Thinking Small.

I love Small Bites. 
It’s what I enjoy doing most for parties and guests.  There are a couple of reasons for this actually.
(1) The Novelty/Aesthetic of it. (“ooh tiny hamburgers! aren’t they cute?!?'”)
(2) Logistics.  At a party, I don’t think guests should work that hard to eat.  Most people will be standing or walking around.  Something that fits in one hand and is taken out with a few bites, is ideal.

While they’re cute, fun, and easy, going small brings plenty of challenges.
You’ve got to fit in big flavors in a  bite. 
Cooking time can switch around.
And of course, putting it together.
This is the one that’s most challenging to me.  I’m heavy-handed.  I’m a heavy saucer, I go big on the spices, being delicate so I can fit all the items in one morsel?  Quite a challenge.

Mini Empanadas reminded me of this Quickly.
While I’d never made them before (I’m not even sure I’d HAD them before) I eagerly put them on my menu for a watch party of the Arkansas/Alabama game.
(Why do I put up challenges like this?  I’d like to say it’s a balance of ambition, confidence, pride, and knowing if it’s THAT bad my friends will smile, and order pizza.)
I cut out the dough, made the filling, and was clipping along just fine, until it came to the point of filling and sealing.

Upon the first try, the empanadas burst open, filled too full. 
Several others sealed just fine, only to have teeny openings later or to have the liquid from the filling ooze out the sides. 
I was cussing up a storm trying to get things ‘Just right’ while trying to find that perfect balance, and wondering if anyone Really would notice if the fork press ‘seams’ on the edges were only on one side, not two.

After putting together about 10 I shoved them into the oven and chalked them up to ‘practice’. I knew I’d most likely be serving them the next day, but since it was my first time out, I wanted to try them. They were just fine.  A little extra crust for me, but that enabled me to alter things slightly and keep going.  I froze the batch, and waited to bake them the next day at the party.

My 'Trial' batch. Not perfect, but Yummy!

All the fretting and cussing wasn’t needed.  The empanadas turned out just fine.  Not “Perfect” but they were all gone, so that’s good enough for me!

I did get reminded:  Small bites are indeed fun, but give extra time for prep since they need extra care. 

You’ll find the recipe below, Plus a Southwest Dressing I paired it with.
I combined about 3 recipes to come up with what I used, and will likely change it up again, but this works just fine:

Mini Beef Empanadas

  • 1/2 pound ground beef (80-85% lean)
  • Store bought refrigerated pie crusts
  • Small onion (chopped finely)
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 Tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/4 Teaspoon ground Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Cheese
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Egg (beaten)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 375
  2. Roll out the pie crusts and use a cookie cutter (or the edge of a glass) to cut out circles about 2.5″ in diameter
  3. Heat Oil in saucepan.  Add Onion and cook until soft.  Add beef and cook until no longer pink (while breaking it up with a wooden spoon).  Stir in Raisins, Ketchup,  Cinnamon, Salt, Pepper.  Add dash of Cumin, Oregano and Red Pepper Flakes.  Add in a few tablespoons of diced tomatoes (maybe a quarter cup worth) and enough cheese so the mixture bonds together.
  4. Spoon a bit of each mixture into a circle of Dough.  Wet the edges with water, fold in half and seal the rim with te tongs of a fork. 
  5. Once all are done brush lightly with egg mixture
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes


  • I seasoned the beef beforehand.  I also added a bit of salt & pepper when the recipes called.  I’m just used to seasoning beforehand.
  • I have no idea if there’s a giant difference in golden raisins vs regular (besides price-wowza).  I doubt there is though.
  • Many empanadas recipes call for sliced hardboiled egg and sliced olives.  I’m not a fan of either items, but they are often used so I wanted to note that.
  • Add the cumin/oregano/red pepper/diced tomato/cheese to your liking.
  • I brushed both sides with egg,  Put them all down, brushed one side, flipped, brushed the other side. 
  • These can be frozen.  Do everything but bake, seal them after they’re hardened, and bake them for 30-45


Southwest Dressing

  • Sour Cream
  • Mayo
  • Milk (if desired, for consistency)
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/2 Teaspoon dried Dill Weed
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper/Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Hot Sauce
  • Lime Juice
  • Minced Onion
  • Diced Tomato
  • Diced jalapeno Slices

Combine all ingredients. 

The first recipe I found called for a 50/50 mix of Sour cream & Mayo (1/2 cup each) I HATED that flavor.  Find what works best for you.
Consider the Onion/Tomato/Jalapeno Slices Optional.  I’ve made it before without it.  (Who uses only a Tablespoon or two of onion?)

Use Hot Sauce/Lime to your taste.  They can alter the end result. 

I’ve used this for chicken skewers, empanadas, I think a thinner version of it (more lime juice, less mayo etc) would work for a salad dressing, but I haven’t figured out the balance.


About Bec

I'm a gal who believes "Food is the Most Primitive form of Comfort" Have plenty of dishes to serve up, but one thing's for sure, I'm always
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2 Responses to Thinking Small.

  1. Kelli says:

    I made a mistake and ate before the party. (What was I thinking?) Toward the end of the game I finally felt like snacking. I ended up eating two of these and even cold, I enjoyed them! The raisins threw me off a bit- actually, I wasn’t sure what I was eating when I hit it, but I remember thinking, “Sweet? Odd. But I like it!”
    Nice work.

  2. Great writing! You may want to follow up to this topic???

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