Chicken Empanaditas

An empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry eaten in many countries of Latin America and the south of Europe. Typically it has a doughy crust (like a pie crust), folded into a half moon shape,  and is either fried or baked. I wanted to make a diminutive empanada – an empanadita – a little dumpling that was more finger food than a hand-held snack. I also wanted to eliminate the high fat pie crust-like dough so I that had a low fat, tasty nibble. I decided to use round gyoza wrappers, which can be folded into little half moons. Gyoza are the usually the wrap for Chinese or Japanese pot stickers, so perhaps these are actually Mexican pot stickers.

At any rate, the first time I made these I followed a Food Network recipe for the filling, with appropriate fat-reducing changes, such as using fat-free cream cheese and low fat Mexican cheese blend. These first empanaditas were just awful. The filling was dry and flavorless; the gyoza skins were both tough and chewy at the same time. Even the dogs eyed them suspiciously. But they looked good!

So I tried again, adding some salsa to the filling to give it a bit of zing, and some non-fat sour cream to make it creamier. I also used wonton wrappers, since I was out of gyoza skins. They were fantastic. And it was not only the filling that was better. The wonton wrappers were crisp and vaguely buttery. And they still looked good.

(I have since learned that the dough for the gyoza and wonton wrappers consists of different ingredients; gyoza wrappers are also thicker than wonton wrappers). Now that I have gotten the recipe right, I crave them constantly. Good thing that I froze a bunch.

This recipe makes a large number of empanaditas – almost 100. But they are quite freezable before they are baked, although you might have to bake them for a few minutes longer just out of the freezer.  And once the filling is made, you can make them assembly line fashion, laying out 3-4 wrappers, dropping the filling in the middle, painting the edges with water and pressing them shut.

Chicken Empanaditas

3 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1/4 cup chopped red or yellow bell pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 (7 to 8 ounce) package shredded low-fat Mexican cheese blend
4 ounces non-fat cream cheese, softened
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups non-fat sour cream
1 cup salsa verde (any green salsa – heat depends on your tolerance)
about 100 square wonton wrappers
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray two large cookie sheets with cooking spray (this will not be enough to cook all the empanaditas, so you will have to repeat baking if you want to make them all at once.)

Place pepper, chicken, and jalapeno in food processor and pulse until chopped. Add Mexican cheese blend, cream cheese, cumin, salt, pepper, sour cream and salsa to food processor. Pulse until well blended. Lay several wonton wrappers on a flat surface. Place about 2 teaspoons of filling in the center of wrapper (you will have to get a feel for how much goes in each wrapper without overfilling them so you can’t seal them.)

(This is a picture of assembling the first batch – but you get the idea. Imagine this is a square, not a circle.)

Brush edges of wrapper with water. Fold in half to make a triangle. Press edges firmly to seal. Repeat with the remaining wonton wrappers. (Up to this point, the recipe can be made ahead and frozen for up to 1 month).

Arrange empanaditas on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. You will need to check on these so they don’t burn. My first batch wasn’t brown enough, so I left them in for 10 more minutes and they got too well done. Makes about 100 empanaditas at 0.5 grams of fat/tasty little dumpling. (That means you can eat 6 of them sitting in front of the tv, dipping them in salsa if you’d like, and just have 3 grams of fat.)


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I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

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