Home made empanadas!

When Kelly and I were in LA a few weeks ago, we happened to find a store that resembled an Argentine market. It’s called “El Gaucho Meat Market“. We ate some delicious empanadas there, and we also found that they sell the actual dough to make them. Of course we bought some, because I wanted to make some of my own.

My mom passed on her own recipe, and I got to it!

First of all, there were onions to be chopped. We don’t even own a chopping board, so I had to get busy on the kitchen counter. I wasn’t expecting the process to be so laborious, and it was probably one of the most time-consuming tasks of the whole recipe.

I cried tears.

After chopping half a pound of onions, I had to cook them. I grabbed the biggest pot we own, turned the stove on and went to town. I was very pleasantly surprised as a very familiar smell started to invade my nostrils. It was a smell I wasn’t expecting to notice so early in the cooking process, but which I welcomed and took as signal that I was doing things the right way.

After the onions cook for a while, I put in a quarter pound of ground beef, and some spices (family secret!). The smell immediately turned into what I recognized as empanada filling, and everything was good in the world. Very good.

This is the stuff that empanadas are made of.

After the mix was ready, it’s empanada making time! This is the step where the acquisition of the special dough was critical, because it really does make the empanada unique. Maybe some day we’ll dare make our own dough… but baby steps!

The process was pretty easy, specially because I had some muscle memory for this step. When I was younger, I used to help my mom make them. Well, at least that’s what I remember. I probably only made one out of 3 dozens, but I still knew exactly what I was supposed to do, so I wasn’t afraid of messing up at this stage.
Shaping the empanadas

After making sure they all looked pretty, were nicely filled with all the mix they went in the oven. By the way, my mom’s recipe was perfect. There was no filling leftover, and all the empanadas had just enough filling! Quite impressive, specially after translating everything from kilograms to pounds.

Going in!

Only twenty minutes later, we had this wonderful looking pieces of heaven:
Fresh out of the oven empanadas.

They looked good. They smelled good. And they tasted great! They came out a little bit on the sweet side because I was weary of using too much salt, but that means that there’s room for improvement, and I know exactly what I can do better.

Dinner time!

Kelly and I sat down to eat, and thoroughly enjoyed them. Her parents came over to visit for a bit, and we had them try them. They also enjoyed them, which was a big relief for me! And just like that, about an hour and a half worth of work in cooking was gone, in less than 30 minutes. But it was well worth it, because it was tasty, and I had a lot of fun doing it.

As soon as we figure out a reliable place to get more of the dough, I’ll be making a lot more and having people over to share the wonderful taste of this food that I very much love, and am proud of being able to make.

Pyramid Lake Triathlon

My new year’s resolution has been fulfilled! I wanted to do a triathlon, and I now have done so!

It happened on Saturday, August 1st 2009. The event was put on by the Reno Area Triathletes group, and it was a great experience for my first triathlon ever.

The race started at 8:30am, and the first stage was a half mile swim on Pyramid lake. The water was not cold at all, and it took me 18:30 minutes to finish it. I took it easy on this part, since I hadn’t really trained for swimming, and there were people that were going to swim all over me if I dared to pass someone. I attempted to freestyle, but the adrenaline and the inability to see exactly where I was going made it feel futile. I swam most of the time in a very peaceful breast stroke. By the end of the swim, my arms were quite tired.

Right after that, I had to get on my bicycle to ride for 14 miles. The course was on the road that goes around the lake, with a few rolling hills but nothing impossible. I managed to finish in 50:28 minutes, with an average speed of 16.6mph.
Quite a few people passed me on this stage, particularly on the uphill sections. I made myself not think about that, and I set my sights on a guy who was in front of me. My goal was to pass him by the half-way point, and to never see him again. And I did that.
It was hard for me to put a lot of weight on my hands because my triceps were burning. But I HTFU‘d  and kept on trucking. The second half of the ride I apparently found my spot, because I only passed a handful of people, and I only got passed by two.

The last part of the Tri was the run, so I rode my bike into the transition area, changed into my running shoes and headed out to the trail.
My legs felt like potato bags. I listened to my body and jogged. I didn’t run, but I certainly didn’t walk (because of HTFU, you know).
Slowly, my legs came back to me, and less than a mile in, I was feeling like I could run again. And run I did! I picked up the pace, and before I knew it I was catching up to people -and passing them.
The circuit was a little dirt trail that looped around. It was around 10am and the sun was already making things very hot. I was thirsty, I was sweaty and I was tired. But there was only a little bit more to go.
At the very end, just yards before the finish line, a lady was sprinting up to pass me. I wouldn’t have it, and I literally finished the race running as fast as I could, on a full-on sprint. The lady didn’t catch me, but neither did my breath, and I finished with a major side ache.
Oh well, that didn’t matter. I was done! After wiping some sweat of my brow, I looked up and found my time. I had beat my goal of finishing under 2 hours, and the pain was immediately replaced by feelings of accomplishment and self-pride.
The run course was 3 miles long, and I finished in 28:52 minutes. Not bad for having swam and ridden my bike earlier.

My official total time was 1:41:57.2. I finished 142nd (all the results are here), and I felt damn good doing it.

Some things to note for the next one:

  • I really should train in swimming. It had probably been years since I’d swam for more than 15 minutes without stopping.
  • I should invest in a wetsuit. The extra buoyancy would make the swim easier, and it’d keep me warm if I were to participate in Tris in places like Donner or Tahoe.
  • My bike sucks. I recently discovered that it’s not a “custom bike” as I was sold, but it’s instead a GMC Denali. My bike limited me, and it’s time for me to upgrade to a real road bike.

Notice that I said “the next one”. I decided I’d be doing this again right after finishing this Triathlon. I loved the feeling, the challenge and the adventure. And now, I have a time to beat!