by Elena Gustavson, RAFFL's Everyday Chef. Thank you for joining us on our second installment of the Eat Your Freezer Clean challenge! Last week, we purged and organized our freezers, taking (and recording!) an inventory and began thinking about ways to use up our frozen food. By treating our freezer like an organized and important tool in our kitchen, not only can we feed ourselves and loved ones with wholesome, nourishing meals, but we will save time, money and reduce waste.
It is (finally!) spring in Rutland and the opening day of the season's outdoor farmers' market is May 9th, just 2 weeks away. While we wait in anticipation of all the good things that warmer weather will give us, let's take a closer look at the vegetables you saved from last year; a teaser to the variety we can all look forward to in the summer and fall months.
Recipes abound on the internet on how to use your frozen vegetables, so below we gathered a few of our personal favorites and inspirations that are quick, easy and flexible.
- Quick and Easy Pan Roasted Side Dish- Choose a large skillet with a lid. Heat the skillet over medium heat, add a teaspoon or two of olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer (takes several seconds) and slips around easily in the pan, but isn't smoking, throw in a cup or two of frozen corn and quickly stir to coat with oil. Cover the pan and shake the corn over the heat occasionally, letting the corn steam for a few minutes. Uncover and continue to stir while the corn softens, browns and slightly carmelizes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a pinch of red chili flakes. I like to drizzle a bit of maple syrup on top when eating as a side dish with savory meats.
- Use in Soups, Chilis and Stews - Add a cup of corn to a pot of simmering soup, chili or stew during the last few minutes of cooking. Top with any fresh herbs you might have on hand or might be getting leggy in the window, parsley or cilantro being two readily available favorites.
- Salad - Thaw frozen corn overnight in the refrigerator and drain in a colander. Because corn is blanched before frozen, it is just toothsome enough after thawing that it pairs wonderfully in a crisp salad. Try topping chopped romaine with black beans, thawed corn, your favorite salsa and chopped cilantro.
- Thaw, Drain, Dry - This method applies to all sorts of greens, but is especially useful with spinach as the leaves tend to retain a lot of moisture. Thaw your greens and drain in a colander. Using a clean dish towel with a tight weave, gather a large handful and wrap in the towel, twisting and squeezing out the water. OR just use your bare hands, as I tend to do because I hate to do more laundry than I need to. Or better yet,click on over to The Kitchnand give this ingenious tip a try, especially if you have a potato ricer gathering dust in your drawer.
- Green Smoothie - This works best with small frozen chunks, rather than large or thawed greens, but if you have ice cube sized frozen greens, try throwing a few in a blender with a bit of your favorite liquid (dairy or dairy-free milk, juice or even a bit of water), some fruit (I like to use frozen apples or fresh past their prime, frozen bananas or berries) and a tablespoon of nut butter. Give it a whirl, sweeten with honey or maple syrup if you need to and you have yourself a tasty, healthy treat!
- Use in Soups, Chilis and Stews - Throw frozen greens into a simmering pot either a two or three minutes or several minutes before (if they are LARGE chunks) your favorite ladle-friendly meal is done cooking. Easy, delicious, healthy. We like that.
- Casseroles - There is nothing tastier than a comforting, warm casserole on a cool spring day. Frozen potatoes can be thrown into any egg or potato based casserole of your choosing. For a nutritious and filling one dish meal, toss frozen potato cubes (or shred), frozen greens, frozen corn and fresh or frozen onions with a glug of olive oil, salt and pepper. Put in a casserole dish and pour on a bowl full of eggs beaten with a bit of flour and milk. Dollop with ricotta cheese and bake in a 350 degree oven until puffed and lightly brown or about 25 to 35 minutes depending on the size of your dish.
- Soups, Chilis and Stews - Are you beginning to see a pattern here? Frozen potato cubes can be thrown into any ladle-friendly meal about 15 minutes or so before it is finished simmering. You can also make a quick potato soup by covering two cups of frozen potatoes with your favorite salted/seasoned broth and simmering until tender and either pureeing for a silky bisque-like soup or keep it chunky and throw in other quick cooking veggies or leftover cooked meat.
- Get Ethnic! - Many cuisines use potatoes and two of my favorite are Indian curries and the delicious Spanish tortilla. Use care when cooking any frozen potatoes in oil and use the moisture they release to help cook them further by covering or partially covering the pan with a lid.
Other Frozen Friends:
- Rhubarb - bake in a pie with strawberries or stew with sugar and water to make a sauce
- Tomatoes - chop frozen whole tomatoes with a sharp knife and add to ladle-friendly meals or cook with butter, garlic, pesto or dried herbs for a quick pasta sauce
- Zucchini - add to ladle-friendly meals or thaw, drain and dry like you would frozen greens and add to muffins, cake, bread or saute in bit of butter and chopped onions until tender for a delicious side dish.
- Peas - beside the usual steaming or throwing into macaroni and cheese, try making soup! Here is a link to my absolute favorite recipe for fresh pea soup. And it is JUST as delicious and beautiful if you do not puree it.
- Winter Squash - Boil until tender, mash with a fork or whisk and serve as a side dish with a touch of salt and butter. Also try it in pancakes, make a silky coconut milk bisque or substitute the sweet potato in this delicious southern recipe for cake.
- Mixed Veggies - Use for stir-fry, fried rice, ladle-friendly meals or bake into a vegetable lasagna or make pasta primavera. It is that easy.