To say that I have been a bit distracted over the past few week is an understatement. Between earthquakes, storms, parties and squeezing in that last bit of summer fun, I am just now coming up for air. I’ve got all sorts of deliciousness coming up in the next few weeks and well as some great giveaways (one later tonight). But in the meantime, I want to share one of my favorite distractions from this summer.
Pictured above is Lily, and she came all the way to New York City from Vancouver to be my special helper in the kitchen. Right from the start, she knew what she wanted to make – cookies, with chocolate and oatmeal. And with that demand…I mean request, I dusted off this recipe and we got to work.
I could have never imagined baking with Lily would turn out as rewarding as it did. There was so much eagerness, excitement, anticipation and willingness to help on her part that every now and then I had to pause to think about what I was doing. She wanted to learn about all the ingredients and taste along the way as much as she could. We literally sat at the table and watched the cookies cool down. Well, we tried to. The first couple we nibbled on were still warm, chewy and gooey, which is in my opinion the best way to enjoy a cookie.
So if you haven’t already, find a child and rediscover where food comes from and how it all comes together to form your favorite treats. You can do it for the love of food or for the love of a child’s smile.
For New Yorkers especially, the question of “What were you doing on September 11th?” is an extremely poignant one. We are proud of being from this amazing city, the capital of the world as many call it. There is pretty much nothing you can’t do here. And nothing we can’t recover from. So when two planes were crashed into the World Trade Center 10 years ago, we were not only shocked by the magnitude of the attack but baffled that something like that could happen here.
Of all places, I was in the subway on my way to class at NYU when both planes hit. I noticed a stillness in the air when I came out from underground but I was late, so I rushed into the school building. In my subway car of the R train, someone briefly mentioned a plane had hit the World Trade Center but bunch of us chuckled “That’s impossible.” It wasn’t until I got to class that I realized it was true.
Not knowing exactly what to do, our professor cancelled class. I went out onto Washington Square Park, right across from my school building to plot my next move and then I saw it. It was a perfect Fall day. Perfectly blue skies. Not a cloud in sight. And looking south – at the entrance to the park on LaGuardia Place – I saw the Towers engulfed in flames.
I called my mom from a nearby pay phone to ask if she had heard from my cousin Rosy who worked in the area. She was fine and figuring out a way to get home. I assured my mom I was safe and would call her as soon as I made it home. I hurried back to the park and within a few minutes, one tower collapsed. And then soon after the other one collapsed as well. I mouthed the words “Oh My God” but no sound came out. I stood there for a while in silence. I cried.
I quickly (and temporarily) recovered. “I need to get the hell out of here.” And then I realized this was a big deal. I heard a reporter from a nearby radio and say this was a terrorist attack. The city was on lock-down. Which meant (amongst other things) trains were not working. Home at that time was in Queens. As in over the bridge that was not nearby and then a long way from the bridge when I crossed over. I worked part-time at a nearby health club where there were tons of people that lived in Queens. So I went there. Together we would figure out a way to get home. And that we did. Together we walked and walked and walked. We laughed and cried and even shielded each other from what we thought were more attacks. And together we made it home.
It goes without say that whenever I think about 9/11 I go back to that day and am overcome by some horrible visions, some I can’t even bring myself to type. Then I step back and think about how those that made it out of that day alive came together. Even though I was born and raised here, the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life in New York wears me thin more than I care to admit. But on days like today, I am overcome by a sense of pride. I am so proud to call myself a New Yorker. So proud to be part of this resilient city. There really is no other place in the world like it. I’m not sure that I will ever live anywhere else. But if I do, I know I will be just fine. Because if you can make it here, you can indeed make it anywhere.
I won’t be able to watch all the programming dedicated to remembering what happened on 9/11. It’s a bit much for me. But I will take a moment to remember those that unlike me, did not make it out of the day alive. And another moment to tell those that are alive and dear to me how much I love them.
What will you do?
Hispanic Heritage Month starts next week and I’m getting an early start on the celebration over at Bren Hererra’s blog Flanboyant Eats with a bite-sized take on this family style meal I enjoy with my familia over and over again. Head on over to Bren’s blog to check out my guest post for these Steak and Plantain Crostini that are sure to spice up your next party.
What’s your favorite party food?
I’m keeping this post short and sweet mostly because I don’t want you to miss out on making this treat for yourselves.
Few things are easier than making bar desserts, which makes me a huge fan of them. Once you mix up your batter, simply dump it into a pan, bake, slice and serve. These Coconut Pecan Chocolate Chunk Bars are my favorite. But now these Raspberry Cornmeal Crumble Bars are giving them some fierce competition. Read more
I’ve got another savory pause for you all today. If you liked my last post for Dominican Seasoning , you are going to LOVE this one.
In my familia, nothing says celebration like Pernil, or Dominican Roast Pork Shoulder. Growing up, we made turkey on Thanksgiving only because we were in the US and that’s what we were “supposed to do”. But no one paid much attention to it because there was usually pernil right next to it, which, in my humble opinion,was and will always be a zillion times better. And while most associate it with the holidays, at my house, just about any excuse is a good one to indulge in this Latin delicacy.
Dominicans, Cubans and Puerto Ricans (or Caribbean Latinos) all have their own way of preparing pernil. On the islands, it is usually prepared as part of a whole pig roasting on a spit. Another method that I’m fascinated with is used by Cubans whereby they roast an entire pig inside a box called La Caja China. But no worries as this method uses your stove-top and the oven to give you a little piece of Latino heaven. Read more
We interrupt your regularly scheduled sweet programming for a special savory pause.
Many non-Latinos I have come across immediately associate Latin food with hot and spicy notes. And seem confused when I tell them I avoid spicy foods like the plague. (This chica can handle heat in so many ways, but not in her food.) That’s because Dominican food is another type of “spicy”. Its flavors are robust and packs an incredible flavor punch sans the heat of pepper, chiles or jalapenos.
At the essence of my familia’s cooking are some simple ingredients and flavors that when combined are anything but ordinary. It’s a variation of sofrito, the backbone of Latino cooking that makes it so finger licking delicious. In its most basic form, sofrito consists of garlic, vegetables and spices/herbs that are diced and sauteed in oil over medium heat and then added as the flavor base to a plethora of dishes – rice, meats, fish, stews and beans to name a few.
My familia’s version is simply called sazon (seasoning) because it is not cooked. Instead we take all the ingredients and process them down to a wet paste. The result is a marinade that has every flavor profile you would want to incorporate into a dish rolled into one. I’ll be the first to say that by itself, this doesn’t look very appealing. But as with most things in life, there is way more than beats the eye with this creation.
My mami has been putting this concoction together since as long as I have memory and recently, she came over to my apartment to help me figure out the right ingredient proportions to make it taste just like hers. Read more
While at a friend’s destination wedding a couple of weeks ago I recounted the story of my own wedding two years ago and the crazy events the preceded it. After those that heard story for the first time got over the initial shock, someone simply said , “That took a lot of guts!”
A woman proposing to a man and then hitting him over the head with a surprise wedding two days after the proposal does indeed fall into the ballsy category. But to me it’s simply a continuation of the life story I’m writing for myself – a life that is guided by no one else’s rules other than my own.
So on this – my second wedding anniversary – I want to thank my husband for coming along for the ride. And mostly importantly, for never getting in the way of my desire to live under the guidance of my own rule book. I hope the journey continues to be as fun for you as it has been for me.
Love ya to pieces hun :)
By themselves, there is nothing Latin about brownies. Many consider them quintessentially American. But add some dulce de leche to the mix and all that changes. And while it’s pretty safe to bet that you won’t find dulce de leche brownies in most Latin countries, you will definitely find them at my house because they are quintessentially ME – Latina Americana.
These brownies are a reflection my life as a Dominicana born and raised in New York City. It wasn’t until I entered high school and ventured out of the predominantly Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights that I started to feel caught between two worlds, where Spanish was spoken at home and English everywhere else. And this was further exasperated when I started college – when I was the only Latina in most of my classes. As is the case with many teens, I longed to leave the Heights when I was done with high school. But once in college, I longed for merengue, novelas, platanos and Dominican cake.
With time, intermingling my two worlds became easier. Not only did I figure out how to balance but I realized that I didn’t have to be one or the other. I am wholeheartedly without a doubt just as much Americana as I am Dominicana and I wear my two cultures as a badge of honor. Read more
If you have been following A Chica Bakes for some time, there’s a few things you know about me – I adore cookies, have a thing for brunch, have some adorable taste testers and have a long-lasting (never-ending) love affair with coconut. Oh – and one more thing – I have probably stated like a good 486 times that I do not like chocolate. (Make that now 487.)
Yet chocolate has not just one but a few permanent storage spots in my apartment (note that I didn’t say kitchen as I have a stash in the linen closet). And on any given day you can find it in multiple forms at my place – chips, chunks, powder and bars. I find myself baking with chocolate more and more and even turning into a bit of a chocolate snob. Only the best (like my favorite, Scharffen Berger) will go into my treats and this chica will settle for nothing less.
That’s because I’m in denial! No matter how many flavors, I have always been a die-hard vanilla girl. Just like my NKOTB crush will always and forever be Donnie. But there is no denying that chocolate is pretty delish and kinda sexy (just like that darn Jordan). Read more
Photos by Jeff Bachner for News
When Patty Lee of the NY Daily News (which happens to be in the Top 10 Newspapers in the US) reached out to me a few months back, she simply wanted to ask me a question for a news article she was working on. I was abroad and got back to her passed her deadline but asked her to keep me in mind for anything else she felt was relevant in the future.
She reached out to me again a few weeks ago and said she wanted to move forward with getting a piece about me in the paper. I always thought it would be something small, a quarter page at most. That was until she and her photographer were at my apartment during last weekend’s heatwave. She mentioned in passing that she was hoping the piece would be a full-page. I kept my cool but inside, I was freaking out and amongst other things, shooting myself in the head for not paying more attention to how my hair looked.
Then yesterday morning, at the crack, like kids waking up to open their presents on Christmas Day, I went to the bodega down the street from where I live and grabbed myself two copies of the Sunday Daily News. I didn’t even leave the store before I started shuffling through the paper. And to my surprise, my story was 3 PAGES LONG!!!! And to boot, my huge, full page photo was the cover of the NY Eats section. It’s a day later and I still can’t stop staring at it.
The story, which you can find here, could not have been written any better (thanks Patty), mostly because it highlighted my Latino culture which I hold so dear to my heart. I blog for a whole slew of reasons. And one of them, the most important to me, is to show the world that Latinas are more than just curves and sass. I strive to be a positive role model for all of the young, beautiful Latinas in my family, my sisters, nieces and cousins. I hope that my little corner of the Internet inspires them (and you) to reach for your dreams. And most of all, I hope it inspires mi familia to show the world how beautiful our people are.
Thank you Patty and thank you Daily News.