I loathe Valentine’s day. Cupid cutouts make me cringe. So do heart-shaped chocolate bonbons and red silk roses. Cakes and cookies frosted with pink dyed sugar remind me of antacids.

I simply don’t see the point of this holiday. Aren’t we supposed to show our affection to our loved ones everyday?

I sound too jaded but you can’t blame me. This pretentious holiday brings back images from my childhood I’d rather forget. I felt so different from my peers back then and I tried desperately to fit in. I hated myself for being different. For being gay. It was a difficult struggle and I resigned myself to the fact that finding love would be even more difficult. Nearly impossible. And if I did find love, I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to love him openly. Valentine’s day was for straight people. No heart-shaped pancakes for me. Only heartwrenching Whitney Houston love songs.

It is what it is. But people are right when they say that it gets better because it did, eventually.

There won’t be any champagne tonight. Maybe just a piece of Choc-Nut to curb our sweet tooth. There won’t be any red roses. Maybe tulips. Those yellow and orange striped ones that Dennis and I both like. No fancy dinner, too, but a simple, homecooked meal instead. I’m thinking arroz a la Cubana — savory ground beef and pork with fried saba bananas, fried eggs and plenty of rice. Dennis loves fried eggs with rice. He loves how the rich yellow yolk dresses the soft grains of rice. He adores fried sabas and plantains, too. He loves how the edges of sliced bananas crisp and caramelize when fried. These are things he didn’t grow up with back in Ohio. Food he’d never enjoyed until he met me.

It’ll be a quiet evening. Just the two of us. At home with Stanford nosing around, of course, and our week-old girls chirping charmingly.

No heart-shaped pancakes. And no more sad love songs.


Arroz a la Cubana Recipe
Recipe adapted from Reynaldo G. Alejandro’s Authentic Recipes from the Philippines, makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 shallots, diced
1 small tomato, diced
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground lean beef
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas, thawed completely
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 pieces ripe saba bananas, peeled, sliced lengthwise, and pan-fried in 3 tablespoons canola oil
4 eggs, fried sunny-side up

Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add and saute garlic until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add shallots and saute until fragrant and softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add beef, pork, soy and Worcestershire sauces. Stir and crumble as it cooks. Brown meat over medium heat, about 15 minutes.

Add raisins and peas, stir, and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drain excess fat before serving.

Serve with rice, fried eggs, and fried bananas.


Arroz a la Cubana

Arroz a la Cubana


Kulinarya-Cooking-Club How to Make Arroz a la Cubana is Jun-blog’s entry to this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club, a friendly group of Filipino food lovers from all around the world. Each month the club assigns a theme to showcase a new Filipino dish. For the month of February, the challenge was to create a dish that reminds you of your first love like pork sisig, biko, baked oysters, shrimp and tofu lumpiang sariwa, tiramisu sandwich, lechon manok, avocado-calamansi sorbet, fruit compote, chilli crab, pork menudo, lomi, and longganisa pandesal pizza.

  • http://theseekspeak.blogspot.com/ Seeks

    Arroz a la Cubana is SUCH a comfort food to me. I think it’s a great treat for any evening, especially when shared with someone you care about. Our family always molded the rice with a little teacup before putting the egg on top, surrounded by the meat and fried bananas. *sigh* My stomach is getting nostalgic on me.

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  • Inga

    I loathe V-day too, I’m not gay, I’m straight,  happy, content…I just didn’t grow up with it, it bumped into my life quite suddenly and unexpectedly…without proper cultural and historical backround to appreciate it , making me to feel a bit rebelious this day…Hartford, Russian River Zin 2003 and some steamed veg tonight…:)

  • http://www.beyondtheplate.net/ Danielle

    Thank god for this post – I was starting to wonder if I was the only cynic out there who detests everything about Valentine’s Day. Too much kitsch for me, please pass the antacids (the real ones!).

  • http://samanthafoodgeek.com/ Samantha

    Thank you for sharing this post. I also find Valentine’s Day rather tiresome- it’s just another holiday made up by Hallmark to sell more cards and chocolates. I DO share your sentiment that making your loved one’s favorite meal is the best way to show your affection so I’ll be making some scallops and linguini for dinner! Enjoy your evening!

  • Chez Us – Denise

    Jun, great post.  Thank you for sharing this.  I, feel the same way about Valentine’s Day.  We kind of poke fun at it more than anything.  I, mean, we should be doing these things for our loved ones everyday!  I would rather stay in, cook dinner, and avoid the terrible service at most restaurants.  And the pink and red hearts … don’t get me started!  

  • Chez Us – Denise

    ps…. must make this, L is a big fan of the egg, too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1447367039 Alethea Allarey

    I LOVE Arroz a la Cubana. Thanks for the comfort food :) I’ll have to make this soon!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1447367039 Alethea Allarey

    Oh, and I’m definitely a with-raisins person. My husband thought it was weird at first but he’s learned to trust me in the kitchen (except with Jambalaya which I perpetually screw up)

  • Tracey@Tangled Noodle

    I’m a pancake girl, but who needs Valentine’s Day for a special plate of ‘em? In fact, your Arroz a la Cubana is exactly what my true love prefers any day of the year. It sounds as if your plans for the evening will be filled with more love and contentment than can be found in a crowded restaurant… 8-)

  • http://bigcitykitchen.com/ Amanda

    Glad to see I’m not alone in my feeling for V-Day, although I will admit to making heart shaped pancakes for my kids – and the dog. But to honest, they looked more like giant goiters rather than hearts.

    I’ve never made the fried bananas, but think I’ll add this recipe onto my “to make” list.

  • http://twitter.com/GluttonBudget Glutton on a Budget

    I absolutely love arroz a la cubana. It reminds me of my childhood, and fried saba is always comforting even on its own. Thanks for posting this recipe. I’ll try to make it greasier/saucier as I like it. It’s curious how we Filipinos always have our own versions of every dish. 

  • http://www.skiiptomalou.net/ skip to malou

    we are supposed to show love everyday .. you’re right Jun.  I was a sucker to anything valentine’s back in the days but it was my daughter who made me realize that it’s a Hallmark imposed holiday.  I will sit down and eat arroz a la cubana than having a candle lit dinner  Jun… I will, most def.

  • http://www.xaieatsalot.com Xai Losito

    so, that’s what they’re called. i just call it giniling. hahaha. 

  • Tina

    I totally agree with you Jun! Who needs a special day like Valentine’s Day to show someone your affection when you can do simple acts of love everyday??!  I must admit that my hubby & I celebrate V-day but we don’t go overboard. A simple card, a kiss, and a lovely meal like your Arroz a la Cubana will do!

  • http://mysassychef.blogspot.com/ Sassy Chef Recipes

    I’d love to wake up to a breakfast like this, healthy, almost oil-free, and definitely good! :)

  • http://www.adorasbox.net/ Adora

    You are not the only one who used to be forlorn on Valentine’s day, Jun. I was one of those geeks boys don’t really pay attention to. But never mind. It is a silly holiday after all.  You arroz ala cubana looks so delicious, obviously made with love.

  • http://www.iskandals.com/ Iska

    Love the shots, Jun, and I can feel the love there :-)
    (And I think Valentines Day is overrated.)

  • Theodore Salonga

    This reminds me of my childhood… This was my lunch baon in a “pumbrera” (lunch box) =) i love this =)

  • Boyet of Reel and Grill

    With your dish, i don’t needs pancakes! It looks so delicious Jun … awesome take on this month’s theme …. :)

  • http://senoritasisa.wordpress.com/ She

    definitely a dish that can be eaten any day of the year! this reminds me of my childhood.. come to think of it i haven’t had this for a loong time. thanks for the share.

  • dudut santiago

    i love this dish, super!  thanks for sharing :)

  • Anonymous

    Fantastic Photo, delicious dish and an adorable post…. I also happened to love the yolk when it soaks up the rice!

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  • MyExpatMommy

    i don’t think you’re alone Jun in your dislike for valentine’s day, specially at that age. i’d say we belong to the same anti-valentine’s day club. I only began receiving flowers for valentine’s the time i met my husband, but just the same, I still feel valentine’s is overrated! flowers are nice, but I love my husband more for carrying the grocery bags for me :)
    Now I’m thinking, maybe it’s not too late for me to try your recipe, valentine’s or no valentine’s the hubby deserves one big love! 

  • http://www.mynappytales.com abigail

    pwede for breakfast, lunch and dinner! We simply called this dish ginisang giniling. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/majoyc Ma Joy Calipes

    No!, Valentines isn’t for straight people only!   Everyone has a right to enjoy every bit of it in any way that could possibly describe love in general!   Thanks for showing us who
    Jun Belen is,  a foodie who cooks perfectly fried bananas and delectable Arroz ala Cubana for his loved one!

  • Margarita @ Pinoy Kitchenette

    you made me remember my dad who used to make this dish… i love arroz ala cubana :)
    great pics!

  • http://oggi-icandothat.blogspot.com/ Oggi

    Ooh this is our favorite dish. I make it on a regular basis and get angsty when the store runs out of frozen saba.:) 

    I always thought Valentine’s Day is for everybody. We [used to] celebrate it just like Christmas exchanging cards and small gifts with immediate family members.

  • http://www.winedinedaily.com/ Wine Dine

    Thanks for this great recipe. We do have several friends from the Philippines and will surprice them :)

  • Myfudo

    Looks like an interesting breakfast…Wanna try sometime =)

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  • http://www.redrocknoodlebar.com.au/our-menu/brisbane-catering/ Asian catering Brisbane

    Arroz a la Cubana! Nice!!!  This is tasty combination, it hits me up in heart :)

  • Chipippa

    Love the accompanying story, it tugged at my heartstrings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marvi.concepcion Marvi Concepcion

    I love your way with words..in my mind’s eye I see the egg nestled in the rice and thecurled up browned edges of the saba and to top it all off..I am about to partake of the meal too.

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