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Thanksgiving in a Cuban Home…

is something you’d pay to watch and be a part of. But being Cuban means the front door is always open and unlocked! No one knocks. You can smell either coffee or some frijol or carne my mom’s cooking, from the minute you pull up to the drive way. And for sure, you will always hear some loud conversation in Spanglish that gives you the impression whomever is talking, is actually fighting!

It’s been like this in my parents house for the past 24 years. And even though all 5 children are grown up and two of us live outside the state of Va, things have not changed.

This makes for a good ol’ time en una casa cubana.

I flew home 4 days before Thanksgiving this year. My early arrival was so that I could spend real time designing a menu for mami and me. That DID NOT happen. She was like, “yeah honey, we’ll just go grocery shopping on Wednesday. We’ll cook on Thursday.” And that we did. I was shocked at her level of calmness considering she’s usually running around como una loca the entire week before. But I will charge her peace of mind to knowing I was going to make 1/2 of dinner.

And lots of café.

Things were cool and chill till I come home on Tuesday night to find my father with the prettiest meat I’ve ever seen, all laid out on the kitchen table. The kicker: he was cutting it with a saw! Yes LORD a saw! You know the kind of saw you cut wood with? ¡Ay Dios mio! (This is when my last name changes).  Evidently, the baby deer was a gift from another crazy ass Cuban and it was frozen. Took him over an hour to clean and cut. Here, look at this mess:


After he was done, I was quite impressed with his ability to clean the deer meat. It was sooo pretty. Great quality and grade of meat. So juicy! Ooh I was looking forward to having his bordeaux venison two days later. And truth be told, my mom seasoned it on Wednesday morning with lots of rosemary and other goodness. Dad added chiote, carrots, apple, red potato and some other aromatic vegetables.

Go papi!

So on Thursday, mami and I took it light. The 3 boys went over to one of their places to play Wii. Sis was still at school and dad was at Home Depot. This meant we were able to move around the house and cocina relatively smoothly.

I was on my 5th shot of Cuban espresso. Mami on her 8th.

It was way too quiet for the normal energy of the house, so w/out adieu, drama started around 3pm when my mom decides to criticize my recipe for pumpkin flan! Oh my GOD! She forgets that while it’s her kitchen, I’m making it and I’ll do what I want. Right! Geesh. I reminded her that I don’t tell her how to make the turkey or her stuffing or potatoes and anything else she’s responsible for.

We fought for about 90 minutes about food.

But by 6:30, we were done with EVERYTHING and the guests started arriving! I made the girlfriends set the table and the boys, in vintage fashion, did NOTHING!  20 strong and 60 minutes later, we stood around the table, blessed our food and gave thanks; and later sang happy b-day to my older brother. It was beautiful. Really. One of my younger brothers announced he was engaged! That made me cry. I quickly offered to style the wedding party!

So here’s the menu:


Mojo infused turkey
Bordeaux and vegetable venison with rosemary

Mashed potatoes
Stuffing (this was funny, my mom swears by Stovetop!!)
Drunken fresh cranberry relish with cloves
Carrot ginger soup with tarragon and brandy
3 cheese mac-n-cheese
Feta and almond green bean salad
Baked sweet potato
Grilled pineapple smoked ham (yuck, yuck!)
Star anise lemonade w/Cuban rum
Pumpkin flan
Tres leches cake




(singing feliz cumpleaño to older bro George with a trad. flan instead of cake)

If I say nothing about the food, I will tell you that the turkey was the bomb! My mother stuck both her feet in it! Ay Dios mio! That was the best dark meat I’ve had in my life! Dad’s venison was succulent and super flavorful. The green bean salad I made was a hit, tho nothing too fancy; and my carrot ginger soup (as blogged about here) was the joke of the night! They couldn’t help but to call it baby food or compota b/c of the consistency. But guess what! It was GONE GONE GONE by the end of the night. All 3 pounds of it!

And the pumpkin flan: YUM! I don’t have a pic of it, but will share sometime in the next two weeks.

Dinner was over, so it was time for espresso and dominoes. A Cuban home is not a Cuban home without at least 4 rounds of crap talking, table slapping and and about 4 desserts to keep the tongue sweet!

You may have noticed the menu wasn’t very traditionally Cuban; that’s because on Friday night, we threw down in normal form: black beans, yuca with garlic mojo, tostones, carne asada, rice, salad and more flan. The star anise lemon drop I made was kickin’ the day after and we sure did chug it down!

I was a happy soul Saturday when I flew back to Atlanta. Belly was right. Spirit was content. Heart was thankful.

And 4 new pair of sexy pumps in my bag made my holiday totally and utterly complete!

I hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving!

**What was on your menu!!? What were you responsible for cooking?**

Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.

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Feta and Almond Green Bean Salad


  • 24 oz. fresh green beans
  • 6 oz. packet of feta cheese
  • 1 cup. red onion, sliced
  • 2-3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup. dried cranberries
  • handful of sliced almonds
  • salt/pepper to taste


Wash green beans and steam for 20 minutes or until medium tenderness. Drain in colander. In large bowl combine green beans, cheese, onion, almonds, cranberries, salt, pepper, and vinegar. Drizzle with olive oil.  Serves up to 6.

538 thoughts on “Thanksgiving in a Cuban Home…

  1. What an awesome menu of delicious good food!  I especially love how nicely done the turkey is, oh and look at that flan, simply mouthwatering!  But the sight of the raw deer scared me and made my stomach turn though.

  2. I was incharge of some “Frituritas de Camote” same as “Frituritas de Calabaza” but made with camote and no butter in the batter (no pun intended)

    Mmmm yup “Pavo al Mojo de Ajo” is sooooo goooood!

  3. I can’t remember what my favourite dish was when I was in Cuba but I did love the mojitos, churros and Cuban Sandwiches.It sounds like you had a fantastic holiday surrounded by a loving family.

  4. I had a Cuban friend growing up and we used to always like to go to his apartment because his Mami always fed us so well!  This brings back those days – the door was, indeed, always open.

    Your feast looks amazing.  You know what I had via Facebook. 😉

  5. awh, great family pic… must try the green beans that way… i love fresh veggies but sometimes they can be boring. yours look interesting and fun.

  6. There’s nothing like spending time with family over great food. Looks like you guys had a blast! I think I’m going to try the green bean salad.

  7. Sounds a lot like my family…really!

    Now you know I did ALL the cooking except for the pumpkin cheesecake which was da bomb.

  8. Bren, I love how each culture in North America embraces Thanksgiving and puts their own unique stamp on the holiday and feast.

    I wish I had a seat somewhere there!

  9. Thanks for inviting us into your parents’ home. Your dad looks awesome (scary) butchering the deer meat.

    I did most of appys. Come by blog and see the photologue of Thanksgiving photos. Also, just put up a post about ‘mofongo’

  10. That looks like a great Thanksgiving and I love the Cuban influences throughout the menu. Also, I would be in a panic if I had to saw my meat, lol! Hats off to your dad! It all looks amazing

  11. Souchocolate: my mother really outdid herself with the turkey! I swear it was the best turkey I’ve had to date! wow. Sorry the deer made u cringe, but you have to admit it was atleast very pretty in color!

    Lys: sure was chica

    Nathan: ay que rico. I’ve not had frituras de any kind in a loooong time!

    Maria: Drama drama drama–that’s the name of my parents’ house!

    Bellini Valli- oh my gosh! churros! I was in Spain 2 years ago and we were in a churro house where all we did was dip it all kinds of chocolate! it was the most sinful thing i’ve done with food!

    Judy: I’m so glad you love our food and have a friend that fed you!

    Bridget: try them girl, i know how much u love fresh veggies. how’s the basil doing?

    Tanika: what did you guys do in Hawaii!!

    Donald: did you save me some cheesecake? A and I might come over this weekend!

    Peter: You’re more than welcome, just pls bring me some baklavah!

    Joan: I could NOT believe my father sawed that thing. I felt so bad looking at it…. ick. BUT it was fantastic, for real!

    Mike: He’s loco. I don’t know what got into him. But the overall menu was great!

  12. Mmmmm…Thanksgiving is my all time FAVE holiday of the freakin’ year!  I was responsible for little this year actually for ONCE!  I did the Jambalaya, some yuca con garlic mojo e green peas (my youngest sister who 8 and is half Columbian, dad got remarried at one point, LOVED it and said it was better than her mom’s…i kinda felt good about that…heheee!) and hickory smoked turnip greens (a total HIT!).

    What i want to try most up on that menu above is the lemon rum punch…OMG i must have the recipie!  My mouth still waters at the deer meat…yum AND i’m always in the mood for tres leches cake!  That same lil sister had a birthday not too long ago and her mom’s friend made her one…but that last time i had that cake before that was years ago.  I’m feeling like i need more of that in my life.  My Grandma is part Puerto Rican so i sure wish she would have induldged us more in such treats when we were younger.  Oh well she threw down enough on german chocolate cake, lemon mirange pie, coconut cake, and rice pudding so i’m not mad 2 mad at her, LOL!.  Anyhow glad you had a great holiday, see ya soon!

  13. Chef B Chef B Chef B. WOW. Your food looks delicious, takes me right back to the table thanksgiving day!  The pictures must not do justice, I’m trying to imagine the taste of that punch and the smell of that deer meat.  Job well done!

  14. damn! that meal, girl!  i friggin love the pic of your dad w/ the saw. it’s a bit rusty, but that burns off in the oven, right? ha ha ha! you’re dad looks awesome.

    this tgiving we were in england and we did gather friends there and cooked the following: organic wild turkey (with some feathers still left in… we removed them ourselves), brussel sprouts w/ chesnuts and pancetta, whole cauliflower with bechamel, mashers and stuffing w/ apple, sage and sausage stuffing. it was fabu, but i would’ve loved some venison.

  15. Miesha: girl ur ar too funny! I love when you leave comments–they’re always so great.

    Big Eater: You’re invited next time. 

    Courtney: your meal was great too, I remember reading it for sure. 

    3Piece: thanks J!

    Simone: mija, tienes que hacer esos beans.. you and Reg would love them!

    Chefectomy: aw, thanks! I’m on my way to yours now 🙂

    WeAreNeverFull: Girl, you guys travel as much as I do! Love it! How fun! I’ve never spent Tday outside the country, but I’m sure I’d love to exp. it elsewhere to soak in someone else’s traditions. Your stuffing sounds wonderful. 

  16. I loved reading you post and had to smile when you wrote about the boys who did NOTHING! That was a immense menu! I’m sure that ham must have been delicious…



  17. Hi Bren! You had asked me about where can you find GF umbrella, I would be glad to help you, but I think you can not get it there where I found those photos-they are from russian internet shop mostly…but i guess you can find GF umbrella in other internet shops or maybe on ebay?… I wish you good luck in your searches:)

  18. That’s a huge menu! I love occasion that involves the whole family. Thank you for posting your family’s Thanksgiving celebration.

    p.s. I was looking forward to see the pic of the venison but it’s not there.

  19. Bren- I am not sure where my son bought the ‘Big Boy’ toy, here in St Louis it is full of thrift stores which I LOVE! When I was a chef her three years ago, I lived off of them for clothing and shoes, all still with price tags on them. Kitchen utensils were plentiful too. I also grew up eating deer, rabbit, and quail for Thanksgiving, my dad would taking us hunting and teach us survival skills. I love to fish still. I will clean the meat on deer and rabbit, but leave the taking down to the friends in Jersey. I love your blog and hope to see you on big prime time one day…but you still have to connect with the readers like you do! Chow -Elizabeth PS I grew up in a poor neighborhood in Dallas, and most of the girls I hung out with were from southamerica and one girl was from Cuba, boy did I love to eat at her house…

  20. Hi Bren. Thank you for stopping by my blog. Just came to check yours here:) Loved your blog! Latin fusion foods sound great! Just subscribe to you to read more. Happy belated Thanksgiving! Looks like you had lots of fun celebrating with your family. Cheers:)

  21. Rosa: it’s really true and yet so sad that the boys do absolutely nada! suckers!
    Sharon: my family is truly awesome. i’m soo blessed. Thanks fore reading.
    Lori Lynn: Dinner was incredible! But I wouldn’t have expected anything less.
    Zuki: thanks for letting me know! I’m obsessing over here.
    Farina: Hmm. yeah i should have posted a picture but it just didn’t come out so attractive. And I wouldn’t want to turn anyone off 🙂
    Chef E: I think I saw something similar to that at my parents house, but it’s way old and something my mom brought back from Havana many many years ago. Oh my goodness and thanks for the well wished about being on TV! It’s my goal so I’m working on it! And surely, you’ll know soon enuf! 🙂 and I love to hear when non-Cubans love our food! It really is exceptional!
    Farida: Gracias!!! I’ll be back to u too!

  22. Damnnnnnnn! All that comes to my mind when I think of that green bean salad! It’s truly a $%#%$  awesome side dish. Sorry for getting carried away but the taste is so amazing! I mean those cranberries to top it off just add such a nice sweet flavor to the green salad! All the ingredients just come together as if they were destined! Thanks for sharing!! I loved making this green bean salad! One of my new Favorites for sure! 

  23. Do you have a receipe for tres leches cake?  This is my favorite cuban dessert.

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