xmlns:fb='http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml' Cooking with Ria

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Perfect Caribbean Roast Chicken Recipe

As we approach the second month of 2016, and as the snow melts on the ground, I am left to wonder how may of us have stuck to our resolutions. My basic resolutions do not differ much from year to year, the same old, keep the house and refrigerator organized, lose weight, become a more understanding wife, a more patient mother and a more forgiving, compassionate and tolerant human being.

As if I did not gain enough weight over the holidays, starting November(Thanksgiving), snowstorms and frigid temps beg for comfort food and decadent desserts which makes losing weight difficult. The strangest thing happens to me when I am gaining weight. During that time, I don't see it. As a matter of fact I always feel thinner during that time. Then one day, I get a glimpse of my "real" self in a shop window or photo and I exclaim to my husband, ' OMG I'm fat**"! I gained so much weight! Why didn't you tell me? You are never honest with me! It's your fault!" Blaming Dah makes me feel a whole lot better. Then I continue, "You exercise everyday, why can't you design a workout routine for me". You don't want me to be thin! You are not supportive enough"! Really folks, I have no control over my madness. I eventually come to my senses and take full responsibility for my excess weight. As I said, I am trying to be a better wife. I am fortunate that he has stayed with me for 24 years! Cooking for him is how I compensate for my darker side. Now you know the truth.

[**"Fat", in my definition, is that point when my clothes no longer fit comfortably in a size 4/6, walking and running up and down stairs require effort and leaves me breathless, my self-esteem plummets, I feel lethargic and I become easily exhausted.]

Aside from the weight, for the past 6 months I have experienced a "cleansing of sorts". I eliminated enormous amounts of clutter and donated every piece of furniture in my living room and kitchen. I redecorated to make my living space more mature, serene and sophisticated. A look to match the inner transformation I have been experiencing(still ongoing).

Forty-two feels amazing but it's a very busy time emotionally. I am in control of the external clutter, but now I am focused on "undoing" all the baggage I have accumulated emotionally, and at the same time, not accumulating any additional. I believe in order to continue to enjoy life going into my later 40's, 50's and beyond I need a new frame of mind, a totally positive outlook, peaceful surroundings, select friends and a simpler way of living. For the record, good health and money are also necessary. As you can see, as I have become older, I no longer allow life to happen to me, I happen to life. I create the life I want and deserve and I work hard at it.

Not many people can say that they have found their purpose in life, but I have in the past five years. My purpose it to know God and in simple terms, be the best Ria I can be. This is my pathway to peace and happiness. This blog is just a tiny speck of who I am and I am happy to share it with you. If you don't learn from my personal experiences, you will definitely learn to cook!

I have already shared the secret to Caribbean and Trini cooking here. Green Seasoning can and will make your life easier and your meals tastier and I would like to demonstrate that in today's recipe post. We roast a chicken every Sunday in our house to pack for lunch for a few days and this recipe is one of my favorites.  We never get tired of it. It's so simple, even the husband (Dah) can do it. When it's done, he always brings a piece to me, wherever I am in the house(usually my bed), just to make sure that it is "perfect'. Aye Caramba.

In this recipe,  a whole chicken is butterflied(my way), washed and rinsed and seasoned with only four ingredients--green seasoning, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I promise you that you will not experience anything more heavenly, delicious, economical, healthful and satisfying. If you are just learning to cook, and if you don't learn any new recipes this year, I urge you to make this. Learning is actually the simple part since this is the simplest roast chicken you will ever make. It basically cooks on its own with no fussing over it or basting required.

I highly recommend marinating it for a few days, but there are many days I season and place it straight in the oven. Leftovers become even more delicious as the days go by. It is important to let the chicken come to room temp before roasting. You may also leave it uncovered in the refrigerator for a day or two, which dries the skin and helps it to become crisp during roasting.

Traditionally, a chicken is butterflied (spatchcocked) by cutting out the back and flattening it. However, I prefer to cut down the opposite side (breast). In my opinion the wings protect the breast from drying out. The decision is yours. Whichever way you cut, it simplifies roasting and I like the result compared to roasting a whole chicken. The breast and legs are done at the same time, while if you cooked a whole bird, you may have to turn to ensure even cooking.

The Perfect Caribbean Roast Chicken

One 4-pound chicken
1/2 cup Green Seasoning
1 large lemon, halved
1 tablespoon Himalayan Salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3-4 tablespoons extra-vigin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. You will also need a narrow roasting pan.

Remove the neck and innards if they are still in the cavity of the chicken. Wash the chicken with the  juice of 1/2 a lemon--you may rub it with the lemon to remove any freshness. Rinse with several changes of water. Drain and pat dry. Place the chicken back-side down and cut the chicken down the entire length of the breast line. Place the chicken breast side up on a flat surface and and press with the palms of your hands to flatten.

Place the breast side down and generously season with salt and pepper. Rub in green seasoning and squeeze a bit of the juice from the lemon over the area.

Turn the chicken breast side up and repeat the same process--salt, pepper, green season and lemon juice.

If you plan to roast immediately, drizzle with a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil and place in a preheated oven.

If you are marinating, place the chicken in a zip lock or other cooking bag and marinate in the refrigerator 3-4 days or less. As I mentioned above, it is important to let the chicken come to room temp before roasting. You may also leave it uncovered in the refrigerator for a day or two, which dries the skin and helps it to become crisp during roasting.

Roast @ 350 degrees fahrenheit until the chicken skin is nicely brown and juices run clear. It takes about  75-90 minutes in my oven. DO NOT OVERCOOK! Once it is out of the oven, transfer to a cutting board, cover with foil or parchment paper and let it rest for 20 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. Cut into pieces.

I gently and swiftly press a paper towel over the sauce in the roasting pan to absorb any oil, leaving only the sauce which can be spooned over freshly steamed jasmine rice to be served along with the chicken.

You may also serve with rice and stewed red beans, fried rice, mashed potatoes, green beans, potato salad, roasted potatoes or a green salad.

Until next time,
Eat. Pray. Love,

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Trinidad Buljol (Salted Codfish Salad)...and a story about Nana

It's been a while! Where do I start! To give you a quick snapshot, since my last post I resigned from my position of 11 years, left my comfort zone and started a new job with a Company that refused to accept no for an answer from me. That required me to travel to London for two weeks, a profoundly challenging yet rewarding experience. I had the humbling experience of traveling upper first class and enjoying luxurious hotel accommodations which was a short walk from River Thames. Evening dinners with a splendid view and soul searching walks in solitude. Hard work by day and a dream come true by night. By society's standards, I have finally "arrived". By my standards, I have much to do. Even so, life in corporate America/London is not so glamorous. Business plans, presentations, meetings and meetings about meetings. Still, I enjoy the challenge. To say it simply, I love telling people what to do and how to do it. My point here is believe in yourself. Keep chipping away at those barriers. You (we) are greater than the limitations we set for ourselves. Anything is possible. 

Summer 2015 lingered for a while; a Taylor Swift concert, an escape to Cabo San Lucas, a few Yankee games, a short trip to visit our capital, Washington DC, hosted a few family gatherings with lavish "comfort" food, and tanned until I was no longer recognizable. I don't remember anything else, sorry. I've had a lot on my mind, playing my A-game at work and home, and at the same time journeying deeper into "Spirituality" to attain peace and to become a more compassionate human being. 

I feel guilty that I haven't had the opportunity to share any recipes with you for such an extended time. This is one of my more important responsibilities and I do take it seriously. Today, I share with you a family favorite, with a history going back 40 years! For those of you who are not familiar with the word Buljol, it is a simple dish of salted cod which is rinsed and briefly boiled to remove the excess salt, then drained, shredded and combined with peppers, onion, garlic and olive oil. Other optional ingredients are added based on personal preference, these include tomato, avocado, cucumbers and I've even heard of the addition of boiled eggs.

Some of my favorite childhood memories in Trinidad are centered around Easter at my Nana's house (mother's father). Breakfast on Easter Sunday was always held at Nana's. My two younger sisters and I piled into the backseat of my mom's Datsun 120Y, all dressed in identical, pink lace-layered dresses, which were usually specially sewn by her seamstress friend for the occasion.

Once there, I headed straight to the kitchen to observe Nana in action and ask one too many questions. In his humble kitchen, he would be busy kneading flour for the bakes or creating his simple culinary masterpiece, the buljol. Once the ingredients were added (I recall he only used garlic and onion) to the flaked fish, he disappeared to some undisclosed location and reappeared minutes later with a small, thin bottle of "sweet oil" (olive oil), his secret, highly prized ingredient. Even in my adult years, I have often wondered why it was never stored in the kitchen. Apparently, I didn't ask enough questions. For the final step of the buljol, he removed the cork from the bottle and slowly and methodically drizzled the "sweet oil" in a thin stream around the bowl. This act, a cook's prayer, was hypnotizing, mesmerizing and appetizing to say the least. 

In Nana's kitchen my love for food and its creation blossomed into a passion.  Nana, Mr. Toy R.(pronounced Toh-ye), a very well-mannered man of stern character, with a no-nonsense disposition like my mother, had an important rule (or ten) in the kitchen. One such rule was not to taste anything until it was served. Aye Caramba. Mama Mia. Oh-em-gee and what the..... This forbidden rule added immensely to my excitement, suspense and frustration. Once served, I ate to my heart's content or until there was none left, mainly the latter.

Nowadays, I devour several servings while cooking, to ensure that it tastes phenomenal, and this habit may be associated with the previously mentioned 'somewhat traumatic" childhood memory(I am fine. Really). 

Buljol is usually accompanied by fried bakes or roti for breakfast, however, once my Hubbie packed me a lunch of the left overs with Jasmine rice and I have been hooked ever since.  

BULJOL (Salted Codfish Salad)
Serves 4-6

12 oz salted cod (bacalao, salted fish)
1 large (sweet) onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped (use more of less to your liking)
½ large red bell pepper, finely chopped, optional
½ large yellow bell pepper, finely chopped, optional
2 "Caribbean" pimento peppers, chopped, optional
6 leaves culantro (aka Bandhania or shado-beni), chopped, optional
4 tablespoons pure extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Other optional ingredients
1 tomato, seeded and diced, optional
½ cup chopped cucumber, optional
1 small avocado, cubed, optional
Hot pepper, chopped, to taste (habanero, scotch bonnet)


1. To remove the excess salt from the fish, first rinse under running water, then soak several hours or overnight in water. Alternatively, or in addition, place rinsed and soaked salted fish in a pot of water and boil for 10-15 minutes.

2. Drain, rinse with clean running water, press out excess water using your hands or a strainer and flake with a fork or your fingers. [After draining, I always test the saltiness of the fish. I may rinse or boil again depending.] You do not want to remove all the salt from the fish and you do not want excess water(moisture).

3. While the salted fish is boiling, wash and chop all ingredients.

[Did I mention that LOVE is the main ingredient!]

4. Place the flaked fish in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients - onion, garlic, chopped bell and pimento peppers, chopped culantro (and optional ingredients if using).

The optional ingredients add flavor and creates "quantity" so everyone can enjoy to their belly's content-if such a thing is possible! 

5. Drizzle in the olive oil. Mix well to combine breaking up any chunks of fish. Taste for salt and add more if required. Season with freshly ground black pepper if you like.

[I had quadrupled the recipe here, and above for a family Sunday breakfast]

Enjoy with friends and family!

 I love hearing from you. Write me. Ask questions or send your comments. 

For more pics of food and my daily encounters, check out my new account on Instagram - CookingwithRia.

With thanks for visiting,


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Curried Goat

Spring is finally here! I yearned for her like a maiden yearns for her love. Maybe more than that. I haven't posted in a while and it's not for a lack of recipes or creativity. I've been busy cooking, developing and testing recipes, eating, reading, watching movies with my hubbie, gaining weight and complaining (mostly about the weather).

What I learned over the long winter is that we suffer because we don't accept things for what they are. We are always fighting against everything….the weather, life, situations, people, physical conditions…Maybe if we just accept the things we cannot change(and change the things we can), life will be a little easier. How did I come to this intelligent conclusion, you ask? I learned all this from…. a few ducks. Yes, ducks.

As I headed home from work one stormy, snowy day, my train got stuck over the water for about 20 minutes. The second I was about to experience a panic attack of major proportions, I peered out the window of the train and saw the most beautiful, calming scene I've ever witnessed. There was a swarm of ducks dancing in the water below, celebrating the snow fall and the magnificence of their beautiful life. They were not complaining, panicking, worrying, running, flying away or looking for cover. They were just there, accepting of the situation. My perspective on life changed forever. The voice that speaks to me said, just accept…accept. Panic attack averted. (I also accept that MTA NYC transit will never get their !@#$ together). 

Armed with one more powerful word associated with a peaceful vision of ducks swimming amidst a snow storm, I move forward with another coping strategy to help with my daily struggles. The truth is that life doesn't have to be difficult, we are the ones that make it so. We must always look for the good in every situation(and every difficult person we encounter). Be transformed by the renewing of our minds and recognize that by changing our thoughts we can change our reality.

That prelude has nothing to do with this recipe I'm about to share. If you're a Trini, curry duck has probably already infiltrated your cerebrum. Have no fear, as you know, curried goat is equally delicious. We shall leave the ducks alone today.

For those of you who are not familiar, curried goat is another very popular dish in Trinidad, as well as Jamaica. It does not boasts of a mild curry like curried chicken. It's a special occasion, iconic meal that celebrates our passion for good food and camaraderie, keeping in mind that every weekend or any day during the week on the Islands can and will qualify as a special event.

During one of my vacations back home, I remember the presence of a goat in my mother-in-law's backyard. One hot, sunny day, we were served a "memorable" meal of curried goat, peas dhal and dhalpourie roti. After that day, I don't recall hearing the goat behhhhh! This is not an uncommon occurrence either. This incident was not intended to dismay you in any bizarre food way, but to point out that mealtime in the land of sun, sea and steelpan occasionally consists of the freshest of local ingredients---can't get any more local than that!

I also love the "curry goat" from Jamaica. It's made a little differently but still rather delicious. In my experience it's more tender, probably cooked longer than the Trinidadian dish (in a pressure cooker) and the curry appears lighter in color. I decided to meld both experiences to create this simple, delicious recipe that my family enjoys and you will too.

The technique and ingredients vary slightly from curried chicken. The curry flavor is more pronounced because of the quantity of curry used, some like it with lots of heat (hot pepper), but you may only add based on your preference. Curry is not spicy in itself, as believed; it's the addition of the hot pepper that makes it spicy.

When I cook, I usually prepare about 4 pounds minimum, so cooking 2 pounds, to develop this recipe for you, seemed too simple for me! [That's 4 pounds in the pics below]. I used green seasoning in this recipe, because this is the reason we Trinis always have a bottle of green seasoning in our refrigerator. Many of our dishes become so much simpler! See the list of ingredients below, unbelievable isn't it? if you don't have green seasoning, see here or you may just use 4-6 scallions, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 sprigs thyme (in addition to the other ingredients listed below).

There is no challenge in making curried goat, it's just requires a simple technique which I demonstrate below….and patience waiting for it to cook!

This is better than restaurant-quality, this is the real deal, just like my mummy, aunty or grandma would make it. This is the only recipe you will ever need for curry goat. Trust me on this one (and all my other recipes).

Ria's Trinidadian Curried Goat
Serves 4-6

2 pounds goat meat, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped (I use sweet onion)
6 tablespoons green seasoning
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons salt (I use Himalayan Salt) and freshly ground black pepper
Hot pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3-4 teaspoons 'Trinidad' curry powder (Brands I use: Chief or Cariherb)
1-2 teaspoons duck and goat curry powder (ground masala)
6 thyme sprigs
6 leaves culantro (bandhania), chopped
½ teaspoon ground roasted cumin (geera)

Note: Duck and goat curry, also called ground masala, is sold in West Indian or Caribbean Grocers in Brooklyn, NY and Queens, NY(Liberty Ave.), or pick up a package on your next trip to Trinidad(Brand: Cariherb). If you don't have any, replace the amount with regular curry powder.

1. Cut goat into 1-2 inch pieces, or to your preference. Soak with the juice of ½ a lemon or lime. Then rinse several times with water; rubbing the meat with your fingers to remove any slime. Drain.

2. Season goat meat with the green seasoning, onion, garlic, hot pepper (if using), salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and place in refrigerator to marinate up to 24 hours.

3. Make curry mixture: In a small bowl mix curry powders, 1 tablespoon green seasoning and 3 tablespoons water. Set aside.

4. Heat oil in medium heavy bottomed pot(iron pot). Add reserved onion slices (and hot pepper if using) and cook until the edges are brown. Add curry mixture and cook 3-5 minutes until grainy and fragrant.

5. Add goat meat (reserve any liquid from the bowl), thyme sprigs and turn to coat with curry. Cook on high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Cover, lower heat to medium-low and cook until it starts to stick to pan and all the liquid has evaporated(takes about 20 minutes), cook one minute more, stirring constantly, to develop some serious flavor. This is a good time to test for salt. Add more if needed.

6. Add reserved marinating liquid and 4 cups of water(or enough to cover the meat), bring to boil, reduce heat to gentle simmer and cook 1-2 more hours--stirring every 15 minutes or so--until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened. If the liquid evaporates and the meat is still not tender enough for you, add about a cup more water and continue cooking until your desired tenderness is achieved.

[Pic to the left: Cooking curry in my garage]

7. Before taking off the heat, stir in chopped culantro and cumin powder.

Remove thyme sprigs and serve over rice or eat with dhalpourie or paratha roti. To reheat, remove from the refrigerator, place in a saucepan with a little water and boil for a minute or two, adding a little salt if required.

If you like my blog, say thanks by liking my FB page and sharing this recipe!

With love,


Monday, February 2, 2015

Trinidadian "Boil and Fry" Black Eye Peas--Not a Music Group!

The year 2014 came and left like a thief in the night. Fortunately, it didn’t steal much except for a little bit of my sanity. I really don’t know what to expect from 2015 but I'm really trying not to focus on the unknown. I am learning that I need to be here in the NOW. I realize that I have never truly lived in the "Now". I continuously ponder on the regrets of the past; reminisce constantly on sweet and bitter (and bittersweet) memories, and like everyone else, I have anxieties about the future. It’s time to enjoy the present.

Thich Nhat Hanh, world renowned Buddhist leader, suggests saying “I have arrived. I have arrived”—meaning to acknowledge and bring yourself back to the present, completely aware of what you are doing in the present. He states that being you and doing what you are doing is a wondrous reality(I am sure you agree!). Be completely aware of yourself, follow your breath, conscious of your presence, thoughts and actions in the Universe. Be aware of the miracle of life and truly live and experience life—in the present. This is the only moment you will ever have.

How difficult can that be? For me it’s going to take practice. If you notice me walking around like a zombie chanting “I have arrived, I have arrived” please don’t think I have lost my mind. It just means that I'm on my way to becoming an enlightened, mindful being of sorts. Honestly, most of the accidents and mistakes I’ve made was as a result of my mind being preoccupied with thoughts other than the task at hand. With mindfulness practice, many mistakes can be prevented—especially in the kitchen! I preach mindfulness to my kids all the time. You know what they say, "practice what you preach"! 

Aside from that, the Dah is encouraging me to exercise because he is probably tired of hearing me complain about my "holiday" and "baby" weight gain. He installed a Total Body Gym in the middle of my bedroom ("my" because he just sleeps there), right next to the elliptical, weights and kettle bells. He says weird things like, "Push through the laziness", "Your body will say no, but you have to say yes", "You have to overcome the thought of exercise with your mind first, then the body will follow". "Keep on keeping on". All this from a man who, prior to a year ago, never exercised in the 22 years I've known him. Nowadays he exercises religiously. Recently, he complimented my appearance in the best way his Trini upbringing has taught him, “Everything looks up!" With that statement he raised his eyebrows and made an upward squeezing movement with his hands. If you know male sign language, you can easily interpret that. [He now denies his words and action..!]

Today I am sharing with you my current breakfast routine. Over the years, I have experienced weird phases/cravings where I'd eat a specific fruit for breakfast for a prolonged period of time, say 3 months, sometimes as long as 6 months. I've survived the mango, papaya, pomegranate, grapefruit and pear phases in the past couple of years. The pomegranate reign ended abruptly one day when, after eating it, my stomach started cramping so badly I immediately ceased and desisted consuming pomegranates permanently…and proceeded to the next craving, which was mango. Btw, the pomegranate phase was expensive. I paid $2.50 for a pomegranate each day!

Nowadays, with all the pressure of staying healthy and exercising, I am desiring real food for breakfast--something substantial. I wanted a meal that was vegetarian with lots of nutrition, fiber and protein to get me through my mornings. This dish has not disappointed.

This dish, referred to as "Googanee" by my Mom, is made traditionally with only onion, garlic, culantro (shado beni) and pepper, but I added veggies for additional flavor and nutrients. I usually grate a carrot into it also. Googanee or boil and fry black eye peas is eaten in Trinidad with roti for breakfast. I eat it alone or if I'm very hungry or stressed  I eat it with a scrambled egg or two.

If you're seeking a healthy alternative for breakfast a few days a week(or a wonderful side dish), then this is your answer. Did I mention that it's very affordable?!! A pound of beans is enough for 8-10 servings, that’s about 15 cents per meal. Warning---If you are preparing this recipe only for your self, make only one cup at a time, or else you will get all “blackeyed out” after the fourth day! 

Ria's Trinidadian Boil and Fry Black Eye Peas [Googanee]
Makes 4-6 servings

To boil:
1 cup dried black eye peas
6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt 

To Cook:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped ( I only use sweet onion)
½ large red sweet pepper, optional
½ large orange or yellow sweet pepper, optional
1 tablespoon minced or chopped garlic (if you love garlic like me, use two tablespoons)
¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (scallion, cilantro or culantro/shado beni)
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
½ teaspoon ground roasted cumin(geera), optional
Hot pepper, (scotch Bonnet, habanero), to taste, optional
2 pimento peppers, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Pick over beans. Soak beans overnight or a few hours.

Place drained black eye peas,  6 cups of clean water (meaning not the water you soaked it in) and salt in a pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook until tender but still whole. Drain. While beans are boiling, chop onion, mince or grate garlic, chop peppers and herbs.

Heat oil in a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, over medium heat. Add onion, Cook 1 minute or until translucent. Add garlic and cook another minute.

Add peppers and herbs including thyme leaves and cook for 3-5 minutes until tender.

Add black eye peas, salt, freshly ground black pepper and cook about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, to prevent sticking. Add cumin, stir and remove from the heat. Test for salt and add more if desired.

For a complete vegetarian meal, eat alone, with roti or serve in a “hops” bread(rolls), or with freshly steamed jasmine or basmati rice. For a down home comfort meal, eat with cornbread…bbq chicken or steamed lobster….or with grilled salmon and sautéed baby spinach if your curves are important to you.

I look forward to sharing with you again soon. Hope you are enjoying my recipes so far! Don't be shy, write me and let me know. It really makes my day and motivates me to post. If you love my recipes or pics of food, "like" Cooking with Ria's Facebook page!

Lots of love,

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ria's Simple "Trini Christmas is de Best" Holiday Ham

When I thought I finally had a strong grasp on 40, life went ahead and dealt me another wild card which, if I didn't play right, would result in permanent despair. I did some introspection. I realized that somewhere hidden in the challenges of the present year, I have actually accomplished every goal and dream I've ever dreamt. The house by the beach, my family, the successful career, the exotic vacations, the dream Audi that waits in the parking lot for me everyday after a long day's work(sorry, but I really really love my car), and so much more. I have become the woman in my dreams(well almost, there is always room for improvement). I had to stop for a moment (like a week) and appreciate and be grateful. Just be grateful for all the good and right in my life.

I reminded myself that happiness is not only success or money or having a family it is being grateful for NOW. It's a decision I make to be happy despite the heartbreaks, disappointments, my possessions and achievements, or lack of. I will not and should not continue to depend on any person (OR THING) to be happy. Happiness is accepting the present for what it is and loving myself despite the fact that no human being is capable of loving me unconditionally, like they promise or will promise. Also, don't expect anyone to be perfect because I am not perfect either.

When life deals us blow after blow, we should accept the ephemeral defeats, scream, complain, cry, but rise, dust ourselves off and keep climbing. What we see as obstacles are meant to lead us on the path to the ideal life--our highest, best selves--and in my current situation, teach me the ultimate lesson in forgiveness. We must trust that the Universe is always working in our favor, aim for the ideal life, forgive it all and resolve to be happy.

That's my advice to you and myself as we close 2014 and get ready to start chapter 2015 in our lives. Not only have I begun to be more grateful, accepting, forgiving, loving, but cooking is and has always been part of my therapy. This recipe is one of my favorites and I am happy to share it with you today!

Growing up in my mother's house I never ate pork, or so I proclaimed, but come Christmas time, I ate ham and bread like there was no tomorrow. Many of the most popular Trini Christmas Songs include a line or two about pork or ham, which confirms our love and passion for the delicacy. Undoubtedly, homemade bread and ham is one of the reasons why Trini Christmas is de best. Black cake(rum/fruit cake) and sorrel are two other reasons, but I have already posted about that here and here.
For many years it's been our family tradition to make homemade bread and ham on Thanksgiving Eve or Christmas Eve. This guarantees that the morning after there is a quick breakfast on the table as I'm usually too busy preparing our Thanksgiving Feast or Cinnamon Buns for the kids and neighbors on Christmas morning. When the Canadians used to visit, we'd have lots of laughs during the ham and bread making process, then we'd indulge in bread straight out of the oven, slathered with butter, with slices of ham and laced with pepper sauce, until midnight.

I've used this recipe for almost two decades. Once I was inspired to alter the recipe but the results weren't as good. I learned that simple was and still is de best. 

Many have mentioned boiling their ham, I did that once and realized that if your ham is not the traditional salted Trinidadian ham, boiling is not required. This is a no fuss, simple recipe that does not require basting or peering into the oven every 15 minutes to check on it(more like once per hour), plus the ingredients are simple. Some things need to be simple so you can concentrate on the other non-simple things in your life…like making the bread to go with the ham, wrapping presents, detangling Christmas lights and putting up the tree…Actually this bread recipe is rather fun to make and equally delicious. You should attempt it, you won't regret it.

Don't let the number of cloves deter you from trying this recipe. I guarantee you that it's not overpowering. It just sounds like a lot.

My family always look forward to our holiday ham and personally I couldn't keep myself away from this ham. I ate it for breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. I even ate the pineapple. You know me.

I hope this recipe becomes a Tradition in your home too.

Ria's Holiday Ham

1 [5-7 pounds] smoked, bone-in fully cooked ham***
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup honey
1 tablespoon dijon or yellow mustard
1 can pineapple rings
100 cloves (If you don't care to count, ask any kid to do so or use a scant 1 ½ tablespoons)
Reserved pineapple juice

***7 pounds is ideal, but this recipe can be used for a ham that's up to 10 pounds. For this recipe, I used a 10 pound ham, because that's what the Hubbie brought home. 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

1. Remove ham from packaging and rinse well under running water. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Score the surface of the ham creating a diamond pattern and place cloves at each corner and/or center of the diamond.

3. In a medium bowl whisk honey, brown sugar and mustard and 1 tablespoon of the pineapple juice (You don't want it too runny).

4. Rub or brush mixture over ham.

5. Place ham in a baking pan or roasting pan and top with the pineapple rings(secure with toothpicks if they do not wish to stay put). If all the pineapple rings don't fit on the surface of the ham, place in the pan. You may pour a few tablespoons of the remaining pineapple juice in the pan too.

6. Place the ham in the oven and bake uncovered 15 minutes per pound. Baste every hour (or 30 mins if you like) for about 3 minutes continuously each time. This is called the "ham love-making process". Give it love to get love.  During the last 30 minutes baste every ten minutes to create a nice thick, fantastical, irresistible glaze. Remove from oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Remove pineapple slices and cloves. Sometimes I leave them on if I am not slicing it right away.

Slice thinly and serve with hot home-made bread slathered with butter and hot sauce aka Trini style peppah sauce. I usually strain the sauce from the bottom of the pan and drizzle it over the ham slices to kick it up another notch. It soaks back in over time and adds even more flavor. Need I say more??

For your listening pleasure while you bake your ham and bread....and because there is no Trini Christmas without good music:
[Don't forget to come back to this page!]

Trini Christmas Songs/Parang:
Trini Christmas is de best - Susan Macio
Bring out the ham - Marcia Miranda
Ah want a piece of Pork - Scrunter

You could also listen to Daisy Voisin, the Trini Queen of Parang, Lord Kitchener(Drink ah Rum), Baron(It's Christmas) or Machel Montano (Soca Santa)!

With love, 
and Christmas Blessings,

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