A Mexican Fiesta: Ole!

Late Saturday night after coming home from a delicious BBQ and relaxing for a bit while watching She’s the Man (hello Channing Tatum boy-crush and Amanda Bynes girl-crush!), my fiancé and I sat down to try and organize the coming week’s meals. Since I’m a big planner, I always have the next week’s meals decided about mid-week but decided to wait till the last minute this time.

While scouring the millions of e-mails I’ve forwarded my fiancé with recipes attached, our recipe books, and folder collection, after about an hour of being frantic we settled on this week’s menu. After our weekly Sunday trip to the grocery store, (which we’ve decided needs to be done on Saturdays because all the crazies go shopping on Sunday) I got to work on tonight’s recipe.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Mexican and Spanish food (as you’re well aware) so tonight’s dinner was right up my alley. I found a recipe for chicken empanadas on the Food Network’s site, courtesy of Ms. Paula Dean. Knowing that her recipes are usually full of fat and grease, I was pleasantly surprised that aside from the copious amounts of cheese involved, it wasn’t that bad. I’ve never made empanadas before since I don’t have a deep fryer, but these bad boys were baked so I was up for the challenge. I actually got a lot of help from my fiancé which I really appreciated!

I didn’t realize until this recipe, but I don’t own a rolling pin! So, in order to get the 12 to 15 3-inch circles of dough required for the recipe, we spread out the pie crust on two floured cutting boards, and rolled it with a shot glass. Innovative, I know. Since we also don’t have any cookie cutters, we just used the rim of a plastic cup, which we gaged to be about 3-inches.  It’s amazing how difficult a recipe can be when you don’t have the proper tools.

But, the filling for the empanadas was super easy. The chicken didn’t call for any seasoning, so I added some chili powder and taco seasoning just to add some pizazz. Other than that I stuck to the book, and am pleased with the results! It definitely made more filling than what went into the 15 circles I was able to cut from the one sheet of pie crust. So, I saved the leftovers and will be bringing it for lunch tomorrow. It’d probably also be great in  wrap.

Continuing the Mexican fiesta theme, I decided to pair the empanadas with a corn and black bean salad. This recipe is from The World’s Healthiest Foods, and I’ve made it a few times. It’s super simple and the longer it sits, the better it tastes. It makes about 4 servings, so I’m looking forward to and even more flavorful salad later this week!

I think the empanadas would be a great party style dish, maybe as an appetizer or something like that. It was definitely interesting to have them as our main dish, but I’m always up for new things. It was super cheesey which I always love, and the heat from the jalapeños was much appreciated, though my fingers are currently cursing me since they feel like they’re on fire. The corn and black bean salad has always been a favorite of mine, so now that I have the recipe back in my hands, I plan on making it over and over again!

Paula Dean’s Chicken Empanadas
– Makes 12 to 15 –

3 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1 (8-ounce) package shredded Colby and Monterey Jack cheese blend
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Lightly grease a baking sheet. In a large bowl, combine the chicken and next 7 ingredients.
3. Unroll 1 piecrust onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 15-inch circle. Cut out rounds, using a 3-inch cookie cutter. Re-roll dough as needed. Repeat procedure with remaining piecrusts, making 12 to 15 circles total.
4. Arrange 1 round on a clean, flat surface. Lightly brush the edges of crust with water. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of chicken mixture in the center of the round. Fold the dough over the filling, pressing the edges with a fork to seal. Repeat with the remaining rounds and chicken mixture. (Up to this point, the recipe can be made ahead and frozen for up to 1 month).
5. Arrange empanadas on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.

15 Minute Black Bean Salad
– Serves 4 –

½ cup minced onion
2 medium cloves garlic, pressed
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
½ cup diced red bell pepper
2 TBS pumpkin seeds, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
3 TBS fresh lemon juice
salt and black pepper to taste

1. Mince onions, press garlic, cut tomatoes, chop red peppers
2. Mix all ingredients together and serve.
*This salad will keep for a couple of days and gets more flavorful if you let it marinate in the refrigerator for awhile.

¡Coma bien!