Long before I became a naturopathic doctor, I loved to bake. Growing up in Southern California, we always had a lovely vegetable garden - my mom has always always always planted a garden. As I began to understand nutrition a little bit more and eventually became a naturopathic doctor, I learned how to healthify some of my favorite baked goods from the past. And I quickly learned that zucchini was a super-easy way to boost the nutrition of almost any dish. Side note - it was also one of the first foods I introduced to my babies.
Zucchini is sort of one of those innocuous vegetables that often gets overlooked in the grocery store, but not in the garden. Whether you tend your own vegetable garden or have neighbors that do, chances are you've had some of your greatest success growing zucchini squash. I've heard many claims that they seem to double in size overnight. The thing is, with zucchini, bigger really isn't better. It gets a bit mealy and quite honestly loses most of its flavor. So, while impressive in nature, avoid the monster zucchini when it comes to eating it.
Here's a fun fact about zucchini. It's not really a vegetable. It's actually classified botanically as a fruit. Truthfully, it doesn't really matter because it's still awesome and again, flies under the radar nutritionally. Here's what you get with zucchini:
Zucchini is naturally low in calories - only about 17 calories per cup cooked zucchini. It's a particular decent natural source of vitamin A as well as manganese, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, folate, vitamin K, copper, vitamins B1, B6, and phosphorus. It contains the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, which are particularly important for healthy eyes, vision, heart health, and skin.
It contains both soluble and insoluble fiber as well as a high water content - making it a really great food for healthy digestion. The fiber content is also good when it comes to stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Before we get into recipe details, here are some generally very easy things you can do with zucchini:
1. Summertime Ratatouille
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 each garlic cloves, minced
½ medium eggplant, thinly sliced and cut into quarters
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 small zucchini, chopped
1 pound tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 dash black pepper
Garnish: Fresh rosemary (optional)
Optional: French bread, Ciabatta, or rice
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add eggplant and additional olive oil and cook another five minutes. Stir in bell peppers, and cook the mixture again for another few minutes. Stir in the zucchini and tomatoes. Cover the skillet and place over low heat, simmering an additional five to eight minutes (stirring occasionally). Stir in fresh basil and remaining spices. Turn off heat. Serve warm with French bread, Ciabatta or atop rice.
2. Zucchini Burgers
1 pound ground organic/natural turkey
3/4 cup shredded zucchini
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon all-purpose seasoning (or favorite seasoning that does not include MSG)
a few dashes of garlic powder
3 roasted red bell peppers
1/4 cup plain organic Greek yogurt (I often use Sheep's milk yogurt)
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
pinch of salt and pepper
Combine all of the turkey burger ingredients and stir until well mixed. Form four patties. Cook over low heat on indoor grilling pan coated with cooking oil spray. Cover lightly. Cook on each side about 4 to 5 minutes until burgers are cooked through.
For the sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a small blender and puree until smooth.
Serve burgers topped with sauce or serve the sauce on the side.
3. Grain-Free Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
About 8 servings
2 cups almond flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour
2 scoops Healthy Skoop Daily Protein Powder (vanilla)
½ cup coconut sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup coconut oil (melted) (or substitute melted ghee, butter, or olive oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini (about 3 medium) (drained of excess moisture by squeezing in a dish towel or paper towels)
1/3 cup dairy-free mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9x5 loaf pan with cooking oil spray and line with parchment paper.
In a medium-size bowl, mix together dry ingredients (almond flour through nutmeg). In a separate large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl. Stir in dry ingredients, then fold in zucchini, and chocolate chips. Pour into prepared loaf pan.
Bake 50 to 60 minutes (center rack) or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool at least 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaf from pan; remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
4. Zucchini Pancakes
About 4 servings
2 cups grated zucchini, drained
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
1/2 cup all-purpose gluten-free Flour mix (I use Pamela's)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pinch dried oregano
1/4 cup olive or avocado oil
1/4 cup chopped green onions
3/4 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Drain grated zucchini with paper towels to remove moisture. Stir zucchini, eggs, and onion in a large bowl. Mix flour, Parmesan cheese, baking powder, salt, and oregano in a separate bowl; stir mixture into zucchini until batter is just moistened.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop rounded spoonfuls of zucchini batter into hot oil; cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain pancakes on a paper towel-lined plate.
Mix together the green onions with the yogurt, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve a dollop of this sauce on top of each pancake or in a bowl on the side.
5. Zoodles with Cashew Pesto
This dish is made easier with a spiralizer! You may substitute any other squash or carrots or beets for the zucchini OR you may use your choice of pasta.
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove of garlic
1/4 cup of water
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
2 medium-size zucchini – shredded or spiralized
2 tablespoons pine nuts
added vegetables of choice – broccoli, cauliflower, kale, carrots
Add pesto ingredients into a high-speed blender or food processor. Blend until the sauce is nice and creamy, adding more or less water or olive oil to desired consistency.
Toss spiralized zucchini “noodles” with pesto, one tablespoon at a time until well coated. You can serve this dish raw or heat it up until the noodles are tender, adding other fresh or cooked vegetables as desired.
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