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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.



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.


Sweet Potato Enchiladas

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I actually made this recipe a few weeks ago, but didn’t have time to blog it due to the hectic nature of my grad school life. I think I actually might be forgetting how to relax. Luckily, I haven’t forgotten how to cook (yet).

Because I live with a vegetarian and a pseudo vegetarian (only for Lent), I’ve been cooking vegetarian-friendly lately. This recipe certainly is veggie friendly, but it’s also just delicious. I had Sean over for dinner and he woofed down two of these too, then enjoyed two more leftover enchiladas for dinner the next night.

For this recipe for a pan of 6 Sweet Potato Enchiladas, you will need:

6 tortillas (I prefer flour, but you could also use corn)

1 can enchilada sauce

1 large onion, diced

3 medium sweet potatoes

1 can black beans

1 bag frozen corn

1/2 bag spinach

3 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese

1 avocado

1/2 lime

2 T cilantro, minced

First, cook your sweet potatoes. You could boil them or bake them, but I prefer to microwave them because it’s faster. Simply rinse them off, prick them with a fork and put them in the microwave for approximately 7 minutes, depending on size. While those are cooking, quickly saute the spinach and onions.

When the sweet potatoes are done, scoop the innards into a bowl, and add 3/4 can drained black beans, 1/4 cup frozen corn (thawed) and the sautéed spinach and onions to the mix. Stir to combine.

To assemble the enchiladas, lay out a tortilla. Pour a few Tablespoons of enchilada sauce down the middle, and cover it with grated cheese and the sweet potato mixture. Roll the tortilla up and lay it in a pan. Repeat with each tortilla, laying them in a row, then cover all of the tortillas with more enchilada sauce and the remaining cheese. The more cheese the better!

Bake them at 375 for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbling. While the enchiladas cook, mash the avocado in a bowl and combine with the juice of 1/2 lime and the cilantro. Once the enchiladas are done, serve them immediately and garnish with a spoonful of the avocado mixture. These keep great for leftovers and freeze nicely as well, plus they are very healthy.


Love, Jenni

Zucchini Pancakes (Fritters)


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!


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.


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



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!



Love, Hilary

Polenta with Sautéed Vegetables



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.


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.


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



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.


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



Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Pecans


So I first made this recipe for a thanksgiving potluck dinner and it was a big hit so I have made it a few times since then. The recipe has morphed slightly each time as a result of my laziness to actually open up the cookbook and find the recipe. Thus now it is about as simple as it gets but still delicious!


2 medium sweet potatoes

2 teaspoons demerara sugar (which is unrefined natural brown sugar but regular brown sugar would work too)

1/2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp milk

a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of cinnamon (now I know this is an imprecise measurement but I just sprinkled a little in for a hint of flavor)

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Serves 2 (but can be easily multiplied for more servings!)


First peel, and chop the sweet potato and boil in a medium sauce pot of water for 15 minutes or until tender. Then mash the potatoes in a large bowl.


Then simmer the butter, milk, and sugar over very low heat just until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. This only takes a few minutes and is even faster if you use the same pan that the potatoes were boiling in because it is already hot!


Pour the butter, milk, sugar mixture over the mashed sweet potatoes and mix together also adding the nutmeg and cinnamon. Top the potatoes with pecans. If you are making a bigger batch of this I would wait to add the pecans to the leftovers until you are ready to eat them because the pecans can loose their texture when they are mixed in.

The potatoes can be served hot or cold but I would suggest heating them especially since it has been so cold outside here in Boston!





Butternut Squash Lasagna


School has started back up and before I get too caught up in work, I thought I would post! Today I had a really long day and because my brain is fried from 6+ hours of class, I thought maybe writing this would be therapeutic.

I just got home from yoga class and, as hungry as I was, something easy like a grilled cheese just didn’t seem like what I wanted to eat for dinner tonight. So I decided to make up my own recipe for lasagna. Without any tomatoes in the kitchen, I settled for the butternut squash variety!

Ingredients (makes one 8 x8 pan of lasagna, or 4 servings):

1 medium butternut squash

16 oz. ricotta cheese

6 no-bake lasagna noodles

2 generous handfuls of baby spinach

4 oz. fresh buffalo mozzarella

2+ tablespoons of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


First, I peeled and cut the butternut squash into flat pieces and put them in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes.

Once the squash is tender, drain and set aside.


While the squash was cooking, I wilted the spinach in a large frying pan with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil.


Once the spinach was wilted, I put it in a bowl with the ricotta cheese. To the spinach ricotta mixture I added 3/4 tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Then, I thinly sliced the mozzarella cheese. If you have it, shredded mozzarella would be a good substitute!


After putting olive oil in the bottom of the pan to avoid sticking, I layered the squash, lasagna noodles and ricotta mixture until they were all used up and then topped it with the mozzarella cheese. I wished that I had more mozzarella to cover the top, but I was too hungry to worry about visual aesthetics tonight!


I baked it in the oven at 375 F for 40 minutes and knew it was done when the cheese on top was browning.


Finally, I let it cool before slicing. Disclaimer: If you are looking for a high calorie, oily, goey lasagna then this is not it. I would say that this was as healthy as you can get when making lasagna without compromising on the cheese, which is how I eat on most days. Additionally, if I were to make this recipe again, I think I would have mashed the butternut squash to give it more of a saucy feel – but it was delicious regardless!


Love, Hilary

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