Cheap Eats:
Sheilah’s Pumpkin Empanadas

It’s late October and I’m insanely busy, both as program chair for HalloweeM and on the work I get paid for. So I don’t have a lot of time for doing research and testing recipes. But I’m guessing that, by the time you read this, the holidays will be upon us and everyone will be busy. So I thought I’d share something my friend Sheilah taught me, which is fun and fits well into a busy schedule.

Sheilah is a long-time friend who is author of 24 cookbooks (with another one coming out soon). In September, during a trip East to visit relatives, I detoured to Potomac, Maryland and visited Sheilah for a few days. We had a lot of fun. She introduced me to Wegmans, the most over-the-top grocery store on the planet (imagine rolling Whole Foods and Fox & Obel together, then putting them on steroids). We looked at cookbooks. She tested recipes on me. We visited Ford’s Theater and saw Lincoln’s coat with the bullet hole in it. I got to help her do a cooking demo for an event put on by NBC-TV. And we went to an all-you- can-eat crab place, Bottom of the Bay, a hole-in-the-wall joint where you get newspaper, a mallet and a pile of cooked crab. Yum.

Of her two most recent cookbooks, one is Sephardic Israeli cuisine and one Turkish, but the recipes we tested while I was there were Thai, which suggests something of her range. While I was visiting, I got to proofread part of the manuscript for the soon-to-be-released Upper Crust, a collection of recipes that use bread in some form, such as bread pudding or bread-crumb coatings. Lots of fun. But her favorite cuisine is one of her own devising, something she calls “fearless, fuss-less” cooking. She loves stuff you can freeze or make a day or two ahead and reheat. She can do the very high-end stuff, but she’s a great believer in enjoying your own parties and tends to advocate for gourmet foods that can be prepared in a relatively short amount of time. And she sometimes even condescends to using ready-made products to speed things up, especially if feeding a crowd, and even more especially if that crowd includes kids. So one of the recipes I got to try—one of those she demonstrated at the NBC special—was the one below, for pumpkin empanadas. These are delicious and easy and taste like the holidays. I asked Sheilah if I could share the recipe with you (because I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of free time this month) and she said sure, as long as I include her website info. So, you can visit Sheilah at

In her cookbook Simply Irresistible, Sheilah offers two options for this recipe— making the dough from scratch or using flaky biscuit dough from a can. When we did this for NBC, we used the biscuit dough, so that’s what I’m giving you here. Have a great holiday season. Enjoy.

Sheilah’s Pumpkin Empanadas

16-ounce can mashed, cooked pumpkin

¾ cup sugar

½ tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. allspice

2 cans of Pillsbury Original flaky biscuits

powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Thoroughly combine the pumpkin, sugar, nutmeg and spices. While biscuit dough is cold, peel apart the layers of each biscuit into three separate pieces. Place the biscuit layers on lightly greased cookie sheets and let sit for 30 minutes. Then put about a tablespoon of filling in the center of each circle. Fold the circle in half and press the edges together, sealing well. Bend the corners of the half-circle back toward the filling a little, to create a slight crescent shape. Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

These can be frozen and reheated as needed. Before serving, sprinkle a little powdered sugar over the empanadas, if you wish.

Makes 48.

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