Frozen vegetables are one of our favorite time-saving shortcuts.

From Our Kitchen
Frozen vegetables are one of our favorite time-saving shortcuts.
| Credit: William Dickey / Styling Lisa Powell Bailey

Always in Season
Neatly trimmed and perfectly chopped, frozen vegetables offer consistent quality year-round. Processed soon after harvest, frozen vegetables often exceed the nutritional value of fresh.

The trick to preparing fresh-tasting frozen vegetables is all in the timing. Regardless of the method, it's important not to overcook them. The flavor and texture of the new steam-in-bag frozen vegetables (that go from freezer to microwave to table in less than five minutes) received top ratings in our Test Kitchens. Quickly sautéing frozen vegetables in a teaspoon of hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat also helps keep their color and crunch.

In this speedy recipe, the natural sweetness of fresh pears transforms frozen green beans into a spectacular side dish.

Sautéed Green Beans and Pears:
Prepare 1 (12-oz.) package frozen steam-in-bag whole green beans according to package directions. Meanwhile, sauté 2 peeled and sliced pears with 2 Tbsp. each of melted butter, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar in a large skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Stir in hot green beans, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Makes 6 servings. Prep: 10 min., Cook: 5 min.

Fast and Healthy
Create your own flavorful medley of fresh or frozen vegetables with the new microwavable steaming bags from Ziploc and Glad. Instructions are printed right on the bag; just fill, cook, and serve.

Steaming vegetables in the microwave requires little, if any, extra liquid, allowing the nutrients to remain in the food rather than leach out into the water, as they do when cooked conventionally. Try combining fresh-cut carrots and sweet potatoes with a few pieces of sliced ginger. Discard the ginger after steaming, and mash the mixture together with a little butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

Citrus Power
In this issue, we begin using the term "zest" instead of "grated rind" in our ingredient lists. Most of you already know that zest is the grated outermost layer of citrus fruit, and we agree it's a culinary term that deserves its place on our pages. Thanks for changing with us.

Choosing Sides
Keep these tips in mind the next time you buy frozen vegetables.

  • Read nutritional labels. Some frozen vegetable medleys contain additives or artificial flavors. They can also be deceptively high in fat, calories, and sodium.
  • Frozen vegetables labeled Grade A by the USDA are the most tender and flavorful. Less expensive Grade B vegetables are more mature but still a quality buy. Super-thrifty Grade C vegetables are best used in long-simmering soups or stews.
  • Most frozen vegetables are blanched during processing so there's no need to precook them before adding to casseroles. Just place them in a colander, and run under cold water to thaw. Frozen vegetables are a terrific addition to salads. Steam only until crisp-tender; immediately plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process, and drain well. To prevent the color of green veggies from fading, season with lemon juice or vinegar just before serving.

Fresh from the Freezer
Summer flavor is as close as your freezer with these quick-and-easy recipes for colorful casseroles and side dishes.

Coarsely chop an equal amount of partially thawed, frozen sliced yellow squash, and use in place of fresh for a quick start on Two-Cheese Squash Casserole. Because most frozen vegetables are already blanched, it eliminates having to precook them before adding to a casserole. We also substituted an equal amount of frozen broccoli and cauliflower for fresh in Broccoli Parmesan and Broccoli-and-Cauliflower Gratin with excellent results.

Quick-and-easy Frozen Vegetable Recipes:

"From Our Kitchen" is from the February 2008 issue of Southern Living.