Make the Most of Veggies During Quarantine! (May 2020)
Veggiecurean Newsletter — Vol. 7 — May 2020
During this time of quarantine, it’s easy to put healthy eating on the backburner. With food flying off the shelves and people limiting trips to the grocery store, it’s important to get to know shelf-stable foods as they can be a total lifesaver during times like this. We all know that fresh vegetables are the tastiest option, but many people are unaware of just how much canned and frozen vegetables can transform a healthy dish without compromising flavor.
A fresh-out-of-the-garden vegetable is pretty much as nourishing as it gets, but unfortunately the produce we get from the store isn’t as young as we’d hope. After spending many miles on a truck bed and being shipped to that store, veggies tend to be many days old by the time they get to us, and their important nutrients diminish with every passing day. This is where canned and frozen vegetables really shine — they’re preserved at the height of their nutritional value by flash freezing.
For me, cooking is all about convenience. When making a meal at the end of a long day, I’m always on the lookout for a shortcut to whip together a quick meal for my family. For example, high-quality canned tomatoes are a big time-saver, regardless of the season, when you’re adding them to soups, lasagna, or even making a delicious pasta sauce. They’re also one of the only canned vegetables that boast a higher nutritional value when processed because of the increased amount of a particular antioxidant: lycopene. Frozen vegetables also play their part in our meals — some of my frozen favorites are broccoli, spinach, peas, corn, and string beans, all with superior taste upon thawing and perfect for adding to stir fry recipes, fried rice dishes, and even smoothies. Additionally, if you have any leftover fresh vegetables, you can easily chop them up and freeze them in Ziploc bags to extend their shelf life.
When considering whether to buy canned or frozen, it’s important to understand the processing methods for both options. Frozen produce is blanched in hot water, which has a slight effect on its nutritional value, but canning requires multi-step processing and contains many of the nutrients in the surrounding liquid, which is often rinsed off. If going down the canned vegetable route, be on the lookout for low-sodium options that are canned in water or in their own juices. While frozen vegetables can last up to a year, canned vegetables have a longer shelf life of 2-5 years, which can really benefit those who frequently end up throwing away fresh produce due to spoilage. As for the question of organic vs. conventional, that is best decided on a case-by-case basis depending on the thickness of the vegetable’s skin. For example, spinach, tomatoes, and corn tend to soak up more pesticides and should therefore be purchased organic in both canned or frozen form. When buying canned, be on the lookout for brands that advertise their can lining as BPA-free, which can reduce exposure to toxic chemicals.
So how exactly do you prepare and incorporate canned and frozen veggies into your meals? For starters, canned vegetables are already cooked and sterilized so that they can sit on the shelf indefinitely. I recommend rinsing off their liquid (except tomatoes!) and dropping them into the dish of your choice during the last few minutes of cooking to prevent them from breaking down too much. In any store’s frozen aisle these days there’s also an abundance of exotic frozen vegetable options such as okra, artichokes, and cauliflower, most of which are pre-trimmed and par-boiled, minimizing your prep time. A quick thaw under a warm running faucet or steam for a few minutes will bring out the color and flavor in these frozen veggies and allow you to throw them into a dish similar to the way you would canned vegetables.
Sometimes we just need a little inspiration to get us out of a cooking rut, spice things up, and figure out what to do with all the canned goods we’ve stockpiled during quarantine. I hope you’ll be able to make some of my recipes below while you stay safe at home. As always, we look forward to connecting with you!
Stay safe and healthy!
Baked Artichoke Hearts
I absolutely love artichokes, so much so that sometimes I eat them as my daily source of greens for several days. (Hey, the buds ARE technically green!) However, I do not enjoy cleaning, washing, and coring artichokes, which is why I came up with this simple and flavorful recipe. I just use a can of artichoke hearts and roast them while getting the rest of dinner together. It makes a great side dish or after-school snack.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix the artichoke hearts with garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Pour the artichoke mixture onto the baking tray and roast for about 1 hour.
Add the lemon juice.
Corn and Cauliflower Soup
This soup is plant-based, gluten-free, and easy to prepare from scratch. There are four main ingredients — kernels from 4-5 ears of corn, a cauliflower head, some coconut milk, and vegetable broth — and I like to add some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, onion powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper when roasting the vegetables.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the corn kernels and cauliflower florets on a baking sheet and toss with oil, balsamic vinegar, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper, and roast the mixture for 30 minutes.
Once the corn and cauliflower are done roasting, add half of the mixture to a blender along with half a can of coconut milk (shaking can well first) and 1 cup vegetable broth, then blend until smooth and transfer to the pot. Repeat with the second half.
Pour the soup into a large pot and heat through, adding more broth if needed to thin it out further.
Lately, I’ve been reading “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingsolver, and in chapter two, “Waiting for Asparagus”, Kingsolver describes the day that asparagus is ready to harvest: “The shoot emerges from the ground like a snub-nose green snake headed for sunshine, rising so rapidly you can just about see it grow. If it doesn’t get its neck cut off at ground level as it emerges, it will keep growing.” Reading that made me absolutely crave some good cream of asparagus soup — I had to use frozen asparagus since it’s no longer in season, but it came out really good!