How to Cook the Perfect Plantains

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you might start to think I have an obsessive personality.

For example: You know about my Beyonce obsessionProtein pancake obsession.  Then there’s lemon curd as of recent.  Go ahead, google “Foodologie Obsessed.”  Tons of results.

But I promise, I’m pretty normal.  I don’t obsess over anything nearly as often as I say I do.  The reality is that I tend to exaggerate.  I get it from my mom.  We both do it.  It’s ridiculous.

At the risk of sounding like I’m exaggerating yet again, I’m about to tell you the absolute BEST way to cook a plantain.  Using this method, you will get the most deliciously sweet, tender, amazing, fantastic, every-other-adjective-that-describes-simply-delicious plantain in the world.

Best of all.  It’s super easy.  All you need are plantains and canola oil.

So here’s how to make Plantains Beyond Perfection.

First you need to start with super, super ripe plantains.  Yes, they’ll look like they’re about to go bad.

But really that’s when they taste best.  While the skin is still on, roll the plantains using the heel of your hand to soften out any tough areas.

In the meantime, put some oil in a pan on medium/low heat.  A few tablespoons will do.  Basically you want enough to just barely coat the bottom of the pan.

Arrange the plantains in the pan, they can be touching or not.

Grab a fork and poke the plantains with a fork so you get little holes all around it.  Don’t be shy, poke away.  You do it virtually on facebook, now you get to do it for real.  Once you’ve poked the plantains all over, turn the heat down to low.  I mean really low, as low as your stove can go (Ludacris style?).  Shake the pan so they don’t stick, then cover them.

After about 5 minutes, give them another shake.  They’ll start to sort of inflate from the steam.

At this point, you can start to gently turn them.  The more tender (aka tastier), the harder they are to turn.  Two forks or tongs make it easier.  Once you’ve rotated them, cover them again.  Every so often shake the pan to keep them from sticking too much, but for the most part you can forget about them.  If they are looking too dry either your heat is too high or they need more oil.  Adjust accordingly.

This whole process takes about half an hour, but trust me, you won’t regret it.  If you use this slow cooking method, you will get the most delicious plantains you’ve ever had in your life.

I never promised they would be pretty.

They are decidedly “not cute,” another one of my overused terms.  But they’re definitely worth the time for the taste.

I can guarantee you’ll be obsessed with them too.  Even more so if you eat them with refried black beans.  Black beans and plantains.  Best combination on the planet.  Truth.  I’m not even exaggerating.

 

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Chocolate-Wine Cake

Learning is a funny thing.  I have no idea how it happens. The question I probably get asked the most is: how did you learn to cook?

I have no idea. There are very few things that I remember anyone actually teaching me to make (among them: handmade tortillas, Rellenitos, and most other Guatemalan dishes I know how to make).  Most of my cooking knowledge comes from observation and experiment.  That’s right.  Experiment.

Try recipes.  Make changes.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.

When I worked at a French bakery, I watched the chef make cakes, tarts and galettes full of envy, because I wanted to make things as beautiful and delicious as she did.

Then I went home and tried it.  The result:

Pear Almond Galette.

The Fall Cake.

All because I watched the chef make it, then I wanted to try it myself.  But inspiration doesn’t only come from watching the pros.

Here’s the most recent example of my constant experimentation.

Chocolate-Wine Cake.

An experiment inspired by an experience.  In Italy, I had a chocolate-wine gelato.  I had never had chocolate and wine together.  It seemed like such an unlikely combination, but I was completely intrigued.  I figured it was worth a try in cake form too.

Chocolate-Wine Cake

adapted from Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sweet red wine (such as Port or other sweet red wine)
1/2 cup boiling water

Pre-heat oven to 350F.  Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl.  Set aside.

In another bowl, beat together sugar and oil.  Beat in one egg at a time until just combined.  Alternate mixing in dry ingredients and red wine.  Lastly, stir in boiling water.

Pour batter into a greased and floured bundt pan.  Bake 40-50 minutes (this will vary depending on your oven).

Allow to cool completely, turn onto a plate, top with chocolate ganache (optional) and serve!

I thought the chocolate and wine combination was interesting.  The chocolate flavor dominates but the wine is not far behind.  Most definitely a nice break from traditional chocolate cake.    For some, it might seem blasphemous.  Straying from a recipe is a recipe for disaster.  But I like to think of recipes more as guidelines.

From there you learn what works and what doesn’t.

Replacing milk with wine in chocolate cake.  Success.

Using less butter in Italian Buttercream Icing.  Failure.

How else are you supposed to discover the next best thing?

Lemon Curd Obsession

The word curd is not cute.  But it’s 50% of my obsession: lemon curd.  No one’s perfect.  When you really love something, you over look some of its flaws.  I’ll overlook the word “curd,” because I simply adore lemon curd.

If I wasn’t conscious about my health, I would probably eat a bowl of it for breakfast, then have it again as a light afternoon snack.

A few weeks ago, I used it to make Lemon-Blueberry Tartlets.  I’m sorry to report I was holding out on you.  I also used it to make lemon bluberry cupcakes filled with lemon curd and topped with lemon whipped cream.

I know, it’s all sorts of amazing.

Lemon Curd

3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice (about the juice of 2 lemons)
4 tbsp butter, softened
zest of 2 lemons

Place a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water (make sure the water isn’t touching the bottom of the bowl).  In the bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice.  Stir over the double boiler until thick.  This will take about 10 minutes.  Carefully remove from heat and stir in the butter and lemon zest.  Set aside and allow to cool completely.  Once it has cooled, you can store it in the fridge for a few days, but chances are it won’t last that long.

You can put it in cupcakes by scooping out some of the cupcake then filling it with lemon curd.

Spread it on pound cake.  Fill sandwich cookies with it.  Place a dollop on a scone.  Use it as tart filling.

Eat it by the spoonful.  That’s more my style.

Either way, it’s the perfect tart, sweet treat.  If that’s not cute, I don’t know what is.

Italian Buttercream Birthday Cake

Today is a special day for a few reasons.

First, I conquered Italian Buttercream.  For some reason, streaming hot sugar syrup into meringue scared the crap out of me.  But I did it.  It was fun.  Now I feel bad ass.  My finished product: the bad ass version of dainty…

That’s yellow cake with apricot filling and amaretto italian buttercream.

Yeah, bad ass.

Speaking of bad ass, so is my sister, and it’s her birthday!  She also makes cool cakes.  See!

I’m not as talented.  I should take notes from her.  In a perfect world, we would live 10 minutes away from each other, my cake decorating skills would be as good as hers and I would deliver a rocking cake to her doorstep.

But sadly, we live about 2 hours away from each other and my cake decorating skills are subpar.  A simple, but delicious cake, or photo of a cake, will have to suffice.  Realistically, my italian buttercream tastes a million times better than fondant.  I feel like that makes my pansy-looking cake into a bad ass.

Happy Birthday to my favorite bad ass sister!!

What Making A Peach Pie Can Teach You About Life

A few years ago, I made terrible pies.  No really.  They were not good.  They were runny, caved in.

In short, not cute.

But I kept at it.  Now I can honestly say I know how to make a good pie.

Throughout my pie (mis)adventures, I learned a few things about pie making that I think apply to life as well. These are my pearls of wisdom:

1. Be patient.
Pies, like all good things, take time.  Your crust needs to rest.  First as a ball of dough (at least a few hours). Then as a rolled pie crust (at least an hour, better if a day).

Give it time and keep it cool.  It’ll be worth it in the end.

2.  When life gives you ____, make pie.
In this case, peach pie.

Leave the skin on, sometimes things are better when they’re a little rough around the edges.  Remember, pies (and you) don’t need to be perfect.

3.  Be generous with the sugar.

Both in pies and in life, the more sugar, the better.  Smile at strangers.  Hug your friends.  Kiss your loved ones.  You won’t regret it.

4.  Don’t forget a little spice.

A dash of cinnamon makes most pies delicious.  A little sass in your life won’t hurt either.  Just a dash.  Not too much.  No one likes a diva.

5.  Sometimes things don’t go your way…
and you drop a piece of the filling on the floor.

When things fall apart, wipe it up and carry on.

6. Fill your life with sweet things.

I’m not talking about inducing diabetes, sometimes a sweet thing doesn’t have to be food.  Nice people.  Good books.  Cute puppies.  All sweet things.

7. Don’t be afraid to get complicated

Even if in the end it’s not perfect.  It’ll be worth the effort.

8.  If you’re not ready for a pie in the oven yet, wrap it up.

Yeah I said it.  Truth.

9.  Lastly, like the first lesson, be patient some more.

It’s a long process, and takes about an hour to bake (at 375F).  But in the end it’s totally worth it.  Can’t we say that about most things… degrees. relationships. work.

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Spinach-Quinoa-Peach Salad with Honey-Sage Vinaigrette, My Type of Salad

You know how they say people have types?  A type of guy or girl they always date or crush on.

You know what I mean.  You probably have a type.

I like to think this is my type

But realistically, it’s usually some goofy-looking, bearded guy…

I’m not the best at that whole guy thing so instead, I’ll stick to food.

In that department, I most definitely know my type, and this is my type of meal.

I like things that don’t seem to make sense together.  I guess that’s true for guys as well, but let’s stick to the topic at hand:

This salad combines sweet, salty, warm, cold, soft, crunchy and creamy.  If it were a lady it would be that cute, quirky girl that gentlemen seem to pine over in movie.  You know the type:

But in life, it’s just a delicious lunch.

Spinach-Quinoa-Peach Salad with Honey-Sage Vinaigrette

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup vegetable broth
3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 peach, sliced
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp fresh chopped sage
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the quinoa with one cup of vegetable (water and salt works too).  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  In the meantime prepare the salad and dressing.

In a large bowl, combine the spinach, peach slices and goat cheese.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, honey, apple cider vinegar, sage and salt and pepper.

Once the quinoa is ready, fluff it a bit with a fork, pour hot quinoa over the salad, quickly pour the dressing over the mixture and toss to combine.  The spinach will wilt slightly but still stay fresh and delicious, giving this salad the perfect combination of textures.

Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main dish.

So whether you’ve found your type or, like me, have no idea what your type actually is, just make this salad.  Chances are it’ll be your type too.

Vegan Banana Bread

I’m pretty sure there’s something in the Bible against lying to your parents.  But really, this wasn’t a lie.  It was more of a withhold-the-truth type thing.  See, if I told them this was vegan banana bread, something undoubtedly would be wrong with it.  I can almost guarantee they would hate it.

Instead, I fibbed.

I told them it was the same banana bread I’ve always made with butter and eggs.  A banana bread they love.

They loved this one too, and hopefully it won’t raise their cholesterol.

Vegan Banana Bread

1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 “flax eggs”*
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

In a small bowl, combine 2 tsbp flax meal with 6 tbsp water.  Whisk together and set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In another bowl, combine sugar, oil, “flax eggs” and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Right before it’s all combine, stir in bananas and pecans.  Don’t overmix.

Pour batter into a bundt pan, bake at 350F for about 40 minutes (this will vary depending on your oven).

Serve and don’t tell anyone it’s vegan.  Unless you’re trying to impress a vegan, in which case you can sing its dairy-free praises.  However, should you decide to keep its vegan identity a secret, you might get what’s coming to you.

In the process of making the banana bread of lies, I got a paper cut on a bag of flour.  Call it karma or punishment. I call it an unfortunate casualty of baking.