A Typical Cuban Meal #Tuesday Tip

I’m in the process of writing #2 in the At the Shore Contemporary Romance series and am working on a scene where the hero visits the heroine at her condo in Jersey City. The heroine is Cuban and she knows that the hero loves Cuban food. Unfortunately, she’s been hard at work over the weekend, but she still knows where to go to pick up some great Cuban food before she comes home.

So what’s a typical kind of Cuban meal? I’ve shared some recipes with you before, so here’s a list of what you’ll see in the scene I’m busy writing. You can click on the links for the recipes or visit my Cook’s Treat page.

Black beans and rice for sure!
Citrus-marinated Roast Pork
Plantains of some kind – how about Mashed ones or ripe plantains (maduros)?
Ropa Vieja (a shredded beef dish)
Flan for dessert

I’m thinking maybe a nice sangria to help wash everything down!
Ropa Vieja

Look for ONE SUMMER NIGHT, #1 in the At the Shore Series, in October 2017. You can pre-order this contemporary romance at the following sites:

Amazon Kindle: http://amzn.to/2krMwfE
Amazon Paperback: http://amzn.to/2kYLWZV
B&N: http://bit.ly/2kNuo0p
iBooks: Coming Soon!
Kobo: Coming Soon!

#WriteWed The Ironbound Section & At the Shore

One of the things that I wanted to show with the At the Shore contemporary romance series is the diversity of New Jersey, both ethnically and economically. While Maggie and Owen from ONE SUMMER NIGHT are both well-off, Connie and Emma, the heroines of #2 and #3 in the series respectively, have both had to work hard to achieve what they have.

As for ethnically, Connie represents the large Cuban population of Union City. Emma is a suburban girl from Edison. The hero in #3 is Carlo Texeira from the Ironbound section of Newark.

I’m getting ready to write a scene in #2 where you find out a little bit more about Carlo and his family, who play a substantial role in #3. In that scene, you get to see a big Portuguese-style family dinner at their Ironbound home.

The Ironbound is a unique section of the city of Newark. It’s located not all that far from Newark Penn Station and between the airport and the Passaic River. It is a largely Portuguese neighborhood with the first immigrants from Portugal arriving in the early 1900s along with Spaniards from Galicia (my family’s part of Spain). In fact, many Portuguese food dishes are very similar to those from Galicia.

The main avenue in the Ironbound is Ferry Street which abounds with a number of mom and pop Portuguese shops along with a number of other Latin restaurants. In #3, the hero’s family has owned a successful bakery there since the 1930s. Carlo’s older brothers now run the business and Carlo has struck out on his own to make a life down the shore. He’s Emma’s Go-to-Guy in more than one way, although she refuses to admit that.

Ferry Street, as you might guess, was named after a ferry that ran between Newark and other locations to the east. Check out the video below that shows you Ferry Street. If part of it looks familiar, it’s because it made an appearance in the beginning of the 2005 remake of War of the Worlds (2:30 to 2:45 in the video). If you can’t see the video below, use this link: https://youtu.be/PGP_94G3Vms

#FoodieFriday Dulce de Leche

You see Dulce de Leche everywhere now from ice creams to other desserts. Even a limited edition Dulce de Leche Pop Tart. You know you’ve made it when you’re immortalized in a Pop Tart! LOL!

But for Latins, Dulce de Leche has been around forever. My mom and grandma used to make it all the time for us as kids.

What exactly is Dulce de Leche? Literally translated it means “milk candy” and it is basically a caramel kind of spread made by heating sweetened milk until it changes color and flavor. Technically, that process is known as a Maillard reaction, but forget that! All you need to know is that it’s really tasty.

Also, just to confuse things, Cubans have another dessert called dulce de leche which is made with curdled milk that is then sweetened, but that’s not what we’re going to make today.

Actually, for those who are kitchen-challenged, Dulce de Leche is much easier to find today in the ethnic food section. La Lechera has an assortment of Dulce de Leche products, including one in a squeeze bottle for drizzling onto desserts or straight into your mouth.

How do you make it? Well, it’s both simple and DANGEROUS. I have to repeat DANGEROUS, but that hasn’t stopped Latinos from making it this way for a very long time.

It all starts with . . . Can you guess? It’s that go to in Latin kitchens: Sweetened Condensed Milk.

Why a go to? Well, we weren’t well off and when you needed something sweet, a spoonful of dulce de leche or a cup filled with crumbled soda crackers and topped with condensed milk did the trick.

Plus, it’s a basic ingredient in flan, tres leches, bread pudding, you name it.

But back to making Dulce de Leche and the DANGER of it. The easiest, but DANGEROUS way is to full a large pot with water and drop in an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk.

Bring to boil and boil for about two to three hours. NEVER LET THE POT RUN DRY. If you do, the pressure will build inside the unopened can and it will EXPLODE.

Just ask my poor sister-in-law who ended up cleaning dulce de leche from her ceiling.

So that’s it. Drop and boil and then chill in the fridge. For a thicker darker dulce de leche, boil the can even longer. It will be as thick and dark as peanut butter, but oh so tasty!

Let me know if you try it and if you do, how you like it!

DulcedeLeche

Speaking of sweet, don’t forget these sweet deals going on right now!
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Just One Night Erotic Military Romance

Picadillo #Cuban #Recipe

We’re expecting a big snowstorm tomorrow, so it’s time to think about hunkering down and having something hearty and tasty, but also easy-to-make. After all, you’ve spent time shoveling so you don’t want to slave over the stove to fill your belly.

This dish was always a staple in my house and it still is because it’s easy to make and delicious. Think of it as Cuban-Style Sloppy Joe’s.

My favorite way to serve picadillo is over white rice and topped with a fried egg. Yummy!!

Cuban-style Picadillo

1 cup chopped onions
1 cup green peppers (although I prefer red peppers)
3 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped green olives with pimentos (These are your regular olives in a jar!)
1 pound chopped meat
1 small can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tsps cumin
salt and pepper to taste

The above recipe serves 2, so you can double accordingly.

Heat olive oil and then add peppers. Cook until starting to get soft. Then add the onions and saute until starting to get soft. Add the olives, garlic and chopped meat. Cook until chopped meat is starting to get brown. Add cumin, salt, pepper and tomato sauce.

Simmer for about half an hour.

Serve over white rice (or brown if you’re trying to be healthier).

Again, I like to top mine with a fried egg. In TORI GOT LUCKY, two of the friends own a restaurant and I have not doubt they’d have some snazzy version of picadillo on the menu. Maybe they’d add some raisins or capers as some people do. Or possibly serve it over a saffron-flavored rice or ripe plantain nests! This dish is so versatile, it allows you to really experiment with things to add.

cuban picadillo recipe

Thursday 13 – Favorite Foods

I had a chance to have a wonderful business-related dinner last night at an upscale New York City eatery – the Gotham Bar and Grill – which got me going on the theme for today’s Thursday 13, namely, my favorite foods. So here goes!

1. Foie gras. Yes, I know it’s outlawed in California and Oregon, but it’s tasty.

2. Lobster.

3. Hot Dogs.

4. Hot apple pie with vanilla ice cream.

5. Ice cream. Most any flavor except mint. Yech. I hate mint.

6. Ropa vieja. A tasty Cuban dish of shredded beef in tomato sauce.

7. Cuban roast pork. Love it! I gave out the recipe the other day if you want to try it for yourself. Just click here.

8. Tacos.

9. Cheese and bread.

10. Spaghetti and meatballs (my husband makes the best meatballs!)

11. My sister’s Thanksgiving Meal. (Corn casserole, turkey, pecan pie so many amazing foods!)

12. Eggs. Any way shape or form.

13. Tomato soup with either a tuna or peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the side.

Hope you enjoyed today’s Thursday Thirteen. I welcome you to add any of your foods and even give us some recipes if you can.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

On Being American…

Coat of Arms of CubaSometimes it’s hard to think about what to write on Thoughtful Thursdays. It’s such a mixed bag of info on days like today. But so many of you commented on my background the other day and expressed an interest in hearing more, that it occurred to me that I should share a little bit more about myself.

Maybe by doing so we’ll get to know each other better and you’ll understand the things about which I am passionate (LOL! as if you don’t know some of those already.)

For starters, I am an American born in Cuba.

I’m sure that’s raising eyebrows, but that’s the way I feel. I had the chance to hear Marco Rubio talk the other day on the radio and he mentioned being an American of Cuban descent. Of how grateful he was about all this Nation had given him and I realized that he was speaking much as my mother had spoken to me for all of my life.

That we were Americans now. That being American was a great gift. That we should not take that gift lightly and always honor it. In my mother’s mind that meant getting good grades, obeying the law, standing up for ourselves and those that were weaker and most of all, standing up for America.

So I can’t call myself an American of Cuban descent because I wasn’t born here, but I will call myself an American born in Cuba.

You might wonder why my mother was so vehement on that topic and the story is a long one which I’ll abbreviate into one word — Liberty.

My mom and dad on their wedding dayWhen my mother lived in Cuba under Batista, life was good for her, but not for others. But even as good as it was for her, she lacked the ability to speak out about wrongdoing or what she thought needed change in the government. It’s why she worked with Castro during the Revolution. Not that she ever really told us much about that as kids. It came in snippets at unexpected times. In reality, I learned more about my mother after her death than I had known throughout my life.

Of course the change that Castro had promised for Cuba turned out to be nothing like what my mother and father had expected or for which they had worked. Instead of a free republic, they soon came under the control of a government that was slowly robbing them of their short-lived Liberty as the government nationalized businesses and plantations they felt were necessary for the public good. Newspapers and individuals who spoke out against the government were either demonized or shut down. The government fomented class warfare as a way of justifying taking the labors of individuals for the good of all.

Just as my parents fought against Batista, they now decided to fight against Castro. Unfortunately those plans placed them in peril of imprisonment (or death) necessitating my parents’ hasty retreat from Cuba. In their minds there was only one Nation that could provide them the Liberty they sought – the United States.

But Castro wasn’t done with them. My parents had been forced to leave my sister and I behind along with my maternal grandparents. My parents thought we would join them shortly after their abrupt departure. I’m told that our Cuban passports were taken to prevent us from leaving Cuba. That for over a year my parents sought every way they could think of to get us out with no success while Castro would send his men to roust our house and threaten my grandparents to get my parents to return. Possibly he feared they would work against him in the United States. Who knows?

My sister was six months old when my mother left. I was three. Imagine leaving children that young behind, but they had no choice.

Eventually we got out and spent another six months wandering through Central America and Mexico until the immigration laws changed and my parents were able to get us into this country.

During that year and a half, my parents had not only been trying to get us out, they had been building a life here. Getting jobs and finding a home. It wasn’t necessarily easy. People didn’t want to rent to Cubans.

That never diminished my mother’s appreciation for the one gift that made all that hardship worthwhile – Liberty.

Her one response to all that negativity was simple — Succeed.

Succeed because to not do so was to dishonor the gift we had been given. Succeed because we did not want to shame other Cubans. Succeed because we wanted to prove that anything was possible in America. Succeed because success is the best revenge.

So why am I telling you all this today?

I guess because I want you to understand why I am passionate about America. Why my heart beats faster and emotion chokes me every time I hear the national anthem or see the flag. Why I take so seriously the gift of Liberty and why I honor it by reaching forward with one hand while reaching back with the other to help someone else.

So those are my thoughts on this Thoughtful Thursday. I hope you understand a little bit more about me. I’d like to get to know more about you if you care to leave a comment.

Still making those lists, checking them twice!

Sorry, Dee. I know you probably didn’t want to see those words again!

I’m still making lists, one of the best ways to avoid missing something I must do for Christmas Eve. So there’s the gift list and the wrap list. One is done the other is slowly being whittled down.

There’s the food list which I haven’t even begun, but must do so that I can start the food shopping this weekend. Then there’s the Cuban food list because to get a lot of the things I need for Christmas Eve I have to head up to Union City, home of La Roca grocery store and El Fenix Bakery!

But while I am making all those lists and checking them often, I’m still taking time out to enjoy this holiday season. In spite of the cold, it’s one of my favorite times of year.

This morning I walked through Bryant Park where The Pond is open for business. Skating is free if you have your own skates. There are also a number of food and gift kiosks all around The Pond. Hope you enjoy this photo below or if you can’t see it, click here to see The Pond at Bryant Park.