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Beef Empanadas

I’m starting to worry that I’m going to be on an empanada kick.  I had never made empanadas but I’ve eaten my fair share of empanadas in my day.  In Guatemala, there aren’t too many empanadas.  They exist, but I’m not sure I’ve eaten them.  We’re more tortilla folks, but Argentina… that’s the land of empanadas.  After my freshman year of college, I went to Argentina for 2 months and volunteered at a school and wandered around Buenos Aires.

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Oh hey, I drink mate from a gourd sometimes…

It was an experience I’d never trade.  I learned how to be on my own. I learned to love red wine.  I learned to love cities.  And I ate a ton of empanadas.

My favorite are the spinach and cheese kind, but the traditional kind are beef ones.  Because on top of being the land of empanadas, Argentina is also the land of beef.  So I decided to give it a try.

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The pastry part of these tastes different that the traditional Argentinean kind, but it was still pretty darn tasty.  I think they traditionally use lard, which is why mine taste different.  Also I added bouillion to try to mask some of the butteriness.  Next time, I’ll definitely try lard.  But I’m definitely happy with these creations. beefempanadas3

Beef Empanadas

For Dough:

3 cups flour
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tbsp), cold
1/2 tsp chicken bouillion
1 egg
4-5 tbsp water

 

For Filling:

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp cumin
1/4 cup sliced green olives
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 egg (for brushing)

 

In a bowl, combine flour and butter.  Using your fingers, break up the butter until it turns to coarse crumbs.  Add egg and incorporate.  Add water and form into a ball.  Knead a few times til it all comes together.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate while you make the filling or until ready to use.

Heat a skillet with olive oil.  Add onion and cook for a few minutes until onions are tender.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add beef and cook until browned.  Add paprika, cumin, olives and hard boiled eggs.  Stir to combine.  Set aside.

Now it’s time to assemble the empanadas. Pre-heat oven to 400F.

Roll out dough as thin as you can (1/4 cm if you can).  Using a circle cutter or a bowl, cut out circles.  The size of the circles will determine the size of your empanadas.  I used a bowl about 3 inches in diameter.

Place some of the meat filling in the center of each circle.  Fold in half and pinch edges together.  Flute edges (folded over) and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Repeat until all dough is used up.

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Mix one egg with a tbsp of water. Brush empanadas with egg mixture and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden.  The bake time will vary depending on the size of your empanadas.  Start checking them after 15 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy with a glass of wine. beefempanadas5

I have so many ideas for empanadas.  Like I said, I fear this might be the start of a new trend for me.  I already bought some ricotta to make some ricotta, kale and leek empanadas.  Doesn’t that sound amazing?

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In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy these leftovers (because they stay good for a few days in the fridge) and brainstorm future empanada-making.

 

Are you a fan of empanadas?  What kind do you like? 

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The Best Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

I pretty much always wish I had a reason to make a cake.  The more I think about it, it’s one of the reasons I love weddings, because I think wedding cakes are amazing.  Tonight I had a conversation with some ladies about wedding media.  Wedding sites, blogs, shows magazines are all geared at woman.  The wedding is portrayed as entirely about the woman, which to me seems a little unfair, given that the woman is only one half of the equation.

But in the conversation, one of the things I pointed out is that part of my fascination with wedding media is the aesthetic.  I think weddings are beautiful.  I think cakes are beautiful.  That’s probably why I love food blogs too, because I think the photography is pretty.

Most of the time when I see a beautiful cake my first thought is I want to make that, then second, I want to eat that.  For me, making cakes is fun.  I love making them look beautiful, but I also love making them taste good.

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Because really, isn’t a layer cake just one of the prettiest things out there?

While I always want to make cakes, there isn’t always an occasion to make a cake.  I originally made this cake for a birthday/going away party for friends.  But it was so popular and pretty that I wanted to make it again and photograph it.  

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  I think it just means I appreciate aesthetics. So if you want to make a cake for a special ocassion or no reason at all other than to please yourself… please do! ChocolatePBCake3

And as a bonus, it’s amazingly delicious and the perfect 6-inch cake.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

For Cake (adapted from Hershey’s Chocolate Cake):

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water

For Filling:

2 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
7 oz sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup whipping cream

For Frosting:

2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 big pinch of cream of tartar*
1 pinch of salt

For Chocolate Ganache:

3 oz bitter sweet chocolate chips
1/4 heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Make Cake.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and line with parchment paper 2 (6-inch) cake pans, set aside.  In a stand mixer bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Add eggs, oil, milk and vanilla.  Beat together.   Add boiling water and beat until combined.  Pour batter evenly between both 6-inch cake pans.  Bake 25-30 minutes (this might vary based on your oven so start checking for readiness after 20 minutes, especially if using a convection oven) or until cooked through (i.e. do the toothpick test: insert toothpick, once it comes out clean, it’s ready).

Allow to cool completely.

In the meantime, make the filling.  Beat together cream cheese, condensed milk and peanut butter.  In a separate bowl, whip heavy cream into firm peaks.  Fold whipped cream into peanut butter mixture, refrigerate until ready to use.

Next make your frosting.

Place a glass bowl over a sauce pan that has about 1 inch of water in it, make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl (aka build a double boiler).  Add egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract, cream of tartar and salt.  Mix together.  Heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the egg whites are warm when you touch them.

Transfer egg white mixture to a stand mixer and attach whisk attachment.  Stir on low and turn up the speed every 15 seconds or so until it’s on high speed.  Beat 5-7 minutes or until glossy, stiff peaks form.

Now assemble the cake.  Level your layers and slice in half, so you have 4 layers (you’ll notice in my photo I only had 3 layers, you can accidentally drop one on the floor and have 3 layers as well… that’s allowed, but not advised).  Place your first layer on your cake circle or cake dish of choice. Lay some filling on top of the first layer and spread evenly, press on second layer, it’s ok if it overflows a bit.  Repeat until all layers are complete.

Next, frost with a generous layer of frosting.

Place in the fridge while you make your ganache.  Place chocolate chips in a bowl and set aside.  In a small sauce pan, heat heavy cream and vanilla stirring constantly until it comes to a light boil.  Pour cream over chocolate chips.  Let sit for a minute, then stir until smooth.  Pour over cake and smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Allow to cool completely, then slice and serve.

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I had hopes and dreams of making a beautiful vide to go along with this blog post, but I’m still working on perfect my video making skills… but in case you’re curious… here’s my first attempt:

 

Not the prettiest video, but I’ll take it for a first try!  We can’t expect to make gorgeous creations the first time around, and I’m cool with that.

 

So tell me, are you a fan of layer cakes, weddings and pretty things?  Are you overloaded with wedding stuff? Don’t even see it?  Is a cake just a cake for you?  

 

Molasses Ginger Apricot Cookies and The Coast-to-Coast Cookie Swap

One of the best things about having a blog is making new friends.  There are the kind you meet in real life, that also happen to live down the road from you.  But then there are the online ones.  You have crazy obsession with cookies, doughnuts and the best combination of flavors for that new sandwich you want to try.

I mean who else is going to understand that it’s REALLY important that you try adding herbs to your lemon cookies?  Or how you absolutely NEED to recreate that recipe you tried at some restaurant you went to last weekend?

These things are important. And other food blogger friends can truly appreciate that.  Because sometimes I need to send cookies to people, I teamed up with some bloggers for our very first The Coast-to-Coast Cookie Swap.

Since I was sending cookies to bloggers, I knew they had to be good.  Because of that, I tried to recreate my favorite cookie

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We made cookies and sent them to each other.  It was pretty great!

Who Participated:

Allison from Sweet Potato Bites (aka my crossfit/running buddy) with her Loaded Oatmeal Cookies

Natalie from In Natalie’s Shoes with her Amazing Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Coco from Urban Chick’s Foodie Ventures with her Peach Cobbler Cookies <— LOVED

Jazzy with her Lemon Blueberry Cookies (Link to come!)

 

My contribution to the bunch:

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Molasses-Ginger Apricot Cookies

1 stick of butter + 2 tbsp (10 tbsp total)
1 cup sugar (plus extra for rolling)
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp mace
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup turbinado sugar (for rolling)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream together butter and 1 cup sugar using a stand or hand mixer.  Beat in molasses and egg until fluffy.  In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Just before ingredients are combine, fold in apricot pieces.

Form dough into 1 inch balls and roll in turbinado sugar (note: you can use any sugar, but turbinado sugar is thicker so it looks pretty!).  Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Allow to cool  and serve!  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Clearly, I’m a big fan of ginger and molasses year round, not just for Fall/Winter.

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All the cookies were delicious!  It was cool to see what the other ladies chose to make, and also to make new friends.  And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love getting packages?

Thanks to Jazzy, Natalie, Coco and Allison for participating in the Coast to Coast Cookie Swap!  I can’t wait to do it again!

 

If you were making cookies for your favorite bloggers, what kind would you make?

Vegan Fusion Tacos

I don’t know about you, but I love fusion food.  My favorite is some sort of Asian cuisine combined with Latin. Food trucks are particularly good at this.   Kogi is the perfect example.  Their short rib taco is nothing short of amazing.  There’s another food truck around Orange County that has a banh mi taco.  Amazing.

I’m also a big fan of Taco Tuesday.  I wish I took advantage of it more often.  I really wanted to hit up my favorite taco spot today, but then I remembered I should probably save money (and calories).  Instead I made tacos at home with ingredients I already had, and thus this italian-mexican fusion vegan creation was born:

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Vegan Fusion Tacos

1 corn or flour tortilla
2 tbsp avocado pesto hummus
2 artichoke hearts, halved
a few sliced thinly sliced zucchini
1 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)

Heat tortilla.  Spread tortilla with Avocado Pesto Hummus.  Top with artichoke hearts, zucchini slices, then sprinkle with nutritional yeast.  If you want to go crazy, squeeze some extra lemon on top.  You won’t be sorry.  Then devour.

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Note: If you make a full avocado pesto hummus recipe, you should be able to make about 6-8 tacos.

Do you see the fusion in here?  Italian ingredients: Garbanzo beans, Artichoke Hearts, Zucchini, Basil.  Latin/Mexican: Lemon, Avocado, Tortilla.

I think that’s pretty good.

So there you have it.  Tasty vegan dinner, ready in about 10 minutes.  Get your Taco Tuesday on.

Spicy Black Bean and Kale Grilled Cheese

So a few weeks ago I told you about how Green Mountain Mustard sent me some of their mustard for me to try.  I originally proposed to make a grilled cheese sandwich and then stumbled upon the epic idea that became my German Nachos(ish).  But ever since, I’ve been thinking about how delicious their mustard is, because really it is, and how I NEED to make a grilled cheese with it.  But not just any grilled cheese, an amazing one and so I finally did.

Yesterday, all I could think about was grilled cheese, and since it was Meatless Monday, why not make something epically delicious to show the world how wonderful meatless can be.

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I mean. Can we take a minute and observe the cheesy goodness?

 

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Now I’m going to have to come clean with you.  I probably ate this in about 3 minutes.  I didn’t have a stop watch, but before I knew it, it was gone.  I think that’s a good sign.  Then my mouth was a little bit on fire, because this mustard is straight up PICANTE.  If you’re a fan of spice, you’re going to love this.  If spicy isn’t your thing, it’s cool.  We can still be friends, use regular mustard, or skip it.

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Spicy Black Bean and Kale Grilled Cheese

1 tbsp onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp cilantro finely chopped
1 kale leaf, veined and chopped
1/3 cup black beans, cooked

1/4 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tbsp butter, softened
2 slices of whole wheat bread*
1 tbsp Barn Burner, Red Habanero Mustard

2 slices sharp white cheddar

Grease small skillet and turn on to medium heat.  Add onion, bell pepper, and kale.  Sautee a few minutes until soft.  Add black beans, cilantro, cumin and salt and pepper.  Cook a few minutes then transfer to plate.  Using a fork, mash beans lighly and set aside.

 

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(Note: I didn’t fit all of this in the sandwich so I just ate it on it’s own and it’s delicious. The end.)

Spread bread with butter and turn over then spread with mustard.  Lay 1 slice of cheese on each side (on the mustard side, since you’ll be grilling the buttered side).  Spread one side with black bean mixture and put the sandwich together.

Place sandwich on griddle heated to low.  Cook a few minutes until golden, flip and cook a few more minutes until golden and cheese is melted.  Remember when it comes to grilled cheese, slow and steady wins the race.  In case you forgot here are my tips for fabulous grilled cheese.

 

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Serve immediately and slice if desired.

*Note: I got my bread at Black Market Bakery. If you’re in OC, try it! Amazingly delicious, fluffy and fresh! Also free of preservatives!

This combo was amazingly delicious.  Obviously I’m biased, because I LOOOOOVE black beans, but you should definitely give this a shot.  I think this would be even more amazing dipped into sour cream, because who doesn’t love dipping sandwiches in sauces?

Please also note that if you decided to add bacon and avocado to this, I wouldn’t judge you.

If I could, I would invite you all over for this spicy black bean grilled cheese, but since we’re far away, make it and tell me if you love it.  How does that sound?

What’s your favorite grilled cheese combo?

Avocado Pesto Hummus

I’m loving the fact that it’s now light out until about 7pm.  What I’m NOT loving is that it’s still dark out when I go to the gym.  There’s nothing less motivating than waking up when it’s still dark out.

So while it’s still light out, I had all these hopes and dreams for magical creations I was going to make after work, photograph, enjoy and blog about.  Then I remembered that more cooking means more washing dishes and that suddenly sounded unappealing.  As much as I wanted to hit up Trader Joe’s for a box of Puffins for dinner, I decided to make something quick and easy.

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And seriously guys, this was all sorts of amazing.  You really need to make this, spread it on toast and stuff your face off.  That’s what I did.  Why should you?

Top 5 Reasons You Need to Make This:

    1. It’s healthy!  Lots of good fats from avocado
    2. It’s vegan! Let’s love the Earth a little bit more and eat less meat (especially if you’re in California.  There’s a drought folks!).  This spread still packs in the protein.  This whole recipe (which serves 4) has about 29g of protein!
    3. It’s crazy delicious.  Seriously.  So good.
    4. Avocado. Enough said.
    5. It’s ready in about 3 minutes, and you’re hungry so what are you waiting for?

BONUS REASON: It’s a great excuse to eat bread, not that you need one. Avocado Pesto Hummus 3

Avocado Pesto Hummus

1 can (15oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 avocado, pitted and peeled
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp nutritional yeast, heaping
1 small handful of fresh basil leaves (I used about 7 large leaves)
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or Vitamix (which is what I used).  Pulse until combined.  I wanted mine a little bit chunky so I didn’t pulse it too long, but if you want it smooth you can do that too.

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Spread on your favorite bread or serve with pita chips or raw veggies and enjoy!

Do you need any more convincing?  I’m not sure how else to tell you this is basically delicious and awesome for you.  Eat it up!

Are you an avocado lover? Please tell me you are!

Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream Frosting

I’ve been a little bit out of control with my sugar intake this week.  But that’s totally ok.  Monday will start a new week and we’ll be good to go with some more clean eating.  But before that, let’s talk cupcakes.

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A few weeks ago, Nocciolata sent me some samples of their tasty chocolate hazelnut spread to try. It’s seriously amazing and is certified organic, which cool! I really like that this has actual recognizable ingredients in it. Now, you might remember that I loooooove chocolate hazelnut spread (aka I went crazy with Nutella when I lived in Rome and gained 15lbs, no joke) and my favorite combo by far is chocolate/hazelnut + banana.

So with these samples sitting in my house, I tested out a few recipes for chocolate hazelnut frosting.  I failed 3 times and finally went back to the basics: buttercream.  Buttercream is delicious and always pleasing.  And I knew that the frosting I created would go perfectly with banana cupcakes.  So that brings us to these guys:

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Lately, the world has gotten ridiculous on the cupcake frosting front (myself included), but sometimes you just want to have a cupcake that looks homemade.  You know, like spread with a knife.  No fancy piping bags necessary.

Something familiar, comforting and tasty (like chocolate hazelnut spread).  Let’s concentrate on flavor, not on looks, because that’s really what this spread is all about: Great Taste.

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Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream Frosting

For Cupcakes:
1 cup + 1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup sugar, heaping
1 egg
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp whole milk
1/2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

Frosting:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup chocolate hazelnut spread
3-4 cups powdered sugar

Make cupcakes.  Pre-heat oven to 350F.  In a bowl combine flour, corn starch, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  Using a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes).  Add egg and beat for another minute. Add mashed bananas and beat for another minute.  Add remaining wet ingredients then start to add dry ingredients.  Beat until combined.

Fill lined cupcake pan with 1/4 cup of batter each (or until each cupcake slot is about 3/4 the way full).  Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden and cooked through.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely. This recipe will yield about 13-14 cupcakes.

Next make the frosting.  Beat together butter and chocolate hazelnut spread.  Gradually add powered sugar until it gets a thick spreadable consistency.  If it’s too thick, thin out with a bit of milk.  Spread frosting on cupcakes.  Top with sprinkles if you like, then serve!  (P.S. You can totally add more Chocolate Hazelnut spread to this frosting have it be even more flavorful, you just might have to adjust the powdered sugar amount.  I would have added more but I ran out of samples with my many fails).

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I’m definitely a fan of the chocolate-hazelnut + banana combo!  What’s your favorite thing to combine with chocolate-hazelnut spread? 

Thanks to Nocciolata for the samples!  Be sure to check them out.

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