Empanadas Step by Step

One of my favorite dishes to make for special occasions are empanadas, or meat pies.  They are a traditional food in my family during the Christmas season and are always a big hit at parties and pot luck dinners.  When my son was in elementary school his Spanish class looked forward to them every year.  These tasty little meat pies are easy to make and you can tweak all the seasonings to your own taste.  The best part is you can do all the prep work the night before and fry them when everyone’s ready to eat.

Here I’ll take you through the process step by step:

empanadas step by step

Step 1:  The first step is to make the sofrito – this is the seasoning in which you will cook the meat filling.  You can use these measurements as a guide, there are no strict rules when making sofrito – at least not for me!  If you like a little more red bell pepper than green or more cilantro than flat leaf parsley, go for it!

2 red bell peppers

2 green bell peppers

1 Spanish onion

3 Roma tomatoes

2-3 cloves of garlic

1/2 cup of flat leaf parsley

1/2 cup  cilantro

Sea salt

Pepper

Ground coriander seed

Ground cumin

Packet of Sazon

I use the food processor to dice the veggies and then add the spices to taste.  I like to make a big batch of this and freeze it in small quantities (about 4-5 tablespoons) for use in soups, stews, beef and chicken dishes – I added 4 tablespoons to a pot of arroz con gandules (yellow rice with pigeon peas) I made for Christmas Eve dinner and it was delicious.

Step 2:  Now for the meat filling.  Start with 1lb. of ground sirloin or meatloaf mix, seasoned with salt and pepper or adobo.   Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan; when it’s sizzling add about 4 tablespoons of sofrito.  Stir that for about a minute and then add your meat, breaking it up and stirring until cooked through.

Step 3:  I use Goya Dough Discs for Empanadas to make the pies.  They’re readily available in most major supermarkets and should be easy to find.

Steps 4 & 5:  Place a disc on waxed paper on a cutting board to keep it from sticking.  Place about a spoonful of meat in the middle of the disc as shown.

Step 6:  Fold over the disc into a crescent shape, pressing down on the edges of the disc with your fingers to seal.

Step 7:  Press the sealed edges of the empanada with the tines of a fork to secure the seal.

Step 8:  Here’s what your empanadas should look like. I usually make them ahead up to this point and put them in the refrigerator until I’m ready to cook them, and make between 12 – 20 empanadas at a time.

Step 9:  When you’re ready to fry them, add enough canola oil to a heavy frying pan to cover the empanadas; heat the oil to sizzling and carefully place the empanadas in the oil; fry until each side is golden brown as shown.

Empanadas also make great appetizers:  cut the dough disc in half, fill and fold into little triangles as shown below.  They are easy to tailor to any taste level from mild to spicy and are always a welcome addition to any table – maybe add them to your Super Bowl menu this year!

empanadas final

Jeweled Candles

This is an easy craft that combines a few of my favorite things – candles, glitter and jewels!  It can be tailored to any color scheme or occasion, and when the candles burn down (if you even have the heart to light them, they’re so pretty!) you can reuse the jewelry components in your next project.  I went with a red, silver and gold theme for the Christmas season.

 

candle collage

 

Supplies:

  • Candles

  • Painter’s tape

  • Mod Podge

  • Foam applicator

  • Jewelry components

  • Hot glue gun

  • Glitter

Tape off your candle and apply the Mod Podge to the space in between; be sure to apply a thin coat – if it’s too thick the glitter will come off when you remove the tape (been there, done that). Sprinkle glitter on the Mod Podge and allow to dry (I gave mine about 2 hours). Carefully remove the tape and then use the glue gun to glue the jewels into place.  Here’s the finished product:

 

candle twins

 

I decorated a small table in my living room using a vase filled with leftover branches from our Christmas tree and two of the candles:

candles8

 

How are you decorating your home for the holidays?  Let me know in the comments!

 

Have a great craft you want to share? Check out Inspiration DIY, where my Jeweled Candles craft was featured!

 

inspiration diy

 

How Do You Handle the ‘Santa Situation’?

Santa clausWhen my son was younger I, like many other parents at this time of year, went to great lengths to weave the special magic that is Santa Claus – I supervised as he carefully wrote his painstakingly detailed letter to Santa, we waited dutifully in line at the mall so he could have his picture taken with the Big Guy, we thoughtfully left gingerbread cookies and milk for old St. Nick on Christmas Eve (and snacks for the reindeer, too!).  He believed wholly and unquestioningly in Santa, and as that belief was nurtured and grew year after year, I started suffering from what I call ‘Claus’-trophobia – a fear of the day when my son would question the existence of his beloved Santa Claus.

I was recently asked by FamilyCorner.com to write about this very subject – here are some points to consider when your child eventually asks you:  is Santa real?

Listen to their concerns: Lend an ear first before you begin any explanations.  Give them your undivided attention; if they come to the conclusion on their own, share with them the story about how you found out the truth about Santa when you were their age.  Kids are intuitive and sometimes know the answers to their own questions, and just need a sympathetic ear from parents.

Be prepared for their reaction: Some kids might take the news in stride, as I did when I found out the truth. My parents were a little sloppy in hiding the presents, so after finding way too many new toys under their bed one year the secret was out.  And I was okay with it.  As long as everything else stayed the same and I could still pretend that Santa was real even though I knew he wasn’t, things were cool.

Others may feel betrayed – as my son did when the curtain was pulled back on this part of his childhood.  To this day I still feel awful as I recall the hurt in his eyes as he incredulously accused, “you mean. . . you’ve been LYING to me all these years???”  Yes, that was a bad, ugly day.

And, some may cry. So. Many. Tears.  It can be a momentous event – having doubts, kids turn to their parents for confirmation of Santa’s existence, only to find out otherwise. Help kids feel better with an explanation that, although he’s not any one real person (but really mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, etc.), the symbolism of Santa Claus embodies the true spirit of Christmas – the joy of giving and putting others first.  Remind them how wonderful it feels to be with family and friends, the special traditions you share at this time of year, the significance of any religious customs in your family, and reassure them that there will still indeed be presents on Christmas morning!  Let them know that the Christmas spirit is very real, even if Santa Claus isn’t.

Enlist their help: This is a good time to let them know what an important role they can play in the preparations if they feel ready for it.  Now that they know “the truth,” they can help in making the holiday special for the younger members of the family. Recruit them to help shop, wrap presents and fill stockings. Have them help the younger kids with their letters to Santa. Asking them for their help in maintaining the tradition will add a positive new dimension to the experience.

A sympathetic ear and a positive outlook can help take the sting out of the big reveal.  After the shock wore off (and he was able to trust me again), my son began to enjoy taking a more grown-up role in the preparation and festivities of the Christmas season, and keeping the lie –  I mean, the magic – of Santa Claus alive for the little ones in our family (and the big ones, too!).

Have you had to face the “Santa Situation” with your kids yet?  How did you handle it?  Let me know in the comments!

family corner contributor badge

Chocolate Candy Cane Kiss Cookies

I originally posted this Christmas cookie recipe back in July when we were in the throes of a sweltering heat wave and the chill of a winter’s day seemed like it was a world away.  Now that the thermometer has hit a crisp 29 degrees and we await a snow storm (and being that it’s actually the Christmas season), I thought I’d post it again.  I baked a third batch of this family favorite last night, this time adding red and green sprinkles along with the Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses.  The dough in this recipe freezes up nicely so you can make it ahead of time and pull it out when you need it.

cookie collage

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon water
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses
Red and green sprinkles (optional)
 
 1.  In a small bowl, mix together flour and baking soda; set aside.  In a medium saucepan or double boiler, combine brown sugar, butter, and water.  Cook and stir over low heat until butter is melted.  Add chocolate; cook and stir until chocolate is melted.  Pour mixture into a large bowl; cool for 10 minutes.
 
2.  Using a wooden spoon, stir the egg into the chocolate mixture.  Stir in the flour mixture until combined.  Cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours or until the dough is easy to handle.
 
3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls.  Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Roll some of the cookies balls in sprinkles if you wish.  Depending on the size you roll the dough, makes about 30-36 cookies.
 
4.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove and gently press a Kiss into center of each cookie.  Transfer to wire rack and cool until melting mints are firm (I put them in the refrigerator for about an hour to firm up the Kisses).  Makes about 48 cookies.
 
5.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container separated by layers of waxed paper for up to three days (if they last that long)  or freeze for up to 3 months.
 
cookie plate

What’s your favorite Christmas cookie recipe?  Post it in the comments!

My recipe was featured on Disney’s Spoonful.com in “23 Santa Approved Christmas Eve Treats” – check out the other great recipes here.

Photos courtesy of Mom Meets Blog

Christmas (Cookies) in July

Last week,  in the midst of the summer scorcher that gripped most of the nation, the most popular place in town was the pool.  Kids and adults alike jockeyed for position in its cooling waters, swimming laps, playing Marco Polo, or just chatting while trying to beat the heat.  As the thermometer flirted with triple-digit temperatures and we took bets on when the heat wave would break, my friend pointed out that in just a few short months we could possibly be dealing with single-digit temperatures and double-digit snowfall.

That just made me think of cookies.

Hershey's Candy Cane KissesNot just any cookies, but my family’s favorite recipe, Chocolate Candy Cane Kiss cookies, which I start baking at Thanksgiving and continue baking right through Christmas.  They’ve become a holiday staple at my home – when my son sees them come out of the oven he knows it’s the official start of the holiday season.   Friends and family have come to expect them and they are perfect for gift giving (and leaving out for Santa on Christmas Eve).  I found the original recipe here but substituted Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses for the pastel cream mint kisses.  The dough in this recipe also freezes up nicely so you can make it ahead of time and pull it out when you need it.

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon water
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses
 
 1.  In a small bowl, mix together flour and baking soda; set aside.  In a medium saucepan or double boiler, combine brown sugar, butter, and water.  Cook and stir over low heat until butter is melted.  Add chocolate; cook and stir until chocolate is melted.  Pour mixture into a large bowl; cool for 10 minutes.
 
2.  Using a wooden spoon, stir the egg into the chocolate mixture.  Stir in the flour mixture until combined.  Cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours or until the dough is easy to handle.
 
3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls.  Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Depending on the size you roll the dough, makes about 30-36 cookies.
 
4.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove and gently press a Kiss into center of each cookie.  Transfer to wire rack and cool until melting mints are firm (I put them in the refrigerator for about an hour to firm up the Kisses).
 
5.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container separated by layers of waxed paper for up to three days (if they last that long)  or freeze for up to 3 months.
 

Chocolate Mint Kiss cookies

How do you beat the heat?  Keep in mind that younger children have greater needs in the summer sun.  Check out my post Helping Baby Beat the Summer Heat at FamilyCorner.com!

Photos courtesy of Google Images and mommeetsblog.com

Have Glue Gun, Will Craft

With the Thanksgiving leftovers almost a distant memory and the holiday season officially underway, visions of glitter and glue guns have begun dancing in my head.  As these next few weeks become increasingly hectic, I like to take time out with my family to flex our DIY muscles and create Christmas decorations.  I have found that this is a fun way to slow down and connect with family and friends during the holiday season.

When my son was younger, we would brush white craft glue onto plain glass ornaments and roll them in glitter (think rolling snicker doodle cookie dough in cinnamon sugar).  It was fun and easy and yes, messy, but we still hang those ornaments on the tree years later.  As he’s gotten older, we’ve graduated to painting glass ornaments and using a hot glue gun to bedazzle them with crystals, feathers, ribbons, even birds!  An easy cut and glue craft that we enjoyed doing together consisted of taking a tin or cardboard star, cutting festive scrapbooking paper to size, gluing the pieces onto the star and sealing it with clear or glittery Mod Podge – adding a seasonal ribbon completed the look.

Check out  some of our creations from Christmas past, before and after:

Plain glass globes and a tin star

Paint and feathers, Mod Podge and crystals – voila!

Plenty of inspiration abounds on websites like Pinterest as well as craft stores like JoAnn’s or Michael’s. One project that I was excited to try this year is this adorable Santa Tulle Wreath from Jill at babyrabies.com. Her tutorial is easy to follow – check out the results.

Santa Tulle Wreath cute

If you have a particular idea in mind or need some guidance, Michaels.com has great suggestions for crafting projects ranging from ornament decorating to cookie baking to sewing.  Plaidonline.com is also an excellent resource for more holiday crafting ideas, as well as year-round and rainy day projects. Both these sites offer materials lists, pictures and clear instructions so even the novice or youngest crafter can turn out some really fun and pretty awesome decorations.

What are your favorite holiday crafting projects?  I’m always looking for new inspiration, so let me know!