3 Latin dishes you can cook and freeze

When it comes to making meals for my family, I often like to save time during the work week by doing the bulk of the cooking on the weekends when I have more time, then freezing the dishes and serving them with rice later on. These three dishes are my absolute go to's because they're easy to make and can be frozen for several weeks.

I typically start out with some traditional black or red beans (frijoles) as a great weeknight meal. When I'm looking for something heartier, I make a lentil stew (potaje). It traditionally can also be made with chickpeas and includes chorizo, but I keep mine vegetarian. Then the biggest favorite in my house is a simple ground beef dish (picadillo) that has a few traditional extras like raisins and potato chunks. To eat them on a weeknight, just make a steaming pot of white rice and serve alongside any of these reheated dishes. It'll make a delicious weeknight meal your family will fall in love with.

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FRIJOLES (Red or Black Beans)

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound of black or red beans
8 cups of water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced or smashed
1 (8oz) can of tomato sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
In a large pot or pressure cooker, coat the bottom with olive oil, then put in your beans and pour in your water. Season to taste. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you will need to pre-soak the beans overnight, drain and then bring the water to a boil before reducing heat and cooking for about an hour, or until beans are tender. If you have a pressure cooker, set it for 30 minutes to fully cook the beans. While they are cooking, make a sofrito. First, heat the teaspoon of olive oil and brown the onion. Then, add in the bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes before finally adding in the garlic. Once your beans are tender, put the sofrito in the pot and add the tomato sauce. Stir and bring to a boil. Mix it all together, then add in the teaspoon of sugar and you're done. Cool before serving or freezing.

POTAJE (Lentil Stew)

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 (8oz) can of tomato sauce
2 cups dry yellow lentils, washed
4 cups of water
1 medium red skin potato, chopped with skin into dime-size pieces
1 medium butternut squash, deseeded and chopped into egg-size pieces
1 cup frozen peas & carrots mix
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
In a large pot or pressure cooker, heat the olive oil. Then make a sofrito by browning the onion, then adding the pepper and finally the garlic, cooking each for about 5 minutes. Add in the can of tomato sauce and season to taste. Once that is done, add in the lentils and water. Bring the water to a boil and let it cook for 30 minutes. (Alternately, if you have a pressure cooker, seal it and let them cook for 30 minutes). When the lentils are done, add in the potatoes and cook for an additional 15 minutes. If there is not enough water, add in 1 or 2 extra cups as needed. Finally, add in the butternut squash and cook for 10 minutes, then throw in the frozen peas and carrots mix and cook for 5 minutes or until lentils are soft. Once done, divide the stew into separate containers and freeze.

PICADILLO (Ground Beef)

Ingredients:
1 small potato, cut into small 1/4 inch squares
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced or chopped
1 (8oz) can of tomato sauce
1/3 cup olives
1/3 cup raisins
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
First, pour the teaspoon of olive oil in a medium pan and fry the chopped potatoes until they are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Take a large, deep pot and heat the tablespoon of olive oil. Put in your lean ground beef, season to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat has been fully cooked through and no pink remains. Then, season with your favorite spices and slowly add in the rest of the ingredients. First, put in the onions, then pepper and finally garlic, cooking each for 3-5 minutes and mixing thoroughly. Finally, add in the can of tomato sauce, then raisins, olives and the cooked potatoes. Mix it all together and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the ingredients have blended well. Once done, let the dish cool before freezing.

What is your favorite meal to make ahead and then freeze for a future dinner?

Images via sweetbeetandgreenbean/flickr, Irina Gonzalez

Topics: cuban food  latin recipes  latin food  spanish food  traditional latin recipes