Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Karen Rankin; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

The frozen vegetable aisle may just be your saving grace when it comes to a getting a quick meal on the table. 

Briana Riddock
September 05, 2017

When you are busy and need to make sure there is some sort of green veggie on your kids’ plate at dinner, frozen vegetables come to the rescue. The rule that fresh is always best, has left a dim light on the convenience of frozen vegetables, especially broccoli. Obviously, we love fresh broccoli for stir-frying, roasting, and even eating raw, but there a handful of clever ways to utilize fresh’s frozen counterpart on those nights when you have to pull a meal out of your hat, despite limited time and resources, like the kitchen magician you are. The benefit of frozen vegetables is that most of them are harvested during peak season and are flash frozen to protect the nutrients and prevent further aging. Feel at ease knowing that healthy perks are still intact when opting for frozen broccoli over fresh. Here are a few easy inspirations where you can swap for frozen broccoli without damaging the integrity of the dish:       

Casseroles 

The first thing that comes to mind when using frozen broccoli is to toss it into a cheesy casserole dish that you can assemble and bake with just a few steps. Back in the day, when Picadilly Cafeteria was my family’s dinner go-to spot, they made this killer broccoli and cheese rice casserole that I’ve found to can be easily replicated at home. Just toss in some shredded store-bought rotisserie chicken to make it a heartier dish that works as a main. Instant boil-in-bag rice also help to speed up the process of bringing this comforting dish together. A couple of other frozen broccoli-friendly casseroles worth considering include Mom's Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Casserole and our Broccoli and Rice Casseroles recipes. 

Pasta

Bucatini Aglio e Olio image

Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Karen Rankin; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

When you throw on a pot of water on the stove for boiling pasta, go ahead and double the utility and use the same pot of water to defrost and steam frozen broccoli. The broccoli + pasta combination, with the addition of other favorite pasta night components like sausage and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, is a perfect dinner equation. For example, in this Orecchiette with Broccoli, Tomatoes and Sausage, you stir in a can of diced tomatoes with it’s juice to creates a quick and light tomato sauce. Or if you wanna keep things on the simple side, just toss broccoli and pasta shells together with a heaping spoonful of creamy ricotta cheese and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. If you’ve yet to add bucatini noodles to your repertoire of beloved pasta shapes, they’re definitely worth trying in this Bucatini Aglio e Olio—a traditional dish flavored with red chili flakes and anchovies, and brightened here with the addition of the green veggie of the hour. The frozen broccoli is roasted and charred in the oven at a high temperature and tossed in with the other ingredients, delivering deep and delicious flavor. The bucatini noodles’ signature is that they are jumbo sized with a hollow hole running through the them, making for the perfect tube for sauce to creep in. They’re a great swap when you want to mix it up from ordinary spaghetti noodles.     

WATCH: How to Make Broccoli and Rice Casseroles

 

Pesto   

Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Styling: Gerri Williams for James Reps

A brilliant way to disguise broccoli as something other than, well, broccoli is to grind it in the food processor to make a pesto. Boil your broccoli in water to defrost and soften it first, then process it with garlic, olive oil, and fresh herbs (such as basil), if you like. Your once-frozen florets are transformed into a creamy sauce when you stir in a little cream and Parmesan.     

Stir-Fry 

Photo: Romulo Yanes

A quick stir-fry and a few drops of soy sauce does wonders for a bag of frozen broccoli. Serve Broccoli and Beef with Oyster Sauce over a warm bed of jasmine rice. Feel free to substitute the beef with chicken, shrimp, or tofu if you’d rather. Another thought: Turn your day-old rice into fried rice with the addition of a fried egg stirred in, then just toss in some steamed broccoli for a pop of green goodness.   

Pizza

Photo: Jennifer Causey Styling: Lindsey Lower

Making pizza at home is always a good time to get your kids or significant other involved in the kitchen. Assign one person roll out the dough, and another one can spread the sauce and cheese. Top your pizza with frozen broccoli that you slightly warm in the microwave to defrost and wrap in paper towels to squeeze out excess liquid. Toast your dough on the grill to get a few char marks and pair the broccoli with bacon for the toppings. Or if you want a more deep dish-style pizza, add the dough to a deep cast-iron skillet and make a Broccoli-Bacon Skillet Pizza. Or heck, go crazy and stuff the dough instead to make Broccoli, Cheddar, and Ranch Chicken Calzones. It’s your choice, do what feels right; with frozen broccoli standing behind you, the possibilities are truly endless. 

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