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After one of Mary Collette Roger's 's Easy Everyday Cooking Classes, one participant asked, "Why did you use frozen vegetables for the Cauliflower Tomato Curry? I never eat anything but fresh!"
While the word is getting out about the value of frozen vegetables, here's a few reasons from our friend Mary to open your cooking repertoire to include time saving and nutritious kitchen staples.
1. Fresh vegetables are better, if they're really fresh When nutrition experts rhapsodize over fresh vegetables, the vegetables they have in mind are those picked that morning then stored properly until dinner time. Sadly, however, the "fresh" vegetables in your grocery store aren't generally fresh in that sense. Even though they look fresh, they can may well be two, three or four days old, depending upon how long it took to transport them from the field (often in a distant part of the country), through warehouses and distribution points and onto your store's shelves, where they may sit for another day or two before being purchased. Then they may sit another day (or week) in your frig before making it onto the dinner plate.
2. Vegetables begin a slow slide into compost the minute they are picked. Nutrient loss is part of this process. While proper storage can minimize loss, consumers are often lax in this regard. Produce isn't bagged properly, it sits in hot cars too long, is forgotten about on counters and is denied the optimal humidity in the frig.
3. Meanwhile, produce destined for the freezer case is flash frozen shortly after picking, at its nutritional peak. That nutritional high point can then be maintained for six months at least, until it's pulled out of the freezer for use.
4. So while the translation from fresh to frozen undoubtedly results in some loss of nutrients, it's surely no worse than that suffered by "fresh" produce that has survived three (or maybe 13) days in trucks, warehouses, grocery shelf bins and crisper drawers.
Although studies have confirmed the nutritional value of frozen veggies, it's not surprising if you're still leery of them. The "eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables" prescription has been drilled into us for so long that at a visceral level, it just feels wrong to eat frozen veggies.
My bottom line: I view frozen veggies not as a straight substitution for fresh veggies, but as a convenient alternative. In other words, where taste is critical, I stick with fresh (and strive my best to use really fresh vegetables.) However, where convenience and speed are the more critical drivers, I have no problem drawing on my freezer pantry for veggies. As an example, I don't microwave frozen broccoli for a free-standing vegetable to serve alongside chicken Parmesan. But in my quest to get more vegetables into my life, I don't hesitate to add frozen broccoli into a scramble so I can enjoy a vegetable-rich breakfast in a hurry.
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