Cheapest and Easiest Dinner Ever: Tostones Al Maria

The school year is settling in. Routine has begun descending it’s regular little face all over our days. I couldn’t be happier.

I don’t always love routine. Not even a little bit. Not really at all. I’ll take, anyday, the flurry of the unplanned afternoon. Waking up whenever. Hitting the day whenever we please. Lazy walks to duck ponds and mountain meadows. Even the words feel right and fancy free.

But fact of the matter is, I’m discovering routine bring a happy comfort that I’ve never previously preferred. For the next 10 months or so, days will be relatively same-ish. We won’t have many unexpected jaunts to waterparks and pools. But we will have alarms ringing promptly, and breakfast every morning by 7:15, and dinner. We’ll start having dinner.

Don’t you forget to do dinner in the middle of summer? Thanks for saying so. It makes me feel better I’m not the only one.

Part of settling back into a school year routine is also letting the budget simmer a bit. After a summer of hootin’ and hollerin’ all over yonder plains, I’m ready to know how many pennies are leaving my pocket for a while. Spontaneous snowcones are nice, but sweetlordalmighty, so are bank accounts with dollars in them.

So, last week, I pulled together the cheapest meal I know how to make. Tostones Al Maria, inspired by the Max Brenner NYC menu. It’s this groovy little mix of ground beef, salty cream-kissed salad greens, and fried plantains (or barely-ripe bananas if you prefer). It’s just an unexpected combination of flavors, you might snub your nose at it and run away. But you’ll be so glad you didn’t!

Even my kids were like, “Mom…whaaaaaat?! This issss soooooo goooooood.”

And I’m not making that up to sell this ish. It’s just a good dish.

Try. Make. Be delighted.

It’s time for dinner.



For the Beef:

1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 pounds ground beef
4 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1 1/2 tablespoon Braggs

For the Fried Plantains:
1 banana or 1 plantains, thinly sliced
Coconut oil and grapeseed oil for frying

For the Salad Greens:
6 cups butter lettuce
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper


In a skillet, cook ground beef and garlic in coconut oil over medium-high heat. Season with celery salt and Braggs. Keep the ground beef in big chunks, be careful not to break it up overly much.

Heat coconut oil in a second skillet. Fry plantains in medium-high heat until golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.

In a large bowl, toss salad greens. Whisk together yogurt, vinegar, melted coconut oil, and honey. Drizzle over salad greens. Salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange plantains, ground beef, and salad greens together on a plate. Serve immediately and enjoy!