Sunday, December 3, 2017

Beef Empanadas

When my niece, Jackie, married Omar I was happy that she chose such a fine young man.  What I didn’t know was that I was getting a fellow foodie, who was going to introduce me to foods from his family’s native country of Ecuador.  Recently, Omar came to my home to spend an afternoon cooking.  Together we made a year supply of his favorite recipe from my blog, to Cranberry-Pecan Cheese Crackers, and he filled my freezer with my favorite Ecuadorian Beef Empanadas.
The name comes from the Spanish verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread. Whether an alternative to a sandwich for lunch or a favorite appetizer for a party, this make ahead and freezer friendly recipe is always a crowd favorite.  Each time I defrost and warm one of Omar’s empanadas, I’m reminded of the fun day we had cooking together.  Some of my favorite food memories are cooking alongside friends, family and especially my mom. The connection over slicing, dicing and eating are much more authentic and intimate than going out to a restaurant.  The holiday season is the perfect time to create memories with your family or friends over a cutting board or a stove. Make sure and snap a few pictures, so you never forget.
§     1 package Empanada discs
§     1/2 lb ground beef
§     1/2 yellow onion - chopped
§     1/2 red pepper - chopped
§     1/4 cup tomato sauce
§     6 Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos
§     2 cloves garlic
§     1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
§     Goya Adobo all-purpose seasoning
§     1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
§     2 eggs hard boiled
§     Salt and pepper to taste

To hard boil eggs, place the eggs into a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt for easy peeling.  Cook uncovered over high heat until the water begins to boil.  Once the water is at a rolling boil, turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 12 minutes.  Run eggs over cool water, peel and set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Sauté ground beef until browned.  Add chopped onions and red peppers and sautés until onion is translucent.  Season to taste with Goya Adobo. 

Stir in tomato sauce, olives, garlic, oregano, salt and black pepper.  Reduce heat and simmer until mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. 
Slice the hard-boiled eggs and add to the ground beef mixture while cooling. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Fill empanada discs.  
Moisten edges with egg wash to close tightly and crimp edges.
Brush empanadas with egg wash (1 egg and 2 tablespoons of water).  Line baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.  If you don’t have parchment paper or Silpat, be sure to grease the baking sheet so that empanadas do not stick.  

Place empanadas on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes rotating after 10 minutes for even browning.  

Remove from oven and serve warm.  For a printer friendly copy of the recipe go to Beef EmpanadasEnjoy!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Cornbread Dressing

Because I write a food/recipe blog, people believe I’m an expert.  One question I’m often asked is “What is the difference between stuffing and dressing.”  This one is easy.  The only difference between the two is how they are cooked.  If you cook the mixture in the cavity of the poultry, it’s stuffing.  If it’s prepared outside of the bird, then the proper name is dressing.  But go south of the Mason-Dixon line and everyone calls it dressing, regardless of its preparation, citing the term “stuffing” as unpleasant sounding.   

Each year, as Thanksgiving approaches, I get requests for my recipe for Cornbread Dressing.  Although I have shared it with many, I hesitated to post it.  I was embarrassed to admit that the base of my dressing comes from a store-bought bag from the grocery store. 

Having tried so many recipes, I always stick with the tried and true "store bag." Since everything is cooked before putting it in the casserole dish, feel free to prepare the mixture a day or two in advance and keep it in the refrigerator.

On Thanksgiving Day, bring to room temperature and put it in the oven when you remove the turkey.  By the time your turkey is rested and sliced, the dressing will be warm and ready to serve. 

For those of you who are new to my blog, there are several recipes I previously posted you may want to add to your Thanksgiving Menu.  If you typically serve soup at the beginning of the meal, try the Pumpkin Soup or Autumn Squash Soup

Instead of mashed potatoes or candied yams, try Mashed Sweet Potatoes, for Pumpkin Risotto with Goat Cheese and Dried Cranberries or better yet, Praline Sweet Potatoes which can be made a day in advance.  Actually, the Praline Sweet Potatoes taste even better as part of your Black Friday leftover lineup. 

Corn is always on our Thanksgiving table.  Creamed Corn and Corn Soufflé are the most requested.  

If you typically serve biscuits on Thanksgiving, try these Corn Muffins.  Although they are lightly sweetened, even the diehard southerners who would never eat cornbread with sugar find themselves coming back for another. 

Finally, Pumpkin Spice Cookies and  Pumpkin Mousse are light addition that fits well into my dessert table staples of pecan and fruit pies. 

§     4 tablespoon (1/2 stick) butter 
§     1 tablespoon vegetable oil (adding oil will prevent butter from burning) 
§     1 medium onion, chopped finely
§     4 stalks of celery, chopped finely
§     1 small container of fresh mushrooms or 1 can of mushrooms roughly chopped
§     1 14-ounce bag of Cornbread Stuffing
§     2 - 3 cups chicken broth
§     1 15ounce can of whole kernel corn (drained)
§     1 cup of dried cranberries
§     Salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauté pan, heat butter until melted.  Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the butter to prevent burning.
Add the chopped onion and sauté just until the onions are translucent, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the celery and stir.  Sauté for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the fresh mushrooms and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Add pepper to taste.  If using fresh mushrooms, sauté for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, mixing occasionally.  If using canned mushrooms, sauté until heated, 1 to 2 minutes.  

Add contents of the Cornbread Stuffing mix and 2 cups of chicken broth.  Add additional chicken broth until you get the consistency you prefer.  I like my dressing moist so I use additional broth.  Mix lightly.
Add the can of whole kernel corn (drained) and cup of dried cranberries and mix lightly.  Serve warm.
If you are preparing the Cornbread Dressing in advance, spray a casserole or baking dish with non-stick cooking spray, add the cornbread mixture and cool before covering and placing in the refrigerator.  To reheat and serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. (If you do not bring to room temperature prior to baking, bake for 45 minutes)  For a crisp top, bake uncovered for the final 15 minutes.  Serve warm.  For a printer friendly copy of this recipe go to Cornbread Dressing.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Crispy Peanut Butter Treats

If you live in a downtown condo and own an extra parking space, it's a common occurrence to be asked to borrow a parking space. From one night for a Preds game to an entire weekend for a visiting friend or family member, I am always more than happy to lend an unused spot.  One day I saw a post on my condo’s Facebook page from Ron, a resident, requesting a parking spot for his mother's upcoming visit.  Unfortunately for him, due to so many downtown events, there weren’t too many free spaces.  Ron's post began with "My mother is an excellent baker and will be happy to share some of her goodies, if someone would let her use their parking spot for the night."  As I had no plans to use any of my parking places, I offered mine and told him it was not necessary to give me baked goods.  I thought nothing more of it.

Well, one morning, as I walked through the lobby, the concierge told me there was a package waiting for me.  Along with several other cakes and cookies, Ron's mother made these addictive, Crispy Peanut Butter Treats.  My next post to the building Facebook page was "The next time Ron offers his mother's baked goods in exchange for a parking space, I suggest you move your car to the Pinnacle building across the street and give him yours."  Thank you, Ron, for getting your mother to share her recipe with me.

§     2 1/2 cups of peanut butter
§     1/2 cup butter, melted
§     1 teaspoon vanilla
§     2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
§     1/2 cup light brown sugar
§     1 cup Rice Krispies
§     Pinch of salt
§     1 1/2 cups semi sweet or milk chocolate (chips or finely chopped)
§     1 teaspoon shortening

Line a 9” x 13” pan with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix together the peanut butter, melted butter, vanilla, confectioners’ sugar and brown sugar.

When blended, add Rice Krispies.

Press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.

Place 1 cup of the chopped chocolate into a medium sized microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds.  Remove and stir.  If chocolate is not thoroughly melted, microwave for another 20 seconds.  Repeat if necessary but do not overheat the chocolate.  Remove from the microwave and add the remaining 1/2 cup of room temperature chocolate to temper and cool the mixture. Add 1 teaspoon of shortening so the chocolate remains softer after it cools.

Spread the chocolate evenly over the peanut butter mixture.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes before scoring the chocolate to make squares.

Let harden completely before serving.

I store these treats and prefer to eat them directly from the refrigerator.  For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Crispy Peanut Butter TreatsEnjoy!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Creamed Corn

When my friends, Brenda and Manfred, showed up with a trunk filled with fresh vegetables from their family garden, I must say I was a bit overwhelmed.  The five huge baskets of produce made my kitchen look like a farmer's market stall.  With so many vegetables to inspire me, I first made the Summer Squash Casserole recipe I posted last month.  

This month, it’s all about corn.  If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you will know that corn is my favorite vegetable. Whether it’s fresh, frozen or canned, I use it as often as I can.  In the summertime, we have access to sweet, fresh corn, so that’s what I use in this recipe.  But if fresh corn is not in season, frozen corn works just as well. (Just don't tell Brenda and Manfred).   If you don’t like heat, remove the seeds and membrane from the jalapeno or substitute a poblano pepper which will adds a depth of flavor you'll love without the spice.. One thing is for sure, even though it's quick and easy to make, whenever I make this creamed corn, I double the recipe as it freezes beautifully.

§     16 ounces fresh or frozen corn kernels
§     1 medium onion, chopped finely
§     2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
§     1 4-ounce can diced green chilis
§     1 jalapeno, finely chopped (remove the membrane and seeds if you don’t want heat)
§     1 teaspoon garlic powder
§     1 teaspoon onion powder
§     1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
§     1 cup chicken broth
§     2 tablespoons yellow corn meal
§     Salt and pepper to taste
§     1 cup heavy cream
§     1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese or Mexican Blended Cheese

In a large sauce pan, sauté chopped onions in olive oil until translucent. 

Add the corn, canned chilis, jalapeno (or poblano), chicken broth and spices to the sauce pan.  If you don’t want the creamed corn to be too spicy, you may want to remove the seeds from the jalapeno before adding.  Stir well and bring to a boil. 

Once at a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and add the corn meal while stirring constantly.  Cook for about five minutes or until the sauce thickens.  Add the heavy cream and cook for one minute while stirring well.

Remove from heat and add the cheese.  Serve warm.  For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to  Creamed CornEnjoy!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Summer Squash Casserole

If you have ever grown squash in your backyard, you know the bountiful harvest is more than you could possibly use.  Friends and family are on the receiving end of your gardening generosity.  I am guessing years ago, somewhere south of the Mason Dixon line, a bored housewife decided to spruce up summer dinner and created the squash casserole. When I moved to the south 25 years ago, you could not attend a potluck dinner, shower, family reunion or other gathering of people without squash casserole taking center stage. 

Just like no two snowflakes are exactly the same, you’ll be hard pressed to find two identical squash casserole recipes.  Two decades later, for some unknown reason to me, squash casserole has lost its prominent position at dinner tables.  I am confident that if I could get you to taste it, you will join me in my desire to make squash casseroles great again!  This Summer Squash Casserole is a simple yet authentic Southern recipe that Southern women have made for years.  The classic Southern-style recipe is made with yellow squash, cheese and eggs and covered with buttery cracker crumbs.

When I moved to the south 25 years ago, you could not attend a potluck dinner, shower, family reunion or other gathering of people without squash casserole taking center stage.  The classic Southern-style recipe made with yellow squash, cheese and eggs and covered with buttery cracker crumbs.

§     3 pounds yellow squash, sliced
§     6 tablespoons butter, divided
§     1 small onion, chopped
§     1 1/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
§     2 large eggs, lightly beaten
§     1/2 cup sour cream
§     1/4 cup mayonnaise
§     2 teaspoons sugar
§     1 teaspoon garlic powder
§     1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
§     1 teaspoon salt
§     3/4 cup crushed buttery crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a small casserole dish or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Cook squash in boiling salted water for 10 – 15 minutes or just until tender.  Pour into a colander and drain well.

In a medium mixing bowl, add 4 tablespoons butter to the warm, drained squash and onion mixture.  The warm squash will melt the butter.  Fold in 1 cup of Cheddar cheese, eggs, sour cream, mayonnaise, sugar, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and salt.

Spoon mixture into a lightly greased baking dish.  Layer remaining 1/4 cup Cheddar cheese over the top of the casserole.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter.  Stir melted butter and crushed crackers.

Sprinkle evenly over top of casserole.

Bake 25 – 30 minutes or until topping is lightly golden brown. For a printer friendly copy of the recipe go to Summer Squash CasseroleEnjoy!

Friday, June 30, 2017


It was while vacationing in Puerto Rico where I fell in love with arepas.  In Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Columbia, they call them arepas.  In the south, a similar version is called "hot water corn bread." The main difference is the type of corn flour used.  Arepas are made using the special precooked corn flour called Masa Harina used to make corn tortillas, but have a milder corn flavor than tortillas or tamales.  I was told I had to go to a Latino market to find the flour, but my neighborhood supermarket carries it.
Crispy on the outside with a soft and creamy center, arepas are scrumptious slathered with butter or cream cheese for breakfast or as a substitute for bread at any meal.  When made thicker, you can slice it through the center like a bread bun, but not cutting all the way through, and then filling each arepa with your preferred meat or cheese combination.  It is a truly magnificent delivery system for any number of your favorite fillings.  Grace was so happy to hear that I was posting arepas to the blog until she learned that I was using photos from the last time I made them.  Maybe I'll surprise her and have a plateful waiting after I finish writing this month's entry.

§     2 cups warm water
§     1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more to fry arepas
§     1 teaspoon table salt
§     2 cups Masa Harina (pre cooked corn flour)

In a large bowl, stir together 2 cups warm water with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and salt until salt dissolves. 

To avoid lumps, mix continuously while gradually adding the masa harina. 

Continue to mix for one minute to give the masa harina the chance to absorb the liquid.

The dough should hold together when pressed.  If the dough is dry, add water, one tablespoon at a time.   Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap to allow the dough to rest for at least 10 minutes.  Divide the dough into 6 or 8 pieces and shape each piece into a 1/2 inch thick disc.  I prefer to make the arepas larger when I am using them for sandwiches. 

I use the larger arepas for sandwiches.  Heat 1/4 inch oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat.

Fry each disc until golden brown and crispy.

Serve warm.  For a printer friendly copy of this recipe go to Arepas  Enjoy!