Sweet and Sour Chicken

When I’m deciding on our weekly meal plans, it’s part what food needs to be used up, part what mood I’m in and last what ingredients I see that I can “taste” on my tongue. I see a spice, condiment, produce item and all of a sudden can start to taste what I want to turn it into. This recipe started when I saw an overripe pineapple that really needed to be cut and eaten. Knowing that sweet, juicy flavour I wanted to incorporate it into dinner. Often I’ll add it to a ham I’m roasting if I want a sweeter ham, but we didn’t have one on hand. A quick look at the freezer and the chicken stood out. So, I had chicken, pineapple and wanted something I could recreate on a night where our time might be shorter or I could pre prep for a one dish meal. I remembered my mom had taught me an easy base for a sweet and sour sauce so decided to put it all together for a sweet and sour chicken dinner.

What You’ll Need

We are a family of 4 big eaters, so these portions are geared to that. You can lessen or increase based on your family’s needs.

3-4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

2 Bell Peppers

1 Head of Garlic

1 Sweet Onion

1.5C Pineapple Chunks

1/4C White Vinegar

1/4C Ketchup

1C Brown Sugar

1C Water

1 Tbsp sesame oil (Optional)

Salt to taste

Let’s Get Cooking!

Start by preheating your oven to 375F. Then begin cutting your chicken into cubes. I tried from frozen to see just how lazy I could be about this recipe, but definitely recommend using fresh, or defrosted chicken. You can use canned pineapple, but a fresh one will give you so much more flavour. If you don’t already have one cut up, slice a whole one into cubes and put the extra that isn’t needed for the recipe aside to enjoy as a snack later. Cut your peppers up by taking the tops off, removing the seeds and cutting into bigger squares. Do the same with the onion. Bigger pieces are nice in this recipe and are faster to prepare. Take your head of garlic and dice into small bits. Or, if you prefer garlic in oil, take about 1/4C for 4 chicken breasts, or lessen if using less chicken. If your family is not a fan of garlic, stick to 1/8C.

Once everything is diced up, put it into a casserole dish and mix it all up so pieces are evenly distributed. If you have sesame oil, drizzle the tbsp over the dish. I originally tried this as a slow cooker meal and while the flavour was fantastic, the chicken was not. I had forgotten that the vinegar in the sauce toughens the chicken up when cooked too long together. So, a quick cooking tweak and the chicken was much better. Take your casserole dish, cover and place in the oven. While the dish starts to cook, make your sweet and sour sauce. The first bit of cooking should be approximately 10-15 minutes.

The sauce is super simple to make. Place 1C dark brown sugar, 1/4C of ketchup, 1/4C of white vinegar and 1C of water into a pot. Turn the element on to just above medium. Shake a bit of salt to soften the acidity of the vinegar, about 1/2tsp. Keep whisking the ingredients as they warm. Whisk until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce starts to bubble. Turn the heat down to about a 3 and let it bubble a bit more until it begins to thicken a touch.

Once the sauce has started to thicken, remove the casserole dish from the oven. Pour the sweet and sour sauce on the chicken and vegetables and stir to coat. Place the dish back in the oven and increase the temperature to 400F to finish cooking. Leave the dish in for another 20-25 minutes to fully cook the chicken.

Remove from the oven and serve! I find this dish is best served on rice, especially a more delicate one like basmati or jasmine. Rice cooks easily while the chicken finishes in the oven, creating a whole meal within 30-40 minutes. With prep, this whole dish should be done and ready to eat within an hour. If you prefer having parts of it prepped earlier in the week so all you have to do is pull and bake, you can cut the veggies and store in the containers pictured above, or ziplocs bags. Both hold freshness well. I love the anchor containers for this reason. They are so multi use from freezer to fridge to oven. If you are making a smaller portion, you could even bake the dish in the anchor containers.

This dish is easy to eat as leftovers for lunch the next day. I don’t recommend freezing it once baked as peppers just do not hold up well once frozen, they get quite mushy. You could incorporate other vegetables like cauliflower, carrots if you would like more diversity. Switch it up a bit to match your family’s preferences as they key to a good dish is one that everyone will eat!

Cinnamon Buns

These cinnamon buns are 2 days after baking. They last so well!

Another thing we love to make with frozen bread dough is Cinnamon Buns. The dough is soft and fluffy and with enough butter and brown sugar you get an ooey, gooey filling with a bit of carmelization. These are super simple to make and a family favourite!

You will need your frozen dough, brown sugar (darker is better), ground cinnamon, 1/2 to 1C of softened butter, flour for your work surface, a baking pan either 9×9 or 9×13 and a container, plate, platter, etc the same size as the pan you choose to bake in. A rolling pin, bread knife, pastry brush and spatula will be the tools you need.

One loaf of frozen dough will make a 9×9 pan, 2 loaves will make a 9×13. Start by defrosting the amount of loaves you need overnight in the fridge. . Once the loaves are defrosted, remove them from the fridge. Get out the pan size you need and grease the pan you are using. My preferred method is to take a bit of butter to grease the pan. Put a bit of softened butter into a piece of wax paper and spread it out, getting into all the corners and up the sides. Next, prepare your work surface by lightly flouring the counter you are working on.

Toss the dough on the floured surface a couple times to lightly coat in flour so it doesn’t stick too much. Using your rolling pin, stretch and roll the dough thin into a rectangle about 1cm thick. Using a pastry brush, brush softened butter onto the dough until the surface is covered. I put the butter into a small ceramic bowl and stir a few times to really make it spreadable. Take approximately 3/4c of brown sugar and 1 tbsp of cinnamon and combine them in a bowl. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon mixture over the buttered dough until it is covered, minus a small edge.

Starting at one long edge, gently lift up the edge and roll until almost the whole dough has been rolled. Grab the unrolled edge, lift and pinch to close. Take a bread knife and gently cut the roll into circles. Place the circles into the greased pan, leaving space in between for the roles to rise.

Once all the rolls have been placed into the greased pan, place a damp towel or saran wrap over top. Place the pan into a warmed oven to allow the dough to rise. Once the dough has doubled in size, remove from the oven. Turn the oven to bake at 375F. Once ready, remove the cover from the dough and place the pan into the oven to bake for approximately 20 min. The buns will be baked when they are turning golden on top and are a hollow sound when you tap them.

Risen and ready to bake

Remove the pan from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Take a platter, plate, container, baking sheet, whatever surface you decided upon and place it flat over the pan of cinnamon buns. Holding tight, flip the pan of cinnamon buns over. If you greased enough, they should flip right out. If not, it’s ok, take a big breath, and a knife and gently work the knife along the edges where the buns are stuck. You may have to flip them back into the pan to do this, you may have to awkwardly work the knife while the buns are upside down and dripping. Once you manage to get them all out, take a spatula and scrape the rest of the melted filling out of the pan and all over the cinnamon buns. Flipping the buns over lets all the filling that melted out while cooking soak back into the buns creating that gooey, caramel filling.

The cinnamon buns will hold best if sealed in an airtight container. You can reheat for 20 sec in the microwave before eating to really enjoy that fresh baked warmth again. You can also freeze the cinnamon buns if you made a bigger batch. Freeze either in an airtight container or place in a freeze ziploc bag. Defrost on the counter when ready to eat again. You can even defrost, then wrap in foil and warm in the oven if serving for breakfast or dessert.

Pizza Buns

Fresh out of the oven!

I love taking a simple item and seeing what else can be done with it. I’ve posted before about using frozen bread dough to make buns, but there are so many more things that one loaf of dough can be turned into! One of my kids’ favourite things for lunch is pizza. A quick and easy recipe is using the dough is making pizza buns.

Start by defrosting a loaf (or two!) of frozen bread dough in the fridge overnight. Once it’s ready, lightly flour your working space. Take the dough and dust it in flour so it doesn’t stick. Using a rolling pin start to flatten the dough and roll it into a rectangle. Flip it over a few times early in the rolling process so it doesn’t get too sticky. If you would like, you can work some herbs into the dough before rolling. Italian blends, basil, oregano, even parmesan can increase the flavour for something different.

Roll until the dough is about 1cm thick. Start spooning the tomato sauce onto the dough and spread using the back of the spoon. Cover the dough with sauce, leaving a small space all along the edge uncovered.

Once the sauce is spread evenly, you can add your toppings. I like to put the toppings down first then cover in cheese. You can add peppers, mushrooms, ham, pepperoni, whatever your home likes best!

Once the toppings have been placed, start at the closest long edge and start to roll. Gently lift the edge all the way along and fold over. Continue slowly rolling starting at one side and working your way along to the other.

Once you have almost rolled the whole dough, pull the last flat side up and over, pinching the dough to seal it closed. Warm the oven slightly to help the dough rise, but don’t forget to turn it off!

Take a muffin pan and pour a small amount of oil into one cup. Using a pastry brush, or a paper towel if you don’t have a brush, spread the oil into each cup, covering the bottom and sides. Once covered, take a bread knife and gently slice the rolled up dough into 12 even circles.

Carefully place one circle into each muffin cup. Cover loosely with a damp tea towel or saran wrap and place in the warmed oven to rise, leaving the oven light on. Let the pizza buns rise until they are double in size.

Remove the buns, leaving the towel or saran wrap on and set the oven to bake at 375F. Remove the towel or saran wrap once the oven is ready and place the tray in. Bake for 20-25 min until the buns are browning on top and hollow sounding if you tap them.

Remove and let cool. The pizza buns can be placed into a container, or ziploc bag and frozen. For an easy lunch, take the bun out of the freezer, heat and eat or heat and place in a thermos or container to bring for lunch.

Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers just waiting for the cheese topping!

These are such a quick and easy meal to make! Our kids will go through phases where they will eat the pepper, other times they just eat the stuffing (which still have veggies in it!) but it seems anything I make with cheese is always a win at our table. I made these a little different than I usually do and absolutely adored them, so decided to share the updated recipe.

Ingredients

1 lb ground beef (can substitute for turkey, chicken or meat alternative)

3-4 whole, sweet peppers

Cooked rice, we prefer basmati or jasmine

Mild salsa, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder

Grated cheese, we prefer cheddar

2 tbsp butter

Directions

Boil about 1c of rice as per directions on the package. Drain and set aside.

On medium, brown your ground meat or meat alternative with salt, pepper, cumin, garlic and onion powder. If not using a lean meat, you may need to drain the grease.

While meat and rice are cooking take your peppers, wash, and cut in half removing the seeds. Set the peppers aside until ready to stuff. Slice your butter and lay in the bottom of a casserole dish.

Once meat is fully cooked, turn the stove to almost low and add the cooked rice, and start with a cup of salsa. Stir it all together until blended. If the meat and rice seem dry, add a bit more salsa until you reach your desired consistency. I like to add enough just to cover the rice and meat, but not so that the dish is sloppy.

Once everything is blended, remove from heat. Pick up your pepper halves and carefully, as the stuffing will be hot, use a spoon, and fill each pepper half with the stuffing until full. You can use the spoon back to press the stuffing in. Once full, lay on the butter in the casserole dish.

Once each pepper is full and tucked into the casserole dish, sprinkle the grated cheese over top.

Cover the dish with foil and bake at 400F until the cheese is melted and peppers softened. About 20-30 min. Uncover the pepper for the last 5 min and let the top crisp up a bit. Remove and serve.

Super simple recipe with very few steps. I used to stick to italian seasonings and tomato sauce, while dicing and adding onions and peppers to the beef when browning it. I decided to try the cumin and salsa for a different flavour this time and found it worked even better! Less prep and the flavour was fantastic. If your family likes more heat, just increase the salsa to medium or hot. Quick to prep, quick to cook and a full meal in a short time.

Meal Planning

Meal Planning started when I ran a home daycare. With 7 kids needing two snacks and lunch per day, plus my own family to feed dinner to, daily organization was needed! Meal planning helped ensure we had a variety of nutritional content, food wasn’t wasted and I was using my prep time wisely. Trying to ensure everyone has something on their plate they liked, while also introducing new foods was something I strived for.

When my work reopened during Covid and life got quite busy, it was time to bring back more formal meal planning where our weekly dishes weren’t just floating around in my head. I brought up a chalkboard we weren’t using, hung some twine on the back and in seconds had an easy to use board that the whole family could see. Meal plans can be written on pen and paper, an electronic version or anything in between. Decide what works best for your family and go from there.

I like to keep things simple. Know what foods your family does and doesn’t like, ask for input (this is my kids’ favourite part) and don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new. I often try new meals when I know we have some favourites leftover in the fridge. Our rule is 10 bites, at least try it before deciding it’s a dish you don’t like. If you don’t like it, you can make your own meal from the fridge, but it has to be nutritious. Knowing the foods my family likes, I start planning by taking a look in the fridge. What ingredients need to be used up first, what do I have too much of? Often, this is produce. Once I see the items I need to use up, I start picturing meals that will use them. I head to the freezer next to see what is available. After the freezer, I check my pantry. Then, I write out our weekly meal list.

I try to plan with a variety of proteins, I look at meals that can carry into each other or the following week for easier prep and I base our meals on the seasonal produce available when possible too. We tend to do groceries on Wednesday as our daughter has Cheer practice and there is a grocery store just down the road. Two birds, one stone sorta deal. I look at what we had the week before, try not to duplicate meals more than once a month and get a little creative. I also look at our weekly schedules. What nights am I home to cook? What nights are a little more rushed? Are there any appointments or commitments? Any special celebrations, holidays or sleepovers happening? The goal of my meal plan is to be functional, tasty and easy to execute. It has to fit within the family’s lifestyle to be functional, so looking at what the family’s needs are, is key.

Once I have a rough outline of the ingredients I need to use up, I fill in the blanks. For example, the first week pictured I had a lot of salsa and tuna on hand. I could double up the mashed potatoes for Friday and Sunday. Rice or mini potatoes could work with the chicken fingers on Saturday and the weather was great for bbqing that steak. I had pork and apples on hand, but needed proscuitto and a different cheese. We had cucumbers, peppers, carrots that needed to be eaten soon, so Saturday easy dinnner was great for that. I was off on the Monday and had cottage cheese to use so stuffed shells were an easy answer.

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We did a lot of cooking the first week, so I kept it simpler the second. We had leftovers for sure. The chili and stew were pre portioned and frozen from previous weeks, which meant no effort at all. We had taco shells to use up and soup in the freezer too. We were visiting my family on Saturday and coming home Sunday which meant leftovers from that week were the easy answer for Sunday dinner. It also meant that the fridge would be cleaned out ready for a new week. No groceries had to be bought for this week as everything was on hand between the fridge and freezer.

Planning our weekly meals takes no more than 30 minutes, often closer to 15. It helps give me a quick inventory of our groceries too and sets up our grocery list for the week. If you’re someone who needs more structure, you can have a binder or recipe box of meals that can rotate. Have the recipes written down, ingredients first so you can see what is on hand and what needs to be bought. Batch cook where you can. Make a meal for tonight and one for a few weeks from now. Then, on a busier night all you have to defrost and cook. Other meals can be cooked straight from frozen. Don’t forget that simple meals can have great nutrition too. Keep some basic ingredients in your pantry and replenish once they get half to a quarter left. Buy butter, cheese, breads when on sale and freeze. Learn your spices and herbs to create different flavours. And don’t be afraid to change it up. I find tweaking an ingredient, adding something new or pairing different sides can keep a dish interesting. Have fun with your meal plan and create one that works for YOU!

Creamy Mac N Cheese

This has always been a house favourite. I love how easy it is to make and how versatile it is. The recipe is not an exact science, but I’m working on writing it down better!

What You’ll Need

Pasta. Pick something firmer, elbow macaroni, penne even fusili can work. Milk. I use 2%. You can use 2%-10% and adjust the roux and cheese portion to account for the extra creaminess. Butter, flour and cheese. I used about 3/4C of unsalted butter and 1/2C flour to make the roux. Cheese is the best part! I love using up bits and pieces in our fridge. If you want a mild flavour, use your basic marble or mild cheddar. If you want stronger, old cheddar has that nice, sharp flavour. You can really mix it up with blue, oka, brie whatever flavour you want! I have also used garlic and herb cream cheese and boursin as both melt in fantastically. I especially love adding a bit of garlic and herb cream cheese if I’m making alfredo sauce as it gives it a creamy texture without that cheese flavour. Have fun with the cheese and get creative. Salt, pepper, spices and mustard. I add salt and pepper to just about everything. With this mac and cheese I also added garlic and paprika. Depending on the cheese you choose to use you can pair spices up for added flavour. Cayenne for a kick, cumin for warmer, southern flavour, curry for something different, so many options. Then a quick squeeze of mustard. It just adds a bit extra to the flavour. Use less for a slight oomph to the sauce, or more for a stronger flavour. Then, shredded cheese and breadcrumbs for the top. You can keep the mac n cheese simple, or add veggies, bacon, prosciutto. I’ve even done lobster mac n cheese which was by far the best I’ve made. If adding veggies, dice or grate small and steam. Carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, peas all work well. If picky eaters, you can steam and puree, adding them into the sauce to hide them. You can carmelize onions, sautee peppers, so many variations.

Cook It!

Start with preheating the oven to 400F. Then begin boiling water for the pasta. Then pour milk into a heavy bottomed pot. I used about 4 cups as I was using the base in alfredo for next night’s dinner. Turn the stove onto medium heat to warm the milk. While that’s warming, start on the roux. Melt the butter in a small pot. Once the butter is melted remove from the heat and stir in the flour until it’s thick, but no chunks. I started with equal parts butter and flour but added more butter after taking the picture because the roux was too thick. It needs to be added to the milk to thicken it, so you want a thick consistency without it being completely solid. Whisk the milk as it heats so it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pot. Once it’s steaming whisk in the roux to thicken. It will get thicker than it first appears, so add slowly and be patient. The cheese will thicken the sauce further so keep that in mind. Once you get your desired consistency, start adding your cheese. Grate it, cut it into pieces, break off chunks, whatever makes you happy and whisk as you add. The cheese will melt, so keep stirring until it’s all combined. Add your spices and mustard and taste. Adjust based on the end flavour you’re looking for. By now the pasta should be ready, so drain that and add to a casserole dish. Add any veggies or protein you would like, then pour the cheese sauce over it all and stir. Add as much sauce as you desire. Less will be a thick, sticky dish, more will be a creamier, saucier dish. Once you have it all stirred together you can add bacon to the top if you like. Then top the pasta with shredded cheese and finally, breadcrumbs. Bake uncovered at 400F until the top is brown and the sides are bubbling with sauce. About 20-30 min max. Then serve and enjoy!

Linen Closet ReRoll

I read a post on #gocleango about towel folding and on it rolling towels was mentioned. I have rolled towels for Girl Guide Camp, vacations, beach days, but never had I thought of rolling them for our linen closet. It was like a light went off. I had the day off, so what better time than the present to reorganize the linen closet.

All of our sheet sets are folded and tucked into a pillowcase of the set. It keeps things together and makes it easy to grab and go when changing sheets. They are stacked in the closet based on size.

The next two shelves are body and hair towels, wash cloths and hand towels. I rolled the wash cloths and hand towels and set them into the baskets to keep them organized, but still easy to grab. The hair towels fit no problem still folded, so I left those alone. The big body towels fit so much better all rolled up. No more folding them the “wrong way” depending on which one of us puts away the laundry, they stack nicely and don’t fall over and I can fit more without them being crowded.

Such a simple switch, but it has made things so much more functional!

Stuffed Shells

This was one of my favourite things my mom made for dinner growing up. It had all the components of lasagna, but I could pick and choose whether I wanted more cheese or more meat that night. Super simple to make and easy to freeze for a quick dinner option on another night.

Ingredients

Ingredients

I do both cheese/spinach and beef shells in this recipe. You can substitute to make Vegan or Vegetarian meals.

1 box jumbo shells 1lb ground beef or turkey 1 package of baby spinach (I used a 142G pack) 1 454G container of Cottage Cheese 1 egg 1/2C grated parmesan cheese 1 small onion, diced 1 red pepper diced 1 tbsp olive oil 1 can pasta sauce Salt, Pepper and Diced Garlic to taste Grated mozzarella to top

Steps

Start by boiling water to cook the shells. In one frying pan add the ground meat, diced onion, diced pepper, diced garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium heat until meat is fully cooked, with no pink left. In another frying pan, sautee the spinach, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. While the two pans are cooking, in a bowl combine the cottage cheese, parmesan, egg and pepper to taste. Once the spinach is cooked, add to the bowl and stir to combine. Set aside until ready to fill shells. In the meantime, open the can of pasta sauce and pour a bit into a long, low casserole dish. Pour just enough in to cover the bottom of the dish. Cover the bottom by taking the dish and tilting it around to spread the sauce evenly.

Steps

Once the pan with the meat is fully cooked, add pasta sauce to it. Enough to cover the meat and vegetables, but keep some aside to finish the shells. Once covered, remove from the stove and get ready to stuff the shells. Once the shells are cooked al dente, soft, but still firm pour the shells into a strainer, then rinse in cold water. Preheat the oven to 400F. Gently taking the shells one at a time, using a spoon, fill the shells with the meat or cheese mixture. I tend to do half meat, half cheese. If you have any meat filling left over, you can freeze to add to spaghetti sauce later. Once filled, lay the shells in the dish side by side until the pan is filled. Take the remaining pasta sauce and spread in a line over the tops of the shells. To finish them off, take your grated mozzarella and sprinkle over all the shells to cover. These are fantastic to make a big batch of, some for dinner and some for the freezer for a future meal. Seal tightly and freeze for up to 6 months in a deep freeze.

Ready to Bake

Cover the dish with foil and bake at 400F for 30 minutes until the sides are bubbling and the cheese is melted. You can remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking. Remove from the oven, serve and enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Loaf

Pumpkin Spice Loaf with white chocolate chips

Today I was in the mood for pumpkin baking. I wanted that warm flavour you get with the fall spices. I wanted something fluffy, moist and something I could add white chocolate to. I searched Google and quickly found a recipe with great reviews. I made it, but didn’t love the way the batter looked or the way it turned out. I decided to tweak the recipe a tad. It gave it the fluffy texture I wanted, but the flavour was too simple. I decided to give it one more try after dinner. Jackpot! I found exactly the result I wanted.

I only wanted to make 1 loaf to be safe, but you can double up the recipe to get more for sharing. The butter is a bit of an odd measurement because of this. I like recipes that I can make with little fuss and taste great. Ideally wet and dry ingredients should be mixed separately, but as I like my day to function as smooth as possible, I like recipes where I can just keep adding ingredients into one bowl and the recipe still turns out amazing.

Pumpkin Spice Loaf

1/4+1/8C Softened Butter

1/2 C White Sugar

1/2 C packed Brown Sugar

1 Egg

1 1/2 C Pure Pumpkin Puree

2 tsp Cinnamon

1 tsp Nutmeg

1 tsp Cloves

1 tsp Baking Soda

1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder

1/4 tsp Salt

1 1/2C AP Flour

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix the Butter and sugar until fluffy. Then add the rest of the ingredients in the order they are listed, continuing to mix after each one. I added white chocolate chips to one loaf and toffee bits to another. Both turned out fantastic. For best baking results, grease and lightly flour your bread pans. Fill the pan with the batter. Sprinkle a bit of brown sugar on top, then sprinkle pumpkin seeds. These steps are optional, but are a fantastic addition to the loaf. Bake for 60-70 min or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out and fully cool on a cooling rack. Slice and serve. This loaf can easily be sliced, placed in containers and frozen.

Butternut Squash Carrot Soup

Cool days call for soup. This time of year, our local Independent grocery store often has bushels of roma tomatoes, shepherd’s peppers, apples and more! Throw in a few squash, carrots, onions and a desire for comfort food and I knew I could find a recipe to match my wants. I came across this recipe and realized how versatile it is. http://www.windsoreats.com/2013/11/recipe-roasted-butternut-squash-red-pepper-soup/ I was a little late to the game this year and they were out of the big bushels of peppers so I decided to change it up. Butternut squash carrot soup. Super easy to make and depending on the final flavour you’re going for you can modify your herbs and spices to match.

I used 2 whole butternut squash. Cut in half, seeds removed. 6 large carrots scrubbed, but not peeled, ends cut and then cut into larger sticks. 3 yellow onions, outer skin removed and quartered. 2 heads of garlic, peeled but cloves kept whole. Preheat the oven to 425F. Line your baking sheets with aluminum foil. Lay the veggies out, squash middle side down. Take a fork and puncture some holes on the skin of your squash. Drizzle olive oil over all the vegetables. Salt and pepper to taste. Let them roast for 30-45 min. The carrots will be done before the squash. Once the squash is softer to the touch (use the side of a fork or a spoon to push, not your finger!) it’s ready. Take the pans out, let cool. Once cool enough, toss the onions, carrots and garlic, as they are into a 6qt pot. Turn the squash over, scoop out the flesh and add to pot. I added four 900ml containers of vegetable stock. Then tossed in some fresh thyme and sage, salt and pepper. I let that simmer for about an hour. Turned off the element, removed the pot from the heat and let it sit for 20 min, then pulled out the sage and thyme sprigs. Used my immersion blender and pureed the soup until it was smooth. I tasted it and decided to add some paprika, nutmeg and cinnamon for a warmer flavour. I put the pot back on the burner for 30 more minutes to let the new spices blend in. The soup can be served right away or frozen. If freezing, cool overnight in the fridge first.