Fix a throw-it-together meal and see how creative you can be

Using up food that’s on the brink of being thrown out is a great way to use what you have, and come up with a great meal. This plate throws together aging peppers, onions, and potatoes with chicken and sausage. Bonus! You won’t have to throw anything away!

So there you are — without a plan for dinner. You don’t want to go the store. You have a pantry and a refrigerator full of food. And you have no interest in following a recipe. Don’t you just want to be able to throw something together — like mom used to do?

BE LIKE MOM

You don’t always think about how amazing your mom was or is in the food department. Moms have a way of making the most of what they have, which means a lot of hodge-podge meals, thrown together, with love and ingenuity in the kitchen. The lightbulb comes on when that day comes and she visits. She rifles through the cupboards and fridge, and she somehow comes up with a masterpiece at the dinner table. Then she looks at you, like, ‘What?’

GET CREATIVE

You can get there. First, think about what you have on hand, especially the vegetables that need to get used soon before going south. You may have some sort of protein in the freezer to thaw, or something you’ve been hanging onto for a while in the fridge. You have spices in the cupboard. There’s the perfect combination. Where there is a will, there is a way.

So, recently, the Onionista was in that very situation. She had frozen chicken, link sausage, peppers and onions, all days away from the trash can. Infusing mom’s spirit, she threw it together for a sheet pan meal.

These potatoes were just starting to get a little soft. But they are still good! We found a way to use them.

She chopped up the chicken breasts into chunks, sliced up the sausage, chopped up some aging potatoes that needed to be cooked and cut up some onions onions and peppers.

The fridge revealed some other ingredients:  leftover diced onions and green peppers (that were being saved for omelets but also nearing their end days). They made for a great addition to sprinkle on top. Drizzle it all with a little olive oil, sprinkle it with your favorite seasoning. No idea what temperature to cook it at? Google something similar; cook at that temperature and time, and watch closely to make sure the meal doesn’t burn.

SUSTAINABLE COOKING

Dinner in less than an hour and no recipe. That’s invoking mom’s spirit of working your kitchen!

It’s a gas finding a way to use everything from the refrigerator and pantry. Using it all means wasting nothing. In today’s age, food waste is a huge issue. In a few years, there will be millions more people to feed, and we need good, wholesome food to feed us. We need to find ways not to waste food.  Think about your grandparents living in the Depression. They had to make use of EVERYTHING. If they can do it, so can you!

Here is an idea of what to “threw” together for your next throw-it-together meal.

Last Minute Chicken Dinner

1lb of chicken breasts, cut into chunks.

1 link of beef or turkey sausage, sliced into chunks.

1 onion, sliced into large chunks

 1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks

1 orange bell pepper, cut into chunks

Leftover vegetables

Cut up chicken into chunks and place on sheet pan; add slices of sausage, and chunks of all vegetables and potatoes. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle seasonings, whatever you choose. Bake for 45 minutes or so at 375 degrees. Check often after 30 minutes. Ovens and altitudes vary!

Tell us how you came out! How creative did you get and what were you able to salvage before it had to be thrown away?

Posted in General | Leave a comment

These tostadas will rock Cinco de Mayo

These tasty tostadas contain a special ingredient that could either make or break this dish.

Before you swipe, know that this tostada recipe is different. Hidden in the ingredients to this traditional Mexican meal is a half cup of golden raisins that actually get cooked into a meat mixture, rife with onions and green peppers. See video here.

Lots of onions and peppers help make this tostada recipe great!

While many of us grew up with fast-food tostadas, these will reform you. They’re not too spicy — to satisfy those who can’t handle the extra heat — and there are no beans — to satisfy those who just can’t do beans (and you know why!).

They don’t take too long to make, either — unless you’re really into the perfectly sliced avocado. Then all bets are off. The recipe calls for salt and pepper to taste, and you may really want to just count on adding a little salt.

When it’s all done, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the taste, as every third bite or so, there’s a little tang of the raisin popping onto your tastebuds. It really does work perfectly with the savory of the beef and onion mixture. The raisin is not too overwhelming and just sweet enough to show your guests that you added something special.

Eat up! These tostadas take about a half hour from beginning to end — especially if you buy pre-cut onions and peppers.

You could make these ahead of time to bring to the company potluck. Just keep the shells in a bag and the meat mixture in a slow cooker to keep warm. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Just add onions — to chocolate chip cookies? Yes, we did!

Vidalia onions are so lovely and sweet, we just couldn’t resist trying this old chocolate chip cookie recipe that we found hanging out on a wall at Vidalia Onion Committee museum in Vidalia, Ga.

These Vidalia Onion and Georgia Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies are best eaten right out of the oven.

Parents have been sneaking vegetables into foods for years. You probably didn’t know all those years ago when mom would serve some sweet zucchini bread that you were actually eating vegetables. Today, they even use cauliflower to make a pizza crust. Substituting apple sauce for the oil was ingenious too!

The idea of pairing The Onion — Nature’s Ninja — complete with its power-pack of nutrition and disease fighting skills — was just too tempting. See Video Here.

ADDING ONIONS

Now, you can infuse a little body boosting onion into cookies, of all things, to add more daily nutrition to your family’s desserts — probably without them even noticing.

The onions are noticeable to some and not so noticeable to others. In fact, it’s hard to detect them.

The recipe calls for a fine dice of the onion, so make sure you have a good, sharp knife. And do read the directions — you must rinse the onions in cold water before adding them to the dough. Since onions are mostly water, they will add quite a bit of moisture to the cookie, so they may take a little longer to fully bake the center.  The recipe below suggests adding dried cranberries to soak up that moisture.

This recipe does, however, demand to be eaten. In fact, these cookies are best served warm, shortly after leaving the oven. Leaving them for a day or so will bring out the onion flavor, which we don’t find offensive at all. We also tried freezing the cookies to see if they retained their fresh-baked taste. After a couple of days, the onion flavor came out a bit stronger, but still, it complemented the pecans and the chocolate chips more than anything.

GET EATING

This recipe also comes at a perfect time. Vidalia Onion season is upon us. The first shipments will go out April 22. So stock up on the chocolate chips and find yourself a good, sweet Vidalia onion and see how your family responds to this decadent treat.

Vidalia Onion and Georgia Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Onions
The sweetness of the Vidalia onion turns chocolate chip cookies into morsels of nutrition and flavor.

Ingredients

1 cup butter softened

½ cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

2 ¼ cup all purpose flour

1 tsp fine salt

1 tsp baking soda

12 oz semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup Georgia Pecans, chopped

1 cup Vidalia onion, diced small

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter, add sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add flour, salt and soda and mix until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.

 Rinse the Vidalia onion with ice water and drain well. Fold the onions into the dough to blend. Drop dough by large spoonfuls on a parchment or wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned (add about a minute to time at high altitudes). Remove from oven and enjoy immediately.  

Note: These cookies are meant to be eaten warm; if you want to keep them past the day you make them, add some dried cranberries to the batter to absorb some of the moisture.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Try these hushpuppies for your next fish fry

By Nikki Miller-Ka, Nik Snacks

There’s nothing like a Friday night fish fry with a big ol’ table full of whole fried fish, crab legs, scallops, oysters, pinto beans, cole slaw, macaroni and cheese, collard greens… need I go on? And a baskets of piping hot hushpuppies.

The National Onion Association takes pride in educating consumers about the multiple benefits of onions and promoting onions for their member growers. They are a resource for everyone who has ever encountered an onion. If you want to learn some cool, fun, unique facts about onions and where to find them, visit the website. While you get educated about onions, I’m going to educate you about these hushpuppies…

Calabash-style seafood is lightly breaded and fried and typically served buffet style.  The seafood is always accompanied by hushpuppies. Typically, cornmeal is used instead of flour to give the seafood a light coating.  The seafood is then fried in hot oil until it becomes golden brown. And crispy. And delicious. 

Calabash, North Carolina is where this style of seafood originated. Calabash has been known for its distinctive style of fried seafood since the 1940s, which has come to be known as “Calabash Style.”

Calabash-style buffets are common in many eastern Carolina coastal towns. As a kid, we’d vacation down in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and we’d see restaurant after restaurant named “Calabash #10” or “Calabash #8” indicating the number of restaurants in succession in the area. These restaurants are literally a dime a dozen and #1 Is just as good as #38 (usually). For more information and where Calabash got it’s name, clickHERE.

For *my* hushpuppies, not only do I use cornmeal, I use stone-ground grits and self-rising flour to give the pups a boost in flavor, texture and optimum fluffyness in between the bits of tender diced onion. Any frying oil will do, but I have used vegetable oil, shortening and overall I prefer peanut oil to fry up these little guys.

Hushpuppies are small, deep fried morsels of cornmeal batter that are served with tartar sauce, ketchup or honey butter.

I spent over 30 years of my life, eating hushpuppies as part of our weekly fish night dinner. Typically, they’re made with yellow or white cornmeal, but the addition of grits gives texture and bite to an otherwise unremarkable piece of fried dough. Some put sugar in the batter. I don’t. Sugar caramelizes and makes the puppies dark and too sweet. If you feel compelled to add a little sweetness, I won’t judge. I promise.

My favorite part of the crispy, piping hot hushpuppy is always the little treat of diced onion inside. A dash of onion powder or garlic powder amps up the onion flavor. Chopped white onion is the best onion for the task of hiding inside these fried delights. Whenever I order hushpuppies at restaurants and they DO NOT have onion, I’m disappointed. It really is the best part.

Calabash Fish Fry Hushpuppies 

Yield: 14-16 hushpuppies

INGREDIENTS 

These hushpuppies come rife with diced onions and grits to make them extra special.

1/2 cup grits
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup self-rising flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup white onion, diced
1/4 tsp course sea salt
Shortening or peanut oil for deepfat frying

1. In a bowl combine the grits, flour and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Add the egg, milk and diced onion to the grits and flour. Stir together just until moist.

2. Heat the shortening or oil until it is hot and shimmering (375°F is ideal). Drop the batter by tablespoons into the deep hot fat. Alternatively, spoon batter into a plastic zip-top bag, seal it and snip one of the bottom corners of the bag with shears and use it like a piping bag to drop dollops of batter into the hot fat. Fry about 3 minutes or until golden brown, turning once.

3. Drain the hush puppies on paper towels and season with additional, to taste. Serve with honey butter, ketchup or tartar sauce. 

This blog was written by Nikki Miller-Ka, a chef and food blogger of Nik Snacks based in North Carolina.

Nikki Miller-Ka writes about her life as a professional chef, foodie, local and regional restaurant trends, food organizations, food producers and everything culinary on her blog, Nik Snacks. Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.  Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast.  She has worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Go to: http://www.niksnacksonline.com.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Onions — Your Ally for Heart Health

Onions — what we like to call Nature’s Ninja — are prized not only for their flavorful addition to meals, but for their value-added health components. See video here.

Onions are high in vitamin C, a good source of fiber, and contain only 64 calories per 1 cup serving. In addition, onion bulbs have a unique combination of three families of compounds believed to have valuable effects on human health – fructans, flavonoids and organosulfur compounds.

Here are some excellent reasons to add onions to your meals to help keep your heart healthy this February and beyond:

— The organosulfur compounds are primarily responsible for the taste and smell of onions (and garlic). This compound has shown anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic activity, which means they may reduce the risk of blood clots associated with heart disease and stroke.

– The flavonoid quercetin is found in all onions. This flavonoid scavenges particles in the body known as free radicals which damage cell membranes. Studies have shown quercetin to protect against heart disease and several types of cancer with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.

– Tip: To reduce the pungency, sharpness or aftertaste of a raw onion, cut them the way you plan to use them place onions in a strainer or sieve. Run cold water through onions for at least a minute.

Posted in General | 2 Comments