French Onion Soup

I used to hate onions. I would pick them out of spaghetti sauce, and could never have imagined that I would love a soup who’s main ingredient was onion! Thank goodness my tastes matured and my love of cooking grew. The weather has been getting cooler, rain has been falling and it’s the perfect time of year for a soul warming soup!

Our meal plan for the night was sausages, perogies and vegetables. While shopping at Costco, the idea of french onion soup was put into my head and with the weather that day I couldn’t say no. The best part about this soup is that it is so easy and quick to make. Other soups I prefer to let simmer all day and have the flavours mix together, but this soup can be done in 30 minutes if needed.

I like looking at recipes and seeing which matches the results I’m seeking. Then I take that recipe and tweak it here and there, or completely disregard it to create something different that suits the idea I have in my head. I searched a couple recipes, found one I liked the most, then made the soup based on the flavours I wanted. Feel free to change the loose steps listed below to suit your flavours, or ask how it can be done.

Ingredients you will need: 6 Large yellow onions, 3-4 tbsp of butter, 1 head of garlic, 2 tbsp white sugar, 1/2-3/4c dry white wine, 8c beef stock, sage, thyme or bay leaves for seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. To top you will need 1 baguette, enough slices of Swiss, Emmental or Gruyere cheese for each soup bowl you’re serving.

Start by taking a large pot, 6 quarts should do. I love the heavy bottomed Lagostina pots we have. They help keep an even temperature which is great when needed to carmelize onions.

Slice 5 to 6 large yellow onions root to stem (top to bottom). Toss the sliced onions into the pot with 2-3 tbsps of butter. I add a bit of salt and pepper for flavour too. Turn the element to medium and let the onions start to cook. Stir the onions occasionally until they are reduced, soft and almost translucent. Sprinkle 2 tbsps of white sugar on the onions to help them carmelize and 1 tbsp of butter. Add a head of garlic finely diced ( I LOVE my garlic!). Stir the onions frequently so they carmelize, but don’t let the bottom burn. Once the onions are brown all over pour some dry, white wine in. I suggest 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup. This will give the soup flavour and deglaze the pot. I used Inniskillen Chardonnay which paired wonderfully with the soup afterwards!

Pour in 2 containers of beef broth. I found 2 gave the perfect balance of broth to onion. Each carton is 900ml. If you prefer more broth, add a bit more, but not more than 3. I added more salt and pepper and some fresh sage from the garden. Let simmer for 10-15 min. Longer if you’re not in a rush. We had Cheer practice that night so my soup simmered for almost 3 hours!

Once the soup has simmered and is ready to serve, it’s time to finish plating it. Slice a baguette into 1/2″ thick slices. Depending on your size of bowl, you may need 1 slice or two to fill the top. Lay the slices out on a baking sheet and drizzle olive oil over top. You can get different infused oils to add more flavour. Bake at 400F until the tops just start to brown. While the baguette is toasting, fill your soup bowls with the soup and prepare the Swiss, Emmental or Gruyere cheese slices. You can use the precut ones or slice your own. I like 2 slices layered over the baguette because more cheese is never a bad thing!

Once the baguettes are ready, lay them gently over the soup, then lay the cheese slices over the baguette. Place the bowls in the oven on broil until the cheese is melted and just bubbling. Remove from the oven, but becareful, the bowls will be hot! I like to serve the soup on a plate with a napkin so the bowl doesn’t slide and it gives me and edge to hold onto that isn’t hot. You can add a sprinkle of thyme to the top or leave on it’s own. Serve with a spoon and enjoy, but remember, the soup will be hot!

You’ll see in the pictures that I plated my soup bowls on a baking tray. This makes it so much easier to put in the oven and take out without making a mess! Line with foil if you really want a mess proof option.

I never use the whole batch of soup during dinner. French onion soup can be frozen to be enjoyed at a later dinner. Fill mason jars with cooled soup, leaving about 2″ from the top. Place the jars in the freezer with the lid OFF. This will allow the soup to expand and not break the jar. Once fully frozen, twist the lid on tight to seal and keep fresh until you’re ready to use. Once you are ready to serve again, let the jar defrost in the fridge overnight. Heat when ready and plate the same as before with the toasted baguette, cheese and broil.

Suitcase Storage

Ever wonder what to do with all those extra pillows and blankets you have? Whether you have extras for when Guests visit, or extra blankets that you use on beds in the colder months, they can pile up. I have had ours in our walk in closet, in containers, and more. I kept searching for an easy solution for where to store them, while keeping them smelling fresh and accessible. Around the same time I also realized I had 4 big empty suitcases just taking up space in our closet awaiting the next adventure. We have our travel set for smaller journeys to the grandparents or a weekend away and those stack in each other very well, but these big, hard case suitcases for longer vacations were just there serving no day to day purpose. So why not, I thought. I tried putting a couple blankets in, zipped them up. I put a few pillows on the other side and used the elastics to hold them in. Just like that I no longer had empty suitcases, nor did I have blankets and pillows just staring at me, taking up space. You can sort the pillows and blankets by room, by season, by type just by storing them in the same suitcase. Organization, storage and it looks so much more tidy!

Slow Cooker Chicken

Today’s menu plan called for Roast Chicken. I work tonight, so it will be a busier evening. The morning started cloudy with fall in the air. Perfect say for slow cooker chicken! This meal is easy to prep in the morning while you’re getting ready for work or getting the kids off to school. I love it because the chicken is always juicy and tender, everything is so flavourful and the clean up is almost nil.

Start by putting a whole chicken in the fridge overnight to defrost. If you like, you can put it in a ziploc and marinate, but it’s not a must. Get your slow cooker out and using aluminum foil, create some balls to sit on the bottom of the slow cooker. This helps the chicken cook well and not be a soggy mess on the bottom as the juices start to form.

Place the whole chicken on the foil balls and season. I chose to use salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and poultry seasoning. I added butter and onion circles to really create a delicious flavour.

I peeled and cubed 5 larger potatoes and soaked them in a bowl of cold water. Then peeled and cut 6 large carrots into sticks. Everything was placed around the chicken. They will all cook well together while infusing all the ingredients flavours together. I added fresh thyme and sage from the garden to finish the dish off.

Cover and let slow roast all day. You’ll come home to a full dinner all ready and waiting with the house smelling amazing!

If you’d like to indulge a bit, an oaked California Chardonnay will pair very well with these flavours.

Coffee Corner

I LOVE my coffee, almost as much as I love my wine! We have a typical percolator, Keurig, Tassimo and French Press. Plus a tea pot and kettle. It’s a lot to keep organized, accessible and not cluttered looking. Add in 2 kids who love hot chocolate on a cold day and we to find a solution. I had seen adorable pictures of coffee nooks and knew I wanted something similar. Except I had a small budget, limited space and wanted something I could modify as our needs changed.

I browsed online for options, and stumbled across a shelf that met my needs at JYSK. It was floor model too, so discounted, assembled and in great shape. Add a few baskets from there too and I was ready to go. I found a couple hangers and a cute tin from Dollarama, was given mugs from my local Buy Nothing group and my coffee corner was set. It felt great to get our items off the counter and into their own little nook.

I recently added a third area, to make it a 3×3 area. I have 6 baskets, 2 for coffee items, 2 for tea, 1 for hot chocolate and 1 for extra travel mugs. Two of our top shelves hold the most used coffee mugs for easy access when we’re tired in the morning. The third holds the tea pot, everyday coffee pods, sugar and the french press.

Everything is accessible, within hands reach and easy to keep clean and organized.

Jewelry Drawer

I love wearing different pieces of jewelry to add some fun to my outfits. Whether at work, to the grocery store or just around the house I have fun adding a little more colour or sparkle to what I’m wearing. Not to mention all the handmade pieces the kids have given me over the years. The only problem with this is where to store it all! I picked up a new to me dresser a few years ago and it had the perfect little drawer on the top. I knew it would be perfect for my pieces, but how was I going to keep it all sorted and not turn into a giant tangled mess? I knew there were organizers for office supplies, so started browsing the aisles of Dollarama to see if they had what I was picturing. Low and behold I found exactly what I wanted! An office organizer with little compartments. Some bigger, some smaller exactly what I needed as my earrings do not need the same space as bracelets or necklaces. Two of them fit in the drawer perfectly with space still left on the side for boxes of our more precious pieces. Super simple find, very cost effective and it doesn’t leave me digging and sorting through drawers or boxes trying to find the piece I want to wear today!

Freezer Fun

We bought a stand up freezer years ago and it has been the best thing for keeping organized. I often batch cook as part of our meal planning and that takes up a lot of freezer space. We also buy our meat in bulk and have to portion. Trying to keep all those freezer bags and portions organized can be a challenge! When we had a chest freezer, there were baskets we could use. So, I figured why not use containers? Depending on what is in the freezer at the moment, the contents can change. Seafood, beef, chicken. Everything is labelled and sorted in the containers. I can easily pull them out from the shelf and find what I need for dinner that night. Our freezer door has so many shelves. Jars, small containers, cheese, butter all get stored there. And then our awesome big basket on the bottom is fantastic for breads. It keeps them from getting squished and when we buy the Costco bulk packs we can open them without worrying about the smaller packages falling. It is also great for bags of frozen veg. As fall cooking comes into full effect, and then Christmas baking I have plenty of space for containers, jars of soups, stews and more. Sorted and easy for anyone in our family to find if they need it for dinner, lunch or dessert!

The Family Calendar

Every year I buy one of the Organizer calendars from Costco. It hangs on our fridge ready to be added to. Each of our family members has a different colour for the calendar, including the dog! Between comp Cheer, playdates, school deadlines and varying work schedules, we need to know what’s going on in our weeks. Our house rule is, if it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t exists. When we book any classes, lessons, work schedule is created, it immediately goes on the calendar. I get an email, check the agenda, I stand in front of the calendar and put the new item on. The colours helps us at a quick glance to see who has what going on that day. Knowing who has what activities that day makes it easier to organize dinner and homework. Three out of 4 of us have cell phones that are all linked up. While we could use a digital organizer, set alarms, etc, I find with our family we look at our phones and forget. Having the calendar on the fridge means everyone can see it because we alllll eat a lot here and it’s right in our face. Each week, I set time aside on Monday morning to quickly look it over and see if anything is missing. This gives me a chance to see what is upcoming, any special events that we may need to buy items for, and how our week is going to look. Having a glimpse helps start our week off well and prepared.

“Cheater Buns”

We LOVE fresh bread! As the weather turns cooler and our eating habits prefer a more cozy feel, there’s nothing quite like the smell of a fresh loaf of bread or soft buns for dinner. Somedays I’ll get the mixer out and make dough from scratch, most days we need to function within a busy house so I’ll get the frozen loaves. Our local Independent grocer has a 5 pack of frozen bread loaves for close to $1 per loaf. Cost effective and a great product. All you have to do is pull a loaf out of the bag, wrap it in saran wrap and leave it to defrost overnight in the fridge. The dough can be used for so many things, but today I’ll go over how I use it make fresh buns super easy!

Once the dough is defrosted, lay it out on a cutting board and cut it into the size of portion you would like. Sometimes we do smaller buns which as easy for dipping. Other times, like in the photo I do bigger ones which we can use the next day for sandwiches. Take your pan, if making buns a square pan is fantastic and lightly brush the edges with oil. If you don’t have a brush, you can lightly pour some oil onto a paper towel and use that to brush the edges. Place the buns in the pan with space around them. Turn the oven on for a minute or less, just to warm it a bit, then back off. Cover the pans with the dough with saran wrap lain over top, not tightly secured. Place the buns in the warmed oven, with the light on to rise. Buns rise faster than bread, which is why we tend to go this way when in more of a rush. Let the buns rise until they are double in size. It takes about an hour and a half. Once they have doubled, pull them out of the oven, turn it on to 375F. Once the oven has reached it’s correct temperature take the saran wrap off the pan and place the buns in. Cook until they are brown on top and are hollow sounding when you tap them. Depending on the size of the bun cooking times can vary, but it’s usually 25-30 minutes.

There are so many things you can do with the buns to create different flavours. We like shredding cheese and kneading it into the dough before cutting it. You can sprinkle cheese on top. Brush the buns with garlic butter or other spices stirred into melted butter. In the picture below I sprinkled garlic powder and rosemary on top. I’ve done herb parmesan buns before too which are delicious!

It does take time to let the buns rise, so I often pair these with stovetop dinners. I start the buns first, then prep my vegetables, meat, what not. Stews, spaghetti, slowcooker or bbq dinners all work really well when your oven is off limits for a bit. Simple steps to manage time and create delicious meals is always a win!