A Year Of... interesting things

Baked Empanadas - Attempt Number One

An empanada is a fried (more delicious) or baked (healthier?) bread of pastry stuffed with a savoury filling.

In one shape or another, they are present all over the work:

  • In India they are called samosas;
  • In Bangladesh they’re called shingara;
  • Maldivians call them bajiyaa;
  • In Indonesia they are known as pastel and pasteis in Brazil;
  • They are called sambusak in Israel;
  • chamuças in Portugal and in the Goa province of India;
  • samboosa throughout the Horn of Africa and towards the southern side.

I’d argue that the Italian calzone and even the Greek spanakopita are in the same family, if not quite the same.

My recipe, from Cooking Light Global Kitchen: The World’s Most Delicious Food Made Easy of course, called for sweet potatoes and black beans empanadas, but I soon found with a rebellion on my hands as the tribe demanded meat and some of the members didn’t like sweet potatoes.

What we ended up with is half the empanadas half-filled with regular potato and beans and half with the planned sweet potato and beans.

It was a lot of work.

Sweet Poatato and Black Bean Baked Empanadas


This is not an easy to make recipe. It takes quite a lot in preparation, which is almost continuous throughout the making of it.

I cannot even imagine what the fried ones are like.


  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 poblano Chile
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ancho Chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray


  1. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife.
    Combine flour and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.
    Combine canola oil, 1/4 cup cold water, vinegar, and egg in a medium bowl.
    Gradually add oil mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
    Knead lightly until smooth.
    Shape dough into a ball, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour.
  2. Preheat broiler.
    Place Chile on a foil-lined baking sheet;
    broil 8 minutes or until blackened, turning after 6 minutes.
    Place in a paper bag; close tightly.
    Let stand 15 minutes.
    Peel Chile; cut in half lengthwise.
    Discard seeds and membranes; finely chop.
  3. Preheat oven to 400F (I would do this in step 4 - the following took me quite a while).
    Cook cumin seeds in a large saucepan over medium heat 1 minute or until toasted, stirring constantly.
    Place cumin in a clean spice grinder; process until ground.
    Combine cumin, poblano, sweet potatoes, and next 5 ingredients (through 1/2 teaspoon salt) in a large bowl;
    mash with a fork until almost smooth.
  4. Divide dough into 10 equal portions, shaping each into a ball.
    Roll each dough portion into a 5-inch circle on a lightly floured surface.
    Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to keep from drying), spoon 3 tablespoons poblano mixture into center of each circle.
    Moisten edges of dough with egg white; fold dough over filling.
    Press edges together to seal.
    Place on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
    Cut 3 diagonal slits across top of each empanada.
    Bake at 400F for 16 minutes or until lightly browned.

Serves 10 (serving size: 1 empanada). Good luck eating only one!

Nutritional info:

  • Calories 209;
  • Fat 8.4g (Sat 0.7g, Mono 5g, Poly 2.3g);
  • Protein 5.1g;
  • Carbs 29g;
  • Fiber 2.9g;
  • Cholesterol 18mg;
  • Iron 2.3mg; Sodium 359mg; Calcium 32mg; Sodium 359mg; Calcium 32mg.

Chicken Arepas - Colombian Flatbread Sandwiches

Arepas and their Salvadorean cousins pupusas are a type of round, flatbread made from corn meal or maize flour and it’s featured prominently in the cuisines of Colombia and Venezuela, to the point where some Colombian regions it accompanies all meals of the day.

Arepas 2.jpg
By Popo le Chien - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

It can be used in multiple ways, but one common approach is to slice it in half and use the two slices instead of sandwich bread.

The recipe I made comes from Cooking Light Global Kitchen: The World’s Most Delicious Food Made Easy and uses stuffed arepas.

Chicken Arepas


Hands-on time: 30 minutes, total 54. (yeah of course it took me longer than that)

I suggest this Serious Eats recipe for arepas instead of the one included here; I didn’t like the way my arepas turned out - I think the recipe adds too much water.

The filling was pretty delicious, though.


  • 15 ounces (1 1/2 cups) yellow arepa flour (masarepa, such as P.A.N.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced seeded jalapeño pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups chopped leftover cooked turkey breast (I used chicken)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup (3 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp white cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.
    Combine flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir well.
    Add 2 cups hot water (too much I think); stir until well combined and smooth.
    Let stand 10 minutes.
    Divide dough into 12 equal portions, shaping each into a ball. (Dough should be moist.)
    Working with 1 portion at a time, roll each portion into a 3-inch circle (about 1/2 inch thick).
  3. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
    Add 6 arepas to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side (took me more like 5) or until browned and crisp.
    Place on a baking sheet.
    Repeat procedure with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and remaining arepas.
    Bake at 400F for 20 minutes or until arepas sound hollow when lightly tapped.
  4. While arepas bake, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
    Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat.
    Add onion and bell pepper; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    Add jalapeño, cumin seeds, and garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    Stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, turkey, cilantro, and black pepper; cook 1 minute.
    Remove from heat; stir in cheese.
  5. Remove arepas from oven; let stand 2 minutes.
    Cut a 3-inch pocket in the side of each arepa; spoon turkey mixture into arepas.

Serves 6 - serving size: 2 filled arepas. (I ate 3 by myself)

Nutritional info:

  • calories 282;
  • fat 10.4g (sat 3g, mono 3.3g, poly 2.3g);
  • protein 20.8g;
  • Carbs 26.5g;
  • Fiber 4.8g;
  • Cholesterol 42mg;
  • Iron 3mg; Sodium 547mg; Calcium 162mg

Ecuadorian Potato and Cheese Patties (Llapingachos Ecuatorianos)

Llapingachos are cheese-stuffed fried potato cakes/patties that originated in Ecuador.

They are similar to arepas - a Colombian specialty - and they are quite easy to make all while being a delicious dish.

While they are usually served with peanut sauce, they can be just as well accompanied by chorizo, onion and tomato salad (pickled onions in particular), avocado slices, or aji criollo aka Ecuadorian hot sauce.

The version I made was served with a simple cubed tomato and julienne onion salad, with a bit of jalapenos thrown in to combat the sweetness of the potatoes and cheese.

Ecuadorian Potato and Cheese Patties

After making it I see it as a basic for continuous improvements and I already have a couple of these “improvements” in mind:

  • adding crumbled bacon
  • using both regular and purple potatoes in the making
  • adding various spices (curry?! OMG!!)
  • adding other vegetables - maybe zucchini?
  • definitely trying it with peanut sauce and with aji criollo


The recipe comes from the Cooking Light Global Kitchen: The World’s Most Delicious Food Made Easy book, but I also would recommend Laylita’s version which mentions adding a fried egg.

Serves 6 (barely 4 if you have other things on the table).

Supposedly takes about 20 minutes on hands-on time, total 65.

It took me about 30 - these numbers must come from either skilled chefs or somebody who’s done all the cutting and measuring before hand. I think mashing the potatoes alone took me 10 minutes.


  • 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 medium baking potatoes (about 11/4 pounds), peeled and quartered
  • 11/2 ounces shredded queso fresco or Monterey Jack cheese (about 6 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup diced tomato
  • 1/2 cup julienne-cut red onion


  1. Place 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and potatoes in a saucepan, and cover with water.
    Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until tender.
    Drain, and mash with a potato masher until smooth.
  2. Add cheese, green onions, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to potato mixture, stirring well.
    Divide potato mixture into 6 balls (about 1/2 cup per ball).
    Flatten balls into h-inch-thick patties (about 3-inch diameter).
    Place on a baking sheet; cover and refrigerate 20 minutes or until firm.
  3. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
    Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. (don’t - just do it without oil in a *hot non-stick pan or griddle because it helps maintain the integrity of the patty*) Place patties in pan; cook 5 minutes or until bottoms are browned.
    Turn patties; cook 3 minutes.
  4. Top patties with tomato and red onion.

Serves 6 (serving size: 1 patty, 2 tablespoons tomato, and 4 teaspoons red onion)

Nutritional information:

  • Calories 157;
  • Fat 4.6g (sat 1.8g, mono 1.3g, poly 1.2g);
  • Protein 4.23
  • Carbs 249g;
  • Fiber 2.1g;
  • Cholesterol 6mg;
  • Iron 0.6mg; Sodium 279mg; Calcium 64mg

Peruvian Sarsa Salad

This is one of the more surprising salads I had. It’s full of fiber, filling and the lemon juice makes it always feel fresh.

A common condiment in Peru sara is a salsa or relish of chopped fresh onions, herbs, and citrus juice. Some versions include tomatoes. Some toss in radishes. As long as the the base of the relish remains crisp and puckery, you can add what you like. This version from chef Douglas Rodriguez is a fuller salad including lima beans hominy and Farmer’s cheese.

Peruvian Sarsa Salad


Serves 6 (really more like 4 if served as a side, 2 if served as a full meal).

Takes about 10-15 minutes to make.


  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup sliced radishes
  • 1/2 cup frozen lima beans, thawed
  • 1/2 cup canned white hominy, drained
  • 1 ounce crumbled farmer’s cheese or feta cheese (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped bottled roasted red bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced


  1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Combine lemon juice and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.
  3. Drizzle dressing over salad, and toss gently to combine.

Nutritional information

  • Calories 77;
  • Fat (sat 1.1g, mono 1.9g, poly 0.3g);
  • Protein 2.6g, Carbs 9.5g, Fiber 1.3g, Cholesterol 4mg;
  • Iron 0.8mg; Sodium 198mg; calc 44mg

Tacos - Attempt 1

This is my first attempt at tacos. Not the most successful meal I made, but it’s something I’m determined to nail.

Tacos #1

Instead of the typical ground beef, I used ground turkey not because it was healthier but because that’s what I had on hand.

For spice mix, I used Alton Brown’s Taco Potion #19.

For preparation I used Culinary Hill’s The Best Turkey Tacos - which calls for 1 cup of tomato juice.

That latter part is important because I think it’s what went wrong that made the recipe taste more like Sloppy Joes than regular tacos.

As a test, I changed the Taco Potion #19 recipe to replace the cumin with garam masala. That yielded some delicious mix.