Friday, September 7, 2012

The Curse of the Zucchini

I love gardening. Especially when the time comes to harvest the veggies. This year, my peppers didn't produce ANYTHING, but my tomatoes did well enough for me to can a few batches of sauce, salsa, and just plain chopped tomatoes.

And then there was the zucchini plant.

The first few harvests made me so happy. Sauteed zucchini for dinner and zucchini bread for breakfast. Yum!

And then they kept coming. And coming. And coming!

And no matter how fast I picked them, they just kept getting bigger and bigger! I would see one the size of my finger and think to myself, "Oh, good, it will be the perfect size for picking tomorrow." And then tomorrow comes and WOW! It's the size of my foot! How the heck did it grow that much in ONE NIGHT?!?!

For the last month I have had a bowl of zucchini on the counter that never gets empty. I even have to throw some away because they start to go bad! I tried keeping them in my fridge, but they started to take over (like no more room for milk or eggs), and some of them were just too big to fit at all.

Needless to say, I just CAN'T eat any more sautéed zucchini. And you can only have so much shredded zucchini and zucchini bread in the freezer.

I needed a few new things to make with the overload of zucchini we were picking. (Note to self: DEFINITELY never plant more than one zucchini plant. I don't know what we would do if we had even MORE zucchini.)

Here are some of the ideas I found, and the recipes to go with them.

Fried Zucchini Cakes I found the recipe here. Basically, you shred up some zucchini and toss it with seasonings and breadcrumbs (and an egg to hold it together). Form it into little round "cakes" and fry it in a pan until brown (I like to finish them in the oven). Great as a main course with some dipping sauce, or as a side dish.

Zucchini Bread with Pineapple I have made many different versions of zucchini bread (using milk, orange juice, nuts, chocolate chips, etc.), but never with pineapple chunks. I had to leave out the raisins and nuts so my kids will eat it, but other than that I followed the recipe found here.

Quinoa Salad with Zucchini Cook quinoa according to directions, but use chicken broth instead of plain water. Cube zucchini and sauté it quickly (just enough to make it not raw). Blanch some corn and peas (fresh or frozen). Slice a red onion. Dice tomatoes (fresh or sun dried). After the quinoa is cooked and cooled some, mix in the veggies that you prepped (whatever ratio you like, but having more quinoa than veggies for best results). Mix in chopped fresh herbs of your choice (I like oregano, thyme, and mint). Toss with you favorite vinaigrette. Add goat cheese on top of each serving. YUM!

Curried Zucchini Soup This is a really quick and easy soup to make. We ate it as a mail course with some fresh baked bread. I think I like it better warm than cold, but you can eat it either way. See the recipe here.

Zucchini Chips I didn't actually try these, because I am seriously zucchini'd out this year. But I plan to try these next year. They seem pretty easy, and maybe my kids would eat them. (Ha! Yeah right!) Slice zucchini and spread out evenly over sheet pan. Spray with oil, season with salt and pepper (and in my house we would use cajun or mexican seasoning too), and bake at 225 degrees for 45 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 30-35 more minutes until browned.

Zucchini Chocolate Brownies I was pretty skeptical about this recipe. I mean, zucchini brownies? Sounds gross. But I was desperate to find new ways to use my over abundance of zucchini, so I tried it. At first I thought we would eat it without the frosting, as a way to make it more healthy. Ew. It tasted like zucchini dipped in chocolate. And it wasn't even CLOSE to having brownie texture. Bleh. So I went ahead and made the frosting, hoping it would at least make them edible enough that I didn't have to waste them. Oh. My. Gosh. Add a little homemade whipped cream? YUM! Seriously good! Not just "good enough." But actually good! Chocolatey and gooey (and sort of healthy, I guess). I made another batch and froze it for future "chocolate emergencies."

(I'm sorry, I forget where I got the recipe. Luckily I had it printed out so I can give it to you here.)

   2 cups chopped raw zucchini
  1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
  1/2 cup low fat yogurt (I used greek, but regular would work too)
  1 1/4 cup sugar
  1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I used all purpose white flour)
  1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  1 tsp salt (not iodized)

Frosting ingredients:
  1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  1/4 cup canned evaporated milk
  2 Tbsp butter
  1/2 tsp vanilla
  1 cup powdered sugar
  1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (I didn't use nuts)

  Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 inch pan. In blender, puree zucchini, oil, yogurt, sugar, and vanilla. Set aside. In a large bowl, disk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Add puree to dry ingredients and stir until moist throughout. Pour into greased pan, spread evenly, and bake 20-25 minutes until toothpick comes out clean (do not overcook!). Remove and place on cooling rack.

Frosting directions:
  Combine chocolate chips, evaporated milk, butter and vanilla in a microwave proof bowl. Microwave on flu 30-40 seconds. Remove and whisk until melted and smooth (return to microwave for a few seconds if necessary). Add powdered sugar and continue to whisk until smooth. Spread evenly over brownies. Sprinkle with nuts if desired. (You can also melt the chocolate mixture over a double boiler if desired).

*****I had extra frosting left over. I put it on some plastic spoons and then put the spoons in the freezer. Perfect for adding a little chocolate to your coffee or just to eat when you need a quick chocolate fix! My kids LOVE them. Ok, so do I.*****

Zucchini Pickles (refrigerated and hot water bath canned)

     Refrigerator Pickles: These pickles are nice and crisp. A little sweet for my taste, but delicious anyway. You can get the full recipe here.

To prepare for pickling, you need to toss the zucchini (or cucumber, or whatever) with salt to draw out some of the moisture. Add ice and let it sit for a few hours. You can put the veggies in a colander in a bowl to separate out the water, or just drain them when they are done. The veggies will then be able to absorb the flavors in the vinegar better.

**Although I put these pickles in canning jars, they must be refrigerated. I did not process them in a canner, so they are not shelf stable.**

     Hot Water Bath Canned Pickles: I got this recipe from my local Master Preservers class.

            5 lbs medium zucchini cut into 1/4 inch slices
            2 lbs mild white onion, thinly sliced
            1/4 cup salt (NOT IODIZED)
            ice water

            4 cups cider vinegar
            2 cups sugar
            2 Tbsp mustard seed
            1 Tbsp each celery seed AND ground turmeric
            2 tsp ground ginger
            3 cloves garlic, minced

            Place zucchini, onions, and salt in a large bowl and cover with ice water. Let stand for 1-2 hours. Drain, rinse, and drain again. In a large kettle mix vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, turmeric, ginger, and garlic. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir to dissolve sugar. Boil for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in zucchini mixture, return to a boil and boil for 2 more minutes. Pack hot mixture into hot pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims, and places lids on jars. Process for 10 minutes in boiling water bath. Makes 8 pints.

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