The Freezer: Are You Friends Yet?

Deals and Convenience Await Those Who Make Friends with this Wonder Appliance

I’m always singing the praises of the freezer pantry, and  in September’s newsletter I alerted readers to a frozen fruit and fish buying opportunity.  Apologies in advance for being an “I told you so” person, but I’m now reaping so many benefits from my purchases.  I want you to reap the same benefits, so I’m going to engage in some teasing and tempting now.  Hopefully, a seed will be planted and by fall, you’ll be ready to begin stocking up and experimenting.

Frozen Strawberries

Frozen Fruit is especially wonderful in late winter and spring, since fresh fruit is limited, not that great tasting and/or quite expensive (think peaches, pears and berries flown all the way up from Argentina and Chile.)  Meanwhile, local fruit frozen at the peak of perfection or trucked from Oregon or California in the summer and fall is much better tasting, less environmentally damaging and not nearly as expensive.

Here are just a few of the many, easy, good things you can do with a freezer full of frozen fruits:

Fruit “Candies”

So easy:  Just keep a bag of individually frozen berries handy in the front of the freezer, with a small scoop inside.  Kids love scooping out a few for a treat (and adults are allowed to do the same!).

Breakfast in a Bottle: Good For You Fast Food

Just this morning I visited with a young woman working in her office while drinking a smoothie containing all sorts of good for you ingredients.  Truth be told, I’m not a smoothie person.  I love the melding of flavors that happens with cooking, but the speed and convenience of smoothies makes them a doable healthy breakfast for many people.  And the nutritional benefits and indisputable.  Joseph DiMasi is a local nutrition consultant who can fill you in on that aspect.  In the meantime, give this combo a try:

Kristen’s Vegetable-Fruit Breakfast Smoothie Note:  Amounts are very rough, because that’s the nature (and another benefit) of smoothies.  There are no rigid formulas.  Just get in a good amount of vegetative matter and do the rest to taste.

Base:

  • Kale, stems and all, a couple good handfuls
  • Orange Juice, fresh or from frozen, a cup or two

Mix Ins:

  • Frozen Fruits (berries are especially good), a cup or two
  • Almond (or Peanut) Butter, a tablespoon or two
  • Cinnamon, about 1/2 tsp. *

*Cinnamon is not only a tasty addition, but could be a beneficial one, too.  Some studies have shown that “cinnamon may lower blood sugar by decreasing insulin resistance.”  Other studies indicate that “consuming roughly one half of a teaspoon of cinnamon per day or less leads to dramatic improvements in blood sugar, cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides.”

Strawberry SmoothieTraditional Fruit Smoothies

These kinds of smoothie may be more familiar to you.  They are especially nice on warm summer days.  Seasonal eaters know, however, that serious fruit production doesn’t happen until mid-summer in the Colorado area.  So from now until then, use frozen fruits to quench your craving for the cool refreshment.  Follow the format for Kristen’s Smoothies but skip the vegetative matter.  Here are a couple notes and other mix-in suggestions:

  • Juice:  If possible, use whole juices, rather than those made from processed concentrates
  • Fruits:  Just about any kind can be used.  Try different combinations of juices and fruits to find ones you like.  As fresh fruits come in, they can be combined with frozen.
  • Yogurt and Milk:  Add a little protein
  • Low-Sugar, Whole Grain Granola:  Add a little more substance
  • Sweet Spices:  Add flavor without sweeteners, e.g., cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg.

Fruited Juice:  Whole Fruit Substitute

My husband likes a glass of juice and piece of fresh fruit every morning.  As mentioned above, however,  it gets harder and harder to find good tasting fruit as winter wears on into spring.  So we blend whole frozen fruit with his juice, e.g., frozen bluberries and cherries with Big B’s 100% apple juice (i.e., not from concentrate.) *   To save time, we blend up a pitcher-ful  that lasts several days.

*Big B’s is from the western slope of Colorado and can be found at both Whole Foods and Vitamin Cottage.

Going to a Potluck?  Frozen Fruit Makes for Easy Entertaining Fare

My friend Susan always brings the best fruit salads to potluck events.  I always wondered how, in between her many pottery classes, she cut all the pieces so nicely?   And how can the blackberries taste so good in mid-winter?  Pre-cut frozen fruit  is the miracle ingredient, of course, a long with Susan’s preparation secrets:  1)  Think ahead  so there’s time to defrost the fruit in the refrigerator.  This way, the fruit stays plump and almost fresh tasting.  2)  Bring a cooler to the grocery store so the fruit doesn’t thaw on the way home.  Fruit that is re-frozen loses texture (but is still fine to use.)

A beautiful bowl of frozen fruits can be gussied up in lots of ways:

  • Nuts:  Chopped pecans are especially good, or my favorite, sliced almonds
  • Sweet Spices:  E.g., Cinnamon and nutmeg
  • Fresh Citrus Juice and Zest:  Orange or lemon brings out flavors nicely
  • Yogurt:  Whole milk varieties have much more body, so it takes very little to provide a nice, non-watery creaminess  without all the added sugars of low-fat yogurts
  • Fresh Fruits:  To bump up the texture, supplement frozen fruits with whatever fruit is in season, e.g., oranges and apples in winter, Mejool dates in spring, strawberries in early summer
  • Dried Fruits:  Used as accents, add a little chewy texture
  • Granola:  Another accent for crunch; sprinkle over salad just before serving so it doesn’t get mushy
  • Sweetener:  If you’re having trouble drumming up enough flavor with the ideas above, you’re likely dealing with fruit that wasn’t flavorful enough to begin with.  Try drizzling with a little agave nectar or warmed honey.  A teaspoon or two of sugar can also be used.

Mary’s Simple Winter Fruit Salad  with Orange and MintFruit Salad

  • 1-2 cups each, frozen blueberries and cherries (or another combo to suit your tastes)
  • 1 apple diced to 1/2″
  • 1/4  to 1/2 cup sliced almonds.

Combine the thawed and diced fruit in a pretty bowl, then sprinkle with 2 to 4 Tbsp. fresh or frozen orange juice and 1 to 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh mint.  Toss gently to coat and again right before serving.

OK, I’ll stop.  But there are so many other ideas.  I’ll share a few more next month, as well as the Mushroom Ragout which I promised.  I made it at home after our hut trip to make sure it tasted as good as when we were starving in the mountains.  It did and it was also good on cod the next day.

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