Thursday, March 28, 2013

Homemade Chorizo Empanadas

On a recent trip to Northern California, my husband and I enjoyed a nice quiet dinner together at a newly opened tapas restaurant.  Personally, I could eat tapas for every meal.  I love that it's small plates and all shareable, my favorite way to have a meal.  Typically, we tend to order something wrapped in bacon, prawns in any kind of sauce, seafood paella and always something with chorizo in it.  On this particular menu they had empanadas stuffed with chorizo baked in a puff pastry.  This was a must have!  The wonderful spicy flavor of the chorizo and the flakiness of the puff pastry were a perfect combo.  Immediately I knew I had to recreate this at home.  I mean, how genius to make empanadas with puff pastry!  The filling I created on my own mixing in some veggies and of course, cheese.  These little bites of amazingness will be perfect for any upcoming party or get together.  They go quick so you may want to double the recipe.  Enjoy!


Homemade Chorizo Empanadas

Ingredients
1 - 12 ounce package pork, beef, or soy chorizo, removed from casing (I used pork)
1 cup bell peppers, diced (I mixed red, yellow and orange)
3/4 cup sweet yellow onion, diced
3/4 cup shredded  monterey jack cheese
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed  
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus some to brush pastry
Small bowl of water, room temperature
Flour to roll out pastry

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, bell peppers and garlic.  Cook for about 3-5 minutes stirring occasionally until the vegetables have softened a bit.  Add the chorizo to the the vegetables.  Using a spatula, break up the chorizo link and cook for 5-7 minutes until completely cooked through.  Remove the skillet from the heat and allow to cool completely.  

When chorizo mixture is cool transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the cheese.  Mix well to combine and set aside.

Place the puff pastry on a slightly floured surface.  Sprinkle flour on the top of the pastry. Roll out the pastry until about 1/16 inch thick.  Using a 4 inch round cookie cutter (or a 4 inch round bowl or ramekin) cut circles out of the pastry.  

Place 1 table spoon of the chorizo mixture in the center of the pastry.  Moisten the edges with the room temperature water and fold the pastry in half making a half circle.  Gently pinch the ends together.  Using a fork press down on the edges sealing the empanada together.  Repeat these steps until all the pastry is used.

Place the empanadas on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Lightly brush the empanadas with olive oil and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  Serve with your favorite salsa.  

Makes 22-25 empanades.

Note:  Leftover chorizo mix can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Use in scrabbled eggs or tacos.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spring Time Cocktails

Spring is such a wonderful time, full of bright colors, new blooms, and outdoor adventures in the sunshine.  Frequenting the farmers market is one of my favorite warm weather pastimes and here in Southern California they are in full bloom.  The vendors have the stands filled with fresh berries, vibrant greens, beautiful vegetables and herbs and gorgeous flowers.  After enjoying my morning perusing through the market I came home with my purchases ready to dig into all of my fresh produce, and of course beginning with the making of a cocktail.

Spring time cocktails are just what I know some of you need right now.  Even though  daylight savings has happened and we are getting an extra hour of light, I know that some of you are still covered in snow.  So whether you live where the sun shines often or if you are praying for the sun to peek through, these delicious fresh beverages will be perfect to cure the winter blues.   


These cocktails were inspired by my beautiful cousin and bride-to-be Challise and her fiancee Zach.  They are in the midst of planning their wedding and as a newlywed myself I know how stressful the planning process can be.  These cocktails made with their favorite spirits and fresh berries will hopefully be a wonderful way to help them relax, enjoy each other and prepare for the amazing day ahead.  Enjoy!


Raspberry-Basil Gin Spritzer


Ingredients
3 fresh raspberries
2 medium basil leaves, slapped and torn (see directions below)
2 ounces gin (I suggest Bombay Sapphire or Hendricks)
Club soda
Ice

Make sure to slap the basil (yes I said slap!) to bring out the flavors and aroma and then tear it into smaller pieces before you muddle.  In a shaker muddle the raspberries and basil until the berries are crushed and the basil is slightly bruised.  Add the gin and ice.  Shake the cocktail until the shaker is very cold.  Pour all the contents in a rocks glass and top with club soda.  Add more ice if needed.



Blackberry-Basil Bourbon Cocktail


Ingredients
2-3 fresh blackberries
2 medium basil leaves, slapped and torn
2 ounces of bourbon (Maker's Mark is preferred)
1/2 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
Club soda 
Ice

Make sure to slap the basil (yes I said slap!) to bring out the flavors and aroma and then tear it into smaller pieces before you muddle.  In a shaker muddle the blackberries and basil until the berries are crushed and the basil is slightly bruised.  Add the Bourbon, honey and ice.  Shake the cocktail until the shaker is very cold.  Pour all the contents into a rocks glass and top with club soda.  Add more ice if needed.


Martini anyone?  Both of these cocktails can be dressed up and made into elegant and colorful martinis.  Simply omit the club soda in both recipes, add and extra 1/2 ounce of liquor and strain the cocktail from the shaker into a martini glass and garnish with a slapped basil leaf.  




Need to make it virgin? For my readers who are pregnant, under 21 or just a non-drinker these cocktails can be made sans liquor.  Substitute the gin with club soda or a mix of lemonade and club soda.  As for the bourbon, substitute it with your favorite sweet iced tea.  These non-alcoholic drinks are perfect for backyard parties, baby showers or boosting your mood.