So long, vibrant farmers market vegetables. It’s been nice, juicy summer fruits. We’ll miss you, fragrant garden herbs. As we lament the seasonal passing of our warm-weather favorites, our freezers can become our new gardens. For the most part, frozen fruits and vegetables offer just as much nutrition, if not more, than their fresh counterparts. This is because produce is flash-frozen immediately after it is picked, locking in nutrients and taste before they have a chance to be lost during farm-to-market transit time.

Frozen fruits, such as strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, mango, peaches, and bananas are easy enough to toss in smoothies – but what about frozen vegetables? Can they have a place in meals? Absolutely! And we are not talking about rubbery, squishy carrots or mushy, limp broccoli. That’s just gross.

Here are our top 5 strategies for utilizing frozen foods while still maintaining the integrity of your meal:

  • Select whole, frozen fruits and vegetables and avoid “kits” or those frozen with sauces or seasonings, which can have added, less-desirable ingredients. Always read the label to ensure nothing has been added.
  • Skip the boil. Most frozen fruits and vegetables can be added directly to the recipe, but if you do need to defrost, steaming is preferable. Alternatively, just place the bag in refrigerator the night before cooking.
  • Add mixed vegetables to the mix. Defrost a bag of frozen vegetables, chop them, and add to meatballs, meatloaf, or vegetable burgers. Texture matters little in these situations.
  • Purchase frozen “grains”. Pre-cooked, frozen quinoa and riced cauliflower are gifts from the freezer gods. Just warm straight from the bag with some broth and seasonings, or add to soups, stir-fries and stews. Frozen cauliflower rice is a trend so popular that we once spotted a sign “only 2 per customer” at a local retailer. Why? Because it works so well straight from the freezer to the pan.
  • Make a mash. Once defrosted, most vegetables tend to be mushy – so just go with it. Mash butternut squash and cauliflower with some caramelized onions, garlic, and a good olive oil – season with salt and… need we say more. Or make a dip by puréeing a defrosted, drained vegetable, like spinach, with white beans, garlic and olive oil.