Although I have been sprinkling in other posts, this is day 4 of the Stuff Your Belly and Your Wallet series. Today, I really want to talk about frozen veggies. I have frequently read that frozen veggies contain the same amount of nutrients as their fresh veggie brothers, but whether or not that is true, I know one thing for sure: Frozen veggies are much cheaper than the fresh ones. We still get a lot of fresh vegetables, but we tend to use the frozen ones as healthy sides or in casseroles. We like to get onions, peppers, zucchinis, squash, and potatoes fresh, but we will use frozen broccoli, corn, peas, and sometimes carrots. They save money! However, frozen vegetables can get that mushy taste if you don’t reheat them or season them properly.
If the vegetables are going into a soup or casserole, I usually just throw them in frozen. The soups have no problem with the extra moisture, it just takes a little longer to heat up. In casseroles, the moisture seems to replace some of the moisture lost to the baking.
For sides, however, eating them frozen is just not an option and the microwave is often the most convenient option for cooking them. Using the proper seasoning for the veggie can change the side from boring to already eaten.
Peas: The issue with reheated peas is that they can shrivel very easily with just a slight over cooking and then get mushy. If you are cooking peas in the microwave, check on them after every 15 seconds and stir before cooking them longer. They are ready if they are warm and have a green fresh look to them. It is hard to explain knowing what color is right when you are just talking about shades of green. They also have a distinct fresh cooked smell. They are also nice and plump instead of shriveled. Drain the excess water and season with seasoning salt. I know it is often used for steaks and that kind of thing, but seasoning salt gives a nice flavor kick to the peas.
Corn: My dad was raised on an Iowan farm. He knows what fresh corn tastes like and throughout my childhood refused to eat corn that wasn’t fresh, thereby passing that corn snobbery onto me. I used to dislike canned or frozen corn (still hate the canned version), but LD taught me how to season the frozen corn that I love to keep eating it! After cooking the corn in the microwave so that it is hot, stir in a little butter so that it melts. Add a dash of salt and pepper. I am usually not a strong black pepper fan, but in the corn, it seems to really bring out the sweetness using contrast.
Broccoli: For broccoli, the trick is not overcooking it. Only cook the broccoli until it is a deep fresh green and has this fresh smell to it. After draining the excess water, add a little lemon pepper to the broccoli. The lemon pepper really complements the flavor of the broccoli.
Carrots: I have never been a cooked carrots fan. You can cook fresh carrots and I’m still thrilled about the taste unless they are mixed into a dish that has a lot of flavor and you can hardly taste the carrots. I love crunchy carrots and could eat them dipped in peanut butter all day, but once steamed I feel like they are ruined. That’s just my personal opinion though. Anyone have any suggestions for seasoning once frozen cooked carrots?