Turn That Bag of Frozen Vegetables Into Dinner!
It’s National Frozen Food Month, and it’s time to give a round of applause to the hard-working category of frozen vegetables. While many people may look down their noses at the frozen food aisle, frozen vegetables can be the star of your healthiest meals. It’s also National Nutrition Month, which means it’s time to “put your best fork forward” in order to make small, simple changes in your eating that can reap big rewards in your health. Here’s my top tip for a little change that yields great results: Just eat more vegetables—fresh, canned, or frozen.
Did you know that when vegetables are harvested for frozen packaging, they are picked at their flavor and nutrition peak? They are quickly harvested from the fields and flash frozen, thus locking all of those vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in the bag. So, when you open the package of frozen peas, corn, or spinach and use it in your cooking, you receive a nutrition bounty in return. Another huge benefit is that you enjoy seasonal produce grown more sustainably during the cooler months, rather than supporting imported fresh produce that hails from miles and miles away. Plus, relying on frozen vegetables makes cooking just so quick and easy.
Here are my 5 Top Tips for Turning Frozen Vegetables into a Meal:
- Go Green. Keep a bag of frozen greens—spinach, mustard greens, or kale—in your freezer at all times. Those pre-cleaned, trimmed greens are charged with nutrition, and they’re excellent thrown into a soup or stew, pasta dishes, quiche, stir-fries, or veggie scrambles. Better yet, throw a handful into a nutritious breakfast smoothie for a boost of green veggie power.
- Get Corny. A bag of sweet, frozen corn is one of the most versatile items in your refrigerator. It’s the perfect basis of a nourishing chowder or tamale pie, plus it can add color, nutrition appeal, and vibrancy to a taco salad, bean burrito, cornbread, or succotash.
- Mix it Up. A bag of your favorite vegetable blend, be it Asian-inspired, Mediterranean, or simply peas and carrots, can be the start of a beautiful meal. Toss it in a pan with a healthful protein source, soy sauce, and ginger and create a stir-fry to accompany brown rice. Sauté frozen vegetables with garlic and olive oil and toss them into whole wheat pasta. Stir a vegetable blend into a creamy sauce and top with mashed potatoes or biscuits for a Veggie Pot Pie.
- Oh, Sweet Pea! These tiny green orbs, high in protein and fiber, are the start of a lovely meal. Stir peas and boiled new potatoes into a creamy sauce as a side dish. Fold peas into a curry dish to serve with whole grains. Or toss them into a nutrient-rich, risotto as a one-dish meal.
- Plant-Power it with Edamame. One of my favorite plant-based frozen protein sources is edamame—green, immature soybeans. These nutritious, tasty legumes can add star nutrition power to your meals in so many ways. Stir them into an entrée salad, stir-fry them with vegetables and a whole grain as a one-dish meal, and cook them in a hearty stew.
Check out one of my favorite recipes featuring frozen vegetables below.
Sesame Red Chard Salad with Edamame (Vegan, Gluten-Free)
2 cups cooked brown rice, cooled
1 ½ cups edamame, frozen, thawed
1 bell pepper, diced (red, yellow, orange)
1 scallion, diced
3 cups packed, chopped red Swiss chard
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 ½ tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon agave nectar
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
- In a medium bowl, mix together brown rice, edamame, pepper, scallion, chard, and sesame seeds.
- In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, oil, garlic, ginger, agave, and red chili flakes.
- Toss salad with vinaigrette and chill until serving time.
Nutrition analysis per serving: Calories: 174 Total fat: 6g Sat. Fat: 0g Carb: 23g Fiber: 4g Sugar: 3g Protein: 7g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 180 mg
Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™, is an award-winning food and nutrition expert, journalist, and editor. She is author of The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Health, Beginning Today (The Experiment, 2012) and Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps & 125 Delicious Recipes (The Experiment, 2014). Sharon also is editor of Environmental Nutrition, nutrition editor of Today’s Dietitian, blogger for the award-winning The Plant-Powered Blog, and publisher of her monthly The Plant-Powered Newsletter. Living in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles with her husband and two sons, Sharon enjoys visiting her local farmers market, gardening, and cooking for friends and family.
Note: Images by Sharon Palmer, RDN