Cuban Ajiaco Recipe in a Slow Cooker

Cuban Ajiaco Recipe in a Slow Cooker

I made some Ajiaco in my crockpot and I just have to share it. But first some background...

In the 1930’s, Cuban President Gerardo Machado made a proclamation that once a week everyone on the island would eat an “ajiaco” – a type of country stew made mostly with root vegetables and flavored with meat. According to my mom (a 93-year-old guajira) every restaurant, fonda, and home followed the “weekly ajiaco” rule. It was a way to use all the different root vegetables indigenous to Cuba, taking advantage of what was available in each province.

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Cuban Pizza Recipe

 When I say I'm making Cuban pizza, no one believes it's a real thing. 

What makes it Cuban, you ask? Well, it starts, just like all good Cuban food, with a sofrito. A Cuban "sofrito" is the beginning and end of all that is good and holy about Cuban food - onion, garlic, bell pepper perfectly sauteéd in olive oil with a hint of tomato and spices. 

For the cheeses, you will want to add some gouda to the mozarella and parmesan. Then just sit back and enjoy the compliments. 

The Very Best Homemade Cuban Pizza EVER

  • 2 pkgs. Pre-made pizza crust or you can also use the refrigerated dough (I use Boboli Original Pizza Crust)
  • Olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 small yellow onion – diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper – diced
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. Dry white wine
  • 1 tsp. whole cumin
  • 1 tsp. Oregano
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup grated Gouda cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1) In a large skillet, sauté garlic, onion, and bell pepper in olive oil over medium heat.

Remember, you’re making a sofrito for the sauce.


2) Cook and stir until onion is translucent, but make sure not to burn the garlic.

3) Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, white wine, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper.

4) Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until well-blended and heated through.

5) Spread this sofrito sauce over pizza dough.


6) Mix the gouda and mozzarella cheeses together and cover the pizzas with these.

7) Sprinkle the grated Parmesan over all. This is what gives it that toasty cheese look and taste.


8) Sprinkle lightly with a little bit more oregano.

9) Cook in a hot oven at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and toasted.


10) WARNING: Resist the temptation to bite into it immediately, even though you will be enticed to do so by the blissfully amazing Cuban-food smell. 

11) You can thank me later. 

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Cuban Pan con Bistec Recipe (Cuban Steak Sandwich)

Working Smarter

I’m lazy. There, I said it.  No, it’s really okay. I freely admit it.

Yep, L-A-Z-Y. Which is why I’m not a big fan of spending hours in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and guessing that there aren’t a whole lot of fans of hot-stove-slavery out there, but that’s not important right now.

And when I cook, particularly Cuban food, it’s usually because I’m just craving a particular taste and I’m too lazy to drive a couple of hours on the Los Angeles freeway system to go on a Cuban Food Hunt.

But on the other hand, I do spend time (sometimes a shameful amount of time!) trying to figure out the easiest way to satisfy my current Cuban food craving.

What this means is that you’re totally in luck today.  Because I was craving a fantastic Pan con Bistec – Cuban steak sandwich.  And believe me, not all steak sandwiches are created equal.

Which is why instead of starting with a pounded-within-an-in-of-its-life dry round steak, I started off with a mouth-watering boneless beef rib-eye which makes my steak sandwiches worth the 10 minutes it takes to slice up and cook up those melt-in-your-mouth rib-eye strips.

Now that’s what I call working SMARTER, not harder. 

Pan con Bistec – Cuban Steak Sandwich



  • 2 Tbsp. Butter
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, cut in half and sliced
  • 1 24-inch loaf of Cuban bread (or your favorite baguette-type bread)
  • 1 lb. Boneless beef rib-eye steak, sliced into 1/2 inch strips (this cut makes all the difference!)
  • Parsley flakes
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 6 slices Swiss cheese (optional)


1) Slice the bread into four (or six) equal parts – depending on the size of sandwich you prefer.

2) In a large skillet, heat the butter and olive oil together and sauté the onion until slightly soft.  Season with salt, remove cooked onions from skillet and set aside.


3) In the same skillet, over high heat, sear the steak strips until brown. About one minute per side.  NOTE: Do not stir the meat. You want it brown. Use tongs or a fork to flip.


4) Season with salt, pepper, and parsley flakes.

5) Remove steak from heat.

6) Divide steak among your pre-sliced bread.


7) Cover the steak with onions and (if desired) a slice of Swiss cheese.

8 ) Spread a thin layer of butter on the outside of sandwich.

9) Press in a sandwich press (or you can even use a George Forman Grill).

Pretty smart, right?

By the way, If you’d like to follow me on Twitter, I’m @Smrtqbn. 

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Cuban Sandwich Recipe

The Sandwich Generation - A Rant and a Classic Cuban Sandwich Recipe

The term, "sandwich generation" is used to describe those adults who are caring for aging parents while still actively parenting their kids. 

While I'm grateful that my sisters and I share the load of caring for my 97 year old mom, Luza, I still feel the push-pull of having teenagers in the house and helping my mom with her needs. 

Jonathan is a sophomore in high school and even though I'm not his primary teacher, I'm still overseeing much of his schoolwork and am still very present in his life. He does not yet drive and so I'm also schlepping him around from event to event. But I still get phone calls from my mom when she needs bananas or bread or because her prescription ran out. 

And so I feel squished at times between his needs and her wants and sometimes there doesn't seem to be enough hours in my day. 

I'm ashamed to admit that I sometimes feel sorry for myself. What about me? I wonder. What about what I want? I don't say it out loud, of course, but I sure think it enough. (I'll deny it if you tell anybody, but that's not important right now.)

I guess if my life is to be defined by being sandwiched between two generations, I'm grateful it's a Cuban Sandwich. ;-)

Luza, me, & jon

Speaking of Cuban Sandwiches, you know there are rules to what you put in a Classic Cuban, right?

Ingredients for Cuban sandwich

 Classic Cuban Sandwich Recipe

  • Long loaf of bread (preferably Cuban, but French will do.)
  • Softened butter (to spread on the outside of the bread)
  • Yellow mustard
  • Swiss cheese
  • Dill pickles (Clausen Bread and Butter Sandwich Pickles make all the difference here)
  • Roast Pork
  • Sliced Ham

1) Coat the bread lightly with mustard.
2) Make the sandwich with the ingredients in this order: Swiss cheese, pickles, roast pork, and sliced ham.
3) Butter the bread on the outside.
4) Grill. A sandwich press is ideal for this.

The goal is to get the sandwich nice and toasty and melt the cheese.

Serve hot, with an ice cold Materva and some authentic Cuban plantain chips.

Cuban sandwich with materva

Follow with a sweet, hot cafesito (with KILLER Espuma®, of course).

Like so.....

Cuban Picadillo Pies® Recipe

I have a recipe today that was kind of a happy accident.

Ever since I went up to San Francisco a few months ago to cook my Picadillo, my family has been clamoring for it. Yes, there's been clamoring. For the past few years I've been making my picadillo with ground turkey. It's just become a thing.

When I cooked for the Blurb Food Fair, I used fresh ground beef. And here's what I found: it definitely tastes different. Better. In fact, I'm so sorry, ground turkey, but ground beef totally wins.

I mentioned this tidbit to my family and immediately they started asking for it. Clamoring. I had already sung the praises of the ground beef vs the ground turkey. I couldn't just leave them hanging.

Fine, I said. I'll do it, I said. And I did. And there was much rejoicing in the land.

Last week Eric's family was having a Christmas party and we were asked to bring appetizers for the buffet.

Eric: "Why don't you just make the picadillo? With the beef, of course."

Me: "Because it's a main dish, not an appetizer. That would be weird."

Then the brainstorming began and the result was the making of individual personal meat-filled pies. Cuban Picadillo Pies®. Not empanadas, but muffin-tin sized pies. Enough that you get a good portion of picadillo and the perfect proportion of crust. In fact, a couple of these beauties and a salad is practically a complete meal.

They were the hit of the party, by the way. But I sort of knew that would probably be the case. Hello? Cuban. Picadillo. Pies. It's genius, right?

After some experimentation, I decided the picadillo filling needed to have a little more substance and not be too runny, so I added more tomato paste. I added an envelope of Golla seasoning with saffron. I just love the taste it adds, but it can be made without it.

Also, I came to the cataclysmic decision to not use the olives. I know. Call me a rebel. The pie filling is therefore thicker and sweeter than regular picadillo, which works with the slight saltiness of the crust.

Picadillo pies
Picadillo pies

You love me now, don't you?

Cuban Picadillo Pie Recipe
Cuban Picadillo Pie Recipe

Cuban Picadillo Pies

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • ½ green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
  • 1 ½ lbs. Ground beef
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • ½ tsp. Pepper
  • ½ tsp. Cumin
  • ½ tsp. Oregano
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 2 small cans tomato paste
  • 1 small envelope Sazón Golla (with saffron)
  • ¼ cup dry white wine (the cheaper, the better!)
  • 1 small box of dark raisins
  • 2 packages Refrigerated Pillsbury Pie Crust
  • A small amount of butter to grease the muffin tin

1) Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, green pepper and garlic until the onion is transluscent.

2) Add the ground beef and brown over medium heat.

3) Add the rest of the ingredients and continue cooking until meat is tender and completely cooked through. About 25 minutes.

4) Let picadillo cool completely.

5) Grease muffin tin slightly with butter. Mostly just around the bottom.

Muffin tin
Muffin tin

6) Cut approximately 5" round circles from pie crust. (I used what I had handy in my kitchen. I'm going to run out and get proper circle cookie cutters for next time, but that's not important right now.) You can get about four 5 inch crusts out of the pie crust and then I combine and roll out the remainder for the tops.

Picadillo pie dough
Picadillo pie dough

7) Stuff these into the greased muffin tin.

Picadillo pie dough in tin
Picadillo pie dough in tin

8) Spoon cooled picadillo into the pie crust.

Picadillo pie filling
Picadillo pie filling

9) Using the leftover dough, roll it out to seal and Cut 3" circles from the scraps of the pie crust.

Cutting dough
Cutting dough

10) Stretch these out just slightly to make tops of the pies.

Picadillo pies before baking
Picadillo pies before baking

11) Press the top and bottom edges of pies together to seal. With a knife, make some slits on the top to vent. You can also just poke a hole in the middle. That works, too, but isn't as cute.

12) Bake in a 425 degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until crusts are brown. Allow to cool for a bit before serving. Makes 12 pies.

Baked Cuban Picadillo pies
Baked Cuban Picadillo pies

Now they're clamoring for my Cuban Picadillo Pies.®

I totally called it.

Cuban Poster: Comida Cubana Subway Art

Words + Cuban Food = Comida Cubana on a subway style Cuban poster! 

I know. The whole thing kind of blows your mind, right?

I've designed a beautiful Cuban poster in a "subway art" style in 2 popular sizes. 

Cuban poster: Cuban food subway art

(Note: The red water mark at the bottom is not on the finished Cuban poster.) 

I have 2 poster sizes available. 

• Large - 20" x 30" Comida Cubana Subway Art Poster $38.00 + tax, shipping and handling.

Choose Quantity


• Small - 16" x 20" Comida Cubana Subway Art Poster $24.00 + tax, shipping and handling.

Choose Quantity

Avocado Salad Recipe

Growing up Cuban meant we didn't eat many salads. And by "many," I mean, "none."

For the most part, the only time green things appeared on our plates were the tiny, diced pieces of bell pepper in our sofrito. (For the uninformed, sofrito is at the beginning of most Cuban dishes. Sauteed onion, garlic, and green bell pepper form the basis of the magic that is Cuban food, but that's not important right now.)

We add asparagus to our Arroz con Pollo and I think that pretty much ends our venture into "green" territory.

The exception being that on special occasions, we were treated to An Avocado Salad. *insert heavenly choir here*

Having grown up here in California makes me partial to the beautiful dark-skinnedAvocados from Mexico (as opposed to the big, fat, smooth ones from South Florida). Don't judge me. I also make a pretty mean guacamole.

Today, Mexico is the only place in the world where avocado trees naturally bloom four times a year. Which means that we get avocados here pretty much year-round. (Thank you, God.)

But every now and then I want my Avocados from Mexico to taste, well, Cuban. And this is my go-to salad. Don't you love it when I share?

Buen Provecho!



  • 2 ripe avocados, sliced
  • 1/2 large sweet red onion, sliced into rings
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Juice of 3 limes (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 packet of Sazón Goya Complete
  • Salt & pepper to taste

1) Blanch the bell pepper by putting in a small bowl and microwaving on high for about 40 seconds. Let cool.

2) For the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, Sazón Goya Complete and the cooled red bell pepper.


3) Arrange red onions on a plate, top with sliced avocados.

4) Salt the avocados.


5) Pour dressing over everything.

6) Top with fresh cilantro.

Cuban Style Avocado Salad
Cuban Style Avocado Salad

It totally feels like a special occasion, doesn't it?