God bless Erin McKenna.
It’s CSA season and I’ve been saddled with more zucchini than I know what to do with. It’s a hardy veggie and it keeps for about 10 days when properly stored in the fridge, but when you’re getting a couple pounds of them every week as I am, a girl has to get creative.
I’ve known I was gluten allergic for about eight or nine years and since, with the exception of a fresh buttery croissant,* I was never much of a baked-goods person to begin with, I decided early that I wouldn’t bother experimenting with xantham gum and brown rice flour and ground flax seeds. As a general rule, I abstain from substitute foods like gluten-free crackers and treats and pasta, opting instead for whole foods with ingredients I can pronounce. Yesterday, though, I was reminded about how as a kid, I adored zucchini bread. It was one of my mom’s specialties, and when we were young, that was her idea of dessert. Worked for me! I loved the stuff.
So, stuck with three pounds of the things, I decided it was time to put on my apron and try my hand at some gluten-free baking. I cracked open Erin McKenna’s Babycakes cookbook and lo! There was a recipe for sugar-free, vegan zucchini muffins. Except that it called for spelt flour, which isn’t GF. According to their site, Babycakes doesn’t recommend substituting GF flour in their spelt recipes, but they helpfully offer a conversion for those who might want to try. I did, so I did.
Now, I know baking is a science as much as it is an art, and you’re not meant to mess around with the proportions. I’m a little rogue in the kitchen, though, so I took three carefully chosen liberties.
I hate dry anything, so where it called for 2 cups of grated zucchini, I went for 2 and a 1/2. Worst thing that could happen, I reasoned, is the things would be really moist. (If you’ve ever had a GF baked treat then you understand that this is a calculated and worth-it risk.) Second, where it called for 1 tbsp of vanilla, I went with 2 (I love vanilla). Finally, since I don’t love ginger in baked goods, I substituted the tbsp of ginger it called for and went with freshly crushed cloves.
The rest, I followed to the letter and—whoa. The extra zucchini meant the things had to cook a little longer than the recommended 22 minutes (about 25), but once they’d cooled slightly, I dug in to one, then another, then… Delicious, moist, healthy, incredible. (Thank you, Erin!)
If we lost you at the headline because you don’t like zucchini but your skimming eye has been trained to stop on fuchsia pull quotes, start here. Zucchini is worth learning to love. Here’s why:
Zucchini is about 90%-plus water, which makes it a great way to eat your H2O. The rest is a little fiber (about 3 grams per large guy), vitamins C, B6, and A, as well as potassium. Like avocados and bananas, it’s high in that mineral, which is great for heart health and stress reduction. (If you’re like me and you eat too much of it, the mineral is also great at giving you foot cramps in the middle of pigeon pose, which might be something to keep in mind.)
My muffins used up two of them for a batch of 12. Here’s how I plan to eat the other 8 in my fridge. Note: These are all simple dishes I’ve made and swear by. (The only thing I’ve tried that I hated was putting a whole zucchini into a smoothie with a bunch of fruit.) I don’t think exact recipes are necessary but if you want more detail, ask in the comments! Here’s how I love to eat zucchini:
1. As a delicious zucchini fritter. (Note: You could easily make these vegan if you wanted to.) I recommend topping these with greek yogurt and a tiny pinch of smoked paprika.
2. As an ABC Kitchen rip-off. This is raw zucchini shaved into wide strips with a mandoline, then topped with parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast, crushed pistachios, and a simple lime-olive oil vinaigrette (just improvise).
3. Where you pretend it’s spaghetti. Sliced into tiny noodle-shaped strips. Sprinkle them with salt and let them sweat a bit so your not-pasta isn’t too wet. Blot them with a paper towel then top with a liberal amount of olive oil, a little lemon zest and the juice of a half lemon. Garnish with some chopped up roasted hazelnuts and thinly sliced baby tomatoes and parsley. (It’s nice to heat up the post-sweat zucchini, or you can eat it at room temperature.)
4. As a Mexican version of that ABC Kitchen rip-off. Do the wide strips again from recipe 2, but add a chopped up seeded Jalapeño to the dressing, and then toss with cut off kernels from one ear of sweet corn. If you are feeling creative, toss it with some red plums and a few sprigs of basil, too.••
5. Grilled. Cut them into angled disks and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Put them on a lined baking tray or, if you have one, a stove-top grill. I have a super old Creuset one that I inherited, and I use about three times a week. Heat the pan on medium, then fork the zucchini disks onto the grill. Turn after about 4 minutes, once those nice lines have formed. Repeat on the second side. If you do this in the oven, use a wire rack so the moisture can escape. Remember that 90% stat above! You don’t want to eat soggy zucchini.
6. As a vehicle for other delicious things. Chop it up like you would a cucumber and eat it with whatever you have in your fridge: salsa, greek yogurt, hummus, whatever. It’s a sturdy way to get whatever you want into your mouth, and raw, it’s very mild in flavor so it won’t compete with stronger flavors.
Your turn! What’s your favorite way to prepare the green guys?
* I’m a Montreal girl at heart and we love us our buttery French things.
•• Our friend Anna and I feel strongly that fruit doesn’t belong in salad, and I stand by that, but I think tart red plums are an exception. They function like tomatoes, basically, but with a nicer, less wet texture.
We haven’t had one of these in a while and there are some good menus still poking around in our inbox! Like this delicious day from Silvy. Curious: Does caffeine give anyone else breakouts? This weekend I (Alexandra) was with a bunch of girls enjoying a bachelorette weekend (picture incredible meals and mags by the pool, not clubs and sex toys). Anyways, we were talking about all the weird specific things that can cause acne (dairy for some, soy for others etc). But caffeine? Is this a thing?
Home: I currently live in Washington, DC.
Dietary leanings: I was vegetarian for 4 years but have added some fish into my diet over the past year. I’m small, so I need the added calories, and my body loves the fat! Plus mussels are like the best source of iron out there. I limit my dairy to cheese or whole milk in beverages once in a while—yogurt and such makes me break out like the dickens.
My favorite vegetable: SWEET POTATOES
Monday morning I…
Do not ever have caffeine! It gives me skin and digestive problems, and that includes green tea. Weird, huh? I figured it out after a year of green tea obsession, and my skin is finally clear! I love herbal teas though, so in the morning I’ll drink some rooibos or just water or water with ACV. For a quick breakfast I have frozen (thawed!) waffles with honey and berries, with some almond milk or OJ. If I have more time, I like to make buckwheat pancakes. Toast with goat cheese and honey is awesome too, or eggs with bread. I also take Udo’s omega oil blend with my breakfast if I remember.
A few hours later…
I snack a lot to get my calories in! Anything from your usual- nuts, fruits, celery with dressing- to chips, cupcakes, dolmas, and roasted seaweed. I love pastries and sweets, and I think it’s fine as long as they aren’t replacing my fruit and veg.
Then for lunch…
If I eat lunch at home, there is almost nothing better than the My New Roots veggie tower of power (featuring my favorite!): http://mynewroots.org/site/2012/03/veggie-egg-tower-of-power-2/
At school, I might have curry leftovers with quinoa (http://chefchloe.com/entrees/panang-curry.html), or just a sandwich and salad.
For a mid-afternoon snack…
I like to have late afternoon smoothies, with banana, whatever frozen fruit I have, protein powder or peanut butter, kale, spirulina, raw cacao, almond milk, and chia. Also, throughout the day, I like to have tea with molasses in (organic molasses are a great source of iron- and yes, organic makes a difference in this case! just check the nutrition label).
Then for dinner…
For appetizer, I often have corn chips with salsa or hummus, and a glass of wine, while I cook. Makes it way more fun. Lately, I have been digging lentils, so I make an easy dish that my ex taught me. Chop up some onions, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes (and fresh chili if you have it), and fry up. Then add a bunch of spices (usually turmeric, garam masala, curry, cumin, cayenne). Then add the lentils and enough water to cover, and stir in some tomato paste. Cover and let cook for about 25 min. About 5/10 min before cook time is up, you can add frozen veggies like corn and peas. At the end, squeeze in some fresh lemon or lime. Serve over quinoa or rice or with bread.
Maybe an apple with peanut butter or peanut butter fudge cupcake, or Three Twins ice cream as a special treat.
Meet Elaine. She hails from Canada’s capital and her meatless menu sounds both delicious and budget friendly. So often we’re told that eating healthfully is pricier than eating poorly. But much like clean cosmetics, when you know what to buy in bulk, a super-healthy, veg-heavy diet can be cheaper than the cheapest of fast food. Do you have any great money-saving tips for healthy eating?
Name: Elaine Hometown: Ottawa, Canada My dietary leanings: On average, my diet probably balances out to be 60% vegan, 40% vegetarian. And very very rarely (read: a few times a year), I’ll eat fish in sushi form. My favorite vegetables: Carrots and sweet potato. But to be honest, there’s no vegetable I don’t like (though I’ve never had amaaazing asparagus). Disclaimer: I’m a student, so on weekends I try to make massive batches of meals (such as stews, grains, beans) to eat up during the busy weekdays. Trust me though, I don’t always have time to stock my fridge with healthy homemade food!
This morning I….
Ate a bowl of overnight oats topped with almond milk, roasted cashews, cinnamon, and homemade applesauce. I also drank a huge mug of green tea.
Then for lunch I…
Cooked up a grilled cheese (on homemade whole wheat) to go with some reheated homemade tomato, onion & pinto bean soup. While that was cooking, I munched on a carrot with roasted red pepper hummus.
As an afternoon snack I had an apple paired with a handful of roasted almonds.
Finally for dinner I…
Made a stir-fry with cabbage, carrot and edamame, topped with a sauce that I whipped together from tahini, almond milk and hoisin sauce. I had the stir-fry with a bit of quinoa on the side.
Last but not least, dessert…
A perfectly ripe banana, smeared with crunchy natural peanut butter – my absolute favourite!
This is one of those my MMs that totally has my mouth a’watering. We’ve gotten some incredible menus, but—and maybe it’s because Tiffany has kids to cook for as well (um, lucky ones)—I’m particularly digging all the variety in these meals!
My Dietary Leanings: Heavily plant based…fish maybe once per week. Always organic (if possible) and primarily whole, unprocessed foods
My favorite vegetable: How do I chose just one!? I have never met a veg I didn’t like…as a child it was always broccoli!
This morning I ate…
A green smoothie consisting of: spinach, cucumber, celery, broccoli, 1/3 of a mango, 1/2 banana, fresh mint leaves, and a splash of carrot juice. Fresh and delish! To this I added a toasted slice of Food for Life Cinnamon Raisin bread with almond butter and sprinkled with flax seeds.
I went to a great kids bookstore today with an organic coffeeshop attached, so I had a snack of a banana and an organic latte! Yum!
I am a big fan of leftovers! So lunch today was a leftover veggie burger from last night’s dinner. I started with sauteed garlic, green peppers, onion, and carrots. Mixed this with cooked green lentils, pureed mushrooms, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, 1/2 cup flax seed meal, seasoned to taste with soy sauce, paprika, ancho chili powder, cumin, and pepper. Formed patties and refrigerated for 1/2 hour to solidify. I topped them with muenster cheese, spinach, tomato and avocado on a whole wheat bun. With this I snacked on shelled edemame, organic red grapes (I am SO glad they are back in season!) and a Synergy Cherry Chia Kombucha.
AND for dinner…
I went to my fabulous CSA today so I had veggies to play with!! I roasted new potatoes with onions, basil, salt and pepper in the oven at 425 (which it broke my heart to watch my kids dip in ketchup!). Next I sauteed shelled fava beans, garlic scapes, and garbanzo beans with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. My Texan hubby said it was hearty enough that he didn’t even miss the meat. Finally, I sauteed mushrooms and onions and added kale and rainbow chard. I seasoned it with garlic powder, ancho chili powder and black pepper. Sadly, the kids were not fond of the mushrooms or garbanzo beans, but they ate the rest
We had dessert! And here is where our day went awry… Jeni’s pistachio and honey ice cream for the grown-ups and Graeter’s mint chocolate chip for the kids. Lucky for my family, I am a firm believer that an occasional treat is not the end of the world. Especially on those summer nights when the kids eat Kale without complaining! Thanks to NMDL for this series! I can’t wait to read them!
Thanks Tiffany! All I can say is that we’re a wee bit jealous of your family. How much do you wish you had someone making you meals like this for ya?
Meet Lauren. She’s not a full-time vegetarian, but she knows how to eat like one with this nice and simple meatless menu. Don’t forget to send in yours!
Hometown: Los Angeles
My Dietary Leanings: I was a vegetarian for about two years, then earlier this year swung the other way and tried the paleo diet for a while. Now I’m swinging back to a diet that’s meat-selective. So lots of fruits and veggies, some fish and lean white meat, limited dairy and occasional red meat (I have weakness for bacon…). I’ve always baked a lot but I’ve been doing less of that and trying to be healthier when I do.
My favorite vegetable: Asparagus! So versatile.
Breakfast: Homemade banana bread with nuts & raisins, and applesauce instead of butter, made on the weekend, with a smear of almond butter.
Lunch: Spinach salad (spinach, strawberries, avocado, tomatoes, pine nuts, red onion) and a side of roasted chickpeas. This recipe has some nice photos of the process. You can use whatever spices you want and make it in big batches for the week.
Pre-workout Snack: Handful of nuts & dried cranberries
Dinner: Vegan flatbread and fruit salad made with whatever fruit is in the kitchen. To make the flatbread: 1) brush a raw pizza crust with olive oil and bake until golden brown. 2) Once cooled somewhat, spread with hummus or baba ganoush (eggplant hummus). 3) Top with roasted or raw veggies.My most recent version included roasted eggplant, onions, and sundried tomatoes, and sauteed kale.
Dessert: Couple strawberries drizzled with a little honey (they were tart!) and a couple squares of dark chocolate. I got samples from a friend who works here and they make such good stuff!
Thanks for including the chickpea roasting link, Lauren! Also, as a chocolate fiend, I’m very curious about your friend’s company… Has anyone tried these (I just looked and they appear to be vegan)—or do you know of other great vegan chocolates? We still love our Wei of Chocolate, but always up for testing others. :)