Books Are Sometimes Windows…

Books are sometimes windows…

Every now and then I type my novel’s title into a web browser and see what comes up. Today, Evangelina Takes Flight produced the below from the New Mexico Department of Public Education.

Seeing my name on the same list as Hugo, Orwell, Dickens, Urrea, Halse Anderson (a current day favorite of mine) to name a few, makes my heart sing. To have educators appreciate and promote the Mexican-American experience and history portrayed in Evangelina’s story, well, it’s like a dream, a very good dream. Of course I don’t equate my work to Orwell or Hugo or any of the other authors on the list, but this honor feels special nonetheless. Thank you to Arte Público Press for taking a chance on me.

I love the quote by Rudine Sims Bishop that starts with, “Books are sometimes windows…”

Too see the full list, click on this link.

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Past Racial Violence Shaped Today’s Inequities

Texas Rangers

This CNN article describes multiple instances of racial violence in the US resulting in property loss, economic loss and the murder of innocent citizens, including the massacre at Porvenir, Texas, on January 28, 1918, in which Texas Rangers, US Cavalry soldiers and local ranchers killed 15 unarmed Mexican-American boys and men, ages 16-72. The Rangers were sent to the area to stop banditry after the Brite Ranch raid. Despite having no evidence that the Porvenir villagers were involved in thefts or the killings of ranchers, the Rangers separated 15 men and boys from the rest of the village and shot them on a nearby hill. They shot them so many times “they blew them to bits,” said one victim’s granddaughter. Victims were buried in a mass grave because they couldn’t tell which body part belonged to whom.

You can watch a 3-minute video HERE with an overview of that horrific day.

The CNN piece covers much more than Porvenir, and it’s worth reading, contemplating and discussing.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1937

“In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice…the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, October 2, 1937
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Another Perfect for Summer Recipe–Mexican Beef Skillet with Tomatoes and Zucchini

I’ve had some requests to post more of my recipes and am happy to oblige! Many of my recipes have a Mexican flair to them, because, well, I’m Mexican, and I love the combination of herbs and spices used in Mexican food. This recipe has very few carbs. BONUS!

Serves 4.


  • Splash olive oil
  • *1/2 -1 lb top cut of beef for tenderness and flavor, e.g. beef tenderloin, New York strip (top loin), chopped into bite-size chunks
    • (You can use a cheaper cut of beef but the result may be meat that’s tougher to chew. Extra lean ground beef would also work.)
  • 1 red onion, sliced in medium-width wedges
  • 2 large red tomatoes, roughly chopped or 1 c cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 t ground cumin
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes or 1/2 jalapeño, de-veined and de-seeded, chopped finely
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 t ground pepper
  • 1 green zucchini, chopped
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped
  • 1 orange or green pepper, chopped
  • fist-full of thoroughly washed cilantro, chopped (optional)


Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into a large, non-stick skillet, heat on medium-high until oil looks glossy and easily slides around the bottom of the pan.

Add beef and red onion, stir until onion begins to soften and beef begins to brown.

Add tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes (or jalapeño) and spices, stir until mixture is well-coated.

Add zucchini, squash and pepper. Saute until vegetables begin to soften.

Turn off heat.

Cover pan with a lid and let rest for 3-5 minutes (any longer and the veggies will get too soft).

Stir in cilantro and serve.

Top with a dollop of sour cream if desired.

This would be great served with rice cooked in chicken stock, black beans or a green salad with avocado-lime salad dressing.

*The reason I give a range for the amount of beef is so that you can decide how much beef/veggie ratio you want. It’s a personal choice!

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Gazpacho with Fresh Herbs–Perfect for Summer

photo: Culinary Hill

With summer coming, I thought I’d try to make my first-ever gazpacho. When I told my daughter what I was making (cold tomato soup), she wrinkled her nose and shook her head. You know the look. Well, it came out delicious, and it’s made from nothing but fresh, whole ingredients. If you’ve never tried gazpacho before and you like tomatoes, now is the time!

Serves 4.


4 red-ripe large beefsteak tomatoes, diced (or 7-8 plum tomatoes)

1 whole English cucumber with the skin on, diced (or 1 regular cucumber with half the skin peeled off)

1 yellow pepper, diced

1/4 c. red or white wine vinegar

1/4 c. extra light olive oil or avocado oil

1/2 c. mixed fresh herbs, e.g. basil, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, chives

1/2 t. ground cumin

2 cloves fresh garlic (or 1 t. of the jarred stuff)

1/8 – 1/4 t. red chili pepper flakes or to taste

1 t salt (I prefer pink Himalayan salt)

fresh ground pepper to taste


Place all ingredients in a blender and pulverize until the mixture is as smooth as you can get it. Add additional salt/pepper/vinegar to taste.


Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of fresh herbs.

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Mexican Chocolate Mousse Bars

Like chocolate mousse bars only better.

For these, I started with a recipe for chocolate mousse bars and gave them a Mexican twist by adding cinnamon, Mexican vanilla and a bit of Kahlua. Yum!

Why Mexican vanilla? Because, my friends, it’s WAAAYYY better than regular vanilla. I use it in all my baking, and it has a much more distinctive smell and deeper taste. It’s hard to describe, but, trust me on this–you’ll never go back once you start using it in your baking. You can easily find it on the web, but make sure to read the reviews. There are imitators out there who sell Mexican vanilla but watered down or with added ingredients you don’t want.


For the Crust:

  • 18 whole graham crackers (about 9 1/2 ounces)
  • 8 tablespoons/113 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

For the Filling:

  • 1 pound/4 cups semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (or use good quality chips)
  • 3 cups cold heavy cream (separated), plus more for serving
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua
  • 1 tablespoon pure Mexican vanilla extract
  • Whipped cream


  1. Make the crust: Line a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides. In a food processor, or in a resealable plastic bag, crush the graham crackers until you have fine crumbs (but stop before you have dust). You should have about 2 1/4 cups. A food processor works best to get a finer, more even crumb. Transfer the crumbs to a medium bowl. Add the butter, sugar, cinnamon and salt and stir until evenly moistened. Tip the crumbs into the prepared pan and press them down into an even layer on the bottom. Transfer to the freezer while you prepare the filling.
  2. Make the filling: Set the chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup cream, espresso powder and salt until hot but not boiling. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and let it stand for 2 minutes. Add the Mexican vanilla and Kahlua and whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool completely.
  3. In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining 2 cups heavy cream until you have stiff peaks. Add the chocolate mixture and gently fold to combine. Pour the mixture over the prepared crust, and spread it out into an even layer. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 2 hours. To serve, cut the two edges without parchment free with a sharp knife then use the parchment overhang to transfer the bar to a cutting board. Cut into squares and serve with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream.
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Asian American K-12 Tools & Information

One of the coolest webpages I’ve seen in recent memory, and a much needed one. Click on the image to check out the site with its varied and easy to use resources.

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Chances in Disguise and the Blurb!

My 2nd young adult historical fiction, the sequel to Evangelina Takes Flight, now has an official title: Chances in Disguise (which happens to be the title I gave it early on in the writing process).

And here’s the 1-paragraph blurb:

In the spring of 1915, seventeen-year-old medically trained Evangelina de León is called upon to deliver a baby, but a physician from a neighboring town arrives and throws her out. The next day, she is arrested for the woman’s death and her historic fight for racial justice begins.

Now, onto round 2 of copy editing, and soon, cover art!

Publication date: October 31, 2021

Publisher: Arte Público Press

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RECIPE: Mexican Style Roast Potatoes (and a book update!)

Okay, the title here is a bit misleading because I’m going to start with the book update.

The publication date for the Evangelina Takes Flight sequel is October 31, 2021. Woo hoo! It’s now in the copy editing phase (3 separate rounds). The title will be finalized in May and the blurb (think back of book) will be, also. Things are heating up, and I can’t wait to see it and hold it in my hands.

And now for the RECIPE:

I love roasting potatoes this way now – I stole the idea from a recipe for Greek potatoes and applied it to my own Mexican repertoire.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.


3 lbs Yukon gold potatoes

1/3 C chicken broth

1/3 C fresh lime juice

1/4 C good light olive oil (golden, not green in color)

1 1/2 t salt

1 t fresh ground pepper

1 T toasted cumin seeds (or use 1 t ground cumin if you must)

1 t garlic powder

1/4 t dried red chili flakes

1/4 c finely chopped cilantro

1/4 c chopped chives


If using cumin seeds, set in small skillet on medium-high heat and stir until browned and fragrant. Set aside.

Wash and cut each potato in half lengthwise then in half again crosswise.

Put chicken broth, lime juice and olive oil in rimmed baking sheet.

If using toasted cumin seeds, grind in spice grinder or use a mortar and pestle. Sprinkle over potatoes in pan.

Mix salt, pepper, garlic powder and chili flakes together. If using ground cumin, add it to the salt mixture.

Sprinkle spices over the potatoes. Toss potatoes and spices together in pan ensuring all the potatoes get coated with the broth/oil.

Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and crispy on top, flipping each potato over half way through. If they become fork tender before they’re crispy, run them through the broiler.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with cilantro and chives. Serve!

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Evangelina Takes Flight Sequel Coming Fall 2021 With an Afterword by John Morán González


The Evangelina Takes Flight sequel is set for publication by Arte Público Press–Piñata Books, in fall 2021.

You may wonder why I refer to it as the “Evangelina Takes Flight Sequel.”

When an author sells their manuscript to a traditional publisher (as opposed to a self-publication uploaded on a platform such as Amazon), the ownership of the work transfers to the publisher. While I have a working title, Chances in Disguise, the publisher, with my input, will determine the final title, format and cover art.

For this book, an afterword will follow, providing the true historical background and relevance to what’s happening in our world today. I say, “true” because the racial violence portrayed in 1910s Texas has not been fully acknowledged in history books or elsewhere.

I am thrilled to announce John Morán González, Ph.D. as the author of the afterword. Dr. González is the co-founder of the Refusing to Forget non-profit organization, a Frank Dobie Regents Professor of American and English and Director of the Center for Mexican American Studies, the University of Texas at Austin. I am deeply honored that he agreed to contribute.

A snippet of the afterword follows:

Chances in Disguise operates at two distinct but related levels. The first is to restore to public knowledge a critical history of anti-Mexican violence not otherwise taught in the national educational system. The second is to urge a strong, collective response from today’s readers to take up the challenge of ensuring justice for all, and not just for the privileged few.

A role model in this effort, Evangelina is indeed a strong, feminist hero, as she, together with her community, transforms the challenge of racial and gendered injustice by the legal system into a chance, in disguise, to strive for a better future.

revised 2.9.21 1:40 pm PST


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I’m Lost. Again. And Don’t Tell Me I Should Look at a Map!

Okay, this post has nothing to do with my author life. It DOES have to do with a little known psychological condition from which I suffer. It’s called: “ABSOLUTELY-NO-DAMN-SENSE-OF-DIRECTION-SYNDROME,” and to me, it’s as real as the bad taste you get when drinking milk after brushing your teeth. (Trust me, don’t do it!)

I am not kidding folks. I am heinously bad at knowing where I am going. For example:

  • I walk out of a familiar department store bathroom and ponder which direction to turn. “Do I go left? Right?” Next thing I know, I am looking at mattresses and draperies, asking an employee how to get to the shoe department, where I came from in the first place. At least my hands are clean.
  • I cannot drive anywhere further than ten miles from home without the GPS. And these are places I have been to MANY times. “Which exit do I take?” “Which way do I turn when I get to the light?” “Do I recognize this gas station? I think so… Then again, maybe I don’t.” “Yeah! This school looks familiar. I’ve driven past this school before. Haven’t I?” My breath becomes choppy, a light sweat covers my forehead and upper lip, my mouth’s dried out, and I need to pee. And guess what? Once I’ve gotten there, I have no freakin’ idea how to get back. I cannot retrace my steps to save my life!
  • Being tied to my chair and forced to watch CATS on the big screen a thousand times over would be better than my experiences with…(imagine scary sounding music)… parking garages. “Which floor did I park on?” “Should I push the 1 for the first floor or the L for Lobby? OMG! Which one is it? 1 or L? Oh, right! I took a picture on my phone of the floor number. I even took a picture of the parking space number. But oh, holy mother of the Big Compass in the Sky, which way do I go when the elevator door opens?”
  • Looking over a sea of cars in large outdoor parking lots is the equivalent of having my fingernails pulled out with pliers. “Where did I park? Oh, there’s a tree. Yippee! I parked by a tree! But, wait. There’s another tree. Hell’s bells–there are three, four, five, six trees! Stupid trees!”
  • Zoos! “I found my way to the cheetahs alright, but I’ve been wandering around for an hour now looking for the exit, and I’m at the penguin sanctuary for the fourth time.” Nightfall is setting in. Vultures are circling overhead.
  • Recently, my father, who lives in another city, sat in the passenger seat when I drove him to the local Costco, and of course, he had to direct me, one step at a time. The next day, my mother asked me to go back and return something, and it was like I’d never been there before. My brain must have gotten wiped while I was sleeping by international bad guys named Big Dog and Igor with yellow teeth and cheap pinstriped suits.
  • Maps! Eeeewwww! Nasty! Evil! Just looking at a map makes my blood pressure soar. I swear that maps around the world have been conspiring against me to tangle my brain matter into knots like an old necklace that’s been lost in a drawer for a decade. Please, I beg of you, don’t ever ask me to find something on a map!

Thank goodness I have patient friends and family who understand that I’m suffering from this terrible condition and help me out when we’re together.

IMPORTANT: If I’m alone and late for something, I’m probably wandering around a parking lot, losing hope of ever seeing my loved ones again, sleeping on the ground in some corner by a janitorial supply closet and wasting away but not before cursing the Big Compass in the Sky.

The journal Neuropsychologia calls it “developmental topographic disorientation.” I like ABSOUTELY-NO-DAMN-SENSE-OF-DIRECTION-SYNDROME” better. That describes me to a “T.”

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