Today is National Handwriting Day.
Sakura was asking their followers to upload a picture with their favorite quote and I accepted the proposal.
But, since choosing “a favorite quote” is such a difficult task, I decided to pick one of the book that I’m currently reading (as I posted before that I would do).
These months I’ve been reading “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World” by Haruki Murakami; the 4th novel that I read from this author.
I liked this book, specially, those long moments of solitary thoughts but I didn’t go nuts for the story (that’s the reason why it took me so long!).
The quote that I chose from this book was: “Deep rivers run quiet“. But these are also others that I highlighted:
“Humans are immortal in their thought. Though strictly speakin’, not immortal, but endlessly, asymptotically close to immortal. That’s eternal life.”
“Eternity can actually be experienced” (this quote made me remember a how a person can describe a panic attack).
“I have a thing about losers. Flaws in oneself open you op to others with flaws”
“Everyone may be ordinary, but they’re not normal (…) But there’s normal and there’s
normal. I mean the kind of normal that can sit down next to you on the train and you wouldn’t even notice. We eat food, drink beer–oh, by the way, the sandwiches were great!”
“Nobody got the keys to t’the elephant inside us. Freud and Jung and all the rest of them published their theories but all they did was t’invent a lot of jargon t’get people talkin'”
I think I’m going to take a break from Murakami, but I still really love his writing style and crazy stories.
*Have you read Murakami? Any favorites?
This 2015, I’ve started a new sketchbook.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen some of these botanical sketches but I wanted to gather all of them in a post and tell you which one is my favorite.
African Lilies (My mom’s garden has one of these beauties).
False Shamrocks (As a kid, I used to eat the roots of these shamrocks… I’ve always been special, ha!)
Hidrangea (One of my favorites flowers!)
Narcissus (I discovered the daffodils on a wintery afternoon in Brooklyn while I was wishing for the springtime to arrive!)
*I’d love to know, do you have a favorite flower? Which one is it?
Hallacas is a traditional venezuelan meal that is served during Christmas holiday. It’s a recipe that gathers the family on its preparation and it also transmits the multicultural heritage of Venezuela since it needs ingredients from different continents.
I’ve only tried this dish twice in my life before attempting cook it. Both times the same presentation was the same but the stew that was inside and also t he dough was different in taste. That’s because it has a lot of variations and of course, each family has kind of their own way of doing it.
Nevertheless, I like challenges. So, I searched and found a recipe that could be adapted to the ingredients that I could find in America and guide me a little. I also watched some videos on Youtube and of course, I had the best guide: Victor, who ate Hallacas a million times in his life so he was kind of my guide thru this almost impossible task.
I bought everything I needed in the 16th and Mission (latin neighborhood in San Francisco) and at Mexicana Produce in Downtown San Bruno. I needed 24 hours to do everything BUT if you have more time, it’s absolutely better. All the flavors of the stew will arise with unless one more day.
I have to say that I’m very proud of myself on accomplishing this task and preparing a delicious meal that can also transmit part of my husband’s family cultural heritage.
So, today I’m proudly sharing with you the most difficult recipe that I’ve ever done: my own adapted recipe of Hallacas.
For the Stew
- 1 hen (about 2.5 lbs)
- 8 cups water (enough to cover chicken)
- 1/2 cup celery
- 1/2 cup scallions
- 2 tsp garlic salt
- 1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 lbs pork shoulder, with some fat remaining
- 1 lb ground beef
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups white onion, diced (about 2 medium onions, I used the already sliced from Trader Joe’s)
- 1 cup leeks, white and pale green portion only, thinly sliced (I used the frozen ones from Trader Joe’s)
- 1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 cups red bell, green and yellow peppers sliced (I used the frozen and sliced from Trader Joe’s)
- 1 can organic diced tomatoes
- 1⁄4 cup capers, finely diced
- 1⁄2 cup pimiento-stuffed olives, sliced
- 1⁄2 cup muscatel (Muscat) wine
- 1⁄2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp lime juice
- 1/2 cup organic raisins
- 1 cup shredded papelon / piloncillo (sugar cane cones sold al Latin stores) dissolved in 1 cup water.
- 1 tbs worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp salt
First, put the water and the hen in a large sauce pot. Bring it to a boil and add the celery, scallion and garlic salt. Cook for about 30 minutes at a medium heat.
Transfer the hen to a plate and save stock. When the hen is at room temperature, pull the meat from the bones and shred it using your hands.
In a large sauce pot, heat oil and add the pork and ground beef to cook. Stir frequently until the has brown a little.
Reduce heat to medium-minimun and add more vegetable oil. Then, add the leeks, green onions, onions and garlic. Add 1 cup of the saved hen stock and stir frequently. Don’t let the vegetables go brown.
Add peppers, diced tomatoes and 1 more cup of the stock. Let it cook for 10 minutes at low heat.
Add the diced capers, olives, the papelon already dissolved in warm water, the organic raisins, sliced olives, muscat wine, worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, lime juice and one more cup of the stock. Let it cook on low heat for 30 minutes stirring ocassionally.
Finally add the shredded hen. Let it cook for 30 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and let it covered until it’s cool. Refrigerate overnight until 2 hours before using it.
For the Dough:
- 1 package of Harina PAN (pre-cooked white corn flour, available at Latin grocery stores).
- 3 cups of hen stock
- 4 sticks of unsalted butter
- 3 tsp of achiote paste (available at Latin grocery stores)
- 1 tbsp salt
Place the achiote paste with the butter in a pan and warm it until they dissolve and create a reddish liquid. Set aside.
Using a large bowl, mix the flour and the salt. Slowly add 1 cup of the melted reddish butter to the flour and start mixing it. Then, add 1 cup of hen stock and continue kneading the dough. Repeat the steps adding fat and then the stock until you get a soft but firm consistency. The dough should be a dark yellow/orange color, smooth with no lumps.
Make medium balls of the dough using and your hands, set aside and cover with a humid cloth. By the way, your hands should be very shiny from the fat used on the dough. If they are not, add more butter or shortening to the dough.
- 2 packages of frozen plantain leaves (available at Latin grocery stores).
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 piece of clean kitchen cloth or papel towels
- cooking twine
The day before using the leaves, thraw the frozen package in the refrigerator overnight and leave it at room temperature 2 hours before cleaning them.
Use the the cloth or paper towel damped in the vinegar dissolved water to rapidly clean the leaves over the two sides. Set aside for the hallaca assembly.
Each hallaca uses 3 leaves. You should cut them prior to its use.
The first leaf -the base- should be about 10 x 14 inches. The second, also called the “shirt”, should be about 8 x 10 and the last one, called “belt”, should be about 4 x 6 inches. I’m not completely sure about this meassures, but they can work as an approximetely. I suggest you watch some videos to learn how to properly wrap the hallaca since I’m not and expert AT ALL in that matter (Victor is!).
Cut about 1 yard of twine for each hallaca. For this recipe you’ll need about 20 yards.
- stew (room temperature)
- 20 colored medium dough balls
- plantain leaves already cut
- 20 yards already cut cooking twine
- 3/4 cup colored butter (made with achiote paste and regular organic butter, like the one for the dough)
- garnish ingredients
- 1 cup roasted peppers (sold in jars at Trader Joe’s)
- 2 medium sliced onions (in rings)
- 1 cup sliced olives
- 1/2 cup capers
- 1/2 cup organic raisins
- 1/2 whole or sliced raw almonds
- 1/4 cauliflower pickled style (this is optional, I just had this in my fridge and thought of adding it)
Prepare your mise en place -prepare and organize everything you’ll need- for the assembly.
Arrange the base leaf and add 1/2 tsp of red-colored butter. Use your fingers or a cooking brush to spread it through the leaf.
Put a medium dough ball in the center of the leaf. Flatten the dough, we used a plastic cutting board for this process, covered with a piece of plastic bag so the dough doesn’t stick to the board.
Add 1/4 cup of the stew in the middle of the dough. Add the garnish ingredients.
Fold over the plantain leaf carefully so it doesn’t break, first one side, then the opposite. Finally bring the ends of the leaf up covering the filling.
Place the hallaca over the second square of the plantain leaf and fold it again. Finally use the third leaf (belt) to hold the two pieces of leaf under it, wrapping the hallaca around with it.
Tie the hallaca using the cooking twine to keep it secure during the cooking process.
Bring water to a boil in large sauce pot. Place the hallacas in the pot, they must be covered by the water. Cook for 1.30h to low heat but keeping the water boiling, add more water if it needs it.
Remove it from the water and allow them to drain for 5 minutes standing on one of its sides over a plate.
If you want to freeze them, only cook them for 1 hour and then remove them from the water and let them cool down to freeze them. When you’d like to eat the hallacas, you’ll just need to cook them (frozen) for 30 more minutes. You cannot reheat them in the microwave.
Use kitchen scissors to remove the twine and the plantain leaves, remove them carefully. Serve immediately.
Our Christmas dinner: hallacas, pan de jamon (ham bread), and ensalada de gallina (hen salad).
A calligraphy pen, some blank paper and a piece of ribbon can add some magic when you need to wrap a present.
Write the name of the person you’re giving the gift to all over the paper, then wrap the present as you would normally do it.
You don’t need to know how to make beautiful lettering, the calligraphy pen will help your letters to look lovely just by writing with it.
You can even add a finish touch with a colorful ribbon.
*What do you think of this idea?
Hello friends! I hope this new year find you well and with new hope for this 2015!
As many of you already know, we celebrate Christmas having a traditional Venezuelan dinner so today I’m sharing one of those recipes: Ham Bread (Pan de Jamón).
It’s a brioche-like, semi-sweet bread stuffed with ham, bacon, olives and raisins. Sounds delicious, right? It is.
Since I’m not Venezuelan, I had to do a little research and I found this great video that helped me a lot!
I did some changes to the recipe since I prefer butter over margarine, the taste is different and the nutritional facts are better for the butter (no trans fat, less chemical ingredients and sometimes even less saturated fat). I frequently use Kerrygold natural irish butter, made with milk from grass-fed cows.
This is what you’ll need for the dough:
- 4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 cup organic warm milk
- 6 tablespoons unsalted melted butter
- 2 slightly beaten organic large eggs
- 1/8 cup organic sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tsp dried yeast
Start by adding the flour, sugar, salt to a bowl and mix. Dissolve the yeast on the warm milk and add it to the bowl.
Then, add the slightly beaten eggs and the melted butter (be careful that the butter is at room temperature, not hot!) and start kneading until it become a sticky dough. Using the Kitchen-Aid, this process will take you 5 to 10 minutes.
When finished, cover the bowl with a cloth and let it rest for about 1 hour so the yeast works its magic.
After the dough has doubled in shape, place it on a slightly floured surface and use a rolling pin to stretch it. Fill the dough with the following ingredients:
- 8 oz black forest ham
- 4 slices of bacon smoked or uncured, previously cooked (I just cook the slices for a few minutes each side on a pan at medium heat)
- 1/2 cup olives
- 1/8 cup raisins
- Optional: 1 beaten egg
Roll the dough and let it rest cover with a cloth for 45 minutes.
Prick the bread lightly with a fork and brush it -if you want to- with the optional beaten egg white. Bake the roll in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 minutes or until it’s golden brown.
Remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool for 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm, or at room temperature.