Most of you are probably familiar at least with what an empanada is – it is a folded pastry pocket with either a savory or sweet filling.  I discovered these while I was studying in Argentina and I love them.  Unfortunately, the only empanadas I have been able to find stateside here are nothing like the ones I grew to love while in Argentina.  Therefore, I was left to come up with my own.  I totally cheat and use crescent rolls.  Sue me.  Also, this recipe uses chicken, but these are equally delicious with ground beef.  The recipe originally calls for sliced green olives, but I omit those.  If they tickle your fancy, feel free to use them.

2 tubes crescent rolls
1 (rotisserie) chicken breast (from the deli), cooked and shredded
2 hard boiled eggs, diced
1 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, slightly beaten with 1 tsp. water (egg wash)

In a saute pan, melt butter; add onion and cook over medium-low heat until translucent and season with salt and pepper.  Add in chicken and stir to heat through.  Remove from heat and stir in paprika, cumin, cinnamon, and hardboiled eggs.  Spoon 1-2 tsp. of mixture into center of crescent roll triangle; fold over to create a pocket and press with a fork to seal the edges.  When all pockets have been formed, brush lightly with egg wash mixture.  Bake at 375 for roughly 20 minutes, until crusts are golden brown.  Serve hot.


Pumpkin chiffon cake

I am not a fan of pumpkin pie (*GASP*!), so I was excited to find this recipe.  I love pumpkin, but the custard of the pumpkin pie is just really too rich and heavy for my tastes.  I made this last year for Thanksgiving in lieu of a pie.  I was worried my dad would miss his usual pumpkin pie, but he loved this cake!  This gives you the same pumpkin flavor and spice from the traditional pie, but it’s a much lighter dessert option.

1 c. flour
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice (recipe follows)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 eggs, separated, plus 5 egg whites, at room temperature
1 c. canned pumpkin puree
confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, 3/4 c. sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and salt.  In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks and pumpkin puree.  Stir the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture until smooth.  Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the remaining 9 egg whites at medium speed until foamy, about 2 minutes.  With the machine on, gradually add the sugar, increase the speed to high, and whip until stiff but still moist, about another 2 minutes.   Fold the whipped egg whites into the pumpkin batter carefully in four parts – fold each portion of whites in until no white streaks remain, being careful not to deflate the egg whites.  Gently transfer batter to a greased and floured Bundt pan.  Bake until springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 55 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.  If using a tube pan, invert pan after 5 minutes and allow to cool 90 minutes before removing from pan.  Dust with confectioner’s sugar to serve.

Poppy-seed pull apart loaf

One of my favorite taste memories as a kid is this delicious bread loaf my grandmother’s best friend used to make and bring to get-togethers.  Of course, as a child, I didn’t like onions, so I tended to pick those out, but now, I love them!  I hope this savory side brings a note of warmth and love to your meals, too.

1 (large) loaf French bread
1 stick butter, softened
2 tsp. prepared (Dijon) mustard
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/4-1/2 cup minced onions
1-8 oz. package of sliced Swiss cheese

Begin by slicing a loaf of French bread, being careful to not slice all the way through.  Mix butter, mustard, poppy seeds, and onion in a small bowl and place a heaping teaspoon of the mixture in between each slice.  Place half of a Swiss cheese slice in between the slices and wrap in foil.  Bake on a sheet pan in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Serve hot.

I also found a recipe using these same flavors in a quick bread.  I have yet to try it, but I will post it here in case some of you get around to it before I do.

3 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/3 c. butter
1/3-1/2 c. onion, minced
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 c. milk
2 tsp. prepared mustard

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a food processor; pulse a few times to combine.  Cube butter and add to processor bowl and pulse until mixture is crumbly.  Add onions, Swiss cheese, poppy seeds, eggs, milk, and mustard, and pulse until just combined.  Spoon batter in a greased and floured 9×5 inch loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  If bread starts to brown too much, tent loosely with foil after 50 minutes.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan.

Grandma Jessie’s potatoes

This recipe is very simple and yet very delicious.  The leftovers are great reheated as is, or put into a quick frittata.  If you wanted to shortcut this recipe, you could use some chunky frozen hashbrowns.  I usually cook one medium potato per person, so we’ll do this as a four-serving recipe.  This recipe is special to me because it is one of the recipes from my husband’s family, something he grew up eating.  It is also one of the first recipes my mother-in-law shared with me.  Grandma Jessie was actually my husband’s great-grandmother, so this is a true heirloom recipe.

4 medium potatoes, peeled and largely diced
1 stick butter
2 Tbsp. (olive) oil
1-2 Tbsp. parsley flakes

Place potatoes into a saucepan and cover with cold water; cover with a lid.  Bring to a boil and remove lid – allow to cook for 20 minutes.  Drain potatoes and place into a baking dish.  Cube butter and sprinkle over potatoes.  Drizzle with oil; bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Toss with parsley flakes and serve hot.

Note: to infuse some extra flavor into the potatoes, use cold chicken stock instead of cold water to cook the potatoes.  This is a great alternative to mashed potatoes.  Enjoy!


Guest contribution: Easy peasy (but oh-so-tasty) meatballs

This is from the same friend – she is a vegetarian, but regularly cooks meat dishes for her husband and daughter.  She doesn’t eat the meatballs, but says she loves the sauce on cheese cubes!  Enjoy!

1 bag of frozen, pre-cooked meatballs
8 oz. grape jelly
1 jar Heinz chile sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar

Mix chili sauce, grape jelly, and brown sugar in a crock pot. Jelly wont mix in too well yet. Add meatballs and cook on high for 3 hours or until meatballs are done. Stir around a little and enjoy.

Note: My mom made some similar meatballs last year for a family get-together and used a small jar of cranberry sauce instead of the jelly.  She said it was delicious.  So now you really have two recipes!  And even though you use an entire jar of chile sauce, I have been assured that these aren’t spicy in the least.

Guest contribution: Mediterranean brisket

My friend mentioned making this in a post on facebook – I was sold.  I love Mediterranean flavors, and I really don’t know how to cook a good brisket, so when she agreed to share the recipe with me, I had to turn around and share it with you all!

1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 c. dry red wine
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup kalamata (or other black olives) pitted and chopped
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1-2 1/2 lb. piece flat-cut brisket, trimmed
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

Place tomatoes, wine, garlic, olives, and rosemary in crock of slow cooker and stir to combine.  Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper to season.  Place brisket on top of tomato mixture and spoon half of it over the meat to cover.  Cover and cook on high until meat is fork tender, 5-6 hours.

Carefully transfer brisket to a foil-lined pan and tent loosely with foil, allowing to rest 10 minutes.  Skim excess fat from sauce and season with salt and pepper.  Slice brisket against the grain; spoon some sauce over the meat and sprinkle with parsley.  Serve with remaining sauce on the side.

Note: to thicken the cooking juices left in your crock, mix 3 Tbsp. cornstarch in 1/2 c. cold water and stir into juices in crock.  Turn on high and cover.  After 15 minutes (enough time to let you meat rest and then slice it), you should have a thick and succulent sauce to serve with your meat!

Slow cooker beef stew

I kind of cheated on this one, lol.

1 lb. stew meat, trimmed
1 small onion, minced
3 small potatoes, diced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 box frozen peas
1 12 oz. beer (I used a RedHook ESB)
2 c. cold water
1 packet Lawry’s beef stew seasoning

In a 4 qt crock pot, put onions, potatoes, carrots, celery, and meat. And liquids and seasoning packet; stir well. Add peas, cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 4-6.