November 30, 2012

15 Fruits & Veggies For Your Freezer

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Years ago, my husband’s great grandmother gave us her deep freezer.  She was moving into an assisted living home and no longer had room for it.  Not to mention she really didn’t need that much freezer space since she was living by herself.  That freezer has been such a blessing to us.  I put nearly everything in the freezer, including leftovers.  If it freezes, it goes in the freezer.  One of my biggest pet peeves is wasting food.  With so much famine in the world, I have a hard time when food has to be thrown away.  And, I can not stand seeing money going into the garbage.
Growing up, we always had produce from the garden.  That produce was either canned, eaten fresh, or frozen.  My family grew almost everything, so I had a lot of practice shucking corn and hulling peas.  I admit I actually enjoy hulling peas.  I find it very peaceful.  Weird, I know. 

Now that I have my own family, I continue the practice of putting away the harvest.  I have yet to can anything myself, but that will be a goal of mine this summer.  You would be surprised how many fruits and vegetables can hold up in the freezer.  Here is my list of must-have’s for the freezer.
  1. Berries- I have tons of berries of different varieties.  Right now, I have blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries in my freezer.  I mostly use these in smoothies and baking.  But my two-year-old enjoys eating these frozen from time to time.
  2. Bananas- More often than not, there is always a spare banana left behind.  I stick them in a bag in the freezer, peel and all, for baking and smoothies.  I make TONS of banana bread at Christmas time.  My kids love banana bread too.  Also, you can often substitute frozen bananas for oil in many recipes.  
  3. Peppers- Green, red, yellow, orange, banana peppers, and jalepenos are always in my freezer.  To prepare peppers for the freezer, I slice them and stick them in ziploc bags.  Just take them out and throw them in your favorite recipe.  They work perfectly.  
  4. Beans-  I’m a bit of an inpatient person.  I don’t always like to wait for dried beans to cook.  So that leaves me two choices: buy canned beans, or cook a large batch of dry beans and freeze them in portions.  When I’m having a big cooking day, I will put on a pot of beans either on the stove or in the crock pot.  Once they are cool, I bag them in two cup portions and freeze them.  That way, I always have cooked beans ready to go.   
  5. Corn-  If there is nothing else in my freezer, there will always be corn.  My grandfather grows fields of corn every summer, so we always have plenty all year long.  Once it is shucked, I blanche it, let it cool, and place several ears in gallon size bags.  If space is an issue, I will cut much of it off the cob and freeze it that way.  Either way, nothing beats fresh corn in January.  
  6. Spinach- I’ll admit, I’ve never grown spinach.  I usually buy it already frozen.  It is very cost effective to buy frozen spinach and it’s always ready to go.  I sneak spinach into my spaghetti sauce and lasagna.  My kids never know the difference.  
  7. Broccoli- Broccoli is one of my favorite veggies.  We have it at least once a week.  My kids aren’t to crazy about it yet, but I’m working on it!  If you are freezing fresh broccoli, just blanche it for a few minutes, then cut the broccoli off the stems and freeze.  
  8. Green Onions (Scallions)- We call scallions “green onions” in my neck of the woods.  I can only think of one instance in which I would need an un-frozen green onion, and that would be on top of a baked potato.  Any other time, they usually are cooked down in whatever dish I am making.  So, I’ll either buy several bunches or get some from the garden, wash and chop them.  I always use both the white and green parts of the onion, and I always mix them together.  I’ve never noticed a difference in flavor. 
  9. Peas-  I keep many different kinds of peas in the freezer.  My family always grows field peas, so we always have those. I also keep black eyed peas and green English peas in the freezer.  I prepare these much like I prepare the beans. 
  10. Carrots-  I always have fresh carrots, but if those are starting to hang around too long, they get chopped up for the freezer.  I cook them as a side or use them for mirepoix.   How’s that for a fancy word?
  11. Cauliflower-  I usually just buy cauliflower already frozen, but I use it for so many things.  I put it in potato soup or mashed potatoes.   
  12. Onions-  Much like carrots, if onions aren’t used up, I dice them up for the freezer.  These are always used for seasoning.  
  13. Tomatoes-  My mom taught me this trick.  If fresh tomatoes are starting to get too ripe, put them in a bag in the freezer.  Later, you can cook them down and use them for whatever dish that calls for canned tomatoes.  Don’t know why I never thought of that.  
  14. Apples-  Like bananas, I always seem to have an extra apple or two straggling around.  I freeze apples and use them for pie filling, apple crunch, or apple sauce.  It’s so yummy. 
  15. Brussels Sprouts- Again, these I buy already frozen.  Don’t buy the kind in butter sauce, though. They’re yummy, but not exactly good for you.
Bonus:
These are some fruits and veggies that aren’t always in my freezer.  Sometimes the garden has an abundance of fresh produce that we can’t always use up quickly, so I stick it in the freezer with everything else!
Eggplant-  When we have extras, I freeze it in slices.  I use it for casserole mostly, but I hope to experiment with frying it soon.
Pears-  I don’t always have pears, but if I do, they usually get frozen for pear cake or pear crunch. 
Lemon Juice-  I’ve never frozen a whole lemon.  I don’t know how well that would work out.  Since I would only be freezing it for the juice anyway, I just juice extra lemons and store the juice in a recycled peanut butter jar in my freezer.  It works perfectly for anything that calls for lemon juice. 
Orange Juice- Same with lemons, I juice these and freeze it.
Squash- When we have fresh squash, it usually never lasts very long.  This summer, I was given quite a bit of yellow squash.  We couldn’t eat it fast enough, so I sliced it into discs and froze them.  When thawed, drain them on a kitchen towel and use them however you like.  I like to fry squash or use it in squash casserole.  That is so, so yummy.   Zucchini gets shredded and used for zucchini bread or as a filler in sauces.
So, there’s no reason you can’t have fresh produce all year long.  Filling your freezer with the summer’s bounty will pay off in more ways than one.

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