Tag Archives: plantains

Adventures in Dining Out: Yolo Mexican Eatery

I’m going to go ahead and say that being vegan is the reason that the cold I had two days ago only lasted about 16 hours. It was the shortest bug I ever had! I’m still taking extra care of myself but I did take the opportunity to dine out for dinner tonight.

It was my first time vising Yolo Mexican Eatery in Skokie, not to be confused with #yolo.

Yolo is a small BYOB restaurant tucked away on Brown street in downtown Skokie. I’ve passed it hundreds of times but wasn’t really aware of its existence until I started researching vegan-friendly places. It’s a cozy place and, from what I could gather, it’s family owned and operated. It wasn’t exactly packed tonight, but I can imagine that it gets busy on the weekends.

We started with a guacamole appetizer which was yummy. It’s funny… I’m not used to non-spicy guacamole anymore, so it was different in that regard, but I wouldn’t describe it as bland. It was tasty and fresh!


I ordered the Enchiladas de Platanos for my entree. The enchiladas came smothered in mole sauce and was served with a side of rice and beans. This dish had very interesting flavors in it — very different but delicious. I’m no mole expert, but my best guess is that this is the most authentic mole sauce I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. I could actually taste the chocolate. It wasn’t overwhelming in any way, and  my taste buds were hit with sweetness followed by a very satisfying spicyness. The texture of the sauce was also perfect. It wasn’t too thick nor was it gritty. I think I would have preferred the plantains to be a bit more, well, slimey. They had more of a tostones texture.

I expect that I will visit Yolo again. I will probably opt for one of the salads and a vegetarian taco option. I like mole but I need to be in the mood for it. Considering that Yolo is labeled as vegan-friendly on sites like Yelp, I was hoping for more vegan and vegetarian options. That said, it’s the only place where I’ve seen plantain enchiladas on the menu, so I’m glad for that!

YOLO! –Melissa



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Cuban Inspired Shepherdless Pie

After working with plantains more often, I wanted to try a vegan shepherdless pie using ingredients popular in cuisine from our island neighbor to the South. Cuban food commonly has a lot of interesting vegan elements: plantains, yuca, beans, rice and bananas. I’m a big fan of those things so this dish made sense. This is what we started with for the mashed plantains:
8 plantains (8 fist sized potatoes would work too)
1/4 cup of Diaya cheese
1/2 cup of soy milk (any non-dairy milk will work, almond if you’ve got a soy allergy)
2 tbsp vegan margarine

I peeled the plantains and put them into water to boil. Plantains and potato have similar nutritional profiles except that plantains have a significant amount of vitamin A, where potato has none. They’re both starchy, provide vitamin C, and are free of fat and cholesterol. Getting back to business, while that was happening I prepared the filling with the following ingredients:
1 white onion, diced
1 jalapeño, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of black beans, soaked overnight or 1 can of beans, partially drained
1 can of diced tomato
10 okra, ends removed and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 lb. frozen corn kernels
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
salt and chili powder to taste

I browned the onion, garlic and jalapeño along with the cumin until the onion became translucent. Then we added the okra, tomato, beans, corn and cilantro and stirred until everything was steamy and sticky from the okra.

Brent took the plantains and combined them with the milk, cheese and margarine and mashed them until they were gloriously creamy. They were really dry so you might need to add more soy milk depending on your plantains (or potatoes).Check out that radical dedicated mooshing face.

He also prepared a base layer in our baking dish of tortillas and daiya to aid in scooping but it’s not necessary.

He spread the mashed plantains over the hot veggies and we put it into the oven for 20 minutes at 350C/175F until it was bubbly and delightful.

It was a hearty filling meal, loaded with vegetables and flavors. It made even better leftovers after everything had a night to marinade in it’s own juice.

Next time I might tweak the seasoning but overall it was a success. We ate half the tray and the rest is disappearing fast.

This is Brent and Christie, signing off.

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Tostones… vegan junk food, not a party game.

Plantains are like bananas in appearance but they’re not as sweet. Usually they’re cooked (fried, boiled, grilled, baked, whatever) green when their texture and flavor resembles that of a potato. When overripe they’re either eaten raw or fried in thin chips. Plantains are basically the Inspector Gadget of the banana world.

Here’s me peeling one… they’re a little stubborn. I’m going to make them into tostones, a regional specialty, sometimes called patacones.

Most recipes for tostones call for twice fried plantains, but I prefer to boil for the first round instead of frying. This results in a tostone that remains soft after it cools. Traditional recipes can get hard and unpalatable when cool. Anyways, I chopped my plantains into inch long sections (2-3cm) at a slight angle. I dropped them into water, brought it to a boil, reduced the heat to a low boil and allowed to simmer for another 25 minutes.

After boiling, they should be soft and yellow. I poured the water over a strainer to collect the plantain pieces.

One by one I placed each piece onto a clean plate that I moistened with warm water…

… and SMASHED it with a clean damp glass jar. Do this carefully to maintain the aesthetic or just smoosh them for the fun of it.

Then I fried it on each side for about a minute in grapeseed oil, until golden brown. You can use whatever kind of oil you like as long as it’s suitable for frying. I know Melissa likes safflower oil. I place them onto a clean dry paper towel to drain off some of the oil. They’re great with hot sauce, mojo (a garlic and parsley sauce) or just salt. They’re also rich in vitamins A and C as well as magnesium and potassium.

Let me know how you like them!

This is Christie, signing off!

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When the best things on the table are vegan

More confession time: I ate chicken for dinner last night. It was Day 1 in Orlando, and we went to a place called Pio Pio on International Drive for dinner. I didn’t take any pictures because I knew I was going to have meat, and I didn’t think I would have anything to say about it on this here blog. Boy, was I wrong! Thank goodness for other pictures on the Internet. Hope no one minds if I use them here (blah blah DISCLAIMER blah blah THESE ARE NOT MY OWN PHOTOS blah blah WILL TAKE THEM DOWN IF YOU REQUESTED BY THE OWNER).

Let me first say that the chicken, if you’re into that sort of thing, is definitely worth writing home about. But the real star of the evening were the ripe plantains. I’ve had plantains at other restaurants and at home, but these are by far the BEST I have had outside of ones freshly made at home. Oh my gosh, I need to wipe the drool off my chin after just thinking about them. This photo does NOT do it justice! The rice and beans were amazing as well. They don’t skimp on the garlic and seasoning.

One of the other really amazing side dishes that we ordered was boiled cassava (yuca) cooked with garlic and onions. You could smell the garlic in the steam. The yuca was fresh–I would love to try and replicate this at home, but the quality of the yuca makes a big difference, and there’s maybe a week out of the year that we can find yuca this fresh in Chicago.

Between the rice, cassava, plantains, beans, and accompanying sauces (a very spicy salsa verde and a very tasty garlic aioli), I could have had a delicious and very satisfying vegan dinner. There’s a lesson here: think outside the meat on the menu! Check out the side dishes. And while yuca and plantains aren’t anything new to me, I think it warrants saying that you should try new things.

Other notes on the restaurant… I had a glass of sangria that was really sweet and tasty. The food came out really fast and the servers were very attentive with refills and by checking in on us. Their homemade juice drinks seemed to be just as popular as their sangria. We noticed quite a few people getting takeout. There is a lot on the menu including several other side dishes and many vegan options overall.

Do you have any restaurant stories from a vegan perspective that you would like to share? Click on the Contact page to get in touch with us! As for me, I’m looking forward to three more days of vacation and more food stories to share. Wish me fun! –melissa

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