Say “Yes” to Zucchini!

Well, it happened. I had just finished my exercise class when the instructor asked, “Who wants some zucchini?”

Ahh – zucchini, you either love it or hate it. And for those who grow it, they have more than what they know what to do with. It seems they’re almost compelled to offer the zucchini they’ve grown to anyone and everyone they come in contact with. They can’t help it – it’s just what one does who grows this prolific vegetable.

So what do you do? Decline their generosity? Pretend you didn’t hear? Take the zucchini just to be polite? Or do you take them because you REALLY want them?

I hope it’s the latter. Zucchini is really a fantastic versatile vegetable and a great addition to our diet. One cup of zucchini has 40% of the RDI of Vitamin A, which helps support our vision and immune system, 16% of the RDI of manganese, which is needed to make collagen and is important for skin and bone health, 14% of the RDI of Vitamin C, which offers protection against cell damage from free radicals, and 13% RDI of potassium, which helps maintain normal blood pressure. Zucchini is a good source of various carotenoids, which protect our eyes, skin, and heart, and may protect against some cancers. Zucchini helps control blood sugar levels and has folate, which helps in the production of red blood cells. It is low carb, low calorie, and contains lots of water for hydration. Honestly, wouldn’t you agree zucchini deserves more credit and respect than what we give it?

So let’s give zucchini a try. Smaller zucchini are more tender, have fewer seeds, and are sweeter tasting. Choose zucchini that are firm and heavy for their size. Zucchini is best stored in the refrigerator. Cook zucchini only until al dente. They just take minutes to cook and will get mushy if overcooked.

Zucchini can be used in kabobs, burritos, eggless quiches, pasta sauces, and ratatouille. It is very flavorful when grilled. Muffins made with zucchini are moist and delicious. Add zucchini to stews and soups. Here are four recipes to get you started.

Balsamic Zucchini Sandwich

2 zucchini cut lengthwise into 1/2” strips
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup cannelli beans, rinsed
1 large roasted pepper
2 whole wheat sandwich rolls
6 fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Sauté the zucchini strips over medium-high heat for about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic and balsamic vinegar and stir immediately. Sauté for about 30 seconds, then remove from heat.
Puree the white beans and roasted red pepper. Toast the buns. Spread the pureed beans on the bottom of the bun, then add basil, then zucchini, and finish with black pepper garnish.
Recipe from 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart by Neal Barnard, MD.; recipe by Jason Wyrick of the Vegan Culinary Experience.

Zucchini Banana Walnut Muffins Makes 12 muffins.

1 cup unsweetened, unflavored plant milk
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3 ripe bananas slightly mashed (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 medium zucchini grated (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup oat flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (use sorghum flour for
glutted-free)
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350º. Line muffin pans with cupcake liners.
In a medium bowl, stir together milk, ground flaxseed, and vinegar. Let stand 5-10 minutes.
Add bananas to the milk along with the zucchini, maple syrup, and vanilla. Stir until well blended.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the poppy seeds and walnuts and mix well.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix quickly and gently just until combined.
Divide batter among the lined cups (just over 1/3 cup each). Bake in the oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, 40-45 minutes.
Remove pan from the oven and place on a rack to cool.
Recipe adapted from Forks Over Knives Family by Alona Pulde, MD and Matthew Lederman, MD.; recipe by Darshana Thacker.

Asian Ginger Lime Zoodles

For the Sauce:
1 1/2 cups water
7 regular dates or 3 1/2 Medjool dates, pitted
1/3 cup natural, no salt, no added oil peanut butter
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 small clove garlic
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon red curry powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
For the Noodles:
5 medium size zucchini, cut into noodles using a
spiralizer or vegetable peeler*
1 large carrot cut into noodles using a spiralizer
or vegetable peeler
1 cup shelled edamame
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, chopped

Blend water and dates in a high-powered blender, then add the remaining sauce ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy.
Heat 1 cup of the sauce in a large skillet, add the zucchini and carrot and cook for 2 minutes or just until the zucchini starts to soften. Do not overcook. Add additional sauce as needed to reach desired consistency. Stir in edamame, cilantro, and green onions, and serve. (This can also be a raw dish by eliminating cooking the zoodles).
*Many different spiralizers are on the market to make zoodles from tabletop models to small handheld spiralizers. If you don’t have or care to invest in a spiralizer, a julienne or vegetable peeler works well.
Recipe from www.drfuhrman.com.

Zucchini Corn Fritters Makes 16 fritters.

1 1/3 cups soy milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 medium zucchini grated or finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)

Combine soy milk and vinegar and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
Chop or grate the zucchini (a food processor makes this easy), then add it to the cornmeal mixture along with the soy milk mixture and corn. Stir to mix.
Heat a nonstick skillet. Pour small amounts of batter into the pan and cook the first side until the edges are dry, about 2 minutes. Carefully turn the fritters and cook the second side until browned, about 1 minute. Recipe adapted from Fat-Free and Easy by Jennifer Raymond.

So here are two challenges for you. #1 – If zucchini is a food you’ve been avoiding, seriously contemplate giving it a try. #2 – Be a little kinder and accept zucchini from those who offer it to you. The above recipes show zucchini dishes can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and gives a good start for those new to zucchini as well as offer new ideas for those who are zucchini pros. Test ‘em out! Let us know what you think!

Contributing Guest Writer: Jody Perrecone

Jody Perrecone is a certified nutrition consultant and graduated with honors from Bauman College. She graduated from CHIP (Complete Health Improvement Program) nearly two decades ago and has been an advocate for whole food plant-based nutrition ever since. She has a certification in plant-based nutrition from e-Cornell University and is the founder of Perrecone Wellness. Jody has a passion for helping her clients experience their best life with optimal nutrition and enjoys helping them on their journey. She also conducts WFPB cooking classes and has given numerous wellness presentations over the years to corporations, organizations, and even health food stores. She lives in Rockford, IL with her amazing husband and entertaining cat, Pico.