Frozen Vegetables: How to Eat the Rainbow this Season
by Sarah Frazier, acac Timonium p.r.e.p. director
It’s no secret that getting enough fruits and vegetables is essential to a healthy diet, no matter what your wellness goals are!
During the spring and summer there is an abundance of fresh produce in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes that look and taste great. It makes it so easy to meet and exceed your quota during these times; however, during the cold winter months there is not much fresh produce around. And, what is around is either out of season or doesn’t look or taste great. This can be when problems start! Frozen vegetables are a fantastic solution to the problem of getting enough plants in your diet during the cold winter months.
Frozen fruits and vegetables often get a bad reputation because they are not fresh and don’t always measure up to the seasonal goods. However, frozen vegetables are often even better for you because they are harvested at the peak of perfection and frozen immediately, sending all those good-for-you nutrients straight to your freezer to be enjoyed all year long.
If you have ever found it a struggle to get all of your vegetable servings in during the winter months, here are some tips to help maximize your frozen vegetable game:
- Pick your bag wisely. Don’t grab just any old bag in the freezer aisle! Give it a quick squeeze. If everything is clumped together, chances are it has been thawed and refrozen along the way. Opt for one that is not all clumped together! It has less of a chance of freezer burn and will likely taste better.
- Choose your dish wisely. Frozen vegetables go best in soups, casseroles, and other multi-ingredient dishes that can blend well with the texture of frozen vegetables. Also, when cooking choose either all frozen or all fresh, not a mixture of the two.
- Thaw your frozen vegetables first. Pour them into a strainer and leave them in your kitchen sink to thaw so the extra moisture will drain. This will help with their consistency in your dishes!
- Don’t add them too quickly. Frozen vegetables are blanches before they are frozen, meaning they are flash-boiled and then cooled. This means that they do not take as long as fresh vegetables to cook and should not be added to your dishes until a little bit later in order to avoid over cooking.
- Avoid using the microwave. Microwaving frozen vegetables is notorious for turning them into a soggy mess. Opt for sauteing or roasting them instead!
- Use them in a timely manner. Freezing food significantly lengthens their life but it does not make them immortal! The recommended shelf life for frozen vegetables is 8 – 12 months but using them sooner is always better.
- Avoid freezer burn. Buying in bulk is a great way to save money, but only if you are able to use what you buy! Air exposure (like with a half-used bag of frozen broccoli) causes freezer burn which can affect the taste and texture of frozen vegetables. Try only buying what you will use and properly storing what you don’t.
What are you waiting for? Stock up your freezer and enjoy flavorful vegetables all season long.