Anna's Holiday Empanadas (Vegan + Cancer Fighting!)

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Four years ago I had an amazing opportunity to study abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina and I fell in LOVE with empanadas.  There are empanadas everywhere you go in Argentina with a plethora of delicious fillings - ham and cheese, pumpkin, spinach and cheese, meat and olives, seafood, you name it. I think I ate them almost every day! When I got back to the U.S. they were the one food I really missed from Buenos Aires. I vowed I would someday learn how to make them.

Fast forward two years and I decided to become vegan. Though I no longer follow a vegan diet, this period in my life broadened my culinary horizons exponentially. I learned how to exchange animal products for scrumptious, healthy alternatives, and experimented with spices and veggie combinations. A common misconception about eating vegan or plant based is that it is bland, stale, and boring.  I was determined to change this idea for myself and for others around me.  See, food is a big deal to me, and it is a big source of pleasure.  It’s how I like to connect with people, and show love. I knew that if I was going to have an alternative diet from many people around me, I would have to put in the time and effort to learn how to make it delicious. I remembered that I always wanted to make empanadas, and I invented this concoction.  It turned out to be my biggest hit at family events, and with friends! No one could believe they were vegan, and one friend even said, “you actually make me like vegetables!" How’s that for a win?! Additionally, I recently found out that these empanadas contain 2/3 of the best anti-cancer fighting foods: greens, beans, onions, and mushrooms! BONUS POINTS!!!

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Enough babble - it’s time to share the love with you! These empanadas are perfect for fall or winter and perfect to bring to any holiday party.  They combine sweet notes of yams, veggies and beans with a flaky olive oil crust that you will die for! Since they take a little more time, I recommend making them over the weekend/holidays or when you have some nice, cozy downtime. Turn on some great music, your favorite podcast and enjoy the meditative process of cooking.

P.S. If you are vegan/vegetarian I highly recommend these to win your family over!  If you are also gluten free, no fret, I offer some ideas on how to enjoy their deliciousness without the crust! Let’s get started!

Servings: 6-8

Prep Time: 60-90 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

Filling

  • 15 oz can of black beans*

  • 2 medium sized yams

  • 2 tsps extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 medium sized yellow onion

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms (white button mushrooms or baby portabellos)

  • 3 cups loosely chopped kale, or spinach (I use Tuscan Kale)

  • 1/2 tsp rosemary

  • 1/4 tsp salt (I recommend ground himalayan pink salt if you have it, you can always add more to taste)

  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/4 tsp cumin

* You can also cook your black beans from scratch, in that case you will need 1 1/2 cups cooked beans! 

Crust (adapted from the Post Punk Kitchen, see original recipe here)

  • 3 1/2 cups flour

  • 3/4 tsp salt (I recommend ground himalayan pink salt if you have it, you can always add more to taste)

  • 3/4 cup  partially frozen olive oil

  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

  • 6 tbsp ice water

  • 1/4 tsp rosemary

  • Crack of black pepper

Directions:

PLEASE READ ALL THE DIRECTIONS THROUGH BEFORE BEGINNING

  1. Set oven to 400 degrees F, rinse yams and make small stabs at them with a knife or fork.  This is a great way to get out pent up anger, but don’t go too hard- the holes need to be small, not split the yam open! Wrap each one individually in tin foil and place on oven rack. Set timer for 45 minutes.

  2. After setting yams in the oven you will want to fill one freezable container with 3/4 cup olive oil for the crust. Place in freezer for at least an hour. You can also do this the night before if you like, just remember to take it out at least 15 minutes before making the crust to thaw a bit (you want it to be the consistency of refrigerated butter).

  3. While the yams are cooking, go ahead and get the rest of your veggies and canned beans out. Heat a medium sized pan over low-medium heat with 2 tsps olive oil. Dice onions and garlic together, and place in pan.  Let simmer for at least 2 minutes, until fragrant and the onions are translucent. Chop 2 cups worth of mushrooms, and add to pan. Stir onions and mushrooms around with a wooden spoon to keep them from sticking to the pan. Rinse canned beans, and add to pan once mushrooms are soft, after about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in rosemary, and salt. De-stem and loosely chop kale/spinach and add 3 cups to pan. Stir everything in pan together. Let cook for approx. 5 more minutes or until your greens are wilted.  Remove from heat.

  4. Check yams after 45 minutes by stabbing them with a knife right in the center. If they are ready, the knife should feel no resistance.  If not, put those suckers back in for another 30-45 minutes until they are nice, soft and sweet. When they are ready remove with oven mitts- ain’t nobody want to play hot potato anymore. You can let them cool for a bit, or get wild and open them up right away.  Remove the skins with a knife, and add the yummy orange stuff to a medium sized mixing bowl. Mash with fork. Stir in cinnamon, and cumin. Then add black bean and veggie mixture to the bowl, and mix everything together.

  5. Now it's time to make the crust. After at least an hour, take olive oil out from freezer.  Place 3 1/2 cups of flour in large mixing bowl along with salt, a crack of pepper, and rosemary. Stir together.  Take teaspoons of the partially frozen olive oil, and add to flour mixture. Add about half to begin, and start mixing with hands (you can also use a pastry cutter if you have one, but I like to get messy with my food). Keep adding in partially frozen olive oil, and kneading together until you get a nice crumbly mixture. In a separate cup or bowl, add apple cider vinegar and ice water. Stir together. Add the acv and water mixture in little by little into the crumbly mixture, and continue to knead with hands. Add more liquid mixture if it is too dry, and if it is too wet, add a little more flour.  The consistency should be wet enough to stick together, but dry enough that it doesn’t stick to your hands. Keep in mind that this means you may not use all of the liquid mixture. When you have the desired consistency, separate dough into roughly 6-8 balls about 2 inches in diameter.

  6. Set oven to 350 degrees F, and prepare cookie sheets. You will probably need 1-2 cookie sheets. Use a paper towel to spread olive oil all over the surface and add a little bit of flour.  This will allow the empanadas to come off easily once they are ready.

  7. Prepare to roll out the empanada dough by cleaning and clearing a nice flat surface.  Get out your rolling pin, and keep the flour handy.  Sprinkle flour on the surface, and rolling pin. Take one ball of dough at a time, and flatten in the palm of your hands into a circle about 4 inches in diameter. Place on floured surface and start rolling out from the middle in different directions, and on the outer edges in circular motions so that you get a round piece of dough about 8 inches in diameter, and 2 mm thick. You can also flip the dough from side to side to prevent it from sticking to the surface. Don’t be afraid to re-flour the rolling pin, or surface if you need to.

  8. Place piece of dough on prepped cookie sheets, and scoop 1/3-1/2 cup of filling onto one side of the rolled out dough. Make sure not to touch the edges of the dough with the filling.  Fold over the side of the crust without the filling.  You can fold over the bottom edges onto the top or pinch together the outer crust with a fork. Voila! You have your first empanada! Repeat steps 7 and 8 until all of  your empanadas are made!

  9. Place your beautiful empanadas in the oven and cook for 45-50 minutes.

  10. Enjoy with fresh guacamole and salsa and a side of your choosing! I love this dish with calabacitas, wild rice, or a fresh salad!

Gluten Free Recommendations

  1. Make filling, and eat over a bed of your favorite rice or grain.

  2. Bake sweet potatoes, but keep them whole. Slice open and sprinkle a little bit of cumin and cinnamon on top. Make bean and veggie filling, and use as a topping for the baked sweet potatoes.

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I hope you enjoy these empanadas as much as I do! After trying them yourself, I’d love to hear what you think! Share in the comments below!