savory beef empanadas

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When we make Mexican food at our house, it’s usually tacos or fajitas.  Something fast and easy.  What I have failed to realize all this time, is that with a little bit of preparation, empanadas can be that fast and easy dinner.

You see, I’ve been working a little bit of a later shift lately, and so I’ve been looking for things that are not only quick and easy dinners, but that the BF can easily prepare as well.  These fit the bill perfectly.  With just about 30 minutes of work over the weekend, I can have 10 empanadas in the freezer waiting to be devoured.

This weekend, we devoured them as a midday snack.

To make the recipe even easier, I found frozen empanada dough in our grocer’s freezer.  Next to these curious creatures:

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Have you ever seen these?  I’d been eyeing these little guys for awhile, I have to admit that the idea of not wasting money by constantly buying fresh herbs “just in case” I need them is very appealing to me.

I try to keep fresh herbs around, in the fridge or on the windowsill, but I swear that 9 times out of 10 by the time I go to use them they are already wilted and dead (I’ve got parsley on the windowsill now, wilting away as we speak!).

All that money can really add up, so the thought of always having fresh herbs within an arm’s reach sounds like something out of a dream.

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My first thought when I popped out my cube of garlic, “What’s that funny smell?”  Am I the only person who smells all of their ingredients?  It can’t just be me.  A quick glance at the ingredients list and I saw it’s not just garlic, they are suspended in a cube of oil, salt, and lemon juice, I assume for freshness.

I would be lying if I if I said that I wasn’t at least a little worried that my empanadas were going to taste funny.

Luckily, making the filling is just about as easy as browning beef, so I figured if they tasted funny I would just make a new batch and life would go on.  The good thing about empanadas is that, unlike with baking, you can taste your filling as you go so you will have a pretty good idea of what your finished product is going to taste like.

That being said, I was relieved when I tasted the filling… no sign of that funny smell.  Maybe that’s just what frozen garlic smells like, I’m not a frozen garlic expert or anything.  The best part?  I didn’t even have to smell garlicky fingers all night long like I would if I had minced the garlic by hand.  Garlicky fingers are the worst.

Garlic cubes = Success! I also picked up a package of basil cubes that I think I will try in my next tomato sauce.

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I made these empanadas last week; I baked a few fresh and then we baked some from frozen this weekend as a snack.  I don’t know if the freezer works some sort of witchcraft on them, but the empanadas that we baked this weekend from frozen were even better than the ones baked from fresh!

So, that being said, I’m going to recommend you make yours ahead of time and bake them from frozen.  If you decide to bake them fresh, just know that the ones you freeze are going to taste even better!

In the recipe below, I stated both the cube amounts and the fresh amounts for the garlic and cilantro that I used.  If you’d like to make your empanada dough from scratch, you can find a recipe here and here, but I can’t vouch for either of them.  I can vouch for the frozen dough I used, as it was super easy and it baked up super crisp and flaky, and even stayed crisp after I had to stash some leftovers in the fridge.

Also, I can already see that you’re thinking about leaving out the cheese.  Trust me, you need the cheese, don’t leave it out!  You can substitute some of that pre-shredded Mexican cheese if you want but you better put some cheese in there!  I did half of my empanadas with cheese and half without and the ones with cheese were markedly better, even though they didn’t necessarily taste “cheesy.”

Also, if you’d like a little more “control” over the flavor, you could probably substitute tomato sauce or diced tomatoes (I’d recommend fire-roasted) for the “salsa” called for in the recipe.  The filling is entirely customizeable, so don’t be afraid to play around a bit to find the perfect mix for your tastes!

Savory Beef Empanadas

Makes 10 empanadas

Printable Recipe

  • 1 Tablespoon oil, olive or vegetable
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ½ medium onion (about ¼ cup finely chopped)
  • ½ medium bell pepper, finely chopped
  • ½ cup your favorite salsa
  • 2 cubes garlic (or 2 cloves garlic, minced)
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons adobo from can of chipotles
  • 1 chipotle in adobo, minced (optional)
  • 1 to 2 cubes cilantro (or 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh cilantro, minced, more or less to taste) (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup shredded cheese (I used ¼ cup sharp cheddar + ¼ cup monterey jack)
  • 10 empanada shells, I found frozen ones at my grocery store
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (for egg wash)

1.  Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat.  Add beef and cook until well-browned.  Add onion and bell pepper and continue cooking until just softened, about five minutes more.  Lower heat to medium low and add remaining ingredients except cheese and shells.  Simmer about ten minutes; set aside to cool.  Once cooled to room temperature, mix in cheese.

2.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.  While working on empanadas, keep unused discs covered with a damp towel to keep them from drying out.  Fill each shell with 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling, then seal tightly by dampening the edge of the disc with water and folding the disc over to create a crescent shape.  Press tightly to seal, or use a fork to press closed.

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3.  To freeze:  Place empanadas in a single layer on baking sheet, put in freezer 1 hour, then transfer to a freezer-safe plastic bag for storage.

4.  When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°F.  Brush empanada tops with egg wash, avoiding crimped edges, and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.  Allow to cool slightly before eating.

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[ I occasionally receive discounts or coupons to try products for you.  I received coupons to purchase Dorot spices, which I'd been eyeing for months at the grocery store and would have tried anyway.  All opinions about these spices and anything else on Wee Eats are always entirely my own. ]

warm-up wednesday: chili

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Oh hello there.

I just made like a thousand cookies, and needed something that would kick all of the sweetness out of my system.  So I thought, why not a little bit of spice?

Plus, I hear it’s getting chilly for a lot of the country.  Not here, but the rest of you, I hear you’re getting chilly.  Here it is always acceptable to eat anything containing chilis, because it’s the southwest, and hey… this is chili country.  Or chile country.  (Not to be confused with the country of Chile)

There are two types of chili: Chili with beans, and then delicious chili.  This is delicious chili (no beans!).  I hate beans… I HATE THEM SO MUCH!

If you don’t have a fiery hatred of beans, by all means throw them in the pot, but you won’t find any beans in my chili.

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NO BEANS!!!

On a scale of one to “OMG MY MOUTH IS ON FIRE!” I would rank this at mild to medium heat.  It’s got a little kick, but not too much.  If you’re sensitive to heat (like my sister, she would probably say that her mouth was on fire if she ate this) you can leave out the chili flakes.  Or, do like I do, and eat it with some tasty cornbread or tortilla chips to help temper the heat.

I also find that making chili the day before I actually want to eat it, and then letting the flavors mingle in the fridge overnight helps the mellow the heat and improve the flavor.  Maybe that’s just in my head though, I’m not sure.

You can also see I like my chili a bit more on the “heartier” side, you can absolutely make yours “soupier” by adding more beef stock, or tomato juice, or even plain old water.  Whatever floats your boat!

Chili – Makes about 4 – 5 servings (but can easily be doubled)

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 medium bell pepper, red
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced (2 – 3 cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder (sub some chipotle powder for extra flavor)* Salt-free
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (I used ½ smoked and ½ sweet)
  • ½ tablespoon dried oregano
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder
  • ½ tablespoon ground cumin
  • ½ tablespoon chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • ½ cup beef broth (more if you like it soupier)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ½ tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes, drained (or undrained, if you want it soupier)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a dutch oven or large pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add bell peppers and season with salt & pepper; continue to cook until caramelized (or as close to caramelized as you are patient for). Just keep going, you can do it!
  2. Once onions and peppers are cooked, remove and set aside. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and then the beef. Cook until browned (you may need to do this in batches if you are making a large pot of chili).  Add salt and pepper to beef, then add onions and peppers back to pan. Stir until well-mixed, then add garlic. Cook until fragrant, about one minute more.
  3. Add spices to the beef mixture. Cook one minute more, stirring constantly.
  4. Add tomato sauce, beef broth, worcestershire, brown sugar, and vinegar, stir to combine.
  5. Bring to a boil and add canned tomatoes; turn heat to low and continue to cook, covered, over low heat 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, stir, taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Continue to cook another 15 minutes, covered. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary at the end.

Note:

When scaling up this recipe, I noticed that it wasn’t just a straight doubling or tripling of the recipe.  The amount for 3 pounds of beef was as follows:

Large Pot Chili Recipe

  • 3 lbs beef
  • 1 large or 2 medium white onions; finely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 2 to 3 bell peppers; finely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
  • 5 Tablespoons chili powder* (*Salt-free)
  • 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin 
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 Tablespoon chili flakes or 1 teaspoon cayenne, if desired, for heat* ( usually leave cayenne on the side so each person can meter their own spiciness)
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes; drained
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup beef stock (or more if you like soupier)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons + 1 teaspoon brown sugar, divided 
  • Oil, Salt, and Pepper as needed

Cook according to directions for small pot of chili.  Taste seasonings towards the end and adjust as necessary.  Add additional brown sugar at the end if it tastes too acidic, or additional vinegar if it tastes a bit dull.

 

chipotle bacon burger

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Burgers are a relatively common dinner in our home. They can be plain or dressed up, beef or turkey, with or without cheese, on brioche or Sarah Lee. How does one eat burgers frequently without becoming bored, you ask?

Toppings!

Burgers are so easy to customize to whatever you happen to be craving. There are so many ways to spice up a burger, I could probably eat burgers every day and never get make the same one twice. Of course, I have a few favorites that tend to get stuck on repeat… but I *COULD* make a different one every day… if I really wanted to…

These, my friends, are dressed up with bacon, red onion, chipotle spread, cheddar cheese, and greens. I suppose jalapeno jack would be just as tasty on top – but we “had” to buy a(nother) two-pound brick of cheddar from Costco, so it’s been the “cheese of choice” as of late. :)

So if you’re looking for a way to “spice” up your usual burgers – give these ones a try!

Chipotle Bacon Burgers

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce (about 2 – 3 shakes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Chipotle Spread
    • 1 cup mayo
    • 1-2 chipotle pepper(s) in adobo, finely minced
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 1/2 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
    • salt and pepper to taste
  • Bacon, cooked
  • Red onions (grilled or not, your choice)
  • Greens of choice (spring mix, romaine, iceberg, arugula…)
  • Cheese – I recommend Cheddar or Pepper Jack
  • Burger buns

Mix beef, salt, pepper, Worcestershire, and chipotle powder in a bowl until incorporated. Form into patties, salt the outside of the patties as well.

Make Chipotle Spread by mixing mayo, chipotle, garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Set aside until ready to use.

When ready to make the burgers – grill patties to desired doneness and top with cheese to melt. While resting, spread a light layer of chipotle spread over the buns and grill until toasted. Assemble burgers, adding additional chipotle spread if desired, and enjoy!

chipotle steak salad

steak saladThree words:

Chipotle.

Steak.

Salad.

Yum.

(OK I guess that’s four words)

Doesn’t matter, only one word really matters: “chipotle”….

I don’t know if it was feeling bad about holiday binges, maybe that mixed with low iron or something…. I have been really into two things lately: steak and salad. I know, they seem kinda like opposites, right? Either I’m ruining a perfectly healthy salad with a giant chunk of steak, or ruining a giant chunk of juicy steak with a rabbit salad.

Guess what? Don’t care. It’s delicious. Besides, flank steak is actually one of the leaner cuts of meat, and what good is having the ability to grill all year long if I don’t actually use the grill all year?

This salad was muy excelente.

We even used the leftover steak for tacos later in the week. Flippin delicious.

The “dressing” is just my usual chipotle spread that I thinned out a little bit to make it salad-worthy. You can make extra and keep it on hand to dip your fries in, put on sandwiches, etc etc… it’s basically like chipotle gold. Yes, we all know my deep love for chipotle, but that doesn’t mean I’m completely biased (BF loves it too).

Chipotle Steak Salad

[ Printable Recipe ]

For the steak:

  • 1 whole Flank Steak
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey
  • 1 Tablespoon adobo (from can)
  • Salt & Pepper

For the dressing and salad:

  • ¼ cup mayo
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers (in adobo)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Milk (if necessary to thin – this will shorten the shelf life, though)
  • Salt and pepper (bit of each)
  • Salad greens & veggies

1. Mix the oil, Worcestershire, garlic, adobo, cumin, oregano, and honey. Marinate in mixture for 1 hour (or up to overnight).  Remove from fridge 30 minutes before grilling. Right before grilling, pat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Either use a food processor (or just finely mince ingredients, if you can) to mix the mayo, oil, chipotles, and garlic. Add a few grinds of salt and pepper. If you’re doing this by hand, your mixture will look clotted when you first add the oil, just keep mixing until smooth.

If it’s still thicker than you want it, you can thin it out with more oil or with milk (or buttermilk) and keep mixing. Mine was still a little thick, but I just used a Ziploc with the corner cut off to drizzle it over my salad. Once you have the consistency you want, refrigerate until it’s time to use (best to do it at least an hour ahead of time to give the flavors time to mingle).

3. Set steak out to come to room temp about 30 minutes before grilling. 15 minutes before grilling, preheat your grill. You will want to cook over high heat for just a few minutes each side. Grills and steaks vary, I grill mine for about 3 to 6 minutes per side, depending on if I want it more rare or well-done.

asian steak salad

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So, despite my last post being insanely delicious, I’m told that it is the start of a “new year” and that some people have things called “resolutions” and that in these “resolutions” some people, so I’m told, are trying to be more healthful. Silly me. Ruining your diets before you even start them. How dare I.

So, in your honor, those of you who have what’s called “self control” and are trying to be more healthful, I give you a (relatively) “light” meal. All the benefits of salad – being full of healthy veggies and having lots of greens to fill you up, with the added taste of a nice (LEAN) juicy steak right on top.

Now, please do not make the same error I made. Do not walk away from the grill with no concept of what time it is and allow your steak to just cook and cook away. Is it a big deal? Not really, but this steak really should have been medium-rare to medium. So be a good girl (or boy) and cook your steak over high heat for about 5 – 6 minutes per side, then tent it with foil and let it rest about 10 minutes afterward. Slice against the grain and lay atop your bed of greens.

Asian Steak Salad

[ Printable Version ]

For the meat:

  •     2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  •     2 Tablespoons oil (olive oil or vegetable will do)
  •     1 Tablespoon red wine
  •     3 cloves garlic, minced
  •     2 teaspsoons brown sugar
  •     1 1-pound flank steak

For the dressing:

  •     2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  •     2 Tablespoons oil
  •     2 Tablespoons sugar
  •     1 Tablespoon lime juice
  •     2 cloves garlic, minced
  •     1 Tablespoon ginger
  •     1 scallion, finely diced

For the salad:

  • Salad greens
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • ½ medium red onion, sliced

1. Marinate your meat by mixing together the soy sauce, oil, brown sugar, wine, and garlic. Pour over meat and let marinate at least 30 minutes. (I do this while it’s coming to room temperature)

2. While the meat is marinating, make your dressing by combining all of the dressing ingredients, including the scallion, mixing well. Taste and adjust, if it tastes flat try a dash of vinegar.

3. About 10 minutes before you’re ready to get cookin’, turn on your grill. Heat to high heat (about 550 degrees F). Cook the flank steak to medium-rare (about 5-6 minutes each side). Once done, transfer steak to plate and tent with foil for ten minutes while it rests.

4. Once the steak is done resting, cut against the grain into thin slices. For more even distribution, you can toss your salad with some of the dressing before plating, then place the steak over your salad veggies and drizzle with additional dressing if necessary.

Eat & enjoy… maybe think about using the left over steak for stir fry tomorrow… now that you think about it, that marinade would probably make a pretty good stir fry sauce… Let’s use brown rice instead of white, in the interest of being “healthful”. ;-)