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We recently had a big group of people over for a family event, and knowing it was going to turn cold that day I decided to pull out our French onion soup recipe that we have made for at least 25 years. This is a perfect dish to make on a cold autumn or winter day when you have a little time on you hands. The recipe below fed eight to 10 people, so vary the amounts accordingly. Give it a try! Believe me, it's better than any French onion soup you will get at a restaurant. Interestingly enough, this soup dates back to the Romans. It was the French who came up with the technique of caramelizing the onions, hence the name.

Carrots love spice. And they can handle a good dose of it: One of my favorite treatments is to sprinkle them with an assortment of warming, perhaps smoky, sometimes even hot spices before roasting, and then drizzle them with a little honey for sweetness and citrus for balancing tartness. Delicious.

Dried mushrooms are a cook's friend. They can hang out in your pantry, undisturbed, for an eternity, and then when you're ready to bring them out to play, they do so with such power and energy the only downside is you feel guilty for not inviting them to the party earlier.

This is what I have learned from testing carrot soup recipes: Even folks who really like carrots sometimes will pause at a pureed bowlful in which that vegetable is the star ingredient. That includes people who enjoy carrots raw but not cooked, and those who are underwhelmed by the texture and/or flavor of pureed carrots.

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