I was having one of my girlfriends over for a little ladies night and we decided to spice things up with a Mexican twist. She was in charge of the pitcher of margaritas and I was in charge of coming up with a couple tasty tapas.
I am not sure if this recipe really qualifies as Mexican, it probably has more of a Central/South American flair. I adapted this one from a Paula Deen recipe for Chicken Empanadas. I am sure her recipe was good, but I have never tried it personally.
Empanadas definitely go in my 10% of the time “treat” category because you can lighten them up, but they still have crust and tasty filling that lets face it, if you lighten up too much…you may as well not eat an empanada. My version has significantly less fat and is also non-dairy.
This recipe is also less involved than you would think. Both my girlfriend and I have small children, so this was something I was able to pull together fairly quickly and then just toss in the oven when she was on her way over.
- 2 breasts of a store bought roaster chicken, skin off (You can buy these organic at someplace like Whole Foods)
- 8oz Plain goat cheese
- 1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded & diced
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon of coarse salt (sea salt is great, kosher salt will do the trick)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper (I prefer a peppercorn medley, go with what you like)
- 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (feel free to omit if you prefer less spice)
- 1 small can of diced green chillies (organic is best, but if you can’t find it, remember this a “treat” )
- 1 package of pre-made pie crust (here is where the real “treat” is…there is no healthy pie crust, let's be real)
- Take pie crusts out of the fridge to warm a bit. (If yours were frozen, thaw them before starting this recipe)
- Preheat oven to 450°
- Remove breasts from your roaster chicken, be sure to remove the skin because that is where most of the fat is.
- Shred chicken breasts into a mixing bowl.
- Cut up goat cheese and add it to the bowl. (Goat cheese is naturally crumbly, so it mixes in perfectly)
- Seed and dice the jalapeño and add it to the bowl.
- *I like to use latex or plastic gloves when I work with hot peppers. It prevents the oils from getting on your hands and potentially making its way into your eye later. Also a great idea if you have small kids running around, who will inevitably want you to pick them up moments after you have just touched a hot pepper.
- Add green chilies.
- Add salt, pepper and spices.
- Mix it up!
- Roll out your pie crusts so they go from 9″ to more like 15″
- Use a 3″ round cookie cutter to cut out circles from your crust. (I didn’t have this, so I used a large mason jar lid ring. Mine were slightly smaller than 3″…if this is the case, just use a bit less mixture)
- Drop a spoonful of chicken mixture onto your crust round and fold over into a half moon shape.
- Seal edges with a fork.
- At this stage, you can bag and freeze any of the assembled empanadas that you might not need to serve. This recipe makes a lot! So you can basically make 1/2 and freeze 1/2.
- Line all of the empanadas you are going to bake on a lightly greased sheet pan (I use a Silpat mat so there is no need to grease anything)
- Bake at 450° for 20 min until golden brown on top (you can also use a light egg wash if you really want a nice color, but it does nothing for flavor)
- *Since most of the fat was taken out of the filling in this recipe, these may be a bit drier than some would like. Try adding a low-fat, healthy dipping sauce of your choosing if you want to shake things up.
- *If you are gluten-free, there are some GF pie crusts or pie crust mixes on the market now you can try.