The Cuban Table - A Giveaway

Last year I had the good fortune to participate in the  Cuban Cultural Center of New York's (Centro Cultural Cubano de Nueva York) 12th Annual Congress. You can read about that right here.

It was there that I met another one of the chefs involved in the event. Ana Sofia Peláez is the author of the very delicious food blog, hungry sofia. We shared a kitchen and chatted a bit as we made our own creations. That day she made Cucuruchos de Coco y Almendras for all of us (which were to die for!) and told the stories of how she had been traveling on a Cuban Food Adventure with the amazing food/travel photographer Ellen Silverman.

Together, Ana Sofia and Ellen went to Cuba and Miami (of course) and New York where they visited both Cuban home cooks and accomplished chefs who eagerly shared their stories and recipes and secrets to their own versions of favorite Cuban dishes. 

The culmination of all this traveling and eating and story-telling is the gorgeous cookbook: The Cuban Table - A Celebration of Food, Flavors, and History by Ana Sofia Peláez and Ellen Silverman.

I received a few copies of this beauty earlier last week and have been delectably enjoying each story and every recipe. Rich with Cuban history and full of evocative photos of all the food that I desperately love, I have been slowly and carefully turning each page and taking notes and drinking it all in.

Part text book, part history book, part story book - believe me when I tell you that this is the quintessential must-have Cuban cookbook.

The photography and stories are so gorgeous and compelling that I'm conflicted about whether to keep it on my coffee table or to take it into my kitchen. Right now it's still sitting on my coffee table where I pick it up and commence reading where I left off yesterday. It's a beautiful thing.

I was delighted that she even included the recipe for make-your-own pastelitos de guayaba. Like my own recipe, but a thousand times more detailed and beautiful. Well-played, Ana Sofia.


I have an extra copy of this fabulous cookbook, The Cuban Table to give away. 

To enter this comment drawing, answer one or both of the following questions:

  • Who is the best cook in your family?
  • What's your very favorite Cuban dish in the whole-wide-world?

Leave one comment only, please! 

Remember that if you want to enter the drawing for this cookbook, you must leave a comment on this post and I'll choose ONE winner on Thursday, October 30th at 8 pm PST.

Gracias and Buen Provecho!

Cooking on a Budget - Pastelitos de Guayaba

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I have perfected the simplest recipe for making pastelitos de guayaba (Cuban guava pastries) at home.

Porto's, which is the closest Cuban bakery to us is still miles and miles and a half day's road trip away. So, when the craving for pastelitos hits, I just make my own. It happens a lot more often than I'd care to admit, but that's not important right now.

The pastelito recipe is in my cookbook, of course, which, if you don't already have it, you should get it, because you're being supportive and everything. (Was that the weirdest, clunkiest sentence ever? Yes, it totally was.)

Marta darby cookbook

Me and my cookbook. Photo Credit -

Anyway, my good friend, Carlos de la Vega who is one of the co-creators of the show "Wassup En LA?" and is a whiz with graphics and video has recently been a bit obsessed (in a good way) with making my pastelitos at home. 

My big fat cuban family cookbook

'Wassup En LA?' co-creators Rudopho Zalez and Carlos de la Vega crushing on their copies of "My Big, Fat, Cuban Family Cookbook."

So much so, that he has created a most awesome video sharing the ease and magic of how to make your own DIY pastelitos de guayaba a la Marta. Also, here's the recipe:

Marta's Homemade Pastelitos de Guayaba

Pastelitos de guayaba

This is the first in what promises to be a really fun cooking series, "Cooking on a Budget. How to make Pastelitos de Guayaba."

Cooking on a Budget Carlos de la Vega

Please notice my Naturally Curly Self at about the 1:18 mark. (Thanks for the shout out, Carlos!)

You didn't really believe homemade pastelitos were this impossibly easy, did you?

There's probably other things you don't know about Cuban Cooking. Don't worry. I'm here to help.

Click on the image for the link to My Big, Fat, Cuban Family Cookbook. Buen Provecho!

My big fat Cuban family cookbook

My Big, Fat, Dodger Blue Cuban Family

I have amazing news! I'm proud and privileged to announce that I was invited to be on the planning committee for Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium this year! (I know. Shut up.)

Seriously, if I was going to add an item to my Bucket List, this would be it. Of course, I didn't know I would have added it until they actually asked me, but that's not important right now.

So our very first meeting was at Porto's Bakery. (If I was writing the script for the movie of my life and adding this chapter, I swear I couldn't have written it any better than this. Pinch me.)

Portos coffee & pastelito

And even though I was completely driven to distraction by the giant plate of pastelitos de guayaba (guava pastries) they placed in front of me, I think I was able to contribute something of value besides, "Can I please have another?"

I have a lovely Facebook friend/MBFCF reader, whose name is Ed. He was following my Hey-I'm-on-the-Cuban-Heritage-Day-at-Dodger-Stadium-Committee excitement on Facebook (if you're not following the relajo on My Big, Fat, Cuban Family Facebook page, you totally should) and he sent me and my family an amazing gift.

Shirts! Beautiful Dodger Blue Shirts! Not only that, they say, "Los Doyers." Also, he sent them for the entire family. I was overwhelmed. (Again, I couldn't have written this part of the book better myself.)

Amy Kikita and I put ours on immediately and Instagrammed the awesome. (If you're not following me on Instagram, you totally should. I'm Smrtqbn. That is all.)

Marta and amy doyer selfie

How cute and happy do we look in our Los Doyers shirts? (Didn't I tell you they were awesome?)

Lucy and Jon decided they would rather do a "photo shoot." Of course.


Lucy darby dodgers

"Look at my shirt!"

Jon e darby doyers

I don't know which makes me happier - being on the Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium this year, or having such a thoughtful and generous reader bless our family in this way. (I'm thinking it may be a tie.)

Also, having my kids be so excited and proud to represent makes my cup runneth over.

Amy kikita

Jon e darby

Lucy darby

Eric got a shirt, too. But he was busy doing some work in the garden, so he missed the photo shoot. (Or did he?)

Lucy darby doyers

Thank you to the Dodgers ("Viva Los Doyers!") and the Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium Committee (if you're not following them on Facebook, you totally should) for including me in this awesome event.

Thank you to my friend, Ed for the beautiful and generous gifts.

Color me happy! (Of course, you realize that happy is now officially Dodger Blue, but that's not important right now.)

The Best of MBFCF in 2013

I'm looking at my calendar and it's already the 8th day of 2014. I was planning on taking a few days off at the beginning of the year and wow, did they go by quickly!

Come to think of it, 2013 feels like it went by pretty quickly also. Is it just me, or is this one of those things people tend to repeat a lot as they get old? Shut up. Don't even say it!

This past year has been quite eventful in lots of ways, which makes me happy that I blog (and scrapbook) because I would otherwise forget the thoughts and events and conversations I've had this past year. I know. There's that getting old thing again. Stop it.

Here are the top posts for each month of 2013. (Time is seriously flying, isn't it?)

Drum roll, please.

1.The Things I Didn't Blog About in 2012 - Luza - in which I confess my growing discomfort with my mom aging and how our roles are shifting.

Lucy and luza

2. #LookAtMyFood in which I continue to overshare what exactly I had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner via Instagram. (Also, if you don't already, you should follow me. I'm Smrtqbn.) I'm really very good about sharing my food.

Cuban food

3. Cuban Word of the Day - in which I share my delight at being honored by the wonderful artists from Wassup En LA? in their Cuban Word of the Day segment. (Technically it was 3 words - Pastelitos de Guayaba - but that's not important right now.)

Martas pastelitos

4. 99 Red Balloons in which I share how we celebrated my mom, Luza's 99th birthday. Cute video attached to that post, too.


5. Ahora Sí! in which I tell about the night I finally got to meet Andy Garcia. (I know. I still can't believe it. Pinch me!)

Andy garcia

6. Hello, Outdoor Movie Nights - in which I list all the great movies we have to choose from for our Summer Backyard Movie Theater. Also, it always marks the official beginning to our summer. And this pleases me greatly.

Movie list

7. "If you build it..." - in which I celebrate the wonderful farmhouse table that my kids built for me.

Lucy on table

8. Hurry up...and wait - in which I tell the story of Jonathan's first acting job in a feature film. (Now that I told you, I'll probably have to kill you.)

Jon on the set

9. We Visited Coffee Heaven and Lived to Tell the Tale - in which I describe (in great over-sharingly detailed detail) our wonderful visit to the Gaviña Coffee plant.

Eric and marta coffee tour

10. My Big, Fat, FROZEN, Cuban family - in which I gush (yes, there's gushing) about my day at the Walt Disney Animation Studios and the making of the animated feature, FROZEN. Also, the Disney Animators made me a personal video which totally put me over the edge.

Marta Frozen

11. ALL the Picadillo at the Blurb Books Food Fair in which I share about my visit to San Francisco and how I got to cook for lots of hungry book buyers. Also, there's a very cool video they did about me and my picadillo.

Marta cooking picadillo

12. Cuban Picadillo Pies® - in which I developed a new and fun way to eat and share picadillo. (<--also, what a weird descriptive sentence that was!)

Picadillo pies

Thanks to all of you who have been faithfully following MBFCF for all these years or who have just found me in the last year. I write this blog mostly for myself, so it genuinely pleases me when you respond so generously to my over-sharing.

Also, did the year just fly by for you, too? (I know. Old. Shut up.)

Happy New Year, my friends!

Goodbye, Google Reader. Hello, Bloglovin.

Those of you who subscribe to my blog feed and use Google Reader may have already heard that Google Reader is going away. The beauty of using a "reader" is that it delivers the content from your favorite blogs straight into one place where you can then read up on the comings and goings of your favorite blogger-people.

Marta Darby ipad

I tend to use my iPad for everything and I take it everywhere so I can catch up on my reading whenever I have downtime because I....Must. Have. Input. Not long ago, the back of my kids' cereal boxes were even fair game, but that's not important right now.

So, back to Google Reader going away....

Enter Bloglovin. My good friend, Jana of The Summer House turned me on to this newest-most-improved-welcome-to-the-21st-century blog reader and I fell in love.

Now my favorite blogs are delivered straight to my inbox in a beautiful package with great, big, fabulous pictures. And stories, and food, and art. In my inbox. Everyday. Which lets me know exactly when my favorite blogs are updated. And I can "like" whatever they do and comment from the Bloglovin platform.

And seeing as I don't post every single day, this keeps me much more accountable to you, my readers, to write something fabulous and funny as often as possible. See? What's not to like?

It looks something like this:

Bloglovin screenshot

Did I mention I'm in love?

If you would be so kind, I would be honored if you would Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

It's easy to sign up and I promise you will be so delighted, you'll send me a dozen pastelitos in the mail. (I'm talking to you, Miami.)

Actually, that was my lame attempt at a Jedi Mind Trick. *crosses fingers & hope it works*

But seriously, you should sign up for this wonderful free service (no, they're not paying me - it's just that fabulous).

Also, the pastelito thing is completely optional.

A Pastelito by any other name...

There are thousands of fantastic restaurants in Southern California. And I'm sure the fair city of Glendale has a bizzillion wonderful eateries. But, if we're going to be in Glendale for any reason, we must always stop at Porto's Bakery and load up on Cuban Provisions.

There's no better Cuban bakery in So Cal.

Lucy, Jonathan and I were in Glendale a few weeks back. So we (of course!) stopped at Porto's. (I'm almost certain it's a state mandate, but that's not important right now.)

And guess what we stocked up on?


Guava Cheese "Strudel?" They can call it whatever they like as long as I can have one with my cafecito.

Lucy & jon

Wait. One? Who are we kidding?



Keeping Calm

Sometimes I feel like I've said everything I need to say. And sometimes I feel like I have told my same stories a thousand times. Maybe it's because I start to tell a story and my kids stop me in mid-sentence with a resounding, "We know!"

I thought about retiring my blogging jersey (metaphorically speaking) and shut down My Big, Fat, Cuban Family. Seriously. I sometimes feel like I don't have a fresh thought in my poor, tired brain.

So, I was having guests for dinner a few weeks ago, and I woke up with my first thought being that I had a mile long to-do list, because, of course, I had procrastinated until the last minute and had to, not only cook, but clean and do all the company-is-coming preparations. (Don't judge.)

And I had promised my Homemade Pastelitos de Guayaba.(<--click on the link for the super simple recipe.)

At this point, I started doing some positive self-talk:

"You can do this."

"You've entertained hundreds of times. Don't panic!"


"Keep calm."

For the record - 1) I don't always talk to myself. 2) Once I start to calm down, I tend to get distracted.

So, I'm looking at my to-do list and prioritizing what I need to do to meet my 6pm-here-come-my-dinner-guests-deadline and breathing deeply, when suddenly I had a Creative Brainstorm.

And I created this:


I even decided to make it into a poster to hang in my kitchen. So, I quickly hopped onto my computer and made a high resolution poster and ordered it online from Staples. (They're quick and will do these to my specifications, but that's not important right now.) I shared it all over my social media and it quickly went viral. (At least, I think over 40,000 views is close to viral...)

Screen shot

Plus, it made me really happy. Which then gave me the energy to tackle the rest of my to-do's and cook my dinner, pastelitos and all.

I know. I know. I'm so easily amused, distracted, ________(fill in the blank).

All that to say this: apparently I do occasionally still have a fresh and creative thought in my head. So, I don't think I'll quit blogging just yet.

Also, the dinner was fabulous, my guests loved the pastelitos, and my new wall art is on its way. Win.

Cuban Word of the Day

I have been taking a hiatus to get myself well again from being sick for the first part of this year. (Thank you, Vicks VaPoRub for your constant support.)

I'm 100% better and I'm ready to jump back into blog-world. I had a feeling-sorry-for-myself-emotionally-fragile moment of "I wonder if anyone even remembers me?"

This morning I wake up to this in my Facebook news feed, which was like a shot of adrenaline.

Wait! Is that my face? Shut. UP. I feel sooo accidentally cool!

Cuban word of the day

I may or may not have shed a quick tear. Gracias, Wassup En LA? I'm back. Pastelitos and all.

Also, here's the link for my Homemade Pastelitos de Guayaba. And here's the link to Wassup En LA?'s Facebook Page.  You must "like" them because you will LOVE them. Amen.

Writer's Block

I guess it happens to the best and most seasoned writers. You wake up and sit staring at the blank page on your computer screen and.....nothing.

I think it would be much more dramatic for this moment to happen in front of a typewriter with a blank piece of paper (maybe in sepia tones). But I know it happens either way. It's the equivalent of getting tongue-tied. I have lots of photos. I have lots of stories. I am in the process of editing some videos. I have sponsors who are anxious for me to post some of their content and bring you some fun giveaways.

But I don't seem to have any words.

So I look around my home for inspiration and this is what it has to offer:

Luza & the cats

My mom is at the table, reading her Bible. Poseidon and Nefret have commandeered the red armchair. And hey, at least the towels are clean and folded, right? ;-)


My guayabas are flourishing. I fantasize for a moment that they'll one day grow up to be fruit bearing trees and I'll be up to my eyeballs in ripe guavas, but sadly, today is not that day. Eric is working on a small wood project and there is less mess if he does the sanding by the back wall.

Coffee plants

I'm still wandering around outside, hoping for inspiration to hit. Look! My coffee plants are beautiful and thriving. We got them as a gift from friends when they were about 4 inches tall. The now 4 foot plants feel like quite an accomplishment, but that's pretty much all I have to say about that. (Oh no! I'm starting to sound like Forrest Gump now.)

Jonathan xbox

Jonathan has completed his school work for the week and is playing with his X-box.

Purple geraniums

My purple geraniums are blooming and they make me totally happy.

But none of this activity in and around my home has given me any words.

So I head over to Pinterest to see if I can find inspiration. I find this inspiring quote from Steve Martin:


And I have to fight the urge to spend the next hour surfing for inspiration on Pinterest and now I have to fold some more laundry, but I remember that I should tell you to follow me on Pinterest, but that's not important right now.

So I remain uninspired and wordless, but the promise of guayabas someday makes me think of guava pastries, which makes me remember that I have some guava paste in the cupboard and pastry dough in the freezer.

So I think I'm going to just embrace the writer's block and drown my sorrows in a little café and some homemade guava pastries.

Tomorrow is another day. ;-)

Cooking With the Troops (a lo Cubano)

I've gotten the opportunity to do many cool things because of this blog. I continue to be amazed at what this particular platform has afforded me in my life.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, I received an invitation that knocked the wind out of me and left me sitting on the ground weeping like the little girl I am.


Val from Babalú Blog and I have been invited to participate in an event called Cooking With the Troops.

Val & me

As you know, I am Babalú Blog's resident cook. (*takes bow*) It's there that Marta's Cuban American Kitchen was born.

Martas kitchen logo 1 copy-1

I usually cook Cuban meals for my family and friends. But the largest crowd I've ever cooked for has been about 40 people.

On July 15th, Val and I will be pulling out all the stops to provide an honest-to-goodness-Ay-Dios-mio-que-rico Cuban feast for some very special men and women in our Armed Forces.

Val: "Let's go whole hog* and put on a very Cuban Nochebuena-type feast." (*pun intended)

Me: "You get the pigs and I'll do the rest*." (*freaks out just a little bit, but that's not important right now.)

Cooking With the Troops is a not for profit organization dedicated to providing aid, comfort, and support to US and Allied military troops and their families via special culinary events throughout the country.

Val and I will be cooking this very authentic Cuban meal for over 250 wounded veterans. I can't even begin to describe the honor this is for me, personally. We look forward to giving back just a little bit to those who risk so much for the freedoms we enjoy and sometimes take for granted.

The very generous folks at La Caja China have donated two pig roasting boxes so that Val can cook two whole lechónes for those very special men and women and their families. I'll be in charge of the rest of the menu with lots of help from my new best friends, the good folks at Conchita Foods.

The menu is as follows: (Pace yourself. Your mouth will be watering uncontrollably as you read.)

  • Lechón Asado a lo Cubano
  • Arroz Blanco
  • Frijoles Negros
  • Platanos Maduros Fritos
  • Yuca con Mojo Criollo
  • Marta's Pastelitos de Guayaba® =D

Of course, I'm bringing my big, fat, Cuban family to help. Eric and the kids are totally on board.

This from our friend and event coordinator, Laughing Wolf:

Cooking with the Troops is up to something.
In our tradition (of all of one year) of doing things a bit differently, we are going to tell you what we are up to, but not where. And, we may not tell you a few other things.

What we will tell you is that we are going to feed the troops. In fact, we are going to do it for most of a day here in July. We will also say that this will be a first time doing an event at this location. With your help, it won't be the last time either.

Lunch is being done by Val Prieto of Babalu Blog, who will be roasting two whole hogs, authentic Cuban style, in roasters donated by Caja China . Marta Darby of Marta's Cuban American Kitchen will be preparing genuine Cuban sides, and we are planning on them feeding 250 at the least. If you've read Babalu Blog, then you've read about the delicious Cuban cuisine these two do. Now, we have a chance for some very special troops to get to taste it.

Dinner is being done for an estimated 150 by Ellen Adams. Ellen is a 20-year Air Force veteran who used her education benefits to attend culinary schools in the U.S. and in Italy. She has got some great ideas, and plans something a little lighter for the evening. We will have more on that soon.

Want to help? Then hit the donate button as that always helps. We want to kick out the stops on this event, and also do the same on some future events.

Don't expect us to say a lot more until we have done this. Our preference is to tell you we've done something, not hit you with a lot of "gonna do's" and such. If you want to read a lot more about what we've done, hit that donation link a time or three.

If you are a regular reader and can donate even a small amount, please do. This is an extremely worthy cause.

As for me, I am in turns excited, scared, delighted, and humbled by the enormity of the honor and the task at hand. But compared to the sacrifice these men and women have made for us and for this great country, baking 300 pastelitos de guayaba is childs play.