Empanadas: A Confession

Very few people understand what it’s like to be addicted– obsessively, compulsively– to cooking. It’s rough. I’m not joking.

For example, what should I have been doing at 4:00 yesterday afternoon? Should I have been taking down the laundry and folding, picking up the drifts of junk and sweeping the floors, or otherwise restoring some order to this whirlwind of a house? Yes. Should I have been packing boxes for our move, a mere 6 days away? Absolutely. Should I have been putting a pot of brown rice on the stove for a simple, wholesome dinner to top with some sauteed greens and fried eggs? That would have been a reasonable plan.

But no, what did I suddenly get a hair up my ass for? Empanadas. I had a beautiful bunch of Tuscan kale from my garden, and it spoke to me, oh whispery siren’s call. It said, ‘Cook me with the ground lamb from the farmers market and some potatoes, stuff me into some oily dough and fry me to flaky perfection….’ And I was helpless to the call.

Those of you reading this who don’t cook might look through the many posts on food and cooking and be impressed. How can she cook so much with two little kids? You might wonder. But I am a victim. A slave to my own whim and taste. You think it’s funny, but I’m actually really truly not joking.

Maybe victim is too strong. There are some goods in it for me. Part of the addiction comes because I find cooking so soothing. Especially now that I’m a mama. So long as I am solo in the kitchen, cooking is like a balm on the cracked lips of my day. It’s so relatively predictable, controllable. Note, I say relatively. I’m no freak, my food often comes out not as I expected. But it mostly comes out. I mostly have an edible product at the end of an hour of cooking. Something moderately delicious to show for my work.

The same cannot be said about all one hour periods in my day.

Sometimes I cook purely as a means of keeping my head above water, my survival mechanism. It keeps my sanity. And that’s good, I don’t begrudge it for that.

But other times, I just really really want to make empanadas, and no amount of rationalizing can stop me.

I think a lot about you mamas who didn’t get any scrap of job training. I mean, I was a blank slate as far as the kids were concerned, and I’m no housekeeper we all know. But at least I could cook. I’ve been cooking since I was 14. I’ve cooked in every kind of situation, from campfires to restaurant kitchens. I know how to make food good, and I know how to make food fast.

This is not to brag. Almost the opposite. I just want to say that if this were not true, if cooking were an anxious, bewildering chore for me, I sure as hell wouldn’t do it. I cannot even fathom learning to cook while having small children. It would be the contrary to my ‘balm.’

So, it’s with a bit of hesitation that I am going to share with you my empanada recipe. This recipe is for those of you who, like me have a borderline psychotic addiction to cooking, or for anyone who has enough free time to relish the process without addiction. This recipe is not for those of you who feel overwhelmed by the task of feeding your family, who feel like you are drowning in the kitchen. I mandate that this recipe must not inspire guilt in anyone! Homemade empanadas do not a better housewife make. You can get these same foods onto your table in half the time if you just forgo the indulgent wrapping and frying of the pastry crust. Leaving you an extra hour to accomplish other good-housewifely duties, such as for example maintaining even a modicum of cleanliness in your home.

Lamb and Kale Empanadas, for those who can’t help themselves

Fry up about a pound of fatty burger. If you’re burger is frozen, like mine was, just dump it in the pan with plenty of oil, pile 3 medium sliced potatoes around it and put the lid on. Cook over low heat, stirring every few minutes. Sprinkle with salt, garlic powder and plenty of black pepper. When the burger has all been crumbled and cooked, and the potatoes are just barley soft, throw on one big bunch of kale, stemmed and chopped small, 3 or 4 stout green onions, sliced, and several cloves of minced garlic. Stir over medium heat until the kale is vivid green and tender. Remove from the heat and let cool.

For the dough, whisk together 3 cups white all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/2 Tablespoon of salt. With a wooden spoon, mix in 1/2 cup of oil and 1 cup of tepid water. Add more water as necessary to make a medium soft dough. Pinch off golf ball sized pieces, round off, and set on a floured baking sheet. Cover with plastic and let rest 30 minutes or until you have a window of time with no little kids underfoot. I’m all for even the tiniest kiddies helping, with simple cooking projects. But ‘help’ with this one will make you crazy.

Roll each ball of dough out to an 1/8 inch thick, using plenty of flour to prevent sticking. Stuff, fold and crimp into half moons. If you’ve never made a stuffed pie before, G**gle it, I’m sure there’s good instructions out there.

These are great baked. But they are traditionally fried, and even though nothing else about this recipe is traditional, I happened to have some leftover palm oil from an emergency doughnut making session a few days ago. So I fried them and they are little nuggets of deliciousness.

That doughnut emergency was not for me, but for my budding little food addict 3YO who was having a really rough day and wanted to make doughnuts more than anything.

The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.

But then again, origin is not destiny?

Time will tell.

13 thoughts on “Empanadas: A Confession

  1. Ha, love it. I am a compulsive cook too! Most of the mess in this house is the sink loads of pans and mixing bowls from my cooking three meals that day and a cake… When I don’t cook our house is decidedly cleaner. But I too get to 4pm think, let’s just have sausages tonight, but no cooking instinct kicks in – hmmm, actually why don’t I make a veggie curry and all the accompaniments- that’s what we must have, tonight, cook me now!

    Love the recipe, v tempting. Want to cook… now… but going out to dinner – hurray!! Still got to cook for kids tho, grrrrr… sausages it is so!

  2. So not a compulsive cook, but compulsive quilter? Yes.

    Will I quickly cut out a few more blocks when I really should be brushing the kids teeth and hustling them out the door? Yes.

    Will I tell them to go get a snack when they really need dinner because I just HAVE to finish these three seams? Yes.

    And will I get horribly, self-beratingly guilty about doing those things? Yes!

    And even though I’m not a compulsive cook, those empanadas look pretty darn fine!

  3. Oh, you and me, SOLE sistas, I thinks! Your words could have come from me, except yours are so well put & funny! Some days I am so looking forward to my husband finishing work, so I can cook the dinner… in peace, solo, all by myself… oh, except sometimes a glass of something sparkly acompanies me.

  4. I have been that way about dessert lately. My hubby and I had realized that we were drinking an awful lot in the evening to unwind. So we decided to start eating dessert instead. So my new obsession is learning how to make desserts. Key lime pie (dumpstered key limes), strawberry cake, blueberry cheesecake, all made from scratch. And they taste divine. Thankfully, that is something my girlie wants to do with me. But they do take a lot of time away from other things.


  5. I loved this part… “cooking is like a balm on the cracked lips of my day.” YESSSSSS yessssss absolutely! I work FT, and I go to grad school PT, and I have a husband and a 2-yr-old — most of my friends are like “Whaaaaat?? You cook too??” But I cook because it soothes me, I find it calming and a lovely way of contributing to my family. I also get a deep sense of joy from making something delicious and devouring it with great pleasure…all while watching my family do the same! So yes, I get your addiction. I am constantly seeking out new and different recipes to try, just to see what I can do. Glad I’m not the only one blessed with this condition…perhaps we need a support group? ;)

    1. Thanks Lucy, I am honored. I don’t really do the award thing, my sidebar list of all readers blogs was kind of my answer to the spirit of broadening the community. But I am still flattered, thank you!

  6. Sounds delish. Love lamb, love kale, love food-inside-of-food. These win on 3 of 3.

    FYI I posted about your blog again on Facebook. It’s Urban Homesteader Link Love day over there. My Facebook friends need to know about your bitchin’ blog. ;)

      1. Hey I have FB peeps clamoring for you to have a fan page so they can “Like” you. You never know where the worlds biggest timesink will lead… :) Just keep up the good writing.

        Actually, in seriousness, I feel like I’m just paying you back. I was feeling seriously alone in the big well-distributed world of Radical Homemaking. All the blogs I followed that gave me great tips about homemaking were way more devout and way less sardonic than what I really hoped for. Finding your blog was like finding the friend I really needed.

        I didn’t know until I became a blogger too how many of us there are out there in the world, doing this stuff and raising babies and veggies as best we can. For a while I was quite sure I was going to have to invent the proverbial wheel about once a week on my own. So just know when you put your thoughts, experiences, and ideas out there, people are reading. And we are grateful for your voice.

  7. Oh these look amazing! I HATE making pastry…for some reason it is my nemesis, but I’ll be bookmarking this for a day I feel ambitious…I really love empanadas :)

    1. Oh, I should really have mentioned, this dough is not so finicky like regular pastry, bc it uses oil instead of butter. Don’t wait! Try now!

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