Empanadas

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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.

Enjoy!

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Autumn Acorn Squash Salad

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So of course I wrote last week about how I hate eating salads, but now I’ve posted two salad recipes in the past week. Oops! Honestly, though, I only like salads when they are chock full of delicious elements. Salads that only contain lettuce leaves and dressing are boring. So this is an exciting salad adapted from this recipe, which I found on Pinterest.

For this recipe, which is enough for two salads, you’ll need:

1 acorn squash, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds (remove the seeds)

2 T brown sugar

2 T butter

1/4 cup sliced almonds

4 handfuls baby spinach

1 avocado, sliced

1 handful pomegranate seeds

1/3 cup orange juice

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 t freshly grated ginger

1 garlic clove, minced

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 c olive oil

Put a skillet over medium heat and add 2 T butter. Melt the butter, then cover each squash slice with brown sugar and add the slices to the skillet. Cook them until they are golden brown and tender (prick them with a fork to check), which will take about 5 minutes per side.

While the squash cooks, distribute 2 handfuls of spinach, a handful of pomegranate seeds, and 1/2 avocado (sliced) in each bowl. Once the squash is cooked, add the almonds to the pan and let them brown. They’ll collect the leftover sugar and butter in the pan and take on a candied quality. If you want, you can cut the skins off of the squash once it’s finished cooking – it was a bit tough for my liking, so I decided to do that. Then add the squash and the toasted candied almonds to the salad.

To make the dressing, combine the orange juice, apple cider vinegar, ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Whisk those ingredients, then add the olive oil into the mix. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat!

Enjoy 🙂

BLT Salad with Avocado and Garlic Butter Croutons

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I’m not much of a salad girl. I usually think that salads taste like rabbit food – I’d much rather have a bowl of macaroni and cheese or a great burger. But after a weekend of eating heavy food with my best friend Holly (she came to visit Boston from L.A. a few weeks ago), we realized we were actually craving salads. Bizarre.

So this was my version of a non-salad salad: a bacon, lettuce and tomato salad with avocado and garlic butter croutons. Check it out!

For this recipe, which makes enough for one salad, you’ll need:

2 handfuls of spinach

3 slices of thick-cut bacon, fried and broken up into pieces

4 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 avocado, diced

10 chunks of french bread

2 T butter

1 clove garlic, minced

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

First, preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Then melt the 2 T of butter in the microwave and mince the garlic. Add the garlic to the melted butter and brush the garlic butter onto the chunks of french bread with a pastry brush (you can drizzle the butter, too, if that’s easier). Arrange the bread on a pan and put it in the oven for about 5 minutes or until golden brown, flipping the croutons halfway through.

Meanwhile, dice the avocado, cut the tomatoes, fry and breakup the bacon, and put those ingredients, with spinach, in a bowl. Grab the croutons from the oven once they look golden brown and throw them onto the salad, then dress it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Easy, (kind of) healthy, and delicious – a win, win!

Enjoy!

Roasted Veggie Mac ‘n Cheese

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I’ve never been much of a runner – I dreaded running “the mile” in middle school and freaked out when I didn’t have my inhaler – so I never thought that I’d attempt to run more than 5 miles in my life, let alone a half marathon. But somehow (probably riding on the high of the Tough Mudder), I ended up signing up for the BAA half marathon and running it a few weeks ago.

I loved the training, because honestly there are few things better than running along the Charles River during the fall in Boston. On the day that I ran 10 miles I felt both triumphant and completely in pain, but it was cool to be running 10 miles at a 9:15 pace. I never thought that would happen.

On the night before the half marathon, I was paralyzingly nervous. I knew that the race was going to hurt. And so I made comfort food: Mac and cheese. I’ve been looking for a good mac and cheese recipe for a long time, and this is the best one I’ve found. It makes a creamy, thick cheese sauce and the roasted veggies are key. Check it out:

For a 9 x 9 pan of mac ‘n cheese, which is 3 or 4 servings, you’ll need:

1 red or yellow pepper, diced

1 onion, diced

3 small mushrooms, diced

1 cup broccoli, cut into small chunks

1.5 cups pasta

1/8 cup butter

1 garlic clove, minced

1.5 T flour

3/4 c milk

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 t red pepper flaked

1/4 t cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 c panko bread crumbs

2 T shredded parmesan cheese

Although the veggies above are the ones that I used and that I recommend, you can get away with using a lot of other things – carrots, squash, asparagus, zucchini, or whatever you have in your fridge. To start, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and toss your veggies onto a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta in a pot of boiling water and drain. While the pasta cooks, work on your sauce. Heat the butter in a large skillet and add minced garlic. Be careful not to let the garlic burn, and cook it for about 30 seconds or until it starts to make your kitchen smell amazing. Then sprinkle flour onto the butter and whisk the flour consistently for a full minute. If you stop whisking, the flour may burn, so be careful. This is called a roux and it’s what will thicken your cheese sauce!

After you’ve cooked the flour and butter for a minute and it starts to turn brown (light brown, not burnt!), add milk in a slow stream to the pan. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens, about 2-3 minutes. Once you can tell that the mixture is thick (it will look fluffy), take the pan off of the heat and add in the cheese. Once that’s incorporated, add the red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and veggies. Then mix in the pasta.

When the whole dish is combined, put it into a casserole pan and turn up the oven to 500 degrees. Sprinkle the macaroni with panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, then put it under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until the top becomes golden brown.

That’s it, easy-peasy! I have to admit: I hated running the half marathon. At no point during the race did I think, “Wow, this is so fun!”. But I did feel pretty accomplished afterwards, and despite the fact that I couldn’t move very effectively, I woke up from a 2 hour post-race nap and had another bowl of this delicious pasta. It’s going on my new rotation of recipes.

Enjoy!

BBQ Chicken Pizza with Caramelized Onions

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Sean and I really wanted comfort food the other night, and after a run, we both realized that we were craving BBQ chicken pizza. Neither of us had ever made it from scratch before (Sean loves Trader Joe’s frozen version), so we decided to give it a go.

To make a whole BBQ chicken pizza, which feeds 4, you’ll need:

1 plop of pizza dough (we used some from the local bakery)

1 onion, cut into thin rings

1 log shredded mozzarella cheese

1 bottle BBQ sauce (you choose what kind)

7-8 mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 chicken breasts

2 T butter

1 T brown sugar

salt and pepper, to taste

 

First, we covered the chicken breasts with BBQ sauce and put them in the oven for 25 minutes at 375 degrees. While the chicken was cooking, we sautéed the onions in butter, adding the mushrooms when the onions were almost translucent. This is just another variation on my caramelized onion obsession. Once the onions and mushrooms were nicely browned, we added 1 T of brown sugar to the pan with cracked black pepper and turned the heat to low. Once the sugar was incorporated and caramelized, we turned the heat off.

We then rolled out the pizza dough on a pan and added a bottom layer of BBQ sauce and a middle layer of onions and mushrooms, all covered with half of the mozzarella cheese.

When the chicken came out of the oven, we shredded it using forks and added it to a bowl with copious amounts of BBQ sauce, then layering the chicken on top of the onions, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. That whole mess got covered with another layer of mozzarella cheese, and the whole pizza went in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.

This is total man food, according to Sean, but I also loved it. Plus, it kept well as leftovers, which is always great for someone on a budget like me!

You can garnish the pizza with cilantro, too, if you’d like. We bought cilantro but when the pizza came out of the oven, we were so excited to eat that we forgot about the cilantro completely. Oops. Enjoy!

Ham and Swiss Cheese Quiche

Growing up, my mom always made quiche with the leftover veggies, meats and cheeses in the fridge, so sometimes I crave that baked egg goodness. I’ve been working on eating everything in my fridge to save money before I grocery shop again – using up all of my leftovers, every last vegetable and all of the meats that I got for sandwiches and meant to eat for lunch (but didn’t). So yesterday morning I perused my fridge and realized that I had all of the ingredients that I needed to make a ham and swiss quiche. Done and done!

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I made my own pie crust, which takes a lot of extra effort. The recipe is here and I’ve included the steps that you need to follow if you want to make your own pie crust (I did because I didn’t want to go out and buy something else), but a frozen or pre-made pie crust will work just as well, and will save you a lot of time!

For the pie crust, you will need:

1 stick butter (1/2 cup), cut into cubes and frozen

1 1/4 c flour

1/2 t salt

1/2 t sugar

4 T ice water

I put the butter in the freezer, then headed to Starbucks for a few hours. When I came back, I constructed the dough. Keep in mind that this makes one pie crust. If you were making a fruit/ dessert pie, you would need two (a top and a bottom) so you would need to double this recipe!

Add the flour, salt and sugar to a blender and stir or pulse a few times to mix. Then add the butter and start pulsing until the mixture looks coarse. The butter should be in small pieces (pea sized) when you’re done. Slowly start adding water (it should be cold!) 1 T at a time until the dough starts to come together. Once it looks moistened (it won’t be in a ball yet), turn it out onto the counter and knead it briefly. Only knead it a few times, as the longer you knead it, the tougher it will become (and no one wants a tough pie crust!). Once you can fashion it into a little disk, it’s ready.

Package up the disk in a zip lock or plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least an hour (or up to 48 hours). When you’re ready to make the quiche, just take the dough out of the fridge, allow it to sit for about 10 minutes, then roll it out with a rolling pin and a sprinkle of flour! You’ll want it to be pretty thin.

The first step to assembling the quiche is actually rolling out the pie dough and putting it in a pie pan, draping the dough slightly over the edges of the pan and pinching them. Prick the dough with a fork and then bake it in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.

While the dough is baking, assemble the rest of your quiche! For my version, you will need:

1/2 onion, cut into small rings

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 small tomatoes, cut into chunks

1 handful spinach

1/2 cup ham, diced

1/2 swiss cheese, diced

1 whole egg, 5 egg yolks

a pinch of oregano

a pinch of thyme

salt and pepper to taste

parmesan cheese

Start by sautéing in the onions in olive oil. Once the onions are slightly brown and turning translucent, add the tomatoes and allow them to cook until they become mushy. Once the tomatoes were mushy, I smashed them with the back of a wooden spoon so that they turned into a kind of tomato sauce (I frequently make this to put on pasta, too). I then added oregano, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper to the mixture and let it cook over medium low heat for about 10 minutes before adding the spinach and letting it wilt. Once you’ve done that, turn off the heat and let the veggie mixture cool.

Once the pie crust came out of the oven, I turned the oven down to 375 F. I then added a layer of ham and cheese to the bottom of the pie and cracked eggs (one whole egg and 5 yolks) into a bowl and beat them. The eggs were added to the cooled veggies, and that mixture was then poured over the ham and cheese in the pie crust.

The entire quiche went into the oven for 30 minutes, and when it came out, I sprinkled grated parmesan cheese over the whole thing. To tell if it’s done, shake the pan. It shouldn’t jiggle – if it does, it means that the eggs are not cooked through and it needs more time!

This recipe was fabulous. Sean helped me make it after our long run, and he polished off half of the quiche for dinner. I ate a couple of pieces for dinner, and another piece for breakfast today. Less than 24 hours later, the entire pie is gone! The tomatoes are sweet and the swiss cheese has a bit of a bite, making it a perfect cleaning out the fridge dinner. It would also be a great, impressive thing to make for a brunch party, and keep in mind that you can add basically any ingredients to a quiche. Asparagus, mushrooms, bacon, chicken, cheddar cheese – the options are endless.

Enjoy 🙂

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!

Pasta with Broccoli in a Mascarpone Cheese Sauce

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I’ve been meaning to blog this recipe for a while, but didn’t get around to it until this afternoon. I found a recipe that used mascarpone cheese, or Italian cream cheese, about a year ago, and the sauce has become one of my go-to favorites – it tastes like an Alfredo sauce, but it’s actually easier to make. In this version, I pair it with pasta and broccoli.

For this recipe (which will make enough for dinner and lunch the next day), you will need:

2 handfuls of pasta

juice of 1/2 lemon

zest of 1/2 lemon

1/4 c mascarpone cheese

1/2 onion, diced

1 clove garlic

1 head of broccoli, broken into small “trees”

salt and pepper to taste

parmesan cheese, grated

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package and then drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Meanwhile, saute the diced onions and minced garlic in a saucepan, and add the broccoli. Once the broccoli is tender (you may have to cover the pan to let the broccoli steam), add the cooked pasta to the pan.

In a small bowl on the side, combine the mascarpone cheese, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper. Add that sauce to the pasta and vegetables, stirring frequently to melt the mascarpone cheese. Add the leftover pasta water to the pan to losen the sauce as needed. Garnish the pasta with parmesan cheese.

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I also love to make this recipe with chicken, spinach and sundried tomatoes instead of broccoli!

Lots of love,

Jenni

Zucchini Pancakes (Fritters)

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I have been meaning to make these for a while, so I finally did. However, with a crazy week at school I didn’t have time to blog the recipe until now. Thank you snowstorm Nemo!

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchinis

1 medium white potato

1/2 yellow onion

1/4 cup flour

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp dried sage

olive oil (1 tbsp for batter and more to cook with)

salt and pepper to taste

grated mozzarella cheese

Servings: 2

First grate the zucchinis and potato and chop the onion into a large bowl. Add the flour, oregano, sage, salt and pepper, and 1tbsp of the olive oil. Mix together well until the batter is slightly sticky.

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In a frying pan an medium heat, spoon the mixture into roundish pancakes and let cook until brown on both sides.

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Once the pancakes are done, top with a sprinkle of cheese. Jenni said she has made these before and put parmesan cheese in the batter which I will have to try next time!

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Enjoy!

Love, Hilary

Polenta with Sautéed Vegetables

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Ingredients:

1 Box instant cooking polenta

1 medium onion

1 red pepper

1 Box of white button mushrooms

1 Can quartered artichoke hearts

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. butter

Grated cheese (I used italian blend but any kind will work!)

Salt and pepper to taste

Makes 4 Servings

 

Tonight I made polenta and vegetables for dinner, which was super easy and delicious! This is a basic recipe that can be easily altered to use any vegetables in your fridge. Other ingredients I have used in the past include sun-dried tomatoes or basil pesto which both worked well.

First put 4.5 cups of water in a sauce pot to boil for the polenta. Salt the water and once the water is at a full rolling boil pour in the polenta and stir constantly.

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It will stick together pretty quickly and only takes about 3 minutes to cook so don’t leave it on the heat unattended or it might burn! Add the butter to make the consistency more smooth.

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As for the vegetables, chop the onion and pepper and add them to a large pan with the olive oil.


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Cut the mushrooms into slices and add them to the pan and cook until they are all browned. Then add the artichoke hearts, salt and pepper to taste and heat until warm.

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Spoon the polenta into a bowl adding the vegetables on top and sprinkle it with cheese. Yum!

Enjoy!

Hilary

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