A freezer-friendly, make-ahead lunchbox idea for kids featuring mini baked empanadas stuffed with ham and cheese!
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Tyson Foods, Inc. All opinions are entirely my own.
You'll also love our green chile-stuffed, cheesy Chicken Empanadas -- bookmark them for next time!
SKIP THE LINE. YOU DON'T NEED IT.
There are two types of grocery store shoppers: those who enjoy being there, and those who don't. Regardless of which one you are, I'd be willing to bet you don't swoon over the idea of waiting in line. Especially if you've got children in tow, and even if the end game is a bountiful handful of deli meats and cheeses. Lucky for us, we don't have to.
This year, while you're at Walmart both watching your budget and knocking out your back to school shopping, you can bypass any said line and go straight to the Hillshire Farm® lunchmeats. And while you're over there, go on and grab yourself a package of Hillshire Farm Black Forest Ham made with no artificial flavors. Cause, I mean c'mon: It's Black Forest ham. How much more flavor could it possibly need?
Now, obviously, Hillshire Farm Black Forest Ham is fully cooked and ready to eat, making it absolutely perfect for any ol' sandwich and/or wrap. However, I've got something a lit-tle more exciting for you up my sleeve, and this is a recipe you and the kiddos are not going to want to miss out on.
Here, I'll give you a hint: There's flaky pie crust, savory ham, melty American cheese, and a whole lotta flavor. It goes by the name Lunchbox Empanada, and you and your kiddos are going to want to grub on these little gems all semester long.
HOW TO MAKE LUNCHBOX EMPANADAS
If you've never attempted empanadas before, have no fear: This was my first time too, and just take a look at how good they turned out! Yes, please!
HAM AND CHEESE, PLEASE.
Trust me, you can do this mom, and you can even do it with ease. For the pastry, I used my perfect flaky pie crust recipe and I did it all in the food processor to move things along faster. However, if you'd like to bypass this step to make for an even easier fix, go ahead and grab yourself some store-bought pie crust.
The filling for these lunchbox empanadas is far easier than most, as we are using only prepared ingredients: Hillshire Farm Black Forest Ham and American cheese slices.
MAKING THE HAM AND CHEESE EMPANADAS
To make lunchbox empanadas, you'll first roll out your dough. Then, cut out circles using a large round biscuit or cookie cutter. Each circle gets rolled out just a tad bit more, and then the filling goes in the center.
Tearing the ham and cheese into small pieces before adding to the dough round makes the assembly much easier. To do this, you'll simply tear slices of Hillshire Farm Black Forest Ham into 3-4 pieces each, and the American cheese into 6 or so pieces. No need for this part to be perfect or symmetrical.
In the center of each dough round, you'll lay a few bits of American cheese, followed by 2-3 shreds of ham, and finish off with a couple more bits of American cheese. Then you'll seal it up, bake it, and snag five or so for yourself before storing them away for the kids' lunches. It's ok, go ahead. Nobody's watching.
If you're nervous about working with the dough for these lunchbox empanadas, here are a few tips for guaranteed success:
- Don't roll out the dough too thin. I found that when I rolled the dough thinner than ⅛ of an inch or so, the filling would take over and poke out of the dough.
- Dip your finger in egg wash and run it along the edges just before you add your filling. This not only helps you not to get too over-zealous with your filling (a problem we all face, no doubt), but it will also help to seal the empanadas, keeping the cheese from sneaking out in the oven.
- Bring the edges upward to meet in the middle, rather than folding one side over to meet the other (like most traditional empanada recipes call for). I found that my dough was easier to seal and the filling stayed better put when I allowed the edges to meet in the middle.
FREEZER-FRIENDLY FOR MAKE-AHEAD SCHOOL LUNCHES
Not only do these lunchbox empanadas bake up beautifully and taste amazing, they are also freezer-friendly and absolute perfection for mornings when time is of the essence. Which (in my house) is essentially every single morning.
I think it's safe to say you're about to be Mom of the year with this lunchbox treat. In fact, after whipping up a make-ahead lunchbox gem this good, I think you might even deserve a break....maybe even one in movie form?
A freezer-friendly, make-ahead lunchbox idea for kids featuring mini baked empanadas stuffed with ham and cheese.
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 rounds of pie crust dough (homemade or store-bought)
- 1 ½ (9 ounce) packages Hillshire Farms ® Black Forest Ham each slice torn into 3-4 shreds
- 12 slices of American Cheese each slice torn into 6 or so pieces
- Kosher salt for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 400° and have ready 2 baking sheets lined with either parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Prepare the egg wash by whisking together the egg and the water. Set aside until ready to use.
Working with one at a time, roll out the store-bought or homemade pie crust dough so that it is about a ¼" thick. Cut out circles using a 3 ½" biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter. Roll out the circles to just over an ⅛" thick.
Dip your finger in the egg wash and run it along the perimeter of empanada dough. Add a few pieces of the torn up cheese, followed by 2-3 shred of Hillshire Farms® Black Forest Ham, and top with a few more pieces of the torn up cheese.
Gently bring the edges of empanada upward to meet in the middle, and pinch firmly to seal. If desired, fold the edges over decoratively or crimp with a fork. Repeat for each empanada.
Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, and brush lightly with the egg wash. Sprinkle a scant amount of Kosher salt on top, and bake for 16-18 minutes, until or until golden. Allow to cool slightly, serve and enjoy.
Once the empanadas have cooled completely, transfer them to a freezer-safe zip-top bag and freeze for up to 3 months. The empanadas will take about 2-3 hours to come to room temperature. Longer if there is an ice block in the lunchbox.