The House Built On L♡VE & Shenanigans

The In's and Out's of Family Life in Charlottesville, VA

1 Comment

What’s On The Menu? – Cuban Sandwich

The flight attendant informed us that it was time to fasten our seat belts.  We were beginning our descent into Miami, on our way back from Jamaica.  I looked out of the window to catch an arial pic of South Beach with my phone, but to my chagrin, I only saw that thick and ominous rain clouds had blanketed the city.  I was fortunate to have captured rather decent snap shots of the other cities we had briefly visited  en route to the Caribbean, so I was disappointed to miss out on this one.


Flying over Baltimore.


Landing in Philly.

I looked across the aisle toward the girls and gave Delaney a little wink.  “Are we landing Dada?” I nodded affirmatively and smiled reassuringly.


Journey on board.

Suddenly, the pilot turns the nose of the plane upward steeply, and begins to accelerate rapidly! As we quickly climb to a higher altitude, we begin to bank left sharply.  Stunned by what is now taking place, I gripped my arm rest a little tighter, and slowly begin to look around at the other passengers to gauge their reaction to our sudden change in direction…up instead of down.  The faces I saw expressed exactly what I was feeling – utter bewilderment.  Their wide eyed looks told the whole story – many of them I’m sure were hoping that their worst terrorist fears where not actually coming true!

The once talkative folks who had just moments before filled the cabin with pleasant incoherent chatter, where now deafeningly silent.  You could cut the tension with a knife.  By now most of them had focused their attentions toward which ever tiny egg shaped window would give them the clearest view from which to assess this anxious situation.

Updrafts…downdrafts…we rocked from left to right and back again!

Thirty nerve-racking and turbulent filled minutes later, after circling the city, we once again began landing procedures and touchdowned safely into cloudy Miami.  Most of the passengers, including myself, erupted into spontaneous joyful cheers – each of whom would have probably kissed the ground like the Pope once they disembarked, if they would’ve had enough nerve.

We never found out what the deal was!

This is not how we wished to “take our talents to South Beach.”

Still rattled from the whole airplane ordeal, we made our way to the hotel that we planned to stay in for the evening.  We dropped the bags off in the room and headed (legs shaking) down to the hotel restaurant.  I found an old Miami classic waiting on the menu…The Cubano.

It was pretty good.  Good enough to inspire me to attempt to make my own back home.


There are several sites that offer recipes for Cuban Sandwiches, but I used this one at Food  As always, follow the directions from the site, but the recipe calls for:

Cuban Pork:
1 pound boneless pork shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and gently smashed with the side of your knife
1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 lime, juiced
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 long Cuban bread roll      *NOTE – I used Italian Bread because I couldn’t find Cuban.
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
8 thin slices Swiss cheese
1 cup bread and butter pickles
8 thin slices deli ham
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil


I thought our Cubanos turned out beautifully and were muy bien. I added a side of rice and black beans which was a nice touch.  We had left over roasted pork for a week, but that was just fine with me.

I encourage y’all to try it out…Buen provencho!

The results are in, and here is what the folks had to say about their meal:

Rachael – “This is good, but the meat needs to be sliced a little thinner.”

Marley – “I didn’t like it so much.  I didn’t like all the different stuff inside.”

Delaney – “A little bit yummy.”

Journey – “I want bacon.” 



What’s On The Menu? – Jerk Chicken

Wah gwaan” everyone, we are back and settling in from a fantastic week on the island of Jamaica.

It was our first time visiting JA, and needless to say, we had a fabulous time.  We sat on the beach, waded into the Carribean, ventured into the hills to pay our respects to a musical legend, and swam with dolphins.

But most of all we ate!

We stayed at an all inclusive resort called The Grand Palladium.  A beautiful establishment which boasts 10 different resturants varying from Indian, Asian, Mexican, and Seafood cuisine…just to name a few.

DSC_0612But to my surprise, one of the most delicious meals we had on this lush island (filled with so many sights and sounds and exotic flavors) was actually – on the side of the road.

In Negril, outside of the very popular eatery Rick’s Cafe, we ran across a very unassuming set up in a most unlikely place.  A couple of guys had a smoker and were busy fixing up authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken.


Hot thick smoke filled the air from the grill, while cars whizzed by on the narrow road we were standing mere inches away from.  But there we stayed, braving it all to enjoy some of the most flavorful chicken we’d ever tasted.

It was so good that I was inspired to try and make it myself once we returned stateside.

DSC_0616I don’t have a smoker, so I chose to bake the chicken.  Since the guys from Seasoned To The Bone, weren’t about to give up any of their jerk secrets (and I did ask), I used this recipe for Baked Jerk Chicken at

The recipe calls for the the following ingredients, but you’ll find the actual cooking instructions by clicking the link above.

  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice

  • 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried minced garlic

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

  • 1 (2 to 3 pound) whole chicken, cut into pieces

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil



Real coconut water to wash it all down with.


This is a very easy dish to make – No Problem.  I’ve got to admit though, it was not the same as in Jamaica…but everything was irie none-the-less.

Ya mon!


The results are in, and here is what the folks had to say about their meal:

Rachael – “It’s okay…for your first attempt.”

Marley – “It’s in the middle.”

Delaney – “Yeah, it’s in the middle.  Kinda good, kinda not.”

Journey – “I don’t like Jerk Chicken.” (As she pushes her plate away)




What’s On The Menu? – Steak and Chicken Fajitas

Delaney, is a huge fan of Taco Tuesday! It never fails that at some point in the week she’ll ask, “Dada what day is it?” Then depending on my answer, she’ll know how long she must wait until she can receive her terrific Tuesday meal.

But we’ve been engaging in Taco Tuesday consistently for so long that honestly the whole affair has lately, become a bit stale.  The girls have slowly become less enthusiastic about their dining experience each time I serve the typical hard taco, soft taco, and taco salad compliment.

Alas, the thrill was gone!

My brother Khalid and I, which two of his and two of mine.

My brother Khalid and I, with two of his and two of mine.

I recently confessed this fact to my brother Khalid, who also has the honor of being a stay-at-home dad (two in one family…go figure).  I told him that I was considering abandoning, or at least suspending our Tuesday tradition for awhile.

In his wisdom, being quite creative and handy in the kitchen, he suggested that instead of canceling our weekly custom, we should mix it up a bit.  He reminded me that if I were to venture into a Mexican restaurant, there would be more on the menu than just tacos.

Duh, why didn’t I think of that?


So here is a recipe I found for Steak Fajitas at Simply  I suggest that you click the link to read the recipe verbatim, but basically it calls for:

  • Vegetable Oil
  • Steak
  • Onion
  • Bell Peppers
  • Salt

There is also a tasty marinate which calls for:

  • Lime Juice
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic Cloves
  • Cumin
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Jalapeno Peppers (which I didn’t include)

The prep time was the longest part, but the meal was whipped up in a matter of minutes.

The Chicken is something I cooked as an alternative to the steak.  Just regular frozen chicken breast baked at 425 for 40 minutes.  Then I sliced it up into strips.

I was very pleased with the way dinner turned out and it was certainly a wonderful way of spicing up our Tuesday!

Thanks Khalid!



The results are in, and here’s what the fans had to say about their meal:

Rachael, “So good, I wanna slap your mama!”

Marley, “Kind of tasty.”

Delaney, “Good, pretty good.”

Journey, “I don’t like Fajitas.”


1 Comment

What’s On The Menu – Classic Chicken and Rice

I was watching Oprah’s inspirational weekly program, Super Soul Sunday, as I do most Sunday mornings, and author Michael Pollen happened to be on discussing the art of mindful eating!

Michael artfully discussed, “what is means to eat with a fuller consciousness and how having a heighten awareness of the food thats going into our bodies can improve our physical and spiritual well-being.”

His talk was so inspiring to me, that right then and there I made the conscious decision to begin to make no fewer than three home cooked meals per week from now on!

I feel like I owe it to my family to do my part to prepare healthy, tasty, but easy to make dishes.  For me, this harkens back to a simpler time when dinner was not just a source of sustance, but a wonderful social event!

Now that I’ve made this promise, this transformative declaration – next comes the hard part!

The follow thru!!!

I am not a chef by any means, so what can I whip-up for dinner that my wife and three little ones will actually eat?

My search for recipes and inspiration had begun.

chicken and rice

So on the Monday afternoon following the show, I stumbled upon an old fashion recipe similar to the way my grandfather used to make it.

Chicken and Rice! (follow the exact directions from the link above)

  • 4 quarts of water
  • One whole chicken
  • 3-4 celery stalks
  • 1 sweet onion
  • salt & pepper
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • rice

The results are in, what did the family think of there meal?

Rachael: “Very good.  Needs more salt though.”

Marley:   “Sort of good.”

Delaney: “Umm, good, but if I have to eat this tomorrow…I know I won’t be hungry!”

Journey: “I don’t like Chicken and Rice.”