Have you ever had the experience of freezing vegetables that, when thawed, resembled and tasted like pond scum? Want to learn an easy way to freeze vegetables so that they come out delicious and ready to eat?
I don’t know about you, but we have stocked up on a lot of extra food lately. Living in the country, I think it is always good to have extra food in case of emergencies, but we have stocked up even more than usual because of the current happenings in the world. Many of the foods of the Mediterranean Diet lend themselves very well to rotation in the pantry: beans, rice, pasta, canned fish are all great staple foods. Potatoes, squash, onions, garlic and sweet potatoes last quite awhile if they are stored in cool places. Olive oil, vinegar and honey also tend to last a long time.
One of the foods that can be more difficult to store long term are fresh vegetables, especially salad and cooking greens, mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. When I am buying these vegetables in larger quantities, I figure out what I can eat fresh for about a week and then freeze the rest. Many vegetables, like kale or mustard greens you can just blanch for a minute in boiling water, drain any extra water and then freeze in freezer bags or freezer approved storage containers. I like taking these greens out of the freezer and adding them to soups, stews or pasta sauce. You can also saute them with some olive oil, garlic and salt and have an instant side dish. Although I like the blanching method for greens and other vegetables, my favorite way of freezing vegetables is to add them to a recipe and then freeze the finished product. This way, when you take it out of the freezer all you have to do is defrost and you have yourself a meal or side dish already prepared. It’s like you created your own frozen dinner only healthier than what you get in the store.
Here are 7 of my favorite vegetable recipes that freeze well and are as scrumptious fresh or thawed from frozen.
My all time favorite recipe to freeze are zucchini fritters. These Greek morsels come out perfectly moist and just as delicious reheated from frozen in a microwave or oven. Zucchini fritters provide all you need for a healthy snack or as a side with eggs in the morning or a meal in themselves with a salad on the side.
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Garlic and Balsamic
Tomato sauces are one of the best items to freeze and use later. We make lots of sauce in the late summer and then eat them all year round. I love this cherry tomato recipe because the sauce has an incredible caramelized flavor when done. I freeze this sauce in Ziploc bags and when I am ready to use it, I take it out of the freezer, remove from the bag and drop it into a saucepan. It heats up really fast and then I use it in pasta or on top of avocado toast in the morning.
Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs with Pepper and Onions
Christine and I have fallen in love with sheet pan recipes over the last year and this one, by our friend George Zikos, is one of the best we have tried. What could be better then roasted chicken thighs with nice crispy skins and roasted sweet peppers and onions? Freeze these in glass tupperware and then simply defrost in the oven.
Italian Farmhouse Tomato Sauce
Ever since I was a teenager, I have always sautéed extra vegetables, herbs and meat to add to my tomato sauce. I have always found it to be an easy extra step the sauce to a whole new level. This Italian Farmhouse Tomato Sauce is loaded with mushrooms, peppers, onions, spinach and fresh parsley. It is fairly quick to make and the sauce freezes well. You can be very versatile with this sauce and add most any vegetable you have in your fridge from broccoli and cauliflower to carrots or any type of greens.
Stuffed Peppers with Ground Beef and Mushrooms
Do you have someone in your family that is a meat and potato eater, but has some interest in eating better? These stuffed peppers with ground beef and mushrooms are a nice crossover recipe (crossing over to the Mediterranean Diet). Serve with a Greek salad and you have yourself a satisfying meal indeed! I freeze 2 to 4 peppers in a glass Tupperware container and when I am ready to defrost, I put the container (without the plastic top) in the over at 250 degrees F and heat until they are warm through to the middle (usually about 20 minutes). You can also microwave them, but they come out better in the oven!
Greek Moussaka (Eggplant Lasagna)
The ultimate Greek comfort food! I call this eggplant lasagna because it is layered eggplant, potatoes, zucchini, cheese and spices topped with a creamy, rich béchamel sauce. This recipe is so good you might be tempted to eat it all before freezing so maybe you make two, one for now and one for later!
This version of Baklava by Koula Barydakis is the original made with extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. Moist with sweet and savory in the middle with crispy phyllo dough on the outside. A dessert so full of healthy ingredients I would almost recommend it as a health food. You can freeze the whole recipe and thaw for later or freeze individual slices and pull out when you want a single serving.