Saturday, December 31, 2011

Venezuelan Pan de Jamón Recipe



Hmmm.... Pan de Jamón! There are no words to describe this delicious Venezuelan bread, just hmms and yumss. The Pan de Jamón (bread filled with ham and bacon) is a tradition in Venezuela for the holidays season. You can start seeing it on the bread shops from the end of November until January. Off course when you live abroad, you have no other option but to make it yourself!

I was not going to venture into making bread this season, but this morning while talking to my mum, she mentioned that hers was already in the oven, so I got excited and asked for the recipe. Here it is! It takes about 3 hours to make so may still have time to do it this year!!!

Ingredients:


  • 1/2 kg of flour (1.1lbs)
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 tbsp of yeast
  • 4 tbsp of warm water
  • Sugar and Salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 300gr (0.6 lbs) of sliced ham
  • 8 rashers of bacon
  • Capers, Olives and Raisins

Preparation:

Mix the yeast and 1 tbsp of sugar on the warm water- Keep it apart - it will rise and foam.


Put the milk and the butter with one tbsp of sugar and a teaspoon of salt in a pot and put in the microwave for about 2minutes until the butter melts. Let it cool down a little until warm. Whisk 2 eggs in another container.



Place the flour on a big tray (I use my roaster) and make a volcano with it. Pour the yeast mixture in the volcano and the egg mixture. Blend together then add the milk mixture and knead for about 15 minutes until the dough is pliable and soft like play-doh. Roll into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and a couple of cloth towels and let it rest for 1 hour.





After one hour, uncover, take a small piece of dough (size of a lemon) and set aside for decoration. Roll the rest of the dough on top of a parchment paper in the shape f a rectangle. Make it relatively thin.



Cook the bacon in a pan and keep the fat.  Spread the bacon fat on the rolled dough. Then cover the whole piece with ham slices. Place the bacon on top of the ham in an order so there is bacon all over the bread. Pt some raisins, capers and olives to taste.







Now you need to roll the bread. Pick up an edge of the bread and start rolling to itself. Do this carefully, making sure that all the ham and stuff stays inside. Roll all the way to the end. Tusk in any extra ham and seal the edges of the dough. You will end up with a cylinder.





Roll the small piece you kept aside and choose a nice cookie cutter and make some decorations. Attach them to the bread.





Cover with the paper and a could of paper towels and let it rest for another hour.


Pre heat the oven at 350F. After the hour,  remove the towels. Put the bread in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove out of the oven. Whisk one egg with a little milk and with a brush, put this egg mixture all over the bread. Bring the bread back in the oven for another 20 minutes. You are done!!! let the bread cool in a rack and eat when warm!!! it is soooo delicious!!!






Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Eve Bacon Lentils Recipe: Eat them and money will come!



As mentioned in a previous post (see Venezuelan New Year's Eve traditions), if you want more money during the incoming year, you have to eat lentils as part of your New Year's eve dinner! Well at least that is what my family believes! We have been eating lentils on New Year's eve for as long as I can remember. My mother always cook them, but this time it is my turn so I am sharing with you my version with bacon!! Everything taste better with bacon, right?

Ingredients:

  • 5 slices of bacon chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped onions
  • 4 or 5 garlic cloves ( I like garlic - put less if you do not!)
  • 1/2 green pepper chopped
  • 1 aji dulce (optional) (I cannot find these in the US, next year I am growing them in my garden)
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1 cup of lentils
  • 3 cups of water
  • Cumin, salt and pepper to taste
Preparation:

Chop the onions very small, also chop the peppers, aji and cut the bacon in small pieces.



In a pot,  put the onions and the bacon on medium heat. As the bacon cooks it will release bacon fat and the onions will cook on it (so no need for oil). Add the peppers and crushed garlic. Cook until onions are translucent and bacon is browned.




Wash a cup of lentils and strain them. Add the washed lentils to the bacon and onion pot, add the water, the stock cube, cover and let it boil on medium low heat until the lentils are tender, about 45 minutes. Keep and eye on the pot, if it is too dry add a little water and of it is too watery increase the heat so the water evaporates. You can customize how runny you want them. Taste them and add cumin, salt and pepper to taste.






The lentils taste better after a day in the fridge, so I always cook them the day before I will serve them. Just keep them refrigerated at all times.

Other variations: Instead of bacon, you can use any pork meat you like. I have done some with pork belly, sausages, cured ham and some people use pig feet (I am not a fan though)

I hope you enjoy this dish tomorrow and that you also get lots of money.... Also please remember this dish is also yummy at any time a year.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Do you want the New Year to better than the last? Then you should do this on New Year's eve!

I am about to share the best Venezuelan and my family's secrets for a New Year full of wonderful things. Do you like more money? no problem! more travel?  Easy! What about Luck? that is fine too! So here you have it, a whole bunch of weird and fun Venezuelan traditions and rituals to be performed at New Year's eve to bring good wishes into your household. Now, you do not believe it? that is OK, I will do them anyway - you never know!!!

For General well being:

  • Just before midnight, arrange little bunches of 12 grapes for everyone in your party. When midnight comes, eat one grape with each of  the 12  bells of New Year.
  • Drink and toast with a glass of champagne

For Luck:

  • Wear yellow underwear on New Year's eve. You also have to wear them inside out!
For Money:
  • Eat Lentils as part of your New Year's eve Dinner. The more lentils the better. For recipe click here.
  • Wear a new dress and jewelry - real one, not fantasy.
  • Have money in your hands before midnight so when the New Year arrives you have plenty of money on you - get different currencies from different countries - it is all good and welcome!
For Travel:
  • Have your suitcases ready! and at midnight, after you do the grapes, take your suitcases and go out the front door with them!. Some people even walk about the block with the suitcases! 
My uncle and Auntie going out with suitcases on New Year's eve Circa. 1995


I love doing these things, they are fun and festive and remind me of home!  May the New Year bring you all the best, health and wealth of love, fun and all you desire!!

What traditions do you have?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dukan Diet: Easy Strawberry Cheese Pudding Dessert

I know the Holidays and New Year are very challenging if you are watching your weight. Particularly on the Dukan Diet as you need to stay away from carbs - read sugar!!! But do not worry you do not need to skip the dessert! This is a variation of a dessert that my grandmother used to do for me, it is a creamy pudding made with jell-o.

Ingredients:

  • Sugar Free Strawberry Jell-o (4 cup pack)
  • 1 box of Philadelphia cream cheese (8oz)
  • 2 egg whites
  • If you are NOT on a die at you will also need 1 can of condensed milk


Whisk the 2 egg whites until they form picks and keep apart until needed. Prepared the jell-o following the instructions on the pack and leave aside until needed.


Soften the cream cheese in a kitchen aid or use your blender. Make sure that your jell-o has cool down a little and it is warm but to boiling hot. Mix the cheese and the jell-o on the blender. (If you are not on a diet, this is the time to add the condensed milk and bled a bit more)


Pour the liquid back in a bowl. Blend in the egg whites - you need to do this by hand and do it very carefully with a whisk. Do not overdo it or you will lose the fluffiness of the eggs.



Pour into a glass container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until set.


This dessert is creamy and delicious!! 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Welcome Christmas: Our black swallowtail butterfly!




A while ago, September 25th to be exact! I found a huge caterpillar on my dill plants. (I am showing it here on a different leaf!





As you can expect, I took the little guy inside the house and we went on to find out what caterpillar it was, just like we did with our  Cabbage White (Pieris Rapae) named Super. We quickly found out it was a Black Swallowtail (Papilio Polixenes).

They like to eat Dill and Parsley, so we put it in a big jar with some food and water.





It ate and moved about for about a week or two and in October 2nd, it went into its pupa stage.



We were expecting the butterfly to arrive in a week or so like Super did, but nothing happened for weeks!!! I was worried the thing was dead, but then learned that some of these butterflies stay in their pupa for the whole winter. So we left it there undisturbed on our kitchen bar for as long as it wanted.

Just a couple of days before Christmas, our gorgeous butterfly appeared - Daddy found her, he just happened to look at the jar and realized an amazing butterfly was inside!



We named him Christmas - it was just the perfect name for him, and yes it is a him. We look online, and the males have a band of yellow and little blue, the girls have a lot of blue and small yellow dots on their wings, so Christmas is definitely a boy. The kids were so excited as we truly have forgotten everything about it!





Now as it is quite cold outside and Christmas came early, we decided to keep him inside. Daddy's studio became his house. We put a few parsley plants and a little dish with a paper towel soak in a solution of honey and water. Christmas did like the water!

The most challenging part was to keep the cat away from the study. Once it new there was a butterfly there, it kept trying to sneak in. he did managed a few times and grabbed the poor thing - We really should have called it "survivor" as it did survived every time. It helps that my cat is the gentlest cutest thing ever!

So for now, we feel really pleased to have Christmas spend Christmas with us!
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