Fig and Walnut Empanadas

2-17 Fig and Walnut Empanadas

Food cravings- I get them all the time. Sometimes I crave a salad, or some veggies, and that is great- my body thirsts for nutrition when I deprive it too long. And sometimes I just need some chocolate, red meat, or salty potato chips. Fine too, a little snacking and indulgence never hurt anyone. But the worst cravings are when I crave food I ate in another city. I’m looking at you, beaver tails

Well, practically every time I head home to Houston, I stop at this amazing empanada place. In fact, last trip, it was the first stop in town. I was grouchy and “witchy” after a long drive home, but all that grumpiness melted away as we stopped and I took my first bite into my empanada.

But what’s a girl to do when she is grumpy at home with no empanadas to listen the mood? Well, make her own! The emapanda dough I use is quick to whip up, only takes a little chill time the refrigerator, and is very easy to work with. Cheese and fig may seem weird, but think of it as a warm cheese plate wrapped in pastry dough. It just works. Then dollop some of your favorite fillings, bake, and devour.

FIG AND WALNUT EMPANADAS
Inspired by Marini’s Empanada House

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:

1/2 cup water
5 ounces butter
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

For the Empanadas:
3/4 cup fig preserves
1/2 cup chopped walnits
3-5 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded

DIRECTIONS

For the Crust:

In a small saucepan combine water and butter. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted.

In a bowl combine flour and salt. Slowly pour in butter mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until a wet, oily paste forms. Pour dough onto a sheet of cling wrap. Wrap cling wrap around dough, forming into a disk. Chill for at least 1 1/2 hours, preferably 2 hours.

For the Empanadas:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Divide the dough into 20-25 small equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a 4-5 inch circle. Place about 2 teaspoons of fig preserves in the center of each piece of dough. Sprinkle walnuts and mozzarella cheese on top. Fold over the dough tightly, forming a half moon shape. Crimp closed with a fork.

Place on lined baking sheet. Freeze for 15 minutes. Bake for 18-25 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool slightly before eating.

**To reheat, I have found the empanadas still get a crispy shell when you bake as directed above, let cool and store at room temperature, and reheat for 5-7 minutes at 400°F.

Makes 20-25 empanadas.

Healthier Fig and Nut Blondies

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Hello? Hello? Anyone out there?

I know, I know I have been officially MIA for several months.  Life, man.  But it is the new year and time for a new start-up back here on Cinnamon Freud! Happy New Year’s!

So it is the New Year, the time when lots of people make resolutions to lose weight.  I understand well- Christmas and the holidays is a time of decadence. I myself have packed on some extra “warmth layers” since being in a relationship…in spring of last year (no one warned me about that perk or couple-dom).  So, eating healthier can benefit us all.

These “blondies” are a healthier way to help satisfy your sweet tooth.  Believe it or not, my sweet tooth has mellow out (this must be what people mean by adulthood), so these are the perfect dessert or snack.

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HEALTHIER FIG AND NUT BLONDIES
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

INGREDIENTS

6 ounces vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12-15 dried figs, chopped
1/2 cup nuts

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9 inch by 9 inch baking dish with foil and grease.

In a large bowl mix yogurt, oil, brown sugar, sugar, vanilla extract, and maple syrup together. In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly stir the dry ingredients until wet, mixing until just combined. Fold in figs and nuts. Add milk as needed to thin the batter (I added about 2-4 tablespoons).

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely. Remove with foil and cut into bars.

Pear and Fig Stuffing

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Here we are again with our old pal stuffing.  I love stuffing so much, I just wish it was a little prettier to look at.

Are you all ready for the big day this week? I am literally counting down the minutes- nay seconds- until I am on my plane back to Houston.  Back to my family, a big kitchen with lots of counter space, and lots of good food.  My stretchy pants are poised and ready to go into action this Thursday.

If you are still planning your Thanksgiving meal (or if you love to eat stuffing any time of the year), this is a unique but delicious recipe for stuffing.  Not your traditional stuffing fare that typically has mushrooms, celery, or sausage.  Instead, you get sweet pears, chewy figs, and salty cheese.  And it was divine.  I made this late at night for dinner the next day, and I physically could not stop myself from eating little pieces at midnight.

By the way, using Hawaiian rolls for stuffing is an idea that I wish I had thought of years ago.  Especially in this recipe, you will love it.  It tastes even better at in the hours from 12 AM – 1 AM.  Thanksgiving late night snack anyone?

PEAR AND FIG STUFFING
Adapted from Fake Food Free

INGREDIENTS

2-3 tablespoons butter
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 pears, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons dried sage
8 cups torn bread (like Hawaiian rolls)
3/4 cup dried figs, chopped
1 1/2-2 cups chicken broth
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup cubed Asadero cheese

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Grease a 9 inch by 13 inch baking pan.

In a large skillet, melt better.  Cook red onion until tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.  Add pear, salt, pepper, and sage.  Cook until pear is tender, about 5-7 minutes.

In a bowl, stir together bread, pear mixture, and figs.  Stir in chicken broth until you reach your desired stuffing consistency.  Stir in egg.  Spread in prepared baking pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, sprinkle cheese on top.  Cook until cheese is melted, about 5-10 minutes.

Fig and Almond Rice Pilaf

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I am in love.  Jasmati rice has been a revelation.

I have recently been having huge rice problems.  The main culprit? Brown rice.  I would cook it using many different methods, but every time it turned out real al dente AKA crunchy.  Frustration galore. But thsi jasmati rice pilaf turned out perfectly.  I have reached a new rice chapter in my life, and there is no looking back now.

I got the inspiration from this dish from a Turkish cooking class I have been going to here in Lubbock.  It is so much fun to find little cultural niches in this otherwise small, mainstream town.  There is lots of talking and lots of delicious Turkish food (hello baklava).  For our first class one dish they showed us was rice.

Just rice.  Simple, buttery perfection.  Rice is such a difficult dish, but after eating their rice inspired me to give rice another go in the kitchen.  So off to the grocery store I went, and Jasmati rice found a new home in my pantry.

In this rice pilaf I added a simple base of red onion and garlic topped with some figs, inspired by Middle Eastern usage of dried fruit.  A little sweet with my savory. Yum.  A great side dish to go with any type of meat.

There may be some more Turkish foods around these parts in the upcoming months, so brace yourself.  If you have never had Turkish food before, I high recommend it.  It’s delicious!

RICE PILAF WITH FIGS
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon butter, divided
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups dried Jasmati rice (or any other long grain rice)
4 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cup dried figs
Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Soak figs in warm water for at least 10 minutes.  Chop up figs.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil.  Add red onion and cook until tender, 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.  Pour into bowl.

In the same pan over medium high heat add remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil.  Add rice and saute until toasted and golden brown, about 2-4 minutes.  Pour in boiling water.  Cover pan with lid and reduce heat to medium/medium-low.  Cook until all water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in onions, garlic, and figs.

Serves 5-7 as a side dish.

Homemade Fig Newtons

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There is a theory out there (meaning I heard it in one place) that combines my two loves: food and movies.  Apparently, those who are powerful in movies are those who eat other people’s food.  They are more likely to survive the movie.

My favorite movie and food combo: I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE.  I have never seen There Will be Blood, but I can watch Daniel Day Lewis scream about milkshakes for hours.  #productivity

So what you should do is make up a batch of these homemade fig newtons, serve them to friends and family, then take their fig newtons and eat them.  Then shout  “I EAT YOUR FIG NEWTONS”.

Yes, you want to eat fig newtons and shout about them.  Even if you aren’t necessarily a fan of the store bought packaged “cookies” (let’s get real, I love fig newtons but they really aren’t a cookie).  Instead eat this soft, chewy dough and the sweet fig filling with the occasional crunch of seeds- homemade here really is better.  I loved these little snacks, and the possibilities are endless with different fruit fillings.

I’M KING OF THE WORLD. FREEDOOOOOOM.  I WANT THE TRUTH- YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH. WHAT’S IN THE BOXXXXXXX.

Yeah, now  am just listing shouted movie quotes. I should just stuff a bunch of fig newtons in my mouth and shut up.

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HOMEMADE FIG NEWTONS
Adapted from Eat, Live, Run

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:
3 ounces butter, softened
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking power
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-2 tablespoons cold water

For the Fig Filling:
2 cups figs, stems cut off
2 cups orange juice
1 cup water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS

For the Dough:

In a large bowl, cream together butter and light brown sugar.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Stir in vanilla.  In a separate bowl whisk all purpose flour, wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt . Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until a soft dough forms.  Stir in water if needed, starting with 1 tablespoon.  Form dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill for 2-4 hours.

For the Fig Filling:

Meanwhile, place figs, orange juice, and water in a saucepan.  Let sit for 15 minutes.  Stir in sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Transfer to a food processer or blender and processes until smooth.  Let cool.

For the Fig Newtons:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into two pieces.  Roll out dough into a rectangle until dough his about 1/4 inch thick.*  Spread half of the fig filling down the middle, leaving a 3/4-1 inch border.  Fold dough over and pinch closed.  Repeat with remaining dough and fig filling.  Bake for 18-21 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool and cut into bars.

Makes 30-40 fig newtons.

*I found the dough difficult to roll out, so I divided it into 4 pieces and using my finger to push it out.

Fig and Walnut Salad with Breaded Goat Cheese

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It is officially hot.  Really hot.  Really, really hot. So hot that I get a very attractive brow sweat when I walk to class each day.  I apologize for talking about brow sweat on a website about food, but it’s the truth.

I eat a lot of fruit and veggies most days but especially during the warm summer months.  Something about the cool crispness of veggies and sweet juicy fruit is very satisfying during summer.  I am so ready to go buy my first watermelon of the season soon.

Salads get very little credit in the food-world. Sure, sandwiches are delicious, and desserts are basically sugary gifts from heaven. Salads are relegated to a side dish you have to eat out of politeness often.  But often during the summer I just want something cool and refreshing while I am  melting into a puddle on the sidewalk because of the heat or getting third degree burns from touching my black steering wheel. So that leaves salads or frozen yogurt.

Salads sometimes get a bad rep. They are often thought to be boring and blah, or the exciting salads filled with toppings are secret caloric black holes. But here ye: salads can be fun! And healthy! I promise.

This salad was inspired by a salad my mom had at a French bistro when we visited New York a few summers ago.  At the restaurant I was hot and hungry, and I breezed past the salad section of the menu, straight to the mussels, frites, and desserts sections. Salads had some tough competition with all the other delicious food at my fingertips. Luckily, my mom noticed a little gem of a salad with breaded warm goat cheese on the menu and fell in love. Everything gets a little better with goat cheese, right?

I incorporated the flavors from a favorite tapenade dip, and this delicious salad came to be. It makes a great light lunch, a good side dish, or a wonderful first course.

Consume while standing directly under your AC air vent.  Then follow it up with some frozen yogurt.

FIG AND WALNUT SALAD WITH BREADED GOAT CHEESE
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

For the Goat Cheese:
4 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon herbes de provence
1 egg white

For the Salad:
6 ounces dried figs, chopped
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup chopped kalamta olives
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Walnuts, chopped
Lettuce/Greens
Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

For the Goat Cheese:

Cut the goat cheese into 12-16 pieces. Roll into balls and flatten into disks. In a bowl combine the bread crumbs, salt, and herbes de provence. Working with one piece at a time, dip goat cheese into egg white then breadcrumbs. Place on plate. Repeat with remaining goat cheese. Freeze for at least 15 minutes.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Spray pan with nonstick spray (this works better than using olive oil or melted butter). Cook several pieces of goat cheese at a time, 1-2 minutes per side. Keep warm in oven.

For the Salad:

In a sauce pan over medium-high heat combine figs and water. Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid is absorbed, 5-8 minutes. Stir in olives, vinegar, and olive oil. Keep warm.

Combine your greens and fig mixture in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Top with additional balsamic vinegar if desired. Place several goat cheese rounds on top. Top with walnuts.

Walnut, Fig, and Blue Cheese Crackers

So apparently there is some big sports game coming up.  I’m not sure, but I think there may be a field and some kind of ball involved.  This may just be a rumor though.  But that is enough sports talk there to last me a lifetime- let’s move on to food.
These crackers are a wonderful choice for an appetizer.  I appreciate the convenience of store bought crackers, but homemade crackers aren’t hard to make if you have a little time.  These crackers were inspired by the wonderful Ina Garten, and I combined the sweet, seedy figs with salty blue cheese, and crunch walnuts.  They are great for snacking on plain or with a smear of some wonderful cheese on top.
These are a great snack food for watching any event on television.  I choose to enjoy these while watching the Real Housewives, not the Super Bowl, thank you very much.
WALNUT, FIG, AND BLUE CHEESE CRACKERS
Adapted from Ina Garten
INGREDIENTS

7 ounces dried mission figs, chopped
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup buttered, softened
8 ounces blue cheese crumbles, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4-5 tablespoons water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a small saucepan combine figs and water over medium heat.  Bring water to a boil and cook for 5-7 minutes, until all liquid has evaporated.  Set aside.

In a bowl, cream butter and blue cheese together.  Stir in flour and salt. Stir in water 1 tablespoon at a time, until a soft dough forms.  Fold in figs and walnuts.

Roll into 2 6 inch logs and wrap in plastic wrap.  Freeze for 30 minutes, then chill in refrigerator.  Slice 1/4 inch thick slices.  Spread on baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Sprinkle with kosher salt Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.  Set aside.

Fig and Plum Tarts

Well, I am all moved in to my new place.  After three days of what felt like nonstop lifting and assembling, everything is now in place.  My new kitchen is now ready for chopping, baking, and sautéing.
After moving everything in, my cupboards were pretty bare, so I made my first grocery store trip.  I am happy to report that I love my new grocery store.  My first trip had a little adventure when I dropped/smashed two jars of sweet pickles on the ground.  The con- I cut my fingers.  The pro- my shoes smell like sweet pickles now.
All sweet pickle business aside, my new grocery store had some great finds, especially for produce.  I found some sweet plums and fresh black mission figs.  This tart is a great combination of these fresh summer foods with a good mix of sweet and salty.  I used some of my fresh figs to make fig jam but feel free to use any fig spread you can find.  Quick, go forth and discover some fabulous fruit before the season is over.  Then make a tart.  Or eat a plum with every dinner like I am.  Or both.
FIG AND PLUM TARTS
From Cinnamon Freud
INGREDIENTS
12 sheets phyllo dough
1/4-1/2 cup melted butter, for brushing
3 ounces blue cheese crumbles
1 cup fig jam, recipe below
2-3 plums, sliced
Salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a cutting board lay out a sheet of phyllo dough.  Brush with melted butter.  Layer a second piece of phyllo dough on top.  Repeat with phyllo dough until you have a 6 layer stack of phyllo dough.  Cut into 8 rectangles and carefully transfer to baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining phyllo dough.
Place approximately 1 tablespoon of fig jam on top of the phyllo dough.  Spread slightly with the back of a spoon.  Sprinkle blue cheese crumbles on top.  Place a layer of plum slices on top of each tart.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  Sprinkle hazelnuts on top.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until plums are soft and tarts are golden brown.  Drizzle with honey if desired
Makes 16 small tarts.
HOMEMADE FIG JAM
Slightly Adapted from Cooking Light
INGREDIENTS
1 pound figs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon lemon zest, optional
DIRECTIONS
Chop your figs very finely or run through a food processor.  In a saucepan combine figs, sugar, water, and lemon zest.  Let sit for 2 hours.
Bring the fig mixture to a boil over medium high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until jam reaches desired thickness.  Transfer to a glass container.  Let cool at room temperature and then chill overnight.