Tag Archives: christmas eve

Pecan Pie An American Tradition

One of the things my mother stressed when we were kids was that we should honor the culture and traditions of the Nation that had gifted us with Liberty and a wealth of opportunities we would not have had in our native land. Because of that, when it came time to celebrate American holidays, my mom went all out to bring to our family and friends those things that she thought were truly American.

Pecan pie was one of those things and my sister continues with this tradition every Thanksgiving. Sis is the one who does this fantastic American holiday while I do Christmas Eve with a meld of American, Cuban and Italian flavors.

So why is pecan pie so American? For starters, pecans come from a hickory tree that is native to South-Central North America. While that means there are some pecan trees in areas of Mexico, the pecan tree is really prevalent in most of the southern United States.

Did you know “pecan” was an Algonquian meaning that the nut required a stone to be cracked open?

As for the origins of the pie itself, there is some dispute about that. Some say it was first made in New Orleans when the French learned about the nut from the Native Americans. But recipes for the pie itself do not begin to appear in more well-known cookbooks until the 1940s. That could be because Karo Syrup made the dish popular in the 1930s.

My sister follows the Karo syrup recipe which you can find by clicking here. But the trick to make this really nutty and hearty is to at least double the number of pecans suggested in the recipe.

So instead of six ounces, use at least twelve or maybe even an entire pound bag of pecans. You will have to adjust the size of the pie plate to allow for the greater volume, but you will get a delicious, sweet, chewy, nutty pie with this variation.

You can also add some bourbon and/or chocolate to the recipe. Substitute 2 tablespoons of bourbon for the vanilla or add 3 ounces of semi-sweet chopped chocolate to the mix (or make it a combo of bourbon and chocolate!).

Pecan pie is wonderful served warm with a topping of either whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Wishing you all the best!

Every year my family and I go to Manhattan to see the sights of the Christmas season. I love walking around, seeing the windows and other holiday decorations. This little video I put together for you has some of the photos that we took on our annual jaunt.

I’ll be away for a few days getting ready for the Christmas holiday! I hope you all have a wonderful and Merry Christmas and will be back on Monday.

If you can’t see the video below, you can click here or cut and paste this link into your browser:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJRy7O_ugB0

Thursday 13 – Holiday Favorites

With Christmas just over two weeks away, I am struggling with work and writing deadlines and getting the house ready for Christmas Eve, and yet there is no denying that I am getting in the holiday mood. I love this season with all that it represents – love for each other and sharing that love through the simple things like a hug or a smile. For Christians like me, the celebration of our Lord’s birth and embracing the principles of love and respect for all humans, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. The important things, you know.

But there are also the little things that bring a smile and lift the heart and so today I am sharing thirteen of those little things that elicit joy in me during this holiday season!

1. Christmas carols. Love to hear them and sing them.

2. The smell of roast pork on Christmas Eve morning.

3. Hot apple cider.

4. Hot chocolate.

5. Christmas lights.

6. Santas. One year we were on a train filled with dozens of Santas on the way to Santacon. What a blast!

7. The Nutcracker. We go to see the ballet every year as part of our holiday tradition.

8. Christmas trees. Love picking one out and decorating it (look for more on this on Fun Friday).

9. Exchanging gifts with friends and family.

10. A child’s face on Christmas morning as it lights up at the presents Santa brought.

11. Watching Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original animated one).

12. Christmas Eve dinner with family and friends.

13. Going to NYC to see the holiday windows, the tree in Rockefeller Center and the pond at Bryant Park.

Hope you enjoyed today’s Thursday Thirteen. I welcome you to share some of your favorite things about the holiday season.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

As a P.S. – This is a photo my Christmas village from a few years back. It’s still in the works this season and I hope to finish it soon!

Fun Friday – Holiday Traditions

Snowman Holiday TraditionsIt’s that time of year when I can’t stop thinking about all the fun and wonderful things that the holiday season brings. For me the best part of it is getting to spend time with my family. We always go and chop down our tree, play tourist in New York City and share Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve with family and friends.

Here’s a shot of my dining room, all ready for those family and friends!

How about you? What are some of your fun holiday traditions? What other fun things do you have happening today or over the weekend? Please share with us.

Citrus-Marinated Roast Pork

During my recent visit to the wonderful blog of my friend and fellow author Kelly Moran, I was asked about my signature dish for Christmas. Now in my house, Christmas Eve is a mix of Italian, Cuban and American foods, but the signature dish has to be the Cuban-style citrus-marinated roast pork.

We, because it is a family affair to cook this dish, start preparing it the night before after a trip to Union City, New Jersey to pick up some Cuban staples and the pork leg.

I’m normally feeding anywhere from 15 to 25 people on Christmas Eve, so I need a really really big pork leg (pork shoulder/picnic ham/pernil). I normally get a piece of pork that weighs around 25 pounds, but you can buy a much smaller piece and adjust the cooking times (more on that later).

Ingredients:

    10-15 navel oranges
    10 lemons
    10 limes
    6-8 Seville (aka Sour) Oranges
    6 pink grapefruit
    10-20 gloves of finely chopped garlic
    Ground cumin
    bay leaves
    Pork leg/shoulder/picnic ham

Directions:

Juice all the above citrus into a large pot. We use one of those large buckets in which your grocery store deli get its potato salad, etc. Drop by and ask them for one! Ours is only used for the Christmas Eve pork.

The citrus mix should be sour, but with a strong hit of sweet (the navel oranges and grapefruit really help with that). You should have enough citrus juice to fully cover your piece of pork. Once you’ve tasted the sweet/sour mix, then add 3 to 4 bay leaves, about a half cup of garlic (less for a smaller piece of pork) and about 1/4 cup of cumin. Mix this all up.

Take your piece of pork and make multiple slits in it so that the marinade can penetrate into the meat. Place the pork leg in the citrus juice, cover and refrigerate. You’re probably wondering how I keep that big a bucket cold? Put the bucket in one of those big party tubs, place it in your garage (which should be slightly colder anyway) and fill the tub with ice. It should be icy cold in the morning unless you are in a really hot environment in which case you will need to keep on adding ice to keep the meat cold.

In the morning (around 6 a.m. or so) pre-heat the oven to 425. Remove the pork from the citrus and place it in a large roasting dish. Keep some of the citrus juice, bay leaves and garlic for use as a marinade. Discard the rest. Ladle about 1 to 2 cups over the pork and then stick the pork into the oven for one hour at 425. For a small piece of pork, cut down this initial high temp roast accordingly. For ten pounds make it around 30 minutes, anything smaller than that no more than about 15 minutes.

Do not baste the pork during this high heat roast.

When the high heat roast time is up, baste the pork and lower the oven temp to 325. Then cook until the meat pulls away from the bone in the leg and is starting to fall off. Marinate every half an hour during the cooking process. For a 25 pound pork leg, I will cook it for about 8 to 9 hours. The pork will turn this beautiful mahogany brown and just melt in your mouth.

For smaller pieces of pork, adjust the cooking times. A 10 pound picnic ham may take only about 4 or so hours. The key is to keep on basting and cooking at a low temp to keep the meat juicy.

If the pork begins to brown too much, just cover with aluminum and keep on cooking until the meat is fork tender.

Hope you enjoyed today’s Tuesday Tip. Here’s a shot of family and friends sitting around the Christmas Eve table, waiting to start the big meal!

Welcome to the Three Kings Today!

It’s the Epiphany! Little Christmas to some and Los Reyes Magos to Latinos in many countries. Los Reyes (The Three Wise Men/Magi) is celebrated with a variety of festivals and parades as you can see by clicking to view this video of a parade for Los Reyes in Madrid.

Los Reyes bring small gifts and toys much like they would have brought gifts for the baby Jesus. In my house, my parents would leave little gifts near the fireplace and my sister and I would leave carrots and other vegetables for the camels to eat. One year my sister woke up the entire house because she had heard the camels on the rooftop and had seen one of them looking in through the window!

We still keep this tradition in my household and when I get home tonight from work, we’ll open up the little gifts that Los Reyes have brought.

How about you? Do you celebrate the coming of the Three Wise Men? Do you have a special tradition that you do on Christmas Eve or through the 12 Days of Christmas until the Epiphany?

threekings