Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Empanadas of Argentina

¡Buenos días! LIFEers showed up hungry for today's class on making Argentinian empanadas. "Empanada", as it is written in Spanish and Portuguese, or "impanata" in Italian, derives from the verb "empanar" meaning "to wrap in bread". Thus, empanadas are small bread pastries surrounding some type of filling, which varies by region. Mexican empanadas usually contain a fruit filling whereas Italian impanatas often contain cheese and/or vegetables. The Argentinian empanadas we made in class contain ground beef and green olives.

Empanada recipe
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1 pound ground beef (not lean)
• 2 teaspoons paprika
• 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 cup pitted green olives, chopped (10 oz jar)
• 2 cloves garlic chopped
• 1 egg
• 2 packages of frozen empanada dough (1 package has 16 dough slices)

Brown the ground beef with the chopped onions and garlic on low heat, adding the spices when it begins to brown. Add the olives. Since the meat will continue to cook in the empanada, don’t cook it thoroughly in the pan. Let it cool. Spoon a small amount of the meat mixture onto the center of a thawed empanada dough slice. Fold the dough over the meat like a taco. Pinch one end closed to hold the juices inside. Then pinch the entire top of the empanada closed, using a pie-crust-like pinching technique. Brush the sealed empanada with egg. Bake in the oven at 425 for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve plain or with hot sauce. Makes 32 empanadas.

You can buy the frozen dough at Phoenicia.

To try empanadas around Houston, visit these locations:
• Manenas Deli -

• Asturias Bakery -

We also learned about Yerba Mate tea, a popular beverage of the gauchos, which is rumored to be healthy and help you loose weight, but is also supposedly tied to increased incidents of throat cancer in the gauchos that drank it daily. Todo en moderación, I always say. The gauchos drank the tea in little wooden cups, of which we had several examples in class. ¡Hasta luego!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Playing in Shadows: Negro Leagues in Texas

Play ball! Today's LIFE workshop attendees were in the cat-bird seat for a major triple header. First up to bat was Author Robert Fink who gave us a thorough history of the Negro Leagues. From weekend past-time to full-time touring job, many of baseball's finest swung for the fences without ever going pro. Not until the 1950's did the pros start hiring players away and the leagues one-by-one folded. Trivia time: of Texas' 13 players in the Hall of Fame, how many are African American? Answer later in the blog, so you'll have to keep reading.

Next to step up to the plate was Gary Crawford, operator of Gary specializes in following up on our remaining Negro League players and is working towards getting these major contributors to American history recognized by the MLB and the White House.

And just to make sure today's workshop was a grand slam, we were joined by Johnny "Lefty" Washington of the Houston Eagles . Lefty regaled us with many tales, including the time he hit Willie Mays with a ball in the ribs, the reason behind Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe's other nickname, and stories of serving with the US Marines in Korea. Listening to Lefty speak, we were filled with nostalgia for the way the game used to be played, before rigid rules and steroids. As Lefty said about today's players, "they're larger, but not better." It was an honor and privilege to listen to an American patriot and living legend.

The answer to the trivia question above is 9. Below are links to books on the Negro Leagues and Gary Crawford's website. I think that just about covers all the bases. For more information on the history of African Americans to baseball, check out the Library's exhibit "Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience". We have events going on from July 14 - August 27.

Featured book "Playing in Shadows":

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's Bastile Day! Part 2

Marie's presentation on the History of the French in Texas is below.

It's Bastile Day! Part 1

Bonjour! The LIFE class was joined once again by Georges Detiveaux. Having previously taught us about French food, French wine, and French cheeses, you'd think we had enough of all things French. Au contraire! Over coffee and croissants, Georges returned to give us the history of the Cajun peoples. And (probably to make sure this was the last time he had to face our ravenous LIFE class) Georges was joined by the French Consulate of Houston's Deputy Cultural Attaché & Educational & Linguistic Attaché, Marie Maurannes, who taught us about the history of the French in Texas. Mon dieu - a double header! They had so much to tell us they could barely squeeze it into the hour long class, and we had to post it on two blogs. Georges' presentation on the Cajuns is posted below. Marie's presentation is posted in the next blog, It's Bastile Day! Part 2. Au revoir!

George's sources for his portion of the presentation can be found at:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Former Disk Jockey Reveals it all!

Jim Pruett of KLOL's Stevens and Pruett took us on a roller coaster ride through the history of radio and an insider's view of the trade. He regaled us with hilarious stores of radio shenanigans and public appearances.

If you'd like to learn more about Jim Pruett, visit