Heirloom Meals: Savoring Yesterday's Traditions Today

Monday January 12, 2015

The Curative Power of Onions

Last winter I contracted the flu. And oddly enough, it was indeed a contract.  It held on so long, I thought I might never be well again.  Would my legs always feel like leaden soldiers? My doctor even told me to lean into the flu, embrace the convalesence. And I did.  What I learned during that bout of the flu changed my life.  It was time to take care of myself and I knew food would be my first line of defense. Food and nutrition would become my medicine.

I want to be perfectly clear to you, I am not a nutritionist. What I am is a skilled home cook who believes food is medicine. I have an interest in understanding the healing qualities of foods and have personally experienced this power by changing my diet.

I am working with the National Onion Association and we thought sharing the healing benefits of onions would be great for January as we are solidly in cold and flu season.  

Let's begin by thinking about onions, just for a second. If slicing an onion can make you cry, then there must be some potent vitamins and minerals contained in that sphere.

Before we delve into how onions can heal us, I wanted to refute an old wive’s tale that cut onions absorb germs.  Again, I want you stop and ponder this.  If cut onions absorb bacteria, then millions of us would be sick from the cut onions we store in the fridge.  My guess is if people think placing a peeled, sliced onion by their bedside keeps the flu away, it must be psychosomatic, the power of suggestion or a placebo effect. But they do NOT, I repeat, do NOT absorb germs.

With that said, onions pack a serious nutrient punch and eating more of them can boost your immune system. Here are just a few of the nutrients that can make a difference with your health:

  • Quercitin – It is a flavonoid. Flavonoids are what laymen call antioxidants. It is the skin that contain them so next time you make vegetable broth or chicken soup, toss the skins into the pot. (of course, remove them before serving.) Red onions have the most and I use them in my soups this time of year.
  • Sulfur – According to Harriet Sugar Miller, an expert in the nutrition-cancer connections, and her sources, sulfur attaches to molecules that take carcinogens out of your system. She suggests western yellow onions have the most sulfur. If you are going to eat onions for health, it is good to know which ones offer the best healing qualities.
  • Other nutrients – Onions are high in vitamin C, B6, calcium and a host of others. For me, I am so happy to know that this seemingly mundane, daily staple holds so much power in my diet.

So, I admit, I might even contemplate putting sliced onions in my socks to potentially draw out the toxins if I had a really bad case of the flu again. Afterall, desperation is part of the flu experience.  And by all means give it a try if you are feeling punk. And maybe, just maybe it would work. Far be it from me to be the naysayer about old remedies. 

But, I think it wise to take obvious precautions during the cold and flu season. Wash you hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands.  And then boost your immune system with foods that are high in vitamin C and have antiviral and bacteria fighting qualities.  Onions are on the top of my list. Chicken or miso soup anyone?

Disclosure: I was compensated by the National Onion Association for this post. All opinions, text and photographs are my own.

Thursday December 04, 2014

Who Doesn’t Love Onions?

Anyone out there remember The Galloping Gourmet’s pronunciation of onions?  Well, I do.

U-N-Y-O-N-S ….in a long drawl.

Would it surprise you that whenever I delve into a big pile of onions to peel and chop, I chuckle and belt out. “U-N-Y-O-N-S!”

I cannot live without onions. For me they are the start of 95%, maybe more, of my savory cooking.  The aroma of onions sizzling in the sauté pan waft through the air like a lasso that gently captures anyone in the house and brings them to the kitchen exclaiming, “That smells delicious! What are you making?” I always giggle and think to myself, “It’s onions! It’s always just onions! Don’t they know?”

Of course there’s the peeling, slicing and the tears.  I don’t mind the tears. I look at them as part of the cleansing process.  Onions get my juices (tears) flowing and somehow I believe it’s a good thing. 

I put caramelized onions in my meatloaf. I dice up onions for my soffritto.  I slice them to adorn a burger. They go in most of my soups, into the cavity of a roasted chicken, in omelets, tuna salad and, as gross as it might sound (but I assure you it is delish), in my cheese and onion sandwiches.  I even grow onions in my garden.

When the opportunity to work with the National Onion Association came to me, it was a no brainer.  I realized I love onions. I love their look, taste and smell but mostly how they enhance my cooking.

Instead of keeping them hidden beneath the covers as a flavor enhancer, I decided to share a recipe where they are front and center – the perfect side for your holiday meals: Madeira and Maple Syrup Glazed Onions.

Disclosure: I was compensated by the National Onion Association for this post. All opinions, text and photographs are my own.

Monday December 01, 2014

News:
Happy December!

Here's what's cookin' this Holiday Season:

1. Check your local PBS listings to find when Heirloom Meals Christmas Special is airing.

2. Fun with onions! This month Heirloom Meals and the National Onion Association have teamed up. Think - onion sides. Stay tuned!!

3. There are a couple of spots in the December 7th Italian Christmas Cookie Workshop. Local Peeps joins us if you can!

4. Tune into Newschannel 13, Albany's NBC affiliate on Sunday, December 21st around 8:30-ish. Carole will be making an Umbrian Christmas Eve tradtion: Chocolate Spaghetti.

5. Here's my latest Zester Daily article: Rooted in Heritage.

Thursday November 13, 2014

News:
Thanksgiving Fun

Lots to report from the Heirloom Meals kitchen:

1. Check your local PBS listings to find when Heirloom Meals Thanksgiving Special is airing.

2. Potato and Turnip Gratin makes an excellent Thanksgiving side dish. Carole shares her recipe on Connecticut Style.

3. Pumpkin Cheesecake is on the menu at our house. Here's the demo and recipe.

4. There are a couple of spots left in Carole's Italian Christmas Cookie workshop on December 7th.

5. Tune into Newschannel 13, Albany's NBC affiliate on Saturday November 22nd around 8:30-ish for Carole's Red Cabbage Gratin recipe.

6. Keep your eyes open for new radio shows - we've been remiss about getting them on the site but we have some goodies to share!

Friday October 24, 2014

News:
Noteworthy

1. Tune into Newschannel 13, Albany's NBC affiliate on Sunday the 26th around 8:30-ish for Carole's Pumpkin Cheesecake Demo.

2. Gearing up to appear on Connecticut Style on November 7th - thinking Thanksgiving Traditions.

3. Sign up for an Italian Christmas Cookie Workshop - Sunday, December 7th - learn to make chocolate covered biscotti and pignoli cookies.

4. Read Carole's latest article in Zester Daily - Thriving on Love and Olive Oil

5. We are planning out first-ever Heirloom Meals Cooking and Storytelling Retreat - stay tuned for more details.

Friday October 24, 2014

Italian Christmas Cookie Workshop - December 7, 2014, 1-5pm

Come spend the afternoon in the Heirloom Meals Kitchen in Stockbridge, MA, learning to make 2 traditional Italian Christmas Cookies:

- Chocolate Dipped Biscotti

- Pignolis

Leave with a tin of pignolis and a beautiful plate of biscotti, ready to give away or share with your family.

We will have fun. We'll enjoy Christmas music in the background and we'll enjoy homemade eggnog and mulled cider while we work.

December 7th, 2014 - 1pm - 5pm  $60 per person, limited to 12 participants.

Click here to pay, call 413-298-0173 to reserve your spot, or send check to Heirloom Meals, PO Box 1532, Stockbridge, MA 01262.  Once you are signed up, we will send you the address and directions.

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