Empanadas and Quinoa Beet Salad


I’ve been bugging my friend for awhile to teach me how to make her famous empanadas (or pastelitos, whichever). She is Ecuadorian and therefore knows what she’s doing. Unfortunately this weekend our plans fell through, but another always adventurous friend, my sister, my husband and I decided to forge ahead anyway and try our hand at it. The results were delicious, and we had a lot of fun muddling through!


One thing we learned is that we need to seal them a little better (and be careful not to let the filling split out the back…oops). This made for splattery oil that threatened to disfigure my sister, and the emapanadas weren’t quite as pretty. But they were still just as delicious, I probably ate the weight of my unborn child in them. Thank goodness for stretchy maternity pants.

We made three kinds – beef, potato, and some little mini guava ones for dessert. ¡Deliciosos!

Empanada Dough

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup masa harina
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 stick butter, melted
3/4 cups water

Mix dry ingredients, stir in butter, and add water to form a dough. Combine well, roll into a ball, and wrap with plastic to refrigerate for one hour.

Divide into 4-8 sections (however much your counter space will allow), and roll as thin as possible. Use a cookie cutter to cut into circles (various sizes, Mariela makes hers big, ours were medium with little bitty baby ones for dessert), and they are ready for filling.

This dough can be baked or fried. We fried – decadent Saturday night! We stuck them in the freezer for a few minutes, then fried them in an inch of oil on medium heat for a few minutes on each side until deep golden brown before removing to paper-towel lined plates.


Suggested Empanada Fillings

We took my friend’s authentic recipe as a base and kind of ran with it. So no guarantees on authenticity, but the fillings turned out really really yummy:

Beef and Pea

Ground beef, sauteed garlic and onions, peas, tomato paste, olives, raisins, boiled egg, lemon, cumin, paprika, salt & pepper, ranchero sauce.

Potato and Corn

Boiled potatoes, sauteed garlic and onions, corn, cilantro, olives, boiled egg, lime, sazón, ranchero sauce.

Guava and Cream Cheese

Cream cheese and guava paste.

Feel free to get creative; if the filling is tasty, you really can’t go wrong!


To accompany our empanadas I made a lovely quinoa and beet salad, which turned out the obscene magenta color I love and left me with leftovers for work lunches this week. Apologies for no exact measurements, I will probably revisit this one to make a proper recipe.

Quinoa and Beet Salad

Quinoa, roasted beets, and toasted walnuts dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and dijon mustard, tossed with arugula and topped with sliced avocado and pickled shallots.

Go-To Chili


I love fresh tomatoes…fresh corn….rehydrating dried beans to their perfect constitution…who doesn’t? Unfortunately there are those days where none of that is going to cut it. Come on, I have a job, it’s a Monday and I got home late with 30 min or less to put dinner on the table. Cans! Cans to the rescue! This chili might not win any competitions, but it’ll make a solid weeknight dinner.

This is one of those “recipes” (I use the term loosely) that I can usually make with just stuff from the pantry, and there are several elements that are flexible depending on what I have on hand, so I’ll give you some options. The key, though, are the smoky, spicy chipotle peppers in adobe sauce. If I don’t have those I may as well make a bagel.

Go-To Chili

olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
ground spices. Your options are paprika, cinnamon, cumin, garam masala (in Tex-Mex food? Yes!), or a chili powder. Whatever you feel like.
1 lb ground beef (chicken or turkey is fine too)
a splash of whatever you’re drinking (water, wine, beer, coffee)
1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
2 cans beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed. Mix and match; tonight I used black and pinto
1 small can white corn
2-3 chipotle pepper in adobo, chopped
Cilantro and lime wedges for garnish

Heat olive oil in a pot or dutch oven. Saute diced onion until translucent then add garlic and ground spices and cook for another couple of minutes. Add meat and brown, stirring. Deglaze with a splash of liquid, then add tomatoes, beans, corn, and chipotles and water to cover. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, covered, then uncover and evaporate liquid to desired thickness.

Tonight I made a regular dinner a little special by spooning our Midsummer Avocado Salad on top. I was curious…blue cheese with chili? The answer a resounding “yes!”

Paki Tacos


I absolutely love Latin culture. I love the language, the food, the music, the dancing. When I met Shan, I was pretty much immersed. I was going salsa dancing every weekend, and I was eating arroz con gandules instead of biryani. After we got married, I started cooking mostly Pakistani and Indian food, but I will never stop cooking Latin food; it’s such a nice reminder of that time in my life and the people that are still dear friends, even though we don’t see each other as much anymore.

Tonight I made a dish that’s a fusion of the foods that Shan and I both love. This dish is my past and my future on one plate.

Instead of pulled pork (we don’t eat pork!) this is made with pulled chicken thighs, with a spicy tomato sauce flavored with both South Asian spices and smoky chipotle pepper, and just a little brown sugar. With gingery basmati rice, a fresh, sweet corn relish, and delicate pickled shallots (I put pickled shallots on everything), this is a delightful mix of flavors and textures.

Shan approved; he ate four and gave them their name – Paki Tacos.

Paki Tacos

For pickled shallots
Combine 2 sliced shallots, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, 2 tsp honey, and a couple pinches of salt in a coffee cup and let pickle while you cook the rest.

For chicken + tomato sauce
4 chicken thighs
salt & pepper
olive oil
1/3 c sherry (white wine, chicken broth, or water also fine)
1 tbsp butter
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp each: ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika, garam masala
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large carrot, chopped
2 chipotle peppers (and a tbsp or so of the adobo sauce)
1 tsp brown sugar

Heat olive oil on high while you salt and pepper chicken thighs. Brown chicken thighs on both sides, covered so they start to cook through. Check for doneness, you may need to add a splash of water and cover so they cook through the rest of the way. When they are cooked, let water evaporate and remove chicken to a plate to cool.

Deglaze pan with sherry, reduce by at least half, then add butter, cinnamon, and cloves and reduce heat to just above medium. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent. Add garlic and ground spices and cook, stirring, for several minutes. Add tomatoes, carrots, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, and about a cup of water, cover and crank the heat back up. Cook for 10 minutes or so, uncover and reduce if it’s too liquidy (you want it not too dry, but thick), remove from heat, and stir in brown sugar.

While the sauce cools, shred chicken thighs with two forks. Transfer sauce to a food processor, puree, then combine chicken and sauce in the pot and gently warm through.

For corn relish
2 ears white corn
small handful cilantro
1 lime (zest of all, juice of half)
2 tbsp yogurt
salt & pepper

Boil corn in pot of generously salted water. Drain and cool. Finely chop cilantro and combine with lime zest, lime juice and yogurt. Cut the corn off the cob and gently stir with yogurt mixture.

For gingery basmati rice
Rinse and soak 1 c rice (15 min is fine). Boil and salt 2 c water, grating in 1/2 inch ginger. Add rice, cover, and reduce heat to low, cooking until done, about 15 to 20 minutes.

For tacos
Assemble all of the above in warm corn tortillas and enjoy.

Chicken Corn Soup


This Chinese soup is very popular in Pakistan. It’s simple and homey, the perfect thing to whip up on a rainy day or to nurse someone with a cold. This was one of the first things my husband cooked for me when we moved in together, and to me the memory is just as warming as the soup.

This recipe makes about four bowls, but can easily be doubled. Delicious with just a drizzle of sriracha.

Chicken Corn Soup

olive oil
1 chicken thigh, cut into small pieces
6 cups chicken broth
couple slices of ginger (optional)
1 ear corn
2 tbsp corn starch
1 egg white
chopped green onions, parsley, or cilantro for garish
sriracha, optional

In a small soup pot, heat olive oil and add chicken pieces, stirring until they are cooked. Add broth, ginger, and the corn, and bring to a simmer. When the corn is cooked, remove, slice the kernels off and return them to the pot.

Mix corn starch with a little water to make a slurry, and add to the pot. Stir and simmer (not boiling) until the soup thickens. Stirring, slowly add the egg white. Serve piping hot.

Posole with Kale

I was introduced to posole, a Mexican soup made with hominy, years ago by my then-roomate. Her ex husband was Mexican, and so she knew how to cook all kinds of yummy Mexican food. Our posole adventure was a full day ordeal, ending in a feast for lots of people. We roasted a pork shoulder which we later broke up into the soup, and used two giant 24 ounce cans of posole. We cooked in a tamalero – an enormous pot, which most people use for steaming tamales but crazy ladies use for making copious amounts of soup. The pot spanned two eyes of the stove and needed to be washed in the bathtub.

I still make posole from time to time, in amounts meant for a family instead of the Mexican army. Posole is a fun and festive soup because you can serve the basic soup with lots of garnishes and everyone can dress theirs up as they like. The only constants needed are the hominy, onions, broth, and oregano – and the rest is up to your imagination. I love adding greens to soups (they look so pretty besides being really good for you), so this time I added kale. The result was a hearty and nourishing bowl.

Posole with Kale

olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 chicken breast, cut crossways then into thin strips
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1 4 ounce can green chillis
1 12 ounce can white hominy
8-10 cups broth (and more water as needed)
juice of half a lime
1 bunch kale, washed, trimmed, stalks cut out then cut into strips
garnishes: sliced lime, chopped cilantro, hot sauce, tostadas, crumbled queso fresco, etc etc etc

Heat olive oil over medium high heat, then add onion, salt and pepper. Cook until onion begins to turn translucent, then add garlic, chicken, oregano, paprika and cumin. Cook for a few minutes until chicken is cooked, then add chillis, hominy, and broth. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes. Squeeze in lime juice, and add kale, simmering for a couple more minutes. Serve with garnishes.