(Since we’re all on the healthy eating bandwagon… for awhile, anyway… I’m doing a series on my favorite kitchen essentials for healthy cooking. Catch up on Part I – pantry – and Part II – fridge – if you’d like to!)
The freezer is another contraption that no kitchen is complete without, and when used well it can be a fantastic arsenal for the healthy cook. I love to stock mine with plenty of raw materials and – like with the pantry – there’s almost nothing that feels better than knowing I have a full freezer at my fingertips. Here are my freezer essentials for healthy cooking:
Frozen Seafood. We eat fish a couple of nights per week, because I love it, and I always have a few varieties on hand in the freezer. I’ve usually got a big bag of shrimp (shelled, if I can get them) and a couple of bags of salmon fillets and tilapia fillets. We buy our frozen fish from Costco, so we get them in huge quantities that last us several weeks and the quality is great too. My favorite thing about the Costco fillets is that they are generally evenly cut and the same size, which means they all finish cooking at the same time, and there are no thin bits that are overcooked while the center remains raw (a pet peeve of mine). I start to panic when we get low!
Frozen edamame. With the shells, these make for a fun appetizer. But shelled, they’re an incredibly versatile protein source! I toss them in soups, defrost them and add them to salads, or saute them up for stir-fries and goddess bowls. If I have a night where I don’t know what else to make, odds are I’m going to reach for edamame.
Frozen greens. They’ve come a long way from the disgusting frozen spinach of your youth. Whole Foods stocks frozen kale, frozen collards, and frozen green mixes and I always have a bit on hand. My favorite is the frozen kale. I’m always throwing it into soups and stews, or heating it up to toss with pasta and chicken or veggie sausage. It’s great to have on hand for those days when you’re out of the fresh stuff.
Frozen berries. Another Costco purchase, I have a gigantic bag of these in my freezer and it has seen me through many a breakfast smoothie. I love to make my smoothies without ice, using just frozen berries – they cool the smoothie down without watering it down like ice cubes do. And they’re a fun dessert too, just slightly defrosted in a bowl with a drizzle of milk.
Parmesan cheese rinds. Whenever I finish a wedge of Parm, I stick the rind in a plastic baggie that I keep in the freezer for use later. I make a big pot of vegetable soup many weeks, just to get rid of any aging vegetables from my crisper, and the Parmesan rind takes it from hum-drum to hum-dinger! (Sorry.) Just remember to fish it out before you eat…
Orange and Lemon Peels. This is my favorite tip. Whenever I’m using a lemon or orange for a dish or a snack, but not zesting it, I take a minute to peel the zest off in big strips, using a vegetable peeler (and carefully avoiding the bitter pith). Since I use a lemon or orange almost every day, but don’t always zest it for a recipe, I’ve amassed a huge collection of strips of zest in baggies in my freezer. They’re on hand for whenever I want to chop them up for adding to a side or dessert and they make me feel so gourmet. I love looking at my little baggies of zest, ready and waiting for anytime I want to fancy up a recipe!
What ingredients do you keep in your freezer for healthy cooking? Spill! (Your secrets, that is, not the ingredients themselves please.)