Plantains are those giant banana-looking things in the produce section of your grocery store. Most people are unfamiliar with the various health benefits plantains provide, like fiber, calcium, beta-carotene and Vitamin C. They are also lower in sugar than bananas, which means they fall lower on the Glycemic Index (which is good).
Because plantains offer such good nutrients and vitamins, adding them to your diet can help improve your skin, hair and nails, as well as help strengthen your immune system. Other benefits of plantains include the reduction of inflammation and the regulation of women's menstrual cycles.
So how do you cook them?
While I'm still experimenting with different ways to cook these sweet and savory fruits, I have two recipes to share with you. You should also note that plantains cooked in restaurants may be fried or sauteed in fatty or unhealthy oils and butter, so it's probably best to eat these at home.
For a savory side dish (or main dish if you want to add meat like I did), try pairing peeled, chopped plantains (1 plantain) with peeled, chopped butternut squash (about 1.5-2 cups). In my dish, I added some left-over extra-lean ground turkey (about 1 cup), and added chopped onions, garlic and Mrs. Dash chipotle lime seasoning.
I mixed all of this together with about a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and popped it in the oven for a couple of hours at 275 degrees. I had it cooking while I was at the gym, but I'm sure they'd cook up just fine in less than an hour if you increased the heat to 350-375 degrees. I'm telling you, this fiesta-style entree is absolutely delicious, and practically melts in your mouth!
The other way I like to eat plantains is the sweet way. Now, this is probably the kind of treat you'd need to beware of in restaurants. Instead of frying them, I peeled and chopped another plantain (along with half a green apple, shown above) and spread them in a small dish, on which I smeared coconut oil. I sprinkled them with brown sugar (about 1 Tbsp), stevia, cinnamon, and then drizzled some raw, unfiltered, local honey on top of all that delicious-ness. After baking at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (or until softened), these plantains make for a healthy yet decadent dessert.
Let me know if you try these out!