A Very Cuban Picnic - "en cajita"

First let me say: Happy Summer! 

Summer and outdoor living just go hand in hand, don't they? It seems that since the weather has warmed up we are spending much more of our time outdoors. Sometimes that just means serving dinner out on the patio, but often it means packing a picnic and enjoying it somewhere... out there. 

Because we live in Southern California, one of my very favorite things to do is to pack a picnic to take to an outdoor concert. I blame the Hollywood Bowl for that particularity, but that's not important right now. 

There's nothing quite like sitting under the open sky and enjoying a beautifully packed picnic. Can I get an Amen?

I came up with The Perfect Cuban Summer Picnic. Easy to make. Packed in a "cajita," ("little box") reminiscent of the Cuban birthday parties of my childhood. 

My Big Fat Cuban Family - Cuban Summer Picnic featuring Turkey Cubanos and Guava Cheesecake

The Cuban Picnic consists of four main items: The sandwich (main course), the side dish, the drink (Materva, please!) and the dessert. 

Let's start with the sandwich. I've opted to make a Turkey Cubano. I know what you're thinking and no this is not blasphemy. I wanted to make it simple and keep it "deli style."

Let me explain: A classic Cubano sandwich consists of Roast Pork, Ham, and Swiss Cheese. But in this case, the roast pork felt a little too heavy for this picnic and I would have needed to include the added step of cooking the pork, so I decided to substitute turkey instead. Smart? Or lazy? (Don't hate.)

My Big Fat Cuban Family - Cubano Sandwiches for a Cuban PIcnic

Turkey Cubano Recipe

  • Long loaf of bread (preferably Cuban, but French will do.)
  • Softened butter (to spread on the outside of the bread)
  • Yellow mustard
  • Mayonnaise
  • Swiss cheese
  • Dill pickles (Clausen Bread and Butter Sandwich Pickles make all the difference here)
  • Sliced Deli Turkey
  • Sliced Deli Ham
My Big Fat Cuban Family - How to make a Cuban picnic

1) Coat the bread lightly with mustard and mayonnaise.
2) Make the sandwich with the ingredients in this order: Swiss cheese, pickles, turkey, and sliced ham.
3) Butter the bread on the outside.
4) Grill. A sandwich press is ideal for this.

The goal is to get the sandwich nice and toasty and melt the cheese. The sandwich can be easily served at room temperature without losing any of its flavor, making it ideal to pack in a picnic.

Wrap each finished sandwich in white parchment and tie with a pretty baker's twine. Set aside.

Not Your Ordinary Bag of Chips

My preferred side dish for a Cubano will always be plantain chips. I found these cute little treat bags at Michael's and decided they made perfect containers for the "mariquitas." 

My Big Fat cuban Family - How to make a Cuban Picnic with a Turkey Cubano and Guava Cheesecake

Finally, I knew I wanted a portable dessert. And while guava pastries are absolutely my first choice, these cute little cheesecakes are decidedly the perfect complement to my Cubanos and mariquitas. 

My Big Fat Cuban Family - Easy recipe for Mini guava cheesecakes in mason jars

No Bake Mini Guava Cheesecakes

The Graham Cracker Crust

  • 12 - 4 oz. Mason jars
  • 1 and 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 Tbsp. butter - melted
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar

1) Pour graham cracker crumbs into a medium bowl; stir in the sugar. Add melted butter and blend together with a fork until well combined.

2) Press the crumb mixture into each of the mason jars. About 1 inch deep and slightly up the sides.

3) Chill crust for at least 10 minutes (or longer).

My Big Fat Cuban Family - How to make mini guava cheesecakes in mason jars

The Cheesecake Filling

  • 1 - 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 - 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Guava jelly

1) Place softened cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl; add condensed milk, lemon juice, and vanilla. Beat until well blended.

2) Spoon cheesecake filling into the mason jars.

3) Top with a spoonful of guava jelly. 

4) Cover and refrigerate until firm - 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

5) Makes a dozen 4 oz. cheesecakes.

time to pack it into "cajitas"

My Big Fat Cuban Family - How to pack a very Cuban picnic

Back in the day, going to a birthday party meant getting your lunch and treats served up to you in individual boxes. I so love that tradition! So I thought it would be super fun to do a version of that for my Cuban Picnic. 

My Big Fat Cuban Family - How to make and pack a very Cuban picnic

The boxes ("cajitas") came from Michael's and are designed to hold cupcakes. I found them to be the perfect containers for my picnic. 

You take your wrapped Cubano, your bag of mariquitas, and your 4 oz. guava cheesecake and pack it with a napkin and a spoon. Pack a cooler with some cold Materva and you are sooo winning the Cuban Picnic game. 

Hollywood Bowl, here we come.

Can I get an "Ay! Que Rico!" please?