In our home, the Christmas festivities take place on the eve before the birth of Jesus, December 24th. We dress in our finest threads and cook our most special meals, but most importantly, we open our doors to neighbors, friends, and family. 

Yes, it’s a PARTY! 

The music plays loudly…you can hear laughter and glasses clinking in cheer. The kids are leaping, playing, and dancing while waiting anxiously to be sent to bed. Adults, of course, can’t wait to send them too and keep the party going. The food, the drinks, and the music never stop! It’s a party to celebrate the arrival of our savior and to be thankful for our blessings.

Naturally, it is the Latina in me that loves a PARRANDA, but in Austria, where my dad is from, things are a whole lot different. Children calmly wait for “Nikolaus”  and the “Christkind” or “Krampus” (yes, it’s a creepy story told to misbehaved kids) while adults seek peace and reflect on the years past and the birth of Jesus. Families gather around the candlelit tree (lit with REAL fire) and sing “Stille Nacht” a.k.a Silent Night and other Christmas Carols. As much as I love my Austrian family and heritage, the drums in my half Latin soul can’t stop beating! 

Since my mom (Venezuelan) was the one running the show while I was growing up, things were more upbeat, and everybody had to help in the kitchen. My dad roasted the pig while the rest of us made and tied up hallacas (Venezuelan tamales). Everybody had a task, no matter how young or old.

As much as I would love to elaborate on worldly Christmas traditions and foods passed down from generation to generation,  I will delight you with the ones that are personal to me and still prepared, from my kitchen to the world.

The PIG roast!

Like most Latin households, pork reigns at my dinner table. Smaller families roast a shoulder while others go all out by roasting the WHOLE PIG. Watch the video below!

 Tip: The first place in Pensacola I found my whole pig was at an awesome Asian market called Bien Dong on east Mobile Highway. They place orders on Tuesday’s so be sure to submit yours at least a week in advance. They will also roast the pig for you if you wish!



Don’t be afraid to buy a pork shoulder for practice throughout the year. It is inexpensive and feeds a lot of people. You will never get it wrong since the oven does most of the work. All you have to do is get your hands a bit dirty while marinating it and let it rest in the fridge for 1-3 nights.

Pernil / Pork Shoulder Marinade


Add the following ingredients to a food processor:

Salt: 1 tsp per pound

Black pepper: 1 tbsp

Oregano: 1 tsp per pound

Garlic cloves: 1-2 per pound

Vegetable or Canola oil: 1 cup for every 10 lbs

Sazón Goya: 2 envelopes (optional)

Lemon: 2 large, juiced 


  1. Pour your marinade into a long tip squeeze bottle (purchase at the Dollar Tree)
  2. Place your shoulder in a 3-inch deep tray that can easily be covered with saran. 
  3. Slice the skin into squares
  4. With a paring knife, poke a hole into the enter and squeeze marinade in. 
  5. Stuff the whole with  half a garlic clove to hold it down
  6. Repeat throughout the shoulder at least 6-10 times
  7. Rub the rest of your marinade around it, cover, and store in the fridge from 1-3 nights and set outside 1 hour before roasting
  8. Preheat oven to 350
  9. Remove saran wrap and place in your roasting pan.
  10. Add a beer for moisture and cover loosely with aluminum foil.
  11. Calculate roasting time at 30-35 minutes per pound
  12. Uncover and broil for 5 minutes until the skin bubbles up and becomes extra crunchy
  13. Remove from the oven and let rest for 30 minutes.
  14. Slice and place on a nice serving plate
  15. Deglaze the bottom of your roasting pan over your cooktop with a bottle of beer.
  16. Once the alcohol evaporates, drizzle some of the liquid over the meat and save some for the people who want extra. 


Since things look a bit different for the holidays this year, you should step out of your comfort zone and add any of the following dishes to your menu. I have linked all of them to their recipes for your reference. The desserts are very simple and will not disappoint! If you would rather have a taste of some of these delicacies and support some local MOMS, there are a few who make and sell them. They would appreciate and benefit greatly from your business. Those who know me are certain that there will be plenty of COQUITO going around from ‘my kitchen to the world!

Arroz con gandules / Pigeon peas Christmas rice 

Hallacas & Pasteles 

Pan de Jamon / Venezuelan Christmas Bread

Hen Salad / Ensalada de Gallina

Morcilla / Blood Sausage

Macaroni salad / Ensalada de Coditos

Flan de Coco

Torta Negra / Venezuelan Christmas Cake

Tembleque / Puertorican Coconut Pudding



Contact the following locations for a piece of Christmas delight:

Pasteles: Joe Caribe

Hallacas: Ruth De Piggioli  850-619-1663

Pan de Jamon + Flan/Quesillo: Mariana Zubillaga 407-780-2814

Christmas cake + other pastries: Darios Bake Shop  850-696-9192




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