Pumpkin-tastic!

When I die, I hope my friends and family make pumpkin empañadas to put on my alter for the Day of the Dead. I’m teaching my son how to make them and since he’s a fall baby, I made them for his birthday treat to take to his kindergarten class. I normally make pumpkin empañadas for the Day of the Dead. This squash like fruit has its roots here in North America and particularly in Mexico, where the holiday originates. So, making pumpkin empañadas during this time encapsulates a little bit of history, tradition, and love.

20121031-001139.jpg
This is a sugar pumpkin, which is the best to use for baking and cooking.

I prefer to use a sugar pumpkin for any of my pumpkin related baked goods. First of all it’s smaller, so less scooping and messiness. Second, it has a bit of a sweeter taste than the jack-o-lantern variety. Thirdly, it’s called a sugar pumpkin, um cute!

20121031-001155.jpg
Straight out of the oven and fully cooked pumpkin

Remember to preheat your oven from anywhere to 375-400 deg f* depending on the size of your pumpkin. Usually there is a little sticker on your squash with baking directions. I cut my pumpkin in half and with a sturdy spoon, scoop out all of the seeds and strings. If you like pumpkin seeds, then fill a bowl with water and throw your pumpkin seeds in there for a couple of minutes to wash off. Place your pumpkin halves face down and fill the pan with one inch of water. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Check tenderness after 35 minutes by poking the skin with a fork.

20121031-001213.jpg
Pumpkin Mash!

Once the pumpkin has cooled in its shell, squeeze or spoon out the flesh into a bowl. Get a masher or a large fork and mash away any remaining lumps. If you have a food processor and would like a smooth mash, then pulse away!

20121031-001230.jpg
Sugar and Spice!

Pumpkin empañadas require little seasoning. Simply add some brown sugar (or piloncillo if you have it around), ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.

20121031-001245.jpg
Pumpkin and spices

Scoop out 2 cups of mash (a sugar pumpkin will usually make about 2 cups of mash) and add sugar and spices.

20121031-001303.jpg
stir it up

Give the filing a good stir to incorporate all the ingredients. It’ll start to smell AMAZING!

20121031-001319.jpg
Get the juices out.

I like to strain the pumpkin (usually prior to adding the sugar and spices) to get out all of the extra liquid. You don’t want to have a lot of excess liquid in your filling. It’ll make it harder and messier to fill empañadas later.

20121031-001343.jpg
Get your dough ready!

Now that your filling is ready, get your dough out of the fridge to start rolling out little rounds. This recipe has been doubled. Having small chunks of butter visible is a good thing! You don’t want to over blend your butter into the flour mixture.

20121031-001355.jpg
Making dough is so rewarding. Oh the little things in life!
20121031-001406.jpg
Don’t add to much filling or they will BURST in the oven!

Doubling your dough recipe should make about 24 medium to large sized rounds. If you’re like me and like to use every last bit of dough, then you can stretch it out to make about 40 small ones. Make sure not to add too much filling. You only want to add about a tablespoon to small rounds and about 2 tablespoons for the medium to large rounds. Holding the round in your hand and adding the filling will help you gauge the right amount.

20121031-001422.jpg
Little pockets of AWESOMENESS!

Make sure to have a small bowl of water near by to rub around one edge of the dough to ensure a tight seal. You can use a pastry cutter, a fork, or crimp the dough to make a decorative edge.

20121031-001434.jpg
My oldies but goodies!

Keep a baking tray near so you can place all your finished empañadas directly onto it. Once they are all stuffed and sealed, brush the tops with an egg wash, and place the whole tray directly into the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes prior to baking. A cold pastry bakes the best! Have the oven pre-heated to 350 f deg and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Take out of the oven and wait a few minutes before eating or else you’ll burn your mouth! I usually place them onto a cooling rack and then munch away after 10 minutes!

Pumpkin Empañada Filling

makes about 2 cups of filling

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh, or canned, pumpkin mash
  • 1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon ( you can always add nutmeg, clove, or ginger to the mixture too! )

Measure and place all ingredients into a bowl. Mix well. Place in the fridge until ready to use. Filling can last for up to a week in the fridge.

Pumpkin-tastic!

Eat Real. Eat Fast. Eat This.

This past weekend was the Real Eat Festival in Oakland‘s Jack London Square. You’re probably thinking to yourself, ‘another food festival?’ Why, yes foodie friends, who doesn’t love eating good, fast, cheap food under blue skies and a bright shining sun. Given my limited budget and fluctuating waistline (I’m the maid of honor for my best friend’s wedding next weekend), I only made it out to the Saturday festivities. This time I got to be an attendee rather than a worker bee. Working food festivals is hard work, but a rush of fun! I got to see some familiar faces from La Cocina and Off the Grid, all hustling their products to the masses with their beauty and grace!

There were a ton of vendors bustling out a variety of hot, cold, packaged, and speciality foods. Lots of good beer, mixed drinks, and agua frescas by the lovely Hella Vegan Eats ladies (a La Cocina incubator program member).

Pineapple infused with mint agua fresca
Hella Vegan Eats slanging their juice!

Aside from the amazing variety of food available, there were food and cooking demonstrations, life-style booths spreading the word on urban gardening and farming, and live music.

The first dish of the day was from Chac Mool (another La Cocina incubator program member). Two tacos of carnitas (stewed pork) and nopales (sauteed cactus) on two freshly made corn tortillas. Yummy!!!

Carnitas and Nopales Tacos

Next was on to Chop Bar and their whole roasted pig! I love me some pork, especially when it’s a whole roasted hog. Crunchy, succulent, and salty pig skin encasing a tender, juicy meat..mmm mmm oink oink… It was finger licking good!

Pork and Corn Bread
This little piggy went into my mouth!

Did someone say corn dog??? That’s right folks, next was Tante’s hand-dipped corn dog that was oh so delicious!

It was THAT good!
Delicious Corn Dog!

Finally, a little something sweet. A freshly made cookies n’ cream ice cream sandwich from Sift’s Cupcake and Dessert Bar.

Cookies n’ Cream Ice Cream Sandwich!
Who doesn’t love an ice cream sandwich!?

I even grabbed some Cheddar Apple Pie biscotti from Saint & Olive (a new comer to La Cocina as well!). I saved those special treats for my Sunday morning coffee.

The Biscotti Queen!
A Special Treat!
A beautiful handwritten note from Miss Olive!
Sweet, Salty, Spicy, and So GOOD!

All in all it was a fabulous day and I left with a full belly and a happy heart!

Eat Real. Eat Fast. Eat This.

For the love of food

I like to call the month of August the month of LOVE. Not only is it my birthday month, but it is THE foodie month in the Bay Area! All things that I love come together during this month and make me one happy mama.

To get the festival weekend started I had a little party at my house with yummy food and lovely friends! The menu consisted of Rosemary, Lemon, Garlic Oven Roasted Chicken, a Vegetable Tian, and a Chocolate Decadence Cake! Oh what a birthday it was! Did I mention the delicious wine too.

Image
Rosemary, Lemon, and Garlic Roasted Chicken

Image
Vegetable Tian
Image
My Birthday Cake! A Chocolate Truffle Cake covered with a luxurious Whipped Cream

Then there was the Outside Lands Music Festival, which landed on my birthday weekend! Azalina had a brilliant idea of fusing together Mexican and Malaysian flavors into a nacho dish. Festival goers had the choice between chicken curry nachos or a peanut tofu nacho. They were a hit! Azalina really knows how to combine the flavors of California with her traditional Malaysian flare!

Image
My Boss. I like to call her the Malaysian Ninja!

La Cocina was a mad house everyday leading up to the SF Street Food Festival. All 32 businesses were pumping out their amazing tasty treats for the one day street food extravaganza. Every kind of food you could think of was being made and prepared by loving hands, all combining the new with the traditional. There were brains, shrimp heads, thousands of pounds of meat, the freshest fruits and veggies from local farmers, hogs, and a whole lot of sweat and tears.

Image
My Boss Azalina making 1,600 Vegan Peanut Tofu Tacos for the SF Street Food Festival!
Image
Our stall at La Cocina’s 4th Annual Street Food Festival! It was a blast, but a blur!
Image
The Vegan Tacos and Chicken Nachos were a flavor explosion in your mouth! Mexican food goes with everything!

For the love of food