus, they are super easy to make. If my 9-year-old can twist bread dough into a knot, surely you can. Surely.

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Just grab a plum-sized hunk of dough and roll it with your fingers until it is approximately a 10-inch long strip.

I’ve found it works better to use a lightly floured surface for this so that the dough doesn’t stick to itself when you twist it into the knot like so:

(my fingers this time, not my 9-year-olds)

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Bada-bing, bada-bang.

I can tie bread into a knot, but my youngest still can’t tie his shoes.

Hmmm…priorities? Nah.

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When the rolls come out of the oven, I brush them with a mixture of olive oil and minced garlic.

I rarely mince my own garlic anymore. Real chefs would be horrified, I’m sure, but I like the convenience of garlic already minced and in a nice, ready-to-use tube from the grocery store.

The irony is not lost on me that I will take the time to make rolls from scratch, but not to mince garlic.

If there are any rolls leftover (ha!), they store well in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

I store all of my bread in the refrigerator or freezer though…

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Whether you make the original Sweet Potato Bread Knots recipe or this heartier version, you definitely won’t be disappointed.

Your belly will be happy you made them! I can’t speak for your thighs though.


CHEESY SWEET POTATO SAUSAGE BREAD KNOTS
Recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 envelope (7g Envelope) active dry yeast (approx 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to oil the bowl
  • ½ cups sweet potato puree (fresh or canned)
  • 3-½ cups while flour (you can also use unbleached bread flour)
  • 1-½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 cup cooked Italian sausage
  • 1 cup grated Edam cheese (or any Swiss-type cheese)
  • Minced garlic, olive oil, and kosher salt to brush on baked knots (optional)

Note: If you are making fresh sweet potato puree, you can do this two ways. I usually bake the sweet potatoes. When the potatoes finish baking, discard the skin and mash the potatoes with a fork. A few lumps are not going to matter in this recipe. You can also peel the potatoes, dice them into 1-inch chunks and then boil them until soft. Drain the potatoes and mash.

Directions

  1. Cook Italian sausage over medium heat. Set aside. While sausage is cooking, grate cheese.
  2. While all of that is happening, start your dough. Add warm water and honey to a medium bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top. Let sit, covered in a warm spot for 10 minutes or so until the yeast is nice and frothy. Then add olive oil and mashed sweet potato. Whisk until thoroughly combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix flour and salt. Slowly stir in dry ingredients to your bowl of wet ingredients. When the ingredients are about halfway incorporated, stir in sausage and cheese. Continue to stir until it becomes impossible to stir more. Then use your hands to continue mixing and slowly start kneading your dough, adding more flour to your hands to keep it from sticking. You don’t need to knead this bread a lot. Just make sure it is well incorporated and not too sticky.
  4. Once you’ve created your dough ball, add olive oil to the bottom of your bowl and roll the dough ball in it until it is coated. Cover with Saran wrap or a damp towel and store in a warm, dry place (I use my microwave) for two hours.
  5. Around the last 15-minute mark, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Divide your dough into plum-sized pieces you can easily hold in your fist (you should be able to get 12 rolls out of this recipe). Roll the pieces on a lightly-floured surface into long strips around 9 or 10-inches long. Don’t worry if they’re skinny, they’ll still get fat when they bake. Tie each into a knot, tuck the edges under each side, then place each on a pizza stone or baking sheet.
  6. Bake until golden, around 10-15 minutes. (Mine took about 12 minutes, so keep an eye on them and check the bottoms of the rolls so they don’t get too dark.) Brush with a mixture of minced garlic and olive oil immediately after removing from oven. Allow to cool 3-5 minutes. Enjoy!

Living in Ireland: Groceries

Food. We all need it. We all hope someone else will cook it for us. Am I right?

One of the questions I often get about Ireland is how much do groceries cost?

Because I’m a smart aleck, I like to say “it depends.”

Seriously, though. It really does.

In general, I find things like cereal or pre-packaged foods (e.g. macaroni and cheese) to be more expensive – especially if you want a brand name. If you are okay with store brands, then you can find great deals.

So far, I find produce and dairy products to be very reasonably priced and of excellent quality.

It does crack me up that orange juice with pulp is called orange juice with bits. I love that. Also, I can make two separate dishes out of that 2 lb. package of hamburger for our family of four. Or, we can eat tacos all week…but I’m the only one who thinks that’s okay in this house.

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Here’s an example of one recent grocery trip and a sampling of what some of those items cost.

Bag of sweet potatoes – €1.46
Carrots – €.89
Grapes -€ 2.19
Banana – €.36 each
String cheese 8 count – €2.03 (it was on sale)
Blueberries – €2.19
Red Peppers – €1.50
Bag of Salad Greens – €1.15
Chicken – €5.00
Chocolate Milk – €1.59
Coffee – €6.50 (that size was on sale)

All of the items below totaled €32.38. If you are converting euros to U.S. dollars, a rough estimation is €1 = $1.10. So, the below items cost $35.23.

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Here’s another example for you with some non-food items and a sampling of what some of those items cost.

Frozen shampoo – €2.69
Large black trash bags – €1.99
Small white trash bags – €1.00
Clothespins – €2.85
Hand soap – €1.64 each
Contact lens solution – €8.27
Brown (wheat) flour – €1.85
OxyClean – €3.30
Baking Yeast – €1.89
Salsa – €1.00
Artisan bread – €2.00
Cereal (500 g) – €4.49
Laundry detergent (21 washes) – €1.79

This shopping trip, which also included some dairy items that weren’t in this picture, was €49.56, which is $54.09.

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Grocery stores here offer a loyalty card with various vouchers or coupons that you can earn. I mainly shop at Tesco because of convenience, quality and price. I do shop at SuperValu for items I can’t find at Tesco (such as molasses). Their prices are higher, but their customer service is amazing. Lidl also has stores here and then there are a variety of organic-type stores too. It’s also very common to see stand-alone butcher shops and bakeries.

Self-checkout is really popular in Ireland and it’s a lot easier than what I was used to in the United States. That’s mainly because everything – even produce – has a barcode. So they are mainly selling items by unit, not by weight.

If you are in a lane with a cashier, it is not unusual to see the cashier sitting on a cushioned barstool instead of standing. Also, it doesn’t matter what lane you are in, you have to bag everything yourself. If you don’t have a bag and need one, you’ll have to pay for it. To contrast, clothing stores are more than happy to give you a free bag for your purchases.

All in all, I’d venture to say we are spending a little less on groceries than we did in the United States. What I am most happy about is that we waste virtually zero food. I attribute this to the frequency of my grocery shopping (almost daily) and because we don’t have room to store a lot of extra food. Food doesn’t have a chance to spoil when you are buying smaller quantities more frequently. Go figure! In my past experience, the more often I went to the store, the more often I’d buy stuff we didn’t need. I haven’t fallen prey to that reality here simply because I have to carry everything I buy home – either in a backpack or a reusable shopping bag. I can’t emphasize enough how this really helps you prioritize your purchases! My biceps seem to benefit too. We don’t have any plans to get a car, but if we do, all bets are off.

Apple Cider Muffins

You guys. I got my behind kicked this week by a little bug called strep throat. I volunteered at school for the first time and two days later it feels like I’m swallowing glass. Coincidence?!?!

Anyway, I walked (yes, walked) myself to the doctor to get some antibiotics and on the way there I stepped in dog poop. If I hadn’t been looking at the sign that says “bin your poo,” I probably would have avoided that landmine. It really wasn’t my day, but I’m sure it could have been worse. By the way, never assume your doctor’s office is sterile.

The doctor prescribed penicillin to treat the strep and I can’t ever recall taking penicillin. I didn’t realize one of the side effects is nausea. In my case, bad nausea. Handy Husband was kind of enough to Google the side effects for me while we were laying in bed last night. Then he casually mentions it is common to develop a black, hairy tongue while taking penicillin too. Talk about burying the lead! I rolled over and asked him if he wanted to check that out for me. Funny thing is, he declined!

I’m calling in sick today so I can obsessively check my tongue in the mirror. The only thing that sounds good to my nauseated stomach and still not 100% throat is this apple cider muffin recipe I made last year. I’m eating one as I type and sharing the recipe again with you now.


I’m not sure there is an eloquent way to say that I stuffed my face with these apple cider muffins.

On the off chance there is, that clearly wasn’t the way to say it.

You’ll forgive me after you’ve tasted these muffins.

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There is no way my pictures can convey how happy your mouth will be when you taste these apple cider muffins.

I also cannot adequately convey how crushed your willpower will be when you try to only eat one.

Am I making myself clear about how good these are? Okay. Let me brush the cinnamon sugar off my keyboard so we can move on…

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I first made this recipe last October after finding it on the awesome site, Sally’s Baking Addiction.

The muffins were extraordinarily delicious when I made them a year ago. However, this fall,  I wanted to see if I could punch the recipe up with more flavor and wholesome goodness.

This is the kind of challenge I can get behind.

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And really, it didn’t take much.

I made sure to spice up my cider reduction with cloves.

I also grated an entire apple into the batter.

Adding actual fruit to the recipe is my way of justifying the assault on my willpower that these muffins created.

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I’d feel much happier and less guilty about today’s muffin consumption and tomorrow’s muffin-top if you’d make these muffins too. If anyone needs me, I’ll be on the treadmill.

Apple Cider Muffins
(recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction: Spiced Apple Cider Donut Holes)

Muffin Ingredients
1 1/4 cups apple cider
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 generous teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, room temperature
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk (you can mix 2 tsp white vinegar or lemon juice with 1/2 cup milk and let it sit for 5 minutes to make your own buttermilk. I mixed mine right in the measuring cup.)
1 – 2 teaspoons vanilla (I accidentally splashed more in and liked the results. HA!)
1 large apple grated (Core the apple, but leave the peelings on when you grate it.)

Topping Ingredients
3/4 cup sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter

1. Simmer apple cider and 5 -10 cloves (or a sprinkling of ground cloves) on medium-low heat for 15 – 20 minutes or until the cider reduces to 1/2 cup. Let the cider cool slightly.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease mini-muffin pan and set aside.

3. Combine flour, baking power, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt together in a large bowl.

4. In a different bowl, whisk the egg, melted butter, and both types of sugar together until smooth. Then whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla and 1/2 cup of concentrated apple cider.

5. Gently mix the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients until combined. Don’t over mix.

6. Grate the apple into your batter and gently mix in.

7. Fill the muffin tins to about 3/4 of the way full.

8. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The added apple in this recipe gives the muffins more moisture, so mine took the full amount to bake – just watch yours closely as it approaches 10 minutes. Okay? Thanks.

9. For the topping, combine the sugar in cinnamon in one bowl. Melt the butter in a separate bowl. Dip your muffins in the butter first and then into the sugar mixture. I actually was a little heavy-handed with my dipping, so I did need more butter AND cinnamon sugar. The shame! 🙂

10. ENJOY!!