Friday, March 11, 2016

Savory Empanada Tarta with Roasted Vegetables and Cheese

Most nights when there isn't really anything on TV, Joey and I will put the Food Network on. There's usually something interesting to watch, and if we're lucky, we find a meal inspiration. A lot of the time, our inspiration comes from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I know that a lot of people don't like Guy Fieri, but I do like seeing the variety of cuisines featured on the show.

Recently, we saw an episode that featured a cafe called Maria Empanada in Denver, CO. Their empanadas looked fantastic, but the star of the episode was her empanada tarta - a savory tart that was made with her empanada dough, smeared with cream cheese, and then layered with roasted vegetables. It looked so good! While I copied down most of what she said, I didn't have any plans to try making it right away. However, Joey immediately started searching for empanada dough recipes, and we decided to make it for a potluck dinner we went to recently.

It was such a hit! We only got a slice each at the potluck dinner, so we made it again just 4 days later. The dough is so easy to work with, and has turned out crispy and flaky every time. You really can use any filling you would like, but the flavor of the roasted vegetables works really well, especially with a generous layer of tangy cream cheese. The second time we made it, we had some leftover ricotta cheese, so we put in some dollops between layers.

Empanada Dough
Recipe from Epicurious

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/3 cup ice water
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Cut the butter into cubes and add to the bowl. Using your hands (or if you prefer to keep your hands clean, a pastry blender or two knives), and work the butter into the flour until you have small pieces/ribbons of butter that are pea-sized. Put the whole bowl in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes, to keep it cold.

In a small bowl, mix together the egg, water and vinegar, until homogeneous.

Pull out your bowl from the fridge/freezer, and add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Use a fork or a spoon to gently mix together until there are no visibly wet areas. Use your hands to help it form into a ball. It will seem like there is too much flour - that is okay!

Lay out a piece of plastic wrap onto your counter, and dump the contents of the bowl on it. Use the plastic wrap to help guide the dough into a disc - it helps to act as a shield so it won't stick to your hands, and will help some of the excess flour adhere to the dough. Wrap the disc well with plastic wrap (get another sheet if necessary), and put it in the fridge for 1-1.5 hours.

Empanada Tarta:
Note: these are just suggested vegetables to use - feel free to use your favorite.

1 medium butternut squash (or similar squash), peeled and chopped
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 head broccoli, chopped
Olive oil
salt and pepper
3 tbsp cream cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Ricotta cheese, if desired
Herbs, if desired


Preheat oven to 400 F. Line two baking sheets with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.

Toss the veggies with olive oil, spread out on the baking sheets, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until tender and slightly caramelized. Let cool and set aside.

Shake out some flour on a large work surface. Once the dough has been chilled, set it out, and sprinkle some flour on top of it. Roll out until ~1/4 inch thick, and it extends beyond a 9-inch springform pan (or deep dish pie pan) by a couple of inches in all directions. Carefully transfer to your pan, and let it sink onto the bottom. Press it down on the bottom and onto the sides of the pan - if there is excess, push that down onto the top of the pan so the sides stay up. Put it back in the fridge while you are waiting for the veggies to finish cooking/cooling.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Once everything is ready, take the dough back out of the fridge. Spread the cream cheese on the bottom. Make sure the veggies aren't too hot (it will just melt the butter in the crust), and sprinkle them over the cream cheese until they have just covered the bottom. Sprinkle with ~2 tbsp parmesan cheese, and any fresh herbs or dollops of ricotta, if desired. Add another layer of veggies, another layer of parmesan cheese (and desired herbs/ricotta). Gently peel the dough off the sides of the pan, and fold over the veggies, still leaving a large portion uncovered.

Cover the pan with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, and bake another ~25 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and flaky.

If cooked in a springform pan, let it cool 5 minutes, and then remove the sides. Let cool another 5 minutes, and then enjoy!

See how messy my dough was! But it all works out in the end, I promise

Here is the first layer of butternut squash

We topped the butternut squash with onions, mushrooms and broccoli

Here is where you add your ricotta/herbs

Another layer of veggies

Gently fold the edges of dough over your filling, still leaving the center uncovered

This is what it looks like after the first 30 minutes in the oven. The last 25 minutes are where you get all of the color on the pastry

Beautifully golden brown!

It is golden brown all the way around, not just on the top

Look at that flaky pastry

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A long hiatus

It has been a very long time since I last posted - over a year! This has been a busy, joyous, and eventful year for me, and I'd love to share some snippets with you.

Last January, I got engaged to the love of my life! He proposed on the top of Angel's Landing in Zion National Park, and I couldn't be happier!

In May, I helped host a bridal shower for my younger sister.

In August, my fiance successfully defended his Ph.D.! It took SO much hard work and perseverance, and I am so proud of him!

In September, my sister got married! It was the most beautiful, elegant wedding.

Also in September, I successfully defended my Ph.D.! My family came in for the defense, and it was so nice celebrating with everyone.

In October, my fiance and I took a MUCH needed vacation to Belize! It was so beautiful and the perfect way to celebrate our hard work and success.

Not long after we got back from vacation, we had a friend take some engagement photos for us, and absolutely loved them! Thanks to Jon from Joy Gaba Photo


Finally, in late October we left Charlottesville and moved to New Haven, Connecticut! I accepted a position as a postdoc at Yale, and started in early November. We are excited for the adventures to come!

I am hoping to be able to post more consistently this year, and I will have some delicious food and effective workouts to share!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

October Workouts

Here is another recap of all of the workouts I've done in the past month. Since it does appear that I'm getting back into a regular schedule, I'll try to do these more often. Then I can avoid giant posts like this! If you aren't interested at all in my running and workouts, then feel free to skip this post. Food posts will be coming soon :)

As a general recap of the month, I really got back into running. Like I mentioned in a previous post, I decided toward the end of September that I just wasn't ready to train for the Richmond Half Marathon on November 15th. My base mileage was way too low to start increasing the miles steadily. Once I got over the initial disappointment, I found this to be pretty freeing. I could go out and run if and when I felt like it, and I could do a lot more activities without having to worry about how that would affect my run the next day. The funny thing, is that without having to follow a rigid training schedule, I actually ended up running a lot more than I had in previous months.

Wed Oct 1:
I did a 3.25 mile run, which ended right near the gym at my apartment complex, so I popped into do some exercises there. I used Runkeeper to track my run.

Negative splits always make me happy :)

Thurs Oct 2:
I did another 3.25 mile run, using a slightly different route than the one the previous day. This time I tracked my run using Joey's Garmin watch. I called it a day after the run, and didn't do anything else.

Mon Oct 6:

I finally did a KB workout! I modified an old workout, to something that would be more manageable with my "weakened" state haha.

Tues Oct 7:

Here, I'm going to talk about my running "road rage." I get super angry whenever people hog the sidewalk. Being right on a college campus, this happens a whole lot. For some reason, undergrads find that it's necessary to walk 3 people in a row, making it impossible for anyone to get past them. Usually, when you're walking toward them and they can see you, they won't really move out of the way. If you're lucky, the person closest to you (who is completely on the wrong side of the sidewalk) will kind of tilt their body, so you'll probably end up brushing into them unless you go onto the road. I've started lifting up my arms/elbows, almost like I'm trying to adjust my ponytail, when I see people walking toward me who refuse to move. It's amazing how the threat of an elbow to the face makes them move out of the way. (I'm obviously not going to smack someone in the face, I just need to SELL that I will haha) However, the people walking in the same direction as I'm running are the worst. Even when I yell out from behind, either saying excuse me, or coming through, they completely ignore me. Sometimes it's difficult going around just one person, especially when they do something that I call "drunk walking." Basically zigzagging all over the place so it's impossible for me to easily go around them. I refuse to have to step out into the road, especially when there's no shoulder, just so people can walk three across. Anyway, I get really irritated when this happens, and during this run, it happened a whole lot. The only good thing was that this rage fueled me to go longer than I had planned, and to be speedier throughout. To those of you who were in my way - you know who you are...
I used Runkeeper to track my run - mostly because I wanted to just go out and have an easy run, and didn't want a visible reminder of my pace throughout. I ended up going fast anyway...
Also, it started raining about 1 mile into the run.

Thurs Oct 9:
We were in Harrisburg, PA Wed Oct 8 through Sat Oct 11. Thursday morning was one of the only times we knew would have some extra time, so we both did a run. It was actually a really nice run. The weather was pretty good (a bit chilly, but not bad), it was beautiful running along the river, and it was really flat. I went a lot faster than my usual pace, because it was so flat compared to running in Charlottesville. I felt pretty great :)
I used Runkeeper to track my run.

Mon Oct 13:
After taking the rest of the weekend off, I decided to go on a run on Monday. I normally do strength workouts on MWF (usually not all of those...) and run TuTh. This just flipped around Monday and Tuesday, but it worked out pretty well for my Tuesday workout with a friend (below). This time I used the Garmin watch. I went faster than originally planned. It definitely didn't feel easy or comfortable, but still felt good in the end. I was glad to see that I could hold that pace, even when I wasn't on a super flat course.

Tues Oct 14:
Like I said, my days got mixed around a bit, so I did my strength workout on Tuesday instead of Monday. I did it with a friend, and we modified one of my old workouts so it was a different format. I had some good results with a workout last month, where I did AMRAP in 8 minutes for each of 3 circuits. This time, there were 5 exercises in each circuit instead of 4, so we got through each circuit 4 times in the 8 minutes. We jogged a few laps around the indoor track (10.5 laps = 1 mile) between each circuit.

Thurs Oct 16:
This was a really nice day, absolutely beautiful weather. Joey was leading frisbee practice, so my plan was to go on a run starting and ending at the field. I was a little nervous that it would actually feel too warm, and I would get overheated, but it ended up feeling great. The only bad part was that I got a stitch in my side toward the very end, but that didn't end up affecting things too much.
I used Runkeeper to track my run.

Basically negative splits :) The side stitch probably affected the pace for the last little bit

Tues Oct 21:
For this run and the next one, I had to be into lab super early. I basically had to get there around 7, do maybe 10-15 minutes of work, and then I had a 5 hour break. I've done this experiment a lot, and I know that by the end of the day, I'm pretty tired. And unless I have an additional experiment to do in that 5 hour break, I don't do anything productive. Even more annoying is that the buses don't start running until 7:30, so I have to walk in. I decided that I would run into lab (almost a mile), which would get me there much faster, do the 10-15 minutes of work, and then continue on my run. This worked out really well, with the exception of it being really dark during that first bit! I didn't have to be in quite as early on Thursday, so the first part wasn't as dark then. I felt like I was really flying in that first mile, but really wasn't going as fast as I thought. Then I thought I was super slow in the second part, but wasn't as slow as I thought. I guess it all evened out...
I used Joey's Garmin watch to track my run.

Thurs Oct 23:
Unlike Tuesday's run, when I felt like I was going really fast in that first mile, I really was! The rest of the run was much hillier, and I was proud that I kept my pace going up the hills. I used Runkeeper to track my run.

Sun Oct 26:
This was such a beautiful day, and I was looking forward to going out on a run. I planned a 5 mile run, which was probably already a bit ambitious considering what I had been doing lately (a lot of 3-4 mile runs). Once I got to about 4.5 miles, I thought I could do a little more. I basically did the last mile (mile 6) in honor of a good friend, who is having leg issues and isn't allowed to run, even though she really wants to. I used Joey's Garmin watch to track my run.

Mon Oct 27:

I got back into doing workouts with my friend, and this time we did a KB workout together. After our workout, I did the first of my workouts geared toward being able to do an unassisted pull-up!

Wed Oct 29:

I did another strength workout at the AFC, this time mostly built around my pull-up exercises. This is going to be a workout that I don't necessarily recommend you repeat, since as Joey put it, I did "ALL of the pull-up exercises." I was so sore after this. I just got so excited about wanting to do a pull-up that I overdid it a bit. Now I know better for next time!
In this case, purple = an exercise specifically for the pull-up workout, and blue = a leg/ab exercise so I wouldn't completely kill my arms
I ended this workout by walking home from the gym - 1.6 miles - while carrying lots of stuff! My arms were dying!

Thursday, Oct 30:

I ended up doing another 6 mile run that was mostly unplanned! I plotted out something that was ~5.5 miles, and knew that I would be walking ~0.15 of it (super steep hill that is 100% unnecessary to run). Toward the end, I decided that I wanted to make it 6 miles, but didn't have the energy to think about what I would need to do for that to happen. This meant I just ran up and down my street a few times until the watch told me I had gone 6.00 miles! The funny thing is that I ended up doing almost exactly the same average pace as my previous 6 mile run - this run was exactly 24 seconds faster overall.

Friday, Oct 31:

This was a weird day. I planned to do my workout at the AFC, so I packed my clothes and brought them with me to work. While I'm trying to focus on pull-up exercises, I want to go to the AFC as often as I can, since that is the only place (I know of) that has an assisted pull-up machine. It ended up being a blah day, and I really didn't want to stay through the end. I also accumulated a lot of different things I needed to take home with me, and didn't want a repeat of Wednesday, having to carry it all home. I decided that I would take the bus home early, and then I could drive over to the gym. There was so much traffic! I always forget that Friday afternoons are the worst, and this was even worse because of Halloween. They have trick or treating on the Lawn, so everyone brings their little kids there. It took at least 15 minutes to get home on the bus (probably more like 20-25), and I knew that I didn't want to get stuck in that traffic driving. I had already done a long run the day before, and I was planning on doing some kind of run over the weekend, so I didn't think about running there. I also planned on doing a sparty-style workout, which usually has a lot of cardio. Joey suggested that I run to and from the gym (which I knew was 1.6 miles from my walk home the other night), and that I modify the workout so it was "sparty-lite." This way I could avoid traffic, and still do what I had planned. This worked out pretty well, with the exception of way too many people walking around (see running road rage above), but I just had to deal with it. We modified the workout so I wouldn't be doing anything for time, since I didn't need the extra cardio.

I don't feel the need to put up maps for the run - I averaged about 16 minutes for each portion, so just about a 10 minute pace each way.

Monthly Totals:

Running: 43.9 miles
Strength workouts: 4
KB workouts: 2
Yoga: 0

I am very proud of these totals! I did almost twice the number of miles that I did in September (23.5), without even following a training plan. I was saying to Joey the other day that it's almost like I'm doing a training plan, with the way I've been naturally increasing the number of miles. I think I'm doing it just as a challenge to myself. Part of me wants to start training for a race, but part of me thinks that it might take the fun out of it. I think for now, I'm just going to continue doing what feels good, and take it from there. I'm running the Richmond 8k in 2 weeks, and probably the 10k in Wilmington over Thanksgiving. I'm not training at all for either of those - I just know that based on the runs I've been doing, I am prepared to do those distances. The times won't be great, but I'm (mostly) okay with that.

I really want to be able to keep up with my strength workouts. I think that they will improve my running, and make me feel better about my overall fitness. Most important, I want to be able to do a pull-up!! This would be such a huge accomplishment for me, and I think that with some hard work, it's possible.

Obviously the one thing that I'm missing is yoga - that's a big fat zero. I really need to try out some videos - anybody have any recommendations? Only free ones please :)
I love going to Ann's yoga classes, but since I don't have a multi-class pass for the AFC right now, it seems a little expensive. It's $7/class, which can really add up. If I find enough classes that I think I'll go to, I might get the 5 class pass for $25. My problem is that I always end up with leftover passes that I don't use. We have a 4 month period of time to use the passes, when I think that they should stay valid for an entire year. I think I always got 10 passes in the past, so hopefully if I get the 5 class pass, I'll manage to use those up!