Since Father’s Day is over do you need a reason to celebrate? Here it is: National Onion Ring Day! Who doesn’t love a batter-dipped and deep-fried food item that comes in a fun shape? Onion rings are popular in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and even some areas in Asia. Of course, we know they are a favorite appetizer in the United States. Let’s face it, onions are the unsung hero of the vegetable world.
People have been growing and eating onions for close to 7,000 years but eating onion rings does not have quite as long a history. One of the earliest recorded recipes, “Fried Onions with Parmesan cheese,” is found in a cookbook dating to 1802 by John Mollard. A restaurant chain called The Pig Stand and founded in Oak Cliff, Texas, claims to be one of the inventors of the onion rings dating back to the 1920s. The A&W fast-food chain is credited with making the onion ring popular in the 1960s. Whether you like onion rings or prefer your onion powdered, onions are nutritious and versatile.
Onions are an edible bulb that grows underneath the soil. They are crunchy and pungent when eaten raw and soft and sweet when cooked. The onion family includes red, white and yellow onions, pearl onions, scallions (green onion), Cipollini, Vidalia, shallots, leeks and garlic.
You can caramelize, grill, sauté, steam, roast, preserve them and enjoy them raw. To quote Shrek, “Onions have layers.” Those layers allow for a lot of versatility in how they are prepared and eaten. While most people do not think of onions first when thinking about vegetables, they are in the top five most eaten. The average American eats 21 pounds of onions every year.
Choose onions that are firm and dry with little-to-no scent and avoid bulbs that have mold, cuts or bruising. Onions will last longer if not washed until time to be used. To store uncut onions, keep them in a dark, cool and dry place and do not store them in a plastic bag because they need good ventilation to last.
Once an onion is cut, refrigerate the unused portion in a tightly sealed container for up to two to three days only. When you only need a portion, do not peel the whole onion. Cut off the size you need and peel that part and the remainder will keep longer in the refrigerator if unpeeled. Wrap scallions or sweet onions in plastic before storing to help keep them fresh and prevent their strong odor from flavoring other foods in the fridge. If you chop onions from the top and not the root end, you have a better chance of not crying. You can also try chilling the onions first or cutting them under cold water.
Onions pack a lot of nutrition in that round, gluten-free package. They are fat and cholesterol-free and have negligible amounts of sodium. Onions are a good source of dietary fiber and provide you with vitamin C, which helps keep our immune system strong and helps our body heal quickly. They also are a good source of B vitamins which help our cells grow and stay healthy. Garlic is also high in allicin, an antioxidant that helps our heart health and protects against cellular damage. With only 32 calories per half-cup serving, you get a lot of nutrition for with very little cost to your calorie count.
Unfortunately, onion rings can add a lot to your calorie count for the day since most of the time they are deep-fried in hot oil. Depending on how they are prepared they can also be high in sodium. Never fear! You can make your own homemade onion rings for you and your family. Making them from scratch allows you to control the ingredients and how they are prepared.
I tested some healthier versions of homemade onion rings with my family and they were a big hit. Here is a recipe that can be done in the oven or in an air fryer. Making them from scratch is a little more labor intensive, but you can control the ingredients and get your family involved.
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2-1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt, divided (can be reduced for low sodium diet, black pepper or other seasonings can be used as a substitute)
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk or low-fat milk (you can make your own buttermilk by adding 1 tbsp. vinegar or lemon juice to 1/2 cup milk)
1 egg or 2 egg whites
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup panko or whole-wheat breadcrumbs
1 large yellow sweet onion — sliced into 1/2-inch wide rings
Oil spray, optional
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees if using oven.
2. In a large plastic bag combine flour, paprika, and 1/2 tsp. of salt.
3. In a shallow bowl, combine milk, egg, olive oil, 1/2 tsp. of salt and 1/4 cup of the flour mixture and stir until evenly mixed.
4. In a second bowl, place half of the panko or whole-wheat breadcrumbs (save the remaining breadcrumbs for when the first batch starts to get sticky or too low to coat the onion).
5. Place cut onions into the plastic bag and gently shake until thoroughly coated with the flour mixture.
6. Drop rings into the buttermilk mixture a few at a time and lightly toss with tongs until coated.
7. Gently toss them in the panko/whole-wheat breadcrumb bowl until covered with crumbs, carefully lifting them out with a dry fork
8. If using air fryer, spray basket with oil spray. Place onion rings in a single layer — smaller ones can be placed inside larger rings without touching. (I did do a second layer laid on top to touch as little as possible of the bottom layer and they did not stick together.) Cook at 400 degrees until golden brown and crispy, for about 11-15 minutes. You can spray with cooking oil about halfway through and do not turn the rings over.
9. If using the oven, place rings onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, without touching. Rings can be set inside each other for more space. Spray the rings lightly with cooking oil. Bake in oven for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
Calories: 193kcal; carbohydrates: 26g; protein: 4g; fat: 8g; saturated fat: 1g; cholesterol: 3mg; sodium: 1208mg; potassium: 260mg; fiber: 2g; sugar: 9g; vitamin A: 540IU; vitamin C: 7.9IU; calcium: 68mg; Iron: 1.4mg
If you would like more about making your favorite recipes healthier or need other nutrition-related information, contact the Garland County Cooperative Extension Service, 623-6841, email [email protected], visit http://www.uaex.edu/counties/garland/, or follow @GarlandExtensionHomeLife or @GarlandCounty-UAEX on Facebook.
Master Gardener meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month at the Elks Lodge. The meetings are open to the public, and guests are welcome. For more information, call the Extension Office at 623-6841 or email Alex Dykes at [email protected]
Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC, call 623-6841 or email Alison Crane at [email protected] Follow Alison on Facebook @garlandEGF and @Garland FCS, and EHC on Facebook @GarlandCountyEHC.
For information about Garland County 4-H Club membership or program benefits, contact Carol Ann McAfee at the Extension office, 236 Woodbine, call 623-6841, or email [email protected] More information is available at http://www.uaex.edu/garland.