Varadero Beach & Coconut Cardamom Chip Ice Cream

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I’ve been hibernating. Yesterday when I began my walk to work, a mandatory departure from the cozy confines of my condo, it was 12 degrees with a wind chill of zero degrees. This winter has felt terribly long, and I’ve clung to the short hours of warm sunshine I’ve been able to gather when work called for overnights in Miami and Varadero Beach.

Midway through my time in Cuba, we traveled out of Havana to visit artists, museums, and historical sites in Matanzas, the second largest province.

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Since Matanzas is roughly 90 miles east of Havana and we had stops to make over two days, we spent the night in Varadero, one of the largest resort areas in the Caribbean.

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Varadero has the most popular — and some say the most beautiful — beaches on the island.

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With more than 12 miles of oceanfront, Varadero welcomes primarily European and Canadian tourists. Because of US government restrictions, there aren’t many Americans who are able to visit this gorgeous area. In fact, I was sorry we didn’t have time to visit the nearby caves and cays.

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We’re expecting more snow in Philly tomorrow, which promises to push us past the current distinction of third snowiest winter on record. I’m planning to continue my hibernation, wishing desperately for the sun to set on winter,

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while basking in warm memories and flavors of Varadero by eating a bowl of Coconut Cardamom Chip Ice Cream.

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Click Here to Print This Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 (13.5 ounce) cans of coconut milk; refrigerated
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 13.5 ounces chopped dark chocolate*

*I used dark chocolate with sea salt

Instructions:

  • Combine all ingredients except chocolate in blender and mix until smooth.
  • Transfer batter to ice cream maker. Mix for 15-20 minutes, adding chocolate during the last minute.
  • Serve immediately or freeze in an airtight container.

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DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO VARADERO BEACH: 1,210 miles

Cuban Architecture & Crumb Cake Muffins

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Nowhere is the beauty and complexity of Cuba’s history more evident than in its architecture.

With Colonial stone fortresses,

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a Baroque style basilica,

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and a Moorish style cathedral,

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Havana is one of the most architecturally diverse cities in the world.

Walking through the city visitors see the Spanish,

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Greek,

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and Italian influences of the post-Colonial period,

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along side classic examples of art nouveau and art deco, like the famous Baccardi Building standing tall in the center of Havana.

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While some neighborhoods are comprised of Soviet-syle block houses,

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American high-rise style apartment buildings dot the skyline view across the Malecon.

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In fact, Americans walking through central Havana may be surprised to see this building,

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El Capitolo, which was the seat of government in Cuba until the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Cubans are quick to tell you their national capital building is taller than the one in Washington, DC and, unlike ours, this neoclassical building only served as the seat of the House of Representatives and Senate for about 30 years.

But Havana is a city that was built by addition, not by substitution, and it’s not uncommon to find buildings that are crumbling next to more modern ones. Current economic and political realities that make paint expensive and restrict  home and apartment owners from also owning part of the building or land make diversity in exterior upkeep a natural part of the landscape.

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Today, money earned from hotels and state-owned restaurants is being funneled into restoration and, while there’s beauty in the restored buildings and gorgeous stained glass fan lights,

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I also saw beauty and rich history in the peeling paint and broken glass.

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For like so many baked treats, sometimes the crumbs are the best part, right? I know that’s true for these Crumb Cake Muffins!

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Click Here to Print This Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with paper baking cups; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter with spoon until crumbly. Reserve 1 1/3 cup mixture for topping.
  • Stir in eggs, vanilla, baking powder, salt, and milk into remaining mixture. When well mixed, spoon batter into muffin cups, filling approximately 1/2 way. Sprinkle reserved crumbly mixture over batter.
  • Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

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DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO HAVANA: 1241 miles

This recipe yields 15 muffins.

Classic Cars of Havana & Pineapple Upside Down Cake

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Along the streets of Havana, among the pedicabs,

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Soviet-era cars,

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and horse-drawn carriages

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is a parade of classic American cars.

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In fact, nearly 60,000 American cars from the 1950s are still on the roads in Cuba.

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Until October 2011, Cuban government permission was required to buy and sell cars, and laws restricted the purchase and sale of cars to those that were in use before the 1959 Revolution. Remarkably, more than 50 years later, many of the cars are still in fantastic condition.

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Because of the U.S. embargo against Cuba, these cars have been kept on the road with Cuban ingenuity, using household products and Soviet technology to create the parts needed for repairs.

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Many of these cars are used as taxis

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and the colors are often as vibrant as the buildings that serve as the backdrop to these magnificent vehicles.

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While these cars are very much part of everyday life in Cuba,

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they are a true gem for tourists to see, ride in, and be transported back in time!

When these cars were on the road in the United States, the Pineapple Upside Down Cake was on the dessert table of many American households. Like the classic cars of Havana, it’s bright in color with a sweet and rich interior.

This recipe comes straight from Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book, published in 1950.

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Click Here to Print This Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • Pineapple slices (drained from 14-0z can; juice reserved)
  • Maraschino cherries
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons pineapple juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

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  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. In 9-inch square pan, melt butter in oven. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over melted butter. Arrange pineapple slices over brown sugar. Place cherry in center of each pineapple slice.
  • In medium bowl, beat eggs until thick and lemon-colored (5 minutes). Gradually beat in sugar. Mix in pineapple juice and vanilla.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; beat into batter all at once.

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  • Pour batter over pineapple and cherries.

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  • Bake 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately turn upside-down on serving plate. Do not remove pan for a few minutes. Brown sugar mixture will run down over cake. Serve warm with plain or whipped cream.

DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO HAVANA: 1241 miles

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