MONDAY BASICS: buy frozen fruit + veg

 

Concerned about nutrient density? Want more bang for your food bucks? Frugal with your time? Buy frozen fruit and veg. Allow me to explain.

I love the good foods. I also love any sanity I can etch into my days. Reaching for frozen fruit and veg, especially as winter is now upon us, is something I do on a regular basis. I have lots of reasons why, but chief among them? It's about making supper an easier and more attainable task on those weeknights I'd rather be doing something else. I rely on frozen produce in the spirit of KEEPING IT REAL.

Ah, but see? It works in my favour here. As we are deep into the throes of King Winter now in Alberta, the fresh stuff I ogle at grocery stores at this time of year are coming from so many kilometres away from my home. The green beans at the store? They're from Argentina. (It's perfect green-bean growing weather in Argentina right now. Alberta? Not so much. Western Canada? Those warm summer days left us months ago.) My daughter adores fresh raspberries – as much as I'd love to, I just can't buy them fresh at the stores right now. First of all, the price for fresh organic raspberries is through the roof. Second of all, they were picked long before they got to me, meaning they were allowed to ripen in the truck on the way to my neighbourhood grocery store. In order to still look good by the time those berries reach my store, they have to be picked long before they're even ripe. These berries have to ripen in transit!

Not to mention, have you tasted berries when they aren't in season? They're not even remotely close to the real thing. It really takes away from the experience and just isn't worth it, in my humble opinion.

Enter: the frozen berries and veggies.

 
 

REASONS I LOVE FROZEN PRODUCE

They're an easy alternative on busy nights – time is saved with pre-chopped and already-prepped veggies. Some of the hard-to-peel veggies have that work already done for you. Think of it as having your own sous-chef. (Good work.)

I also love them as they tend to be budget friendly. Next time you're at the grocery store, compare the cost of a full head of fresh broccoli with the cost of a bag of frozen broccoli. As we are on a budget here at our house, I have found I am able to afford a bag of the frozen organic veggie for the same cost as the conventional broccoli found in the fresh veggie aisle. (I refer to this list when trying to make my choices as to whether I should be purchasing organic or not. Check it out if you're curious as to why you may want to choose organic. (Psst... it has to do with reducing inflammation via liver support.))

Using frozen vegetables in my meal prep also means I only need to pull out what I need for the meal in question, leaving the rest of the package for another day. I don't leave half a head of broccoli to wilt in my crisper drawer for the next two weeks.

Eating foods in this way allows me to retain more nutrients as well: the wilting broccoli in the crisper drawer is losing important nutrients the longer is sits in the drawer. A vegetable's nutrient density degrades over time fairly quickly when stored in the fridge; the rate of nutrient loss in the freezer is infinitely slower, allowing you to retain the rest of the frozen broccoli until your next recipe, when the content of antioxidants will be just about the same as when you first used it. Double bonus: you tend to waste less. I have thrown out my fair share of wilted forgotten half-vegetables that hung out for too long in my veggie drawer.

I recommend you choose packaged frozen veg, fruit and berries that list one ingredient on the label (or just the veggies or berries or fruit in the mix). Freezing a vegetable or fruit is the preservation method: you don't need any added salt or sugar or other chemical in order to preserve it! Single-ingredient lists are a must here. Skip those packages that come with prepared sauces alongside. No sauces, no syrup, no cheese, no added sugars nor salt are needed here. Just the naked veg. Or berry. Or fruit.

 
 

My favourite point about all of this is that when it comes to frozen produce, in general it is packaged close to where it is grown. This then means that the produce is allowed to ripen fully on the vine before it is harvested for freezing. When a fruit or veg is allowed to come to peak freshness on the vine, not only does it taste better, but it also retains a fuller complement of vitamins and minerals. Did you know that Vitamin C is one of the last vitamins to develop in a fruit on the vine? 

Those veggies coming my way from another hemisphere have been picked long before they were ripe, with the intention to have them artificially ripen in the transport vehicle on their way to my local grocery store. Vitamin C does not magically show up on its own. The fruit or veg needs to still be alive and connected to the plant and the soil in order to develop this nutrient. Ergo, my frozen supermarket finds are higher in nutrient content than the fresh-from-afar foods in the produce aisle when it comes to the winter months.

The processing for these frozen foods involving a quick blanching on site in order to kill any potentially harmful bacteria that may cause the foods to spoil when in their frozen state; this minimal method of processing (a quick dip in boiling water) locks in nutrition and freshness. There is an amount of water soluble vitamins like the Bs and Cs that can be lost in this processing, but the amount left in the end in frozen produce is higher than that found in the produce that was sent from the other side of the world, never mind the extra time those veggies will wallow in your fridge drawer.

 
 

IDEAS ON USING FROZEN PRODUCE – MADE EASY

  • allow to meld berries with a bit of honey and butter in a pan, and add creme fraiche
  • throw in smoothies
  • berries in to yogurt for a quick snack in lunch boxes (bonus - keeps the lunch cool!)
  • toss frozen veggie mix with pesto, roast in a 375F oven for 25-30 minutes
  • make palak paneer out of greens 
  • start with bacon in the pan, add some greens or other veggies til cooked through
  • make miso creamed greens by wilting frozen greens in butter, adding cream or creme fraiche and a tbsp or two of miso paste
  • simple steamed or boiled veg (peas, green beans, etc) and butter
  • peas and pancetta (cook pancetta first, toss in peas towards end of cooking)
  • asparagus roasted with lemon + butter at 375F for 25-30 minutes
  • lima beans + bacon (geez, really, any vegetable and bacon!)
  • package of pre-cut veggie mix as base for a quick side saute with dinner (with garlic, sesame oil, sesame seeds)
  • got leftover grains from last night? Stir-fry in with some garlic and new frozen veggies, perfect side dish
  • add frozen spinach to soups and stews for more Bs and important antioxidants
  • toss cubed frozen butternut squash with butter and cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup at 375F for 30-40 minutes
  • roast broccoli from frozen with chili peppers, solid (melted) cooking fat and a squeeze of lemon at 375F for 25-30 minutes
  • roast broccoli with parmesan cheese and lemon juice at 375F for 25-30 minutes
  • roast cauliflower from frozen, tossed in melted coconut oil and nigella seeds (aka kalonji seeds) at 375F for 20-30 minutes 
  • roast brussels sprouts with diced bacon, add cranberries to the mix for sweetness (375F for 45 minutes)
  • toss frozen carrots with melted butter, honey and fresh or dry dill, roast at 375F for 25-30 minutes
  • Easy supper: defrost some meat stock, toss in a few tablespoons of pesto, enough frozen mixed veg for those who are eating, heat to simmer. Put a bamboo steamer on top, line with parchment paper, steam some fillets of sole (topped with squeeze of lemon juice and pepper) until cooked through. Throw all together.
 
 

Now go play with your (frozen) food!