Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Zucchini, Zucchini, Zucchini

On The Stove:  It's that time of year - the time when the zucchini plants go WILD!  Every winter, I dream of fresh zucchini - can't wait to taste it, to savor it!  And by mid-July, August, I'm so sick of it, I can hardly stand the sight of them!

If you garden, you know what I'm talking about.  I'm having a hard time getting my tomatoes to set - but not the zucchini.  So each year, I try new recipes, try to find some other way to prepare zucchini.  So I thought I'd share a few of my favorite ways to cook (and eat) zucchini.  Most of these are really simple - I don't do "fancy" food.  Even if I did, My Love wouldn't eat it.

1) My absolute FAVORITE way to eat zucchini:

ZUCCHINI BREAD!  I haven't met a single person who doesn't love this stuff!  I make large batches of it - and like Blue Bell says - eat all we can and sell the rest - no really, I just freeze the rest - makes for a super-yummy treat when I'm craving zucchini in the winter.  Also, this is a great way to use that zucchini that got away from you and is now the size of a baseball bat...Here's the recipe I use:

(From the Harper Sesquicentennial Cookbook, recipe submitted by Darla Anderegg Boone (a relative of mine), originated by Jo (Mrs. Carlton Wright)).

3 eggs
1 C. oil (I use coconut oil)
2 C. sugar
2 C. grated zucchini (about 1 med. zucchini)
2 t. vanilla
3 C. flour
1 t. soda
1/4 t. salt
3 t. cinnamon
1 C. nuts (I use pecans)

Preheat oven to 325.  Beat eggs, add oil, sugar, grated zucchini and vanilla, beating well between each addition.  Sift together flour, soda, salt and cinnamon.  Add to first mixture.  Add nuts.  Bake in loaf pan (makes 2 small loaves) or, my favorite, in muffin tins.

Also, you can use this recipe to make a zucchini bread roll (like a pumpkin roll).  Here's my recipe for that:

(adapted from Tasty Kitchen Harvest Pumpkin Roll by LadyInRed)

Use above recipe for Zucchini bread.  Grease and flour jelly roll pan (I just use Baker's Joy spray).  Smooth mixture into jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides).  Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let cool for 10 minutes. Slide a knife gently around the edges to loosen.  Hold a clean dishtowel over the top of the pan and quickly invert the cake on top of the dishtowel (this is harder than it sounds).  Remove the pan, making sure the cake is completely removed from pan.  Dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar to prevent sticking.  Starting with the short end, gently roll the cake with the towel and let cool completely.

Cream Cheese Filling:

8 oz Cream Cheese, softened
4 Tbsp. Butter
1 C. powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Beat softened cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Gently unroll cake and spread the filling. Re-roll cake (without the towel this time!).  Chill before serving!  (Note:  This cake also freezes well when properly wrapped to prevent frostbite!)

Note:  I love to use this Cream Cheese Filling recipe as a frosting for zucchini bread muffins as well - SUPER-yummy!

 2)  Freezing Zucchini

This is an easy way to preserve zucchini that you will eat as-is.  Last year I tried to grate the zucchini, then freeze for use in Zucchini bread later.  It didn't work...trust me on this. 

However, I did put up a LOT of zucchini as baby food last year as well.  I simply steamed it (either in a dish with some water in the microwave or in a steamer on the stove).  Then I pureed it, poured it in ice cube trays, and then froze it.  Popping out the cubes after freezing, then storing in a gallon ziploc bag.  (refer to my tutorial on making homemade baby food).  This was some of Baby Girl's first "real" food.

This year, however, I've found a new friend.  Ziploc brand Steamer Bags.  HEAVEN!  They are SO easy!  Just slice the zucchini, put it in the bag, and microwave according to the time on the bags (about 5 minutes).  They are SO great!  The zucchini is steamed, but not watery - it is still firm enough to stay together and not turn into mush!  Even though the bag says not to reuse - I do it anyway.  Give the bag a little wash, hang dry, and reuse!  These work great when you have a bunch to do because it takes so little time.  I let the zucchini cool, then put into a FoodSaver bag, vacuum and seal - and freeze!  I sometimes put onion in with them when I steam - makes for a yummy flavor!

3) Dehydrating Zucchini

This year is my first attempt at dehydrating zucchini.  It honestly never crossed my mind until I ran across the idea in a blog.  We love to dehydrate apples when I catch them on sale.  This works great for easy, compact storage (especially when you run out of room in the freezer).  Since mold occurs with moisture, removing the moisture means the zucchini will not go bad (or at least not nearly as fast).

First, wash your zucchini, then quarter it, lengthwise.

Chop into small pieces and layer (heavily) on your dehydrator.  They shrink up considerably.

My dehydrator has specific settings for meats, vegetables, etc.  Put your dehydrator on the correct setting and start!  I used two trays, both overfilled with zucchini.  Less than 8 hours later - it was ready.  Make sure the zucchini is COMPLETELY dry.  My Love turned it off and didn't tell me - the next morning the humidity had re-hydrated the zucchini so it was chewy.  I had to dehydrate again. 

Then simply put it in a jar in the pantry.  This is a pint jar - it holds about 5 zucchini.  Amazing huh?

I love to use zucchini in my spagetti sauce - so this will be perfect for use during the winter.  Just make sure you add the zucchini plenty early and add additional water to your sauce so the zucchini will plump back up.

4)  Grilling.  Probably the easiest way to prepare zucchini and it's Delicious!  Just wash and quarter your zucchini, lengthwise.  Coat with olive oil and season with seasoning salt and fresh-ground pepper.  Put directly on a hot grill until zucchini is softened (I like mine a little black around the edges).  And enjoy!  These take a little more time than, say, a steak, so if you're going to cook a meat, make sure these get on the grill about 5-10 minutes earlier (depending on the size of your zucchini).

Hope you enjoy these recipes. I'd love to hear from you if you have a different way to prepare/eat zucchini!

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