Onions Add Nutrients, Flavor To The Menu

 Do you like onions? Or are you afraid of the dreaded “onion breath” or crying when cutting them for recipes?

Onions almost always are on hand in my home. This vegetable provides nutrients your body needs and adds a wealth of flavor to your favorite recipes.

Onions are a member of the Allium family. The Allium family, which includes garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, scallions and chives, has sulfur-containing compounds and flavonoids that provide health benefits. Studies with humans have shown that daily consumption of onions may increase bone density.

Moderate intake of onions – one to two times per week – has resulted in a reduced risk of laryngeal, ovarian and colorectal cancer in several studies.

When selecting onions, choose those that are hard, firm and dry, with papery skin and small necks. Moisture at the neck and soft or dark spots may indicate decay. Avoid those with thick, hollow centers around the neck or fresh sprouts.

Store onions at room temperature in a well-ventilated, dry place.

Select green onions with fresh, crisp, green tops. Avoid those with wilting or discoloration. Store green onions in plastic in the refrigerator and use within a few days.

Onions are well-known for their distinctive flavor and aroma. French onion soup and baked onion rings are recipes that give onions a starring role. You can add grilled or sauteed onions  to burgers, sandwiches, steak, pork or chicken. Many soup recipes begin with sauteing chopped onion in oil.

Choose white, yellow, red or green varieties. Whether sliced or chopped, onions can make a tasty addition to lettuce or pasta salads and sandwiches.

Cutting onions can be a real tear-jerker. If you can’t finish chopping an onion with dry eyes, try these tips:

* Cut onions while standing to keep your eyes as far from the onion as possible.

* Chill the onion for 30 minutes to one hour before chopping to slow the gas release.

* Use a sharp knife so you can chop faster.

* Cut onions under cold, running water to reduce eye irritation.

Onions are one of the specialty crops that can be grown in North Dakota. Visit the North Dakota State University Extension Service’s Field to Fork website at www.ag.ndsu.edu/fieldtofork for more information about growing and using a variety of specialty crops, including onions.

Here’s a tasty recipe to try at home.

Baked Onion Rings
1 large yellow onion (or other large onion)
1/3 c. flour
1 tsp. seasoning salt
1/2 tsp. chili powder
2 c. panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. water
Dipping sauce of your choice (ketchup, barbecue sauce, sweet chili sauce, etc.)

Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray. Peel the outermost layer from the onion and discard. Cut off the ends (sparing as much of the onion as possible) and slice the rest of the onion into thick rings. Separate the rings and place in a bowl of water.

Line up three bowls as follows:

Bowl 1: Stir together flour, seasoning salt and chili powder.

Bowl 2: Whisk together eggs and water.

Bowl 3: Panko crumbs

One at a time, place each onion ring in the flour mixture, turning to coat well. Next, dip the onion ring in the egg mixture, being sure to coat all sides. Finally, toss the ring in the panko crumbs to coat. Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining rings. Spray the rings with nonstick spray (optional, but it helps get them crispy). Bake rings for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and serve with your favorite dipping sauce

Makes four servings. Each serving has 230 calories, 2.5 grams (g) fat, 9 g protein, 42 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber and 450 milligrams sodium.

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Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a food and nutrition specialist and professor for the North Dakota State University Extension Service.

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