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One of the toughest parts about the transition from working woman to stay-at-home (and eventually work-at-home) mom has been taking on the duties of head chef. Which, when you think about it, is odd. We’ve always had to eat, which means I’ve always had to cook … or at least come up with something edible to serve at mealtimes. But for some reason I have really struggled in this area of mommyhood.

Until I discovered the Taste of Home family of publications. A line of cookbooks, magazines, an Internet community and even cooking schools, the TOH brand encompasses all areas of cooking for all levels of culinary know-how. Or don’t-know-how. You get my point. I didn’t know how to cook, and I didn’t really care to cook. Until now.

Although I’m reviewing the Slow Cooker edition (of which there are several), my favorite will always be my first, The Taste of Home Cookbook, also now added onto and revised a million times over. Which is what makes their publication so great, recipes get tweaked and re-tweaked and so many great new ones are added into their catalogue that there are endless amounts to choose from.

And as summer turns to fall, we are quickly turning from our barbeques to our slow cookers. Even with the amount of time the slow cooker can free up for us, I still have days where I run short on it. But thanks to another great blogger Mama and Baby Love (great site, huh?), I found an amazingly simple idea: Make a double recipe, and pour the extra portion into a gallon freezer bag to be used another time. When you’re ready to use that freezer meal, you only have to thaw it for about 30 minutes and then cook on low for eight hours.

When you combine this genius idea with the fantastic recipes found in the Taste of Home Slow Cooker cook book, you have yourself a winter’s worth of recipes to choose from and dinners practically already made.

Because Alex is just as big of a fan of the Taste of Home franchise as I am, The Paperhouse cookbook section is stocked full of their titles.

But my all-time favorite TOH recipe doesn’t come from a cook book, it comes from The Taste of Home February/March 2009 magazine edition, and I make it at least every few weeks during the cold-weather months …

Slow-cooked Spaghetti Sauce
2 lbs ground beef
¾ bulk Italian sausage
4 medium onions, finely chopped (this woman must really LOVE her onions, I only use 1)
8 garlic cloves
4 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
4 cans (6 oz) tomato paste
½ cup water
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp canola oil
¼ cup fresh parsley
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
4 bay leaves
1 tsp rubbed sage
½ tsp salt
½ tsp dried marjoram
½ tsp pepper

Cook the beef, sausage, onions and garlic over medium heat until no longer pink, drain and transfer to a 5-quart slow cooker. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Cover and cook on low for eight hours or until bubbly. Discard bay leaves. Serve with spaghetti.

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