Versatile Veggie

Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables because of how versatile it is. You can use this inexpensive summer squash in several ways when cooking and baking. I didn’t appreciate zucchini as much as a child, but now that I do most of the cooking at my house, I love how easy it is to transform this veggie to meet everyone’s needs! Below are a few of my favorite ways to use this tasty green veggie. 

  • Sauté– I love to sauté diced or chopped zucchini in a little bit of olive oil with spices and other summer squash or tomatoes. It is a quick, tasty side dish that everyone enjoys! I also like using sautéed zucchini in recipes like Zucchini Hummus Wraps and Vegetable Quesadillas.
  • Bake– I like to add shredded zucchini to meatloaf, muffins and cakes. One of my favorite muffin recipes is the Chocolate Chip and Zucchini Muffins from Spend Smart. Eat Smart. My family also likes to have sliced zucchini baked in the oven with parmesan cheese for a crunchy snack.
  • Grill– As mentioned in a previous blog, we LOVE to grill at our house. We like to cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and cook it on the grill with a drizzle of olive oil and a blend of spices. I use leftover grilled zucchini in pasta and on grilled cheese sandwiches. 
  • Steam– If I want to have a lighter pasta, I make zucchini noodles with a cheap spiralizer I purchased several years ago at a home goods store. The noodles can be steamed and used as an alternative to heavy pasta dishes. When our daughter was a baby, I would steam zucchini to make baby food since it was inexpensive.

One of my favorite things about using zucchini in a recipe or as a side dish is that zucchini does not take long to prepare or cook. I love how zucchini takes on the flavor of what you cook it with, making it easy to prepare in a variety of ways. Watch the video for some additional tips on how to prepare this versatile summer veggie. Grab a zucchini next time you pick out produce- you won’t be disappointed!

Cheers to trying a new zucchini recipe this week!

Katy Moscoso

Katy Moscoso is a Program Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. As a new mom she is always on the lookout for easy, healthy recipes to prepare for her family.

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Slow Cooker – Converting Recipes

I love using my slow cooker for many reasons.  Right now, the main reason I love my slow cooker is the timing. There are usually two or three nights each week when someone in our family needs to be somewhere by 6 or 6:30. It is really hard for me to make a meal, feed everyone, and then get three children out the door on time.  These are the nights when I rely on my slow cooker.  I can do the prep for a meal the night before, load the slow cooker in the morning, and then have a great meal ready in the evening.

Over the years, I have gradually converted some of my family’s favorite stove top recipes into slow cooker recipes.  It can take some trial and error, especially with the cooking time, but it is worth it in the end.  Here are some pointers for converting your own recipes into slow cooker recipes:

  • Choose recipes that simmer on the stove top or roast in the oven.
  • Reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/3 to 1/2. You need to do this because the slow cooker creates its own liquid.
  • Adjust the cooking time. This website has a convenient conversion chart.

If you have questions or concerns about your slow cooker, contact AnswerLine.  They are a great resource for your home and family questions.

Good luck converting some of your favorites into slow cooker recipes!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Mise en Place: Work Smarter, Not Harder in the Kitchen

Recently when making supper for my family, I realized part way through making the pizza that I did not have any pizza sauce! I thought I had some, so didn’t check to make sure before I started making the pizza.  So supper got put on hold while I sent my husband to the store to get the pizza sauce. If I would have practiced ‘mise en place’, I would have known before I started that I didn’t have any sauce and could have run to get it before starting to cook or went to Plan B.

Mise en place is a French phrase that means to put in place. This means that before you begin preparing a dish, you gather all the items you need and prep what needs to be done ahead of time, such as chop onions. Mise en place allows food professionals to be efficient in the kitchen so they can get food prepared quickly and out to waiting customers. This handout from ISU Extension and Outreach gives you a visual explanation of mise en place.

However, you don’t need to be a professional chef to practice mise en place.

If you are preparing the Thanksgiving meal this week, practicing mise en place will help you be more efficient in the kitchen and less stressed about getting everything on the table on time! Looking at the recipes you are making will tell you what ingredients you need and what steps you need to complete. If you neglect to practice mise en place, you run the risk of not having all the ingredients on hand (like me!) or your food might burn or overcook as you rush to measure ingredients that need to be added to the dish.

I plan to start practicing mise en place more regularly to help make my time in the kitchen more efficient and enjoyable. I have a 3-year-old son, Parker. Therefore, it’s important that I get supper on the table quickly at night before he gets too hungry and wants to snack. Since I’m busy with work and other activities during the week, I try to prepare some items on the weekend so it’s easy to put supper together when I get home. I cut up veggies and put in the refrigerator and cook some meat ahead of time so it is ready when I need it. This is part of mise en place as well. A little planning and prep ahead of time saves me time (and a headache!) in the long run!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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