I'm trying to cook more often, but I"m really new at this, so I need some advice on which vegetables I can best freeze. Or maybe I just need advice on how to keep them fresh longer.
I'm only cooking for two (and usually with veggies just for one, as my husband is still 5yrs old). I want to use veggies, but I find when I buy them fresh, they go bad before I can use more than a small portion of them.
For example, I'll buy celery and make tuna fish salad for our lunches. This uses maybe one/two stalks. Last night I diced all the celery and froze it in tupperware. Will I be able to pull out a scoop of celery pieces, defrost and use the next time I want tuna salad?
Because otherwise, the rest goes bad in the fridge before I use it again. We live in Arizona, and wilting and becoming dried out is a big issue. I do store the veggies uncovered on the shelf in the fridge, I stopped putting them in the drawers because once they were out of sight, they went out of mind. Maybe I just need tips on how to store them?
Also, any hints on veggie dishes that I can make, individually portion, freeze and microwave when I want a healthy side would be great. As mentioned before, I'm a new cook so the easier the better. I love bell peppers in all colors, squashes, eggplant, greens and am open to trying most anything.
maybe someone can else can address this more specifically but i've grown my own herbs for years and haven't gotten good results from freezing. the best results i've had are from dehydrating rosemary, then bagging and storing in the freezer. you can use a dehydrator or hang a few stems in a warm dry place. then strip off the stems.stems are good for skewering checken or shrimp to grill.
best way i've found to save basil is as pesto.
i've heard of freezing herbs into ice cubes for later use in soups and stews. that might work well for the basil. the texture wouldn't hold up but the flavor might be okay.
I freeze my basil and oregano. I blend it in the food processor with a little olive oil and the freeze it spread on a tray. When frozen, I break into chunks and store in ziplock. The flavour is definitely still there (and the smell when you open the bag).
Rosemary, thyme, I dry in a paper bag.
Click onto Trader Joe's Locations (they have many Arizona stores) and see if there is a TJ near you. They sell a huge bag (1.5 lb or 2 lb, not sure which) of little bitty frozen imported French green beans for, like $2. You can cook them all up at once, stick them in the refrigerator, and just reach into them when you want a quick green vegetable for yourself alone. Also their frozen broccoli is great---put it in a baking dish with 1/2 inch of water, put some plastic wrap over the top and cut a slit in it, and steam the broccoli for a 4-5 minutes until it's the way you like it. Again, cook the whole bagful and keep it handy in the fridge. While you are at TJ take a look at the frozen fruits---best prices and selection I know of, and the pineapple is extra-sweet (in Chicago it's about $1.50 for a l-lb bag of pineapple chunks).
My schedule has me on the road a lot, and when I'm at home, I'm often on my own-- so many weeks, I'm home for just a few nights, with no good chance to go out and buy veggies when the store's open. So, I find myself relying on frozen veggies quite a bit, and also I'm often faced with how to make use of veggies that will sit past their prime unless I do something with them before jetting.
- For steamed veggie sides, I rely quite a bit on pre-frozen veggies, e.g., Trader Joes organic broccoli, haricot verts, edamame, etc. I also cook and freeze leafy greens (I always cook an entire bunch at once, use what I need, and freeze the rest).
- Celery can hang out quite a long time in tin foil in the fridge, as mentioned above. When I really think it won't survive, I chop it up for later use in a blended soup and freeze it in a bag, or I make stock from it (with onion bits, etc.) and freeze that. If I really need to get rid of all the onion, carrots, celery, etc., in a rush before heading out of town for an extended time, I quickly chop them up and freeze them in a bag for later use in soups.
- Peppers freeze very well if you slice them up (no blanching necessary). They won't be crunchy for salads, but you can put them in stir fries or whatnot. For example, I generally have on hand frozen small hot korean peppers for tossing just a few slices (rings) at a time into a soup or stir fry.
- If I'm only in town for a few days at a time, I do tend to buy baby carrots, because you can wash them all at once and then use them for all sorts of stuff (on the go snacking, braising, cooking for soup). They tend not to taste like much, though. (And careful about microwaving them!)
- If I get inspired to buy a 5 lb bag of baby bok choy or something, and they've gotta get used, I typically just make kimchi or something out of them. Pickling works for lots of veggies!
I have successfully frozen (blanched) carrots, chopped celery, bell pepper strips, sliced onions & hot peppers; with the exception of the celerys, all the rest have come from my garden. Also frozen from the garden, sliced yellow squash & zucchini, spinach, collards and other greens, tomatoes for sauce which are blanched, peeled & seeded and okra. Oh, and a bunch of pesto from the basil I had growing. I also buy & freeze apple slices for pies & cobblers and bananas for breads & cakes.
I use the veggies in stir fries, braised veggies, soups, casseroles, etc. and things where the texture does not have to be firm.
Cut the bottom off the celery and stand it in a deep container with an inch of water in the bottom. Cover with a plastic bag and use an elastic to hold tje bag around the container. Store in the fridge and change the water every few days, slicing an eighth inch or so off the bottom of the stalks to refresh them. They will last for several weeks that way. I like celery leaves in salads, and freeze them for adding to soup and stock, so I prefer buying whole heads to hearts. As a single person, that means a bit of determination is required to use it all up. Braised celery is not a common hot vegetable, but it's pretty good. If worse comes to worse, I freeze wilted stalks for soupmaking. Do not leave vegetables uncovered in the fridge, as they will get limp. A damp paper towel in a plastic bag that is partially closed will keep them crisp. Some fresh vegetables, like peppers and onions, can be chopped and frozen but others are supposed to be blanched first. You can find lists in cookbooks and online.
I do understand why you stopped putting the veggies in the drawers (which my ex-BIL used to call "the rotters" since that does sometimes seem to be their function) but they serve an important purpose, which is to help keep your veggies hydrated. Also most veggies want to be in plastic as well as in the drawers, again, to maximize their moisture. I too have read about wrapping celery in foil but I am lucky enough to buy veg at a place that sells celery by the stick so that's my solution.
I agree about blanching greens and freezing in single portions -- if you put them in sandwich size ziplocks and flatten them they don't take much space and are easy to thaw. Or you can go further than blanching and prepare them all the way. My current obsession is braised collard greens which take about an hour so not a good weeknight deal but on the weekend I'll do a huge pot and portion out and freeze and then I can have them in minutes whenever I want.
Here are a couple of links to helpful info about veggie storage.
I've had good luck with chopping celery and storing it in the fridge in airtight plastic for a few weeks. Onions too, if diced; larger cuts wilt quickly. Bell peppers, diced, freeze very nicely; I just dumped mine in a quart storage bag and crumbled them up when I needed some.
Seems like I've read that vegetables stored in the fridge should have a paper towel added to the container to keep the moisture in check, but I don't know the particulars on that. It might be worth looking into as well.
celery is not a good candidate for freezing & reuse simply thawed, because its water content is so high that it just turns to mush. However, it can be plunked into soups & stews & casseroles for a tasty addition. If you want fresh raw celery and don't want waste, just get what you need from the salad bar at your grocery.
Most veggies will freeze best if blanched with a bit of salt first (steam or dump into boiling water only until they turn bright, then dump into ice water to stop cooking) and then freeze in preferred portion sizes.
i freeze greens in season quite often. blanch and bag. ditto summer squash. winter squash lasts forever without freezing. can't say about eggplant or peppers. think they might take a hit on texture. but, you can get extra time by roasting and tossing in balsamic and refrigerating.
a couple of years ago i bought a vacuum bagger and have been very happy with the results both in terms of freezing and just storing in general.
CS...many good folks here on this board wrap their celery in foil upon bringing it home from the store...I believe you remove it from the wrapper first, hoping someone will jump in if I'm wrong. It supposedly keeps the celery fresh for weeks. I don't think I've ever frozen raw celery so not sure how it freezes.