Universal Adornment

We’ve just returned from a family vacation in Cuba! 

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We enjoyed some fun in the sun and relished in the light hearted moments that only a holiday can bring. While taking in the pure bliss that the beach had to offer, my 5 yr. old handed me a cup full of wet sand and said, “here, this is for you.”  Playing along I said, “oh, thank you, is it a milkshake?” His response…”no, it’s a cup full of wet sand.”  Oh yes, light hearted and painfully literal my boy is.

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There were also fun trips to the local market where I found a psychedelic beach dress that I couldn’t live without.  You know the one…its perfection for 6 days and 7 nights but then no longer makes sense when you get it home.

The resort was stunning and the best attempt at creating an experience that Canadians and others around the world would enjoy, but lacked the reality of the culture and standard of living of the people actually living in Holguin Cuba.  We had the opportunity to explore beyond the make-believe walls of the resort and found ourselves in a land that couldn’t be more polar opposite than what we were used to.  We felt like millionaires for what we have in Canada compared to what our eyes were taking in in dis-belief here.

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We were taken on a drive by a friendly taxi driver named Hector to a local farmer’s house and met the owners who also gave us a tour of their beautiful land. 

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The farm house looked as if it was made with mud, stone, wood, dirt and straw.  The windows were not covered so everything was exposed to the elements leaving us to wonder how they weathered the overnight storm.  It felt like we were in a museum highlighting the life and times of Laura Ingalls Wilder rather than in a modern day home.  But just when we thought we couldn’t feel more out of our element we spotted them.  The universal appliance adornment…fruit shaped magnets on their fridge.

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And just when we weren’t sure of whether they could love their kids as much as we do since they’ve had such a hard life, Hector reached into his pocket, took out a phone, and gleaming with pride said, “I have a 13 year old boy, do you want to see a picture?”  The universal doting parent.

And just when we thought the toddler who was selling us some fruit with his mother would not understand us when we tried to say goodbye, he blew us a kiss.  The universal, “here’s a little love from me to hold you over until next time” salutation.

In honour of these lovely people I’m inspired to make today’s homemade baby food recipe a Cuban specialty.  Rice and black beans with plantain chips…an edible spoon to scoop up all that rice and bean goodness!  If you find yourself searching all over god’s half green acre trying to find plantains you can substitute with un-ripe, green bananas instead so says Martha Stewart.


Black Beans & Rice with Plantain Chips

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  • Dry black beans
  • Rice
  • Low sodium chicken stock
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 Plantains
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil

Baby Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚.
  2. To prep the dry black beans pour into a bowl and soak in cold water for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.  This is will help increase tenderness, reduce cooking time and retain nutrients when cooking.
  3. Rinse the soaked beans once ready in a sieve under cool water.
  4. Place into a large sauce pan and cover with water so that there is about an inch of water above the beans.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat for a few minutes then reduce heat to low, cover partially and simmer for approx. 1 hour.  Check and continue to cook if they are not nice and soft yet.  Depending on the age of the beans, they could take from 1 – 2 hours to cook to desired consistency.
  5. OR if you don’t feel like making the beans from scratch and you have 506 other things you need to be doing instead, you can use canned black beans.  Just rinse them thoroughly then place in a sauce pan with some water, bring to a boil then simmer for approx. 10 minutes.
  6. Once beans are ready pour into a colander to rinse and drain and set aside.
  7. Cook rice according to package instructions but substitute half the water for low sodium chicken stock for a bit more flavour.
  8. To make the plantain chips, peel and slice the plantains into thin diagonal slices.
  9. Toss in melted coconut oil and arrange on baking sheets making sure not to over lap any.
  10. Bake in pre-heated oven for approx. 30-35 minutes flipping them half way through cooking time.
  11. Remove from oven when crispy and brown on the outside and drain on paper towels.
  12. Scoop out a serving of cooked rice, add some cooked beans and a pinch of salt and pepper and serve with the plantain chips.

Makes – As much as you want

Note: You can keep the cooked beans in an air tight container in the fridge for a couple of days, or even freeze them and take out as needed.  The plantain chips can be kept in a room temperature airtight container for approx. 2 days but they are best served right away so they are still nice and crispy.  You can also add some more spices to the rice and beans if you want to have this as a party appetizer with the plantain chips for your fellow adult friends.  Ingrid Hoffman includes a great Adobo dried spice recipe in her cook book “Simply Delicioso” which is perfect for this…it includes a mix of dry spices like lemon pepper, garlic powder, cumin, onion powder, salt, pepper, parsley flakes etc. all combined for an explosion of Latin flavour for rice, chicken, fish or meat.  Really delicioso!  Or you can even just add some salsa.

Although it’s sad to get back to reality after vacation my son was pleased to finally find out the English name for a Spanish cartoon he had been watching while there.  He found it on our own Cartoon Network.  He was so excited to tell us…”MOM! DAD! TIO GRANDPA MEANS UNCLE GRANDPA”!