Passport to Fun - Cuba

Travel the world from the comfort of your living room with this Passport to Fun series!  Whether you use these ideas as a date night, family fun night, or homeschool study, you'll be sure to have some fun and bring a bit of Cuba's culture right into your own home!

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You'll remember that I came up with a pretty awesome idea for G's Christmas gift last year.

If you're new here and don't know what I'm talking about, then feel free to wander on over to this post to read all about it.

I'll wait.

Even though we spent all of 2016 traveling to new countries each month, we had so much fun I decided to extend this series indefinitely - so many cool places to learn about and we've even got a list of places we want to return to in the future!

This month, we headed to Cuba. Of course, G spent practically every moment saying things like, "Oh, I already had this when I was in Cuba.

It's not that big of a deal to visit Cuba now, but G visited the country around the turn of the century, so it was pretty unusual then.

G's also from Miami, so he's also had plenty of Cuban influences growing up, too. (The man claims he's 1/2 Cuban, 1/2 Italian, 1/2 Irish, & 1/2 Polish -- you do the math!)

September - Cuba

Set the Stage

I added this stamp to G's passport, then left it out where he'd find it the next morning before he went to work so he'd see where we were going:

Stupid printer was acting up, so I just colored a passport stamp to use.

What to Decorate With

The flag thing is our go-to wall art for each trip.  It's something fairly simple for Gv and I to do together, uses supplies we already have, and still lends an air of the locale.

I'd thought about adding some palm fronds around the joint as well, but 1) I didn't want to accidentally bring any cockroach passengers into the house (they are palmetto bugs, after all) and 2) I was so completely over handling tree parts from Irma that I have not ventured into the backyard since the big clean-up.

What to Dress Like

G just went with a standard Guayabera shirt from his closet and his favorite hat. He snatched one of Gv's Christmas-stocking Twix candies (yes, she's still working on these) to stand in for a cigar (although he realized after that a cinnamon stick would have been even better) and held a bottle of Cuban rum that a sweet custodian brought him last year after she visited her family.

We raided Gv's dress-up collection to give her a Quinceanera vibe. I was planning to help her make a tiara out of silver pipe cleaners, but she wasn't interested, so I didn't force it.

I, as the case has been lately, drew a blank initially, but then remembered a dance number from my all-time favorite movie that I could kind of re-create the outfit for. (The song they're dancing to is actually all about a neighboring country, but I knew the look would work here just as well.)

What to Listen to

I created a playlist for this month based off of whatever related songs I already had on my ipod. This first song is not on my ipod, but it became firmly entrenched in my brain, regardless: 

Cuban Pete, aka Song That is Currently Driving Me Bonkers

Already wishing you could have a different tune stuck in your head? How about Mambo #5?

Oh, yes. You're loving me right now, I can tell. And one more, although this one I actually do have on my ipod -- and I really do love it, although it can easily turn into another earworm.

(And I know it's really not Cuban, but the fact that it has "Mambo" in the title was enough to get it stuck in my head, replacing, thank goodness, the previous two songs!)

Want something I seriously enjoy? Go with this album by Putumayo.

Those last two suggestions depleted my Cuban-song selections, but G put in a plug for this album.

What to Eat

There were a ton of ideas that came to my mind this month when thinking about our food. 

I really just wanted to eat a bunch of Cuban sandwiches, but we didn't have any of the meat on hand and our budget didn't have any room to buy some, so I just had to make due with what was already in the house.

I thought about ropa vieja, arroz con pollo, and fried plantains or tostones, but decided to just take the laziest possible path and make moros y cristianos.

While that was cooking away and I was looking forward to plopping down on the couch for a few minutes of relaxation, G asked if I'd make some picadillo...

When I said no way, that I wasn't in the mood to cook a bunch of stuff, he offered to make it himself...

Which sounds like a super-helpful and great idea, but the thought of cleaning up the kitchen after him was even less appealing than making more food, so back into the kitchen I went to whip up that dish, too.

I don't really love flan and wasn't about to get involved in making tres leches for our dessert, so I'd decided to just go with dulce de leche -- and the lazy, throw the can of sweetened condensed milk into the oven for a few hours method at that, but then G once again wandered into the kitchen (grrrr, stay out of my kitchen!) and asked if I'd make some cake or something to pour it over. So I whipped up the fastest cupcakes I could think of and noticed that my super-fast, takes-an-hour beans and rice dinner had evolved into a three-hour affair...

We had mojitos with Cuban rum (meaning they were dark and not as pretty as usual) to get us in the spirit of the trip.

Moros y Cristianos

This dish is in the foreground...

What You Need

1 minced onion

1/4 cup diced banana peppers

4 minced garlic cloves

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon oregano

3 cups cooked black beans (about 2 15-oz cans)

1/2 cup chicken stock

salt & pepper

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 cups cooked rice

What You Do

1.  Cook the onion in oil until softened.

2.  Add the peppers, garlic, cumin and oregano for just a few minutes.

3.  Add the beans and stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes.

4.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients (except rice) and serve with rice.


This dish is in the background...

What You Need

1 minced onion

6 cloves minced garlic

2 bay leaves

1 pound ground beef

1/3 cup sherry

8 ounces diced tomatoes

1/3 cup tomato paste

1/3 cup chopped green olives

1 Tablespoon olive juice

1 Tablespoon capers

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons oregano

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

salt and pepper

What You Do

1.  Cook the onions through bay leaves ingredients in oil until soft.

2.  Add in the ground beef and cook until browned.

3.  Add in the rest of the ingredients and simmer about 10 minutes.

Cheater Dulce de Leche

What You Need

1 can sweetened condensed milk

What You Do

1.  Pour the milk into a deep pie plate and cover with foil. Then rest this inside a lasagna pan and fill the lasagna pan with water until half full.

2.  Bake at 425 degrees for 45 minutes, then check the water level and brown-ness of the goo. Mine didn't need more water, but the goo needed another 30 minutes to bake.

3.  Eat this sickeningly-sweet stuff on its own, like pudding, or serve it over a super-quick cupcake:

Super-Quick Cupcakes

What You Need

1 stick of butter

1/4 cup honey (I almost omitted the sugar completely, since we were going to be bathing it in dulce de leche at the end)

2 eggs

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder (make your own!)

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

What You Do

1.  Cream the butter and honey in your stand mixer.

2.  Add in the eggs, one at a time.

3.  Mix the flour, salt and baking powder, then add to the mixer bowl, alternating with the milk.

4.  Stir in the vanilla, then pour the batter into these cupcake liners and bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

5.  Pour the super-sweet dulce de leche over the tops when they're done.

What to Do

G and I had fun learning to dance again. We tried the Rumba, some Salsa, and the Cha Cha.

We also broke out the dominoes to play a game, but Gv ended up just wanting to use them as blocks, so that became our activity instead.

What to Read

I actually didn't have any books (that I could think of) for this month's trip, so Gv and I got All the Way to Havana from the library. Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina also looks like an interesting choice for the kids. 

For the grown-ups, I put Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution and Dreaming in Cuban on my to-read list. If you have a chance to check either of them out, let me know what you think!

What to Watch

I couldn't come up with a single movie for Gv to watch for this month's trip, but then the light bulb went off and we introduced her to I Love Lucy!

Then, you know me and my love of 007, so I was pushing to watch Goldeneye, but G (wisely) guessed that would mean I'd have to start with film #1 and go through the entire collection, so he nixed that idea.

Other ideas that came to mind were A Few Good Men (but we couldn't handle the truth!), Dirty Dancing - Havana Nights and Our Man in Havana (which we will watch soon), but we were really most intrigued by the Buena Vista Social Club documentary.

And that wrapped up our "trip." It was another huge success and we can't wait to jet off to someplace new next month!

Travel all over the world, without leaving your living room!  Come back each month to see where we head next.  Can you think of any other ideas to add for a trip to Cuba?  I'd love to hear!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

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Want more?  Check out some of our other trips:

Italy - India - France - Africa - Ireland - Switzerland - Canada - Greece - England - Germany - Thailand Russia - China - Spain - Jamaica - Egypt - Mexico Japan - Brazil Scotland - Australia - Scandinavia

Love this idea, but want the easy, made-for-you-and-all-you-do-is-print-it version?  Click here to get your own pack and see what inspired me to create this series!