Meal Planning Monday ~ Veggies – Fresh, Frozen, or Canned?

           We all know that we should eat our veggies.  However, there’s plenty of debate over the merits of canned, frozen, and freshly picked vegetables.  Personally, I think that each of these methods has their place in every cook’s kitchen.  Let’s explore the pros and cons of each.

            Canned ~ The big plus side of canned vegetables is their long shelf-life.  You can stock up on canned corn, beans, and peas when there’s a good sale.  Chances are, you’ll use them before they expire.  It’s hard to argue with the convenience factor of canned vegetables.  No chopping carrots, peeling tomatoes, or soaking beans, which can be your saving grace on busy week nights.  On a regular basis, I use canned black beans, diced tomatoes, corn, and artichokes.  However, because of the canning process, you’re typically not getting as many nutrients as you would if you had the same vegetable fresh or frozen.  There has definitely been an increase in popularity in home canning, especially of garden-grown veggies.  I think this is great, because there are fewer preservatives when you can your own veggies.

            Frozen ~ These vegetables are typically flash frozen at the peak of ripeness.  This may mean that they have as many nutrients (maybe even more) as fresh veggies.  If you have a decent size freezer, you can stock up on frozen veggies when you find a great deal.  Frozen veggies will typically keep six month to a year.  Just keep in mind that freezing vegetables does not stop breakdown of nutrients, it just slows it WAY down.  There are some veggies that I prefer frozen.  I use frozen spinach in quite a few of my recipes.  It’s cheaper and easier than buying fresh spinach, which I reserve for my salads.  I also buy vegetable medleys and stew veggies in the freezer section.  If a certain vegetable is out of season, buying frozen is a good alternative.

            Fresh ~ Most people would agree that fresh is best!  There is nothing like a fresh tomato in July…  but you usually can’t find a tasty one in February, which makes me sad. :(  Eating fresh vegetables (especially those in-season and locally grown) will give you the best bang for your nutritional buck.  I’m loving the fresh asparagus that is on sale all over town right now!  We’re eating it once or twice a week.  I also recently purchased a large bag of English peas in the pod from my co-op.  They were very tasty in yesterday’s beef stew, but time-consuming to remove from the shell.

        Some veggies are just a pain to prepare fresh!  Nick and I found that out with artichokes.  Let me tell you, they are high-maintenance to boil, pick apart, and eat!  Next time I make my spinach and artichoke dip, I will stick to the ones in a jar or can.  The big downside to fresh veggies is their limited shelf life.  I usually try to restrain myself at the co-op, because if I buy more than we can eat in a week, it will go bad and end up in the trash – which is not a good thing!

            No matter how you like your veggies – fresh, frozen, canned, or a combination of all three – be sure to eat up!  Vegetables are full of fiber and lots of great vitamins and minerals.  Here is my Meal Plan for the week.

Monday ~ Cilantro Lime Shrimp with black bean and corn salad.  I’ll be using canned beans and corn for this recipe.

Tuesday ~ Turkey and gravy in the crockpot served with mashed potatoes and the remainder of my fresh peas from the co-op.  Kroger had Honeysuckle marinated turkey breasts on sale last week, buy-one-get-one-free.  I froze one of them for later.  I’ll toss the turkey breasts in the crock pot with a jar of gravy for an easy meal.

Wednesday ~ Roasted Salmon with sesame garlic roasted asparagus.  I make garlic roasted asparagus quite a bit, but never with sesame seeds, so I’m going to give it a try this week.

Thursday ~ BBQ chicken with parmesan potatoes and cauliflower with cheese.

Friday ~ Breakfast for dinner!  I’m making my broccoli cheddar frittata with hash browns and some fresh fruit.

Saturday ~ Sometimes I make my Spinach & Artichoke dip with two cans of chicken in it and call it a meal!  My hubby LOVES it.

Sunday ~ Foil packets on the grill with chicken, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, onions, and asparagus.

 

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

  • One 12-ounce jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • One 10-ounce box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • ½ cup of reduced-fat cream cheese
  • ¾ cup of reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • Pita chips or tortilla chips for dipping

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Make sure that spinach is thoroughly drained of excess water.  (I do this by putting it in a colander and pressing paper towels down on it to remove as much water as possible.)  Mix all ingredients (except chips) until well blended in a bowl.  Spread into a small oven-safe baking dish.  Bake 20 – 25 minutes, or until the top begins to turn golden and bubble.  Serve warm with chips.  (If you are unable to find marinated artichoke hearts, you can use a can of artichokes drained, and add a tablespoon of Italian dressing.)