Beef Empanadas

beef empanadas

Jonathan and I went to a Spanish tapas bar for our date night last week and it was delicious!  I love grazing on my dinner like cattle…truly I do, and tapas give me an excuse to try a bit of everything. I’ve been scheming ways to make some at home every day since.  While our schedules don’t currently allow for hosting a tapas party, I knew I needed to make something at home to satisfy my urges.

Enter stage right: beef empanadas.

empanada filling

I tend to shy away from making pastries or frying food at home because it can be a lot of work.  However, I happened to have a few pie crusts hanging out in my freezer that needed love and attention.  You can easily use Pillsbury crescent rolls if you want to cut out a few steps and save time.  As for the frying?  Well, you can bake these puppies instead, but why would you do that to yourself?


These beef empanadas are packed with flavor and have a perfect flaky and buttery crust.  I love that they are only three bites, which makes me feel a little better about eating fried foods.  So if I’m doing my math right, eating 6 of them is practically a health food.  Math is hard!

Beef Empanadas

Makes approximately 20 empanadas with beef filling to spare!

  • 2 tsp. bacon grease (optional)
  • 1/2 jalapeño minced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • salt and pepper to taste (Please taste it!  Salt and pepper are the key to tasty meat! I used about 1/4 tsp. of each.)
  • 3 Tbsp cilantro roughly chopped
  • 1/4 c. shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • No Excuses Pie Crust or Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  • 1 egg, beaten for egg wash
  • approximately 20 oz. frying oil such as Canola
  1. In a skillet over medium heat, sauté onions, jalapeño, and garlic in bacon grease (or olive oil) for 2 minutes or until slightly soft.
  2. Add beef and cook until brown, breaking it up into tiny bits.  Drain fat from pan and set back on heat.
  3. Mix in the tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper.  Taste the beef mixture and add more seasonings as you see fit.
  4. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. In a heavy-bottomed pot or a dutch oven, heat fry oil until 375 degrees.  Give it at least 10 minutes over medium heat to come to temperature.  Adjust until you get to 375 degrees.
  6. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it’s approximately 1/8 of an inch thick.  Use a large cookie cutter or whatever tool you have on hand (I used an empty 28 oz. can of pumpkin as an empanada cutter) to cut circles out of the dough.
  7. Dip your finger in the beaten egg and spread it around the outer edge of each empanada.  This is the “glue” for the dough and prevents the empanadas from bursting open in the fry oil.
  8. Place approximately 2 tsp. meat mixture, 1 tsp. cheese, and a pinch of cilantro into the center of each empanada.
  9. Gently fold the dough over the filling and crimp the edges together.  You can use a fork or your fancy fingers to crimp it closed.
  10. Fry empanadas three at a time, flipping after about 2 minutes…just keep your eyes on it…when it’s golden brown, it’s ready to flip.
  11. Use a slotted spoon to move the empanadas to a plate with a paper towel to allow it to drain off excess grease and cool.
  12. Enjoy!

Notes on this recipe: I’ve been saving bacon grease in a mason jar in my fridge lately.  It feels a little Howard Hughes-esque, but my life has significantly improved now that I have bacon grease on hand for sautéing vegetables and other things.  If you happen to keep a jar of the stuff (you are a champion), then feel free to use it to sauté the onions, but you could easily substitute olive oil.

You should buy tortillas to go with this recipe because you will have extra filling, but lucky for you, the filling tastes great as tacos too!

empanada cutter

beef filling

empanada collage

One more little note…crimping the edges of empanadas, and any pies for that matter, is my kryptonite.  I would like to show you my two trial run empanadas just to stay humble:


#FAIL They still tasted damn good.

Do not be like me.  Be delicate and graceful and an empanada savant.

Do not attempt to glue the rips in the dough together with more dough.  Your food will look like a burn victim and it will appetize no one.

There’s a solid chance I rolled out the dough too thin.  Don’t do that.

If you are like me (bless you!), don’t worry.  Hot fry oil cures all ails.  Pop those bad boys in their little jacuzzi until golden brown!

frying empanadas

Can you hear them sizzling?

I already miss them.  Their poor little lives were cut too short.  Until we meet again, my fried friends.


OKMH: Houston Edition


You might remember previous posts about my One Kitchen Many Hearts friends…you know, the ones who mail each other boxes filled with goodies every other month?  Well, we all haphazardly met through our blogs and decided it was kismet and became friends.  In February, we met in person at Jeanne (Inside NanaBread’s Head) lovely home in Houston, TX!

Jeanne made us all feel welcome with hand-crafted monogrammed pillows (see tutorial here), individual coasters, and lip balm.

jeanne party favors

She and her husband, “The Complete Package”, cooked feasts for us for every meal.  I didn’t take a single food picture because I was too busy shoving my face full of deliciousness.  None of my pants fit by the end of the weekend, but that’s precisely how it should be.  Noteworthy favorites: homemade horchata, peach cobbler, ranch beans, smoked brisket, french toast waffles, fried pies, Mexican martinis, and biscuits and gravy.

rental van

After a huge debacle with Thrifty rental company (I will never use them again), we finally rented a molester van from Avis.  I was able to drive it and my pal, Kevin the Donkey, all around Houston for the weekend.

driving kevin

Besides feasting, we also chatted late into the night, shopped until we dropped, laughed until we cried, and hung out with real donkeys!  I’ll show the rest of the weekend in pictures before this post turns into a TLDR post.

photo 1 copy

The donkeys who became our fast friends…one was pregnant!

photo 2 copy

Sipping beers with the pineapple farm and tiki torches. This beer was phenomenal and I need to source it somewhere in California.

photo 2

Buc-ee’s the best place to source all things Texas. I found a lovely American flag beer koozie here and I cannot wait to break it out at the cabin this summer.

photo 3 copy

Jeanne taught us how to make fried hand pies because she is the best woman in the world. #grateful #pieislife #shegetsme

photo 3

These were my traveling partners in crime! They were all so wonderful. I don’t know how we lucked out and found such a normal and fun group of women from across the US.

photo 5

One of many antique/kitchy shops we visited in Houston. Al Porccino, the metal flying pig, was acquired at this particular stop.

photo 5

Holding hands and frolicking like weirdos. Perfectly choreographed by our sorority representatives.

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A creepy prom photo with Kevin. If you look closely, you can see Kevin is crying because we were leaving that day.

On top of the entire weekend of festivities, we were also able to exchange our gifts in person.  Kirsten (Comfortably Domestic) got me such wonderful treats.  Thank you, Kir!



She got me a book for my flight, Eden Close, which looks riveting. Isn’t the detail on that scarf beautiful? The James Dean purse cracks me up and the necklace is so fun! She did a great job finding things I will cherish.


Obviously no gift is complete without a hilarious pug magnet. hahaha

I had an absolute blast and I cannot wait for our OKMH: 2015 reunion.  A year is so long to wait!

Thank you to Jeanne and The Complete Package for letting 7 women descend upon your house!  Thank you to Kirsten for the wonderful gifts!  Thank you to Allison, Kat, Beka, and Megan for being such wonderful travel companions!  And thank you to Katie for meeting us in Brenham for a day of fun!  I seriously loved every minute of our adventure.


LA vs. Minneapolis – Major Differences

Hello all,

I’ve been living in SoCal for almost 4 years, and I’ve noticed some major differences between California and Minnesota, particularly LA vs. Minneapolis. There are so many differences, but these stand out to me as the most absurd:

If you go anywhere in LA (including running errands) and you are not in full hair and makeup, you might be suffering from a complete emotional breakdown. In Minneapolis, it is perfectly acceptable to wear sweatpants, boots, and a messy bun almost anywhere.

This leads to my next point…on a scale of attractiveness, if you are a 5 in LA, you are a 7 in Minneapolis. There is an automatic 2 point increase on the “hot or not scale” when in Minnesota. I was hit on more often in my week visit to Minneapolis than my entire 4 years of living in SoCal.

LA is a dog eat dog world where individuals only care about surviving the rat race and will mow you over in the process. The perfect example of this is what happens at bus stops. You can be the only person at a bus stop waiting for 15 minutes, but two minutes before the bus arrives, hoards of people will bust out of the bushes only to budge in front of you and steal the last open seat on the bus. This has happened to me countless times, elbows fly, and no apologies are made, except for perhaps a quietly murmured, “Sorry you weren’t fast enough.”

This is not to say that Minnesotans are any better with their sugary sweet niceties that are often disingenuous. If a Minnesotan ever invites you to “get together sometime”, please know that they have no intentions of getting together with you. Ever. Phrases like “that’s interesting” are the Minnesotan way of saying something is terrible. Merging onto the highway in Minnesota is the most excruciating process because everyone thinks, “You go first,” “No, you go first,” “Please, I insist you go first,” for an eternity.

People in Minnesota talk endlessly and enthusiastically about the weather. It’s not just small talk, it’s whispered between lovers in dark corners of coffee shops. Minnesotans love talking about the weather so much, sometimes it’s the only news reported for weeks on end. Similarly, Californians could talk about traffic until they are blue in the face. What’s happening on the 405? I’ll tell you in lengthy detail and discuss possible alternate routes and the pros and cons of said routes. Are you late to work? Of course you are; let’s chat about it.

Those thin papery toilet seat covers provide almost no protection between your body and whatever butt diseases are on the toilet seat. LA provides them in every restaurant, bar, and public space. If toilet seat covers don’t exist, you might be in a sketchy part of town. In Minneapolis, those seat covers are almost non-existent and
the minuscule bit of OCD relief they provide is sorely missed.

Can you think of any major differences that I missed? What crazy things are different about where you live?


Pizza Week: Tangy BBQ Chicken Pizza

It’s Pizza Week and my favorite group of bloggers has come together to give you yet another week filled with delicious recipes.  I made Tangy BBQ Chicken Pizza!

tangy bbq chicken pizza

Pizza Week (aka my favorite themed week thus far) could not have come at a more inopportune time.  I’m still on my elimination diet and cheese is still off-limits.  However, I’ve made this pizza enough times to know it is superb, and my handsome taste-tester agrees with me.

It’s based on one of my favorite pizzas of all time, The Wrangler, from Pizza Luce.  The tangy BBQ sauce plays nicely with the crunch of red onion and the zip of banana peppers.  This pizza has a lot of bold flavors that give it a POW!  ZAP!  BANG!

Now, pizza is an extremely subjective experience, so feel free to adjust the ingredients to your tastes.  I love cilantro, so I pile it on.  Banana peppers are very strong for me, so I only need a few to get the full effect.  You get the idea…

Tangy BBQ Chicken Pizza

For the chicken:

  • 2 chicken breasts (you can always make extra and use it for salads and sandwiches the next day)
  • 1/4 cup BBQ sauce
  •  2 cloves garlic – minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp. olive oil

For the pizza:

  • 1 pre-made pizza dough (feel free to make homemade crust, but since we’re marinating chicken, a pre-made dough will save time)
  • 1/2 red onion – thinly sliced
  • small handful banana peppers
  • 3 Tbsp. cilantro – roughly chopped
  • 4 oz. mozzarella cheese
  • 4 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • drizzle of BBQ sauce

Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and liberally salt and pepper the bits.  Toss with BBQ sauce and garlic in a ziplock bag.  Marinate the chicken in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.


While the chicken is marinating, you can prep all of the other ingredients.  I almost always use block cheeses when cooking because the pre-shredded cheese has added chemicals to keep it fresh, which funks up the taste and also causes problems when you want to melt it.

pizza toppings

Put a skillet on medium heat with 2 tsp. olive oil.  Once the oil is just shimmering, add the chicken and cook until heated through (approx. 6 minutes).  Remove the chicken from heat and set aside.

Roll out the pizza dough, top with onions, banana peppers, chicken, cheese, and a drizzle of BBQ sauce.  Pop in the oven and bake according to the pizza crust package.

pre-baked pizza

Once you pull it out of the oven, top with freshly chopped cilantro and enjoy!

tangy bbq chicken pizza


Check out these other Pizza Week recipes from these fabulous bloggers:

Monday: Carrie – My Favorite Pizza Crust

Tuesday: Kat – Taco Pizza / Kirsten – Cornmeal Pizza Crust

Wednesday: Mads – Tangy BBQ Chicken Pizza / Megan – Pork and Pear Pizza

Thursday: Beka – Clam and Bacon Pizza / Kirsten – Greek Pizza / Monica – Roasted Veggie Pizza on Gluten Free Crust 

Friday: Jeanne – Pepperoni Rolls-Two Ways / Lauren – Caramelized Onion, Sausage and Barbecue Pizza with Ranch Dressing


Elimination Diet: Beetberry Smoothie

I’ve officially started the elimination diet to try to cure my acid reflux with clean eating!  I’m giving up dairy, gluten, eggs, citrus fruits, nightshade vegetables (like tomato and eggplant), and chocolate.  It’s going to be a challenge, but I hope it will reduce my symptoms.  This recipe works perfectly with my elimination diet.  


Truth: I love fruit smoothies.  I could eat them for breakfast every single day.


This particular Beetberry Smoothie is no exception to the rule.  My friend suggested I add vegetables to my routine, and offered up beets as an option.  I gaped at her with my jaw on the floor because vegetables?  BEETS?!  Disgusting.  In my absolutely perfect smoothies?!  Get out of my life!  But since we have been friends since kindergarten, I decided to not disavow our friendship immediately.  I decided to give it a shot.

Friends, it was DELICIOUS.


Now, I didn’t even really know what to look for at the grocery store or how to prepare them.  Because BEETS.  Gross.  My only memory of beets were when my grandmother forced me to eat pickled beets when I was a little kid, and I harbored hatred toward her for it.

Anyway, the point of this story isn’t to turn you away from smoothies, in fact, it is to show you that vegetables can be put into a miracle smoothie and turned into something tasty.  If you have the right combo and ratio of fruits and vegetables, it doesn’t have to taste like dirt.  I promise.

I am a vegetable smoothie convert.


I fell in love with this smoothie instantly, and I actually prefer the beets to spinach.  The avocado gives it a rich smoothness without a strong flavor.  The banana and honey do a great job adding sweetness, while the blueberries come through as the shining star.  Yum!


Beetberry Smoothie (Serves 2)

You will need:

  • 1 carton blueberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1 beet–peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup water (you can omit this if you have a powerful blender)
  • 3 ice cubes

I used all raw and fresh fruits and veggies, but you could easily use frozen.  Simply combine in a blender and blend until smooth.


Do you add vegetables to your smoothies?  What is your favorite combination?


Elimination Diet: Day 1

I’ve officially started the elimination diet to try to cure my acid reflux with clean eating!  I’m giving up dairy, gluten, eggs, citrus fruits, nightshade vegetables (like tomato and eggplant), and chocolate.  It’s going to be a challenge, but I hope it will reduce my symptoms.  


I won’t be blogging this daily.  Let’s be real.  But I will update you from time to time with my progress and a few recipes.

The diet kicked off yesterday with an arduous meal plan, a trip to the grocery store, and finding a food journal to record my daily ups and downs.  I am using this food journal to track everything.  I say the meal plan was arduous because I kept wanting to make my normal routine work with this new routine, or at least make a seamless transition.  Trust me, there is no seamless way to go from eating Dominos to eating only vegetables and brown rice…eventually you just have to eat the damn vegetables.  That was a giant mental hurdle.

After several hours of whining, I finally came up with 6 days of meals to get me started on the right track.

Day 1:

  • Breakfast–Fruit and veggie smoothie
  • Lunch–Potato soup
  • Dinner–Chicken and veggie stir fry (substitute soy sauce for things like chili paste and rice wine vinegar)

Day 2:

  • Breakfast–Hot rice cereal with apple, coconut, and peanut butter
  • Lunch–Leftover stir fry
  • Dinner–Quinoa with potato, onion, toasted walnuts, and asparagus (recipe here)

Day 3:

  • Breakfast–Fruit and veggie smoothie
  • Lunch–Leftover quinoa
  • Dinner–Pesto (without the parmesan) spaghetti squash with sautéed shrimp

Day 4:

  • Breakfast–Fruit and veggie smoothie
  • Lunch–Spinach salad with berries, walnuts, red onion, and balsamic glaze
  • Dinner–Braised pork, sweet potato fries, and steamed veggies

Day 5:

  • Breakfast–Hot rice cereal with pear, maple syrup, and cinnamon
  • Lunch–Corn taco with black beans, sweet potato, onion, and cilantro (modified recipe here)
  • Dinner–Thai lettuce wrap with chicken, carrot, red onion, peanut, and cilantro

Day 6:

  • Breakfast–Potato hash with bacon and veggies
  • Lunch–Leftover Thai lettuce wrap
  • Dinner–Roasted chicken, sautéed green beans, and acorn squash

Dessert/Snack options:

  • Banana/Apple with peanut butter and coconut flakes
  • Kalamata olive hummus and veggies
  • Popcorn
  • Nuts
  • Corn chex
  • Applesauce

Can you tell I really struggled with the snack and dessert options?  Anybody have ideas?

I will try to stick to this as strictly as possible, but I have a feeling I will resort to easy stir fry on long workdays.  I’m not a cyborg, after all.

So there it is!  It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.  I’m not a nutrition expert, so if you see anything glaringly obvious that will be detrimental to my success, please let me know in the comments section.  Again, I’m doing this for the first time, so there is a large learning curve.

I can’t wait to hear from anyone else who has tried this or who wants to try it!



Elimination Diet Experiment

Hey folks,This post comes with some hesitation from me because I don’t feel super comfortable sharing my health issues with the world, but I am posting it anyway in case others have useful info or if it helps someone else.  So here goes…I’ve been struggling for about a year with acid reflux issues.  It started with a stressful semester in grad school and I would often feel nauseous, wake up with a sore throat, and burning in my chest.

I immediately took action by significantly reducing my alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, and tomato intake, which was NOT easy.  I also stopped eating huge meals when possible, but the pain continued.

I’ve been to the doctor and a GI specialist numerous times.  I’ve done tests and taken meds, but the pain continues and has only escalated.  The doctors don’t seem to know why I have this because I’m not overweight and the dietary changes and stress reduction didn’t help much.

Recently, I had the bright idea to try home remedies (e.g., apple cider vinegar at mealtimes), but they only led to worsening symptoms.  My doctor recommended stronger meds, which also led to increased pain.

So here I am–medication-free, but not symptom-free, and I’m looking for a cure.  All of this led me to try an elimination diet (a drastic measure, to be sure) to help identify foods that might be the cause of my pain AND to give myself a month of clean eating so my stomach can get it’s act together.  After a few weeks of this diet, I will slowly start adding foods back into my routine.

I’ve been reading up on different elimination diets and talking to friends who have tried them, and here is what I plan on doing for the next month:

-Eliminate gluten, dairy, eggs, citrus fruits, and nightshade veggies (e.g., tomatoes, eggplant)

-Continue eliminating alcohol, caffeine, and chocolate.

Good for you foods:

-almost all fruits (except citrus like oranges)

-almost all vegetables, leafy greens

-rice, quinoa, other gluten-free grains

-chicken, turkey, beef, and other meats


-coconut oil, olive oil, and other healthy fats

Sounds terrifying, right?  I have no doubt it will be a challenge, but I’m really hoping for positive results.  I have a food journal to track what I eat and how I’m feeling, and I will also blog my weekly menu and a few recipes.

Have you ever dealt with health issues that forced you to change your diet?  What words of wisdom can you pass onto me?

Thanks for reading this exceptionally long post!