I Love Cubans!

I love Cubans! Not only do I love my great friend Celia Dubey, of Cuban descent, but I have had a love affair with Cuban Sandwiches most my life. When I made the most glorious decision to go plant-based over seven years ago I thought my days of inhaling Cuban Sandwiches were over. Not any longer. Here I will share my tremendous find of a plant-based Cuban Sandwich offered at my favorite restaurant and how I now make them myself.

I think my first Cuban Sandwich was at a K-Mart deli. Can you imagine anything worse? Well, when you are a teenager and your mom shops at K-Mart on occasion, that sodium overdosed concoction tasted pretty good. Salt up anything enough and you can make it taste better…when you are addicted to it. Then it was on to sandwich deli shops for an upgrade of quality and to a restaurant in Tampa called, Cuban Breezes. I loved the combination of mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, salty meat on that pressed Cuban bread…mmmmmmmm.

When I got really unhealthy and then transformed to whole food plant-based lifestyle I thought it meant I said good-bye to Cuban Sandwiches and I was ok with that. I knew my why(s). Eating them wasn’t worth recking my long term health, athletic and sexual performance, the planet, and cruelty to animals. Let’s take a look at the ingredients of the pig and cow version of a Cuban sandwich using the Food Network’s Original Cuban Sandwich:

  • 1 loaf Cuban bread (pretty good…let’s keep)
  • 1-ounce regular mustard (pretty good…let’s keep)
  • 4 dill pickles (pretty good…let’s keep)
  • 5 slices boiled ham or Virginia ham
  • 2 slices roast pork
  • 1 slice imported Swiss cheese
  • 1-ounce butter

Now let me recap the issues there:

  • Ham and pork – Group 1 Carcinogens = highest level of cancer producer…same grouping as smoking and asbestos; loaded with saturated fat and sodium so that is great for heart disease, Type-2 Diabetes along with other chemical properties breaking down our immune system.
  • Swiss cheese – Dairy greatest source of saturated fat in U.S. diet and this is in a concentrated form along with the sodium. Dairy also a huge cancer promoter and what it’s intended for, blowing up a baby calf quickly into a cow certainly is on a parallel with the ability to blow up the human waist line quickly as well.
  • Butter – Same dairy story here…lots of saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol…

So basically the animal version of the Cuban really sucks. But there are alternatives. After a couple years I found out about a restaurant in south St. Petersburg called, Golden Dinosaurs (GD). This a 100% plant-based restaurant that is home to my favorite indulgences….nacho cheese fries (no dairy) are unreal! I usually rotate between a few menu favorites but one day a Cuban Sandwich appeared and I had to try! The anticipation was uncanny. When I took my first bite I was in heaven. It’s what I remembered a Cuban Sandwich tasted like. In GD’s version they use their own homemade seitan as the meat alternative. It is glorious!

I’ve had Cuban Sandwiches at other restaurants since but nothing compares to GD’s concoction. Thank you Audrey and Brian Dingeman (owners) for awesome creations. They are current owners of – The Best Vegan Restaurant in Tampa Bay – Three Years Running!

Then one day Lauren Nolan tried to make a home version using alternative plant-based deli meats and pressed the Cuban bread on a skillet. It was remarkable! I can have these at home now?!?!? I figured it was time for me to take a stab at it so I started making them myself after learning from Audrey and Lauren. Here’s one concoction I have put together:

  • La Segunda Cuban Bread – tip from Audrey and you can purchase in the Publix Grocery store locally
  • Follow Your Heart Smoked Gouda (cheese alternative) – use whatever cheese(like) flavor you prefer
  • Tofurky Plant-Based Deli Slices Oven Roasted – again, use a variation of flavors you prefer
  • Vegan Mayo
  • Mustard
  • Pickles

Put all the ingredients together and place in a heated skillet on medium/high heat for about 3-5 minutes on each side (seems the first go takes about 5 minutes) and the trick here is to use a plate to press down on the bread.

Even though this is a much better option than the animal based version, it’s not really healthy. The alternative cheeses, plant-based deli meats, and vegan mayo can be fatty, rich in sodium, and high in calories. It does come free of the animal produced saturated fat and group one cancer promoting properties so in that sense it’s a big win and saving the animals from a brutal existence and slaughter makes you feel great too. It’s a great treat from time to time.

Let me know if you have made another version or if there is another one out there I have to try…

– Add Health to Your Life

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