Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Freezer Meals

Here is my cure for waiting-for-baby boredom- clean things you normally wouldn't clean, rearrange cupboards, and cook lots of food to freeze for when you're too tired to cook after baby arrives. The first two are both cathartic and problematic. Problematic in that cleaning really dirty things- like the grates on your gas stove- takes elbow grease and now my back is sore(-er), and rearranging cupboards leads to daily conversations like this:

Tyler: Where is the {insert object here}?
Me: It's in the cupboard to the right of the stove
Tyler: Didn't it used to be in the cupboard to the left of the stove?
Me: Yes, but I moved it. It's better where it is now.
Tyler: Oh my God you're making me crazy.

As for the freezer situation, I had a whole list of things to make for the freezer but I had to stop short because we've run out of room. In both the deep freeze in the garage (it's just a small one!) and the regular freezer in the kitchen. If you want some back up meals- once in a while I'll spend a few hours on the weekend making something to freeze for later in the week- or you want to go on a cooking binge like me, below is what I've made. So far. I think if I eat the half carton of ice cream that's in there I'll have room for one more dish.

Makes 8 to 10 empanadas, a dinner serving being 2 or 3 per person

- Empanadas are a hand pie from the Caribbean and South America. They can be eaten as a snack or a main with a salad on the side. The filling can be pretty much anything- I've included at the bottom a variation with black bean and sweet potato that I've made before and didn't fulfill my promise to share the recipe.

- Although the pastry below is delicious and pretty easy, I've seen recipes that call for store-bought pie dough (like Pilsbury) instead, if you prefer.

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cake and pastry flour (or just use another 1/4 cup of regular flour)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cold egg
  • 1/3 cup ice cold water
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar

  • 1 pound simmering steak, such as outside round
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 3/4 cup salsa (use mild or medium unless you're brave as hot salsa will cook down and be suicide hot)
  • 1 medium leek, sliced in half, washed well, then sliced into half moons
  • 1 large jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed or still frozen
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup Monterey Jack or white Cheddar cheese

Place flour, butter, butter, salt in a food processor and pulse a few times until butter is the size of peas. Mix egg, water, vinegar together in a small bowl, add all at once to flour mixture with motor running, process until dough just starts to come together. Turn dough out onto counter and gather into a ball. Divide in half and flatten each into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Sear steak in 1 tbsp of oil in a pan over medium-high heat 3 minutes per side. Add broth and salsa, reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer 1 hour partially covered, or until meat is tender and can be shredded with a fork. If, like me, you couldn't get the heat right and ended up boiling your steak or bought the wrong type of meat and therefore it won't shred, just chop it up really small and mix into sauce again.

Remove sauce and meat from pan into a bowl. Heat remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat, add leeks and jalapeno. Cook until softened but not browned. Add peas, cook until peas are heated through. Mix vegetables into meat and sauce. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut 6 to 7 inch circles (I used a dessert plate as a guide)*. Whisk egg lightly in a small bowl. Working with one circle at a time, brush 1-inch of edge with egg wash. Place 2 heaping tablespoons filling on one half.

Fold dough over to make a half moon. Press edges to seal, then starting at one corner fold bottom edge of dough over top to ensure a good seal. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper (or with plastic wrap if you're going to freeze these). Repeat filling dough, roll the second half, and fill as well.

Brush tops of pastries with remaining egg wash. Top each with cheese. Using a paring knife, cut two steam vents in the top of each. Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet until solid and then store in a freezer bag, or bake right away at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden. To cook frozen empanadas, bake from frozen but add about 10 minutes to cooking time.

*You're not really supposed to re-roll the scraps of dough after cutting the first time as it supposedly makes the dough tough and not as flaky, but I do reuse the scraps. I can't tell much of a difference and let's face it, you're not making these every day so you may as well make as many as you can, right?

  • 1 cooked sweet potato, peeled
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce
  • salt and pepper 
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese, whizzed briefly in food processor

Crush beans with a potato masher, ensuring they still have some texture. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add jalapeno and garlic, saute 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add cumin and coriander, saute 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add sweet potato, lime juice, and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in cheese.

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