Plantains, Not Grains: The Saga Begins (AKA Gingerbread Waffles)
Let me start off by stating I have nothing against grains per se. Far from grain slandering, I will have to admit that I like rice and other bready, albeit gluten free, products. And don’t get me started on a steaming bowl of millet noodles smothered in homemade marinara sauce (recipe to come!). Grains, in my book, are not the enemy of a healthy diet depending on your situation, tolerance levels, and ability to moderate your plate to include a majority of vegetables and good proteins and fats.
Being more of a paleo eater by nature, however, and having a son who has very specific dietary needs, I am always on the lookout for alternatives to those grain-filled comfort foods that can not only satisfy my desire to stay on the nutritional straight and narrow, but also live up to the taste and memories I have of my pre-wellness days (or as my husband calls it “The Before Time”).
So when I learned about plantains, I’m pretty sure I remember a part of my brain exploding in disbelief. A banana-like fruit that, depending on the stage of ripeness, doesn’t even taste like a banana and can be used as a flour/grain substitute in most any recipe. It sounded too good to be true, but being the daring kitchen warrior that I am I figured that I might as well give it a shot. If nothing else it would be one of those great kitchen disasters that my husband and children talk about fondly when reminiscing about mom’s more humorous culinary moments.
I began to look up plantain recipes. There are hundreds – literally *hundreds* – of different ways to use plantains. It can seem a bit overwhelming. Having never worked with plantains, I also wasn’t sure which recipes would actually produce the desired results. Some of them called for up to 6 eggs, while others asked for nothing more than salt and oil. A less intrepid culinary pioneer would’ve quit on the spot, but not this woman!
I decided to pull out recipes based on the type of food I wanted to make. Cue memories of Sunday morning breakfast with my family as a child and I knew that if there was anyway to make a great tasting, grain-free, plantain waffle, I was going to find it!
And find it I did – the following recipe is the result of an arduous search and some less-than-optimal online recipes. My kudos to purelytwins.com for the best recipe out of the bunch, which I have tweaked a bit for those on a variety of diets! My kids now clamor for the gluten/dairy/grain free waffles on Sunday mornings and can often be found arguing who should get the last one.
I have, on my journey, acquired some helpful plantain knowledge, which I will now pass on to you:
- If it says “green plantain,” do not attempt to use a yellow/black or even a “kinda green but kinda yellow” specimen. The greener the plantain the higher the starch content and the lower the sugars. This color is meant for recipes that require a binding agent above and beyond any other sort of egg/chia-egg ingredient. Using riper plantains will create a waffle-like product, but it will not have the consistency or taste of the standard waffle that we all know and love.
- A good blender is key – I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful blender that is easy to clean and powerful enough to blend a green plantain (or three). Lumpy pieces of the fruit will not allow for the fluffiness needed for the waffles to properly rise.
- Skinning plantains is not always easy! Sometimes you can run a knife down one side and simply slide the peel right off. Other times it is as if that peel is holding on for dear life and the only way to get rid of it is to totally carve it off with your knife. You never know what you’re going to get, so just roll with it!
- Expect to double (or even triple) the recipe – there will never be enough. I am not sure why, but I have never made the standard batch of any plantain recipe and had enough to feed my family of 4. Perhaps for a single or 2 person household the quantities would hold, but I have quickly learned that double batches are not only a good idea, they are the only way to prevent Armageddon as the last waffle comes out of the machine.
So without further ado, I give you…… Gingerbread Waffles!
(see below for vegan and Whole30 substitutions)
14 oz of green plantains (the greener they are the better your waffle integrity)
4-5 eggs, depending on their size
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
3 tbls. Coconut Oil
2 tbls. Molasses
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg
- Peel your plantains any way you can (see helpful plantain knowledge number 3 above!), cut them into manageable chunks, and place them in your blender.
- Add all other ingredients. NOTE: if you have small eggs, add 5; if they are large to extra large, 4 should be enough. Coconut oil can be added in any form. If your blender is up to the job, it will not matter if the oil is solid or liquid.
- Blend ingredients on a low to medium setting for approximately 2 minutes. This should have taken care of all the lumps and bumps a non-blended plantain can make, but if you see any lumps at all, keep blending until they are good and gone. Chunks of plantain mean that parts of your waffles won’t have that fluffy texture that we are trying to attain!
- Pour your batter into your prepared waffle maker (yes, to make waffles, you require a waffle maker. It is a must – otherwise, enjoy your pancakes. No, really, this recipe also makes for great pancakes!)
- Cook according to your preference or your waffle maker’s instructions.
- Remove and enjoy!
It’s that simple! Now this recipe is paleo, as it uses no grains or dairy. It can easily be made vegan by using chia seed “egg” in place of the regular eggs.
However, a Di Vita Organic member was talking to me a few days ago about the Whole30 diet she has just started. I wondered, then, if it would be easy (and delicious) to modify this recipe to comply with her requirements. And, in fact, it is!
I made two batches of the waffles for “Breakfast for Dinner” last night. One was the standard recipe and the other simply removed the molasses (a sugary no-no for Whole30) and left all other ingredients in place. The new recipe was a hit! Though they didn’t have that pure gingerbread taste that the molasses brought to the table, they were a fluffy, grain free masterpiece that really brought out the complex palate of the different spices used. My husband said he liked them even better than the gingerbread ones (though my children were quick to state the merits of both types!). Top them with my compote of cinnamon braised pear chunks (recipe to come!) and you will think you have died and gone to waffle heaven!