By default, we are all always busy as a matter of course. Life just gets hectic when you combine taking care of children and our families, working, making time for friends……and then a glance at the calendar shows that the holidays are rushing towards us!
But perhaps this trick system of pre-chopped onions will help save at least a bit of time in the coming months. This idea is actually helpful year-round, but particularly helpful when the to-do list seems to expand overnight!
I read an article, quite a few years ago, in the Food section of our local paper about pre-chopped onions for cooking. The recommendation was to chop the onions, spread them out on a cookie sheet, freeze them, and then store them in plastic bags in the freezer. It’s a good idea, but instead of the whole ‘cookie sheet in the freezer’ step, I just thought it would be easier to chop the onions, bag them up, and off to the freezer they go.
I enjoy cooking; the process, the alchemy of heat and food, the smells, and the anticipation of enjoying the final result with my husband, family or friends. But, I don’t love starting dinner by chopping onions. I would rather get to the good stuff: the smell of onions and garlic sizzling in olive oil, sautéing the meat or the chicken, adding the seasonings and spices.
So I do this routinely. It certainly saves time when I am getting ready to cook a dish for our dinner that week, and it certainly helps to skip over the messy, smelly, eye-watering chore of chopping onions.
Now, I am not saying this is fun…. because it’s really not. BUT the rewards far outweigh the drudgery. I gather up a dozen or so red onions (just my personal preference), and a bag of peeled garlic cloves.
I pull out my food processor and set up some bowls. I peel the loose layers of onion skin and start filling a bowl with onions that are cut into small, 1-inch size pieces. HINT: I put a small table fan right next to the cutting board. All the eye-watering fumes are blown right past me. (My Grandmother’s trick was to light a match, blow it out, and then stick the match in her mouth. I did it too, for years, but it never really seemed to work for me!)
I put all the garlic cloves into a 2nd bowl and place a 3rd empty bowl on the counter. Down the trap, I send 5 or 6 handfuls of onion chunks and a few garlic cloves. When they are chopped to my satisfaction, the contents are dumped into the 3rd empty bowl.
When all onions and garlic have been chopped, I pull out the snack-sized plastic bags, and fill them with the onion garlic combo, and seal. (Note- I don’t measure the amount that goes into the bags…but if I had to guess, it’s roughly ¾ of a cup.) This combination of a dozen red onions and about half of a bag of garlic cloves usually yields about 15 – 20 smalls bags of chopped onion.
The little bags go into a larger freezer bag, and those bags are stored in the freezer.
Now, for a special dish, a birthday dinner, or when we have company for dinner, I do use fresh onions and garlic that I chop up (see “messy, smelly chore” above!).
But for the weekly cooking; soups, enchilada casserole, chili (Confetti Chili for The Big Game Day), or baked spaghetti, these little bags of frozen onion and garlic really make cooking more enjoyable!
Frankly, the whole process really takes an hour to an hour and a half. But for the next 2-3 months, I have a ready supply of chopped onion and garlic. It is definitely a helpful kitchen time-saver, useful for any time of the year, but especially valuable for when life gets a little crazier than normal.
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