Food dominates the spirit in our casa. It’s the purpose for our gatherings. The smallest of occasion is good enough reason to break out the casuelas and fix something memorable for the guests. Even if guests are family members, the energy and love driving the process is the same. I can’t really describe it, pero lo que se forma en casa es un relajo. Music blasts in kitchen. Dominoes tables are set up in super tight spaces. Espresso requests are muttered and shouted overtop winning duo whose hard hand slaps onto the table will startle you every time. You may catch a pair dancing on the patio. An unplanned panchanga is fair game any given day of the week.
Ironically, while lunches and dinners are the hype of gatherings, replete with soul food to knock you into a good coma, our breakfasts have always been skimpy. You’d think they’d be as intense as the other meals. But they’re so not. Traditionally, our desayunos are super basic: Pan con mantequilla or buttery toast, café con leche, maybe some scrambled eggs. Every now and then you may find slithers of cream cheese topped with slices of guayaba on a cracker. That’s more customary for after-dinner nibbling but you may get lucky. It’s that basic. Dipping toast (and sometimes not) into a warm cup of froth espresso is enough to awaken the senses and initiate conversations about the day’s affairs.
I suppose the basic nature of breakfast has much to do with the lack of resources to really go all out with the noshing. Traditions lend themselves to staying stagnant but every now and then we allow them to evolve. My first breakfast in Havana during my 1998 visit was much like I describe. But something about it was perfectly fine. The hot cafécito was great, but the city’s energy was enough fuel to get me started.
Living in D.C., with a very depleted Cuban contingency, means my idea of traditional breakfasts is a far cry from what my Mom spread for us growing up. I have access to all kinds of goodies never seen in Cuba and a wide open canvas to create something ultra special. Breakfast can be as elaborate as a Four Seasons brunch on a Sunday morning, or as simple as a hurried Monday morning back to work.
I like to find a happy medium.
A little bit of American flare with a strong Cuban accent. That’s all I need. No fuss, no major relajo in the morning. Just enough to fill me up but keep me feeling connected to my Cubanisms. Café con leche is that thing. I can forgo many necessities first thing in the morning, but coffee is my key to the ignition.
While we’re celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, a Caribbean-inspired breakfast will entice you to get to know a few anecdotes! I wanted to play around my childhood breakfast: peaches and cream oatmeal. I can’t tell you how much I ate this basic bowl growing up. It was our pan con mantequilla. It was so engrained in our palate that two of my siblings now default to an instant pouch for late night snacking during fall and winter months.
As an homage to our traditions and a hearty welcome of fall, I gave that oatmeal a serious facelift.
I cooked instant oats — it’s Monday after all — and baked them in my new little cute cast iron dutch ovens. I’ve been so pressed for these forever. I was in Target looking for a wood salt cellar when I came across these. Way too cute to pass up. And, they’d be perfect for baking my upgraded oatmeal. And I’m a sucker for coffee mugs, so I scooped up the stoneware set appropriately dubbed Coffee and Freshly Brewed. My upgraded breakfast was coming together so nicely.
I topped the oatmeal with a bit of coconut and pineapple granola, a handful of fruity and nutty trail mix, closed the lid and baked the mini casseroles for 20 minutes. Coconuts are ubiquitous in the islands, naturally inviting me to add a handful of toasted flakes. The best part and what ties it all together… not the lovely agave-thinned maple syrup I poured, rather the rum-infused cream I lightly saturated the oatmeal with.
With café con leche to sip.
And pan con mantequilla, for tradition’s sake!
Talk about new costumbres without losing our roots.
This oatmeal says “¡hola, otoño!” It invokes warm and fuzzy feelings of fall goodness. Add a bit of guava jam to that buttery toast. Just don’t forget to dance a bit while your pots are baking. You’re sure to be on your way to a pachanga!
* This post is part of a paid campaign with Target as we celebrate untranslatable traditions and sayings during Hispanic Heritage Month. All opinions and thoughts are my own.
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.
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BAKED PEACHES AND CREAM OATMEAL WITH RUM & COCONUT
- 5 packets of instant oatmeal
- 1.5 cups water
- 1 cup coconut and pineapple granola
- 3/4 cup fruit and nut trailmix
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 1/4 cup rum
- 1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes
- agave or maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350F. In small mixing bowl, stir milk and rum. Set aside. In medium saucepan, add dry oatmeal and water. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook full and remove from heat. Stir in rum milk. Transfer oatmeal and evenly distribute to 4 cast iron pots. Top each pot with granola. Cover and place in center of oven. Bake in water bath for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Check for dryness. If a bit too dry, stir in a bit more rum milk to each pot. Top with trailmix. Garnish with coconut flakes. Dust cinnamon on each pot.