Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Oven-Baked Plantains (Tostones)

And while we're posting ugly recipes, you really should try this one. I'd only had plantains one other time--maybe 10 years ago--and even though I'd enjoyed them, I had no idea how to make them. Then this past month, I found a recipe and made them. Delicious. But not gorgeous.

Plantains are meant to be cooked before they're eaten because they're starchier than a normal eating banana. These are baked. In the original recipe, Ellie from The Hobo Kitchen made a savory garlic sauce to pour over them. I thought this sounded amazing, but I knew that my kids would not find savory garlic banana-looking things amazing. So I opted to introduce them as a sweet side dish. I did not regret it.

Obviously, these are fussier than just peeling a banana and eating it, but I love switching things up sometimes and I find that occasionally my kids will respond to a new foreign-ish fruit. It helps us get out of our little eating ruts sometimes. Also, even though these require 30 minutes of foresight, they don't require more than 5 minutes of your hands-on attention.

Oven-Baked Plantains
adapted from The Hobo Kitchen
Serves 2-3
Prep time: 3 minutes
Cook time: 26 minutes
Cost: $.65
plantain: .55, other stuff: .10

1 large plantain
oil (I used canola; coconut might be amazing as well)
sugar and cinnamon

1. Cut off each end of the plantain.

2. Slice it along on opposite sides of the plantain.

3. Microwave for 6 minutes.

4. Remove (it's hot) from microwave and let it cool for a minute. Then remove skin and cut into 3/4 inch rounds.

5. Flatten the rounds (I did this with the bottom of a glass.)

6. Toss with a little oil (I used canola). Or generously grease your baking dish (I used a cookie sheet). You don't want to skimp on the oil too much--these things get sticky. I used foil hoping that would make it easier, but I'm not sure it helped.

7. Bake at 425 for 10-12 minutes on one side until they're golden on the bottom side. Then flip and bake about 8 minutes on the other side.

8. Remove from oven and sprinkle generously with sugar and cinnamon.

9. Serve.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Eggplant Dip

Eggplant is a beautiful onyx of a vegetable--hanging off its plant looking all rich and sexy. Until you cook it. And then it is uggally (definition: the state of being so ugly the word must be drawn out and exaggerated, even in written form). I always want to grow eggplant. And buy eggplant. But then after I make it, no one wants to eat eggplant. This must be very sad for eggplant. After all it's still nutritious. It's still valuable. It's still totally delicious. But it doesn't look it. Such is the lot of today's dip. It is not the sexiest dip that will ever grace your table.

True story: I roasted up my eggplant for this dip, scooped out its ugly flesh and put it in my little Magic Bullet cup where it sat in my fridge for three more days. It was just so homely. I nearly threw it away twice--me--fierce opponent to throwing away of food no matter how unsightly it may be. The ugly (ha) truth is that I just couldn't imagine it tasting that good. It's true. And I'm ashamed. Because eggplant, much like women who have birthed four children, should not be discarded merely because the luster of youth has faded away. Eggplant, in fact, (much like women who have birthed four children), only gets better with a little life experience under its belt. Eggplant, in fact, is gross in its raw, uncooked (and still beautiful) state, but perfectly amazing in this not-very-attractive-but-butt-kickingly-tasty dip.

Besides the fact that this dip isn't going to be the next Disney Princess, the only thing I should warn you about is that it takes a while to make because you're going to char and then roast the eggplant. It really really gives it a nice flavor, and it's not hard to do, but it doesn't mean that this won't be on your table in less than 30 minutes. I charred and roasted mine when it was convenient and then just left it in the fridge for several days until I was ready for a quick lunch.

Eggplant Dip
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes a couple cups or about 4 small servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes to roast and however long it takes you to char (on the grill that will be shorter; under my broiler, it took a while)
Cost: $3.15
eggplant: 2.00 (farmer's market prices), tahini: .75, other stuff: .40

2 medium eggplants (a pound or less each)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp coarse salt
6 Tbsp tahini
2 garlic cloves (smallish, unless you love garlic)
juice of a lemon (or 2-3 Tbsp)
pinch of cayenne pepper
couple pinches ground cumin
parsley for garnish

Char your eggplant. This can be done on the grill, over the flame of a gas stove, or under your broiler. I used the broiler, turning the eggplant a quarter turn every 8 minutes or so. It took a while (which surprised me); I think the other methods would be faster, but the nice thing about the broiler is you don't have to pay it too much attention (as you would holding it over a flame).

Heat oven to 375. Brush a baking sheet with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

After the eggplants are charred, let them cool enough to handle and then cut them in half. Place them flesh-side down on the baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes or until they're very tender when pressed or pierced.

Scrape out the eggplant flesh and put it into a blender or food processor (I used a Magic Bullet.) Discard the skins. I cooled my flesh before making the rest of the dip, but you don't have to. Add tahini, lemon, cayeen, cumin, and parsley if you'd like (I skipped the parsley and used it merely as a garnish).

Pulse in blender until it's the consistency you desire (I like mine a bit of the mushy side so that it's more hummus-like, but it can be left chunky if that's your thing.) Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve with tortilla chips, sour dough bread, or vegetables.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Crock Pot Carne Asada--SRC

This month for Secret Recipe Club, I had The Hobo Kitchen. It's written by Ellie. I actually had her blog (with a different name) a while ago. I loved it. The funny thing is that at first I didn't realize I had the same person, but I was like "Oh my gosh; I want to make all these recipes." In fact, I ended up making two of her recipes for dinner one night. And then I went to read Ellie's profile and there she was--the same blogger I'd enjoyed so much when I secret-recipe'd her last blog. Apparently, she's still got it. Thank you, Ellie, for the fabulous recipes.

I made the Carne Asada. It was delicious and super easy and a crock pot recipe and just win win all around. The leftovers were even better. (Note: As a side dish, I also made a cinnamon sugar version of her Tostones (plantains) that were beyond delicious. I'd never made plantains before and I'm a total convert. But the pictures I took for that were ug-ly.)

Crock Pot Carne Asada
adapted from The Hobo Kitchen
Serves 6
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 6-8 hours (in crock)
Cost:$10.00-ish (this is a really rough estimate; sorry)
meat: mine was $5, but it was clearanced and was less than 2 lb, seasonings: .10, peppers (mine were free from a fabulous friend), but I'm guessing 1.50-2.00, toppings: 2.00

Note: I'm slightly red meat impaired. If it's not ground beef or some kind of chuck roast, I'm a little lost. This recipe called for flank steak, which I couldn't find at my store. So I just bought the clearance cheap steak and all was well, but if you can get flank steak, use it.

Another note: I followed this recipe as Ellie had it. However, I bet that if you had taco seasoning and wanted to use that instead of individual spices, that would work and save you a couple minutes. No guarantees because I haven't tried it, but especially if it didn't have thickening agents (such as cornstarch), I bet it'd be just fine.

2 lb flank steak
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 jalepeno, minced
For toppings:
sour cream

Combine dry spices. Sprinkle or rub these on the flank steak. Put that in the crock.

Add diced onion, peppers, and jalepeno.

Cook on low in the crock pot for 6-8 hours. Note: I recommend this low setting. I forgot to get mine into the crock and tried to cheat and do this for 3-4 hours on high. It tasted delicious, but wasn't fall-apart-fork-shreddable. I left the stuff we didn't eat in the crock for several more hours and it was perfect, so try not to short-change the cooking times.

Before eating, shred steak with two forks.

Serve over rice, tortillas, or corn chips.

Top with cheese, sour cream, and avocado.



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