|Cover Artist: Anne Cain|
Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts
by Charlie Cochet
Length: 86 Pages
Genres: Gay (M/M), Contemporary, Interracial, Romance
Julian “Quinn” Quinetro, a gruff, tough Miami SWAT officer, has been injured on the job, and all he’s looking for is a little peace and quiet to recover—difficult to achieve with his large Cuban family. An adventure in picking up his prescriptions puts him in the path of his geeky, brownie-baking neighbor, Spencer Morgan. Spencer sweeps into Quinn’s life like a tropical storm of sunshine and rainbows. Not surprisingly, it’s chaos at first sight. Quinn’s in need of a little tender loving care, and Spencer decides he’s just the man for the job. Their very different lives might clash, but they might also find some common ground—and maybe more.
Hello all! Thank you for joining me as I celebrate the release of Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts, my sweet little contemporary romance. Coming from a Cuban family, one of my favorite savory treats are empanadas. I love them so much they also feature in the THIRDS series as one of Sloane’s guilty pleasures. In the THIRDS, the empanadas are Puerto Rican since they’re made by Rosa who’s Puerto Rican. Since Quinn is Cuban, this recipe is for Cuban empanadas which are similar.
The amazing thing about old school Cuban cooking is that there are no measurements. There are dishes my mom cooks that I know I would epically fail at if I tried without her because the measurements are in her head and rough estimates. There’s no written down specifics. This recipe however is super easy and if you deviate a little, you’re pretty safe. Here we’re going to be making both sweet and savory empanadas, so Guava Paste for the sweet, and Ground Beef for the savory. You can also use chicken instead of beef, or really any kind of meat or meat substitute.
Step 1: Gather your ingredients
½ Ground beef
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 mini peppers - diced (we use red and yellow because I don’t like green, but feel free to use whichever you like best)
1 Green onion – diced
4 to 5 Spanish olives – diced (optional)
¼ Red onion – diced
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
½ Teaspoon Oregano
½ Teaspoon Cumin
2 Tablespoons Tomato Sauce
Salt to taste
You’ll also need:
A large fork
2 frying pans
Step 2: Prepare the sofrito (seasoning)
We’re going to make the sofrito for our ground beef. That’s the seasoning. If you have a certain way of preparing or seasoning your ground beef, you can do it that way. This is how we’ve always done it in our house. Chop up your peppers, red onion, green onion, and olives. Make sure the pieces are nice and small so they’ll fit nicely in your empanada with the ground beef. Add it to your frying pan along with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add your garlic powder, oregano, and cumin, followed by the tomato sauce. Stir it all up. Place it on the stove on medium heat and cook for a
Step 3: Add your ground beef and cook.
Add your ground beef to your sofrito. Cook normally until ground beef is brown and the majority of the liquid has evaporated. You don’t want soggy empanadas. While your ground beef is cooking, you can prepare your empanadas.
Step 4: Cut up your Guava paste pieces.
My family loves guava, so they tend to buy the big round tins or the bars. The bars are a little more difficult to find in non-Latino/Hispanic supermarkets, but the round tins of Goya Guava Paste can usually be found in most supermarkets under the Hispanic/Multicultural food section, including Walmart. If your supermarket sells the long boxes/bar Guava Paste, go with those and just slice away.
Depending on how many of your empanadas you’d like to make guava is how many chunks you should cut. We like to make half of each. Empanadas tend to come in packs of 10 – 12, so we make half guava and half ground beef. This particular pack has 10, so we’re cutting 5 guava pieces for our 5 empanadas.
Step 5: Stretch and fill the empanadas.
You’ll want to stretch your empanadas just a tiny bit all around. This will make them easier to fold and give you a little more room. If you’d like to add a little more guava than this you can, but remember you’ll be folding them over in a minute so you don’t want the empanada dough to tear.
There’s various brands of empanadas, from Goya to El Sembrador which are the ones we’re using. Any brand is fine. They’re usually found in the frozen food section of the supermarket with the Hispanic foods like croquettes and fried plantains.
Step 6: Fold over your dough.
Very carefully, fold over your dough, lining up the edges as evenly as possible.
Step 7: Get your frying pan ready.
Add cooking oil to your frying pan. You want just enough cover the imprinted edges of your empanada and not the whole thing. We add cloves of garlic to add a little flavor to the cooking oil and set it on high heat (around the 7 mark). Once the garlic starts toasting it’ll be ready for your empanadas.
Step 8: Seal the empanadas.
With a large fork, press down on the edges of your empanada. Be sure not to get the fork tips too close to the part with your filling or you’ll poke holes in the dough. Press hard enough to seal both edges of the empanadas, but not enough to go through the other side. Turn your empanada over carefully and repeat the process.
Step 9: Making the beef empanadas.
Let your cooked ground beef cool a little. Add a full tablespoon of your cooked ground beef. Make sure to leave room for folding and sealing. Try to scoop up the beef without liquid so your empanada doesn’t get soggy.
Step 10: Folding your empanada.
Folding beef empanadas is a little trickier so it’s often easier to lift the empanadas sides and fold up before placing it on its side.
Step 11: Folded beef empanada.
Lay the beef empanada on its side and line up the edges as much as possible. You’ll then seal with the fork like you did with the guava paste ones.
Step 12: Sizzling garlic. Your pan is ready.
When your garlic starts sizzling and toasting, we’re ready to add the empanadas.
Step 13: Cook empanadas.
Depending on the size of your pan, gently lay your empanadas in the oil using both hands. Be careful not to splash. As you can see the oil just about coats the edges. Leave the empanadas until they start browning around the edges.
Step 14: Turn your empanadas.
We use ice tongs to carefully turn the empanadas. Let the other side turn brown and keep turning. You’ll see the dough starts bubbling. The center always cooks quicker so be careful not to leave them too long or they’ll burn. In the hot oil they cook very quickly.
Step 15: Well cooked.
A well-cooked empanada will have a nice golden brown color with crunchy edges. Use a paper towel to place them on while they cool to soak up the excess oil. The filling is extremely hot, especially the guava paste, so it’s important you let them cool a little.
Hope you enjoyed my homemade Cuban empanada recipe. These are easy and fun to make. You can substitute the sweet or savory fillings with your favorites. Thank you so much for joining me!
5 of 5 stars
A lighthearted and entertaining little story about finding love and learning a bit about yourself along the way. I loved the contrast between Spencer's quirky personality and Quinn's large, over-involved Cuban family. As their romance developed, it was easy to see why they were attracted to one another, and it was fun to follow along as each man found ways to draw the other out of his shell . One of my favorite things about Charlie Cochet's books is how unique and detailed characters always are. Delightful from start to finish, Beware of Geek's Bearing Gifts is a can't-miss contemporary romance that I recommend to any readers looking for a story that will make them smile.
Charlie Cochet is an author by day and artist by night. Always quick to succumb to the whispers of her wayward muse, no star is out of reach when following her passion. From adventurous agents and sexy shifters, to society gentlemen and hardboiled detectives, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too!
Currently residing in Central Florida, Charlie is at the beck and call of a rascally Doxiepoo bent on world domination. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, drawing, or watching movies. She runs on coffee, thrives on music, and loves to hear from readers.
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