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Is there any other vegetable more misunderstood and under appreciated than the lowly onion? Used as a seasoning or flavoring agent for countless recipes, it is rarely featured in a recipe as the main ingredient. For me, one of the best smells from my kitchen is onions sautéing in butter and garlic. I put onions in just about everything I cook, and we often just have them as a side to our main course. Even my 15-month-old likes sautéed sweet onions.

The onion family includes over 300 species, the most common ones being scallions, leeks, yellow onions, white onions, red onions, shallots and chives. All these onions are generally available year round, although there are also another variety of onion, the "sweet onion" which are usually only available during the spring and summer. These sweet onions are often named after where they are grown, such as Vidalia, or the Texas 1015.

When buying red, white or yellow onions, look for firm round shapes with dry papery skin and little odor, and no soft spots. A strong onion scent generally means the onion has begun to deteriorate, or is bruised under the skin. Onions should be stored where they do not touch each other in a cool, dry, dark place. A good way to store them is in a leg of a pair of pantyhose. Cut one leg off and drop an onion in to the stocking. Tie a knot just above the onion. Put another onion in and repeat the process. Hang the onion filled stocking in your pantry. Just cut off an onion when needed.

Stuffed Onions

4 Medium Sized Sweet Onions
Stale Italian Bread
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
3 Slices Pancetta or Bacon, Finely Chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
3 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese
1/4 Cup Fresh Chopped Parsley
Salt & Pepper

Pre-cook the onions in their skins in boiling water until they can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove and let cool. Cut off the tops and peel off the skins. Cut a small slice off the bottom so the onion will stand on it's own. Using a small sharp knife, remove the center of the onion, leaving a 1/3 of an inch border, and leaving the bottom intact. Chop the onion finely.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the bread into 1/2 inch dice, and measure out 1 cup. In a frying pan, cook 1/2 of the chopped onions, the garlic, olive oil and the pancetta until the onions are tender and the pancetta is thoroughly cooked. Add the bread cubes and cook until golden. Remove from the heat, and add salt & pepper, cheese and the chopped parsley.

Stuff the onions, and place in a baking dish with 1 inch of water at the bottom. Cook for 30 -40 minutes or until the onions are fork tender and the filling is golden brown. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

Vidalia Sweet Onion Chicken Breast Casserole

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons Vegetable oil
4 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 medium-sized Vidalia sweet onions, peeled and sliced
1 can (10 3/4-oz) cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 can (10 3/4-oz) cream of chicken soup, undiluted

 Brown breasts in oil and drain on paper towels. Spray a 13x9 pan with non-stick cooking spray. Layer potatoes on bottom; follow with a layer of onions. Mix the soups together and pour over the potatoes and onions. Place the chicken breasts over the mixture. Cover tightly and bake at 350° for 1 hour.

Taming the Flames

Now, let's chat a bit about kitchen safety. We will start with fire safety in the kitchen. Here are a few tips to help minimize the chance of getting burned or starting a serious fire in your kitchen.

Keep things that burn away from the cooking area & appliances in your kitchen. Don't place towels, pot holders, pizza boxes, or paper bags on the stove or near hot appliances.

Clean any grease build-up from the stove, oven & exhaust fan regularly. Cooking grease & oil ignite easily & burn rapidly. Use a lid or bigger pan to smother a small pan fire. Do not use water or flour on a grease fire. It will make the fire bigger. Do not try to carry a burning pan outside or to the sink. You could accidentally spread the fire. Keep a lid, baking soda, or an ABC fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen.

Avoid reaching over the stove for anything while cooking. Store frequently needed items in other areas of the kitchen. Don't store cookies or other "treats" near the stove. It might tempt little children to climb on the stove. Keep young children & pets away from cooking areas entirely.

Keep pot handles turned inward, out of the reach of children & pets. Keep appliance cords up on counter tops too. Check those cords regularly for frayed or broken spots. Replace damaged cords or appliances.

Dress for fire safety in the kitchen. Don't wear loosing fitting clothing, like nightgowns & bathrobes while cooking.