Empanadas have been adopted and altered by the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Latin America, India, Jamaica, the United States and Sri Lanka, but it originated in Galicia, Spain and Portugal during the early 1500s. The delicious savory pastry that takes on different forms, and can be filled with various meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables, has not evolved very much since its inception; but one Latina inventor has resolved the most tedious step in the Empanada baking process, the edge-pinching.

Ecuadorian-American Hipatia Lopez invented the "Empanada Fork," a pasty press that simplifies a step in the baking process that usually takes a lot of pinching or the consistent rotation and impression of a salad fork. The New Jersey native conceived the idea in her family kitchen, when she felt compelled to find a way to simplify the creation of the traditional dish, using just one tool.

"It occurred to me one day during the holiday season when we were preparing the menu. We did 100 empanadas and my husband is the cook in our family, so he prepared the fillings. I had to close them and even got my kids to help me," Lopez said to a Latina Lista correspondent. "This last step takes so long and my thumb started to hurt; a bit frustrating. I just blurted it out loud: "Someone needs to invent a utensil so this can go faster." I just kept thinking of it over and over in my head - I should do it!"

Lopez then set trail to create the Empanada Fork, doing research first. She contacted local patent attorneys, browsed the aisles of stores and webpages to make sure there were no comparable products, and she shopped the product around to different developers. Initially, she received a lot of no, but her persistence has paid off. Now, the product has made it to QVC; she's working with a local vendor for Walmart; and the item will be sold on the cool odds-and-end site uncommongoods.com.

In addition to developing the empanada-friendly tool, Lopez is working on her next invention, working four days a week at her accounting job, and taking care of three children.