Learning How to Eat with One Hand
If you’re like us, you probably have a lot of new moms and dads in your life. And having been there ourselves, we know all too well what that adorable new bundle’s arrival really brings – and what the baby shower doesn’t cover. Those sleepless nights (if you haven’t been there you just can’t comprehend the delirium), days now broken up with a new pattern of routines, feeding, sleeping, changing, feeding, sleeping, changing, repeating until tomorrow and foreseeable tomorrow, coupled with doing everything you used to do with only one free arm takes some getting used to.
And here’s the thing – when you have a baby – you’re suddenly looking for meals for one that require no prep and barely any clean up. You’re famished (especially if you’re nursing or sleep deprived) and need the quickest, most nutritious bite possible. We’re fans of recipes that boast single-serve portions to pop in the freezer of the new parents you’re feeding. This way, they can reheat it as they need it – a 2am portion of oatmeal reheats quickly in the microwave and an empanada warms up easily in the toaster oven. We also like when they are hand held, so they can be eaten one handed so the other one can continue to hold the baby, or puppet or book etc.
So what to bring to make things a little better for your pal and their new sidekick? We love these hearty beef empanadas. They look as good as they taste, which makes them a really fun food gift for new parents. A beef filling simmered in tomato sauce, spiked with olives and raisins stuffed into a crispy pastry so sturdy, your new mom can eat them with one hand. Which means she actually gets to eat during the day (or night) – while holding the baby, warming a bottle, searching for a binky or trying to rock the little night owl to sleep after the second middle-of-the-night feeding. Add a store-bought dipping sauce (or make your own with sour cream, lime juice, salt and a pinch of cumin and a little hot sauce for heat) to make it a dish she can serve up for the rest of the family for dinner; or for herself, if she ever gets time to sit….
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced small (about ½ cup)
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced small (See the GET SAVVY time-saver)
- 1 pound ground beef (90/10 mix is best)
- kosher salt, as needed
- freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch ground cloves
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- ⅓ cup mixed pitted olives, chopped well
- ⅓ cup raisins
- 2 sprigs fresh oregano
- 1 large egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water or milk
- 1 recipe Savory Pastry Dough with Egg (recipe follows), or store-bought pie dough
- 6” metal pastry cutter or 6” saucer or plate
- 1 parchment lined baking sheet
- Preheat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat. When hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and stir occasionally until just about cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. Add the meat and season with salt and pepper. Cook until mostly browned.
- Remove any excess fat, (if you have any - if your meat is indeed 90/10 you might not) leaving at least 2 tablespoons in the pan. Drain extra fat into a heatproof bowl and discard when cool. Add the cinnamon and cloves and stir to incorporate. Pour in the canned tomatoes and bring to a gentle simmer. Once the meat tomato mixture has simmered for 10 minutes, add the raisins, olives and fresh oregano sprigs. Cook for another 5 minutes until the liquid has reduced slightly.
- Taste and season again with salt and pepper if needed.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface until thin - about ⅛” thick.
- Using a 6” metal cutter dipped in flour (or alternately a plate with about a 6” diameter and a paring knife) cut out as many rounds as you can and set them aside.
- Gather the scraps and roll out again cutting out as many rounds as possible. (about 6-8 in total)
- When the filling is cool, lay out the rounds in front of you on a cutting board and fill them with about ⅓-1/2 cup of filling in the center of each.
- Using a pastry brush, brush the edge of the dough with the beaten egg. Fold one side of the dough over the other, forming a half moon. Press the edges together with your fingers to seal well. Fold the edge decoratively over itself on a bias to seal and crimp the edge. Repeat all the way around the edge of the empanada. You can also use a fork to seal the edge if crimping isn’t your kind of thing. Repeat with the remaining rounds and filling.
- The empanadas can be frozen in this state or after they've been cooked. If freezing at this point, place them unwrapped on a baking sheet and put them in the freezer. When they are frozen solid, wrap them well individually and put them in a resealable bag to store in the freezer. Sometimes we give these gifts unbaked, but frozen, so the family we’re feeding can cook them when they need them.
- To cook, lay the empanadas on the parchment lined baking sheet with about an inch in between them. Brush the tops and crimped edges of the empanadas with the remaining egg wash. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until crispy and bottoms are a light golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers for up to a week or freeze well wrapped for up to 3 months.
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour (or just use all-purpose)
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg
- 4-6 tablespoons ice cold water
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Pulse flours and salt in food processor for 30 seconds to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse again until it blends and almost reaches the consistency of cornmeal but still has a few pea-sized pieces of butter.
- Add the eggs. Drizzle water in while machine is running a little at a time and pulse until a ball begins to form. Immediately stop machine and remove dough.
- Form the dough into a very flat disk. Wrap it well in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.
- This dough will last up to 2 days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.
GET SAVVY – TIME SAVER
We like the look of the diced carrots in this filling, and when diced, they add a little texture variation – but if you’re pressed for time or aren’t up for dicing, grate them on the large holes of a box grater. It will taste the same.