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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.



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 🙂

Orzo with Tomatoes and Spinach

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Jenni and Danielle will both say that I often open the fridge before dinner, look at my ingredients and then decide what to cook. Usually I try to use the items that will go bad the soonest because I don’t like wasting food. Creatively composing my own recipes is easier for me than looking through a cookbook because I don’t have to worry about the ingredients I don’t have!

Tonight I wanted something warm after returning home after running errands. Jenni had mentioned an orzo soup recipe that she found on pinterest which was my inspiration.


1/2 C. orzo pasta

1/2 onion diced

2 Cloves garlic minced

1 C. vegetable stock

1 C. water

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 C. cherry tomatoes

1 large handful of fresh baby spinach leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

You will need one medium pot and a large saucepan. Mince the garlic, dice the onion, and quarter the cherry tomatoes. Combine the stock and the water and bring them to a boil and then add the orzo. Cook the orzo for 9 minutes or until tender stirring occasionally. Most of the liquid will be absorbed by the orzo so draining is not necessary.

Meanwhile, in the saucepan, heat the olive oil and brown the diced onion and minced garlic. Then add the tomatoes and stir. I added about 1/4 cup of the boiling liquid from the orzo pot to help cook the tomatoes. Add the spinach and sauté until wilted then add salt and pepper to taste. Then add the tomato/spinach/onion to the orzo pot and stir them together.

It turned out to be delicious — a perfect winter-time dinner.

Love, Hilary

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