Monday, January 23, 2017

Sweet Fried Plantains (Latin bananas) - Video Recipe

Black is beautiful for the sweetest Fried Plantains. Different than regular grocery store varieties - the kind you slice into your breakfast cereal or blend into a smoothie - plantains have to be cooked, and they are usually fried like French fries. Check out my recipe video to see how easy it is to make.

I first tried them dining in local Cuban Restaurants Versailles and El Cochinito. It was surprising to see my dinner order of meat, rice, and black beans, with Sweet Fried Plantains on the same plate. It's a nice contrast to a heavy meal of protein and carbs. And yes, this dessert-like side goes deliciously with the entree.

Plantains are popular in South and Central America, the Caribbean, as well as parts of Mexico. They are even grown in Africa, Australia and Asia. The leaves are also used for roasting meat, like my Hawaiian Kalua Pig recipe, here.

Maybe you've accidentally bought a plantain thinking it was a regular banana? If you bite into a peeled one, you will get a mouthful of bitterness, but fry up a batch and and you will be surprised how mild they become.

Plantains can be cooked during any part of the ripening stages. Frying green plantains yields a potato-like flavor - it's not sweet, but not bitter either. A yellow plantain is semi-sweet. Waiting for a plantain to turn completely black yields the sweetest flavor. Even at it's blackest, the inner flesh stays yellow and soft.

So you can match your taste preference to the color of a plantain. They are usually sold green, but you can find them at almost any ripened stage. A green plantain can take a couple of weeks to reach max ripeness.

It's an easy and quick dish to make; the only hard part is finding plantains. I go to my local Latin market where they sell for 50 cents to a $1 per pound, just the right price for this El Tightwad Cuisiner. Since the majority of the Los Angeles populace is Latino, I find that plantains are carried in almost every large supermarket or neighborhood bodega. I even get plantains from my local 99c only Store.

Surprisingly, even store-bought frozen cooked plantains reheat quite well. I've tried a couple different brands and they microwave perfectly, staying moist and sweet. If you've never tried Sweet Fried Plantains before, this is a sure-fire way to see if you like them.

For cooking plantains, just peel and slice. I slice them thick, and at an angle so they are a little longer than straight cuts.

Fry plantains in oil like you would for french fries, and they only need to be lightly brown. You do have to watch the ripened black plantains closely when cooking -- because of their high sugar content they can burn. Plantains at the market can be quite large, and just one makes enough for a serving or two.

This is a perfect side for my Cuban recipe entrees like: Roast Pork, Cuban Sandwich, or just plain Black Beans and White (or brown) Rice.

Next time you make a Latin-themed meal, try adding a few slices of Sweet Fried Plantains to the plate for a taste of candied perfection.

 Sweet Fried Plantains - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 49 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here. 

Ingredients (about 2 servings per plantain)
  • 1 black plantain - It can be black or partially black and yellow. The blacker the plantain the sweeter.
  • 1/2 inch deep vegetable oil for frying - may need to add  more depending how many plantains you fry.

Peel and slice the plantain. A plantain stem is quite tough so you may need to just slice it off where the plantain flesh starts. You may be able to then peel the plantain easier. It's okay to slice into the peel lengthwise from end to end, if it is too tough. The plantain flesh will be firm, but with a little give.

 Click on any photo to see larger.

Once the plantain is peeled, I like to make slices at a diagonal, so each piece is about three inches long, and about one inch thick. Go for a fairly thick piece, but it will be fine anyway you slice it!

Add oil to a medium sized pan or pot. You want the oil to be about half an inch to an inch deep. You don't need the temperature to be as hot as you would for making  French fries, but go with a medium temperature, so you can easily watch that the banana slices don't burn. You may need to add more oil as you fry, if you are cooking more than one plantain.

When frying go for a medium brown color. You will need to watch closely toward the end, as brown can turn to black and burn quickly. Cooking time will vary depending how hot the oil gets. Drain on a paper towel and serve warm.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Cuban-style Black Beans - Video Recipe

Growing up in the South I had my share of beans: spicy chili beans, Tex-Mex pinto, salty boiled peanuts, tender limas, and luscious slow-simmered black-eyed and green peas with ham hock. Upon moving to Los Angeles, I eventually got around to trying Cuban-style Black Beans served at Versailles, our premier local Cuban Restaurant.

Black Beans have taken over the top spot as my favorite legume. Just check out my recipe video below and try it out sometime, and they may one day be your favorite cooked beans, too.

Cuban-style Black Beans - Video

Play it here. Video runs 2 minutes, 42 seconds.

To view or embed from YouTube, click here.

What makes Cuban-style Black Beans taste different is the addition of vinegar, wine, bell pepper and a little sugar. It's that yin and yang pull of sour and sweet flavors that make this recipe so enticing. The other ingredients are typical for slow-cooking legumes, and include: onion, garlic, dried cumin and oregano.

 I've found black beans are a little more expensive than pinto beans, but I still find them on sale at my local Latin market sometimes for less than a dollar per pound, and 99c only Stores stock one pound bags, too.

You can soak the beans overnight in water to speed up cooking by an hour or so, but it's okay to just start the pot of beans the same day, but give yourself 3-5 hours of slow-simmering time, until beans are tender. (You may want a book handy to help fill the time.)

And when they are done, you can keep them heating on low until are ready to serve. And as usual, beans reheated the next day are the best - they've had time for all the flavors to marinate to perfection.

What do you serve with my Cuban-style Black Beans? Start with steamed white rice. Make the rice following package directions. When done add to a bowl and spoon on plenty of Black Beans with the sauce -- it's simply delish.

If you are ambitious then roast a whole pork leg quarter for Cuban Roast Pork. A classic Cuban Lunch is comprised of roast pork, fried plantains, black beans and white rice. Just click here to see all the Cuban Recipes I've come up with so far.

I also make a mean Huevos Rancheros (click here for recipe) substituting refried black beans for refried pinto beans.

So put on a slow-cooking pot of my Cuban-style Black Beans and allow the kitchen to reach a steamy tropical fragrance.

Click on any photo to see larger.

Ingredients (6-8 servings)
  • 1 pound dried black beans - about 2 cups.
  • 1 onion - chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper - chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic - chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano - fresh or dried.
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar - white or any favorite like: rice, red wine or apple cider vinegar.
  • 3/4 cup red or white wine - I used red wine. Okay to substitute with apple juice.
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon oil - for sauteing veggies
  • Salt and pepper to taste - about 1/2 teaspoon total

Chop onion, bell pepper and garlic. Add tablespoon of oil to pot. Saute onion and bell pepper about 5 minutes.

Stir in chopped garlic, oregano, cumin, bay leaf, sugar, salt and pepper. (If you are the type who believes simmering with salt makes the beans tough, then add salt towards the end of cooking, when beans are tender.) This is a basic Sofrito that flavors any Caribbean slow-cooked stews and beans.

Pour in wine and vinegar.

Rinse beans and remove any debris.

Finally add rinsed black beans and 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and cook black beans until tender, about 3-5 hours. You can reduce cooking time by an hour by first soaking the black beans overnight. Cook to desired tenderness.

Cooking time varies with cooking temperature. A high simmer will shorten the cooking time. I go for a low simmer so the water doesn't evaporate too quickly and the beans burn - it's easier to control. You can do a high simmer, but stir and check on the water level often. Either way, check on beans and add water as needed during cooking.

As with any type of slow cooking, make sure to stir from time-to-time. Sometimes the beans will stick to the bottom of the pot, so scrape and stir before they burn.

If you like watery soup, then recipe is ready when beans are tender. You can thicken the bean sauce a couple of ways. Cook beans uncovered for half an hour or so, to reduce and thicken the liquid. Or, try mashing some beans against the side of the pot and stir to thicken.

Serve over white or brown rice. And you can serve my Cuban-style Black Beans with the other Cuban recipes listed earlier.

After you've made this recipe once, see if you would like to add more or less sugar next time. Same applies for vinegar. To me those are the dominate flavorings, so adjust ingredients to your palate. It's all good.

This is a vegetarian version, but you can add meat, like: a ham steak, ham hock, ham bone, or a couple slices of bacon. Put meat in the bean pot when you add the water. You might want to brown the bacon first, that way you can add as much bacon grease as you like. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Egg & Smoked Gouda Sandwich - Deal of the Day

This Deal of the Day breakfast sandwich if from from evol Foods. I went on their website here, and they do have a philosophy for their frozen fare. This purveyor spells out their mission to: "Bring down the broken food system. One bite at a time." And all their ingredients are antibiotic, hormone, non-GMO, etc. Hmmm... I guess even microwavable food has to have a mission.

Hey, I'm all for that, but how does my latest Deal of the Day find of Egg and Smoked Gouda served on Multi-Grain Flatbread taste?

Darned good. It even microwaves quite nicely. The cheese melts just right and the egg puck is tender and hot, while the flatbread stays soft and warm. I don't know how they are able to pull it all off this successfully, but they do.


The first thing you taste is the cheese and egg combination. I thought smoked Gouda cheese would be more pungent, but this version is too subtle, and while mildly disappointing, that's still okay.

It reminded me more of typical American cheese. It would have been better to use a stronger brand of Gouda?


The egg is a scrambled mix. It heated perfectly, following the microwaving directions. It tasted like it should, and remained soft. I was worried the egg puck would be rubbery enough for a hockey stick swat. 

I always like a TV dinner ingredient list that is short like this one. A "vegetarian" label is on the package. Splitting hairs here, but I guess there are all kinds out there, even ones that eat chicken eggs.

Click on any photo to see larger.

The Mulit-Grain Flatbread stayed soft and pliable for eating. It's just a basic baked wheaty flavor.

While this Deal of the Day breakfast sandwich will not replace preferred Egg McMuffins or other fast food biscuit sandwiches, this one is a low calorie and slightly blander version. And while a small sandwich, it is enough to get you started, along with a hot cup of java.

So on the Cheap$kate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best, I give evol Foods Egg and Smoked Gouda breakfast sandwich a tasty 6 !

Try hacking this breakfast sandwich for a more delicious and nutritious breakfast, with a smear of mayo, a slice of tomato and some tender fresh spinach leaves. Now it's bumped up to perfect rating of 9!

This is a decent Deal of the Day way to start your morning, and you can easily eat it on the run - or while stuck in traffic on the way to work.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Top 9 Recipes of 2016

As for year end lists, my Top 9 Recipes of 2016 is one you can really sink your teeth into. And all of my top picks are deliciously cheap to make. Just click on any recipe name to see the original 2016 blogpost, or play any embedded video below. The ranking order is random and not by delectability, so go ahead and dig in!

1. Cherry Pancakes
Let's start out with breakfast. I've been making pancakes with fresh fruit lately. Try mixing seasonal fruit into to your favorite pancake batter.

Cherries take a couple of slices to remove the seed, and you only need 2 or 3 cherries per pancake. So give my Cherry Pancake recipe a try next cherry season.

2. Huevos Rancheros
My favorite breakfast lately is Mexican-style Huevos Rancheros. It's really easy to make with fried eggs, refried pinto beans, and cheese topped with your favorite store-bought salsa, all resting on a couple of heated corn tortillas. You can get the ingredients cheaply, even canned refried beans, at your local grocery store.

My homemade recipe is so good I had to make a stop motion animated recipe video for it. So check it out below - warning, make sure you have eaten beforehand as the imagery is mouth-watering.

3. Chicken & Basil Stir Fry
I like to use fresh herbs whenever possible. Usually you only need a few sprigs or a small clipping. My next Top 9 Recipe of 2016 is a pungent Thai-style Chicken & Basil Stir Fry that's quick and easy to make.

I usually buy a whole basil plant and use some leaves as needed for Italian pasta sauces, but for my stir fry recipe I almost use a whole basil plant! Make some rice to soak up the basil and chicken flavored sauce, too.

4. Korean-style BBQ Chicken
During summertime I fire up the gill almost every weekend, and boy do I have a scrumptious Top 9 Recipe using cheap chicken called: Korean-style BBQ Chicken.

It's all about the marinade. The dominate sweet and salty soy flavors are a perfect savory combination. And copious amounts of minced garlic takes the marinade over the top. Korean-style marinade is a nice change from typical tomato-based BBQ sauces. So click on the recipe name above to get all the tasty recipe details. And add extra bonus points as this recipe is Wife Approved!

Korean-style BBQ Chicken
5. Peach Salsa 
Serving chips and salsa to greet guest for a party? Then try my Peach Salsa for a fruity change of pace. If you are from the South then you can get plenty of this stone fruit cheaply during peach season in late summer. Plus, the ingredient list is a short one.

Serve my Peach Salsa with blue corn chips for extra festive color.

6. Trump Orange Chicken
I threw my whisk into the bombastic U.S. Presidential race last year with my tasty Trump Orange Chicken recipe. I have to say it's the greatest and most beautiful recipe of the year...absolutely fantastic. Only short, lying, low-energy, small-fingered, ugly, crooked, and nasty people would disagree.

If you voted for Trump then celebrate the new POTUS by making my glazed, orange-hued, fried chicken entree. Or, if you think Trump is a pathological liar, narcissist, con man, chauvinist, whining crybaby, pompous ass, and bully, then just change the name from Trump Orange Chicken to plain Orange Chicken. My recipe is delish by any name or political persuasion!

7. Homemade Chili with Beef & Beans
Slow-cooking soothes the soul. There is nothing like the kitchen fragrance from a large pot of Homemade Chili with Beef & Beans. And I don't have to point out how inexpensive pinto beans are. I also use one of the cheapest cuts of beef out there called beef shank. This recipe is money in the bank.

So get out your favorite Chili toppings - I like chopped onion, melty cheese and crunchy Fritos Corn Chips!

I usually get most of my 99 cent ingredients at my local 99c only Stores, but lately I've has some good luck shopping at Dollar Tree. I came up with a Top 9 Recipe using bargains I scooped up from there.

Click on any photo to see larger.

8. Homemade Italian Sausage & Black Olive Pizza
Using breakfast sausage and some Italian herbs, I came up with a homemade Italian sausage, that tops my single serving pizza. The other Dollar Tree pizza finds include: black olives, tomato pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and small precooked pizza crusts (2 per package) - all for a dollar per ingredient. That's a lot of dough savings!

 Make sure to click on the name Homemade Italian Sausage & Black Olive Pizza to see the recipe.

9. Mashed Potatoes
The last recipe I made in 2016 was classic Mashed Potatoes. Potatoes are one cheap ingredient - sometimes even less per pound than brown onions.

Everyone know how to make Mashed Potatoes, right? Well if you are a cooking newbie, then check out my stop motion animated recipe video below and see how simple it is to make.

It has been a fruitfully abundant year of recipes here at the Cheap$kate Chateau. I did the heavy lifting for you, so now all you have to do is pick a recipe link and save yourself some hard earned cash by trying out any of the above. And if you have a favorite recipe of mine, then leave a comment to share.

And make sure to keep checking in here from time to time. I create yummy-looking blog posts with a dollop of humor, and while my tastes are cheap, my recipe flavors are top shelf!

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