This post is sponsored by JCPenney, but all opinions are my own. #SoWorthIt #HispanicHeritageMonth
I live in the 2nd biggest city occupied by Mexicans, 2nd only to Mexico City itself with a growing community of Hispanic immigrants. East L.A. is lovingly called “Little Mexico” by those that know this fact. The moment you set foot on to the 7.5 square miles that make up this culture filled community, you will know this to be true simply by its sights, sounds and the great smelling food that will embrace you like a welcoming hug!
Hispanic Heritage Month takes place from September 15th to October 15th in the United States. We celebrate the history, culture and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. I am fortunate to live in a city that is in tune with my own native country than any other in the United States. As a Mexican-American I relish on the richness of my culture that is at our finger tips and not just in pictures or videos. It is an honor to teach my children our culture with places that transports us to a Mexico that continues to live within our own community.
At almost every corner you will find murals, art and significant culture icons. I can walk down the street to a choice of tortillerias (toritilla factories) that sell fresh off the press flour and corn tortillas and masa (dough made from corn flour) for tamales (a Mexican dish made with seasoned meat -or- veggies and cheese -or- combination of these, wrapped in the masa lined corn husks then steamed). If this dish sounds complicated to make, don’t worry, there’s at least 3 amazing tamale places open all year long to bring them home by the dozen. You’ll also find them on the menus of quite a few restaurants here – I’m spoiled to say the least. Don’t get me started on the tacos and panaderias (Mexican sweet bread bakeries)… you will find a few dozen spread out all over East L.A. Each with their own recipes and style native to the state of Mexico that the owner(s) originate from. Talk about YUM!
To say you will find an array of food and color is an understatement. Add “Plaza del Mariachi“(a public square where you can hire a Mariachi (Mexican folk music group located on 1st Street & Bailey Street) and “El Mercadito Mexicano” (Mexican Artisan/Food Market located at 1st Street and Lorena Street) and it is like being transported to my family’s home town in La Barca, Jalisco – Mexico. The sounds of Mariachi dance in the wind at while at these places and the authentic Mexican artisan items for sale in the near by shops will have you believing you’re smack in the middle of Mexico.
For this reason, I take great pleasure in finding dinnerware that is bright, festive and in tune with the feel of Mexico. It adds to the presentation of our food and makes it extra special. JCPenney offers great pieces that will make every dish a work of art and offer designs at just about every price point! I have a store very close to us, only 4 exits away on my nearest freeway and has fast become my go-to spot for just about everything I need at home. This latest trip I found a treasure of lovely bowls and large cups perfect for traditional hot desserts such as Mexican hot chocolate and the family favorite – Arroz Con Leche (Mexican rice pudding)!
Aren’t these bowls and cups breathtaking? I found these at my store’s check out line in the Dinnerware Department. Here are links other favorite sets full of color and Latin culture I found on JCPenney’s site:
Pueblo Set International Tapas Set Mariachi Collection Serape Dinnerwae Set Tequila Sunrise Dinnerware Set
Each region of Mexico has a unique sazón (flavor/seasoning) to a traditional dish. Variations of the same dish can be found depending on the regions that some ingredients may or may not be available. As 1st Generation Mexican-American I have added my own twist – specifically in the difficulty level, ha! I also enjoy foods that are simpler in taste and keep the quantity of ingredients to a minimum. The following a simple recipe for my Arroz Con Leche:
- 1 Cup White Long Grain Rice
- 2 Cups of Water
- 1 1/2 Cups of Whole Milk
- 1 (4″ long) Cinnamon Sticks
- 1 (2 oz – Small) Piloncillo (Pylong, pure sugar with no additives – pyramid shape found in the Latin isle) If you can’t find it you can use regular sugar for taste at your preference.
- In large sauce pan place: Rice, Water, Cinnamon Stick and Piloncillo
- Bring to a boil then lower heat to simmer while covered until the most of the water is observed (Wet consistency but rice is soft. Check by taking a cooled down rice grain and is easily smashed between fingers.)
- On low heat add: The milk stirring continuously until all is well mixed and thickened
- Let it cool for 5-10 minutes
- Place left-overs in refrigerator. You can reheat in the microwave by adding a little bit of milk to keep moist.
*Substitute milk with coconut milk or with water for a non-dairy alternative.
**Substitute Piloncillo or sugar with a dietary sweetener of choice to your taste. Follow the “cooking” instructions of the sweetener or mix it in once it’s cool and ready to eat.
***You can add fresh raisins during the mixing stage – this is traditional – I prefer them without.
ENJOY your Arroz con Leche hot or cold. Can be eaten on its own or with your favorite Mexican sweet bread. My personal favorite is a birote (Mexican bread roll) dipped in to the milk while still hot and runny. I encourage you to be creative with this basic recipe. Make it creamier using condensed milk and carnation milk in addition to regular milk. Your imagination is the limit!
Do you have a favorite dish set or recipe? Share it in the comments!