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Friday, July 17, 2009

Leftover Genius - Taco Empanadas with Avocado Ranch Dip

The other night for dinner BD suggested Taco Salads. I didn't take pictures of that feast - which was pretty tasty - but I did have a stroke of genius the next night when trying to find a way to use up the leftover. Personally, I am not a big fan of straight leftovers. I try to make just enough for dinner or I will freeze some in individual containers for lunches or quick dinners a couple weeks down the road.

In my fridge was:
- Taco meat
- Pinto Beans
- Red Onion
- Shredded Mexican Cheese
- and from a couple of nights prior, refrigerated Pillsbury biscuits. The home-style kind - not the flaky ones.
So in my attempt to use up leftovers and remove some various Tupperware containers I went to work. After some thought I decided that I wanted to take the dinner rolls, stuff them with the leftover taco fix ins and make a makeshift empanada. At least that's the best description I could come up with.

Taco "Empanadas"

- Leftover taco fixings
- Pillsbury refrigerated biscuits


1- To start I warmed the taco meat (and the pinto beans) up for about a minute in the microwave. I didn't want them super hot but I wanted to be sure they wouldn't be ice cold in the middle after baking.

2- The next thing I did was take each roll and flatten them out -somewhere between an 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch. I didn't use flour but I did spray the rolling pin and the cutting board with a little Pam. This worked well for me.

3- When each of those were ready I mixed the pinto beans, taco meat and minced red onion together. I spooned a generous couple of spoonfuls in the middle of the biscuit and then I topped it with the cheese.

4- The next step was sort of tricky and honestly I did not master it. The next thing you want to do is fold the biscuit in half and mold it around the mixture. You want to try and seal the edges as best as possible so that the inside yummy goodness doesn't leak out. Mine ended up looking like little half moons which I thought was kinda cute. Below is a pic before they went in the toaster oven.
I know you're jealous of my "well-seasoned" pan!

5 - Next I just threw then in the toaster oven on 400 and kept an eye on them. Once they were nicely browned on top and bottom, I knew they were done. It took about 12 minutes but that will vary on how thick the dough is after you roll them out.

* For the taco salads I had made an Avocado Ranch dressing/dip. While I'm sure there are recipes out there of this, my inspiration actually came from Chili's. Its really easy to make and I usually do it off the cuff.

Avocado Ranch Dip

(print recipe)
- 8oz of sour cream
- 1 avocado
- dry ranch dressing packet
- Lime juice
- S&P


1- Slice the avocado, remove the pit and spoon out the flesh or fruit. Squeeze a little bit of lime juice and add S&P. Then smash the hell out of it with a fork, muddle, spoon - whatever you have!

2- Once the avocado is smooth, add the entire 8oz of sour cream. Mix together.

3- Next add about half of the ranch packet. I would actually recommend doing this little by little and tasting it as you go. This will allow you to control how much ranch flavor it will have. You can also adjust the S&P and lime juice if you like as well.

My thoughts on this dish: I actually would have preferred less ranch taste but BD wanted the ranch to be very prominent so I went a little heavy with it. I thought this overpowered the avocado flavor, which I secretly think was his plan. Anyway in the end we used about 3/4 of the packet. Still, I thought it was a great break from the traditional sour cream and guacamole to the salad and it actually went even better with my taco empanadas.

The finale!

My thoughts on this dish: I definitly need to perfect the sealing part but luckily nothing leaked all over the pan. Also, I think next time I will add some more cheese to it. It wasn't quite as cheesy as I had wanted. Originally I was a little worried that the Mexican flavor would meld well with a regular biscuit but it was great. In fact, my intentions were to only each two of the three and save the last one for BD when he got home from work.....that didn't happen.

These turned out to be great finger friendly food. No drips or the middle falling out of the other end when I bit into it. Always a plus in my book. Another thought I came up with was maybe making these in half portions for an appetizer at a cocktail party. A little bit of prep work but easy to do and really economical as well.

Update 7/20: Last night I saw Paula Deen make cuban empanadas using the same style biscuit. She fried her's (of course!), but it made me feel less like a noob, I guess.

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