Dietary fats provide your body with energy and insulation, aid with vitamin absorption and support bodily functions. While some fats are essential, others have severe health risks. Here’s what you should know about the various types of fats.
• Trans fats can raise the level of bad cholesterol, provoke inflammation and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Hydrogenated vegetable oil, a major source of artificial trans fat, was frequently found in processed and deep-fried foods. As of June 2018, the Food and Drug Administration banned food manufacturers from using it. Small amounts of natural trans fat are present in meat and dairy products.
• Saturated fats occur naturally in animals and provide many of the same benefits as healthy fats. However, a diet rich in saturated fat increases bad cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to roughly five percent of your daily caloric intake. Sources of saturated fat include fatty cuts of red meat, dark chicken meat, poultry skin and high-fat dairy products.
• Unsaturated fats are healthy fats containing vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect cells. When consumed instead of trans and saturated fats, unsaturated fats help regulate cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular disease. Some types of unsaturated fats, particularly polyunsaturated fats, are essential to normal body functioning. They play a role in blood clotting, blood pressure regulation and immune and nervous system function. Nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish and various plant-based oils contain high amounts of unsaturated fats.
Fats are a necessary component of a healthy diet. They’re also a major source of calories. Make sure you’re balancing your fat intake with sufficient fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins.
Tartiflette is a cheesy, potato casserole that originates from France. It’s the perfect meal to warm you up on a cold evening.
Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes (30 minutes active)
• 6 medium potatoes
• 6 slices bacon, cut into thin strips
• 2 onions, chopped
• 1/2 cup dry white wine
• 1/4 cup heavy cream (35%)
• A wheel of reblochon cheese, cut crosswise
• A few sprigs of fresh Italian parsley
• Salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a large pot, boil the potatoes whole until tender. Let cool, then peel and slice thinly with a mandolin.
2. Preheat the oven to 325 F and grease a large rectangular baking dish.
3. In a large skillet, cook the bacon and then add the onions. Continue cooking until the onions are translucent. Deglaze the skillet with white wine and simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated.
4. In the same large pot you used before, add the sliced potatoes, bacon, onion mixture, and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper and stir until combined.
5. Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish and arrange the potato slices so they lay flat. Place the 2 halves of reblochon cheese on top, rind side up. Bake for 45 minutes. Serve hot garnished with fresh parsley.
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.