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Kick Off Fall with Apple Empanadas

Written by Theresa K. Brady, editorial intern

Oils aren't off limits in a healthy diet! (Photo by Peter Ardito)

Oils aren't off limits in a healthy diet! (Photo by Peter Ardito)

Mazola Corn Oil and WomenHeart, The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, have teamed up to promote healthier lifestyles by replacing commonly used cooking oils with corn oil. And who better to be the face of this new campaign than charismatic personal trainer and chef Herb Mesa, a former finalist on The Next Food Network Star? His enthusiasm and excitement about good food paired with his motivation to live a healthier lifestyle allows him to develop simple and healthy recipes that anyone can enjoy.

At a preview event hosted by Mazola and WomenHeart, Mesa demonstrated how he cooks delicious and healthy cuisine while sticking to his Caribbean roots.

Here are his top three tips:

  • Sear and bake instead of frying. When making food that is typically fried in oil, opt to sear both sides and bake it in the oven to finish cooking, Mesa explained. You’ll use a lot less oil and avoid unnecessary fat grams.
  • Use a brush to coat the pan with oil. Certain recipes tell you to coat the bottom of a pan with two tablespoons of oil when you really could have just used half of one. Mesa suggests spreading oil on a pan with a basting brush to control how much you’re using.
  • Choose corn oil. Corn oil is a great oil option for cooking. According to Mazola, it contains plant sterols that can help lower your cholesterol and prevent heart disease. And Mesa believes that corn oil gives dishes a more buttery texture and better flavor than olive or canola oil.

After our educational session, Mesa hit the kitchen to show off his skills! Our favorite dish? The apple empanadas, which are a perfect treat as cooler weather and apple-picking season approaches. You can even freeze and reheat them in a 400 degree oven for a 90-calorie snack anytime.

Apple Empanadas

  • 1 ounce spiced rum
  • 3 Granny Smith apples
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons Smart Balance butter
  • 2 packages of empanada discs
  • ¼ cup Mazola Corn Oil
  1. In a large skillet, cook apples, cinnamon and rum. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
  2. Place disc on oiled cookie sheet. Place half of apple mixture on half of the pastry round, leaving a one-inch border. Fold the other half of this pastry over filling, pressing edges to seal. Brush empanada with corn oil. Repeat with remaining crust at other end of cookie sheet.
  3. Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, until pastry is golden and filling is hot.

More from FITNESS: Make your own 100-calorie (or fewer) snack packs at home with these nutritious and simple recipes.