Baked Ham With Brown Sugar Glaze

This was supposed to be the show-stopper of our New Year’s Eve dinner. But most of us got sick the day after Christmas and didn’t recover until the 3rd of January.

I made this several years back for a New Year’s party I hosted. I discovered Cook’s bone-in ham when Shoprite gave it away for free during one of their promotions. Most of my guests loved it, and I was surprised at how good it was.

Making your baked ham is more cost-effective than buying one from Honey Baked Ham, where the smallest, around 4 lbs., can already set you back almost 40 dollars. I purchased a 10 lb bone-in Smoked Half Shank at Shoprite just before Christmas; it was the smallest I could find. I got it for around 28 dollars.

To make, Remove the plastic wrapping from your ham and score it by running your knife 1/4 inch deep, creating a diamond pattern. Then place it in a foil-lined roasting pan. Bake in a 325 F degree oven for 3 1/2 hours for a 10 lb ham or 10-15 per lb.

While your ham is cooking, prepare your glaze. Place 1 cup packed light brown sugar in a bowl, 1/3 -1/2 cup dijon mustard, 1/4 cup honey, and a splash of vinegar. Mix until combined.

Take your ham out 30 minutes before it’s done, and slather the glaze. Increase your oven temperature to 400 F and continue cooking until a golden crust has formed.

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Prime Rib Roast

I have always wanted to make a prime rib roast for Christmas. I was just too intimidated to make it. Cookbooks, online recipes, and tutorials give varying opinions and techniques. I wasn’t sure which one to follow, and it will be such a waste if I ruined an expensive piece of meat.

Last Christmas, I mustered the courage and bought an 8 lb bone-in prime rib roast. I pre-ordered my meat from Nick’s Meat Depot upon hearing excellent reviews about them. They even removed the bone and tied the meat back for me.

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I confidently made this with the help of my cousin, Kuya Jonathan. He gave me a link to a recipe that offered step-by-step instructions. I was on the line with him throughout the day, which was such a great help. It turned out quite exceptional for one who made it the first time. I have finally conquered my fear and feel more confident to make it again next Christmas.

This recipe uses the reverse sear method: cooking your roast at a very low-temperature oven and slow cooking it and then finishing it on a short blast in a very hot range to give it a nice brown crust without the gray zone that happens when you start at a very high oven temperature. I waited until the meat reached a temperature of 125 F instead of 118 F, as the recipe instructed, before pulling it out of the oven. I didn’t want to serve it rare, but medium rare. The meat turned out gorgeous but still a bit too red for my family; next time, I will cook it until it reaches 130 F for a perfect medium rare.

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I served this with chimichurri sauce and mashed potatoes and beans.

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Spanish Style Churros (Churros con Chocolate)

This type of churro is what I am familiar with. I was slightly put off when I first had churros here in North America because they were covered with cinnamon sugar. These churros are typically sold in Costco, Disney theme parks, and most street fairs. I did not become a fan of it, so I rarely bought it for us.

The churros that I love was the one made by Dulcinea Cafe in the 90s. Dulcinea started as a pasteleria; the location I first visited in the 80s was at Makati near the old Rizal Theater. They serve Churros con chocolate, one of the best-selling items on their menu. When my husband and I were still dating, he would always order Churros con Chocolate from Dulcinea as it is his favorite.

During the Covid lockdown when we rarely go out, I discovered this is easy to make.

Place one cup of water and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Before the water starts boiling, add 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 tsp baking powder and vigorously stir until it forms into a ball and comes away from the sides of the pan. You can add more flour if you think it’s too sticky. Cool for about 10 minutes.

Place the dough in a pastry/piping bag with a star point tip.

Heat some olive oil in a deep skillet when it’s up to temperature. Pipe the dough directly onto the hot oil and snip the ends as you go. Please take extreme caution when frying to prevent any injuries or burns. Fry until golden brown and flip them halfway through.

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Serve with a side of thick dark chocolate. To make the hot chocolate, place in a saucepan 1 cup milk and let it warm. When you see tiny bubbles form on the side of the pan, add a bar (100g) of at least 70% dark chocolate chopped. Stir the mixture until smooth and the chocolate has melted, sweeten with one tablespoon of sugar or to taste.

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Filipino Hot Chocolate (Tsokolate Eh)

According to history, the Spanish brought chocolate to the Philippines four centuries ago through the galleon trade from Mexico. Chocolate or cacao was primarily served and prepared as a drink then. It was said that the espanolas, mestizas, and the principalia of Intramuros need their cup of chocolate to start their day. Tableas (chocolate tablets) are prepared by Chinese “chocolateros” according to the taste of each family. They would go from house to house with their grinding stones and sometimes imprint the family name or emblem on them. These would then be cooked in chocolateras and a batidor will be used to create foam. It can either be served thick – tsokolate E for espeso or thin tsokolate A or Aguado. (Source: Tikim -Essays on Philippine Food and Culture by Doreen G. Fernandez)

Drinking Tsokolate Eh is part of my childhood memories of Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Before I was ever introduced to Swiss Miss and Nesquick, I was already getting the real deal. Hot chocolate from pure cacao or tablea. This is very rich and thick compared to American hot chocolate. My Ninang Aveling is the one who prepares this for us; she will buy the chocolate or cacao from the market and have them ground. She also adds ground peanuts to it, giving it its distinct flavor and taste I love. Just think Reese’s peanut butter cups in liquid form.

There are currently several artisan chocolatiers in the Philippines; some are even internationally awarded. I, for one, have tried Auro, which was introduced to me by my older sister. Recently my youngest sister gifted me with Theo + Philo cacao tablea (chocolate made for drinking). Theo and Philo mean Chocolate and Love. This Filipino artisan brand produces high-quality chocolates and spreads and baking ingredients as well. She also sent a pouch of Premium Unsweetened Chocolate disk made by Malagos another Filipino brand in Davao.

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I made these into Filipino-style hot chocolate; this is an updated recipe since I already featured this several years ago; you can find it here.

To make, place in a saucepan one cup milk and let it warm a bit. Then add ten pieces of the Theo + Philo chocolate nibs that have been coarsely chopped and one disk of the Malagos Premium Unsweetened Chocolate. I also added one tablespoon of creamy peanut butter. Continue stirring with a wire whisk until the chocolate has melted and the mixture has heated through. Do not allow it to boil.

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Immediately pour into cups. This is enough to fill two small cups. You don’t need a big mug to enjoy this since it’s rich and thick.

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Crispy Garlic Shrimp

I have a pound of some nice plump fresh shrimp that I was able to source from H-Mart. I wanted to make something special other than my usual “halabos na hipon” steamed shrimp or the family’s favorite gambas al ajillo.

I found a recipe online, and this was adapted from it.

It was effortless to prepare, and you didn’t need special equipment or ingredients. I had everything I needed, and the result far exceeded my expectations.

The only thing I changed was I omitted the chiles and five spice powder from the recipe.

The family more than loved it, they literally inhaled dinner that night. Will surely make it again.

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Lechon Manok

If my memory serves me right, Lechon manok became such a craze in the 80s. It started when stalls selling these sprouted along the Coastal Road to Cavite. Then came the advent of franchise names such as Andok’s and Baliwag, which are still popular today.

My sister made this for her family, and I was inspired to make it. I did some tweaking to the recipe she shared with me, and this is what I came up with.

You will need one whole chicken. Wash and pat it dry.

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For the marinade, place in a bowl the following: ginger about three inches long cut into slices, 5-6 cloves of garlic crushed, two pieces of bay leaves, two stalks of lemon grass (slightly bruise it to release its flavor), one small red onion sliced, 1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt, 1/4 tsp. Ground black pepper and 1 1/4 cups sprite or any lemon-flavored soda.

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Place your chicken in a big freezer bag and pour in your marinade, and zip to seal. Refrigerate and let this marinate overnight.

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Pre-heat your oven to 400F

Remove your chicken from the marinade and stuff the cavity with one stalk of lemongrass and 3-4 pieces of green onion.

Place in a pan with a wire rack and roast in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours. While roasting, baste with a soy sauce and vegetable oil mixture. If the chicken is browning too fast and seems to get a burnt look, tent it with foil. You will know when it’s done when you pierce the meat near the thigh, and the juices run clear.

Serve with some Lechon sauce.

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Ube Crinkles

My girls love crinkles, the chocolate kind. It’s our most requested “pasalubong” from home whenever family visits. We also hoard this whenever we visit Manila; our favorite is from Purple Oven, just beside Union Church of Manila, my family’s home church.

Last Christmas, I decided to make crinkles, the Ube-flavored kind. It makes it more Christmassy for me when there is Ube during this time of the year.

To make you will need Ube halaya (Jam). I don’t recommend using the bottled kind you get at Asian stores since it does not really have the Ube flavor. Most of it is just artificial flavoring and sugar. I was lucky to find real Ube from our local H-Mart and made halaya in time for Christmas.

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To make, place in a bowl and whisk the following: 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. Baking powder and 1/4 tsp. Salt. Set aside.

Cream together 1/2 cup unsalted butter and 1/4 brown sugar plus 1/2 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in 1 egg.

Add 1/2 cup Ube Halaya and 1 tsp. Ube flavoring (I used the butterfly brand). Stir until well blended.

Gradually add in your dry ingredients. Cover your bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hrs. I recommend overnight, which is what I did.

Form the cookie dough into balls using a 1 1/2 tsp ice cream scoop. Lightly roll the dough in granulated sugar before thickly coating it in powdered sugar. Rolling it in granulated sugar will prevent the powdered sugar from melting. This ensures you get the nice white cracks on top.

Bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes.

This was such a hit at my daughter’s Graduate school Christmas party and this was also became Christmas gifts for friends.

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European-Style Hot Chocolate

We love the hot chocolate from Max Brenner at Bryant Park’s Winter Village. It’s just like eating a chocolate bar in liquid form. We usually get it during the Christmas holidays, but we stopped going for the past several years now because it’s just become way too crowded.

If you like this kind of hot chocolate, one you can eat with a spoon it’s easy to make it at home. First you need to get good quality dark or bittersweet chocolate bar with at least 70% cacao content. I used Ghirardelli 70% dark chocolate bar.

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To make, roughly chop 2 dark chocolate bars which amounts to around 8 oz of dark chocolate and set it aside. In a medium saucepan, place 1 1/2 cups whole milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream and about 2 tsp. powdered sugar. Whisk until combined and let this heat over low fire until bubbles form on the side of the pan. Note: Do not allow the milk to boil. Then remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth.

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Immediately pour into cups and place a big dollop of cream on top. I added some chocolate shavings to make it more decadent.

It was such a welcome treat on a cold and damp winter afternoon.

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Shakshuka

Shakshuka has always been my favorite brunch choice whenever it’s available in any restaurant we dine in. Unfortunately, not many offer this on their menu, and not everyone makes a good one. One of the best Shakshuka I ever had was the one at Art Cafe in Nyack. We went there in the fall of 2014 when my sister was visiting us. It’s a cafe that serves traditional Israeli food.

This is the first time I have ever made it, and my family enjoyed this for our Sunday brunch.

In a large skillet, saute one medium-sized chopped onion in 2-3 Tbsp. Olive oil until translucent. Add two minced garlic cloves and stir until fragrant. Add one red bell pepper that has been seeded and diced and cook over low heat until very soft, around 20 minutes. Carefully pour in one 28 oz can of whole tomatoes crushed by hand. Stir until it’s blended. Then add your spices: 1 tsp. Cumin, 1 tsp. sweet paprika, 1 tsp. Kosher salt, 1/4 tsp. Black pepper and a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity. Cook and simmer for a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens.

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Carefully crack five eggs one at a time into the skillet over the tomatoes. Cover and cook until eggs are just set or cooked to your liking. Remove from heat and sprinkle with cilantro or parsley.

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Serve hot with crusty bread and salad.

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Steamed Mussels in White Wine

This is my go-to recipe for steamed mussels. It’s from the Foodnetwork channel by Tyler Florence. I’ve been making these for the past decade, and I still remember when I first made them. It was when I bought a bag the mussels from Costco. Remember when they were still selling fresh seafood on the weekends, their bagged mussels are usually a steal, so I almost always grab some whenever I can.

The recipe calls for wine, but my kids were too young then, so I omitted it, and the dish still turned out great. I followed this recipe but instead of chicken broth, I used chicken bouillon and added 1 cup of water.

This time I followed the recipe to a tee. It’s not a classic mussels meuniere, but this is somewhat similar. I love how all the ingredients complement each other.

I served this with a baguette and a bottle of wine. A side salad would also be wonderful addition to complete the meal.

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