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Which is Better Fresh or Frozen?

Frozen fruits and vegetables take a lot of heat because most people assume that if it’s frozen it must be of a lesser quality and nutritional value than the same items fresh in the produce department.

Is it true? Is fresh really better than frozen? And if so, is the difference great enough to spend more money to make sure we’re always eating fresh fruits and vegetables?

According to nutritionist Cynthia Sass, RD, frozen foods get a bad rap for being processed junk, but the truth is, some of the healthiest foods in the market are in the freezer section.

MATURITY. Ask any nutritionist and you’ll learn that the minute a fruit or vegetable is picked, it begins to lose nutrients. The amount of time between harvesting you eat it impacts its nutritional value. Because most frozen fruits and vegetables are frozen shortly after they are harvested, those items scheduled for flash freezing are allowed to fully ripen. That means they are chock full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Freezing actually “locks in” many of their nutrients.

On the other hand, much of the fresh produce in your supermarket was harvested 1,500 miles away—much of it in South America—and had to travel by truck to get to the store. It may have been picked before it reached its nutritional peak, then artificially ripened during transport.

NUTRITION. Frozen produce has been proven to be just as nutrient-rich, even superior to fresh, retaining most of their antioxidants and vitamins.

Scientists from Leatherhead Food Research and University of Chester, carried out 40 tests to measure nutrient levels in produce that had been sitting in a fridge for three days, compared to frozen equivalents. They found more beneficial nutrients overall in the frozen samples, in everything from broccoli to blueberries.

Of course, eating newly picked produce within minutes of harvest is the healthiest option. However, frozen can be almost as good and is often better than items sold as “fresh,” because unless you pick it yourself, you have no idea how long it has been since that produce was harvested.

ADDITIVE-FREE. Frozen goodies like spinach and strawberries have no additives because freezing preserves food—additives are not necessary to preserve quality. “Naked” produce (e.g. no added salt or sugar) is the norm. That’s why frozen fruits and vegetables carry a single word ingredient lists—just the fruit or veggie itself. Always check the ingredients, but I bet you’ll find at least a dozen varieties in the freezer aisle with absolutely nothing added.

CONVENIENCE. Even the freshest produce comes with a requirement of prepping. Sometimes that extra time requirement is just too much at the end of a stressful day. Know the feeling? Frozen produce, however, magically preps itself. It comes washed, peeled and chopped. Frozen produce can save you a ton of time, making it more likely that you’ll cook and eat at home rather than opting for take out.

Rejoice! March is the best time of the year to load up the freezer because frozen foods are on sale at their lowest prices of the year during National Frozen Food Month.

Why I Can’t Bring Myself to Buy Salad Greens in a Bag

I don’t buy bagged double- or triple-wash or any other variety of prepared salad greens that come in a plastic clamshell or bag. But not be for the reasons you might assume.

It’s not because I’m overly concerned that bacteria might make it through all that pre-washing in a chlorinated bath (although tests conducted by Consumer Reports did find bacteria that are common indicators of poor sanitation and fecal contamination, when they tested 4,000 samples of all kinds of packaged greens from baby greens to spinach, traditional and organic). As creepy as that is to think about, the report assures that the contamination falls within the FDA’s acceptable levels.

It’s not even my concerns about just how long ago these greens were cut and washed. Granted, I am not a fan of limp, tired-appearing romaine, iceberg lettuce or cabbage. And even though I am a believer that once you wash, cut and prepare any kind of fresh produce—be it fruit or vegetables—the flavor and quality begin to degrade, that’s not it either.

How to Use Meal Kits to Cut Your Food Costs

Faithful readers will recall that my husband and I have been testing and enjoying one of the popular meal kit delivery services.

Since writing about that (see Dinner-in-a-Box is Not at All What I Thought) I’ve gotten the most interesting feedback! But first, a quick review:

From the meal kit delivery services currently available, I selected Home Chef because 1) our zip code is in its delivery area—nearly 90% of the country is, 2) it is the cheapest and 3) I predicted it would be the most family-friendly. Turns out I nailed it. Home Chef meals are absolutely delicious and use normal, fresh food—not exotic fare or ingredients we’ve never heard of and can’t pronounce.

A Home Chef meal kit includes all of the fresh ingredients and instructions needed to cook restaurant-quality meals for 2, 4 or 6 people in the comfort of your own kitchen, eliminating recipe searches and food shopping by sending everything required for that meal—perfectly portioned and ready to go. Seriously, Home Chef is like having your own personal sous chef.

Best Instant Pot Tips, Recipes and Accessories

Last week I turned to use my microwave oven only to have it glare at me with a fatal error message in its little display screen. What?!

I googled “Whirlpool” plus the error code and learned that the cost to replace the electronics that had blown out would be far greater than replacing the whole thing. Great. But not this week. Surely, I could get along without a microwave until some more convenient time to replace it, right? Wrong!

Every time I turned around it seemed I was reaching for that microwave. Within a couple of hours I realized that a microwave oven has become a staple item that is quite necessary in my typical American kitchen. But it wasn’t always that way.

I remember in 1971 when roughly 1% of households in America had a microwave oven. Most everyone liked the idea but it was also terrifying. The fear was radiation and the danger of standing within five feet of the thing and getting nuked. In 2017 a microwave oven is a minimum requirement.

Here’s my take: Instant Pot is the future’s “microwave.” While the Instant Pot company can barely keep up with the demand having sold more than 50,000,000 units so far, many people are still fearful that a pressure cooker is going to blow a hole in the roof, set the house on fire or any other number of irrational fears. Sure, pressure cookers are nothing new, but Instant Pot has taken this fabulous way of cooking to new levels of technology and safety.

Soon, I predict, Instant Pot will become an ordinary basic  kitchen appliance. New homes will come with Instant Pot built into the countertop. Top-of-the line cooktops will come complete with Instant Pot. And we’ll laugh about the days when people were afraid.

Instant Pot comes with an owner manual and recipe book. Both should be considered required reading but honestly, I found them to be unbearably boring while only marginally useful. What follows are the websites, tips, tricks and accessories that put me onto the fast track to falling in love with my Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W. I was cooking dinner the very first day, that’s how doable it is to master Instant Pot.

QUICK START

Perform the Instant Pot Water Test. Do not skip this.

Dinner-in-a-Box is Not at All What I Thought!

Over the past year or so I’ve been hearing a lot about a new way to get dinner on the table. Every month or so another one of these meal kit delivery services would contact me to give it a try.

Seriously? Who in their right mind would trust seafood, meat and produce from some unknown assembly plant, piled onto a loading dock then moved into the back of an unrefrigerated FedEx truck for who knows how long and until some delivery guy leaves it on the porch?

The whole idea sounded ridiculously expensive, if not just plain gross. I didn’t need to test the obvious so I did what comes all too naturally for me: I jumped to conclusions. Turns out I was way off base and so wrong. Today I’m here to come clean and set the record straight.

Several weeks ago I casually mentioned the meal kit option for super busy households. I had just started testing one of these meal kit services. I determined that Home Chef is the least expensive and invited two other families to help me test. I set out to get a true, unbiased picture of how this works and what it’s all about. I needed honest, real-life feedback.

One of my testers was a young bachelor in California—a very picky eater with limited cooking skills. The other, a local family of four with two children ages 7 and 2.

Super Quick and Easy Valentine Sweets and Treats

Let me break this to you gently: Valentine’s Day is next Tuesday. This is Friday. Get the picture?

Thankfully, there’s a big beautiful weekend between now and then—plenty of time to make a few of these fabulous treats and sweets!

Mini pies in a jar.  Could there be a better gift for co-workers, neighbors, friends, teachers and any number of other people than a single-serving, mini pie in a small jar? I think not! I have detailed written detailed instructions including recipes here:  The Perfect Small Gift: Pie in a Jar. It really is quite easy and the results are fabulous! I’ve been making these adorable single-serving pies for some time now, and it really is so much fun. Who can resist a small pie in a jar, right?

Quick and Easy Designer Muffins

Tired of high-fat, high-cost fast-food breakfasts? I’ve got a fantastic solution: Quick and easy designer muffins.

With a little improvising, you can make and serve scrumptious muffins in a variety of flavors to make use of (and use up) ingredients you have on hand. Use this basic muffin recipe to get started then refer to the options that follow.

ORANGE MUFFINS

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons applesauce
  • 1/2 cup peeled and chopped fresh orange

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray or with paper liners. (Look HERE to learn how to make your own Tulip muffin papers from parchment paper.) In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.

In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, egg, honey, butter and applesauce. Mix well. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, add the oranges and stir to combine. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Yield: 12 muffins.

Optional Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice, or as needed

In a small bowl, whisk sugar with orange zest and orange juice until smooth. Spread on muffins while still warm.

Food Cost-Cutting Strategies for Every Lifestyle

Ever wonder why you never have enough money to save? I’m talking about consistent, regular deposits out of every paycheck that go straight into a savings account. Maybe it’s time to consider that you’re handing over your savings to local restaurants, drive-thrus, diners and coffee shops. Think about it.

What if you didn’t eat out so often? What if you were strategic in buying basic ingredients and then cooking great meals at home? What if you had all of that money tucked away in a savings account rather than the coffers of local eating joints?

No matter your lifestyle, I am confident that with the right strategies, you really can reduce the amount of money you’re spending on food.

MORE TIME THAN MONEY

If yours is a single-income household struggling to survive in a two-income world, keeping food on the table and the bills paid can be quite a challenge. The good news is that time is on your side. The one not working outside the home has the time—it takes time to carry out the best strategies—to keep the cost at rock bottom without sacrificing quality.