The Mighty Plantain – Tostones


You have fried green tomatoes? You got nothing on us; we have fried green bananas! You have refried beans? You got nothing on us; we have twice fried bananas! We have THE MIGHTY PLANTAIN, green and not as sweet as its yellow cousin, but still considered a symbol or wealth, power, and virility up to the late nineteenth century. Immortalized in many still life paintings as an embodiment of luxury, it had evolved from humble origins to the tables of the elite before gravitating down to our plates.


With the end of slavery, “slave foods” became popular among the general population and plantanos became plentiful and accessible to all. Banana moved from a paining on the wall of a wealthy home to our plates. Still, it retained some of the old mystique.

Andy Warhol’s banana sticker designed for an album of the group Velvet Underground became as famous as his major paintings. And when T.G.I.Friday crowned hamburgers with grilled plantains, it became obvious: THE MIGHTY PLANTAIN has arrived!


First, though, we need to fry them the first time – remember, they are twice fried! Only I don’t do it; I cheat. I nuke them. You need to cut off both ends and slice the skin lengthwise, making sure you reach the flesh inside but not cut all the way through. Then you microwave them, about 2 1/2 – 3 minutes per plantain. I had a bunch of five, so twelve minutes did it. The skin should turn completely black and quite thin. They will open easily, but be careful! – they are hot, and you have to work with them while they are still hot. Slice each plantain into circles about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick.


You are supposed to use a professional squishing gadget called tostonera, but I am doing just fine with a flat side of my trusty meat tenderizer. The goal is to flatten each piece into a thin disk, and you can accomplish it easily with any flat kitchen utensil or a bottom of a jar. Again, you have to do it while your mighty plantain is still hot, otherwise it will resist. It’s not called mighty for nothing!


And then you just fry those disks on a lightly misted frying pan, together with sliced garlic. It takes only a couple of minutes on each side, and before you remove them from the pan, sprinkle them with salt and balsamic vinegar and give them one more toss.


Hot tostones will be a great appetizer on their own, topped by those delicious chunks of garlic, served on a bed of greens with some fresh cilantro sprinkled on top.  But they are just as good as a side dish; in fact, they are often served with ceviche (for recipe, please click here) or any other fish and seafood dishes. Amazingly, they are also great cold, and if you have any of them left (which I doubt!), you can pack them into your lunchbox as a healthy and filling snack.


  • Green (unripe) plantains
  • Garlic cloves, one or two cloves per one plantain
  • Balsamic vinegar to drizzle
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh cilantro to garnish


  • Cut both ends of plantains, slice skin lengthwise, deep enough to cut through the skin but not the flesh. Microwave for 2 1/2 – 3 minutes per each plantain. Skin will turn black, soft, and thin.
  • While hot, open skin, cut plantain into 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick circles. Pound each circle flat with a flat utensil or bottom of a jar.
  • Preheat and lightly mist frying pan to medium heat. Peel garlic, cut into thick chunks. Fry plantain disks and garlic chunks together for about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. When ready, sprinkle salt and drizzle balsamic vinegar. Quickly toss and remove.
  • Serve hot on bed of greens garnished with fresh cilantro.


Note: The copyrights on the article belong to the author. The responsibility for the opinions expressed in the article belongs exclusively to the author. Previously published on  KOOLKOSHERKITCHEN 

Rassol’nik – Sour Barley Soup


The most sobering experience you’ve ever had, and I mean literally. Rassol means brine, the liquid that you have when you pickle something, and it is considered the best remedy for hangovers. .During the infamous Ivan the Terrible’s times, even meat, fish, and cabbage pies used to be served soaked in brine. The soup was only one of the wide array of “rassol’nye” dishes, or dishes using brine either as an ingredient or a condiment. It was a poor relation at best, a true “poor man’s soup.”

Rslnk 1.jpg

As you see, the two main ingredients are barley and pickles – with brine. You use carrots, to sweeten it up a bit, onion and garlic, to balance the sour flavor, and any kind of herbs and spices you prefer. My grandmother used bay leaf, but I prefer cilantro.  To make a really thick and filling soup, you need to soak barley, at least for 24 hours, if not for a couple of days. If it starts fermenting, and the water gets murky and gives off a sour smell, that’s great. You’ll just use less brine from the pickle jar!


But there was one more important ingredient, the ubiquitous Russian vegetable, potato.  I worked very hard on trying to replace it. I was able to get rid of potatoes and substitute something much less carby and much more nutritious in all my recipes – come on, rassol’nik, give! No, this obstinate peasant soup refused to cooperate! Sweet potato? No fancy-shmancy stuff, please. The sweetest thing those peasants in G-d forsaken villages knew was a carrot, but potatoes were a staple, the stuff of life.  I am more recalcitrant, though, so I finally figured it out.


Chick peas, and you don’t even have to precook them. Just soak the dry ones, since you are soaking barley anyway, but in a different dish, please. You don’t want them to ferment! Then you cook them together with barley and the rest of the ingredients.

Rslnk 2.jpg

Start your barley cooking, including the liquid it was soaking in, together with chick peas. Slice or cube pickles (some recipes suggest grating them, but that just gives you more brine and less texture) and add them to the pot. Yes, I hear you, these are not cucumbers on the picture. Did I say they had to be cucumbers? Nope, any pickles will do, as long as they are crunchy and not mushy. These are my cute little Tindora pickles, and we love them! Grate your carrot, mince onion and garlic, and throw them into the pot as well. Add brine to taste, then add water to full two quarts and bring to boil.

Pmkn spn sp 7

The classic rassol’nik was made of kidneys, hearts, pancreas, and other animal innards that would otherwise be thrown away. However, vegetarian versions are becoming more popular, so again I feel that I am not alone with my soup powder instead of … well, whatever. Season it with salt, pepper, and a pinch of cinnamon, add chopped cilantro together with stems, stir, and bring to boil again.

Rslnk 3.jpg

Now you have two options. One is to reduce the heat and stand over the stove for about an hour while it’s simmering, stirring the soup to make sure barley doesn’t stick to the bottom. It will do that the moment you turn you back on it – this is the most obstinate soup ever! The other way is to do what I did, transfer it to a crock pot set on low, and forget about its existence till dinner time. Your choice!


I couldn’t help but to include this photo that comes from Google images, even though it has chunks of potato swimming in the soup. Not only does it convey the spirit of rural Russia, with its traditional richly decorated lacquered wooden bowls and spoons, but it also shows a couple of slices of traditional black rye bread, the poor man’s bread, that goes with Rassol’nik like Prince Vladimir with Vladimir Hill.


  • 1 cup pearl barley, soaked
  • 1 cup dry chick peas, soaked
  • 1 cup sliced or cubed pickles
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 2 – 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup brine
  • 1 heaping tablespoon soup powder
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Soak barley for 24 hours or more. It may start fermenting, depending on the temperature and humidity. Do not discard liquid.
  • Soak chick peas overnight separately from barley. Drain and rinse before cooking.
  • Transfer barley into 2-quart pot together with liquid, add chick peas. Start cooking.
  • Grate carrot, mince onion and garlic. Add to pot.
  • Slice or cube pickles, add to pot. Add brine, add water to full 2 quarts, bring to boil.
  • Add soup powder, season with cinnamon, salt, and pepper, add cilantro. Stir and taste. If you like a more sour flavor, add more brine.
  • Bring to boil, stir, transfer to crock pot on low setting, cook for several hours or more. If it becomes too thick, add water.
  • Alternatively, reduce heat to simmer, cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring constantly.
  • Garnish with cilantro sprigs.


The copyrights on the article belong to the author. The responsibility for the opinions expressed in the article belongs exclusively to the author.

Previously published in KOOLKOSHERKITCHEN

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Noodles to the Rescue: Make Dinner In a Snap


By: NewsUSA 

It used to be that families sat down at the dinner table and ate their evening meal together. These days, parents are juggling work and home, while running kids to and from various activities. Because of all of these demands, it can be a struggle to find a recipe solution that meets your needs.

You want to provide a wholesome, flavorful, home-cooked meal, but really, who has the time?

Fortunately, there are alternatives that can make you feel good about what you’re serving, which is not too time-consuming to make.

The following one-pot prep meal is made with the smooth, firm texture of No Yolks noodles, the number-one brand of noodles in the US and Canada. Created in 1976, No Yolks noodles are the healthier alternative to regular egg noodles. They’re made with egg whites, so they have no cholesterol and you can feel good about serving them.

One-Pot Creamy Noodles with Bacon & Peas


8 oz bacon, diced

12 oz No Yolks Extra Broad Noodles

2 cups diced onion

3-1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth

3/4 cup half and half

1 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp lemon juice

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste


1. Heat large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Cook bacon for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned and crispy. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate; set aside.

2. Discard all but two tablespoons of grease. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes, or until golden brown and tender.

3. Add broth, half and half, and uncooked noodles to skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 8 to 10 minutes or until noodles are tender. Stir occasionally while simmering.

4. Season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add peas, Parmesan, bacon and lemon juice to skillet and cook for an additional 2 minutes or until heated through.

Serves 8

For more information and recipes, visit

Note: The copyrights on the article belong to the author. The responsibility for the opinions expressed in the article belongs exclusively to the author.

Speedy No-Knead Rolls


Shared By: Food Recipes

Fresh, hot rolls to accompany your meal is so very appropriate on many occasions, but sometimes you just don’t feel like going through the hassle of actually making them, right? Well, here’s a recipe for you!

Speedy No-Knead Rolls


3/4 Cup luke-warm water

1/3 Cup melted oleo

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

2 Teaspoon salt

2 Pkg. dry yeast. 1/4 oz. size

1/4 Cup lukewarm water

1 Egg beaten

3 1/2 Cups all purpose flour


Combine first four ingredients in large bowl. Sprinkle yeast in the 1/4 cup of luke-warm water and let stand 5-10 minutes. Stir up and add to first mixture. Blend in egg; ad flour slowly, beating well. Turn out on floured board, using just enough flour to handle. Pinch off dough into small balls and place on a greased baking dish. Set to rise in warm place until double-(80’-85’). Bake in 425’F. oven for 20 minutes, or until golden.

Note: Image by Pixabay. The copyrights on the article belong to the author. The responsibility for the opinions expressed in the article belongs exclusively to the author.

Organic or Natural? An Introduction to Important Health Food Terms



Sometimes, reading the packaging of a new health food is more confusing than it is reassuring. Is organic the same thing as natural? Is there such a thing as unnatural food? What is the difference between enriched and fortified food?

Don’t feel bad – in some ways all of these terms are supposed to confuse you; they sound good enough to make you want to buy the foods, even if aren’t exactly sure what you are putting in your body.

In order to clear up the fog a bit, here is a quick reference guide for a few of the most popular “health food” terms for you to have a better idea with regards to the differences between the labels and to decide whether they are the best choice for your diet.

Fair Trade:

There are slight variations to the definition of Fair Trade depending on the certifying organization. For people living in the US, one of the most common labels is the Fair Trade Certified™ label. Fair Trade USA has the following general definition of a Fair Trade Certified™ product:

Fair Trade Certified™ products were made with respect to people and planet. Our rigorous social, environmental and economic standards work to promote safe, healthy working conditions, protect the environment, enable transparency, and empower communities to build strong, thriving businesses. When you choose products with the Fair Trade label, your day-to-day purchases can improve an entire community’s day-to-day lives.


As with Fair Trade, the definition and standards that must be met in order for a product to be labelled organic may vary slightly depending on the certifying organization and country. For the USDA organic seal, which is used in the US, the general definition is as follows:

Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.

Note that in order for a food to be genuinely Fair Trade and/or organic, it must have the official label visible on the package.


There is no official Food and Drug Administration (FDA) definition for Natural foods. For this reason, food companies will often use it freely on their labels, even if it is not clear what they mean by it. The FDA discusses the use of the term “Natural” on food labels as follows:

From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

Enriched Food:

The term enriched is used only for processed foods, though many processed foods are not enriched. Through the many processes different foods go through (cooking, combining, griding, exposure to heat and cold, etc.) nutrients are lost. When foods are enriched, the nutrients that were lost in the refinement process are added back in.

The Medical Dictionary defined enriched foods as follows:

A processed food that has lost nutrients during milling, grinding, pasteurization, or other processes and then had those nutrients added back to the marketed product. Two examples of vitamins commonly used in food enrichment are vitamins B1 and B2, thiamine and riboflavin, respectively.

Fortified Foods:

Unlike enriched foods, fortified foods do not contain simply the nutrients that were lost during the refinement process. Fortified foods have added nutrients beyond their natural levels in order to provide an added benefit. Often, fortified foods cater to a specific audience with different nutritional needs that are difficult to meet with a “normal” diet, like pregnant women and body builders.

However, plenty of fortified foods are available to the general public as foods of mass consumption. One example of this are breakfast cereals; most breakfast cereals are fortified with 100% daily value of multiple nutrients.

When you are armed with the correct knowledge, it is easier to make better nutritional choices – even with processed foods. Making informed choices may not only mean a healthier you, but also a healthier community and planet.


Note: Image from Pixabay. The copyrights on the article belong to the author. The responsibility for the opinions expressed in the article belongs exclusively to the author.

Avoid the Seasonal Splurge with Healthy Protein Snacks


By: NewsUSA

From family gatherings to cookie exchanges, the holiday season is delicious — and can do a number on a typically balanced diet. Whether you want to curb your appetite to avoid over-indulging in tempting treats or need fuel ahead of your holiday shopping marathon, here are some smart-snacking suggestions to make this holiday season your healthiest yet.

Happy Trail(s) Mix: To keep you energized on the go, keep homemade trail mix handy. It’s a great source of vitamins, fiber and healthy fats that provides a boost of energy so you can shop without dropping. Customize it with your favorite ingredients and toss in some cranberries and pistachios for a festive touch.

Pack in the Protein: Every family has traditional holiday recipes, and many serve as sides to the main course. Whether your family’s go-to main dish is ham, turkey or even turducken, the holidays are the time to savor the foods you seldom take the time to dish up throughout the year. While you’re anxiously waiting for the big meal, try subbing small portions of protein to keep your blood sugar in check. Bite-size offerings, such as meat snacks, are the perfect grab-and-go option and will rev up your metabolism, while supplying you with lasting energy.

But be careful to avoid meat snacks high in sodium and sugar. A great healthy option is Deli Snackers from Land O’Frost, a baked meat snack made from high-quality, oven-roasted meats. This convenient and flavorful choice offers more than 10 grams of nourishing protein per serving with less than 400 mg of sodium, making it the perfect treat to meet your healthy-eating goals.

Festive Fiber: To prevent the mid-afternoon stomach grumble, use a muffin tin to make a batch of portion-controlled oatmeal cups –a healthy and delicious snack that can be enjoyed any time of the day. Oatmeal, which is high in fiber, will keep you satiated before dinner, and adding natural ingredients such as pure maple sugar and cinnamon will healthily satisfy your sweet tooth so you don’t reach for a sugary pastry or any of the other filler foods overflowing from the kitchen.

So why wait until New Year’s Eve to start your resolutions? Get a kick-start this holiday season and try out any of these nutritious snacks without sacrificing the festivities.

For coupons and more guilt-free recipe ideas for the holidays, visit

Note: The copyrights on the article belong to the author. The responsibility for the opinions expressed in the article belongs exclusively to the author.

Time to Get Nutty . . . For Your Own Good!

assortment of tasty nuts, close up

By: Sasha de Beausset 

Whether you have chestnuts roasting on an open fire, or if you go around the corner to get a bag at the grocery store, it might be time to start eating more nuts!

Nuts have been a part of the human diet since the beginning of our history. According to the Nutcracker Museum site,

Recently there was an archeological dig in Israel where researchers found evidence showing that nuts formed a major part of man’s diet 780,000 years ago.  Seven varieties of nuts along with stone tools to crack open the nuts were found buried deep in a bog. The nuts were wild almond, prickly water lily, water chestnut and 2 varieties of both acorns and pistachios.

Fast forward hundreds of thousands of years later, as hunting and gathering has “gone out of style”, and humans eat much fewer nuts than they used to. With the rise of processed foods, and dozens of snack options with minimum work involved, chips and dip just seem more appetizing.

However, there are plenty of reasons you should be eating more nuts. Not only will they get you in the holiday mood, they will also offer tons of health benefits. . .

1. Nuts are Packed with Nutritional Value

When it comes to nuts, you are really getting a bang for your buck. None of this “empty calories” stuff. Nuts are a great source of unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, vitamins (like vitamin E), minerals (like iron). Together, all of these nutrients promote healthy organ function, healthy skin, and help fight off illness so you can really enjoy the holidays.

2. Nuts Help to Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke

Nuts are chock full of monounsaturated fat, including omega-3 fatty acids, which lower total cholesterol with a particularly powerful effect on “bad” LDL cholesterol. Nuts also have phytosterols, which are plant compounds that also lower cholesterol and have potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the body. These help to break down buildup on your artery walls, which can block healthy blood circulation.

3. Nuts Help Prevent Cancer

The antioxidants in nuts, particularly walnuts, called polyphenols, are powerful cancer fighters. Antoxidants help to fight off free radicals, which can cause cell damage – one of the reasons cancer can arise.

The types of cancer nuts may help prevent include: breast cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and ovarian cancer.

4. Nuts Boost Brain Health

Remember those omega-3 fatty acids mentioned before? Well, in addition to promoting circulation, they also promote brain health. Nuts are also full of antioxidants which help to slow down or prevent cognitive decline that happens with age, and could even reduce the risk of brain-related diseases, like Alzheimer’s.

5. Nuts Help Reduce Overall Mortality

A recent study found that eating a handful of nuts everyday can go way beyond the benefits described above. They may help reduce overall mortality rates. After analyzing a range of existing studies, researchers from the Imperial College London and the Norwegian University of Science determined that as little as 20 grams of nuts a day (about a handful) can significantly reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease, diabetes, and infectious diseases!

Note: Sasha de Beausset is a Nutritional Anthropologist with a B.A. from Tufts University, an M.Sc. in Food and Nutrition from the University of San Carlos, and is currently in the process of becoming a licensed nutritionist. She has been awarded for her academic writing and research, and she has been blogging on food, health, and nutrition for over four years. The copyrights on the article belong to the author. The responsibility for the opinions expressed in the article belongs exclusively to the author.

Champagne Punch for the New Year!


Champagne Punch for 20

Please with ease for your New Year’s celebration!


8 Quarts champagne
2-6 oz. cans frozen orange juice
1-6 oz. can frozen limeade
2 Quarts soda water
2 Quarts 7-Up
1 Pint apricot brandy

Chill and Mix

Make ice ring (using 7-up or Soda).  Use fresh strawberries or raspberries as trim. 
Serves approximately 20 people.  (100- 4 oz. servings.)

Note: The copyrights on the article belong to the author. The responsibility for the opinions expressed in the article belongs exclusively to the author.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad


Contributed By: Angela Jean Brown

This yummy dish can be served as an appetizer, side dish or in place of dessert. Preparation coming in three parts makes this just a bit involved, but the result is well-worth it!

Part 1


2 cups             broken, thin pretzels
¾ cups          melted butter (or margarine)
3 Tbsp.           sugar


  1. Melt butter in 9 x 13 pan
  2. Spread pretzels and sugar evenly
  3. Bake at 400o F for 6 to 7 minutes

Part 2


1                      8 ounce soft cream cheese
1 cup              sugar
2 cups            cool whip


  1. Cream together
  2. Spread over pretzels

Part 3


2                      10 ounce boxes of frozen strawberries (juice, too!)
1                       6 ounce strawberry jello
2 cups            boiling water


Mix all ingredients together.

When mixture begins to gel, pour over layer 2. Allow to set until completely gelled. Cut into squares and serve.

Note: The copyrights on the article belong to the author. The responsibility for the opinions expressed in the article belongs exclusively to the author. 

Peanut Butter Glaze


As Submitted By: Angela Jean Brown

Do you love peanut butter? Then you’ll love this easy-to-prepare peanut butter glaze to spread over muffins, cakes … or whatever you choose! It makes an especially nice topping for chocolate cake.


1/2      cup creamy peanut butter
1/3      cup milk
1          cup powdered sugar
Salt, to taste


  1. Combine powdered sugar, peanut butter and milk in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer on low-to-medium speed until all ingredients are well combined. Add a liberal pinch of salt, if you like, to really emphasize the peanut butter flavor.
  2. Continue mixing at medium speed 1-2 minutes more, until the glaze is smooth and the desired texture is achieved.

Note: The copyrights on the article belong to the author. The responsibility for the opinions expressed in the article belongs exclusively to the author.