Going vegetarian or vegan means you’ll need to review and adjust your eating habits. In particular, you’ll need to secure alternative sources of protein, iron and zinc. Here’s how.
The proteins we consume act as basic building blocks in our bodies, allowing us to build and repair tissue and to make hormones, enzymes and other important chemicals. While meat is a great source, vegetarians can get their fill by consuming dairy or eggs. Vegans can get theirs from nuts, pulses and soy products such as tofu, tempeh and textured vegetable protein (TVP).
Red blood cells contain a protein called hemoglobin, which uses iron to bind oxygen molecules and deliver them to cells throughout our bodies. We don’t produce iron, so we have to get it from food. While iron is present in plants, it’s about twice as hard to assimilate than the iron contained in meat, which is why we need to eat more plants to get the same amount of iron.
Good sources of iron include dark green vegetables like spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and kale as well as quinoa, pulses and tofu. In addition, eating fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C can help us absorb iron.
Our immune system needs zinc to function properly, but it’s hard to get it from non-animal sources. Nuts, whole grains, pulses and wheat germ are good sources of zinc. However, much like iron, the zinc in plant matter is harder to assimilate, so you’ll need to eat more of the foods it’s found in.
Reducing or eliminating your meat consumption is likely to improve your health, especially if you adjust your overall diet to avoid deficiencies. However, it’s a good idea to consult a healthcare professional for advice.
In addition to protein, iron and zinc, vegans and vegetarians should also keep an eye on their intake of vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and iodine.
Wacky fruits that might tickle your taste buds (or put you in a coma)
Apples. Oranges. Bananas. In any given year, about 65 percent of Americans will eat at least one banana. Sixty-three percent will have had apples and 51 percent will have eaten oranges. Yet how many people do you know who’ve had an ackee fruit or jackfruit? There are tons of wild fruits out there and plenty of strange delights that you can find at the store too.
If you happen to make a lot of smoothies, you might appreciate the jackfruit. The largest fruit in the world, some jackfruits can weigh nearly a hundred pounds. Found in India, the fruit tastes similar to mangoes.
If daring suits your taste, the ackee is a bold choice. Unripened ackee fruits contain high levels of the compounds hypoglycin A and hypoglycin B, which are toxic to humans. In fact, these compounds can put people in a coma or even kill them. As the fruit ripens, toxin levels decline, making it safe to eat. Though the ackee is native to West Africa, it’s now the national fruit of Jamaica, most likely arriving centuries ago on a slave ship.
Pond apples, AKA swamp apples, are also poisonous, or at least their seeds are. The seeds from swamp apples can kill fish. Along with the leaves, the seeds can also be used as a natural insecticide.
If you have the patience to wait for an ackee fruit to ripen, you might also consider the Arkansas black apple. Fresh black apples are extremely hard and all but impossible to eat. If you put them in storage, however, they’ll slowly soften while remaining fresh and crisp. Typically, you need to let them sit for at least 30 days but they can last up to eight months.
Then there’s the durian. You may have passed by some of the fruits already discussed and never realized it. Most encounters with a durian, however, are hard to forget. The fruit has a strong, pungent smell akin to sweaty gym socks and fresh sewage. Popular in Southeast Asia, the durian is considered a delicacy in many areas and is also known as the king of fruit.
Another potentially dangerous fruit may be in your fridge and a regular part of your diet. Grapefruit, known for its strong, bitter taste, contains various compounds, such as furanocoumarins (don’t ask us how to pronounce that), that can alter the body’s biological processes. Grapefruit can have a huge impact on some medications, often making them stronger, which could increase the risk of overdosing.
So should you stick with apples, bananas, and oranges? That’s a safe, but perhaps boring route. You could be missing out on some daring fruits that wow your palate.
5 tips for cooking the perfect steak
If you want to cook a restaurant-worthy steak at home, here are five tips to ensure you get great results every time.
1. Choose the right cut
Different cuts of beef deliver different levels of tenderness and flavor. Therefore, when looking for the perfect steak, skip the supermarket and go to your local butcher shop. The staff will be able to recommend the right cut for your needs.
2. Season it well
Generously season your steak with salt and pepper and let it rest for at least 40 minutes before cooking. The salt will draw out a bit of moisture to create a perfectly crisp crust once the meat hits the heat.
3. Let it get to room temperature
Cold steaks don’t cook evenly. Make sure you let your steak reach room temperature before putting it on a hot pan or grill. In fact, room temperature steaks cook faster and stay juicer than those taken straight out of the fridge.
4. Preheat the pan or grill
Make sure you preheat your pan or barbecue so that it’s searing hot before you begin. This will prevent you from overcooking the steak and help caramelize the meat to lock in the most flavor.
5. Use a thermometer
If you want to cook your steak to perfection every time, a simple meat thermometer probe works wonders. Choose one that can be inserted into the side of the steak until it reaches the center. The ideal temperature depends on the level of doneness you desire.
After cooking, let the steak rest for a few minutes and place a pat of butter on top for a melt-in-your-mouth finish.
Steak doneness temperature
Remove your steak from the pan or grill at the indicated temperature (the final cooked temperature is in brackets).
Rare: 118 F (120 F)
Medium Rare: 125 F (130 F)
Medium: 136 F (140 F)
Medium Well: 143 F (150 F)
Well Done: 154 F (160 F)
Slow cooker taco soup
This nutritious, Mexican-flavored soup smells and tastes great!
Start to finish: 6 hours (20 minutes active)
• 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 1 cup salsa
• 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
• 1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
• 1 can corn, drained
• 1 can diced tomatoes
• 2 cups chicken broth
• 2 tablespoons chili powder, divided
• 1/2 tablespoon cumin
• 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
• 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1 cup vegetable oil
• 2 corn tortillas, cut into short, thin strips
• 1 ripe avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
• 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
• Salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a slow cooker, place the chicken breasts, salsa, beans, corn, tomatoes, chicken broth, and spices. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well and cook on low for 6 hours.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the oil. Fry the tortilla strips, a few at a time, until golden brown. Drain and place on a paper towel or clean cloth. While still warm, sprinkle with salt and chili powder. Set aside.
3. After 6 hours, remove the chicken breasts from the slow cooker and place them in a large bowl. Using two forks, shred the chicken and return it to the slow cooker.
4. Pour the soup into 6 serving bowls. Garnish each serving with a few slices of avocado, a handful of tortilla strips, and fresh cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Do you want a dish that will keep you warm this winter? If so, treat yourself to this Polish classic.
Start to finish: 55 minutes
• 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
• 2 onions, chopped and divided
• 1.25 pounds cooked beef
• 2 tablespoons beef broth
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup hot water
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3 slices bacon, chopped
• 1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
• Salt and pepper
1. In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook one onion until translucent. Set aside.
2. In a blender, place the cooked beef, cooked onion, beef broth, and spices. Season with salt and pepper and blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and set aside.
3. Add the flour to a large bowl and create a well in the middle. Add a few spoonfuls of warm water and mix. Gradually, add the remaining water and knead the dough until it becomes elastic and malleable.
4. Divide the dough into four equal parts. Roll out one part of the dough into a thin layer. Cut out small circles using a glass.
5. Place a spoonful of meat filling in the middle of each circle. Fold the dough over the filling and press the edges together. Continue until all pierogies are assembled.
6. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pierogies one at a time for about 5 minutes or until they float to the top. Drain and set aside.
7. In the same pan used to fry the onions, fry the bacon and remaining onion until crisp. Add the pierogies to the pan and let them brown on each side for added crunch. Place on a serving plate and garnish with fresh chives.
Bread in a bag: An edible at-home science experiment
If you’re looking for a fun, educational, kid-friendly activity to absorb the kids on a dreary winter afternoon, bread might be the answer. With just a few inexpensive ingredients, kids can learn about the science of baking and pick up a little extra confidence with their newfound bread-baking skills.
You will need 3 cups of all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1 package of rapid rise yeast, 1 cup of warm water, 3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and a gallon-sized zippered food storage bag.
1. Combine one cup flour with the sugar and yeast in the bag, then add the warm water. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal.
2. Squish the bag with your hands until everything is mixed together.
3. Let it rest for 10 minutes at room temperature. Bubbles will form as the yeast activates.
4. Open the bag and add another cup of flour, oil, and salt.
5. Seal bag again and squish to combine.
6. Add the last cup of flour, seal again and squish some more, until everything is blended.
7. Remove the dough from the bag and place it on a lightly floured surface.
8. Knead for 5-10 minutes, or until smooth. This step develops gluten, the latticework of protein that makes bread chewy and fluffy.
9. Place the dough in a greased loaf pan or divide it in half and use two greased mini loaf pans.
10. Cover with a towel and let rise for about 30 minutes.
11. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
Do you love Swedish meatballs? If so, consider making this recipe on a chilly day, so you can enjoy them right in the comfort of your own home.
Start to finish: 55 minutes
• 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
• 6 tablespoons butter, divided
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 3/4-pound ground beef
• 3/4-pound ground pork
• 2 tablespoons milk
• 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, divided
• 1 egg yolk
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 1-1/2 cups hot chicken stock
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1/2 cup heavy cream (35%)
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Fresh parsley
1. In a dry skillet, brown the breadcrumbs, making sure to stir them regularly. Set aside in a large bowl.
2. In the same skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook the onion over medium-high heat until translucent. Season with salt and pepper and add to the bowl with the breadcrumbs. Add the ground meat, milk, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, and egg yolk. Season with salt and pepper again. Form the mixture into about 16 balls and set it aside on a plate.
3. In the same skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and brown each meatball on all sides. Set meatballs aside on a clean plate.
4. In the same pan, melt the last 2 tablespoons of butter, add the flour and whisk until a roux is formed. Pour in the chicken broth, whisking constantly until you have a uniformly smooth sauce. Add the remaining Dijon mustard, honey, Worcestershire sauce, and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Return the meatballs to the skillet, incorporating any cooking juices that drained into the pan. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with your favorite side dish.