Juicy and flavorful chicken and green olive filling make these homemade chicken empanadas irresistible!

Chicken Empanadas

I love a good empanada! I just started eating empanadas over the past decade. Whenever I go to Whole Foods or even the grocery store (yes, they sell them in our warm food case at the bakery) I typically grab a chicken and spinach empanada! I’ve never made them at home; however, my mother in-law has made beef empanada’s a few times. When we were planning my brother in-laws birthday last month we decided we would server chicken and ground beef empanadas for a light lunch as well as my homemade salsa and a seven layer dip. The empanadas made for  a perfect lunch and we happened to have quite a few leftover. We made 3 dozen. Two dozen beef and one dozen of the chicken empanadas. I was tasked with making the filling. I grabbed cooked rotisserie chicken meat (there I go again with the rotisserie. If your not embracing the rotisserie chicken you need too!), some of my favorite spanish spices, and a few large green olives. I just so happened to make enough filling for one dozen empanadas. It was fate. And boy were they flavorful!

In case you’ve never made chicken empanadas I have a few pictures on how to make them. They are so easy to make and best of all you can prep them ahead of time and fry them right before your about to eat.

Chicken Empanadas

I use pre-made empanada dough found in the freezer section. You will want to defrost them in the fridge the day before. Place 1-2 tablespoons of chicken filling in the middle of the empanada dough disc.

Chicken Empanadas Then fold the empanada in half like the photo above. (My mother in-law, Linda, is my hand model for these photos!)

Chicken Empanadas

Then, use a fork and seal the dough shut by pressing the tines of the fork into the dough. Set them in a covered container until your ready to fry them. Then once your ready to fry, in a deep skillet, heat 1-inch of canola oil to 375°. Of course, if you have a deep fryer then you can use that. Fry a few empanadas at a time (try not to over crowd the skillet), turning once, until browned and crisp, about 3-5 minutes. Place the fried empanadas on a paper towel. While your waiting for the rest to cook you can transfer the cooked empanadas to a baking sheet, and place in the oven on low to keep warm! 

Chicken Empanadas

The cilantro cream sauce is awesome and compliments the chicken empanada perfectly. It’s a sauce that my mother in-law has been making with her empanadas over the past few years and I love it. It’s fresh and full of flavor and of course just a few ingredients. If you don’t have sour cream or don’t want to use sour cream you could always sub greek yogurt instead. You will still achieve the same great taste. Whether you are hosting a party or just want a fun new lunch I would highly recommend you try your hand at making homemade chicken empanadas!

Chicken Empanadas

Katie Original Recipe for Empanadas and Cilantro Cream Sauce adapted from Tyler Florence

Chicken Empanadas

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 10

Chicken Empanadas

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 10 Empanada Discos (pastry dough found in freezer section)
  • 2 cups Shredded Cooked Rotisserie Chicken
  • 1/4 cup Tomato Sauce
  • 2 tbsp Jarred Sofrito
  • 1 package Sazon Coriander & Arnatto)
  • 4 Super Colossal Spanish Queen Olives Pimento Stuffed, diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Mexican Cheese
  • Cilantro Cream Sauce:
  • 1 cup Sour cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a large bowl combine, shredded cooked rotisserie chicken, tomato sauce, jarred sofrito, sazon seasoning, diced Super Colossal Spanish Queen Olives Pimento Stuffed, and shredded Mexican cheese. Mix until well combined and set to the side.
  2. Place empanada disc on a flat surface. Place 1-2 tablespoons of filling in the center of the disc (make sure to not over-fill). Fold empanada in half (moon shape), Seal the edges with a little water and crimp with a fork. Keep filled empanadas covered with parchment paper until ready to fry. (You can refrigerate up to a few hours before frying).
  3. Preheat a large skillet with vegetable oil on medium-high heat. Oil needs to be at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a few empanadas at a time in the pan (make sure to not over crowd the pan) Fry, turning halfway through, until evenly golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and place empanadas on a paper towel to drain off excess oil. To keep empanadas warm while others are frying, place in the oven on low.
  4. Cilantro Cream Sauce:
  5. In a bowl, combine, sour cream, minced cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pepper. Mix until well incorporated. Refrigerate until ready to serve empanadas.
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Looking for a hearty soup that both children and adults will love? Try this easy recipe for chicken and stars soup.
Chicken and Stars Soup
 
I’m at it again… Making another pot of soup. This time it’s a kid-friendly soup. I grew up eating canned chicken and stars soup. During a recent stroll through the pasta aisle I saw a box of pastina (also known as stars) and I knew I had to make a childhood favorite of mine.
 Chicken and Stars Soup
Did you know that growing up I would eat soup for breakfast? Like every day. My mom always struggled with my pickiness and I think one day decided to let me eat soup for breakfast and the rest was history… Just about everyday I would have a bowl of soup. Most days/weeks/months it was the canned variety and occasionally my mom would have a homemade pot of soup available and I would devour it before anyone could get to it!
Chicken and Stars Soup
This chicken and stars soup is easy to make and best of all most of the contents come directly from the chicken stock I made from a $5 rotisserie chicken. If you like to make (and of course eat) soup I highly recommend you checkout my post on making your own stock from a rotisserie chicken. As the weather starts to get cooler, pack your kids or yourself a thermos full of chicken and stars soup to enjoy during lunch! Or making it for dinner and serve with a salad and crusty bread!
Katie Original Recipe
Chicken and Stars Soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6-8

Chicken and Stars Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp chicken fat (or unsalted butter)
  • 2 cups, diced carrots
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 2 cups cooked dark chicken, shredded
  • 1 zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 1 yellow squash, halved and sliced
  • 1 cup pastina
  • 1 tsp fresh dill

Directions

  1. In a large stock pot, place the chicken fat in the pot (or butter) on medium heat until hot (about 1-2 minutes). Then add the diced carrots, celery, onions, salt, and black pepper. Cook with lid on for 10 minutes on medium-high heat. Stirring occasionally.
  2. Then add in the chicken stock, water, chicken bouillon cubes, and shredded chicken. Cook for an additional 10 minutes until soup begins to boil. Then add in the zucchini, yellow squash, pastina, and fresh dill and cook for 6 minutes. Serve soup immediately or let rest to room temperature and store in a sealed container for up to one week.
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Use leftover chicken fajitas to make these easy quesadillas. Perfect for lunch or even dinner and a great way to use up leftovers!

Easy Chicken Fajita Quesadillas

We love chicken fajitas in my home. The other week I shared with you my grilled chicken fajitas recipe. Today, I’m going to share how to transform the leftover chicken fajitas and re-invent them into a whole new meal! Whenever I have leftover meat and vegetables I tend to throw them into a quesadilla. You can cook them one of three ways; bake them, grill them, or fry them in a sauté pan. That’s how I choose to cook these leftover chicken fajita quesadillas. I will preface that I like to bake them the best… less messy and time spent stressing and worrying about flipping the quesadilla over and the contents of the quesadilla falls out. Maybe you don’t stress about stuff like that, but I do!

Easy Chicken Fajita Quesadillas

The next time you make chicken fajitas… make a little extra to ensure you have leftovers. Then forget about said leftovers for a day or two and then whip up a batch of my easy chicken fajita quesadillas for lunch or dinner.

Katie Original Recipe

Easy Chicken Fajita Quesadillas

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4

Easy Chicken Fajita Quesadillas

Ingredients

  • 8 Flour Tortillas
  • 2 cups leftover chicken and vegetables fajitas
  • 2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Cooking spray
  • Sour cream and salsa for serving

Directions

  1. Reheat the leftover chicken and vegetable fajita filling until luke warm. Once the fajita filling is semi-cooked place 4 flour tortillas on the countertop. Divide the leftover chicken fajita filling among the four flour tortillas, then divide the cheese (1/2 cup on each tortilla), spreading both filling and cheese evenly.
  2. Heat up a large sauté pan on medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Place one of the filled tortillas in the pan. Then add another flour tortilla on top. Cook for 3 minutes until the bottom is golden brown but not burnt. Using two spatulas, carefully flip over (trying not to spill out the contents of the quesadilla). Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Remove from sauté pan, cut and serve. Repeat until all the quesadillas have been cooked. Serve with sour cream and salsa.
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Highball & Harvest (“H&H”) restaurant located at  The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes.

(photo credit: The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes)

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to dine at the new Highball & Harvest (“H&H”) restaurant located at  The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. When I’m not cooking, I really enjoy dining at some of the finest restaurants here in Orlando, Florida. Central Florida has a very hot restaurant scene. Gone are the days of visiting the theme parks and staying on property because that’s all that is around to eat. Yes, we do have our share of chain-restaurants (which I love many of them), but we also have a wide-variety of unique and one-of-a-kind farm-to-fork restaurants here. As soon as I found out that the new Highball & Harvest restaurant was serving Southern-inspired food I knew I had to try it! I might not have been born in the south, but I sure do love southern cuisine.

Chef Mark Jeffers

(photo credit: The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes)

Comprised of The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes continues its dedication to farm-to-fork dining and authentic, local experiences with the opening of H&H, helmed by the resort’s rising young Chef de Cuisine Mark Jeffers who joined The Ritz-Carlton, Orlando in 2007. Having grown up on the water, the Daytona, Florida native pulls his culinary inspiration from his hometown state as well as his extensive travels around the South, from Low Country-infused Charleston to Cajun-spiced New Orleans. Chef Jeffers’ dishes are hyper local, infused with Floridian citrus and ingredients from nearby purveyors and the resort’s own 7,000-square-foot Whisper Creek Farm, which opened in October 2012 and continues to expand. The thirst-quenching heart of the restaurant will be its hands-on cocktail bar experience.

The dishes we create at Highball & Harvest are designed to give restaurant-goers a sense of nostalgia while enjoying southern classics infused with regional flavors,” says Chef Mark Jeffers. “We start with locally sourced products and allow the quality of the ingredients speak for itself.

Highball & Harvest’s most unexpected offerings:

  • Parker House Rolls, made from Khorasan wheat (Egyptian old-world grains) and served warm and moist with less gluten than typical bread, a complimentary bread presentation made from scratch by the resort’s 30-person pastry team.
  • Signature dishes: Pig-n-Potatoes, an all-day breakfast dish of poached egg, potato hash, and tender pork cheeks with sweet peppers, caramelized onions, H&H Hot Sauce, and hollandaise sauce. The Southern Spreads, pimento cheese dip and smoked fish dip served with pickled veggies, benne seed lavash, and grilled sourdough presented in a metal tackle box. Smoked Lamb Brisket with boiled peanut “baked beans” and collards.
  • Raw Oyster Bar with signature house-made H&H Hot Sauce. Chefs shuck oysters by hand and teach diners all-things-oysters.
  • Interactive cocktail table with handcrafted, herb-infused cocktails. Knowledgeable bar chefs muddle ingredients while curating a personalized cocktail experience. Cocktails are served on the rocks with hand-carved ice, sculpted bar side with a high-end Japanese ice saw and infused with Whisper Creek Farm herbs and fruits. Signature cocktails: “The Last Wish” served over an ice sphere with orange peel, the “Doc Holliday” with house ginger beer and blueberry jam, and the “Back 40 Punch”, a refreshing take on a bourbon cocktail mixed with sweet tea and lemon.
  • Cask wine. Central Florida’s largest selection of wines from the cask. This method ensures perfect temperature control and freshness, and is eco-friendly by reducing the amount of wine bottles used.


We started our meal off with hand-crafted beverages. I had the non-alcoholic Cranberry Cobbler as I showed on Instagram during our luncheon. Then the servers brought out the lightly and fluffy Parker House Rolls that were paired with two house made butters; an herb butter and an apple cinnamon butter.

Next up, the chef choose two appetizers for us to sample. We shared, family-style, The Southern Spreads which consisted of warm pimento cheese dip and a flavorful smoked fish dip served along side picked veggies like okra and carrots to name a few as well as benne seed lavash crackers and grilled sourdough that was fresh and fluffy. We also got to sample the crab cakes with fried green tomatoes. The crab cakes were all crab and no-filler. My favorite way to consume a crab cake! And then on top of that paired with a fried green tomato. My absolute favorite. Heirloom tomatoes with a grilled corn chow-chow lined the plate as well as a flavorful cajun remoulade and a house made hot sauce–that was more smokey than spicy.

And then it was time for our entree. I choose the shrimp and grits. Locally fished Canaveral Red Shrimp with Anson Mills Grits that were creamy with both white cheddar cheese and a hint of goat cheese. The chef lined the bowl with a delicious Charred Tomato barbecue sauce. The grits were topped with arugula, fennel shavings, and crispy fried onions. Such a sinfully delicious dish! My new friend, Lauren, from Spork Orlando, shared with me and I got to sample her blackened grouper. It was delicious and I loved the hominy ragout and the andouille sausage. The sausage paired surprisingly well with the blackened grouper. I wouldn’t normally think to pair two proteins together–must remember this for future recipes.

Last but not least… dessert. Oh my gosh, you guys the desserts are amazing. We had not one, or two, or three, but four different desserts. Don’t worry we all shared and had a few bites of each. Dessert is the pure reason why I workout. Life is sweet and I want to be able to eat those sweets! We had the chance to try the signature baby donuts. Lightly fried and sugared served with a cappuccino ice cream and a tube of chocolate hazelnut spread! Next up, the H&H Key Lime Tart–so refreshing and perfect for hot Florida days! The Strawberry Shortcake was served in a mason jar with poached rhubarb, strawberry sorbet, and a house made bubble gum marshmallow! Last but not least the warm chocolate cake, served in a cute little cast iron pot and the Madagascar vanilla sauce in a lightbulb. Yes, you unscrew the top and pour the sauce on the cake from a light bulb.

I absolutely loved all the food presentation–all so unique and added to the experience.

I can’t wait to take my husband to Highball & Harvest during one of our next date nights. I can see us sipping the hand crafted cocktails, him enjoying the oyster bar, sharing a few appetizers and digging into dessert! Highball & Harvest is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week.

The official opening of Highball & Harvest at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes was Monday, September 8. This marks a series of improvements and renovations to the resort in the coming months. JW Marriott Orlando will open Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen in Spring 2015 spotlighting charcuterie, Whisper Creek Farm ingredients, and beer from Whisper Creek Farm: The Brewery opening in September 2014.

Valet parking is available at the hotel and is complimentary for Highball & Harvest guests.

Highball & Harvest at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
4012 Central Florida Parkway
Orlando, Florida 32837
(407) 393-4422

Open Daily: 6:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Bar Hours: 11 a.m. – Midnight

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary lunch. I was not required to write about the event–I simply wanted to share with my readers a great new restaurant that is now open in Orlando, Florida. As always all opinions are my own. 


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Get stadium-quality candied walnuts in minutes at home with just a few everyday ingredients!

Easy Candied WalnutsFootball season is here! There is nothing that my husband and I love more than hot candied walnuts when we attend a sporting event. Heck, even when we go to the theater to watch an off-broadway show the minute we smell the brown sugar glazed walnuts we have to buy a pouch. I recently needed candied walnuts for a recipe and as a scoured the store I couldn’t find any. Then it hit me… duh these are probably so easy to make. So I heated up a sauté pan and melted butter and brown sugar and then add the walnuts to the pan. I continued to mix the walnuts until all the brown sugar had coated the nuts.

Easy Candied Walnuts

My home smelled like a sports arena in minutes (minus the smelly players and people). These are the ideal snack for watching a game or even a movie or television show. If your kids don’t have a nut allergy and like nuts these would be perfect in a bento box lunch. Give them a few of the sweet sugary easy-to-make candied walnuts in their lunch box and I’m sure they will eat them all. Who wouldn’t eat brown sugar glazed nuts?

Katie Original Recipe

Easy Candied Walnuts

Prep Time: 11 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 16 minutes

Yield: 2 cups

Easy Candied Walnuts

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Directions

  1. In a large saute pan, melt the butter on medium-high heat. Then add the walnuts, white granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Mix until all the sugar has coated the walnuts. Continue cooking and stirring for 5 minutes on medium-high heat until all sugar has dissolved on walnuts.
  2. Remove the candied walnuts off the heat and pour the candied walnuts on a sheet of parchment paper. Spread the candied walnuts out and allow to cool and harden for at least 10 minutes. Store candied walnuts in a sealed container for up to one week.
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