Every now and then, it’s nice to remember where you came from. I came from a little town in New Mexico, where I lived with my mom and dad, my sister, my brother, and my grandma. My grandma lived with us until we moved to Texas, and she taught me so many things. I learned to read in Spanish as I read from her prayer book every night. I learned to keep things neat and tidy, and that you should smooth the covers after you sit on the bed so that it looks perfect and inviting when you jump in at night. I learned that prickly pears are edible and delicious, and that you could save the seeds from marigolds and replant them the next year. I learned manners and respect for elders, and that a pair of nice earrings can always make you look pulled together.

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn to make her recipes. I remember being in the kitchen when she was rolling out tortillas, or stuffing tamales, or frying gorditas. She would give me a tiny piece of tortilla dough to play with and roll out, and every so often I helped put the masa (tamale dough) on the corn husks. But I never found out what goes in the dough or how to make perfectly round tortillas. It’s a shame.

Well, yesterday I decided to go back to my roots. I made empanadas. They’re not exactly like my grandma’s, but they’re close enough. They remind me of Christmas and family and menudo cooking on the stove. After making a batch of 16, I realized why she always made huge batches. They’re fairly time consuming, so it’s worth making a double or triple batch to freeze for some day when you need a taste of home. I can’t wait to tell her that I made these.

Notes: The original recipe called for 1/2 cup raisins in the filling; my grandma never put raisins in, and since I’m not a huge fan of raisins in baked goods, I left them out. Also, my grandma never put walnuts in the filling–hers was smooth and pumpkin-y. But I like the crunch that the nuts add. I might reduce the amount of brown sugar a tad next time, since the filling is really sweet; then again, it offsets the dough nicely.

Pumpkin Empanadas

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk

Pumpkin Filling:

  • 1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or a fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a separate bowl, beat eggs with milk. Add to flour mixture, stirring until combined (use your hands to knead in the flour). Form dough into a ball; cover and chill 1 hour.

Meanwhile, mix all the pumpkin filling ingredients in a bowl.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove dough from refrigerator. Divide dough into 16 portions. On a lightly floured surface roll each part into a 6-inch circle. Place about 3 tablespoons pumpkin filling on one side of the circle. Moisten edges with a little water; fold in half, pressing edges with a fork to seal.

Place empanadas on a baking sheet. Brush tops with a little milk; sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 16.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Mexican Cookbook (1977!).

6 responses to “Roots”

  1. My GOD that picture looks YUMMY! I love your blog’s design, very clean!!!

    Michele Sent Me!

  2. Michele sent me; I don’t have time to read much right now – but I put you in my favorites so I can come back later and read your recipes, etc.

  3. Viva! Yum… Empanadas! I remember getting so sick on these things due to over endulgance. While reading your post, I had a nice background tune from Horizontes on NPR playing just painting the picture even better. Speaking of ‘roots’, I miss just the mere effort that was going on in the kitchen when things like that were being made. The process of thier cooking was somewhat comforting and assuring. Plus I miss that hand print on my tortillas. Now THAT’S home made!

  4. Crystal you weren’t joking about your enthusiam for food!
    I came to see who this obviously interesting person with good taste that left such nice comments on my blog is, but I haven’t eaten lunch yet. A quick glance and my stomach’s reaction told me I better eat or I won’t make it through. I’m very enthusiastic to connect with another Austin Blogger. I’ll be back soon.

  5. Mija,
    We showed the blog to grandma, cause she is here staying a few weeks with us, and she was really surprised and happy. Keep up the good work! Love, Dad

  6. I’d heard the word empenada but never had. It’s a recipe I’ll have to tuck away.

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