Vianney Rodriguez, the South Texas food blogger behind Sweet Life, shares a favorite dessert recipe and a memory of her grandmother.
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strawberry empanadas
strawberry empanadas
| Credit: Vianney Rodriguez

I've been missing my abuelita a lot lately.

I'm not sure if it's the Texas heat, the current renovations of our temporary home, or my hectic schedule, but I can't seem to get her out of my mind.

I miss her smile, her hands and most of all spending time in the kitchen with her and my mami.

Spending time in the kitchen with abuelita and mami are some of my fondest memories, and I will forever be grateful they allowed me into their living space. This time spent with them gave me the opportunity to connect with them through food, which instilled in me the love of cooking for my loved ones.

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My abuelita first invited me into the kitchen to help her make empanadas. I was sitting at the kitchen table watching them preparing the dough. I was hoping they would ask me to join them, so when abuelita asked if I wanted to help, I jumped at the chance.

She proceeded to show me how to fold the empanada dough over the filling, then how to carefully press the edges with a fork to seal the empanada. Her hands moved very slowly while she patiently explained the process. I remember every single moment from that day – the smell of the piloncillo-cinnamon stewed strawberries, the softness of the dough, our conversations, the music in the background and the aroma wafting from the oven.

I felt her love for the kitchen, her family and me that day. That day, I fell in love with the kitchen. Little did I know this experience with my abuelita would shape my feelings toward food y familia.

I've been missing my abuelita a lot lately.

I craved our moments together, so I decided to head to the kitchen to make a sweet treat that makes me feel her warmth. These strawberry empanadas are the best of my abuelita and me. A little of her, and a little of me brimming with the flavor of summer. Strawberries sweetened with piloncillo and cinnamon baked into a flaky empanada dough.

I made these strawberry empanadas with my daughters while we shared stories about abuelita. My heart swelled with love as we baked. The kitchen was filled with a sweet aroma, and she was there with us. I could feel her presence, her love, and her warmth.

Vianney Rodriguez is an award-winning food blogger, recipe developer, and the author of Latin Twist, a collection of delicious Latin-inspired cocktails. On Sweet Life, I share my passion for good food and experiences and memories celebrated with family, through travel, entertaining, and soul-satisfying meals. Every post on Sweet Life is filled with the vibrant culture and food of South Texas. As a proud Tejana, I invite you to join me on this journey and to experience all the rich culture that Texas has to offer.