Get to Know Community Cook Rachel Garcia

As a military wife, Community Cook Rachel Garcia has had the privilege of enjoying and re-creating tasty food from all over the U.S. We truly appreciate all she brings to the Taste of Home table.

From the first bite of Rachel’s Savory Pumpkin Quiche we knew that it would become a reader favorite. Read on to see what inspires her to create such unique recipes.

Taste of Home: Tell us a little about you. Where do you live, what do you do when you’re not cooking, and who’s in your family?

Rachel Garcia: I was beshert, or destined if you will, to marry my high school sweetheart, Jamie. He’s a retired Army officer. His life-long military career allowed us to travel all over the U.S. and we are truly lucky to have settled in Hawaii Kai on the island of Oahu. We have two boys, Josh (age 9) and Jacob (age 13), and two spoiled pups, Tank and Henry. When I’m not cooking at home, I am am spending my time as the Youth Religious Education Director at Temple Emanu-el in Honolulu. In my free time I teach youth culinary lessons and try to take full advantage of the beauty of Hawaii.

(Your Taste of Home family thanks Jamie for his service.)

TOH: How did your love of cooking get started? Was there someone in your life who taught you?

RG: I have happy memories of cooking with my mom, Phyllis, in Rochester, New York. Her zucchini bread is still top on my baking list. (Lemon extract is the secret ingredient!) My Aunt Susan also inspired me to be a great host with her many get-togethers. I mostly taught myself to cook as a newlywed at the young age of 21. I spent hours poring over cookbooks at the Fort Benning, Georgia, library.

(Be sure to check out these regional cookbooks. They highlight the best recipes from coast to coast!)

TOH: What inspires you to cook? 

RG: Cooking for others brings me joy. Over the years that has meant sharing our table with so many friends, old and new, around the country. From other military families to new neighbors, friends and even family. Not just during holidays and special occasions, but also deployments and military trainings. Cooking was a great distraction and stress outlet for me as a military spouse. It also turned out to be a great way to meet others. If you’re the gal bringing a freshly baked treat to a meetup, you instantly have friends!

TOH: What recipe do you get asked to make the most?

RG: I’d probably say my Matzo Chocolate Toffee Candy is one of my most requested recipes. I make it every Passover and folks always asks for the recipe. We throw a traditional Seder during the spring holiday, but I make the candy all year long.

(Rachel, send us your recipe! We can’t wait to try it.)

Rachel Garciacourtesy Rachel Garcia

TOH: As a military wife, you’ve lived all over the place! What are some of your favorite foods from the places you’ve lived across the U.S.?

RG: In every place we were stationed I have loved tasting and then re-creating the local cuisine. From beignets in Louisiana, peach dishes in Georgia, and bourbon cake in Kentucky to meat dishes in Colorado, and now coconut haupia and ahi poke here in Hawaii…we have moved 15 times over the years, so I have a lot of favorites from duty stations across the country.

(Hey Rachel! Here’s a challenge for you. See if you can try a signature dish from all 50 states. We bet you’ll find some new faves.)

TOH: What recipes do you look forward to most at the holidays? Either those you make yourself, or those you just look forward to eating?

RG: We love making traditional potato latkes for Hanukkah and hamantaschen cookies for Purim. We make enough to gift to others! If you’re not familiar with hamantaschen cookies, they are triangular treats made from a shortbread cookie dough that’s filled with poppy seeds or fruit jam.

TOH: What’s your desert-island meal? The one you could eat over and over again and never get tired of.

RG: My dad’s grilled steak, fresh sweet corn, traditional kishke and loganberry drink (it’s an upstate New York thing!)—and baked goods from Malek’s Bakery in Brighton, New York.

TOH: What do you enjoy most about being a Community Cook?

RG: Being able to share my love of cooking with others, no matter where we are stationed. I love the camaraderie between the Community Cooks too. We all truly inspire each other! VFE’s are like family!

TOH: That’s so true! If you think you’d enjoy being be part of the Community Cook family, take a minute to fill out the simple online application. We’re always looking for great home cooks who love Taste of Home recipes!

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Sue Stetzel
Sue has been working with Taste of Home since 2011. When she isn’t writing, she’s answering your burning cooking questions and working with our team of Community Cooks. She spends her free time cooking, crafting, and volunteering for various organizations in her home town.