Tag Archive for real food

Onion Rings

Homemade Onion Rings

The problem with blogging about yummy food is that sometimes by the time you go to take a picture there’s not much left.

 I have really fond memories of pre-packaged onion rings. When I was growing up we would often have a brunch on Saturday mornings, usually while listening to Car Talk as a family. (When I was little I more often got to listen to Children’s Bible Hour and Ranger Bill while my father listened to Car Talk in the other room, but as I got older Car Talk became the official family activity.) I didn’t know it was technically a brunch until much later, as we always just called it Big Breakfast, and it usually included scrambled eggs, some kind of potato such as french fries or tater tots, often onion rings, and occasionally juice, which was a huge treat for us. Every so often it shifted to focus more on either creamed eggs or chipped beef gravy over biscuits, but no matter what, Big Breakfast kind of summarized everything that was good about Saturdays: Daddy was home from work, everything was on a later schedule because we got to sleep in (because no schoolwork!) and we got to just hang out together eating fun food and listening to fun radio programs.

 I distinctly remember my confusion the first time I watched my father making homemade onion rings. I hadn’t known my father could cook, to start with, and I had no idea that you could make onion rings out of real onions. Onions were a prosaic food, and raw onion was pretty much the only food we were allowed to be picky about eating, as they were deemed too strong for young children to be expected to eat.

 And, as it turns out, real homemade onion rings are completely different from the store bought ones. Store bought onion rings are uniformly crispy on the outside, but with a vaguely onion flavored mush on the inside.  Homemade onion rings have a more knobbly kind of crispness on the outside, with a whole piece of beautifully tender onion on the inside, which, if you’re not careful as you bite into it, pulls right out of the breading, leaving behind a ring shaped shell that tastes only of crispiness.

 I loved both kinds of onion rings.

 I remember my father’s recipe as being very much a ‘throw stuff in a bowl and tweak it until it comes out right’ kind of recipe, and also being heavily egg based. Since I was at the height of my egg allergy symptoms around the time I decided to try making my own onion rings, I started searching for a recipe on my own. I didn’t want to have to deal with egg substitutes (flaxseed onion rings anyone?) or complexities like double breading the onion rings. This turned out to be the best and simplest base recipe I could find. I have, of course, tweaked it heavily since discovering it, but the concept of using carbonation to make the batter light and airy was a vital discovery in my onion ring quest.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

A couple of caveats to the rating of healthy: 1, the healthiness of the onion ring depends on lot on what you fry it in. Choose the healthiest oil you have access to. I would rank lard and tallow as the best frying oils, closely followed by coconut oil, followed by ghee if your frying temperature isn’t too high. If none of those are option you can use a neutral oil such as grapeseed, safflower or rice bran, but stay away from soy oil, corn oil and hydrogenated oils like Crisco if you possibly can. 2, the whole wheat flour is unsoaked in this recipe, leaving a high phytic acid content. I think this is fine for most people, especially for occasional use, but if you have digestive issues or chronic health problems you may want to stay away from unsoaked whole wheat. (For a more full discussion of my opionions on phytic acid, see this post.)

 I go back and forth on whether I consider onion rings a full vegetable side in a meal or not, but especially when paired with homemade ketchup, and as part of a diet that includes raw vegetables at other times, I think they can reasonably be considered to fill the vegetable niche for a meal.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

This one is a favorite at our house. The whole wheat doesn’t seem to bother my husband at all as he raves about homemade onion rings, and it always rates an, “Ooh, onion rings. Yum!” when he comes home from work to find me frying onion rings.

Onion Rings

2 cups flour (white or whole wheat, depending on preference)

1 1/3-2 2/3 cups seltzer water (depending on type of flour used)

1-2 tsp salt

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1-2 onions

lard or oil for frying (about two cups)

( The basic ratio of flour to seltzer water is one cup of white flour to one cup of seltzer water. If using a soft white whole wheat (my flour of choice for less ‘wheaty’ flavor), start with 2/3 of a cup seltzer water per cup of flour, and add more seltzer water if needed. If using a hard red wheat, start with 1 1/3 cups of seltzer water per cup of flour, and again, add more seltzer water as needed. I haven’t tried this with hard white wheat, but I would start with the soft white wheat ratio, and plan on slowly adding more seltzer as needed.)

 Begin heating lard or oil over a medium heat. (Unsurprisingly, I prefer my cast iron skillet for frying, but you can use any skillet you have around.)

 Peel onion and slice into 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch slices. Separate slices into rings. Don’t worry if you break some–they make great onion ‘strings’. I also fry up the centers that are too small to separate into rings. Those are onion nuggets, and they taste just as good as the onion rings.

 Mix flour with seasonings. Add seltzer water and mix. The batter should be thinner than even a very soft dough, but on the thick side for batter. If in doubt, throw in one onion ring. If the batter clumps and sticks to itself more than the onion, add a bit more liquid. If it coats the onion ring with a very thin layer of batter and drips off quickly, add a bit more flour. If it sticks to the onion ring in a thick layer, it’s perfect.

 Drop a small bit of batter into the oil to see if it’s hot enough. The batter should bubble and begin to brown within a few seconds, but not smoke or start to burn quickly. Adjust oil heat if needed.

 Drop onion rings into batter, coat thoroughly, and transfer to hot oil. (I like to use tongs or a fork for this part of the process.) Let cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, flipping over when the bottom is light golden brown and lightly crispy. (I like to use a clean pair of tongs for this part, but a metal spatula can also work.)

 When light golden brown and crispy on both sides, transfer to a plate lined with a couple of paper towels or a clean rag to absorb the extra grease. If needed, keep the plate in a warm oven to keep the onion rings warm as you continue frying the rest of them.

 Serve with ranch dressing, homemade ketchup or other sauce of choice. (We just discovered that homemade french dressing mixed with mayo and just a dash of hot sauce make a great onion ring dipping sauce.)

Chocolate Butter Mints

chocolate butter mints

The front mint is coated in cocoa powder, which is totally a valid serving option, and also a valid photographic

option for those with minimal photography skills trying to make chocolate look edible in a picture.

 So, as I may have mentioned before, I have the kind of metabolism that runs well on proteins and fats. Unlike my carb metabolizing husband, I’m not that thrilled with being given random pieces of bread, but I could eat sour cream by the spoonful and have been known to lick off butter wrappers before I throw them away.

Enter this recipe for a socially acceptable way to eat butter. It looks like candy and tastes like chocolate, but has all the satisfying healthy fats of eating pats of butter. If you were so inclined, you could use half coconut oil to increase the types of healthy fats in this candy. Because my husband’s digestion strenuously objects to coconut oil I haven’t tried this yet, but I might in the future, as my metabolism and energy levels highly approve of coconut oil.

Now, even with straight butter, when my husband first tasted these he said they were good, but a little too much like eating butter for him to really love them. However, he found himself regularly snitching them as they sat in the fridge, so either he as over thinking it as first, or they grew on him rapidly.

The first batch I made was lighter on both the honey and the cocoa powder (probably 2 TBSP of honey and 1 heaping TBSP of cocoa, but of course, I didn’t actually measure). I preferred the lighter sweetness of the first batch for snacking, but for the full blown dessert experience the second batch (with 4 TBSP of honey and 2 heaping TBSP of cocoa) was amazing.

I mentioned in the video that I use Young Living brand peppermint oil, and while I’m not going to fangirl over it, there is an important point to be made about the quality of essential oils. There are some substances labeled as essential oils which are extracted by chemicals, diluted with other substances or otherwise carelessly and fraudulently handled, and those are completely UNSAFE to use, especially internally. I can’t say that I’ve researched every single oil company out there, but I can say that I believe Young Living to make a completely safe, high quality oil. Please make sure you do your research before choosing a brand of essential oil, to make sure you’re confident in the safety of what you’re using.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Butter, raw cocoa, raw honey, and sea salt. Can you say superfoods?

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

With the small proviso that if you’re a carb person these are just ‘good’, as a non-carb person I proclaim these butter mints to be completely amazing.

Chocolate Butter Mints

1 cup butter, softened

6-8 drops peppermint essential oil (Young Living oils are intense–you may need more if you’re using another brand)

2-4 TBSP honey

1-2 TBSP cocoa (feel free to make them heaping TBSP)

pinch of sea salt

Put all ingredients in mixer and blend, or blend by hand with a fork. Make bite sized mints by squeezing through a pastry bag, ziploc bag with the corner cut off, or by dropping small spoonfuls on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate until firm.

(I bet these would easier to handle if you rolled the mixture into a small log, refrigerated it for an hour or so, and then sliced off bite sized chunks. I haven’t tried this  method yet, but it would probably be tidier than anything I’ve tried so far.)