In between trips this summer I got an email from Loblaws asking me to reserve a day for a farm trip, and just like that the third Food Lovers Unite Challenge was upon me! Loblaws is my go to location for local produce and they wanted me to learn more about the local farmers and how their food makes it from the farm to the store.
Before I knew it, I was on my way to Hillside Gardens in Bradford, Ontario, a farm just outside of Toronto that has been growing root vegetables in the cultivated marsh soil for generations. While there, I got to see the carrot fields, celery fields and onion fields and I got to see them harvesting the onions! I learned a bit about onion harvesting from the farmers and here are some interesting facts about onions:
- Each green leaf that grows out of the top of an onion corresponds to a layer within the onion!
- The onions are ready to be harvested when the green stalks fall over.
- Just before they’re ready to harvest the onion bulbs are really close to the surface of the soil making it easier to get them out of the ground!
When the onions are ready to be harvested, a machine goes across the rows of onions and sifts them to the top of the soil to air dry on the surface before a second set of machines come by to scoop them up and place them in bins ready to be packaged. The onions can either be shipped directly to the stores or they can be stored in the proper conditions for up to a year before being sent out. All said and told, the onions that you are picking up at your Loblaws today could have been in a field less than 48 hours ago!
The more perishable produce from Hillside Gardens, like celery, can go from the field to your local Loblaws in less than 24 hours!
The second part of the challenge was of course to make a recipe using some of the produce from the farm, in this case onions! More specifically, the challenge was to find an onion lover within my circle of family or friends and to come up with two recipes that highlight onions, one hot and one cold. There are a bunch of onion lovers in my family, so it wasn’t hard to sit down with one and brainstorm about onions!
One of the ideas that came out of talking about onions with them was that caramelized onions are one of the best things, ever! …but they require so much effort and work, standing above a pan mixing the onions every few minutes so that they don’t burn. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were easier? Why not make them in a slow cooker? Why not make a huge batch, fill a few jars and store them in the fridge to have on hand whenever you want them? Great idea!
The first recipe for the challenge is a caramelized onion jam, served cold from the fridge! The onion jam is seasoned with balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and smoky and spicy chipotle chilies in adobo sauce! To highlight the jam, I also made a roast beef sandwich using it! Yum!
Another idea that came up from the onion brainstorm with the onion lover in my family was that simple roasted onions were such an amazing and overlooked side dish! The second dish for this root vegetable challenge is a balsamic roasted onion recipe! These roasted onions are easy to make, you just peel and remove the tops and bottoms from the onions, slice and roast them in a simple and tasty balsamic glaze! The perfect side for any meal!
When I went to Loblaws it was wild to see the onions from Hillside Gardens at the store!
Slow Cooker Chipotle Maple Onion Jam
Super easy slow cooker onion jam/marmalade/spread with maple and smoky chipotle chilies! Caramelizing onions was never easier!
- 3 pounds onions, sliced or diced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, chopped
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme, chopped
- Place everything in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours with the lid on and another 2-4 hours with the lid ajar, about a 1 inch opening to let the moisture get out. Note: Cook the onions in the slow cooker until a deep golden brown and most of the liquid has cooked off.
- Enjoy right away or store in a seal container in the fridge for up to a week.
Option: Replace the maple syrup with brown sugar.
Roast Beef Sandwich with Maple Chipotle Onion Jam and Horseradish Mayo
Roast beef sandwiches with sweet caramelized onion jam, spicy horseradish mayo, peppery arugula, and melted provolone that is grilled until golden brown and crispy!
- 8 slices bread
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 slices provolone
- 8 ounces roast beef, sliced
- 4 tablespoons onion jam (see above)
- 1/2 cup baby arugula
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon horseradish
- Butter one side of each slice of bread and assemble the sandwiches with the cheese, roast beef onion jam, arugula and the mixture of the mayo and the horseradish between slices of bread with the buttered sides on the outside.
- Grill in a pan over medium heat until lightly golden brown on the outside, about 2-4 minutes per side.
Balsamic Roasted Onions
Sweet roasted onions in a tangy balsamic glaze!
- 4 medium onions, tops, bottoms and skins removed, cut in half
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup beef broth
- Place the onions in a large oiled baking dish with the tops and bottoms facing up, pour the mixture of the remaining ingredients over the onions and cover in foil.
- Roast in a preheated 400F/200C oven for 40 minutes before removing the foil, gently flipping the onions and roasting until tender, about 20 minutes.
- Serve topped with the balsamic glaze from the bottom of the pan.
Option: Marinate the onions in the balsamic glaze overnight!
Note: If your onions are really large cut them into slices between 1/5 inch to 1 full inch thick.
Chipotle Caramelized Onions
Maple Caramelized Onions
Onion Chutney Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Roast Turkey Sandwich with Artichoke Tapenade, Caramelized Onions and Roasted Red Peppers
Peameal Bacon Breakfast Sandwich with Maple Caramelized Onions and a Fried Egg
Porchetta Sandwich with Balsamic Caramelized Onions, Asiago Cheese and Arugula
Beer Bread Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Creamy Asiago Bacon Wrapped Roasted Onions
Sour Cream and Cheddar Roasted Onions
Asiago Roasted Onions
Hot Caramelized Onion Dip