Sunday, October 20, 2013

Grana Padano Empanadas

We love empanadas at our house, and lately I've been making lots of gluten free ones for my son. His favorite filling is apple (so think like a mini apple pie). However, I prefer empanadas with the traditional dough, and the pre-made dough discs are sold in grocery stores. It's usually with the Spanish/ethnic foods in the freezer aisle. I just thaw them for a few hours or overnight and they are ready for use. 

This time I decided to make a savory filling with Grana Padano cheese and chicken. The chicken is first poached in a Spanish-inspired broth with paprika, garlic, bay leaf and parsley. The Grana Padano is creamy and melty with a delicate flavor. This popular Italian cheese is one of the Legends from Europe products. I added corn for a pop of sweetness. 


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups grated Grana Padano cheese
1 can of corn kernels, 15 oz
1 large tomato, diced
1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
25 empanada dough discs
1 egg

1. In a medium pot, place chicken breasts, garlic, parsley, bay leaf, paprika, black pepper and chicken stock. The stock liquid should cover the chicken, if not add more until it does. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and let simmer until chicken is fully cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes.
2. Remove chicken from pot and chop into small pieces, In a large bowl, combine chicken, Grana Padano, corn, tomato, thyme, garlic powder and sea salt. Mix well.
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
4. Fill each empanada dough disc with chicken and Grana Padano filling. Moisten edge of disc with water. Fold dough over, press and seal edge with a fork. Place empanadas on a baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. You should be able to fit about 8-10 per baking sheet, so bake in batches.

5. In a small bowl, beat egg. Brush the top of each empanada with egg wash. Place in oven and bake until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes 25 empanadas.

To see another delicious recipe using Grana Padano cheese, check out my Grana Padano Grilled Cheese. To learn more about Grana Padano, visit

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Best Grilled Cheese!

Yes, this tastes as good as it looks! My Grana Padano Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions and Arugula is a gooey, yummy sandwich. What makes this grilled cheese sandwich the best? The Grana Padano, of course! It is creamy with a delicate flavor, and together with the sweet onions and peppery arugula, makes this one of the best sandwiches I've ever had.

Grana Padano is a cheese from northern Italy's Po Valley, that is aged for between 9 and 16 months. It has a grainy texture and a mild taste, and is perfect for grilled cheeses because it's so creamy when melted. I located it easily at the cheese counters in two of my local grocery stores.


4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large white onions, sliced thin
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp white wine
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
8 slices multi grain bread
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups grated Grana Padano cheese
4 thick slices of tomato
1 cup baby arugula

1. In a medium pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sea salt. Let cook, stirring often. Add the white wine to deglaze the pan when necessary. The onions should be caramelized after about 25 minutes. They should a rich brown color.
2. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, basil and garlic powder to make basil aioli. Spread on one side of each slice of bread. Butter the other side of each slice.
3. To build sandwiches: Put some of the grated Grana Padano on top of the basil aioli spread on 4 bottom slices. Then layer caramelized onions, tomato, arugula, then more Grana Padano. Place tops of bread on, buttered side up.
4. Heat a grill pan over medium-low heat. Grill sandwiches until bottom is golden brown. Press down on sandwich with a spatula. Flip sandwiches carefully and cook until bottom is brown and cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 sandwiches.

Let me know if you try this recipe and how much you love it! If you want to learn more about Grana Padano cheese, visit

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Favorite Lasagna

My Turkey Lasagna is a hit for dinner with the fam. I omit the middle layer of noodles and use slices of eggplant instead. I'm not a big fan of ricotta in lasagna, so I use mozzarella and Parmesan. So yummy and I like to think a bit healthier?? with the eggplant and spinach. :)


6 lasagna noodles
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs ground turkey
1 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
5 cups tomato sauce
3 tbsp sugar
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
4 cups fresh spinach
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 large eggplant, sliced thinly lengthwise

1. Boil lasagna noodles according to package directions.
2. In a medium pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 1 more minute.
3. Add turkey, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper. Cook until turkey is brown, stirring occasionally. Add 3 cups of the tomato sauce and sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add parsley and basil and let cook for 2 more minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large baking dish, spread a little of the meat and sauce on the bottom. Line with lasagna noodles. Layer in this order going up: meat, spinach, half of the reserved sauce, cheese, eggplant slices, meat, spinach, remaining sauce and cheese. Top with noodles. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
5. Cover dish loosely with foil. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and remove foil. Bake for 15-20 more minutes. Serves 8. 

My recipe calls for 6 lasagna noodles, but it's a good idea to boil 7 to have one as a back-up in case a noodle tears. Or if you prefer, use the no-boil oven ready noodles.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thinking Outside the Griddle!

So I was challenged by Pure Canadian Maple Syrup to create a dish featuring pure maple syrup. It could be the only sweetener used in the recipe, and only one container could be used to prepare the dish. My choice of pot was trusty Dutch oven! I love making stews and braises in it, so I put my thinking cap on to come up with a dish that would really showcase the maple syrup. 

Did you know that maple syrup contains over 54 antioxidants? It also has lower calories than honey, and is an excellent source of manganese (helps in energy production) and riboflavin (which aids in the metabolic process). For more info on the health benefits, and for a cool depiction of how maple syrup is made, visit

My entry is Coriander-Maple Braised Pork and Pumpkin. First, boneless pork chops are seasoned with coriander and seared. The pork, pumpkin and chickpeas are then braised in a combination of maple syrup, vegetable broth, lemon juice, and a little apple cider vinegar. Onion, garlic, serrano pepper and fresh cilantro round out the flavor profile. A nice blend of sweet, tangy and spice; this recipe is a great braise for the Fall season!


4 boneless pork chops
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp ground coriander
3/4 cup flour
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 serrano pepper, seeded and chopped
1 lb pumpkin, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans, 15.5 oz, drained and rinsed
1 cup vegetable broth
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Rub pork chops with sea salt, black pepper and 1 tbsp of the coriander. Lightly coat pork chops in flour on both sides. 
2. Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in Dutch oven (at least 3.5 qt capacity) over medium heat. Add pork and let brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from pot. 
3. Add remaining olive oil, onion and serrano pepper to the pot. Saute for 3 minutes. Add pumpkin, garlic and chickpeas and mix well.
4. In a bowl, combine vegetable broth, pure maple syrup, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and remaining tbsp of coriander. Pour over the vegetables. Return pork chops to the pot and nestle into sauce. 
5. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 1 hour. Lift lid and stir once, about halfway through. 
6. To serve, garnish with a few fresh cilantro leaves. Makes 4 servings.


So I doubt you will have any leftovers, simply because this dish tastes so good, but if you do, here's an idea! Dice the remaining pork chop(s). Puree the pumpkin and chickpeas in a blender and add to jarred tomato sauce. Heat through and serve the sauce with your favorite pasta, with the diced pork on top. It amps up the nutritional value and the flavor of a jarred sauce. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake Mini Strudels

I love the versatility of Athens Mini Fillo Shells, and use them often in recipes when entertaining. You can make quick, creative desserts and appetizers, with as little or many ingredients as you wish. These Pumpkin Cheesecake Mini Strudels are great for after Thanksgiving dinner or a holiday party. My friends loved them; they were gobbled up quickly!


30 Athens Mini Fillo Shells (2 boxes)
1/2 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin
1 cup ready-to-eat cheesecake filling
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 oz pine nuts
2 oranges (for zest only)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, mix pumpkin, cheesecake filling, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir well, until almost smooth. Fill Mini Fillo Shells with pumpkin mixture. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. In a small pan, toast pine nuts over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring often. Top warm mini strudels with toasted pine nuts, and freshly grated orange zest. Serve immediately.