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Freezing - Mary Liz
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Freezing Fall Foods


If you are waiting on some fall crops to harvest or are able to find a great batch of seasonal fruits and veggies in your local stores, consider freezing them at home for longer storage.

After a while, fresh produce eventually becomes soft, mushy, and will not be enjoyable to eat or use in recipes. Freezing can extend the shelf life of your foods and give you a nutritious option when fresh is not at its peak.

To get started, head to the National Center for Home Food Preservation and read information on their Freezing page. See their directions for some common autumn foods: Apples, Brussels sprouts, Greens (including spinach), Broccoli, Mushrooms, Pomegranates, Sweet Potatoes, and Winter Squash and Pumpkin.

Also check out UI Extension' freezing videos on YouTube with What's Cooking? with Mary Liz. There are videos on freezing peaches, strawberries, blueberries, and green beans.

Some tips:

  • Gather all your equipment ahead of time so you can move quickly. Mary Liz shows you what pieces will be helpful in her video on freezing equipment.
  • Do not skip the blanching steps included in the directions. Fresh produce have enzymes that help in developing the crop, but also aid in decomposition. If you do not destroy these enzymes before freezing, fruits and veggies have off flavors and textures once thawed.
  • Frozen fruits and veggies have a shelf-life of 8-12 months.
  • Keep your freezer at 0°F or lower.
  • The faster foods freeze, the better quality you get. Setting your freezer to -10°F or lower about 24 hours before you plan to freeze produce can help those foods freeze faster.
  • Do not overload your freezer. Leave some space so air can move around food.

For other information on freezing fruits, vegetables, and other foods, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Spinach Lasagna (Serves 8)

Frozen spinach contains a lot of water.  Be sure to squeeze as much out as you can before adding to the recipe.

2 tsp olive oil or canola oil
2 garlic cloves minced
1 can (8-ounce) "no salt added" tomato sauce
1 can (16-ounce) diced tomatoes
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
2 tsp olive oil or canola oil
1/4 cup chopped onions
1 package (10-ounce) fresh spinach, washed, stemmed, and chopped or 1 package (10-ounce) frozen chopped, spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess liquid
1 box (8-ounce) uncooked lasagna noodles
12 ounces 1% fat cottage cheese or 12 ounces reduced-fat ricotta cheese
8 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat baking dish with cooking spray.
2. In large saucepan over low heat, sauté garlic in two teaspoons olive oil over low heat for one minute. Do not let garlic brown. Add tomato sauce and tomatoes, pepper and oregano. Simmer gently over low heat, uncovered, while preparing other ingredients.
3. In large skillet over low heat, sauté onions in remaining two teaspoons olive oil, stirring constantly, until onions are transparent but not brown. Add chopped spinach, stirring constantly.
4. Layer uncooked lasagna noodles, sauce, spinach mixture, cottage cheese, and mozzarella in baking pan. Repeat, using all ingredients, ending with a layer of sauce. Sprinkle top with Parmesan cheese.
5. Cover baking dish tightly with foil. Bake for 1 hour at 375° or until lasagna noodles are cooked. If noodles are cooked before assembling lasagna, bake uncovered and reduce baking time to 25 minutes.)

Nutritional analysis per serving: 273 calories, 9g fat, 746mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 19g protein

Recipe from University of Illinois Extension, Recipes for Diabetes website

Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.



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