A Love-Filled Recipe To Connect Generations of Foodies

by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Jenny Torres Sanchez is a full-time writer and former English teacher. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, but has lived on the border of two worlds her whole life. She is the author of Pura Belpré Author Honor Book We Are Not From HereThe Fall of InnocenceBecause of the SunDeath, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia; and The Downside of Being CharlieWith Lots of Love is her first picture book.

This year, With Lots of Love / Con Mucho Amor has the exciting honor of being the featured book for Jumpstart’s Read for the Record, the world’s largest shared reading experience taking place this year on October 26th. Be sure to check out readfortherecord.org for more information, fun activities, and event guides so you can join in the celebration on October 26th!

Below, Jenny shares how every bite of her Abuelito Ramon’s arroz con leche tastes like love, family, and heritage.

When I was writing With Lots of Love, some of the first images that came to mind were of Rocio, Abuela, and food. In her new room in the United States, Rocio remembers the spicy peppers, candies, and popsicles from Abuela’s store. She remembers the tortillas, buñuelos drizzled with honey, and the extra sweet coffee Abuela made just for her. She associates all these things with her dear Abuela and the special time they spent together before Rocio had to move to her new home.

Like Rocio, I’ve always associated food with family. I vividly remember seeing my mother in our dark wood-paneled kitchen in New York making tortillas, the back screen door open, the sun shining in, and the sweet earthy smell of corn filling our home. These tortillas, shaped by my mother’s gentle hands, were often accompanied by black beans I’d happily scoop up and eat. To me, each bite tasted like love. Each bite nourished my body, but also my heart and soul.

When my grandfather from Guatemala came to stay with us for one special year, he and I became the best of friends. Our relationship was very much like the one between Rocio and her Abuela. We would walk to the corner market together to buy fruits and vegetables. We’d wake before anyone else in the house, and in those quiet mornings, he patiently showed me how to crack eggs in a pan and make myself breakfast. Other times, I’d watch and help as he prepared a delicious arroz con leche. And often, we sat together like two old friends drinking coffee (extra sweet for me, just like Rocio) at the dining room table. Those are some of the best memories of my life that, even now, after so much distance and time have separated us, keep my Abuelo close to my heart.

When my husband and I married, my mother-in-law and I bonded over cooking. From her, I learned to make Mexican dishes that were special to his family. A dinner she taught me early on was flautas de pollo slathered with homemade salsa and sour cream, accompanied with pinto beans and fideos with potatoes. It’s one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever eaten, and it has become especially meaningful to my children. When we sit together to eat this meal, I think each of us feels the power of ancestry and the power of home.

With all these dishes, what resonates with me most is how they ground us in the present and in the past. With each bite, we feel like our ancestors sit with us at the table. Each dish connects one generation to another to another. And through this food, the love, strife, and lives lived before us continue.

Did I make you hungry with these memories? I hope so. And I hope they inspire you to make a special dish and share it with someone you love. Try my simple recipe for arroz con leche that tastes just as I remember my Abuelo’s tasting when I was little. I share it with you with lots of love.

Abuelito Ramon’s Arroz con Leche


  • 1 cup of white rice (rinsed and drained)
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cups of warm milk
  • ¾ cup of sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Ground cinnamon (optional)


In a large saucepan, bring rice, water, and cinnamon stick to a boil. Lower temperature and simmer over medium heat until most (but not all) of the water is evaporated. About 20 minutes.

Add milk, sugar, and pinch of salt. Bring to slight boil again and then simmer over low heat for an additional 20-25 minutes. Do not leave unattended as milk can boil over easily. If too much liquid evaporates, add more milk and continue cooking until rice is tender.

Serve with sprinkled cinnamon on top if desired. ¡Buen provecho!