Back to school and back to heavy duty cooking. And waking up early to make lunches, after school snacks, homemade cookies and a variety of dinners! As much as we busy moms may enjoy the new quiet in the house, our back to school routines will soon have stress as we juggle homework and activities while trying to keep the kids healthy with the right foods. But this can be hard, really hard with many interfering factors. In my house, it’s the kid’s eating habits and competing schedules which pull me in a million different directions. One of my kid’s likes zucchini while another hates it. I’ve got a vegetarian and two meat lovers. And I have three kids with competing schedules leaving little time to eat a civilized meal.
So what can we busy and frazzled mom’s do? Cook with friends of course! And with that comes not just being armed and ready with on-the-go, in-a-pinch meals, but also the friendship factor. While cooking, why not talk out your life’s problems with a good friend. There’s truly nothing more fulfilling, at least for me, than creating mounds of food and getting some therapy time. So, as the year kicks off again and the kids are in their first full week of school, I will slowly get back into the cooking with friends groove. Please join me and my friends in cooking and exploring new foods to serve our often finicky children. This week, Jackie and I will be making an oldie but goodie — empanadas — which are the perfect pocket food and can be stuffed with any kind of filling your family likes, served for dinner and even carried in a thermos for lunch. I’ve made a gazillion different varieties from taco to lobster and even pot pie empanadas. But here’s the all-time favorite in our house Curried Chicken.
Curried Chicken Empanadas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground chicken
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 tablespoons curry powder (Jamaican or other)
½ cup petit frozen peas
10 empanada wrappers
Make the Filling:
1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on a medium heat.
2. Sauté the ginger, garlic and onions for about 5 minutes on a medium-high heat.
3. Add the ground chicken and cook, breaking apart the meat as you go.
4. Season with curry powder, salt and cumin. When the chicken is cooked through (about 10 minutes), add the petit peas and carrots. Combine well and set aside.
Crimp the Empanadas:
1. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of an empanada wrapper.
2. Fold one side over the other and crimp the edges together, using the rope or fork method.
3. Repeat until finished with all of the wrappers and filling.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Brush the tops of the empanadas with egg wash (one egg lightly beaten with a dash of water)
3. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden. Serve with Tamarind sauce or sweet mango chutney.
1. Crimp each empanada and lay on a baking sheet lined with wax paper (making sure not to overlap or stack the empanadas.)
2. Place uncovered in the freezer for several hours until the empanadas are frozen solid.
3. Transfer to a freezer bag and seal, squeezing out excess air.
4. To cook, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, brush the tops of each with egg wash and bake on a non-stick baking sheet for 30 minutes until golden.
Makes 14 5 inch round cylinders
Although pre-made empanada wrappers are readily available, making your own flaky dough is actually quite simple. The extra effort will make quite a difference in the quality. Although you can use a pastry cutter and blend the dough by hand, to save time, we used a food processor.
8 tablespoons ice cold butter or shortening, cubed
1 ¾ cups flour spoon measured
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons ice cold water
Using a food processor, pulse the flour and salt together until mixed. Add the cubed butter or shortening and pulse until course and crumbly — about 12 times. Add ice cold water 1 tablespoon at a time (about 10 – 12), pulsing in between until mixture begins to gather. Remove from the mixer and knead with your hands for a few seconds. Wrap in plastic wrap and let the dough rest in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
Divide the dough into two batches and roll the dough on a floured surface 1/8 inch thick and use a round mold 6 inches in diameter to cut circles. Gather and reuse the dough, rolling and cutting the cylinders. Place in between layers of parchment paper to store in a freezer bag.