12 Delicious Ways to Use Frozen Veggies for Meal Prep
Frozen vegetables are always a good idea — but they're a real lifesaver when you have a new baby.
You've got the baby's meal plan covered (not much variety there!) but what about you? Even if you used to be a meticulous meal planner and prepper, sitting down to map out a week's worth of food — and finding a few free hours to shop and cook — can be hard as a new parent. Like, surprisingly hard.
But frozen veggies can help. You can stock up on big bags and stash them away without worrying they're gonna go bad before you can use them. And since they're already fully prepped, you don't have to waste precious minutes washing, peeling, or chopping.
Then when you find yourself with a block of free time (the baby is taking an awesome nap and you've already showered and it's not a laundry day!), the veggies are waiting for you to hit the ground running.
Except, what do you make?
Turns out, frozen vegetables are good for way more than throwing into the occasional stir-fry. Here are 12 easy, delicious ways to incorporate them into make-ahead meals that'll keep you nourished for days.
Do a Roast Veggie Tray
Surprise: You can totally roast frozen veggies — and they don't even need to be thawed first.
Spread the veggies evenly on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and your favorite seasonings, and bake them in a hot oven until soft and caramelized.
"A high heat, like 425°F (220°C), will help evaporate any condensation while they cook," says Amanda Frederickson, author of Simple Beautiful Food and a mom of two.
Use the finished product in grain bowls or omelets, tossed into pasta dishes, or as a simple side for chicken or fish.
Make a Kitchen-Sink Soup
Practically any mixture of veggies and protein becomes delicious and satisfying when simmered in a flavorful broth.
- shredded rotisserie chicken, frozen carrots and peas, and broken spaghetti in chicken broth
- diced frozen butternut squash, chickpeas, and brown rice in veggie broth
- premade mini meatballs and frozen spinach in beef broth
Toss Veggies Into a Quiche
Quiches are new parents' BFFs: They're easy to make (just mix, pour, and bake), packed with protein, and last for days in the fridge.
Best of all, they're delicious with just about any veggie, says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, author of "Smoothies and Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen" and mom of three.
Try folding in thawed frozen artichoke hearts or peas.
Try Veggie Fried Rice
That leftover white rice from the Chinese takeout you've been living off of? You can turn it into a killer main dish.
Sauté a cup of mixed frozen veggies with sesame oil and a splash of soy sauce and add a few beaten eggs, then fold in the rice. Let it cook on medium-high in a flat layer to let the bottom of the rice get a little browned, then stir and repeat a few times until the entire mixture is heated through and you've got plenty of crispy bits.
Power Up Quesadillas With Sweet Potatoes
Baking a whole sweet potato takes an hour, but you can sauté frozen, cubed sweet potatoes in a matter of minutes.
Cook up a package with Tex Mex-inspired seasonings like cumin and chili powder, then add them to quesadillas throughout the week, Largeman-Roth recommends.
Make Veggie Smoothie Packs
You probably already use frozen fruit for your smoothies, so why not toss a handful of veg in there?
"Adding frozen spinach or cauliflower is a great way to add a ton of nutrients to smoothies," says Frederickson. (And since the flavor is pretty neutral, you won't taste them.)
Make individual smoothie packs by filling plastic zip baggies each with:
- 1 diced banana
- 1/2 cup chopped frozen fruit (like berries or mango)
- 1/2 cup chopped frozen veggies
- a generous spoonful of nut butter
When you're ready to drink, just dump the ingredients into a blender with your milk of choice.
Sauté a Batch of Garlicky Greens
Spinach, kale, or collards all work here. Add a generous glug of olive oil and plenty of chopped garlic, plus a pinch of red pepper flakes if you like some heat.
Use these greens as a side dish for anything, stuff them into omelets, or pile them onto a baked potato and top with shredded cheese.
Make Taco Filling (That’s Good for More Than Just Tacos)
Those frozen Southwestern veggie blends with corn and bell pepper? They're awesome sautéed up with canned black beans, garlic, and some cumin or smoked paprika.
Make a big batch for stuffing into tortillas, stirring into scrambled eggs, or sprinkling on top of tortilla chips for healthy-ish nachos.
Make Broccoli Pesto for Pasta
Just because you don't have fresh basil on hand doesn't mean you can't have pesto.
Toss a cup of frozen thawed broccoli in the food processor with garlic, Parmesan, pine nuts or walnuts, and olive oil, and pulse to make a thick, pesto-like sauce that's ready for pasta whenever you are.
Add Frozen Spinach to Lasagna
Lasagna's the ultimate make-a-big-batch-and-freeze-for-later meal, and folding spinach into the cheese mixture is an easy way to get a serving of veggies.
To keep the lasagna from getting watery, sauté the spinach and squeeze out the excess liquid before adding it to the cheese, Frederickson recommends.
Do a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Veggie Curry
It's easier to make than you think — and you can adapt it to whatever you have on hand.
Sauté a package of mixed frozen vegetables until softened, then add red or green Thai curry paste (to taste) along with a can of coconut milk (add a splash of water or broth if the mixture seems thick).
Fold in any protein you'd like — cubed tofu, thawed frozen shrimp, or chicken breast cut into thin strips — and simmer until cooked.
Two Words: Grilled Cheese
Because sometimes you're not into making a big batch and just need to eat ASAP. A handful of veggies turns a buttery cheese sandwich into something sorta virtuous while only tacking a few minutes onto your total prep time.
Try diced cauliflower or broccoli florets with cheddar, spinach with mozzarella, or artichokes with goat cheese. Or if all you have on hand is green beans and plain old American cheese slices, go with that. It's all good.
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Kevin T. Smiley
When hurricanes and other extreme storms unleash downpours like Tropical Storm Beta has been doing in the South, the floodwater doesn't always stay within the government's flood risk zones.
New research suggests that nearly twice as many properties are at risk from a 100-year flood today than the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps indicate.
Flooding Outside the Zones<p>About <a href="https://furmancenter.org/files/Floodplain_PopulationBrief_12DEC2017.pdf" target="_blank">15 million</a> Americans live in FEMA's current 100-year flood zones. The designation warns them that their properties face a 1% risk of flooding in any given year. They must obtain flood insurance if they want a federally ensured loan – insurance that helps them recover from flooding.</p><p>In Greater Houston, however, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01840.x" target="_blank">47% of claims</a> made to FEMA across three decades before Hurricane Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood zones. Harris County, recognizing that FEMA flood maps don't capture the full risk, now <a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/floodinsurance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends that every household</a> in Houston and the rest of the county have flood insurance.</p><p>New risk models point to a similar conclusion: Flood risk in these areas outstrips expectations in the current FEMA flood maps.</p><p>One of those models, from the <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/2020-national-flood-risk-assessment-highlights/" target="_blank">First Street Foundation</a>, estimates that the number of properties at risk in a 100-year storm is 1.7 times higher than the FEMA maps suggest. Other <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aaac65" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers</a> find an even higher margin, with 2.6 to 3.1 times more people exposed to serious flooding in a 100-year storm than FEMA estimates.</p>
What FEMA’s Flood Maps Miss<p>Understanding why areas outside the 100-year flood zones are flooding more often than the FEMA maps suggest involves larger social and environmental issues. Three reasons stand out.</p><p>First, some places rely on relatively old FEMA maps that don't account for recent urbanization.</p><p>Urbanization matters because impervious surfaces – think pavement and buildings – are not effective sponges like natural landscapes can be. Moreover, the process for updating floodplain maps is locally variable and can take years to complete. Famously, New York City was updating its maps when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 but hadn't finished, meaning flood maps in effect <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/nyc-flood/" target="_blank">were from 1983</a>. FEMA is required to assess whether updates are needed every five years, but the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/cis/nation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">majority of maps</a> <a href="https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017/OIG-17-110-Sep17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are older</a>.</p><p>Second, binary thinking can lead people to an underaccounting of risk, and that can mean communities fail to take steps that could protect a neighborhood from flooding. The logic goes: if I'm not in the 100-year floodplain, then I'm not at risk. Risk perception <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab195a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> backs this up. FEMA-delineated flood zones are the major factor shaping flood mitigation behaviors.</p><p>Third, the era of climate change scuttles conventional assumptions.</p><p>As the planet warms, extreme storms are becoming <a href="https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank">more common and severe</a>. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at a high rate, computer models suggest that the chances of a severe storm dropping 20 inches of rain on Texas in any given year will increase from about 1% at the end of the last century to 18% at the end of this one, a chance of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716222114" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">once every 5.5 years</a>. So far, <a href="https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/195.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FEMA hasn't taken into account the impact climate change is having</a> on extreme weather and sea level rise.</p>
Racial Disparities in Flooding Outside the Zones<p>So, who is at risk?</p><p>Years of research and evidence from storms have highlighted social inequalities in areas with a high risk of flooding. But most local governments have less understanding of the social and demographic composition of communities that experience flood impacts outside of flood zones.</p><p>In analyzing the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, I found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aba0fe" target="_blank">Black and Hispanic residents disproportionately experienced flooding</a> in areas beyond FEMA's 100-year flood zones.</p><p>With the majority of flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurring outside of 100-year flood zones, this meant that the overall impact of Harvey was racially unequal too.</p><p>Research into where flooding occurs in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix points to some of the potential causes. <a href="https://www.nap.edu/read/25381/chapter/4#16" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In Baltimore and Chicago</a>, for example, aging storm and sewer infrastructure, poor construction and insufficient efforts to mitigate flooding are part of the flooding problem in some predominantly Black neighborhoods.</p>
What Can Be Done About It<p>Better accounting for those three reasons could substantively improve risk assessments and help cities prioritize infrastructure improvements and flood mitigation projects in these at-risk neighborhoods.</p><p>For example, First Street Foundation's risk maps account for <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/flood-model-methodology_overview/" target="_blank">climate change</a> and present <a href="https://floodfactor.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ratings</a> on a scale from 1 to 10. FEMA, which works with communities to update flood maps, is <a href="https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1521054297905-ca85d066dddb84c975b165db653c9049/TMAC_2017_Annual_Report_Final508(v8)_03-12-2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exploring rating systems</a>. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently <a href="https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2019/03/new-report-calls-for-different-approaches-to-predict-and-understand-urban-flooding" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a new generation of flood maps</a> that takes climate change into account.</p><p>Including recent urbanization in those assessments will matter too, especially in fast-growing cities like Houston, where <a href="https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1boBRyDvMFW6W" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">386 new square miles</a> of impervious surfaces were created in the last 20 years. That's greater than the land area of New York City. New construction in one area can also <a href="https://scalawagmagazine.org/2018/01/city-in-a-swamp-as-houston-booms-its-flood-problems-are-only-getting-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">impact older neighborhoods downhill</a> during a flood, as some Houston communities discovered in Hurricane Harvey.</p><p>Improving risk assessments is needed not just to better prepare communities for major flood events, but also to prevent racial inequalities – in housing and beyond – from <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">growing</a> after the unequal impacts of disasters.</p>
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