Argentina-Style Empanadas

Crispy, savory pastry meets seasoned, slightly sweet beef in this dish, with extra bursts of sweetness from the raisins throughout, and a surprise bite of hard-boiled egg and a tangy green olive.

Several months after JJ and I got married, we had the opportunity to visit his parents in the hometown where he grew up. Other than wanting to spend quality time with his immediate and extended family, we didn’t have a lot of expectations for our visit. We did have one main goal, however—to learn how to make empanadas from JJ’s father.

JJ and I had very distinct reasons as to why we wanted to learn, although equally as strong desires. For JJ, it was a beloved dish reminiscent of special moments throughout his childhood. I wanted to learn, on the other hand, because making authentic empanadas from my Argentine father-in-law was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Although JJ’s father was not too excited about the long, laborious process of teaching us how to make this main course, he conceded to our request, and we were soon learning how to make this tasty dish.

The empanadas that JJ and I formed that day were nothing near lovely, but they were delicious. Enough so, in fact, that JJ and I decided to try our hand at them again for our first Christmas together as a married couple several months later. JJ pulled up the short clips he had recorded from our empanada-making session with his dad, and I got out my notes with rough estimates of each ingredient used.

 It was quite the process for us to form and fry the empanadas, but several hours later, we had a heaping bowl full of these tasty, golden treats, and our tradition of making empanadas during the Christmas season began.

Since learning how to make empanadas, I have noticed that there are other Argentine empanada recipes online. Some are similar to the ones that we make with a few additional ingredients, and some are different altogether. Nonetheless, the recipe below is what JJ’s father taught us, and it is the one that we love and that we will pass on to our son as he grows. We hope it will stay in the family for many generations to come.

If you make these empanadas, please let me know how they turn out. I hope you like them as much as my family and I do. Who knows? Perhaps they will even become a new family tradition of your own.

Argentina-Style Empanadas

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef
1 ½ t paprika
1 t crushed red pepper
1½ T taco seasoning mix
1 to 1 ½ T sugar, according to desired sweetness
1/3 c raisins
2 hard-boiled eggs, cut into small cubes (around 12-15 pieces per egg)
Small jar green olives (one green olive per empanada)
2 packages Discos Goya*(thawed in refrigerator overnight)
Oil for frying

Directions:

Brown the beef and drain its grease.  Return to low heat and add the paprika, crushed red pepper, taco seasoning mix, and sugar and mix well. Stir in the raisins and remove from heat. Place a couple of tablespoons of the meat mixture into the middle of the disco Goya. Add a piece of hard-boiled egg and one olive to each, then fold the dough in half. Make a crease along the opened end, then pinch the dough along the crease line to ensure complete closure of the empanada.

Heat up enough oil in a frying pan for the empanadas to float above the bottom of the pan. Flip each empanada after 30-60 seconds, or once the side submerged in oil is golden. Fry the other side until golden, then place on a plate lined with a paper towel to allow to cool slightly. Makes 20 empanadas.

NOTES: If you are not familiar with discos Goya, I recommend searching for them in the frozen section of ethnic food at your local Walmart. If you do not have a local Walmart and/or simply do not have access to discos Goya where you live, the following website provides a fairly simple recipe for making them: https://www.laylita.com/recipes/how-to-make-empanada-dough/. Please keep in mind, however, that I cannot attest to the taste of these discos nor their similarity to discos Goya since I have always been fortunate enough to find discos Goya at the store.

To make a healthier version of this dish, use lean ground beef, lightly brush the dough with oil, and bake until golden.

Almond Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies

Well, the cookies that I entered in a Christmas cookie contest back in October didn’t win, and although I am not altogether surprised, I am a bit disappointed. I had grand dreams of becoming the Christmas cookie champion of 2020 (that’s what I would have called myself, at least) and claiming the cash prize. At the same time, I’m pretty sure that I could not have posted the recipe on this blog had I won the contest, and I really wanted to share it with you all, so I’m grateful for that chance. The opportunity to do so is a prize in and of itself.

Although my recipe did not win, these cookies are award-worthy in my book, and my husband thinks so too. Loaded with cherries and chocolate with a hint of almond, they are the perfect blend of sweet and soft that will have you coming back for more. They are seriously addictive, and I’m pretty sure you’ll think so too!

With Christmas just around the corner, these would make a great dessert for a Christmas party or family gathering. The only downside to making them is that the cherries will temporarily leave your fingers red if you dice them by hand. At the same time, your guests won’t be able to deny that you made this delicious treat. You can even tell them that they caught you “red-handed.” 😊

After thumbing through recipes online recently, I realized that my creation is not so unique after all. The chocolate-cherry combination has been done before, and I don’t know why I wasn’t aware of that sooner, but finding these similar recipes has reminded me of the truth found in Ecclesiastes all the more:

“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 1:9

Although my recipe is nothing new after all, this is my take on the cherry-chocolate combo, with the additional almond extract that most recipes I’ve seen have lacked.

If you make them, please leave a comment and let me know! I hope you enjoy them as much as my family does! Now let’s get to baking!

Ingredients
½ c unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c brown sugar
1 t almond extract
1 egg
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
12 oz jar maraschino cherries, drained and diced (around 3/4 c diced cherries)
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350o F. Mix the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth, then blend in the almond extract and egg. Add the maraschino cherries and stir by hand.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and baking soda, then add to the wet ingredients and stir together. Add the chocolate chips and mix until well incorporated.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoon onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for fifteen minutes. Makes 20-24 cookies.

Slow Cooker Spiced Pumpkin Mocha Latte

I’m becoming increasingly thankful that I didn’t start a food blog like I had originally dreamed of doing. Between the testing, tasting, tweaking, and trying my recipe ideas over and over again (not to mention the time spent taking photos of the finished product), I’m pretty much amazed that anyone has a food blog!

That being said, I am nonetheless happy to have an outlet where I can share original recipes, but without the pressure of having to.

This recipe was inspired by the chocolate chip pumpkin bread that my mom used to make every fall when I was a child. It was such a cozy season for our family growing up, and I suppose this was my way of reminiscing over it.

As I was working on this recipe, I was reminded of something a former coworker posted on social media a year ago about Abuelita hot chocolate being better that pumpkin spice latte. The conversation that ensued on his page was so funny! People are passionate about their beverage preferences!

I had to smile as I created this recipe since it combines the warmth of pumpkin spice with the richness of chocolate. It’s a win-win in my book, and I hope others will think so too!

Although I used normal cocoa powder in this recipe to make it accessible to more people, I would wholeheartedly recommend substituting the cocoa powder (and cinnamon) for a wedge or two of Abuelita hot chocolate if you can find it at your local grocery store. Just make sure that you adjust the amount of sweetened condensed milk you use (or substitute it with a low-calorie sweetener altogether, if desired). Also, feel free to use your milk of choice. However, if you use a non-dairy option, choose one that is creamy in texture, as it will help to keep the latte from tasting grainy.

Lastly, if you make this beverage, please let me know what you think!  I hope it makes this season a little sweeter for you!

Ingredients:

  • 4 c strong brewed coffee
  • 4 c milk of choice
  • ½ c pumpkin puree
  • 1 ½ T pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ c – 1 c sweetened condensed milk, as desired
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 4-6 whole cloves (optional)

Directions:

Place the coffee, milk, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, cocoa powder, and sweetened condensed milk in a slow cooker. Stir well. Add the cinnamon sticks and cloves and cook on high for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until flavors have blended together and the beverage is heated through. Stir again, then strain into mugs and serve. Makes 6-8 servings.

Stovetop Method (1-2 Servings):

  • 1 c strong brewed coffee
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 2 T pumpkin puree
  • 1 t pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ T cocoa powder
  • 2-4 T sweetened condensed milk, as desired
  • 1 small cinnamon stick*
  • 1-2 whole cloves (optional)

Add the first 6 ingredients to a pot and mix well. Add the cinnamon stick and cloves, then simmer over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes, or until heated through. Stir and strain into a mug. Enjoy!

*If you don’t have cinnamon sticks, I would suggest not using cinnamon at all. I found ground cinnamon to make the latte too grainy.

Banana Butternut Butterscotch Muffins

It felt like fall several weeks ago. The air was cool and crisp, and it reminded me of a day nearly a year ago that inspired me to begin this blog in the first place—a day in which I felt God calling me on an adventure with Him (you can read more about that blogpost here: https://anticipatingadventure.com/2019/11/10/example-post/)

The weather has heated up since then and will probably stay warm until late October. It’s pretty typical here. Nonetheless, I’m thankful for this season, and I’m reminded that, no matter how crazy this year has been or how devastating the losses, God is still faithful. He still causes the sun and moon to rise, and He still causes the seasons to come and go.

He made the moon to mark the seasons, the sun knows its time for setting.”

Psalm 104:19

He also brings beauty with each season, and I always see a lot of beauty and meaning in this one. I’m glad to get to experience it once again. It has been refreshing to my soul.

The few days of crisp air that we were able to enjoy last month got me in the mood to do some baking and a little experimenting of my own, so after some basic research on muffin recipes, several muffin-making attempts, many tweaks, and a kind friend who was graciously willing to try each batch, banana butternut butterscotch muffins were born.

These muffins are moist and fluffy, with a hint of banana and a blend of spices that mix together to make this cozy, autumn treat. The butterscotch chips add a kick of extra flavor and just the right amount of sweetness. Added bonus: butternut squash is one of the main ingredients in these muffins, so you can rest assured that you are eating your veggies while you enjoy this baked good.

While I was making these muffins a few days ago, I couldn’t help but notice how much our home smelled like autumn. The spices are so fragrant and really warm up the whole house. These muffins would be perfect to bake on a chilly morning to enjoy with a cup of coffee for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. Or really whenever your heart desires. They are quite delicious, and I hope you’ll think so too.

If you make this recipe, please leave a comment on this post and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear how they turn out for you. Also, feel free to substitute the butterscotch chips for chocolate or white chocolate chips if that is more your style. The white chocolate chips go well with this muffin, and if you are anything like my mom, I’m sure you’ll think the chocolate chips do too!

Here’s the recipe, without further ado:

Banana Butternut Butterscotch Muffins

Ingredients:

  • ½ c apple sauce, unsweetened
  • ½ c cubed butternut squash, roasted
  • ½ c banana (about 1 banana)
  • ½ c light brown sugar
  • 1/3 c granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 ½ c flour
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • ½ t cloves
  • ½ t pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ½ t salt
  • ½ c butterscotch chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend the apple sauce, butternut squash, banana, brown sugar, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a blender until smooth.

In a bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. After mixing, add the butterscotch chips and mix again. Add the wet ingredients to the dry mix and stir until blended. Do not over stir. Place in muffin liners and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.