Help me ward off winter scurvy!
December 1, 2011 7:59 PM   Subscribe

What do you do with frozen vegetables and fruits? (other than use them for ice packs?)

I'd like to incorporate more frozen vegetables into my diet.
I live too far north for the growing season to last very long, and I know that the nutritional value of frozen produce can be as good as -- or better than -- unfrozen fresh produce. It can be cheaper (especially since I don't always use fresh veggies in time - so sad!), and easier to keep on hand. And when I'm looking for a treat, and I remember that I can nibble on frozen mixed berries from the freezer, I always think, "Mmmm! I should eat these more often!"
However, I'm not really used to cooking with frozen fruits and veggies. I like vegetables raw, roasted, stir-fried, and in salads, none of which seem to be frozen-friendly. I can't seem to stop expecting freezer produce to be soggy and weird-tasting. I could make pasta sauces, but I don't really eat pasta. I'm on the fence about a lot of soups. Bonus points for egg-free ideas (I'm allergic).
Thanks in advance for your delicious ideas and/or recipes!
posted by Edna Million to Food & Drink (45 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
With fruits, make smoothies. Then they come out nice and thick and cold without having to add unhealthy ingredients.
posted by superfille at 8:03 PM on December 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

This is not really the healthiest recipe ever, but it's the most amazing texture ever. Oh god so good. Mad props to my super Italian grandpa in heaven for teaching me this when I was 8.

-throw a pat of butter and handful of frozen corn into a nonstick pan

-wait until corn has melted and the excess water has evaporated

-microplane real parmesan over it; it doesn't have to be the fancy imported stuff, but nothing that came in a green can, ok

-let it fry until the corn bits are golden brown and the cheese is chewy/crispy
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:07 PM on December 1, 2011 [15 favorites]

A winter staple at my house is thus: take frozen green beans, steam them until thawed and hot. Once hot, toss them in a pan with butter and some minced shallots and a handful of sliced or slivered almonds. Sauté for 2 - 4 minutes, until shallots are slightly crispy and almonds are slightly toasted.

Here's another: sauté frozen peas and/or green beans in a pan with fresh chopped scallions and a litte oil until thawed. Then add some cooked rice, tamari sauce, and some precooked chicken. Keep stirring until rice & chicken are heated through and rice is slightly browner. Voilà! Home made fried rice!
posted by anastasiav at 8:10 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Frozen broccoli and cauliflower can be used in stir-fries, as can frozen sugar snap peas. With broccoli, make sure to get either "florets" or "spears" rather than the broccoli "cuts," which include chopped up pieces of (not-peeled) stem.

Frozen broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, sugar snap peas, and petite peas can all be just steamed (or microwaved), too. The key (at least with the green ones, not so much cauliflower) is to cook them very briefly/watch them carefully so they get warm but stay bright green and relatively crisp/crunchy, instead of getting mushy. I like most of these things just as they are, but broccoli can be enhanced with some soy sauce or toasted sesame oil, and the green beans can be enhanced with some salt and garlic powder.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:15 PM on December 1, 2011

I use frozen vegetables all the time. They don't quite have the flavor or texture of fresh vegetables, but they are much more convenient and quick, keep without spoiling, are nutritious and taste fine. They work anywhere that thoroughly cooked vegetables work: pasta sauce, soups, stews, casserole, risotto. Example: lentil soup with peas, carrots, and spinach.

They don't work quite as well in stir-fry as fresh vegetables, but frozen brocolli and snow peas will work in a stir-fry in a pinch.

If you first thaw frozen brussel sprouts in a microwave, then roast with some olive oil or butter, salt and sugar, it turns out quite good.

You can also just microwave some frozen brocolli or green beens in a bowl for a few minutes and add some butter and salt.

The only use I've found for frozen fruit is in smoothies. I generally combine frozen strawberries and blueberries with milk and a fresh banana and blend. If I'm desperate for a desert and have nothing else, I've also thawed frozen fruit in a microwave and added some sugar.
posted by Sar HaPanim at 8:17 PM on December 1, 2011

You can make stir fries with them. If you add a strong tasting sauce it gives them a bit more oomph. I also throw frozen veggies in stews as they suck up all the yummy flavour that comes from slow cooking meat.

Corn Fritters, though most recipes call for canned corn, which there is nothing wrong with, I prefer frozen corn kernels.

Wrap frozen green beans and peppers in tinfoil with a drizzle of oil and lots of garlic and then put the package in the oven and bake until all garlicy and delicious.

Frozen Cauliflower or Broccoli cheese is nice. Make a simple white sauce mix in some cheese, pour it over sprinkle more cheese on top and put in the oven until all bubbly and golden brown.

I will eat frozen baby peas or corn kernels after simply defrosting them in a cup of cold water for a few minutes. I don't like the texture of cooked peas and its the nearest to fresh I can get mid winter. Nice too topped with a bit of a salady type dressing.

Fry veggies on the side when cooking a steak. Frozen onions and peppers taste good this way.

Tinned or Frozen asian veg like baby corn, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts are great in stirfries.

Some veggies store pretty well and can be had if not fresh at least still a nice respite from frozen veggies. Cabbage, potatoes of all sorts, pumpkins and squash are grown as they store so well if stored properly. As do certain type of apples.
posted by wwax at 8:17 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Weirdly perhaps, I think the best thing for frozen vegetables is also the simplest - microwave them (not full power) instead of boiling or steaming. They don't lose their flavour, there is no runoff leaching out nutrients, and with a good brand, the taste is a combination of fresh and raw flavour with hot and cooked texture.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:34 PM on December 1, 2011

Not really the healthy nutrition you're looking for, but I use frozen raspberries instead of ice cubes in raspberry lemonade (that I make with raspberry vodka.) I guess it wouldn't be that unhealthy if you didn't use the vodka...
posted by Weeping_angel at 8:35 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Throw some frozen spinach in a bowl. Add some sea salt and a splash of olive oil. Microwave for like 45 seconds, then stir it and guess how much longer it will need.

Done. Yummy. Nutritious.
posted by kestrel251 at 8:48 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I use frozen berries on my morning oatmeal instead of sweeteners.

Frozen spinach is a good way to add dark green veg to many things. thaw according to directions, sautéed with garlic and you're done.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 8:56 PM on December 1, 2011

Frozen berries with yogurt and granola in the morning. Add a swizzle of honey to the yogurt if you like it a little sweeter.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 9:00 PM on December 1, 2011

Trader Joe's frozen vegetables tend to be really high quality when compared with store brand, by the way. With prices to match, of course, but for example their multicolored haricot verts blow any supermarket green beans out of the water.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:04 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can use them to make fried rice, one of my secret weapons for getting more veg into my honey's diet; I make it with brown rice, Chinese BBQ pork, and lots and lots of veggies--almost anything will work. Frozen veg are also great for making shepherd's pie and pot pies. I use frozen peas in some Indian dishes, such as pea pillau and samosas.

Here's a dip recipe from Emeril Lagasse that's made with corn, fresh or frozen. Good stuff.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 9:06 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Trader Joe's frozen green beans are skinnier than regular green beans. They stir fry especially well. Have you tried the green means at your local Chinese restaurant? If not, then you really must, and then you'll be addicted, leading to excellent inspiration for cooking these frozen veggies. Short recipe: sliced onion, slivered ginger, minced garlic, stirfried. Add a pack of frozen beans. Cook to warm/thawed. Add garlic black bean paste and soy sauce or any favorite sauce combination. Eat on rice.

Aside from the advice to eat the peas and beans and lima beans straight, maybe butter and salt after a vigorous microwaving, I'll just point out that any time you have some soup from a can, or some microwaved premade dish, it is much better if you add extra vegetables to it. Tader Joe's Mandarin Chicken is improved by a big bag of broccoli oven-baked on the same tray and tossed in with the same sauce.

Third recommendation: buy a packet of gnocci in the pasta section. Slice and cook half a sliced onion and some garlic in a huge skillet. Add to that a couple of chicken sausages cut in chunks, a bag of frozen tiny brussels sprouts (at my store thee are big ones (~1.5 inch) and baby ones (mostly <1 inch)) and the packet of gnocci. A knob of butter if the sausages don't render fat. Don't stir too constantly, everything should start to get brown crispy spots on bottom before you agitate it. Add basil, black pepper, seasonings as necessary. It's done when there are sufficient crispy brown spots, and the gnocci are soft. That's my favorite combination, (sausage and sprouts) but it's an excellent vehicle to use whatever happens to be handy. Red peppers, peas, and cauliflower turn up pretty often too. Meat optional.
posted by aimedwander at 9:24 PM on December 1, 2011

Response by poster: These are great so far, thanks!
(No Trader Joe's here, though - I'm in Edmonton, Alberta!)
posted by Edna Million at 9:35 PM on December 1, 2011

I like this recipe for berry crisp, which doesn't even require thawing the berries. It's really good for breakfast with some Greek yogurt and walnuts.
posted by corey flood at 9:36 PM on December 1, 2011

I use frozen fruit instead of ice and shake up delicious cocktails using gin.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:18 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, I throw frozen veggies in at the end of a big ol' stir fry.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:19 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I put frozen mangoes, plain yogurt, and a little sugar in a food processor to make frozen yogurt.

When I eat frozen meals (usually because I've taken them to work for lunch) I add about a cup of frozen veggies to make it a little more substantial and tip the veggie-to-other-crap ratio.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 10:23 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

My supermarket sells mixes of frozen veggies -- they sell a "soup mix" that, tossed in chicken or veggie broth, makes a really tasty soup. It's got like 8 different diced veggies in it. I'll often put in some leftover chicken, the veggies, and some rice. They also sell a "three peppers and onion" mix of red, yellow, and green bell pepper strips and onion. If you saute that up, it's a nice base for all kinds of things, such as frittata. I find if I saute frozen veggies with less oil than I'd use for fresh, they come out better.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:35 PM on December 1, 2011

Microwaved frozen peas are the very best thing to stir into prepared macaroni and cheese... Or wait, you're in Canada, so maybe you call it Kraft Dinner? Double good with a can of tuna stirred in, too.
posted by vytae at 10:47 PM on December 1, 2011

almost every time I drink white wine, I throw some frozen berries in. keeps the wine cold, plus bonus boozy berries at the end!
posted by changeling at 11:06 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Saag paneer with frozen spinach (unwrap and defrost in microwave) - I like Aarti Sequiera's recipe for saag paneer, though if you use commercial paneer or queso it may have salt added, so cut back the salt in her recipe.

I second frozen peas, microwaved, into macaroni and cheese.

Lazy uses for frozen fruit:
-frozen berries (especially blueberries) with plain yogurt. I mix a few tablespoons full of each in a mug. The yogurt coats the berries and sort of freezes to them, and it's a sweet and cold treat with a burst of flavor.

-frozen mango chunks sprinkled with lime juice and a little salt. Again, sweet cold treat with intense flavor.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:25 PM on December 1, 2011

Oh also - frozen broccoli and cauliflower are great for cream soups.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:26 PM on December 1, 2011

I use frozen peas in lots of things, from thai green curry to beef stew to pasta salad. Generally I just throw the peas in whenever the mixture or pasta is coming to a boil. I also use frozen green beans, the whole ones, in chinese-style green beans in the wintertime. (it's actually one of my Thanksgiving staples). Recently I made leftover turkey pot pie using frozen mixed vegetables. I also will just microwave a bag of corn as a side dish. I grew up eating canned vegetables so frozen sometimes feels like a luxury, if you can believe it.
posted by cabingirl at 11:48 PM on December 1, 2011

Frozen veggies? Soup, and/or chili. It's pretty hard to fuck up soup and chili. Throw it in a pot with some broth (or tomatoes), add appropriate seasoning, forget about it for a few hours, throw it in the fridge, heat it back up the next day, stuff yourself till you can't move.
posted by Heretical at 12:13 AM on December 2, 2011

Frozen cauliflower, peas, and green beans are good for curries.

Fancy green beans (slimmer, long ones) can be successfully roasted in the oven in a manner similar to roasting fresh vegetables. It's important to stir once or twice to make sure they cook evenly. I, personally, am fond of roasting frozen green beans tossed with a little oil and seasoning salt, until they are very crispy (a few unfortunate souls, in fact, will have completely charred by that point). I don't even LIKE green beans particularly, but cooked this way, they are almost tasty enough to eat as a snack.
posted by drlith at 3:15 AM on December 2, 2011

Thaw frozen peas in water, drain, and use uncooked in salads.
Similarly, thaw anything from spinach to diced peppers and add to frozen pizza with a bit of extra cheese topping then cook for a wee bit longer than on package directions.
posted by mightshould at 4:23 AM on December 2, 2011

One of my absolute favorite dishes (not just frozen-vegetable dishes, not just vegetable dishes, but dishes of any kind) is Greek-style peas, which are also super easy-peasey! We use a lot of onion and olive oil, and a heaping tablespoon (or maybe one-and-a-half) of tomato paste instead of canned or fresh tomatoes, and cook for about an hour. It's important to use fresh dill (the feathery stuff) instead of dried. We use a large handful of chopped dill.

For the longest time I thought this dish was made with some supersecret special peas that I couldn't get... or young peas, or they were laboriously hand-hulled for hours, or... something. I was keenly disappointed whenever I would order them at a restaurant and they were out – until finally my husband figured out my misapprehension and clued me in: it's just a regular recipe and you can use plain old frozen peas. If I have it, I sometimes make this with chicken broth instead of water, and I'll eat it alone (with crusty bread and feta) as a meal in itself, or with chicken or fish, or put some on toast with an egg on top for breakfast or brunch. I'm pretty much never without a big bag of frozen peas in my freezer now, and you can freeze the fresh dill, too.

They'll turn out looking something like this, though this recipe includes carrots. You can also include potatoes or artichokes.
posted by taz at 4:34 AM on December 2, 2011

Frozen veggies work well in a vegetable lasagna.
posted by maxg94 at 5:02 AM on December 2, 2011

In the winter I love to make soups, risotto and stir fry with frozen veggies most of which have already been mentioned. My freezer veggie staples include green beans (usually the TJs hericot verts, sorry), asparagus, artichokes, peas, edamame (usually I buy it pre-shelled which is great for tossing into stir fry), corn, pearl onions and spinach. Since carrots and onions are always readily available and affordable in my supermarket, I don't generally buy those frozen.

I'll avoid overlap but here are a few ideas:
- I love using frozen pearl onions and peas when I make chicken and biscuits or chicken pot pies to use up leftover roasted chicken. So easy.

- risotto: one of my favorites is loosely based on Ina Garten's risotto primavera. I use frozen peas, asparagus and artichokes stirred into risotto cooked with chicken broth, lemon juice and zest, and parmesan cheese. Ina's is of course more complicated and delicious sounding.

- cheater chickpea curry: I use frozen spinach, canned chickpeas and canned tomatoes to make a quick curry (flavored with hot yellow curry powder and garam masala). Basically I saute chopped onion in some olive oil, add the seasoning to make a paste, then dump in the frozen spinach to thaw in the pan before adding the tomatoes (with juice) and the chickpeas (drained). Adding peas to this is also a great option (I add frozen peas to most curry dishes).

- tortellini soup: I make this tomato-based soup with italian turkey sausage removed from the casing, and canned tomatoes, asparagus, carrot pieces, and zucchini/yellow squash (all of which can be frozen or fresh). Start by cooking the sausage, then remove from pan. Saute diced onion and garlic (i usually add some dried basil/oregano at this point), add carrots, then canned tomatoes (with juice) and canned tomato sauce, broth, then toss the sausage back in, add the frozen chopped asparagus, and zucchini. Finish with cooked tortellini.
posted by moshimosh at 5:07 AM on December 2, 2011

I use frozen peas and frozen corn all the time. Say I'm making a pasta dish like carbonara, a handful or two of frozen peas, or like a dirty rice dish does really well with a handful of frozen corn. It's a great way to up your veggie content pretty quickly.

Slightly off-topic, but the same goes with canned diced tomatoes (be sure to get a quality brand and not supermarket private label). A stew or meat braise benefits greatly from a can of tomatoes. So does many other dishes.
posted by slogger at 6:14 AM on December 2, 2011

I like adding frozen berries and other fruits to my yogurt for breakfast.
posted by AnnaMaple at 6:26 AM on December 2, 2011

frozen veggies + eggs + cheese (optional) + chicken/turkey/veggie/other sausage (optional) = delicious frittatas. for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. my favorite egg veggie is actually frozen okra. they work really really well together. cook the okra in a frying pan with a tiny bit of olive oil and salt and chopped onion. cook until the onion is translucent. add sausage (if using) and cook for the few minutes needed. meanwhile take 2-6 eggs (depending on number serving), whip them up in a bowl with a fork, add a small bit of milk (i'm a pro-milk and eggs person). pour over the fixings in the pan. grind some pepper on top. either use a garlic press or chop up some garlic and sprinkle evenly over the pan. add some good chedder/feta (or other/no) cheese. cook for a minute or two, gently using a spatula to lift up the edges and let the egg that is still runny get under it and cook (like layers). put under the broiler for 2-3 minutes. enjoy! with fresh arugula on top (if you have it), garlic toast, etc. (other veggies work great but i personally have a love for the frequently detested magic of okra). i also toss in fresh cilantro when i have it, pepper, play around with other spices, but this is my basic recipe. frozen veggies work great (peppers, spinach, broccoli, green beans, squash, etc.).
posted by anya32 at 7:58 AM on December 2, 2011

Puree baby peas with broth, warm, add cream or plain yogurt or sour cream and season (mint is dandy) to taste for a lovely soup. Add corn to cornbread for extra corny chewiness.
posted by Allee Katze at 8:00 AM on December 2, 2011

Green pea and cheese salad is one of my family's favourite summer salads - it's stupidly simple, kind of sounds gross but is sososo good:

Thawed frozen green peas, cubes of cheese, vinaigrette.

I like to use cheddar and Italian dressing but I should really try it with a homemade vinaigrette with Dijon mustard.

I throw frozen broccoli in my macaroni and cheese (even Kraft Dinner).
posted by hydrobatidae at 8:02 AM on December 2, 2011

Based on our experiences with a local South Indian restaurant, I started making a probably wildly inauthentic poriyal with whatever ends of bags of frozen veggies I have. It's a 'dry curry' and there are a thousand recipes online, but this is what I usually do:

Oil in pan, fry about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds and a few dried lentils - shake it up and cover it, because the seeds are ready when they pop and explode out of the pan. Uncover, add some sort of fresh and/or dried chili (I usually just use dry red pepper flakes) and bit of turmeric, both to taste and fry up just until these toast. Then add about a cup or so of whatever kind of diced mixed vegetable you want, some onion (frozen onion exists and it works fine in this), and some pre-cooked lentils if you want. Cook until warm. Add shredded (non-sweetened, preferably) coconut.

Technically this calls for curry leaves and often asafoetida/hing but I never have them on hand.
posted by cobaltnine at 8:03 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Every morning I zap two small bowls of frozen blueberries in the microwave, for around 30 seconds. My daughter eats them plain for breakfast (which means she goes to school with purple teeth every day); I eat them with Greek yoghurt and coconut flakes.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:24 AM on December 2, 2011

What Harlequin said. Seriously, microwaving some frozen veggies, once you figure out your optimal microwaving time , is really, really easy. I buy almost no fresh veggies anymore because I cannot consume them fast enough for some portion of them to not be partially rotted or not taste that great anymore at some point after I buy them (except for carrots and squashes, although I don't count those since I always cook them).... Vs. frozen veggies which often look great! right after microwaving and taste a-ok.

You could just defrost them and then stir-fry them. : )
posted by bitterkitten at 10:45 AM on December 2, 2011

I like to put some frozen raspberries, blackberries, and/or blueberries in a bowl, then pour a splash or two of diet pop on them and stir them around. Much like LobsterMitten's suggestion with the yogurt 'coating' (which I would second as being quite tasty), the pop also freezes onto the berries in a most delightful manner. I especially like it with diet root beer.

Sometimes I'll add a dollop of Cool Whip and stir that into the fray as well, but most of the time just the pop and berries is a satisfying treat.
posted by DingoMutt at 12:26 PM on December 2, 2011

I put some frozen berries in with the apples when I make apple pies and crumbles.
posted by teraspawn at 2:04 PM on December 2, 2011

Pretty much any pie or cobbler recipe can be made with frozen fruit. Some recipes say to let them thaw a bit on the counter; others you cook on the stove with sugar to make a "stew" for a cobbler; others you just put your frozen fruit right in the pie crust and bake it.
posted by CathyG at 7:45 PM on December 2, 2011

Response by poster: I am so excited to try a bunch of these - thanks!
posted by Edna Million at 1:24 PM on December 3, 2011

I make a smoothie made with froz fruit almost every day. I use chocolate almond milk but you can add anything - yogurt, protein powder, spinach, flax. I use a immersion blender, cleans up in 5 seconds .
posted by Gor-ella at 1:53 PM on December 5, 2011

Frozen berries of any type are super yummy when thrown into a bowl of canned coconut milk. The berries freeze a coat of coconut milk around them which is really satisfying in the morning, for some reason. Certain brands of coconut milk work better than others due to the presence of, I suspect, guam gum as a thickener (Thai Kitchen brand is the best for this!).
posted by flamk at 6:36 PM on February 2, 2012

« Older Looking for a short PCI video card   |   What to do with commercail almond pulp. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.