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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!
Carmalized Onion Bites

How to Caramelize Onions

I love how produce can taste so differently depending upon how it is prepared. Steamed cauliflower is delicious but when it is roasted, it takes on a slightly nutty sweet flavor. Sautéed kale is soft, but baked kale turns into a thin crisp chip. An onion eaten raw is pungent and crunchy, but when caramelized, it is tender and sweet, yet savory.

If you've never caramelized an onion there are a few pointers to know:

  • Any onion will do really, but yellow onions caramelize quite nicely.
  • Use a bit of oil, which has a higher smoke point than butter, or a combination of the two.
  • Slice them about 1/8-inch thick. If you slice them too thick, they will take forever to caramelize, but if you slice them too thin, they will dry out and burn.
  • Unless you are using a skillet larger than 12-inches, only caramelize two large onions at a time.
  • Use medium or medium-low heat. This is the perfect temperature to caramelize the sugars in the onion without burning it.
  • Don't walk away for long! Stir every 3-5 minutes so that they brown but not burn.
  • Take your time. It may take 30-40 minutes to reach a dark brown color and soft but not mushy texture.

Caramelized onions are worth every bit of effort. Use in a hot Panini sandwich, atop a casserole, steak or pizza, or to make French onion soup. Freeze caramelized onions in ice cube trays, muffin tins or plastic freezer bags for just the portion you need. And for your Super bowl party, these Caramelized Onion Bites will knock the socks off your party guests!


Caramelized Onion Bites (Printable PDF)

2 teaspoons olive oil

4 cups chopped sweet onion

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

6 wedges light creamy Swiss cheese

20 frozen mini fillo shells

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic, salt and cayenne pepper. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently so onion doesn't burn; cook until caramelized, 30-40 minutes. Transfer onion to a bowl. Add cheese wedges and stir until most of the cheese is melted and distributed evenly. Place shells on a baking sheet and fill shells with even amounts of onion mixture. Bake in oven until shells are slightly brown, about 8 minutes.

Yield: 20 servings, 1 shell each

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 45 calories, 2 grams fat, 125 milligrams sodium, 6 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram protein

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