Empanadas. You know em, you love em. Even if you have never had an empanada before, I can confidently say that it is something you will like. How can I be so sure of myself, you may ask. Because an empanada, at its core, is a fried or baked pastry stuffed full of a variety of fillings including meats, cheeses, vegetables, fruits, and even sweets such as chocolate. And honestly, who doesn't like a warm, gooey, bread pocket spilling over with deliciously flavored filling?
Empanadas are a popular snack in regions around the world, including Latin and South America, South Asia, and Southern Europe. These delectable little treats have their origins in Spain, and due to their widespread popularity, the exact style and flavors have adapted to each region they have become known in.
While each corner of the globe has modified the empanada to become symbolic of its own culture, the basis of the snack remains the same- hot and delicious. They are often served with sprinkled cheese, a side of salsa, or drizzled with sauces. In most places where empanadas are found, they are sold as a quick and easy street food.
I have eaten many an empanada, in countries around the world, as well as made my own homemade version. The best part about these little treats is the infinite ways you can customize them to fit your taste preferences. Have a sweet tooth? Fill them with chocolate and sprinkle on some powdered sugar. Vegetarian? They are great filled with cooked peas and carrots. Love seafood? Fill those babies up with fish! Make them bigger for a meal or bite size for a party snack. Deep fry them to perfection or bake them for a healthier version. The options go on and on.
In my household, my Jamaican husband grew up on patties, which is a Caribbean take on empanadas. The brand that we buy are a little bigger and more robust than many empanadas, but the idea is the same. A nice flaky pocket filled with beef, cheese, or a vegetable curry mix. So good!
Here's an easy recipe for Cheesy Ground Beef Empanadas I found on the blog Great Grub Delicious Treats. This recipe uses pie crust for the outer layer, making it an easier and faster alternative to making your own dough.
Cheesy Ground Beef Empanadas
Prep Time- 20 mins
Cook Time- 30 mins
Total Time- 50 mins
Visiting the Equator is somewhat of a novel idea and a fun activity to do, but it especially makes sense to do so in Ecuador, which actually translates to equator.
Ecuador's capital city of Quito is one of the highest capital cities in the world, located at 9,350 feet above sea level, and is the closest capital city to the equator. Ecuador takes great pride in having such a strong claim to the equator and has gone to great lengths to ensure a satisfying experience when visiting this imaginary line.
The Mitad Del Mundo monument is a 100-foot tall building created in dedication to the location of the equator. Surrounding this monument is somewhat of a small village, filled with shops, food, and even a museum. All of this was built to celebrate Ecuador's proud relationship with the equator, but what's truly ironic is that this structure and small town were actually constructed about 800 feet off of the actual coordinates of the position of the equator. While the reasons for the slightly askew monument are a bit unclear, the immense pride of the Ecuadorian people and their love for the equator remains stronger than ever.
Visiting Mitad Del Mundo, or Middle of the World, whether it is the true equatorial location or not, is a cool experience. From balancing eggs on nail-heads to getting your passport stamped, browsing through the museum and learning about the history of Ecuador, and grabbing some delicious ice cream (remember it's hot at the equator), there is something for everyone! If standing in two different hemispheres at once really excites you, you do not want to miss this.
If you do want to visit the other equator, just walk a few blocks, roughly four minutes, down the road to Museo Intiñan. Unfortunately we were not able to enter as we arrived too late, but it look pretty fascinating from the outside.
I previously wrote about my visit to the Butterfly Garden in Mindo, but there is another beautiful garden worth visiting in this tiny tourist town. The Orchid Garden, or Jardín de Orquídeas, is a beautiful and tranquil garden located a few blocks away from downtown Mindo in the Ecuadorian cloud forest. Located on the grounds of the Cabanas Armonia hostel, this garden is a portal into another world, full of hundreds of colors and over 250 species of the most amazing orchids. Take a tour through this private collection of unique flora, experiencing this delicate ecosystem up close and personal.
The tour takes approximately 40 minutes, after which you can wander on your own, taking photos and viewing the elaborate planting and cultivating system that has been established. If you have the time, you can also request a bird tour, taking in even more of the natural color found throughout Ecuador.
Free to guests of the hostel, admission to the gardens is $3.00. Read more about the hostel, the gardens, and the available tours on the garden website, here.
I like hidden gems, hole-in-the-walls, and offbeat destinations