Managing weight with planning and produce

One of the main obstacles to weight management is not taking the time to plan and prepare healthier meals. Research shows us when people are able to cook their own food and eat at home their diet is typically lower in calories and higher in nutrients. Also, adding more nutrient-rich, low calorie fruits and vegetables to meals is one of the easiest ways to help control calorie intake.

Try to set aside an hour or so at the beginning of each week to plan out your menus and create a shopping list. Make sure to add in at least 5 daily fruit and/or vegetable options to pump up the nutrition.

Most people find the dinner meal is the most difficult to execute, especially after a busy day at work and with other family obligations. To take the hassle out of this equation we’ve put together a 7-day family-friendly dinner menu to get you started. Each meal is approximately 500 calories based on the portions indicated and we’ve included 2 servings of fruits and/or veggies in each meal. Enjoy!

7-Day Family-Friendly Dinner Menu:

Day 1: – 4 oz. – Roasted Pork Tenderloin

– 1 small Baked Potato topped with 2 T. light sour cream

– 1 cup – Broccoli Florets, sautéed with 1 T. olive oil

Day 2: – 1 serving – Frittata with Onion, Tomato and Basil

– 1 – Whole Grain English Muffin w/ 1 t. soft olive oil spread

– 1 cup -Fresh Berries

Day 3: – 1 – 4 oz. lean Hamburger on Whole Grain Bun

– 1 serving – Gazpacho Salad

Day 4: – 1 serving – Cheese and Spinach Ravioli

– 1/2 cup – Veggie Pasta Sauce

– 2 cups – Tossed Green Salad with tomato and red onion; 2 T. Light Italian Dressing

– 1 cup – 1% Milk

Day 5: – 2 – Beef & Veggie Tacos

– 1/2 cup – Corn

– Sparkling Water with Lime

Day 6: – Garden Style Fish w/ Onions and Bell Peppers

– 3/4 cup – Instant Brown Rice

– 1/2 cup – Pineapple Tidbits

– 1 cup – 1% Milk

Day 7: – 4 oz. – Grilled Chicken Breast

– 1 Whole Grain Dinner Roll

– 1 serving – Grilled Vegetables w/ Balsamic Dressing

– 1 cup – Melon Chunks

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A little southern onion comfort food

Savory Onion Pie

By Nikki Miller-Ka, NikSnaks

I’ve taken all of the important and the subtle nuances of onions and layered them into this savory pie. It’s a cross between a classic southern tomato pie, a buttermilk pie and an onion tart. The caramelized onions start in a slow cooker with sherry and thyme (if you feel fancy). Overnight, the translucent petals of white, yellow, red and sweet onions melt, become bronzed and bathe in their own juices to produce a cohesive tangle of skins that are baked under a mayonnaise and Parmesan crust inside of a buttery pie shell and garnished with a little bit of fresh chopped chives. It’s super fantastic.

Onions are literally the foundation of most every savory dish. The classic mirepoix combo of onions, carrots and celery is the first thing culinary students around the planet begin their education and it continues on to how to slice, dice and add onions to everything. Raw diced onions garnishing a bowl of pinto beans is the comfort food of winter time blues while fried onion rings are always a treat at fast food establishments. 

I was inspired by a pie I had at a friend’s house. When I asked her for the recipe, I was surprised it was held together with just two eggs and a cup of Greek yogurt. Since I can never leave well enough alone, I went ahead to improve upon it. This pie literally has ALL OF THE ONIONS. They’re not cut with potatoes, loads of cheese, bacon or spicy peppers. It’s all onion, all of the time. A time-honored Southern-inspired pie, tomato pie, usually has a mayo and cheese crust and it’s baked until the center isn’t jiggly and the top is bubbly and brown. It’s a thing of beauty. 

BUT–The magic literally happens in the Crock Pot over the course of 5 hours or overnight. The beauty of this recipe is the same onions are also used to make the next recipe, Slow Cooker 5 Onion Soup (stay tuned for that gem).

Served with a fresh salad of mixed greens or kale, it’s the perfect light lunch or light dinner. 

Southern Savory Onion Pie 

Yield: 6-8 slices (per pie; 2 pies)

2 to 4 pounds white, yellow, red, and sweet onions, thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons cooking sherry

3/4 cup Greek yogurt
4 dashes hot pepper sauce (such as Cholula or Texas Pete)
2 eggs
salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups caramelized onions
1 pie shell
1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

1. Transfer all of the thinly sliced onions to the slow cooker — the slow cooker should be half to three-quarters full.

2. Cook for 5 hours on HIGH or 10 hours on LOW.

3. Stir occasionally, if possible — this will help them cook more evenly, but is not necessary.

4. After 5-10 hours, the onions will be golden-brown and soft, and they will have released a lot of liquid. Remove onions to a large bowl and let cool.

5. If you like onions with a deeper color, continue cooking for another 3 to 5 hours on LOW. Leave the lid ajar so the liquid can evaporate. Check every hour and stop cooking whenever the onions look and taste good.

6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

7. In a large bowl, mix 3 cups of the cooled onions with yogurt, hot sauce, eggs and salt and pepper. Make sure all ingredients are well blended and then pour into 1 pie shell.

8. In a small bowl, mix grated cheese, mayonnaise, salt and pepper until well-blended. Spoon mixture on top of the onion mixture in the pie shell.

9. To prevent burning or over-browning the pie crust, cover the crust with aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.

10. Remove foil from the pie crust and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Garnish with chives, if using. Let cool for a few minutes to settle before slicing.

Pie can be served hot, warm, or at room temperature.

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:

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Put French Onion Soup in your recipe repertoire

You’ve learned so much about onions, it’s now time to try the penultimate onion dish: French Onion Soup. Hightail it to the store and stock up with a good 5 pounds of onions.

We’ve got the perfect recipe.

French Onion Soup Gratinée

The use of chicken broth and white wine in this recipe makes for a lighter than normal French Onion Soup, but cookbook author Linda Carucci — and our millennial cook, Hannah, think it’s worth it. See how its done in this video.


5 pounds large yellow onions, sliced 1/16 inch thick

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup all purpose flour

1 cup dry white wine or vermouth

6 cups homemade chicken broth

3 fresh thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf, preferably imported

1 tsp kosher salt

Fresh ground black pepper

12 baguette slices (not sourdough), each ¾ inch thick and cut diagonally

6 ounces Gruyére cheese, coarsely shredded on the large holes of a box grater to yield 1 ½ cups


Heat a heavy 8-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add butter. When butter is hot enough to sizzle a piece of onion, add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they wilt and lose their moisture (about 10 minutes).

Cook onions about 25 minutes altogether.

Reduce heat to lowest setting and cook until onions are caramelized (about 15 minutes). They should be sticky and clinging together. Sprinkle with the flour and cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the wine all at once. When wine evaporates, add chicken stock, and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat so soup is at a steady simmer, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

The bay leaf and sprigs of thyme should be discarded after the soup has cooked.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler and arrange an oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler element. Line a sturdy, rimmed backing sheet with a silicone baking liner or aluminum foil. Arrange 6 deep, ovenproof soup bowls or 12-ounce ramekins on the lined baking sheet and set aside.

Place the baguette slices on another baking sheet and lightly toast both sides under the broiler. They will need only 2-3 minutes on each side. Set aside and leave broiler on.

When the soup is done, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Ladle the soup into the bowls and top each with 2 toasted baguette slices placed side by side.Top the baguette slices with the cheese, dividing evenly among bowls.

Gruyere cheese and toasted French Bread top off this soup nicely.

Place the baking sheet with the soup bowls under the broiler and watch closely, moving the pan as needed to expose al the bowls to the broiler element so the cheese melts evenly. Remove from the oven as soon as the cheese has melted, a bout 1 minute. Serve immediately.

Copyright Linda Carucci, Permission granted for use in this National Onion Association blogpost. 

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Yes, onions make a chocolate cake better

Chocolate is usually paired with fruit, so when you talk about onions and chocolate together, it might seem unusual.  Our guest chef, Hannah, wanted to not only satisfy her own chocolate craving, but see if she could get some onions past her 5-year-old, so this cake was the perfect ruse! Hannah’s thoughts? The cake tasted like peanut M&Ms. This is a cake that shouldn’t sit around, however. The best flavor and texture is on the first day, and the onion flavor starts to come through after the cake stands for 2 to 3 days.

See Hannah’s onion cake-baking experience — and her daughter’s reaction — here.

Give this great Caramelized Secret Chocolate Cake a try.


A dark, rich, moist but light-textured chocolate cake with heaps of satiny chocolate fudge frosting.

6          ounces unsweetened chocolate

1          cup yellow onion, finely diced

1          cup vegetable oil, divided

2          cups sugar

2          eggs

1          teaspoon vanilla

2          cups all-purpose flour

1          teaspoon baking soda

1/2       teaspoon salt

1          cup milk, soured with 1 tablespoon vinegar

Easy Fudge Icing (recipe follows)


Melt, chocolate in saucepan, stirring over low heat, or in microwave oven.  Caramelize onion by sauteing over medium low heat for 8-10 minutes in 2 tablespoons oil in skillet until soft.  In large bowl, beat remaining oil with sugar, eggs and vanilla until thoroughly mixed and fluffy, about 2 or 3 minutes.  Beat in warm melted chocolate and caramelized onions. Mix flour with baking soda and salt; stir into batter alternately with milk.  Divide batter evenly into 2 well-greased and floured 8-inch round layer cake pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until a pick inserted into center comes out dry.  Cool 15 minutes then invert onto wire racks to thoroughly cool.  Spread on icing.


Easy Fudge Icing:

Melt 8 ounces unsweetened chocolate with 1/2 cup butter in saucepan, stirring often over very low heat.  Mix in 1/2 cup hot water then turn into mixing bowl.  Beat in about 5 cups powdered sugar, a portion at a time.  (Adjust as needed to make a good consistency.)  Quickly fill and frost cake while icing is still warm.  If some icing gets too cool to spread easily, place it in microsafe bowl and microwave shortly just until softened and lustrous.

Makes about 3-1/2 cups.

 Per serving: About 830 cal, 8 g pro, 110 g carb, 46 g fat, 46% cal from fat, 58 mg chol, 295 mg sod, 6 g fiber.

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The Many Ways to Enjoy Onions

A diet rich in vegetables and fruit is crucial to a healthy lifestyle.  Onions are one of the most versatile vegetables.  They can be eaten raw, sautéed, roasted, marinated or grilled.  Onions add layers of flavor and nutrition to your meals.  Here are several ways you can prepare onions:

Use raw onion in salads, sandwiches, burgers, tacos, homemade salsas and relishes for unmatched flavor and crispness.

Marinate onions in balsamic vinegar for salads and dressings or as a sandwich topping.

Sauté or caramelize onions for a flavorful, yet quick and easy, side dish or topping for chicken, fish and other meats. Serve alone or with a medley of other vegetables, rice, or pasta to make a vegetarian main dish.

Put onions on the grill to spice up the next barbecue.  Just slice onions and brush with olive oil, then grill over medium coals until tender and slightly charred. Onions can also be used on kabobs or tossed with herbs and served over grilled meat.

Take a whole peeled onion, hollow it out and fill with chili, rice, pasta, meat, or vegetables and bake for a delicious one-dish meal.

Place onions in a roasting bag with meat or other vegetables or in a favorite slow cooker recipe for a home-cooked meal with extra savory, mouthwatering flavor.

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