Brain Food 101: How to Make Caramelized Onions

How to  Make Caramelized Onions #foodscience #cookingtips #pantrystaples

Caramelized onions are one of my favorite ingredients to use, and I try to keep a container in the refrigerator or freezer at all times.  They take some time to make, which is why I caramelize at least two pounds of onions at a time – even though they cook down considerably, that makes enough caramelized onions to last me a week or two. With caramelized onions, a little goes a long way! Here’s how to make them:

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Chicken Tinga Taquitos with Avocado Cream for #SundaySupper

Chicken Tinga Taquitos | Savvy Eats

The summer after freshman year of college, Dan and I both spent the summer in Madison, working in research labs. Work-wise, it wasn’t the best experience – my advisor would disappear for days at a time, and it was over a month before I actually received any training for what I was hired to do. But in all other aspects, it was one of my favorite summers: we spent our evenings and weekends riding our bikes around Madison, attending various festivals and events and watching movies at one of our sublets (usually mine. Dan lived with three guys who weren’t the most hygienic, so we both preferred to hang out at the house where I was subletting a room).

It was our first summer on our own, away from our parents and the dorm dining halls, and we didn’t know how to cook much. So we always kept a box of taquitos in the freezer, and ate them for dinner a few times a week, usually with baby carrots or some frozen vegetables.

As I taught myself to cook and started paying a little more attention to the nutritional value of what I was eating, the taquitos slowly got phased out of our freezer. We hadn’t eaten them in years, up until the week before we left for Jamaica last month.

I was trying to empty out our freezer, since we were going to be away for nine days.  The Wednesday before we left, I grabbed a big container of salad greens and a box of taquitos to get us through some of the last few pre-vacation dinners.

Chicken Tinga Taquitos

While the taquitos were less unhealthy than I expected them to be, and still pretty tasty, I knew I could make something even better. So as soon as we got back, I challenged myself to come up with an even better taquito recipe…and with these chicken tinga taquitos, I’m pretty sure I succeeded!

And this avocado cream? It is more of an avocado ranch dip. And I just want to use it on everything – as a dip for taquitos, sure, but also on salads and in scrambled eggs. It may just become a regular staple in our refrigerator. While it does contain some mayonnaise, much of the mayo and all of the sour cream and buttermilk from a typical ranch dressing is replaced by avocado and fat-free Greek yogurt, making it much lighter and healthier. So I don’t have to feel quite as guilty for using it on everything!

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Smoky Sweet Chicken Rub

Smoky Sweet Poultry Rub | Savvy Eats

I’ve written a few times about my quest to find the perfect roast chicken recipe. I know how to cook a whole chicken without drying it out, sure (leave the skin on, cook it to 165F, not 175F – still perfectly safe, but not overcooked – and let it rest before carving). But I couldn’t find a way to make it truly flavorful. Nothing I did seemed to convey the flavors of whatever herbs or citrus or other flavoring agents to the chicken itself, just the skin. Until I started using the Zuni Cafe method of cooking chicken (which Deb shared here, years ago). This high-heat, cast-iron pan method has been reliably giving me flavorful and juicy roast chicken for months now, and I actually feel like the herbs and spices I use on the outside are making a difference now.

While the Zuni Cafe roasted chicken is plenty tasty on its own, sometimes I want to mix it up. So I keep a jar of this smoky and sweet chicken rub on hand, and use it in place of the salt and pepper the original chicken recipe calls for. Because it has so many other spices in it, I use it much more liberally than I would plain salt. More rub = more flavor, and you don’t have to worry about over-salting your chicken with this rub!

FYI: While the Zuni Cafe recipe says you should season the chicken 1-3 days in advance, sometimes I forget to get that started. The chicken is still delicious even if you don’t do the seasoning until 30 minutes before you start roasting the bird! Just so you know.

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