The onion ring’s national day is here

National Onion Ring Day is about here (June 22), and we’re excited. You see, we heard in recent years about a restaurant in New Orleans that served a special onion ring, one with a kick and tanginess we’ve never tasted before.

Wine and Bring Pickled Onion Rings
These Wine and Bring Onion Rings started out as red onions pickled in red wine.

The only issue was the chef wasn’t willing to share. So we decided to try our own version and enlisted Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA, the executive chef with the University of Northern Colorado, to take a swing at duplicating the deliciousness of what we deemed, the “Pickled Onion Ring.”

Wine and Brine Pickled Onion Ring

Crisp fried onion rings with a tangy twistr

2 Medium                     Red Onions                   Sliced into ¾ inch rings

8 fl oz                           Red Wine Vinegar

2.5 TBS                         Sugar

1 TBS                            Salt

3 fl oz                           Red Wine

3 each                          Cloves 

  1. Slice Onions
  2. In a Sauce Pot, Combine the Vinegar, Sugar, Salt, Wine and Cloves
  3. Place the onions in the liquid. Do not separate the rings. They will separate as the mixture cooks.
  4. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 3-4 minutes swirling the pan to ensure all the onions are exposed to hot brine.
  5. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes.
  6. Place into a clean container and place in refrigeration for at least 2 hours. Onions should be submerged in the liquid.

Wine Batter

200 grams         (Approx. 1 cup)             All-purpose flour

1 each              Large                            Egg                   (Beaten)

260 grams        (Approx. 1 1/4 cup)        White Wine

70 grams         (Approx. 1/4 cup)           Brine

  1. Whisk egg, wine and brine together.
  2. Add to flour and stir to combine
  3. Chill for 1 hour

Finishing

  1. Heat frying oil to 350 degrees
  2. Remove onion rings from brine and pat dry any excess moisture
  3. Dip in batter and place in hot oil
  4. Fry till golden and crisp
  5. Serve warm

There are tons of onion rings out there. We’re adding this one from Chef Essig to our list. In fact, the National Onion Association has its hands on a variety of onion ring recipes. The Best Ever Onion Rings, Rootbeer Onion Rings, Crispy Microbrew Onion Rings, even Crispy Barbecue Onions (though not specifically the battered version, they’re still rings).

But this version is special. It’s a taste that knocks out the traditional onion, and may put a little pucker on your face.

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Plant-Based Power Bowls

Many people are incorporating plant-based recipes into their weekly meal plan and the summer months are a great time to experiment with plant-based options as local produce is abundant! Plant-based eating provides an abundance of nutrients and helps you moderate calorie intake with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant based protein sources. It doesn’t mean you have to go meatless and a variety of protein sources can be used for flexibility.

You can get as creative as you want to make your own plant-based bowl.
See the recipe for this Buddha Bowl below.

Incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet is certainly a healthful habit and creating plant-based power bowls is a delicious trend to try! There are endless ways to put together various grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds, protein sources and flavorful sauces to please everyone.

Here is an easy equation for building your plant-based power bowl:

Whole grains + Vegetables + protein source + seasoning/sauce

With this easy equation, and the following examples from each category you’ll be on your way to building a one-of-a-kind meal in a bowl.

Whole Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, bulger, farro, etc.

Vegetables: Onions, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, avocado, spinach, sweet potato and more. Think of

This as a great way to use leftover veggies; and you’ll have less food waste!

Proteins: Eggs, tofu, nuts/seeds, beans/legumes, and/or veggie burger crumbles. If you choose not to go plant-based add shredded chicken; seafood or lean beef/pork.

Seasoning/Sauce: A great sauce can really add flavor to your bowl! Experiment with tahini dressing, balsamic dressing, sesame/miso flavors, lemon/lime, Dijon mustard based dressing, sweet onion dressing, etc.

Now, get ready to create a bowlful of delicious!
Here’s one of our favorites. Grilled vegetables combined with quinoa and savory, slightly sweet tahini sauce to make the perfect bow of yum.

Sheet Pan-Style Buddha Bowls

HyperFocal: 0

Ingredients

2 yellow onions, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch wedges
Half a head of red/purple cabbage, cut into wedges
2 red potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
1 small butternut squash, peeled and 1/2 inch diced 
1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
1-1/2 cups quinoa, cooked according to package directions 
1 tablespoon tahini
1/2 of a lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 to 1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 avocados, peeled and sliced
Fresh parsley for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large 13 x18-inch sheet pan with parchment paper. Place the vegetables in a single layer on the sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Roast vegetables for 40 minutes or until tender. Add more salt and pepper if needed.

While the vegetables are roasting, cook 1-1/2 cup of quinoa according to package directions. 

Next, make the tahini sauce in a small bowl by whisking together: tahini, lemon juice, mustard, and syrup until smooth. 

To assemble the Buddha bowls, spoon quinoa into bowls. Add roasted veggies and garnish with avocado and parsley. Drizzle tahini sauce over each bowl and serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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How not to waste your onions

Today, so much is thrown away that many believe we are in a crisis.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans threw away 37.6 million tons of food waste in 2015. Imagine what that number is today. “By managing food sustainably and reducing waste, we can help businesses and consumers save money, provide a bridge in our communities for those who do not have enough to eat, and conserve resources for future generations,” the site states.

The U.S. Environmental Protection agency has an entire webs page dedicated to finding ways to reduce food waste.

Reducing waste in history

Target Zero Waste
Food waste has become a large problem in the United States. Let’s find ways to keep food waste out of landfills.

Before modern technology, societies had to make do with what they had on hand. The Native Americans, for example, were a prime example of this. When they hunted buffalo, they wasted nothing. Their hides were used as clothes, bones became tools or boiled for glue, their horns became cups or even children toys. They celebrated and appreciated every part of the buffalo that enhanced their lives.

We at the National Onion Association also are concerned about food waste but in the discussions of using all of what we have, we’ve noticed a few things about the beloved onion. You don’t have to waste much at all.

Onions have many uses

Use leftover onions to make these great chocolate chip cookies.
Got leftover onions? Dice them up to add to your chocolate chip cookies to add a bit of nutrition to your dessert.
Find the recipe here.

In fact, the best part of onions is their versatility. They can be cooked in so many different ways that they can literally enhance every meal — even desserts. Plan your daily meals appropriately, and you can never let an onion go to waste.  Given they are so nutritious, it’s just a win all the way around to include more onions in your diet. Dice them up for a week’s worth of cooking, and freeze what’s left for your future stews or frittatas. Don’t feel like freezing? Turn them into a meal and take it to your local homeless shelter.

Sustainability focus

But there’s so much more to onions’ sustainability. You could save those dry, papery skins of red and yellow onions and hang onto them. Turn them into onion dyes, and add color to old, stale clothes. Natural dyes are growing in popularity, and bonus, you don’t have to worry about the leftover water you’re putting back into the system. Heck, just water your house plants with the remains.

Naturally cleanse your outdoor grill with an onion.
Use an onion to clean your grill for a natural cleanser, then throw the leftover into the coals for amazing flavor.

Cut an onion in half and clean your grill. First, brush off the grates, then heat them up. Slide the onion all over the heated grates, and the acidic juices will act as a natural cleanser to your grill.  A good on onion on hand will soothe a bee sting, and some swear by the juices’ effects on hair loss or soothing sore throats, though we haven’t yet found a credible study that says so.

If all else fails, turn your leftover onions, and other vegetables into compost. That’ll make your back yard gardens and lawns that much prettier — without harsh chemicals.

Can you challenge yourself to reduce your food waste?

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NY graduate students harness onion power

Four New York textile-design students aim to revolutionize the textile world in the next few months — all with the power of onions.

    Their project, part of a partnership with textile studio Fragmentario through the students’ Master of Fine Arts in Textiles program at Parson’s School of Fashion Design in New York, has taken a natural turn, encapsulated in a growing movement on sustainability, with one common denominator: onion skins.

Silks colored with natural onion skin dyes.
Onion skins bring out a range of colors from yellows, browns and oranges to pink and even green. Photo courtesy of Maria Elena Pombo.

Onion Power

  Onion skins have been used as a natural dyeing agent for the likes of Easter eggs and fabrics for years. Red onion skins give a range of colors from pink, to burgundy to brown and sometimes green. Yellow onion skins give a range of golden and orange colors. 

   Known for using food-waste items like onion skins and avocado seeds to color fiber, New York based artist María Elena Pombo, a Parsons graduate herself, opens her studio, Fragmentario, for these students during their master’s education in a practicum environment in which they work on real-world projects. Pombo said she opted for the students to work with onion skins after realizing they all came from some top onion producing countries in the world: USA, India, China and Japan. 

How it started

Onion skin dyeing workshop in Italy, led by Maria Elena Pombo.
Maria Elena Pombo, a New York based artists, shows how to dye fabric naturally with onion skins in Italy at La Guarimba Film Festival in recent years. Photo courtesy of Maria Elena Pombo.

   “I go very often to the south of Italy, where people have a very strong connection with their local onion,” Pombo said.  “Whenever I have a workshop on dyeing with onion skins there, the people are most excited about discovering this secret property of their beloved plant. This has made me re-think how we can relate to nature and culture in a different way. Using this local pride I have seen in Italy as a starting point, I asked, ‘How do a group of artists from the USA, China, Japan and India use onions to explore themselves and communicate these ideas with others?’”

  The students plan to show off their work, which includes clothing, rugs and tapestries, during New York Textile Month this coming September in New York City.

Balls of yarn dyed naturally in yellows and greens from onion skins.
These yarns were dyed with onion skins. Photo courtesy of Maria Elena Pombo.

    “It’s just building a new world of how to interact with something we kind of take for granted and really enriching our sensory perception with this vegetable,” says Tess Murdoch, one of the students working on the project.  

Sustainable fashion

    There’s an entire movement for sustainable textiles, demanding ethically produced clothing, but also environmentally-friendly fabrics and dyes.  While modern-day fashion continues to be more geared toward what Murdoch calls “fast fashion,” on a smaller scale, a trend of natural dyes can only grow.  “We’re all converts for life,” Murdoch said, noting that onion skin dying has replaced their love for any other dyes.

    Student Lori Luo is from China, said she has gained interest already from her Instagram friends when she shows off pictures of the creations on social media.

Chinese student of Parson's models a dress she made with fabric dyed naturally with onion skins.
Lori Luo of Chia models a dress she made using onion skins to dye the fabric. Photo courtesy of Maria Elena Pombo.

   “Maybe we can change our little world surrounding us,” Luo said. “I’m interested in the onion’s layers, and the texture of onion skins. I make a set of layered garments and will apply cell-like stitches. I connect those layers with Chinese traditional culture. In ancient times, people loved to wear a lot of layers,” she said. “With some skills people could see their own skins through give or six layers, which is also similar to onion skins.”

How to make onion skin dyes

    Pombo says the process of making onion skin dye is as personal as how home cooks make their favorite dish. Each cook is different and may put a little different flare on the dish. For Pombo, she needs pots, water and onion skins. She soaks the onion skins in water, and heats it up like a tea, then discards the skins (which can be easily re-sued in compost) and douses her fabrics. To alter the final color, items such as baking soda and lemons can be used. The non-toxic options are endless, so the product is always natural — enough to go back into the earth without affecting nature negatively. 

Good for the planet

    Sam Easwaran is originally from India. On a recent trip back home, she said, she created three dye pots. “My mom insisted on using the water to pour back into the soil. It has no chemicals, so it’s just giving more nourishment back to the soil. My mom actually saved some of the water for her hair.”

Traditional Indian wraps in green, dyed naturally with onion skins.
Sam Easwaran created these traditional Indian wraps with dyes made from onion skins. Photo courtesy of Maria Elena Pombo.

    Added Japanese student Terumi Saito, “I hope that maybe this project will be a good stepping stone to (show) people that natural dye can make these beautiful colors and products and open up their minds.”

    New York Onion Farmer Chris Pawelski hadn’t heard of using onion skins in such a way before. 

    “Here in New York, they are dumped in piles in the fields nearby and literally blow away or eventually break down,” Pawelski said. “Having a use for them is great!”

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Stretch your onions beyond the diet — to the back porch

Believe it or not — the onions in your pantry can go a long way.

Now that summer is growing near, onions are more important than ever — not just to make the most of your meals, but they are a great resource for your summer cookouts — in more ways than one.

Half a red onion
A half onion can clean your grill in no time — naturally.

As you start your grill this summer, an onion is essential. Cleaning your grill is always a messy job, and should be done with a brush. But the juices in an onion become natural cleansers when applied to heated grates. This is especially important when using a public campground or park grill. You never know what was on them last!

Onions’ naturally occurring juices contain sulfur compounds that not only repel bugs while they’re growing — the same ones that cause your eyes to tear up when you cut into them — they are strong enough to break down the grime on your hot grill. Those same juices provide the flavor you’ve come to love from an onion, while protecting your body from certain types of cancers and diseases. Some studies also have shown increased consumption reduces blood pressure and even lessens asthmatic issues.

That onion, however, can go a little further. When you’re done cleaning the grill, toss the leftover onion in the coals to infuse a good onion flavor into whatever you’re cooking.

Now that your grill is clean, here are a couple of a great recipes to kick off your grilling season:

Sweet Onion Sliders

Ingredients

16 Slider buns, about 2 ½ to 3 inches in diameter, split and toasted
16 tablespoons unsalted margarine, room temperature (use recipe below or store-bought margarine)
4 large sweet onions, such as Vidalia, sliced into 16 (1/3-inch thick) slider-size patties
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing the onion patties
Sea salt, to taste
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (use recipe below or store-bough mayo)
4 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped capers (optional)

Directions

Spread each bun with 1 tablespoon of the margarine. Bush each onion patty with the olive oil. Heat a grill to medium-high heat, or place a grill pan over a burner set to medium-high heat. Cook the onion patties until just tender and grill marks form, about 10 minutes. 

Place 1 onion patty on each bun bottom. Lightly season the onions with the salt. Spread some of the mayonnaise around the inside top of each bun, sprinkle with the parsley and the capers, if using, and close each bun. Serve immediate.
Yields 16 sliders

Special notes

DIY Margarine

16 ounces coconut oil
1-1/2 cups canola or sunflower oil
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

Attach a candy thermometer to the side of a sturdy, medium-size saucepan. Prepare an ice water bath in a vessel large enough to hold the saucepan.

Add the coconut oil, canola oil, coconut milk, mustard, turmeric, and salt to the saucepan, stirring well. Bring the mixture to 125°F over medium heat, then transfer the pan to the ice water bath, and continue to stir until the mixture firms up. Transfer the mixture to a container with a screw-on lid. Cover and refrigerate the mixture. The margarine will keep for about 2 weeks.
Yields about 4 cups

DIY Mayonnaise

For anyone looking for a plant-based alternative to store-bought mayonnaise, Vegenaise is the recommended brand. Vegenaise is becoming more widely available in stores, but it can also be purchased online at FollowYourHeart.com, which is the website of the company that originally created it.

For a homemade mayo, the following version can be used in recipes throughout this book:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, such as Colman’s
3/4 cup soft tofu, pressed and drained, if desired (see instructions below)

Stir together the flour, sugar, water, and vinegar in a medium-size saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until thick. Combine the vegetable oil, lime juice, zest, salt, mustard, and tofu in a blender, and blend well. Add half of the hot flour mixture to the blender and blend. Add the remaining flour mixture and blend again. Use at room temperature or cooled in the refrigerator. Homemade vegan mayonnaise will keep in the refrigerator for about 4 to 5 days. Yields about 2 cups

Recipe courtesy of John Schlimm from ‘The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Happy Hour’.

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