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Top Chef New Orleans just started, and I’ve been so busy that I missed the first few episodes. So, of course, last weekend I had a Top Chef marathon and I was so inspired that I started getting more creative with my cooking. In one of the episodes, the chefs had to cook a meal in teams on food trucks, and one of the chefs made homemade empanadas.

So, here’s my version of (mostly) homemade empanadas! Feel free to experiment with fillings – these recipes are just based on what I had in my fridge on Thursday night when I made these with Sean.

For this recipe, which makes 10 small empanadas, you’ll need:

3 cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly

1 onion, minced

2 T butter

2 cloves of garlic, minced

ground chicken (1/2 package)

1/2 can of canned, drained tomatoes

3-4 T goat cheese

juice of 1/2 lemon

2 t fresh (or dried) basil

1 t oregano

1/2 bag baby spinach

salt and pepper, to taste

pie dough (homemade or store bought)

1 egg, beaten

We made two types of fillings: vegetarian and chicken. For the vegetarian version, we sauteed 1/2 an onion with the mushrooms in a pan with butter. Once the mushrooms were golden brown and the onions were translucent, we added 1 clove of minced garlic to the pan and cooked for another 30 seconds. Finally, we wilted spinach into the mix and turned off the heat. Then we mixed goat cheese, basil, salt and pepper to taste, and the juice of 1/2 lemon into the mixture.

For the meat version, we cooked the ground chicken in a saucepan until done, then added minced onion and cooked the onion until tender. We drained canned tomatoes, reserving 1/2 cup of the tomato juice, and added about 3/4 cup of tomatoes to the meat. Then garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper went into the pan with the reserved liquid, and the whole mixture sat over the heat for a few minutes (the liquid disappears fairly quickly).

We used Trader Joe’s pie dough for our empanadas, but you could also make your own. Roll out the dough fairly thinly and cut it into 6 inch discs. Then spoon about 2 T (or more – up to you!) of the filling into the middle of the dough and fold it in half. Wet the edges with water, then use a fork to crimp the edges.

Line a pan with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Finish assembling the empanadas and lay them on the pan, then brush the tops with egg wash. We baked them for about 25 minutes and they were delicious – like “gourmet hot pockets” according to Sean. I can’t wait to experiment with more fillings. Remember that this isn’t an exact science, and lots of different ingredient combinations/ amounts would be great.



Sesame Chicken Pasta Salad

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I can’t believe that I haven’t blogged this yet, because it’s one of my favorite recipes of all time. As you may be able to tell from many of my posts, I’m a sucker for asian food, and this sesame chicken pasta salad really plays into that. The dressing for this combines all of my favorite flavors, and the result is a fresh, tangy pasta salad that just gets better the longer it sits in the fridge.

I haven’t made this recipe since last summer (when I moved to Boston!) so I figured it was appropriate to make it again tonight. Today was my first official day of Boston summer (I just got back from a visit home and have a few weeks until my internship and teaching jobs start), and this was a great way to end the day. Plus, this is a great recipe for a hot day because it requires minimal cooking.

I usually make a big batch of this. An entire box/ bag of pasta makes enough for lunch each day of the week and dinner on the night that I make it. The ingredients below are for a batch that uses half of a box of pasta, which will make enough for one dinner and three lunches. If you decide to use a whole box of pasta, double the below ingredients.

You’ll need:

1/8 cup sesame seeds

8 oz bow tie pasta noodles (half a bag or box)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/6 cup soy sauce (approx. 3 T)

1/6 cup rice vinegar (approx. 3 T)

1 t sesame oil

1.5 T white sugar

1/4 t ground ginger

pinch of pepper

1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup chopped green onion

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To start, cook your chicken. I like to slather a chicken breast with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake it at 350 F for 25-30 minutes. You could also saute it.

Then heat a small skillet over medium heat and toast your sesame seeds. I actually didn’t have any sesame seeds in my kitchen today (how sad!) so I made the recipe without them. However, it’s much better with them, so do this step if you have sesame seeds on hand. Toast them briefly in the pan, paying attention because they may burn if you leave them on for too long. Toasting them will bring out their flavor. Set them aside when you’re done with this.

Cook your pasta to al dente, which means that it will taste slightly underdone to the average American cook. We’re used to mushy pasta in America, but Italians cook their pasta al dente, which literally means “to the tooth”. It should have a little bit of bite to it when you drain it because it will absorb the dressing and soften up later.

While the pasta is cooking, make your dressing by combining the vegetable oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, sesame seeds, ginger and pepper in a bowl and stirring to combine. You can also mince the cilantro and green onions while you wait.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it and rinse under cold water until the pasta no longer feels warm. Then dump it into a large bowl.

When the chicken is done, remove it from the oven/ pan and shred it using two forks, so that it is in tiny pieces.

Finally, add the chicken, cilantro and green onions to the pasta in the large bowl and toss the dressing in so that it coats all of the ingredients. And, just like that, you’re done! This stores well because the dressing soaks into the chicken as it sits in the fridge, making it even more flavorful than it was on the first day.

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Ok, it’s time for me to go eat a bowl of this deliciousness for dinner. Happy summer, and enjoy!

Basil Chicken in a Coconut Curry Sauce

It’s been a long week and it’s only Tuesday. This semester is famously hard in my program, and with 5 classes, 2 jobs and freelance writing, I sometimes feel like my head is going to blow up into a thousand pieces. The gross post-Spring Break Boston snow today definitely didn’t help my mood, and by the time I came home, I really needed a pick me up.

I’ve been looking at a recipe for basil chicken in a coconut curry sauce for the past two weeks, but I haven’t had time to cook much (you’ll notice that the food blog has been painfully blank lately!), so I decided that tonight would be the night.

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Here it is – basil chicken in a coconut curry sauce with rice. I modified the recipe that I had seen before so that it would fit what I had in my refrigerator, so it ended up being almost nothing like the original recipe. But no worries – it was awesome! Now I’m in a much better mood.

You’ll need:

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 T curry powder

salt and pepper

1/8 t chili powder (optional)

1/2 onion, cut into small rings and then halfed

1 handful (about 1/2 cup) diced yellow pepper

1 large clove garlic, minced

olive oil for cooking

1/2 14-ounce can of light coconut milk

1/2 T cornstarch

1/2 T dried basil

1 t grated fresh ginger or dried ginger (I used dried)

3/4 c dry rice (when cooked that means 1 1/2 c rice)

First, cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces and put the pieces in a medium size bowl. Add the curry powder (and chili powder if you like spicy things – I don’t!), plus a sprinkle of salt and pepper to the bowl and toss until the chicken is coated, then refrigerate for at least an hour.

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While you wait, go take a break! I did an Insanity workout.

When you return to the kitchen, start cooking the rice. I cooked my brown rice in chicken broth because that makes it more flavorful. If you want, you can cook the rice with 1/2 water and 1/2 coconut milk (coconut rice!). Chop your vegetables, and saute the onion, orange peppers, garlic and basil in a frying pan. Once the onions are golden brown, add the chicken and cook until the chicken is cooked through.

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Your rice should be almost done at this point. While you wait for the chicken to cook, combine the coconut milk and cornstarch in a bowl and whisk until there are no lumps. Cornstarch is a natural thickener, so the mixture will turn into a sauce when added to the pan.

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Once the chicken is done, add the coconut milk mixture to the skillet slowly. You might have too much liquid (I did), so don’t add all of it if it looks like too much. Stir over medium high heat until the sauce has thickened (about 4 minutes). Then add a sprinkle of ginger, salt and pepper, and stir until combined.

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Serve over the rice and enjoy!



Hawaiian Chicken with Coconut Rice


I’ve been in a non-meat mood for the past few weeks, but a couple of nights ago I decided to pull some chicken breasts out of the freezer and make something meat-y for a change. I had a can of coconut milk and the ingredients to make sort of an Asian Chicken, so this recipe was born.

This is Hawaiian chicken with Coconut rice. To make it, you will need:

2 chicken breasts

1 can of coconut milk (14 oz)

1/2 c soy sauce

1/4 c brown sugar

1/2 c water

1 handful of minced onions

1 garlic clove, minced

1 t sesame oil

2 green onions, minced

rice (any kind works – I used basmati)

1 handful of sweetened coconut


Most of the ingredients above are for the marinade. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, water, brown sugar, garlic, onion, sesame oil and 1/3 can of the coconut milk. Add the chicken, cover and stick it in the fridge. I let my chicken marinate overnight, and it was incredibly moist and flavorful. If you don’t have time for that, marinate it for at least 2 hours. The longer it sits in the marinade, the more flavorful it will be!

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When you’re ready to start making dinner, preheat your oven to 350 F. Then prepare the rice while the oven preheats. I made 1 cup of rice, which was enough for dinner and lunch the next day. 1 cup of rice required 2 cups of liquid, so I measured out the remaining coconut milk (it was about a cup and a half) and made up the difference with another 1/2 cup of water. Add the rice to the liquid in a saucepan, bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, put the chicken in a pyrex dish with the remaining marinade and bake it at 350 F for 25 minutes.

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Taste the rice when the liquid is gone – because the coconut milk is thicker than water, you may need to add a bit more water to finish cooking the rice. Once it tastes done, add a handful of sweetened coconut to the mixture and let it sit, covered, until the chicken is done.

Once your chicken is cooked through, cut it into thin slices and place those slices over the rice. Sprinkle with green onions and drizzle with the sauce that is left in the pan.

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This is seriously one of the best things I’ve made in a while – flavorful, sweet and delicious. Enjoy!

Love, Jenni

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