How many times have you vowed to eat more vegetables? How many times have you actually eaten more vegetables?
If there’s a difference between those two numbers, read this guide to finding your vegetables bliss with frozen vegetables.
Finding my Vegetable Bliss?!
Hyperbole, perhaps. But a truly delicious vegetable can be an enjoyable sensory experience. Blissful, even.
A beautifully ripe heirloom tomato (for tomato lovers). A delicious curried pumpkin dish. A tender asparagus dish with butter and garlic. These seasonal dishes–even food porn experiences– can be mainstays of your daily life when you find the foods that are you bliss points in the freezer section.
Exploring the Freezer Section
Frozen vegetables have moved beyond the frozen peas and corn of my childhood. You can now find fire-roasted red peppers, garlic sautéed mushrooms, and butternut squash spirals. If you haven’t wandered slowly through your freezer section recently, take a few minutes and just browse.
Even the quality of the basic vegetables have improved– try some broccoli florets, for example. While they don’t have the crunch of fresh broccoli, the flavorful tops are tender, sweet, and simple to prepare. Basic frozen French-cut green beans can be dressed up with frozen artichoke hearts, as in the curry above.
Try one new item every time you make a large shopping trip. If you’re uncertain about cooking specific items, check out the websites of the companies (like this one) or grocery stores. When in doubt, a nice vinaigrette works over almost any vegetable!
Cooking with Frozen Vegetables
I recommend two basic approaches. First, defrost and use. Second, cook as you would fresh but decrease the cooking time.
The defrost and use approach is handy for dishes using a blanched vegetable. One example is a sliced fennel and apple salad that includes chopped blanched broccoli. To substitute frozen broccoli florets, defrost in a bowl of florets in the refrigerator and then chop. An example where you subsequently cook the item is an egg casserole– frozen roasted vegetables are defrosted in the microwave, layered in the casserole dish, and then covered with beaten egg.
The second approach– cook as you would fresh– requires a little practice but not too much. A rule of thumb is to decrease the cooking time by the time listed for blanching the item in a cookbook. However, watching and tasting can help ensure you get the results you like to eat. One example is using frozen green beans in stir-fry (I like the extra fine green beans, which are a little smaller).
Ready for the next step? Click to read: 13 Ways to Use Frozen Vegetables When You’re Trying to Eat More Vegetables.
What’s the Best Way to Store Frozen Vegetables?
After opening, the simplest storage options are airtight containers or freezer bags. Labeling and dating can be helpful. Eating frozen vegetables within three months of purchase helps avoid freezer burn.
Tip: Someone once suggested pre-mixing your own frozen vegetable mixes if you have a particular blend you like for certain purposes.
What About the Nutritional Quality of Frozen Vegetables?
Frozen vegetables have the benefit of being picked and promptly frozen. Unlike the fresh cauliflower that has been sitting in my refrigerator for two weeks, they do not lose vitamins while being transported or stored if kept at the proper temperatures. Some nutrients, like minerals and fiber, do not change.
Because of this, frozen vegetables are usually nutritionally equal or superior to fresh vegetables in the off-season. When they are competing with fresh in season vegetables, frozen vegetables are still typically within 5-10% of the freshest vegetables you buy in a store.
Caveat: Recently, marketers and food companies began marketing more frozen vegetables in sauces. Many are higher in sodium and fat. While they are a reasonable choice if you have no dietary limits (like sodium), they are probably not a good option for adding to other dishes.
I’ve tried a couple frozen vegetables in pre-made sauces and have generally not been impressed with the sauces containing guar gums. Some of the roasted, grilled, or stir-fried with garlic options I tasted had fairly good flavors but do have some added sodium.
Interested in learning more about how to fit vegetables into the way you eat? Consider a consultation with a Registered Dietitian or attend a Cooperative Extension program in your community. You can ask me a question for a future blog post here.