Jun 30, 2011

Eat Healthy Affordably - Topic #3: Frozen Fruits and Veggies

My freezer is always stocked with frozen fruits and veggies. Why? Because they're convenient, cost-effective and best of all....nutritious! Including frozen produce in your diet is a great way to increase your overall fruit and veggie intake - something everyone can use a bit more of!

Sadly, it seems like frozen fruits and vegetables have developed something of a bad rap. Many are convinced that frozen produce is less healthy than fresh, but the reality is that - in most cases - it is equal in nutrition to cooked fresh produce. Once harvested, fruits and veggies are frozen to preserve quality and nutrients. Contrary to popular belief, there are no preservatives in frozen produce since the process of freezing preserves the food naturally. While it's still advisable to eat fresh whenever possible, frozen produce allows you to enjoy a variety of fruits and veggies year round at a fraction of the cost. And they store in the freezer for up to 6 months!

Veggies currently in my freezer

I have a few tips when it comes to picking and preparing the healthiest frozen options. First, always buy varieties with no added syrups or sauces to keep added fat, sugar and salt to a minimum. For example, if you're buying frozen asparagus, the ingredients should read "asparagus" only. Secondly, to preserve nutrients, cook in minimal liquid to prevent vitamins from leaching into the water (unless of course you will be consuming this water, for example in a soup).

Frozen vegetables frequently find their way into many of our family meals including pizzas, lasagna, soups, stews, casseroles, etc. With so many varieties of frozen produce available, the only problem will be deciding which recipe to use!

Here is one that my family really enjoys and happened to be our dinner tonight:

Homemade Spinach Pizza

For the dough, see this recipe
(I usually substitute 1 cup of white flour for 1 cup of whole wheat flour. It gives the dough a heartier taste and is slightly healthier).

For the Topping:
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
1 Cup Frozen Spinach
1-2 Cups Reduced-Fat Mozzerella Cheese, Shredded
1/4 Cup pizza sauce (Frankly, I just mix together tomato paste with a little water. Use whatever you prefer.)
1/2 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (I like it spicy!)
Salt and pepper to taste

Pro-tip: make the pizza dough in advance, divide and wrap into portions, and store in your freezer to preserve for up to 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remove one portion of dough from freezer and defrost in refrigerator for 24 hrs.  

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Saute chopped garlic in olive oil. Once you smell the garlic, add frozen spinach and cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat to defrost and remove some of the water. While that's cooking, grate the cheese. Next, flatten and stretch the pizza dough into a large round disk and lay onto pizza pan. I use nonstick cooking spray on the pan to prevent pizza from sticking. Spread pizza sauce onto dough, then top with the the garlic-spinach mixture. Finish by sprinkling cheese, herbs, salt and pepper on top. Confession: I also added a few slices of seared salami that I chopped into pieces. Anyhoo, bake for about 10 minutes until golden brown.

Something tells me your family won't mind eating their veggies this way......

For more info on the nutrition in frozen produce, click here.

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