I am an overachiever. If you know me personally, you’ve seen that this trait of mine has its pros and its cons. When it comes to my kitchen activities, it means that I often opt to try new recipes for big events (I know, I know, this is a Good Housekeeping no-no), not give myself ample time to complete tasks, and skimp on cleaning up my kitchen in favor of doing just one more thing.
When I was in high school, I had a religion class that required us to do a project that resulted in giving something to each member of our class. One girl did a small booklet of prayers and readings, someone brought in a meal for the class, things like that. It was a small high school where I knew everyone. Being the ridiculously over-do-it person that I am, I decided that I wanted to make personalized boxes for each of my 25 classmates.
I called Payless and got them to give me a few dozen shoeboxes. Then I wrapped the bottom of each box in tissue paper, in a color specifically chosen for that person. The most cheerful person got yellow, a soccer player got green, etc. The top of each box became a collage – I cut words and pictures from magazines to spell out their name, symbolize what each person meant to me, who I thought they were, things they liked. A lot of thought went into each box.
Once the outsides were completed, I needed stuff to fill them with. I went nuts – baked cookies and bagged them up, added candy, a prayer card, special treats I picked out and bought or made for that specific person. I tried to put personal things from me to them in each box. The day before they were due, I decided I wanted to write a letter to each of my classmates, telling them what they meant to me and how they had helped me on my own spiritual and personal journey.
Do you ever start a project and get partway through it, only to realize that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew? The boxes had been a lot of work to put together, but those letters put them over the top. They were the most grueling thing I can remember writing, and I took Honors English in college for fun. As much as I loved my classmates, I was dreading the next name on the list, wondering what I could say that I hadn’t already written, wanting to be original, fun, thoughtful. I couldn’t stop, I had already committed myself. Twelve letters in, what was I to do? Throw away the work I had already done? No, I had to finish.
That’s sort of what happened with these sausage and potato empanadas. I started the dough, then made the filling. Then I was staring down the task of cutting the dough, filling it, shaping the empanadas, baking them. Even then, I still had to make the chimichurri, box everything up for travel, and get ready to go. My feet hurt, my hair was a mess, and we had to be somewhere (with the promised empanadas) in a few hours. What could I do but press on?
Click below to check out the recipe and hear the rest of my overachiever story.
The original recipe has a few items that I omitted or subbed out. I also updated some of the instructions to make it easier on all of us.
Sausage & Potato Empanadas
Combine flour, salt, and canola oil in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add half the ice water and pulse again. Dump onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form into a disc. Securely wrap dough and place in fridge for a half hour.
In the meantime, heat the two tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Dump the potatoes into the pan, allow to cook for four minutes without stirring so they get nice and crispy. You may need to do this in two batches. After all the potatoes are in the pan, add the onion and saute until they begin to soften. Crumble the sausage and add to the pan, stirring occasionally until the sausage is cooked through. Transfer mixture to a bowl and allow to cool.
To make the chimichurri sauce, combine the parsley, lemon juice, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. While the machine is running, stream in the olive oil until the sauce is emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it to about 1/8″ thick. Using a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass, cut it into circles. Stack them off to the side while you re-roll the dough and cut it all out.
Place a small spoonful of filling into the center of each circle. Fold it in half and press the edges shut. Use a fork to crimp them tightly, then place on a baking sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Serve with the chimichurri and enjoy the fruits of all your hard work!
So the moral of my overachieving ways?
The night we met to exchange the gifts, I loaded the 25 shoeboxes into my car and drove to school. We were having a special mass, just my class, and it took four of my classmates two trips to get everything inside. They piled all the boxes on the altar and I thought about how much effort I had put into each box, how I hoped that everyone would love what I had done for them, and how pretty the different colors looked piled there.
As I handed out the boxes, my classmates exclaimed over the contents, excited at the thought I had put into each one, happily reading their letters. I returned to my seat, content to watch everyone open their boxes, only to see that a pink tissue-wrapped box sat on my chair. I never noticed it when we unloaded the car, and someone else had distributed it to my seat. I didn’t find out until much later that my sweet mommy had made me a box of my own and slipped it into the pile. At the moment, all I could think about was how happy I was that someone cared enough to create that box just for me.
Realizing the effect my own idea had on me, I looked around at my friends and realized that my extra effort had been worth every minute I had spent staring at the crumpled drafts of letters on the floor of my living room. Even when I take on a project that seems too big to handle, in the end, I almost always feel that it was worth my trouble.
I still have my pink tissue-covered box with Angelina ballerina on the cover. Even if nobody else remembers the effects of my overachieving idea, I do. It made a difference to me. Just like my crazy kitchen efforts always seem worth it in the end. So doesn’t that justify all the time and effort?