For the next several posts I'll be bringing up topics like food budgets, couponing, choosing recipes/menu planning, writing out grocery lists, and going grocery shopping. These things relate to everyone, but are especially time consuming and tedious for the food blogger. If nothing else, this is my way of confessing for all the somewhat psychotic, obsessive/compulsive, over the top things I do related to food and food shopping.
Let's begin with the food budget. When I say food budget I mean a ballpark figure spent on food items every week, two weeks, or monthly. Do you have a food budget? If so, (and you feel comfortable sharing) how much is it? Also, how many are you cooking for? And, finally..if you do have a food budget, do you stick with it?
I'd say my food budget, for a family of four, is about $400 to $600 per month, definitely not over $600. This includes all the meals (we almost never eat out), lunches packed for my husband and daughter, and special meals for my son who has all kinds of food allergies.
My husband likes to tease me that I spend more than the average amount on groceries because I'm a food blogger. When he does that I just call his bluff. This recipe for chorizo empanadas is a perfect example of how inexpensive it really is to make things at home. A little flour, a little butter, leftover cheese and some chorizo and you have a plateful of appetizers, an on-the-go breakfast, or you can add some veggies and call it dinner. Either way, this whole batch of empanadas cost me about five to six dollars. Making food from scratch is always going to be healthier, tastier, and way more cost effective. Are you with me?
Adapted from The Homesick Texan by Lisa Fain
Makes about 16
For the Crust
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the Filling
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound Mexican chorizo, removed from it's casing
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese (2 ounces)
1/4 cup pitted black olives, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno chile, seeds and stems removed, diced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and black pepper, to taste
For the Empanada
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
sesame seeds for sprinkling (I omitted these)
salsa, for dipping
To make the crust: Mix together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Stir in the flour and salt until a smooth dough is formed. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To make the filling: Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet, preferably a cast-iron skillet, on medium-low heat. Crumble the chorizo into the skillet. While occasionally stirring, cook the chorizo until it's done, about 7 to 10 minutes. Drain the excess fat and in a bowl mix the cooked chorizo with the grated Monterey Jack cheese, black olives, garlic, diced jalapeno, cilantro, and cumin. Taste and add salt and black pepper.
To make the empanadas: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out on a floured surface until it's 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 5-inch rounds and then gather the scraps, roll out again and cut more 5-inch rounds until all the dough has been used.
To assemble: Place 2 teaspoons of the filling in the center of each dough circle and fold the dough to the other side so it forms a half-moon shape. Crimp the edges with a fork to seal.
For the topping: Whisk together the egg and milk. Brush this on top of the empanadas and then sprinkle the empanadas with sesame seeds (if desired). Bake for 25 minutes or until top is browned. Serve with salsa on the side for dipping.
Notes: These chorizo empanadas are perfect in every way. We loved the spicy chorizo filling and found the crust to be perfectly golden and crisp. The dough is really easy to work with and can be mixed in mere minutes with only your hands or a spoon (no getting out a mixer). I didn't have a 5-inch dough cutter so I used a small cereal bowl to cut out the circles and it worked perfectly. If you have leftover filling go ahead and add it to your eggs in the morning. I'll definitely make this recipe again!