Thursday, August 11, 2011

In the Kitchen with Zucchini x 2, and disastrous results!

It's a beautiful Thursday morning, and I find myself centered - even serene - after crossing several items off my to-do list this week.  I imagine that staying mindful about food (and lowering my sugar intake) helps my general sense of zen, too. 

You know what else keeps me centered? A great big laugh.  There's something really cathartic about laughing until your diaphragm is tired.  And for me, it's especially good if I'm laughing at myself, not taking myself too seriously.

I really love blogging, and I always try to keep it light - but sometimes while preparing for some of these entries, I can get entirely too serious.  Furrowed brow and everything!  Fortunately, all I needed to get out of serious mode was to screw up one of my recipes.  I mean, it was AWFUL.  And when I figured out why... well, let's say my diaphragm wasn't just tired from laughing, it was exhausted.  And with good reason - according to a 2005 study, "ten to 15 minutes of laughter could increase energy expenditure by 10 to 40 calories per day, which could translate into about four pounds a year."

Let's go back to the kitchen, though... what did I do wrong?  Telling you would be too easy, so I'm going to see if you can guess before I get to the end of today's entry, "Zucchini x 2." That's right - I have two recipes for you today!

I have vivid memories of seeing the "take a veggie/leave a veggie" table at church growing up.  This time of year, people would leave the extra fruit (sometimes literally) of their gardening labor, because - let's face it, it's really hard to finish off a whole crop of even a small garden.  On that veggie table, people would snap up tomatoes or beans or melons quickly, but what always stayed behind was the ever-expanding collection of summer squash.  Zucchini just can't be eaten as quickly as it grows, unless you share it... or eat it for every meal.  And in the spirit of "take a veggie/leave a veggie," I offer you two zucchini recipes, one savory and one sweet.

Sauteed Zucchini with Mushrooms and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

You know you're in for a good meal when even the pre-cooked ingredients look delicious.

  • 4 small zucchini (or equivalent summer squash)
  • 2 cups mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 tb basil
  • 1/4 cup broth (we use low-sodium veggie broth)

When it comes to savory zucchini, I didn't used to be that much of a fan.  It can get so overcooked, soft and stringy... and I never enjoyed it that way.  But it turns out that if you cook it al-dente (or if you roast it - but that's another day In the Kitchen) it's much more delicious... especially if you punch up the flavor with tasty accompaniments.  Tom introduced me to this veggie dish, which is perfect for a summer night like tonight.

Start by soaking the tomatoes in warm water for ~10 minutes

Meanwhile, slice the zucchini, mince the garlic and chop the mushrooms.


Spray your frying pan with a spray oil (we use Pam) and saute the garlic over medium heat. 
As it becomes more fragrant, and sizzles a bit, add the zucchini to the pan.


Once the zucchini softens slightly, add the drained tomatoes with the mushrooms, and cook until the mushrooms are done.


Stir in the chopped basil, and you're ready to serve!


This has definitely become my favorite warm summer veggie dish - and if you're fond of the ingredients, you'll be surprised how lovely they are together.  (You may even forget you're eating your fifth serving of zucchini this week!)  It's also incredibly low in calories.

Zucchini Surprise Mini-Muffins

Baking with zucchini is a good way to sneak extra veggies and vitamins into your baked goods.

2 eggs
1/2 cup greek yogurt (sweetened is OK)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tb cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tb vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup grated zucchini (~2 small zucchini)
Plus the surprise ingredient...

I based this recipe on my mom's own recipe, which was delicious but which called for three times the sugar plus a whole cup of oil.  I made a few swaps here and there to reduce calories and increase the healthy factor.  It's a bit less sweet than most zucchini bread, so if you don't mind the calories, you can increase the sweetener and plan accordingly.

In a stand mixer (or with a hand-mixer), combine the eggs, applesauce, yogurt and sugar.


Add the cinnamon, ginger, salt, baking soda and baking powder, and blend thoroughly.
Then add the vanilla and mix until smooth.


Then add the flour, mixing slowly until just incorporated. 
(Too much mixing makes it too gluten-sticky.)


This is very nearly incorporated - a couple more turns of the mixer should do it.

Grate one cup worth of zucchini.

Mmm, zucchini.

And fold it into the batter.


Scoop one tablespoon of batter into mini-muffin cups.


And then it's time for the surprise ingredient!

Today's surprise ingredient is...


I hide a single blueberry in the middle of each mini-muffin, in tribute to my mom's blueberry zucchini bread.  The blueberry is just the right touch of acid and sweet, giving a burst of flavor to each bite-sized muffin.

Press the blueberry into the middle of each muffin cup, and then top with a tiny amount of additional batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven/altitude.

Yum! A perfect summer snack.

And now, the real question: did any of my eagle-eyed friends find my cooking mistake?  Well, I'll tell you this... when I bit into the muffin, I found it bland and kind of soggy, and the taste was off.  I couldn't quite figure out why.  That is, until I went to make dinner that night, and instead of a bag of cucumber in the frige, I found a bag of... zucchini?  WHAT!?

That's right, folks.

It's my other secret ingredient.
I made cucumber bread.
And it was TERRIBLE.

Fortunately, I had enough ingredients left to make another batch the following day, and they tasted great.  (The photo of the baked muffins are actually the real zucchini muffins, not the gross cucumber ones.)

Moral of the story: use cucumber in salad, for pickles, or on your eyes... but not for zucchini bread.  And if you accidentally make cucumber bread... at least you made yourself laugh.  (And also gag.  But hey, it's a workout!) 

Get a good laugh in today - and take care of yourself!


  1. So funny. I was looking up zucchini recipes online last week and loads of people posted asking, "What is the difference between a zucchini and a cucumber?" MMM and I had a whole long conversation about mixing them up...we couldn't imagine. Now we can!

    btw, I made zucchini muffins too. No blueberries though. Sounds delicious.

  2. Haha, that is awesome....I have to admit, I thought maybe she used a cucumber instead of a zucchini but didn't pick up that it was a cucumber in the photo.

    Just think now we know that a cucumber does not make a good muffin :)

  3. "Zucchini just can't be eaten as quickly as it grows, unless you share it... or eat it for every meal."

    Unfortunately this was our house growing up. I can't eat zucchini at all. I won't even have a polite few bites. We had it 24/7 in the summer and thanks to the large freezer in the basement, most of the winter as well.

    We had it mostly boiled, which is gross, but also stuffed, grilled, baked, cookies, cakes, breads and the most horrible thing my mother ever made (which honest takes a lot) zucchini pizza.

    I want to like it, I want to try it new ways but I just can't do it. Ugh.

    I can however, eat cucumbers by the basket so maybe I would have liked the first batch?

  4. That was an endearing post! The little muffin holders look familiar... and I know you have lots and lots! :D

    I had a good laugh with you over the surprise ingredient!


  5. I forgot to ask myself what you could have done wrong until the end of the post when you restated that something was off, then I guessed it.

    Good to know that cucumber does not make good muffins!

  6. Both recipes look so good! I love zucchini, but you're right at some point in the August harvest, it is difficult to make it "exciting and new."

    I have to ask about your tools - where did you get the scooper (I love its small size!) and do you buy the muffin papers that way or do you do that yourself?

  7. Thanks for the laugh. I actually did not plant zucchini this year so I am not overwhelmed with it, so am enjoying it when I get some. My favorited recipe this summer is grilled mixed veggies with zucchini, onions, peppers, tomatoes and sugar snap peas.

    When I saw you post I thought for sure you had forgotten the levening, which I have done. Cucumber bread?? We all need to laugh at our mistakes. The peach tree is full of quickly ripening peaches so I have to come up with some peach recipes. Jam for sure, maybe freeze a few, then what? Got any good suggestions?

  8. Cucumber, zucchini... who can tell the difference? Only when I'm in a pickle. ;)

  9. Hahahahah... I did the same thing with stir fry once and kept thinking, 'What the what? why does this taste so weird?" and then I realized my mistake... which is truly a tragedy, because zucchini are so CONSTANT and cucumbers are so awesome. (spoken from a fellow zucchini farmer who has three the size of baseball bats taking up residence on my counter as we speak)

  10. I totally need to make the Sauteed Zucchini with Mushrooms and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. It looks so delicious!!!