Turns out, I actually don’t care for yellow summer squash. Who knew? Because they are very commonly served together I had no idea I actually love zucchini. Going along with my typical behavior, an obsession began. All summer long I purchased 2 zucchini a week and looked for recipes to prepare it. After trying many different things I thought I would share three of my favorite recipes!
Because this blog should probably be at least a little bit educational, let’s learn a few things.
Zucchini is a type of summer squash and is actually a fruit, which may come up sometime when you are playing Trivial Pursuit so you can thank me later. In a culinary sense it is usually served as a vegetable, thus the tricky question. It is a very low calorie vegetable that is often used during weight reduction and cholesterol control programs. Each zucchini has only 17 calories! They contain no saturated fats or cholesterol. Its peel is good source of dietary fiber that helps reduce constipation and offers some protection against colon cancers. Zucchini is a very good source of potassium, which is a heart friendly electrolyte. It helps reduce blood pressure and heart rates by countering the effects of sodium. Zucchinis are available all year long, but they are at their best during late spring and summer seasons.
Here are some helpful hints for choosing a zucchini when shopping. In the stores choose small to medium sized zucchini featuring shiny, bright green skin. It should be firm and heavy in your hand. The best size for zucchini is 6 to 8 inches long and 2 inches or less in diameter. They can be stored in your fridge for 2 to 3 days If you are looking for an easy suggestion try eating it raw in a salad or with a dip, mix it with other vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, asparagus and green beans or shredded and added to breads or muffins.
Here are my three favorite zucchini recipes!
Summer Tortellini Salad
I pinned the original recipe to Pinterest from a great blog called Real Mom Kitchen. You can find the original recipe here http://realmomkitchen.com/2766/summer-tortellini-salad/
I’ve prepared this recipe using low fat store bought ranch dressing. I’ve also purchased the Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning packet and made the dressing with skim milk and plain Greek yogurt. Both are great depending on how much time you have and how health conscious you are feeling.
1 pkg. (9 oz.) uncooked refrigerated or frozen cheese-filled tortellini
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup you’re favorite ranch dressing
Parmesan cheese – to taste
- Cook tortellini according to package directions, drain and rinse under cold running water. Place tortellini in a large colander and set aside.
- Meanwhile, slice zucchini. chop carrot(s). Cut tomatoes in half.
- Add vegetables to tortellini.
- Either make salad dressing or pour store bought dressing over salad. Grate parmesan cheese over salad. cover; refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Yield: 6 servings
Zucchini Rice Casserole
You can find the original recipe here: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/zucchini_rice_casserole.html
I first discovered this recipe when I was meal planning for the week of my half marathon this past spring. I was looking for a way to incorporate healthy carbs into my diet for the week. It’s delicious and the pepper jack cheese gives it just the right kick. I’ve made the entire recipe and then frozen half of it and twice I’ve halved the recipe and that worked out great as well. One time, in an effort to make the recipe more healthy I decided not to add the cream cheese at the end. Huge mistake. So run an extra mile, do a few more jumping jacks, whatever makes you feel better about it. Just don’t skip the cream cheese.
The original recipe calls for 2 hours preparation time and who has time for that?! Below is how I modified the original recipe to make it work for me.
1 1/2 cups long-grain brown rice
¼ cup water
4 cups diced zucchini
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese, divided
1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) corn kernels
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces ground turkey
4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Pour rice into a microwave safe dish and cook according to microwave preparation instructions
- Dice zucchini and set aside
- Meanwhile, whisk milk and flour in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until bubbling and thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add 1 1/2 cups Jack cheese and corn and cook, stirring, until the cheese is melted. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add ground turkey. Cook, stirring and breaking the sausage into small pieces with a spoon, until lightly browned and no longer pink, about 4 minutes.
- When the rice is done, pour into the bottom of an 11 x 13 casserole dish. Add ground turkey, uncooked zucchini and top with cheese sauce. Dollop cream cheese by the teaspoonful over the casserole.
- I removed the chicken broth from this recipe so I usually pour about ¼ cup water over the casserole to keep it moist while baking.
- Bake casserole in the oven until the cheese is melted and top is beginning to brown. about 30-40 minutes. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.
Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chips
I made this bread for a friend who just had a baby and she described it as “ah-mazing” so I had to share it. I follow this one according to the directions, but I do prefer to bake with mini chocolate chips instead of the regular size.
3/4 cup low-fat milk
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2 small zucchini)
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
- Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla in a medium bowl. Stir in zucchini. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients and chocolate chips to the dry ingredients; stir until just combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.
- Bake until golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Let cool for at least 1 hour before slicing.
http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/100-ways-to-cook-zucchini.html for 100 ways to cook zucchini.
Main dish, side dish and dessert….I highly recommend you hop on board the zucchini boat before the weather gets too chilly!