Cooking with mom.
photo: Alcides Aguasvivas

People often ask (mostly those that don’t know me), where I get my passion for entertaining and playing stylish hostess. Well I’m here to tell you that I’m definitely and I mean definitely my mother’s child. Growing up my mom would throw these lavish dinner parties that sometimes consisted of twenty people — or just me, my sister, and my dad. She would whip up these five course meals inclusive of all the yummy favorites like pernil, pasteles and flan. I honestly thought it was super normal until my friends started asking the most bizarre questions when they would come over for dinner.  

The convos usually went something like this:

My best friend: “Kat, I didn’t know we were celebrating something.”

Me: “Huh?! What do you mean?”

My best friend: “What do you mean, what do I mean? We are sitting here with a full on dinner and it’s Tuesday night.”

Me: “Oh this . . . this is just dinner.”

Related From Vivala: Learning About Love and Life In My Abuela's Kitchen

Over the years, my friends adapted and it became part of their norm, and now that I’ve actually become my mother, my friends truly don’t even think about it twice. However, from time to time, when I have new friend over they definitely give me the same ol’ “you didn’t have to do this for me” talk, except now I just smile and nod. It’s my little secret!

So, with my love for entertaining comes my love for cooking and being in the kitchen with the master chef, herself — my mother — it is truly one of my favorite past times. The experience never gets old! The music goes on, usually old, Spanish salsa songs like "Preciosa" or "Vivir La Vida" (both Marc Anthony songs. My mother dies for that man), wine glasses in hand and step-by-step recipes, spoken out loud.

Related From Vivala: A Quick Dinner Recipe for Unexpected Guests

Ladies, if you’ve ever cooked with a Hispanic mother, tia, or abuelita, what I’m about to describe will definitely hit home. 

Here’s my mom reciting one of her recipes:

Mom: “Okay, Katy — in her thick accent as she describes how to make sofrito — primero, you put a little of dis (not “this”) and then a little of dat (again, not “that”) and it will be perfect. “ 

Me: “Mami, what do you mean? I need a measurement. A teaspoon? A cup?” 

Mom: “Katy, please. Your grandmother didn’t have measuring cups and she figured it out. Okay, give me that” — grabs spices out of my hands.

Yup, told you it would sound familiar, but the reality is that I wouldn’t want it any other way. Each time in the kitchen is a great memory and an amazing experience but since she knows I’m no expert, the day of my wedding she gave me the best gift ever. She handed down, my great grandmother’s cook book. The book is old (stating the obvious) and pages are torn (although for the most part, in pretty good shape).  It’s not her own cookbook, it’s one she bought while alive, which she then handed to my grandmother, who handed it down to my mother, which now resides in my possession. 

So, in honor of the four generations that have cooked from this book as well as Hispanic Heritage month, I thought I’d share one of my favorite recipes. One that I’ve cooked many a times with my momma — Empanadillas! A Puerto Rican staple and no holiday, celebration, or dinner party goes without it.

photo: iStock


Beef Filling:

2 lbs. of ground beef

1 tablespoon of Adobo Goya

¼ cup of Sofrito(A red pepper, a red onion, a handful of cilantro, two cloves of garlic and two tablespoons of water — Blend in Mixer/Food Processor until the consistency of a chunky salsa is formed) 

1 small envelope of Goya Sazon Amarillo

1 small envelope of Goya Sazon Con Culantro Y Achiote

½ can of Goya tomato salsa

1 teaspoon of oregano

1 teaspoon of garlic


Two packages of La Fe Discos (frozen turnover dough) — we take the easy way out!

½ a cup of vegetable oil

*All products can be found in the Latin aisle of your local supermarket


In a large skillet, combine all seasoning (sazon, salsa, oregano, garlic) and ground beef. Cook over medium heat until brown—roughly 15 minutes. Lower heat and simmer. 

Spoon in one tablespoon of  meat mixture into the middle of each disc, fold in half and seal with a fork.

Hostess Tip: Use egg wash (beat one egg into bowl) to moisten the edges of the turnover. This will help seal the empandilla.

Using a deep pan, warm up the vegetable oil. 

Hostess Tip: You will know the vegetable oil is ready when you dip the turnover into the oil and it creates a bubbling effect around the dough. 

Deep fry until golden brown. Remove and let cool for about five minutes. Eat & enjoy!

I hope you all try this recipe.  It is truly one of my favorites and always reminds me of my mom. Love you to pieces, mom! I hope I made you proud! 

Kathleen Pagan is a Founding Creator and lifestyle blogger. When she's not writing for Vivala, you can find her at