In addition to posting about grocery trips and meals during the Challenge, I’d also like to share with you some general tips that we think help us meet the Challenge.
My favourite aisle of the supermarket is the one that carries frozen vegetables. When I discovered it, I turned to Hide and said, ‘This is amazing!’ I’m just sorry I didn’t know about it when I was living by myself or when I was a college student.
Why are frozen vegetables the bomb? Because they strike the perfect balance between convenience, cost, taste and healthiness.
- They are already washed and chopped. Prepping is the most time-consuming part of cooking Asian vegetables, so I really appreciate this factor. They also keep [almost] forever, so you don’t need to plan ahead to prevent spoilage and waste.
- At $1 per 12 oz package, they are dead cheap. 12 oz feeds us 2-4 servings, depending on how delicious we find our preparation.
- Ah, you say, but aren’t frozen vegetables gross and mushy? True, I won’t deny it, there is definitely a deterioration in taste and texture. But different vegetables suffer to different degrees, and not overcooking is key (unless you’re making a dish where the vegetables are supposed to be overcooked, like stew). Given the other bonuses, I can compromise a little here.
- The less processed the food is, the more nutrients it retains (and the less fake it is). Freezing is about as minimally processed as you can get without buying fresh. Plus, veggies. Automatically super healthy, right?
We probably eat frozen veggies only once a week, because, I feel guilty eating them. They seem too convenient. I subconsciously believe that if it’s ‘good’, it must be ‘hard work’. So something must be wrong with frozen veggies because they’re too easy.
But so far, the only drawback my rational, conscious mind has been able to come up with is, ‘well, you shouldn’t have so much because you don’t want to get tired of the same old frozen veggies’. (As if I get any more variety from my fresh veggie selection. Fully half the fresh veggies I buy is Shanghai bok choy, and the rest are basically varieties of the exact same species.)
In the spirit of encouraging everybody to discover the wonders of frozen veggies, I leave you with two of our favourite recipes, which are, of course, dead simple.
Peas with honey and red wine vinegar
This recipe is adapted from/inspired by Jamie Oliver.
- Bring pot of water to boil.
- Dump in frozen peas. Keep heat on high.
- Meanwhile, prepare marinade. Lots of extra virgin olive oil (several good ‘lugs’, as Jamie Oliver would say), red wine vinegar (somewhat less than the EVOO), honey (a tablespoon-ish), salt and pepper. You can fix up the ratios after you’ve made this a few times. Be generous in the amounts of red wine vinegar and honey you use.
- As soon as the peas come to a boil, stop cooking and strain.
- Dump strained peas into marinade. Mix it up, cover it, let it stand until the rest of your meal is ready, then serve.
This recipe is based on good old Chinese cooking technique.
- Thaw frozen veggies (I do it in the microwave, 3 minutes on high, stir, then another 3 minutes). We use ‘stir-fry vegetables’, a mix of green beans, mushrooms, broccoli, etc. Pick up whatever frozen veggie pack looks good to you!
- Meanwhile, julienne some ginger and let it sizzle in some oil in the wok, heat about medium high. You want to hear sizzle, smell fragrance, but no charring.
- Once the ginger is just starting to caramelize around the edges, turn up the heat and dump in thawed veggies.
- Stir it up, season it (I just use salt). Most of the water should evaporate in a minute or two. Then it’s ready to serve. If you want to get even more traditional, dice up some scallions and sprinkle as garnish (I’m too lazy to do this).