Round Two: Hand Pies / Empanadas / Pizza Pockets, Fruit Leather and Push-Ups

Okay, here we go with Round 2!

So by now, you’ve begun to realize that when it comes to lunches, I firmly believe in minimizing the pain by batching ingredients, cooking methods, or all of the above. 

Hand pies are a fabulous example. One dough recipe offers a million different filling possibilities. Their versatility is terrific. They can be served chilled or hot (important in a cafeteria setting), you can make them any size you choose, and they are great for emptying out fridges and pantries.

Do your kids love your BBQ chicken, but hate having to eat leftovers? Throw ’em in a hand pie and call it a day. Leftover pizza dough and a bag of frozen veggies in the freezer? Mix them up with some cream cheese and stuff a hand pie. Hell, you could throw some Nutella in one of those bad boys and call it a pop tart if you wanted to (more on how to deceive your children here).

Click Here to see my post on how to do gluten-free for this Round, and for tips on how to get your dough and your hand pies just right. I even made a video showing you how to use the dumpling/dough press (wonder of wonders, this thing has increased my hand-pie productivity 500%), just because I love you guys so stinking much. That’s right. Those are my own gorgeous cracked and bleeding healthcare hands … 



As in Round 1, don’t skip straight to the recipes without first looking at this Round 2 Worksheet. I’ve already worked out the timing for all the steps so you can make all five recipes at once (toldja I loved you!), and that’s where the whole heart of this project is. Here are your lists and recipes, and a link back to that amazing tomato sauce we talked about last week … just in case you doubted you’d really use it, oh-doubter-of-sauces!

Download Round Two Shopping List

Download Round Two Worksheet


Reminder about equipment …

You will definitely need:

You don’t necessarily need this, but I almost named one of my children after it because I love mine so much:

If making your own dough, I would *strongly* recommend:

  • Standing Mixer (4-5 QT mixers are fine for one batch, my 7 QT mixer is great for the double batch)
  • Very large bowls with lids
  • Dough press / dumpling molds (either the one piece, or a set so you can play with different sizes)

And for this week’s snacks:

Questions? Comments? Stories about how you deceived your children? You know where I live!

Posted on August 8, 2016 in Lunches

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Responses (8)

  1. Libby
    August 9, 2016 at 7:26 am ·

    Hi Emi,
    I love your worksheet and shopping list! I have a stupid question for you! Could you tell how you would “break it down” to send the lunches? Ie Do you send the pesto wrap and corndog muffin and the dried apple chips? Do you send the spinach turn over with the pizza and empanada? I hope I didn’t just miss it in the directions?! I am curious about the on execution of it all! 😉
    And…I am looking at lunch boxes right now…Have you found great containers etc that you would recommend?
    Thanks so much for the posts! They are beautiful and inspiring! Ha…never thought I’d be excited to make kid lunches!
    Hugs, from your Texas PMG friend!

    • Emi Ponce de Souza
      August 9, 2016 at 9:45 am ·

      Hi Libby,

      This is fabulous! I can’t tell you how excited it makes me to hear you’re excited to make lunches!

      Actually, I think these are EXCELLENT questions. I am currently working on a post (our next post, which I intend to have within the next week) that pertains specifically to the containers, lunchboxes, and thermoses that I use. I’ll go over what I use for what kind of meal, and why, including ideal temperatures for food storage and how that factors into choosing my lunchbox materials. And since you’re asking, I’ll also show you several sample menus for my kids’ normal school days. I’d been planning on some sample pics of lunches, but hadn’t gotten around to planning the post, so this is a good kick in the rump for me to get that going.

      By the way, where in Texas are you? I trained in San Antonio.

      Stay tuned for more info on all of this later this week!


      • Libby
        August 10, 2016 at 11:42 am ·

        cool…thank you! I am in Belton/Harker Heights. It is about an hr north of Austin…by Temple if that means anything to you? I like the area…nice “small town-ish” as Texas goes, and we are really close to a lake! So we like that. I am in a private pathology group that covers several Austin hospitals, and this is the northern most hospital we cover…So I live up here and “man” the hospital. My husband lived in San Antonio about 10 years and liked it. My brother lives in West Seattle…are you by that area by any chance?
        Also, I wanted to tell you my 8 yo son is a fan of yours too! I was reading your instructions the other day and you made some joke and we both giggled about it for awhile…later he told me he wanted to read more about those meals that funny lady wrote! Ha!
        Hope your day is going well! 🙂

  2. Erin
    August 17, 2016 at 3:04 pm ·

    Hi Emi, PMG (neurology) in the New Haven, CT area here. Saw your posts on PMG and wanted to share my experience with your recipes! I posted on PMG too, but can’t tag you.

    I was intrigued and impressed by the Freezy Does It Lunch Project for conquering the school lunch. As someone who (a) enjoys her kitchen, (b) has a 5yo just starting kindergarten and (c) has some free time due to taking some time off after finishing fellowship, I decided to give creating freezer lunches a whirl. Here are my observations…
    The first batch of recipes looked good to me, but I wasn’t sure my kids (ages 3 and 5) would approve them. I thought they’d like the corn-dog muffins, so I whipped up a (smaller) batch to test that theory before committing to a whole day of cooking. The muffins turned out great! The kids were excited to eat lunch…but upon actually being presented with their corndog muffins, they opted to yank out the hotdogs and eat those, leaving the muffin on their plates. Grrrr! Annoyed mother. Under duress, they consumed the rest of their lunch (with my son meticulously picking out any shreds of broccoli that came to his attention). I froze the rest of the muffins, but haven’t (yet) done the rest of Part 1. No, not quite true…I made the tomato sauce too.

    I thought Part 2 was a sure win. Who doesn’t like pizza pockets? I committed to making hand pies galore! Now, I’m a huge fan of the “Never get your hands dirty” method for making yeast dough, but tragically, my stand mixer lacks dough hooks. Normally, I get around this by mixing up all my bread dough in my bread machine, then pulling out the dough and shaping it as called for. I adopted this method for Day 2. A few words to the wise:
    – Not all pizza dough recipes are created equal. I used my usual pizza dough recipe for most of the hand pies. This turned out to be significantly less sticky a dough than your recipe, which subsequently led to major problems with hand pies bursting open and spilling their contents in the oven. Fortunately, the pans were lined with parchment paper so everything was contained.
    – Your recipe does not translate well to a bread machine (I tried it). 🙁
    – If you want to use a bread machine to make dough for hand pies, this recipe: will work (I did end up trying multiple different recipes!). A single batch of that recipe is about equivalent to 1/2 of your recipe.
    – The bread machine can’t handle the kind of volume the Freezy Does It project calls for. I doubled the dough recipe, then pulled out the dough ball after it was fully mixed (about 20 minutes into the cycle). I let that rise in a bowl on the counter while another batch of dough was mixing in the bread machine.
    – The dough press does help a lot. But it’s not enough to save you if you use a pizza dough recipe that’s not sticky enough.

    I made all the versions of hand pies that you suggested. There were major problems with filling leaking out of all the hand pies that involved cheese filling (see above). This led to me poking holes in the finished pies with a chopstick and manually stuffing filling back into them. I then individually wrapped these surgically altered pies in Saran Wrap prior to freezing. I expect that using a better dough from the get-go will eliminate this problem the next time…

    Final results? The beef empanadas were a hit right away. The kids had a “picnic” on the porch with them for lunch. My SAHD and I enjoyed them also. The adults approved the sausage/pepper, cheese/spinach and sweet potato/black bean hand pies. The kids had reservations about these. Hopefully repeated exposure will wear down their resistance, because gosh darn it – I made them and they are going to get eaten now!

    I was very tired at the end of the day and subsequently refused to make dinner. But having had a few days away from the stove, I’m eyeing the list of items for Part 3. And since the unveiling of the Freezy Does It project, I’ve learned that there are a bunch of new kitchen items that I really need. Thanks, Emi! It’s been fun! #EmisLunches


    • Emi Ponce de Souza
      August 17, 2016 at 4:05 pm ·

      Hi Erin, this is great, thanks!

      Honestly, I think trying the pizza dough in the bread machine is a brilliant idea if you don’t mind scaling down – you can also simply divide my recipe in two (remember I’ve scaled all my recipes UP because of the batch cooking, but once upon a time these were all smaller recipes!). You can also knead the whole thing by hand, but when batch-making recipes, I try to avoid manual labor as much as possible )you’ve probably noticed this by now!).

      I’m so glad you’ve had a fun time overall, and have a stocked up freezer to start off with – as you’ve probably already noticed, the next round of recipes will be items a little more familiar to little ones, and once you’ve tried stuff and know what you like, you can customize your own worksheets and rhythms.

      As far as the leaky cheese, yes, the thicker/more elastic (sticky!) dough will help, for sure! I don’t usually thicken my filling because leakage hasn’t been an issue for me, but you certainly could try it, and I bet it would help! Try mixing in a couple of eggs, and 2-4 Tb of flour or cornstarch into the cheese/spinach mixture (for the whole batch, scale down accordingly if making less) to thicken the filling if leakage is your main headache. This project is supposed to make your life easier, not harder! 🙂

      Be sure to keep us posted with Round 3, and thanks so much for your note! Woohoo!


  3. Angie
    August 19, 2016 at 8:25 am ·

    I have loved all of the recipes thus far!!! The kids are hit or miss but the hubby and I now have lunches every day! So, even if the kids aren’t fed-we are!

    The corndog muffins are a lifesaver. They are like kid crack!

    The fruit rolls and smoothies are awesome snacks!

    All of the pockets were a bit of a pain in the arse. Every single one leaked no matter what I did-water around the edges, piercing with a fork, thicker dough, rolling the dough thinner….
    They taste great but look aweful:)

    There’s definitely a learning curve to the pocket-maker-thing-a-majig but by the fourth pan I had it figured out. The dough made me want to lose my mind…it kept shrinking no matter how many times I rolled the damn thing… I would roll, cut, roll again to a bigger, lop-sided not really a circle anymore and hurry to stuff and fold before it shrunk again. LOL

    All in all it was fun…hubby helped man the stove. Kids loved the 2 hours on the ipads uninterrupted, shhhh, don’t tell.

    Any tips would be great as I really hope to try these again with different ingredients:)

    • Emi Ponce de Souza
      August 19, 2016 at 12:23 pm ·

      Hi Angie!

      Thanks for your note! So glad the system seems to be working well for you overall! And SO glad you’ve rediscovered your Nesco – YAY!

      I completely understand the comment about the dough stretching and recoiling back immediately. The good news is, it doesn’t matter one bit! My cut-out 4-inch circles frequently look like 2-inch rhomboids right after cutting. Don’t stress. Let them rest while you cut more circles. After they’ve been sitting there for a little while, and you e organized your work station and pulled out your filling, you’ll start working with the “circles” one by one. It can be hard if you don’t have a dough press, but if you do, you just need to pull on the dough a little more just before laying on the press, to re-stretch a smidge, and lay it on the circle of the press. The edge of the press itself should catch the edge of your dough, and anchor it a bit. No firmly, for sure, but it gives the edge of your dough something to slide against, and it absolutely does not matter that the dough is not really a circle, just use your fingers to squish it flatter on the sides where it’s puffing up (since you’ve let it rest, like I said), and it should squash back into a circle just fine, enough to drape over the press. The next time I make hand pies, I’ll film another little clip to show you what I mean. Same thing happens if you actually make a fat pizza out of the dough. It stretches, then recoils, but every stretch you give it gains a tiny amount of length, so you stretch, and let it rest for a few minutes, then stretch again, then let it rest for a minute or two (I work around the edge of the circle so that it’s actually been about a minute by the time I get back to my original spot on the edge and I can kee going).
      And it’s FABULOUS that you and your hubby were able to do it together and only spent about two hours on the whole thing! Holy efficiency, Batman! Great work!
      Let me know if you try any round 3 stuff, and I’ll be sure to post the pizza dough clip next time I’m working with some pizza dough!



  4. Sarah
    August 20, 2016 at 7:04 pm ·

    Things I’ve learned from Round 2:

    1. I need to start wearing my Danskos in the kitchen on cooking days. Keen sandals aren’t cutting it.
    2. Alcohol does make this better. Alas, I started that too late, but maybe that was wise.
    3. This round was much more time consuming…maybe 7yo old hands aren’t so helpful, but she sure was cute with pizza dough all over her face and in her hair. I don’t have a time estimate other than ALL FRIGGIN’ DAY (though I did have a midday errand)
    4. Need 4lbs of strawberries to finish this round. Shopping list mentions 3 pints. I bought 3lbs. I used this for the fruit leather and came up with exactly 5 trays of 1 1/4 c portioned leathers. To make the freeze pops, I ended up bastardizing things and using some frozen strawberries and blueberries along with the yogurt to make the freeze pops. I didn’t follow a recipe here – I just made it work. I ended up filling all the freeze pops and 6 silicone muffin liners. Those are tucked nicely in their own little bag for “Surprise, I’m so proud of you for accomplishing XYZ at school, so I sent you a slushy to school days!”
    5. I used onion in empanadas…the directions said onion, the recipe didn’t call for it. I was confused. So I basically used half an onion ’cause it was talked about and…
    6. Be careful of the shopping list…I ended up buying materials for the sweet potato empanadas as well as the beef as I didn’t realize it was an either/or and since I still had beans left over from round one, I made both varieties filling. However, I didn’t make enough pizza dough, so the sweet potato filling is in the fridge for a couple days until I can make them. half of the onion went in each recipe.
    7. I love the idea of the spinach cream turnovers, but they lost they’re guts…Gutless beings that they are. I’m thinking maybe a seal with a spot of water may prevent this. I feel like I threw away half of the filling on the parchment. So sad to have gutless friends in my freezer, but everyone of us has moments of being gutless I suppose.
    8 Pizza dough rolling is a work out. Remember the infomercial for the ab-roller? Dear Lord, it’s a work out. I appreciate the comments of chilled dough being easier to work with,however, I noted after the dough has rewarmed a bit by time I was to the end of the bowl, well, it was easier to roll out. Rolling was easier with a stepstool My 5’5″ frame needed the height so I could get my back into it…
    9. The little pie crimping do-hickies…the ones I ordered actually cut a line in the middle and made them weak. I ended up using a large cup to make my circles. There will be some post market modifications done to these when I’m not in the heat of battle.
    10. And as a shout out to husbands everywhere and especially mine…despite the kitchen looking like a hurricane had been through followed by a tornado and a dust storm after that, he was able to find a corner and make an awesome Mongolian beef in the Instant Pot for dinner while I was making pies…now that corner was on top of the microwave (thank God he’s tall) and THEN he helped clean up aforementioned mess. Rock Star husband @apbohn!

    Phew. Time for Bed.

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