Beef Empanadas

Empanadas are a delicous fried dough filled with meat or fruit.  In Panama we eat these as a snack or a side addition to breakfast, or any meal for that matter.  The pastry can either be corn based or flour based.  Goya makes empanada discs which are precut flour discs ready to be filled.  They have them for frying or baking, I personally prefer the frying discs but try both and see which becomes your favorite.  Tranditionally our empanadas are ground beef based and that’s what this recipe will show.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1lbs ground beef, (I prefer lean)
  • 1 Tbsp sofrito (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 habanero, optional (cut the top off)
  • 3-5 sprigs cilantro
  • Sazon Goya
  • Raisins, optional
  • Garlic powder
  • Capers
  • Cheese, optional
  • Olive oil (1 tbsp for ground beef and more for frying)
  • Goya empanada discs

DIRECTIONS:

Add about 1 Tbsp olive oil to a pan, add onions and sautee about 2-3 minutes.  Add chopped garlic and sofrito.  Add your ground beef and sprinkle with garlic powder, sason goya, salt and pepper to taste.  Allow to cook for 5-7 minutes over medium heat.  Then add raisins, capers, cilantro and the whole habanero.  The raisins are a great sweet addition to the saltiness and  heat of the meat.  I left a lot of measurements out intentionally; as the meat cooks you’ll add more or less depending on what flavor you’re wanting to acheive.  If you want more heat chop the habanero and add it to the meat, if you love cilantro (like me) add more sprigs, etc…

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Once the meat is ready set aside to cool.  Each pack of Goya discs contains 10, when I make the empanadas I usually have enough for the week.  I like to precut foil paper or wax paper and have my sandwich bags ready so I can store the empanadas once assembled.

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Once the meat has come to room temperature, grab one of the discs and fill half of the disc with ground beef and a bit of cheese (if using cheese).  Gently fold the other half over and with a fork pierce close.  Repeat this step until all discs are filled.

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I add two empanadas per precut foil, but feel free to wrap each individually.  Once all are wrapped place in plastic bag and label.  Enjoy these as a snack or for breakfast!  Buen Provecho!

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Tasty Additions:  You can also add chopped potatoes or eggs to the ground beef.  You can make chicken or shrimp empanadas as well, feel free to explore.

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Napa Valley

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Last year my husband and I visited Napa Valley for the first time.  We went during Veteran’s weekend and what a wonderful time it was to go.  Harvest season was over, but the leaves were changing colors and the scenery was amazing!  This was by far one of our best vacations!  Everything about Napa is absolutely mesmerizing, it’s definitely a trip worth taking.  We decided to fly into San Francisco, in order to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge as well as drive down Lombard Street.  It was a beautiful sunny day and the weather was perfect!  Our drive to Napa was nice and calm, we had no idea what we were in for and weren’t on much of a schedule, which made for a perfect day.  Neither one of us realized how many wineries there are; over 300!  If you’re a wine lover, Napa Valley is definitely the place to go.  You also have Sonoma right next door.

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We began our visit with a stop to Lucero Olive Oil; they are 3rd generation olive growers.  You can taste olive oils, balsamic  vinegar, etc.  You must try the fig balsamic and the citrus olive oil; both are amazing! Needless to say, be sure you buy some to bring back, you won’t regret it.

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Once we settled into our hotel we drafted our game plan; our goal was to visit 3-4 wineries each day.  Our first winery was The Hess Collection, this was a very interesting vineyard because their grapes grow in both cool and warm weather.  There is a slight slope to their vineyards which steeps into the mountains.  They have a wonderful art collection if you’re into art.  Overall it was a good visit, the wine is good and the property is beautiful.   For dinner, we visited Ad Hoc; a Thomas Keller Restaurant Group.  Ad Hoc serves one, 4 course family style menu five nights a week and brunch on Sundays.  The setting is almost as if you’re in your own home; comfortable and relaxing.  You’re seated fairly close to the next table but that just adds to the homey vibe.  Our dinner was delicious and the service was wonderful.  We had the frisee salad with chicken, veal, cheese sampler and turtle cheesecake dessert, all wonderful flavors and the staff was attentive and informative, definitely a must!

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Next on our list, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar, one of my favorite wines!  Our sommelier was extremely knowledgable and friendly.  He gave us the opportunity to taste a few extra wines which were amazing!  We joined their wine club and are very happy we did!  We highly recommend it, can’t wait to go back and attend one of their events.  We didn’t tour the winery; instead we sat outside and enjoyed the wonderful weather and amazing wines in a very comfortable and relaxing atmosphere.

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From here we ventured to Robert Mondavi vineyards where we simply toured the property, and took pictures amongst the vineyards.  RM is a massive property and they have several tasting rooms.

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We were then off to Beaulieu Vineyard tasting room, delicious full bodied wine!  We purchased a couple bottles of their 2007 vintage which was delectable.  Afterwards we stopped at V. Sattu winery were we purchased a yummy sandwich and salad and enjoyed a little afternoon picnic.  This place is the mecca of cheese and salami in Napa!  Be prepared to want to buy the entire store.

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We couldn’t leave Napa without exploring Castello di Amorosa, which was wonderful.  I realize it’s not a real castle, but the tour was great and our tour guide was amazing.  His name is Joe, he was lively and energetic.  We visited several areas of the castle to include a few barrel storing areas.  Be warned, if you open a barrel you buy the barrel!  Keep in mind they can run upwards of several thousand dollars!  I must not forget we took a slight detour to visit the Geyser afterwards.

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We were then off to Duckhorn; this was a very cute and inviting winery.  We enjoyed our tasting al fresco, the property is adorable; it’s almost as if you’re in your own backyard enjoying a glass of wine.  After much vino, we found ourselves in line at Bouchon Bakery; how can I deny my sweet tooth?  The line was quite long but moved fairly quickly.  It was absolutely worth the wait!  The macaroons were delectable as was the bread pudding.  We also ordered a croissant, which honestly I wasn’t too impressed with.

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On the last day of our trip, we wanted to spend the day back in San Francisco and enjoy a delicious bowl of clam chowder at Pier 39 and we did just that.  We walked around downtown shopping and taking in the San Francisco scenery and then headed back home.  All in all, we had an amazing four days.  I highly recommend Napa for a weekend trip, romantic getaway, girls trip, whatever your heart desires. It’s a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Foodie Time:  We ventured into the Napa Oxbow Market for a late lunch early dinner one afternoon and ate at Pica Pica and Ca’ Momi, both were delicious! The arepas and empanadas were delicious and the pizza had a crispy crusty edge and was soft and fluffy on the inside.

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We truly cannot wait to return and explore the many other wineries Napa has to offer.   We highly recommend Napa for a weekend getaway, it’s romantic, scenic and the wine is amazing.  Napa has our heart and we will certainly be back!

Blueberry Banana Bread

This low-fat banana bread isn’t lacking in flavor or moisture!  Go ahead and give it a try; you’ll see what I mean.  Don’t fear adding tasty additions such as blueberries, cranberries, chocolate chips (it’ll add some fat), peanut butter, walnuts, raisins, etc…keep in mind they’ll add more fat but we all must indulge a little.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light butter, softened
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup fat free milk
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Cooking spray

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine sugar and butter in a bowl, using a mixer beat the two together at medium speed until well blended.  Add banana, milk, sour cream and egg whites, beat well.

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Measure out the flour, be sure to level with a knife.  Combine flour, baking soda and salt; stir well.  Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture little by little until well blended.

If adding blueberries, you’ll want to fold them in now.

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Spray your loaf pan with cooking spray and add the batter.  Bake at 350 for about 45-50 minutes or until a wooden toothpick  inserted in center comes out clean.  Allow the pan to cool then flip over to remove the banana bread.

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Enjoy warm or cold!  I love adding raisins and walnuts to mine, the crunch of the walnuts adds texture, not to mention walnuts are healthy!

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Balsamic Vinaigrette

Are you in need of a light, tangy and delicious dressing for your summer salads?  This dressing will meet all of those requirements. It’s creamy, tangy and delicious!  I’m leaving out the measurements on this one because they’ll vary depending on two things; 1. how much you’re making and 2. how tangy or sweet you want it.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Good quality olive oil
  • Good quality balsamic vinegar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Honey
  • Salt and Pepper

DIRECTIONS:

The oil to vinegar ratio is 2-1, 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar and the Dijon and honey will be about 1-2 Tbsp depending on how much you’re making.  Add the oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey and salt.  Mix in a blender to create an emulsion. You can store this dressing in the fridge for several months.  This dressing goes very well with a spinach, strawberry and candied walnut salad!  Buen Provecho!

Dressing

Tasty Additions:  Feel free to add finely minced garlic or shallots for additional flavor and texture.

The jar in the picture was a Home Goods buy, it actually has recipes for other dressings, if you can find one BUY IT!