This guest post is from our favorite ladies, Natalie and Holly, over at The Modern Proper. Their mission is to reinvent proper for the modern homemaker, one delicious meal at a time. Check out more of their delicious recipes here.
As someone who loves to cook, I always envisioned life with kids would involve lots of little helping hands whenever I went into the kitchen. I pictured smiling children eager to learn, and me in an adorable apron patiently instructing my little ones. Unfortunately, the reality looks a bit different. I’ve been inviting my daughter (who is now six) into the kitchen to help me cook since she could walk, and much to my surprise she’s never really been that into it. More often than not she will decline my invitation in favor of playing. Finally, a few weeks ago when 5:30 rolled around and I once again asked “Ruby, do you want to help me make dinner?” she responded “Mom, when are you going to realize I’m just not that into cooking?” Ouch. She really knows how to hit me where it hurts. Fortunately, I have a two year old son who LOVES to help…with anything. Opening packages, vacuuming, unloading the dishwasher, and yes, cooking. He is game for it all. But, as most things go with two year olds, involving them in daily chores really just makes more work for the adult. Everything takes twice as long and he usually leaves a trail behind him. Seriously though, he sure is cute, and because his enthusiasm towards helping me may not last forever I want to capitalize on it while I can.
My favorite cooking project to do with my kids by far is any kind of baking. It takes forever, like foreeeevvveeer, yes, but it can be so fun. Baking seems tailor made for junior chefs. There are so many opportunities to measure, poor, crack, stir, and taste. It’s a commitment of time and patience, but the fruits of your labor will not only yield something delicious, but some real quality time with your little people (of all ages), and they’ll take pride in what they’ve made and likely eat more of it as a result (bonus!). Inevitably, if my son and I begin baking my daughter is going to want in on it. Partially because it looks so fun, and partially because of that whole sibling competitive thing (if I’m honest I don’t really care what her motivation is, I’m just glad she’s baking with us). A word of warning: any kind of baking with kids is not an efficient use of your time, in any way, but it is so worth while! We recently made these homemade empanadas, and while they were simple, they were not fast. That didn’t seem to matter though, because as it turns out, rolling dough and stuffing little hand pies is better than playing with barbies. This time around I opted for a savory beef and veggie filling with warm spices and they were down right amazing. Because baking can be such a time commitment I decided to double the recipe while we were at it. We made enough for that evening and froze the rest for a quick dinner down the road. And let me tell you, these freeze beautifully because all of the sauce and juices and flavor are sealed between those delicious layers of flaky crust. So good.
I encourage you, however counterproductive it seems amidst your jam-packed schedule, to get in the kitchen with your kids. Maybe you can’t invite them to cook with you every evening (maybe you’re not even cooking every evening…I get it!), but every once in awhile set aside an afternoon and make cooking your fun activity for the day. These empanadas are a great place to start.
Serves 4-6 as an appetizer
2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp salt
1 stick of butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
⅓ cup ice cold water
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
1 large russet potato, peeled, diced into ¼ inch cubes
3/4 lb beef, ground
2 tbs olive oil
½ medium onion, grated
1 small carrot, grated
1 rib of celery, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup peas
¾ cups beef broth
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
To make the pastry dough pulse the flour and salt in a food processor. Add butter, egg and ice water. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Shape the dough into a ball. Tightly cover the dough in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
While dough is resting, prepare the filling. Fill a medium size stock pot ¾ full with water. Bring to a boil.
While waiting for water to boil, cook the ground beef in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the meat is finished cooking, drain the fat over a colander resting over a bowl. Set aside the cooked meat.
Using the same pan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat and add the onions, celery and carrots. Sauté vegetable mixture until everything is tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes longer.
If water is starting to boil, add the cubed potato to the pot. Boil the potato until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain potatoes and reserve alongside the beef.
Add the chili powder, cumin and cinnamon to the vegetable mixture. Sauté 1 minute longer until spices are fragrant. Return the beef along with the cooked potatoes to the pan with the sautéd vegetables. Add beef broth and peas. Simmer over medium heat until everything is well incorporated and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Season with salt and pepper. Taste the filling and adjust spices if needed.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator. Roll it very thin on a lightly floured surface. Using a large biscuit cutter or other round object (we used a kitchen funnel) cut 6 inch circles.
Holding the circle of dough in one hand and a heaping spoonful of filling in the other, spoon the filling into the center of the dough.
Wet a pastry brush with egg wash and dampen the inside ¼ inch edge of the filled dough. Fold the dough in half. Using a fork, firmly press the edges together.
Repeat this process with remaining dough and filling and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Preheat oven to 400 and place rack into the center of the oven.
Using egg wash, brush each empanada. Refrigerate for 20 min.
Bake for 40 min or until golden brown.