With sports practice, late conference calls, and toddler meltdowns, getting a well-rounded dinner on the table can feel like a Herculean feat. Any shortcut that helps make a home cooked weeknight meal possible — especially a nutritious one — is like gold.

One of my favorite shortcuts is cooking with frozen vegetables. Nothing can replace fresh, in-season produce, but frozen veggies pack in all of the same nutrition and can be a huge time saver (no prep!). See for yourself with these five genius ways to use frozen vegetables for dinner.

Related: 5 kid-friendly dinners you can cook straight from the freezer.

 

5 genius ways to use frozen vegetables

But first, a quick tip: For easy thawing, I like to place frozen veggies in a strainer and rinse with water. Or warm them in a microwave-safe bowl or saucepan (a little butter never hurts).

 

5 genius ways to use frozen vegetables: Whole wheat pasta with broccoli | Jane Sweeney for Cool Mom Eats

1. Balance Pasta

Add frozen peas, broccoli, or another favorite green to boiling pasta water near the end of cooking and you’re already on your way to a balanced dinner. Spinach and peas take mere seconds to cook, but give heartier greens like broccoli or green beans a couple minutes more. Bonus points if you use whole-wheat pasta.

5 genius ways to use frozen vegetables for faster, easier weeknight meals: Kitchen Sink Chinese Stir Fry | The Beader Chef

2. Boost Stir-Frys

The Kitchen Sink Chinese Stir Fry at The Beader Chef is both flexible and fast cooking, both ideal traits for midweek meals. The recipe works with a mix of fresh and frozen vegetables, or all frozen if that’s how you want to roll. Start freezing leftover rice and this dinner will come together lickety-split.

 

5 genius ways to use frozen vegetables for faster, easier weeknight meals: 5-Minute Pantry "Salad" | Photo © Jane Sweeney for Cool Mom Eats

3. Compose a Five-Minute Pantry “Salad”

Thaw some frozen edamame and corn to mix with black beans (rinsed, please) and whatever else you fancy. I like chopped bell peppers, cilantro, red onion, and avocado, myself. Then toss this no-cook salad with a light dressing; my family likes a mix of oil, salt, cumin, and fresh lime juice.

Related: Freezer meals that save us on busy back-to-school nights.

 

5 genius ways to use frozen vegetables for faster, easier weeknight dinners: Pressure Cooker Hamburger Stew | Two Sleevers

4. Upgrade Soups and Stews

As soon as the leaves start to fall, my Dutch oven comes out and it’s stew time. Chilis are my go-to and I’m putting The Pressure Cooker Hamburger Stew at Two Sleevers on next week’s meal plan. All of the ingredients are items typically found in the pantry, and the frozen vegetables can pretty much be anything you like.

 

5 genius ways to use frozen vegetables for faster, easier weeknight dinners: Easy Mexican Red Rice | The Cake Chica

5. Fortify Comfort Foods

Rice and beans, mac and cheese — a lot of our favorite comfort foods pair wonderfully with extra veggies added in. The Easy Mexican Red Rice at The Cake Chica is a great example of a weeknight vegetarian dish that benefits from a frozen veg medley. Add some beans or even frozen shrimp for an extra dose of protein.

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