Pseudo Cuban Samiches

I hate leftovers. Well, hate is a strong word and it's kind of a lie because there are some leftovers I don't mind eating. OK, so that totally just blew up my initial sentence.

Anyhoo...I do like remaking leftovers that I'm tired of since I get bored easily. I get bored of lots of things easily...like when I talk. That's probably why I have such violent subject changes.

I digress. Big surprise.

After going to our friend's wetting down (he too became a Lieutenant Commander/O-4 in the Navy like my hubby) recently. His wife made Kalua pork. I had never had it, but LOVED it! So simple and yet, so good.

I recreated it and made it supposedly the authentic way with shredded cabbage. Unfortunately, I also used a lean cut of pork since I didn't want all the fat of a pork butt. For Jaron's party...I'll be using the butt (aka the shoulder of the piggy). It turned out well still...but not as tender. I wasn't surprised and still trying to think which was more important for my fam...healthy or a little less delicious. The former won.

Did I mention how ridiculously easy it was to make??? Take the pork, rub it with sea salt (I used Kosher), pour a bottle of liquid smoke on it, and set it & forget it in a slow-cooker. Yeaaaaaaaah. Shred that bad boy up, add shredded cabbage (if you like), and cook it until the cabbage is tender.

Anyhoo...Kaia and I love Cuban sandwiches. I grew up eating them & media noches whenever we'd visit my mom's fam in Miami. I just introduced the kids to them last year before we left FL. Jaron, not being a big fan of sandwiches then, thought it was just aight. Kaia totally *hearted* them.

So, with 1.5 hours to go before party time and my still needing to buy the birthday boy a present and make myself look semi-presentable...I went into overdrive. I did not make these sandwiches authentic, but aimed for getting the taste as close as possible. A real, delicious Cuban sandwich starts with possibly THE most important ingredient....Cuban bread. Mmmmmmmmmm. You have to try this bread. It is just some yummy goodness. There is the requisite roast pork, ham, pickles, swiss cheese, and mustard. Most of the Cubans I've had have been buttered on the outside and pressed hot...like a grilled cheese. I really hate to make any ethnic food unless I've tried the real thing and get a good idea of the right spices, cooking technique, etc. Still, I was hankering for a Cuban and figured the leftover Kalua pork would make a pretty close version of the sandwich.

I made my pseudo-not-authentic-but-close-to-the-taste Cuban with sliced La Brea wheat bread, buttered on the outside (with Smart Balance), a shmear of yellow mustard, slice of Swiss cheese, and the leftover shredded Kalua pork...we left out the pickles because we didn't have any and the kids don't like 'em.

Grill to perfection and enjoy...'cause we did!

We served it with my grandfather's cabbage salad. Mmmmmmmmmm.


Beta-Carotene Goodness

Did you know that carrots are one of those veggies that have more nutritional bang for their buck when cooked? So, with that logic, here's something that is not only delicious, but NUTRITIOUS.

Yeah, it's a stretch, but a gooooooood one! ;o)

The Hubs loves himself some carrot cake. I first tried this bad boy when Sean's first CO (commanding officer) on his first sub was leaving and they were welcoming the new CO...this ceremony is called a Exchange of Command. Anyhoo...one of the other officer's wives had made this fabulous carrot cake. FAB-U-LOUS. So fabulous that I made my fiance hunt this man down to get his wife to fork over her recipe. I'm so glad I did because I haven't used any other carrot cake recipe since then. I've tweaked it to my liking.

I made the one above for the wardroom (basically the group of officers on the submarine) Super Bowl party this year. Unfortunately, I don't know how memorable that cake was since basically everyone at the party came down with a stomach virus (incl. our fam) that incapacitated almost the entire wardroom. Yeah, needless to say, there were barely any officers around that week on the sub...save for the guys who weren't at the party and my hubby who managed to barely escape the plague that got us. I. Hate. Nausea. And. Vomiting. I will birth a child, tear a ligament, break a bone any day...but Lord do not make me queasy!!

Anyhoo...with that said. I love, love, love spices. So, I make this cake extra spicelicious. The cream cheese frosting tempers it quite nicely. But, if you don't like too much spice, just cut back on the measurements I gave on the spices...which are approximations since I go against the baking grain and just dump the spices until I think it's good enough. Luckily, since they're spices, my lack-of-measurement for them is technically not wrong since it won't affect any chemical reactions in it.

This bad boy is just some yummy, moist, spicey, carroty goodness.

Carrot Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 t. baking soda
1.5 T. cinnamon (I won't lie, I probably use about 2 T. or more)
1 - 1.5 t. ginger
1/2 - 3/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. ground cloves
1 t. salt
1 cup oil
4 eggs
4 cups shredded carrots (the original recipe calls for 3, I like to use 4 or more)
1 t. vanilla (again, I am guilty of using 1.5-2 t. vanilla)
8 oz. crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup walnuts (optional)
1 cup raisins, rehydrated in rum (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together. Add the oil & eegs, one at a time. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Add carrots, pineapple, & vanilla. (This is where you would also add the nuts and/or raisins, if using.) Mix well. Pour into a greased and floured 9x13 pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until done.

Done will be when it's no longer shiny on top, center is firm, sides are beginning to pull away, and there is just a touch of brown spots.

Let cake cool completely in pan before removing.

Frost with cream cheese frosting. Add garnishes, if desired. I added toasted coconut and toasted chopped walnuts in the photo above (since there were no walnuts in the cake).

Cream Cheese Frosting
3/4 cup butter, softened (I use salted since I'm not big on way too sugary frosting/icing)
1 lb. (or less) Confectioner's sugar
1 lb. cream cheese, softened
1 T. vanilla (I. Love. Vanilla.)

Cream butter & cream cheese together. Add vanilla. Mix. Mix in sugar...sloooooowly, unless you like a snowy kitchen. I find working in it in 3-4 portions helps!

**Some healthy substitutions would be: whole wheat flour for the flour, 1/2 cup applesauce & 1/2 oil instead of 1 cup oil (which I used Smart Balance oil), & a lower fat cream cheese in the frosting.