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. ]
m4s0n501

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 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.

Meet my new friend, Beef

beef main

Once upon a time ago, I was a vegetarian. Even after I started eating meat, I was never a big fan of beef. Not even a little bit. Once in a while I might get a craving for it and make a hamburger or something, but that was about it. On the off chance that I would eat a steak, I’d order it extra dead – well done.

I don’t know what I was thinking, because beef is flippin’ delicious. No joke. And this sandwich, well this sandwich has an awesome flavor-to-work ratio. While I prefer to sear my meat and sauté my onions, you absolutely have the option of just throwing all of the ingredients into a pot or slow-cooker and just letting it do it’s own thing from there. Doesn’t get much easier than that…

be sure not to overcook the meat – you want to still have it nice and pink inside – top with italian cheese BF adds pepperoncini to his


Of course, doing the extra work is well worth it. Searing the meat and caramelizing the onions gives the end product a richness and depth that it would otherwise lack, and deglazing the pan afterwards is a must. Why would you do all that work just to leave all that extra flavor in the pan? So, if you’re in a hurry, just throw it all in a pot and be done. But if you have the time, do it my way. You won’t be sorry.

PS – This requires advance planning. You need to start at least 8 hours before you want to eat it. I recommend making it over the weekend and saving it for a weeknight when you know you’ll be short on time. As always, feel free to freeze your leftovers to reheat for dinner another night.

Beef Sammies

Printer-Friendly Version

  • 1 whole 2.5 To 4 Pound Chuck Roast
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive oil (or any neutral oil)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 whole onion, sliced
  • 2-4 cloves Garlic, minced
  • ½ cup Soy Sauce
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 4 cups low sodium beef stock or broth
  • A few sprigs each: Rosemary, Thyme (optional – but strongly recommended)
  • Baguette or other hearty bread of your choice
  • Italian cheese, for serving

1. About 20-30 minutes before you’re ready to start, take the roast out of the fridge. Cut off any extra-fatty chunks you see on the outside. Salt & pepper both sides of the beef while it’s warming to room temperature, and cover lightly with plastic wrap.

2. When you’re ready to begin, heat a large sauté pan over medium/med-high heat. Add a couple of teaspoons of oil (enough to lightly coat the bottom) to the pan, and then add the meat. Cook it just until it has a nice caramelized brown color (should only take about 3 – 5 minutes per side). Remember, we aren’t really cooking the meat, we’re just searing it for extra flavor. If it sticks to the pan when you try to lift it, that means it’s not ready yet, just give it an extra minute. If you’re motivated, you can sear the sides as well. Most of the time I decide that it’s too heavy to bother and just place it into my crock pot as-is.

step one – sear!

3. Add another teaspoon or two of oil to the pan (if needed) and add your onion slices. Cook, stirring about a minute or two until onion begins to get a golden-brown color, add minced garlic, stirring until fragrant (about 30 seconds) then add them on top of your roast.

4. Carefully add the soy sauce, red wine, and 1 cup of beef stock to your hot pan (it might splatter). Scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom, and once the liquid begins to simmer and reduce a bit, dump that into the crock pot as well. Add additional beef stock until the roast is at least half, but not completely, covered. If you run out of stock, just add water. Should look something like…

My sissy gave me this crockpot, isnt she sweet?

5. Add herbs* (if using), cover, and set to low for 8-12 hours. When it’s done, it should fall apart very easily. If it does not, re-cover and continue to cook longer.

6. When it’s done, remove the sprigs of rosemary and thyme, and shred the meat using two forks. Discard any overly fatty pieces. You can either serve it now or refrigerate it and serve later. I strongly recommend refrigerating for use another day* (see tips!).

7. If refrigerating—allow to cool and then place in the fridge. When ready to warm, remove hardened fat from the top and discard. Place back into slow-cooker (or saucepan) on low heat until warm (the speed will depend on the quantity you are warming up – it can take up to a couple of hours in your slow cooker). If you’re in a hurry, you can warm it over medium/high heat as well, just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t start boiling. Boiled meat is gross.

8. Serve on a baguette or french roll, toasted if desired. I usually stick mine under the broiler a few seconds with some italian cheese to get toasty and warm. Serve with some of the juices reserved on the side for dipping. Yum!

Tips:

*Somewhere along the line I got hooked on ‘Kitchen Basics’ stock. It’s a little more expensive, but comes in a resealable container and has a great, rich flavor. Once I made the switch I never looked back.

*Tying your herbs in a cheesecloth pouch allows the beef to get all the flavor from the herbs, but none of the leaves/twigs. You should be able to find some in the ‘cooking tools’ section of your grocery store.

*Refrigerating the meat allows the flavors to mingle, and also allows the fat to congeal so that you can remove a good amount of it before serving. I definitely recommend refrigerating the shredded meat in broth before eating. Not only does it allow the shredded beef to marinate in the flavorful juices, but once you see all the fat that hardens on the surface, you’ll understand.

*You can also reheat a smaller portion in a covered saucepan over medium-low on the stovetop over medium-low heat

*Put some of the warmed liquid in a separate ramekin or small bowl and use it dip your sandwich in it while eating. (This is in bold on purpose- because it’s important!) :)

*If you don’t have a slow-cooker, bring to a simmer on the stovetop and reduce to low, check after 6 hours; or PW cooks hers in a 275F oven for 5-6 hours.