With summer sports gearing up and the end of the school year craziness coming, we have been a busy bunch of people lately! I’ve been trying my best to get in front of it all by making sure sports equipment, clothes and other necessities are packed and ready to go before we have to run out the door and having a plan of what food will be made what night based on what activity is happening.
Last week I was in the frozen foods section at the grocery store and saw a bag of pre-chopped, seasoned base vegetables (celery, red and green peppers, and onions) that was pretty inexpensive and promised to be ready in about five minutes. Being that we had swimming and baseball practice on the same three nights next week with only an hour in between I was definitely looking for food shortcuts that didn’t involve take out. So was this frozen wonder too good to be true or the time-saving wizard of busy weeknights everywhere? I decided to check it out.
I planned to use the vegetable mix in a simple skillet dish that includes the veggies, rice and turkey kielbasa with pepper jack cheese. I wanted to make a simple dish because A. it was a busy weeknight dish and I didn’t have time to fuss and B. I wanted the seasoning in the vegetable to be the star so I could taste what “seasoned” meant to the makers of the veggies and truly determined if these veggies were a time saver or waster. With my skillet in hand, I set to work.
I added a bit of olive oil to the skillet and once it was hot and sizzled when a bit of water dripped in, I added the frozen vegetables (still frozen per the instructions)and read that the vegetables would be cooked through in four minutes. Well, it took them about four minutes to even break apart from the frozen block they began as so I guessed that four minutes to done was not in the cards. While they were cooking, I noticed that they began to stop sizzling and realized that the veggies were giving off so much water that they were doing an awkward steam more than a sauté. This was not how I wanted the vegetables to be prepared, so I decided to strain some of the water out of the skillet. 1/4 cup of water later, I finally got back the sizzle in the pan I was looking for. I added the kielbasa to the skillet to warm it up and give it a bit of brown. I did this after about nine minutes from the time the frozen block was added. The vegetables were still not crisping up much and appeared to be cooked, but wet and sort of limp. I added the rice, gave it a final warm up and tossed on a bit of salt and pepper and served.
The seasoning in the vegetables was barely present and made the whole dish sort of bland. It was not bad tasting as the kielbasa had great flavor and the vegetables themselves had a bit of life, but this was not what I expected at all. Still it was fast and edible, so we ate it and then went on our way.
My verdict? These pre-chopped veggie mixes may work well in some dishes but are not seasoned well so be ready to punch it up on your own. I can see myself using these on rare occasions in the future but I will probably stick to chopping up my own veggies and cooking them in butter with salt and pepper for flavor. So tell me, have you used frozen pre-chopped vegetables similar to this? Did you love them a lot or not so much? Do you have any tips or tricks on what dishes/situations these type of meal-starter kits can be used for?