Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Beef Empanadas and Mexican Rice

I made these awhile back for a mom who was bring home a new baby and her family. I toned things down a bit and made them more on the mild side but if you like it a little spicy follow the recipe as stated.

The filling for the empanadas is very tasty. You could probably add corn and or black beans in the filling as well if you wanted something more than just the beef. The recipe I kind of was following said to use frozen pizza dough for the empanadas but I decided to use my Grandma's pie crust recipe instead and next time I will probably make a traditional empananda dough which is just like a pie crust but has a few added things like eggs. These are also great to put in the freezer and would make a great snack for kids. Beats junk food like pizza rolls any day.

The rice is really good. It is moist and my favorite part is that you cook it in a dutch oven. So you just pop it in the oven and forget about it for a little while.

All that is missing is a cold cerveza! Feel like Mexican now?

So I made a really big batch so I'm not quite sure how many this will make. It will depend on how big you make your empanadas but you should get about 10. You may need to make a second batch of dough. Left overs of filling and dough can be frozen.


For the empanada filling
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (or turkey)
  • 1 medium sized onion diced finely
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 gloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup salsa verde
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, fresh or canned
  • about 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese (add as much or as little as you like)
For the empanada dough

Pie Crust recipe from Grandma de Vries
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup crisco
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ice water (2-4 tablespoons)
  • 1 egg, beaten for egg wash
For the Mexican rice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped seeded jalapenos (about 2 extra-large jalapenos)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 1/2 cups long-grain white rice (I used short)
  • 2 1/2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt, depending on the saltiness of the broth
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional


1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef to pan; cook until browned, stirring to crumble. Add onion and next 6 ingredients (through garlic) to pan; cook 4 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender, stirring mixture occasionally. Stir in tomatoes and salsa and turn to low and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and chill so you can handle the filling.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

3. Heat the olive oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, and jalapenos and cook, stirring, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until opaque and nutty in aroma, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, salt, and spices. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and transfer to the oven. Bake until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes.

4. While the rice is cooking start the dough. In a mixing bowl add flour and salt and cut in the crisco. Add just enough ice cold water for the dough to come together. Divide the dough in 2 equal parts and roll out to about 1/8" thick. Using a 4" diameter circle cookie cutter cut out as many as you can and repeat with the other half of the dough. You can also use a pizza cutter and just cut the dough into squares. Working with one round at a time, put a heaping spoonful of the beef mixture on one side of dough. Top with cheese; fold dough over beef mixture, and press edges together with fingers or a fork to seal. You may need to put a little water on the dough to get a good seal. Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and coat empanadas with egg wash. Repeat procedure with remaining dough and beef mixture. When the rice is done remove from oven keeping the lid on so it stays warm and increase the oven temperature to 425° F. Bake for 12 minutes or until browned. Serve with sour cream or topping of your choice. Fluff the rice with a fork and stir in cilantro.

Empanada filling recipe adapted from Tex-Mex Calzones from the March 2009 Issue of Cooking Light Magazine.

Mexican rice adapted from Emeril Lagasse

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bill's Big Carrot Cake...or Cupcake

By popular demand, here is the carrot cake recipe. I recently made this both in the cake and cupcake form. I brought the cake version to my husband's fire house for an Easter gathering. It was such a hit that I decided to make cupcakes to bring to church. complaints. I have to say the cake is much less time consuming and the cupcakes are a little hard to get out of the tins because they tend to flow over if you fill they pretty full. Maybe next time I will spray the tops of the baking tins with cooking spray.

This recipe is from an awesome book my brother got me for Christmas, Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. I highly recommend this book and it is so popular that food bloggers have started Tuesdays with Dorie where a new recipe from the book is chosen and then is made by tons of blog followers. Photos of their creations are then shared. I seriously have contemplated joining in the fun but then I would have to be in the gym even more than I already am so I think I will have to pass.


For the cake/cupcakes
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries (I used cranberries and plumped them for a few minutes in hot water and a little Grand Marnier)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
For the frosting
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pound (3 3/4 cups) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional, I did not use)
Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted shredded coconut, for topping (optional)



Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides and tap out the excess or line cupcake pans with liners (makes 24 cupcakes).

Whisk together the flour and other dry ingredients. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut and raisins (cranberries).

Working with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar and oil together on medium until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix in the chunky carrot mixture. Divide the batter among the baking pans or cupcake tins.

Bake for 40-50 (less for cupcakes), until and knife or toothpick comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and let cool for 5 minutes then invert and cool to room temperature.


Working with a stand mixer filled with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract. If you wish, add coconut to half of the frosting.


For cupcakes, when completely cool pipe large swirls of the frosting onto the cupcakes with a pastry bag.

For the cake, put one layer top side up on a cake plate protected by strips of wax paper. Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake top side down, and frost again. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top-and sides, if you wish- of the cake. Finish the top by adding swirls in the frosting or top with toasted nuts and coconut. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.

Recipe from Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What's in your Pascha Basket?

This week is Holy week for Orthodox Christians and this Sunday is Easter or also called Pascha which marks the end of Great Lent. Orthodox or Eastern Easter does not fall on the same date as Western Easter because the Western Church (Catholics, Protestants, etc.) use the Gregorian Calender to calculate the date of Easter and the Eastern Church (Eastern Orthodox) use the Julian Calendar. Countries like Russia and Greece where the majority of Christians are Orthodox all celebrate Easter based on the Julian Calendar as well as many others all over the world.

It is a tradition in the Orthodox Church to bring a basket filled with all the foods which we have been abstaining from during Great Lent. The basket is brought to church on Easter night where the baskets are all blessed by the priest and after the midnight Paschal Liturgy, we all gather together and feast on all the goodies.

There are several traditional things that go into a Pascha basket which you can find here. My family and I usually do a mix of the traditional and untraditional. This year I am including things like, cheese, chocolate milk (my favorite!), prosciutto, milk chocolate, olive oil, eggs, and I made a traditional Pascha bread. I am very much looking forward to Pascha!

Happy Easter. Christ is Risen!!

Sesame Noodles

I wanted something quick, flavorful and starchy for dinner...sesame noodles fit the bill. This dish is great chilled or at room temperature but for presentation sake, I suggest serving as soon as you dress the noodles.


4-6 servings

For peanut dressing
  • 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons sesame paste (AKA Tahini)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
For noodles
  • 3/4 lb dried buckwheat soba nooodles (dried spaghetti will work in a pinch)
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
  • 6 ounces snow peas, steamed
  • 1 cup firm or extra-firm tofu, pressed, cooked, and cubed*
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted


Puree dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth, about 2 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl.

Cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling water until tender. Drain in a colander, then rinse well under cold water.

Add pasta, scallions, bell pepper, steamed snow peas and tofu to dressing, tossing to combine. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

* This is my new favorite way to cook tofu. My sister got me the Cuisinart Griddler for a wedding present and I love it for many reasons but I really love how it cooks tofu. I put the flat griddle plates on and cook the tofu like you would a panini. It works great, no need to press the tofu before cooking which saves time and an extra step. I should add however, I eat soy in extreme moderation. I don't like much soy to begin with so I stick to soy sauce and tofu occasionally but when you start reading food they are stuffing soy into everything these days. I will probably devote a whole post on this at a later time but more and more research like this article The Evidence Against Soy is proving that soy can have many health risks. But as with so many health related topics wait 15 minutes and someone will have a different opinion so in the mean time, soy in moderation for me.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bulgur Salad

Bulgur is one of those grains I often forget about and I really should not. Over the last few years I have started cooking almost solely with whole grains (occasionally I just have to have some white sticky rice although) and the only down side is that they take a long time to cook. I'm always calling Ryan asking him to put on the brown rice before I get home from work so we can eat at a decent hour. I forget how quickly bulgur takes to cook. It is great for when you are in a time crunch and tastes great especially in this salad. The cranberries and lemon gives this salad a fresh twist that is perfect for spring.


4-6 servings

  • 2 cups bulgur
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2-3 spring onions
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 small hand full fresh flat leaf parsley
  • zest of one lemon and juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper


Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden brown color, but be careful not to burn them. Once done, remove from skillet and set aside.

Thinly slice the spring onions and chop the dried cranberries. In a large saucepan add the olive oil and saute the spring onions over medium heat until soft.

Add the vegetable stock to the saucepan and bring to a boil, then add the bulgur and let boil for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cranberries and then remove from heat and let stand until the bulgur is soft (10 to 15 minutes). Drain excessive stock if necessary.

Grate the zest of one lemon and the juice of half that lemon into the saucepan, add the toasted pine nuts and parsley. Use a fork to fluff the bulgur until everything is mixed well. Season to taste with additional sea salt and pepper. Enjoy warm, room temperature or cold.

Recipe from me
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