Christina and Nitza

As I’ve told you before, every Cuban kitchen has a bible – Cocina al Minuto de Nitza Villapol.

The Cuban Cookbook

She was the Cuban Betty Crocker, and her cookbook is a staple in every Cuban cook’s home.  It’s not only great as a reference, but also for recipes Abuela never got to teach.  The version of her book available in the states is incomplete compared to her original (and actually considered plagiarism in Cuba).

I was lucky.  Someone in my family got the ORIGINAL book out, and Abuela got photocopies.  Yes photocopies.  With two legal covers and presillas.  That’s how my Cuban bible stays alive – barely.  Or maybe she smuggled the photocopies out of Cuba, who knows!

Fellow blogger Christina, however, has a different experience.  Inspired by the movie Julie and Julia, she decided to hone her Cuban cooking skills – and keep the culture alive in her family –  by following on the same experiment – except this time its Christina and Nitza.  And she even got interviewed by the Today Show!

So for all of you that can’t wait to get your hands on some authentic Cuban cooking, hop on over to her blog and follow her trek through the mother of all Cuban Cookbooks.

Enjoy!

Note: I found this post buried in my drafts – for some reason I thought I had published it – sorry Christina!  However, she is now more famous than before which makes this short post even MORE relevant!

The elusive Miami “RumCake” Cuban Birthday Cake

You always take for granted what you have.  ALWAYS. Until of course, you no longer have it.

I grew up in Puerto Rico in pretty much a Cuban enclave.  All of our cakes were the same, they all tasted the same, mainly because they were all done by the same woman Tete Fundora.  She made awesome panetela borracha cakes with Royal Icing. Wedding, birthdays, graduations – you name it.  If you asked who had made the cake it was always Tete Fundora.

Let’s get something straight Rum Cake and RumCake Birthday cake are two different things.

What makes the birthday cake awesome is that the cake comes out spongy and somewhat wet – to the point that it can last days and it can be frozen and defrosted successfully.  Our top tier of the wedding cake defrosted beautifully a year later and tasted AWESOME.  You would never know it had been frozen.

In Miami I never ever gave this a second thought, are you kidding?  I had places and places to choose from!  There was Sweet Art, Cakes by Edda and the now gone Cake Emporium (all three of whom I’ve used in the past) and even the cake lady contracted by our wedding package knew how to make a kickass rumcake cake.  More recently we’ve been using Moulin Rose for H’s birthday cakes as we usually do a birthday party for her in Miami so Abuela can be present.

Oh those wonderfully rum flavored birthday cakes.  Yes FOR KIDS.  And adults too.  We are Cuban, we are from the Caribbean,we like rum everything and that’s how we roll, right Martha?

So, you ask?  Well the problem is I no longer live in Miami, and I am in a No Cuban zone apparently so I cannot get my fix of RumCake whenever I want – or when I need to.  My Birthday, Alan’s Birthday, Our Anniversary, Easter, Thanksgiving and of course H’s birthday (on her actual birth day) which is of course what brought us to this post.  My somewhat failed attempt to start my daughter early on the Cuban RumCake addiction (she already loves Buttercream frosting so I need to get her to eat the cake!).

H was turning 3 and I thought what better deal than a home made Cuban RumCake Birthday Cake!  So I took to the net and to friends and got a recipe from my good friend Vivi for a cake her aunt used to make.  I already had a theme – Olaf from Frozen – so I went to Michael’s to get the Fondant and the decorating sheets, to Wegman’s for my ingredients and got to work.  I followed the recipe to a T.

Beat Egg Whites to punto de merengue? Check.

Eggwhites "a punto"

Eggwhites “a punto”

Beat butter with sugar into a cream? Sort of check.

Buttercream

Butter & Sugar

Add yolks one by one? Check.

Add cake flour? Check.

Fold in the EggWhites? Check.

Butter the mold? Check

Cake Batter

Cake Batter

Dress up the cake?  SUPER CHECK – I mean isn’t it amazing for my first Fondant cake?

Olaf Cake

Olaf Cake

Fluffy, spongy, rumcake? FAIL.  EPIC FAIL.  This cake came out so dense I could probably kill someone with it!

Fail

Fail

Arrrrgggghhhhhhh.  The trials and tribulations of being a Cuban mom.

*SIGH*

There are two things I think went wrong here.  One is I do not own a Kitchen Aid mixer – I own a hand mixer by Sunbeam that was probably $20.  So the settings and the speeds may have been off and maybe the butter or the eggwhites were not beaten as they should.  Two, is I think I needed a bigger mold.  I think I made the cake too tall (4″) and it took the oven almost two hours (instead of the one hour on the recipe) to cook the cake and maybe it got a bit over cooked?  I dunno.

The cake did look gorgeous, so at least of that I am proud and happy.  But I did get frustrated that taste wise and look wise the inside was such a fail.

Does anyone have a recipe they want to share?  I will try it and post a review here.  I just really want to get this cake thing right, as I do not want H growing up without the staple Cuban RumCake Birthday Cake!

RumCake Cake recipes anyone? For sure there has to be a Cuban or a PuertoRican reading this who knows EXACTLY what I am talking about.  I will patiently wait for your feedback.

HELP!

 

Re-booting

I’ve been off the blog for a very VERY long time.  Who knew raising a child would be so time consuming?  I miss writing and I miss sharing my recipes with all of you as well as my musings.  So I will be making time out of my busy schedule to write again here in Moros con Cristianos.

Apparently there is some housekeeping needed as I see all my posts in italics now!  I will definitely go through and fix that so that all the posts are readable.

In the meantime I am very happy that my Ropa Vieja post (recipe adapted from Marta) is such a huge hit!

Enjoy!

Abuelo is missed today

Papi has been gone almost 6 years and this is his fifth Fathers Day from heaven.  However, this year his absence is greated than ever as he should be enjoying his first Fathers day as an Abuelo and disfrutando his nieta.…and she him.

Papi, happy Fathers Day Abuelo.  It is because of you that we have our miracle. Gracias Papi.

It’s a Six Month Old baby girl!

Well, hard to believe I’ve been off the blog for so long!!!! After that marmalade post I was able to complete more jams and two pies that I had all intention of posting, but that last month of the pregnancy was very busy getting everything in order.

So for those of you wondering, it was a GIRL! A beautiful healthy baby girl that we will call Baby H on the blog.

Well Baby H just turned 6 months and she is a joy to have around. We are now getting into a schedule so I will be able to blog more and finally posts about those pies, baby H’s birth, as well as living with baby and making Cuban baby food.

Yup. CUBAN BABY FOOD.

Homemade Marmalade

We belong to a CSA for the summer. For those of you not familiar with what a CSA is, basically its a program where you pay into, and they give you weekly rations of fruits, vegetables, bread and even eggs that are locally and organically grown. I opted to buy it this summer for two reasons: one I wanted to challenge my cooking creativity (I’ve now become acquainted with three types of chard and have discovered garlic scapes) and two, I wouldn’t buy vegetables even if you paid me. So this was a nice way to incorporate some green.

To make it less boring for me (Alan loves anything green), I also bought the fruit, egg and bread share. I love fruit, and usually love to make smoothies, but this summer I had a mission – I wanted to bake my first pie. But wait, doesn’t the title say mermelada? Yes it does, I haven’t gotten enough fruit to make the pie yet.

Last week we got blueberries and raspberries. I stared at them for a while, and looked at Alan and said “How about we make some mermelada?” His eyes lit up like a kid. Bam! Mermelada it is I told myself. I know mermelada takes fruit and sugar, so I set around the Internet to find a recipe for Blueberry-Raspberry Marmalade (or Jam as everyone wants to call it). During my search I learned about the process of canning, sterilizing, and this thing called pectin.

“Pecto-what?” said Alan. P-E-C-T-I-N.

Went to Wegman’s for my jars and the Pectin. No luck. No jars; no pectin. Really? Isn’t the summer when everybody makes and can jams? Hello? Middle of fruit season?

On a whim decided to go to Target. SUCCESS! Jars in all sizes, and some sort of Pectin that I wasn’t sure about.
Alan stared at me and said “That pectin thing is a gringada. In Chile we use just the fruit and the sugar”. And really I thought, people have been making jams since before this pectin probably existed. So, no pectin it is! Now to find a damn recipe (for the rations) that uses no pectin. Alas! within five minutes I had one. Today, I’m taking the day off my research duties and decided Today was THE day I was going to make marmalade.

So here goes my foray into the American (and probably other countries) tradition of making your own marmalade. Since we had small amount of fruit there is no canning involved. I guarantee you this will last us only a couple of days.

What you will need:

  • 1.5 Cups Fresh Blueberries
  • 1.5 Cups Fresh Red Raspberries
  • 2 Cups granulated white sugar
  • 2 small or one large Ball Jar
  • 2 decent size saucepan
  • 1 very good spoon
  • Pair of tongs

Place your jars and lids (yes I know I placed the bands instead; amateur I am) on a saucepan with enough water and simmer on medium for the duration of the process.

Sterilizing Jars

Rinse the blueberries (I opted not to rinse the raspberries as they were very soft). Place blueberries and raspberries in a large enough saucepan. So it doesn’t boil over, rub butter on the top inside of the saucepan.

Berries ready for sugar!

Add the 2 cups of sugar and mix well. Set the temperature of the stove for medium low for the first 5 minutes and stir a couple of times. Then set to medium, where you will stir occasionally until you bring to a boil.

Berries with Sugar

Once you bring to a boil, keep at medium heat, and stir CONSTANTLY for about ten minutes making sure nothing is sticking at the bottom. The idea is to prevent any foaming while it boils; otherwise you will need to skim the foam at the end. The mixture will turn from its initial reddish to a more deeper magenta color. I also crushed with the stirring spoon some of the blueberries.

Almost there!

After the 10 minutes, turn heat up to medium-high, and keep stirring CONSTANTLY. This will help accelerate the “jellying” process so you don’t have to stand there for a long time. Keep stirring for about 5-7 minutes and then turn the heat off. Keep stirring until it no longer boils. If you want to make sure the marmalade is at the jellying state you prefer, spoon out a bit to a plate and leave it at room temp (you can also pop in the fridge for a minute or so). However it sets, is how it will set after you jar it.

Boiling Berries!

With tongs pick out the jars from the saucepan and drain. Pick out the lids too. Set aside. If there is any water left in the jar, turn it upside down with the tongs so it drains. Because the jars are hot, I placed them on a folded kitchen towel. Grab your marmalade mix and pour it into the jar (or jars) making sure you are scraping every little last bit. Once done wipe outside of jar with paper towel.

Done!

Once you’ve poured the mermelada in the jars, leave about a quarter inch to the top, lid and band them. Let them cool outside, until they are room temperature. Then you can store in the fridge if like me you like the mermelada cold and set. Then go to the supermarket and get some bread and follow these simple steps:

Step 1: Open the Jar

Step 2: Spread

Enjoy!

Almost there :)

It’s been quite the quiet pregnancy, cannot complain. We are getting closer to our due date of August 25th, but both Alan and I, and my Mom, think I will be early – just not clear on how early. Were you early or late on your first pregnancy?

As you know, we have no clue as to the sex of our baby – we really want it to be a surprise. But my Mom, since she has some special circumstances that warranted her to know – well SHE KNOWS! We had the ultrasound tech write it down on a paper and put it in an envelope that we mailed to her. So she just sent us a box with gender specific clothing labeled DO NOT OPEN. See?

Do Not Open Box

I know, I know. Most of you are wondering how we can even have that box in the house and not rip it apart. To be honest, it is not that difficult. Since we always knew we wanted to wait, we are at peace with not knowing. Our friends and family have been taking bets. So far only three votes for a boy, and an overwhelming majority believe its a girl. Us? we just want a healthy baby! And DONT GET ANY IDEAS ABOUT ASKING MOM!!!! She is NOT telling!!

Obviously not knowing the sex of the baby slows down your gender specific preparations. For example, we don’t yet have a crib, as I like different colors for girl or boy. So we will have baby Lambie in a bassinet for the first three months. We have neutral clothing for about the first week, and we are having a baby shower this coming weekend so we’ll see what we get there. Once baby is born, then we will go on a shopping spree! (great reason don’t you think?)

I always wanted to do a pregnancy shoot – ever since Demi’s infamous yet beautiful Vanity Fair cover. We just believe that a pregnancy belly is beautiful and is to be embraced and not hidden. So we found a great photographer and we had our shoot. I don’t have the proofs yet, but she did post one picture in Facebook for us to share. I have to admit, I never thought they would look THAT GOOD. We are so happy with the one picture, and CANNOT wait for the rest of the proofs. I think we will have more than enough to work with, what do you think?

Alan & Adriana - 33 Weeks

One more thing to accomplish is a Baby Scrapbook – have any of you ever done one? I wanted to do a photobook scrapbook for our baby, but find that all the pages offered are, you guessed it! Gender Specific…..so that makes it hard. And I really don’t want to wait until baby Lambie is born…we will not have much time then. So if anyone knows a way around this, I’m all for suggestions.

So now we sit here at 34 weeks, counting down the days……we really are so excited and cannot wait for this baby to arrive. We are following as natural a birth as possible at the hospital. We have taken our laboring and hipnobirthing classes in an effort to avoid interventions and pain medications, and to keep me calm and relaxed. What’s that? Did I pack a bag? Not yet, but we have all the elements ready and bought.

Just 6 more weeks until we meet our son or daughter, six more weeks. Seems like such a short time!