A few months ago, I wrote a blog about the neighborhood garden that my family contributes to during the spring and summer. My husband and I do not have green thumbs, so we have enjoyed participating in a neighborhood garden that our neighbor, Jen, has created in her backyard to share with a few of us who live nearby.
This summer has been tough on our neighbor’s garden. She has had to fend off several hungry pests over the past few months and has dealt with drought making it difficult to produce as much as she has in years past. Although the garden was off to a slower start, she has been able to share beans, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, hot peppers, and a few tomatoes. In the next month or so, we are hopeful to see purple and blue potatoes, butternut squash, bell peppers, carrots, and additional greens like chard, spinach, and lettuce. Here is a picture of my toddler, Brynn, with the tomato plant that she helped with in May. Somehow, she has developed a green thumb and her tomato plant is the biggest one in Jen’s garden!
I love using my neighbor’s produce in my recipes. There is something to be said about the taste of a fresh grown vegetable compared to purchasing one from our local grocery store. A few of my favorite recipes that I have made so far this summer include making Whole Wheat Pizza Dough with hot peppers and tomatoes, as well as Vegetable Quesadillas and Zucchini Hummus Wraps with zucchini and eggplant. I also make the Vegetable Dip to enjoy with cut up veggies for a quick and easy snack.
I am looking forward to enjoying the other produce that will be grown in our neighbor’s garden over the next few months. Now that Brynn is learning the ins and outs of gardening from our neighbor, maybe we will attempt our own garden next spring!
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!
Our August recipe of the month is Zucchini Hummus Wrap. Zucchini are cut into rounds, sautéed, and then combined in a tortilla with hummus, sliced cheese, and sliced vegetables.
These wraps make a delicious meal that fits in your hand. I think this recipe is perfect for August for three reasons:
Zucchini – zucchini are in season and plentiful in August. My family and I love zucchini bread and muffins, but I like to use zucchini in other ways too.
Time – I do not like to spend much time cooking in the summer because my family and I would rather be outside. This recipe comes together quickly, so it is a great August meal for my family.
Temperature – August is hot, so I try to use the oven as little as possible to avoid heating up the house. You only need to sauté the zucchini rounds for about 6 minutes for this recipe, so the heat from the stovetop is minimal.
Before you try this recipe, there are a couple of things that I think are important to know. The first is to choose small sized zucchini for this recipe because they will fit better in your tortilla when it is time to wrap it up. Save your larger zucchini to shred for Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins. The second is to eat these right away. They taste best when served right after the zucchini are sautéed and they do not store well. Use some of your August zucchini and try our Zucchini Hummus Wraps this month.
Do you remember last week when I suggested you grate up a zucchini? This is why – our September recipe of the month is Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins and they are delicious! If you have not yet seen our video on preparing zucchini, check it out for some quick hints on grating a zucchini. You do not even need to peel it first!
I like to make these muffins for my children to eat before heading off to school in the morning and here is why:
They are made with whole wheat flour, so the fiber will keep their tummies full and the carbohydrates will give their bodies and brains the energy they need to get going in the morning.
They are made with both fruits (banana and applesauce) and a vegetable (zucchini). Split between 12 muffins, it may not be a lot of fruits and vegetables, but at least we are getting the day off to a better start than if we had eaten no fruits and vegetables at all.
They freeze well. This means I can make a double batch of muffins when I have the time and then freeze the rest for a day when I do not have much time to prepare breakfast. Store these muffins in freezer bags for up to three months. Thaw by wrapping a muffin in a damp paper towel and re-heating in the microwave on the defrost setting until heated through.
My children like me to make these muffins because, of course, chocolate chips! There is only ¼ cup chocolate chips in the entire recipe, but it is enough to get my children excited about these muffins.
This time of year gardeners tend to have an abundance of zucchini. The challenge is to use it before it goes bad. In our newest video, we show how to prepare a zucchini. The different ways of cutting a zucchini are useful for different recipes. Watch the video today and find out how to slice rounds, cut matchsticks, cube, dice, and grate zucchini.
If you have the time and a zucchini, grate one up this weekend so you have it ready to make our September recipe of the month next week.
Our yummy Cheesy Pasta with Summer Veggies recipe is filled with vegetables, whole grain, and is low in calories. Plus it is very versatile, so you can use any vegetable that you have on hand. In the summer I make it with garden vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, peppers, carrots and fresh tomatoes. In the winter I use a frozen vegetable mix and drained, canned tomatoes. If I have some leftover meat or beans in the refrigerator, I add that along with the vegetables.
Notice the pasta we use is whole wheat. In the past few years the quality of whole grain pastas has increased and is now quite good. Whole grain pastas take a little longer to cook and the texture is a little different, but the nutritional improvement is definitely worth it. Check out the great nutritional value you get from the 250 calories in this recipe.