Four-Cheese Zucchini Pizza Boats

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Two weekends in, I feel like I can declare this August downright leisurely.  Lily and Jake camped outside in the back yard this past Friday and they both survived the whole night without coming inside.  They didn’t, however, survive without the iPad.  At one with nature, huh?  I didn’t care; I was inside spread out over the entire bed watching old episodes of Suze Orman in peace.

Lily also had the chance to ride a horse (well, half horse, half pony) for the first time and solidified her love for everything equine.  Anything and everything in our house is now a pretend horse.   She was funny because she was SO excited and fidgety the whole way there and after she was done riding, but while she was with the horses she was calm and focused.  It was incredibly sweet.

 All summers should be so lovely.  

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I call these 4-cheese pizza boats because that title fits, but the filling and marinara make it taste like lasagna to me.  Granted, cheese and marinara are the basis for a million different Italian dishes, so I could have called them zucchini stuffed shells for all it matters.  But pizza boats are a fairly common term, so I went with it.

I really liked this recipe.  I mean, there’s four cheeses!  What’s not to like?  Jake said that he liked the cheese mixture, but didn’t like that you could taste the zucchini.  So, I should give a disclaimer: the zucchini isn’t intended to be hidden!  If you hate zucchini, this probably isn’t the dish for you.  But trust me, for normal people it’s delicious.

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Four-Cheese Pizza Zucchini Boats

3 fresh zucchini
1/4 cup marinara sauce
8 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Fresh basil or parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wash the zucchini and slice it in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds.  Put about 1 heaping tablespoon of marinara onto each zucchini half and spread it out evenly.

In a bowl, mix the ricotta, egg, and garlic powder until combined.  Stir in the mozzarella, provolone, and Parmesan.  Add salt and pepper to taste (I don’t use much).  Spread evenly onto the 6 halves.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is warm and the zucchini is a little soft.  I then throw the broiler on for a minute to brown the top, but that’s optional.

Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve warm.

Source: Inspiration from Cooking Classy

Zucchini Black Bean Tacos

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Can I talk one more time about how I’m ridiculously excited for summer produce?  The CSA, the farmers’ markets, and the little plot of land that we are sowing in our back yard are soon going to fill the kitchen.  We haven’t actually sowed the garden (I say that as though we are starting with all seeds… we aren’t) out back yet because Jake had to order a deer fence first, and thank heavens for Home Depot not shipping more quickly because we had a frost this week in Pittsburgh.  Luckily, I was able to grab my little baby plants from the screened porch and bring them inside for safe keeping.  They are resting comfortably on our kitchen and dining room tables.  But having them in our face every day also leads to constant questions from the little one about when we get to plant and why they aren’t growing faster and where-oh-where are the strawberries and tomatoes that we promised her?

So, as Lily clearly demonstrates, the best part of growing vegetables is eating them.  On to my recipe search!  When I first saw these tacos on my friend Nicole’s blog, they spoke to me.  1) tacos.  2) zucchini and corn and black beans.  3) so easy, I could probably have Lily make them.  Perfect for a week night, so that’s what we did.  We topped them with tomatoes, sour cream, lettuce, and cheese, and they were perfect.  Give them a try!

Zucchini Black Bean Tacos

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small (or one large) zucchini, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp chili powder
1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
10 (6-inch) corn tortillas

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened and translucent. Stir in the garlic and sauté for  about 1 minute longer.

Add the zucchini, beans, corn, and spices. Cook, stirring occasionally, 6-8 minutes or until softened and hot. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro.  Serve hot in tortillas topped with any taco toppings you like.

Source: slightly adapted from Prevention RD

Zucchini Pancakes

Lily learned how to climb out of her crib last week, and no one – not even those parenting books that intend to scare the living daylights out of you –  warned me that it would be a milestone that would completely kill any bedtime routine that once existed.  Our girl who used to happily go to bed and sleep for 12 hours now thinks that bedtime is fun-time and the idea of wasting it with sleep is absolutely ridiculous.  It literally takes HOURS for her to finally knock out.   And for some reason, this playing must be accompanied by a parent, and if we dare to sneak out of the room there will be hysterical screaming.  Lord help me!  (But how could you stay mad at a face like this?)

So, when the morning comes, these zucchini pancakes are an awesome way to refuel sleepy-eyed people for a new day (and a splash of cranky, tired toddler thrown in!).  They are quick and easy to make, and are even more delicious than I expected.  Much like potato pancakes, they are savory and go well with apple sauce or plain greek yogurt (or sour cream if you’re traditional like that).

If you have any leftover zucchini, don’t forget to try this zucchini bread!

Zucchini Pancakes

2 medium zucchini (I used about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons grated red onion
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
6+ tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Unsalted butter and vegetable oil

Grate the zucchini into a bowl and immediately stir in the onion and eggs. Stir in 6 tablespoons of the flour, the baking powder, salt, and pepper. (If the batter gets too thin from the liquid in the zucchini, add more about 2 Tbsp at a time.)

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and melt 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil together in the pan. When the butter is hot but not smoking, drop heaping soup spoons of batter into the pan. Cook the pancakes about 2 minutes on each side, until browned.  Remove the finished pancakes and wipe out the pan with a dry paper towel.  Add more butter and oil to the pan and continue to fry the pancakes until all the batter is used. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 300 degree oven for up to 30 minutes.

Source: Ina Garten

Classic Zucchini Bread

My work colleague has a magical garden that grows 2-foot-long zucchinis (no exaggeration).  And these puppies are so wide that I can hardly fit my hands around them.  For.  Real. When she was giving them away I scooped one up and soon realized that it was going to be the gift that keeps on giving: zucchini bread, zucchini pancakes, and zucchini cookies have all made their way out of my kitchen this week.  And the summer is still young, so if I end up changing the name of this blog to Life and Zucchini, you’ll know why.    As it turns out, zucchini plants love heat and we’ve been having a hot hot hot summer.  100 degrees on Saturday!  In Pittsburgh!  That’s just unreasonable (unless you happen to be Nonnie, in which case this is ideal weather and you can now consider taking your sweater off).  We have been filling our free time with Lily at the mall’s indoor play area, the grocery store, the pool, and anywhere else that promises an escape from the searing heat.

For this bread, I made one big bundt loaf instead of two smaller ones (which the recipe called for).  I have very few cooking supplies unpacked here, so I needed to go out and buy a grater and loaf pans… but I only had two 20% off coupons for Bed, Bath, and Beyond, so if I made smaller loaves then I would have had to cook them separately.  No one wants the oven at 350 for two full hours during a heat wave.  So, I just bought a bundt pan and skipped the hassle (and the extra money for another loaf pan!).  Please try not to judge my cheapness.

In other recipe changes, I switched out the oil in the recipe for apple sauce – beach time in one month!  And I omitted the nuts because my coworkers would be eating it, and I didn’t want to risk nut allergies (killing someone wouldn’t give everyone the best first impression).

Classic Zucchini Bread

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups sugar
1 cup apple sauce
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup water
2 cups grated zucchini
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, nutmeg, baking soda, cinnamon and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine apple sauce, eggs, water, zucchini and lemon juice. Mix wet ingredients into dry, add nuts and fold in. Bake in 2 standard loaf pans, sprayed with nonstick spray, for 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. A single bundt pan took about an hour and ten minutes.

Source: adapted from Paula Deen

Zucchini-Tomato Gratin

So, you have a garden (or grocery store) full of tomatoes and zucchini?  And you have a pot-luck Labor Day party to go to?  Well, my friend, how convenient that you happened upon this little website of mine today.  Now that it’s September, our produce days are limited, so make the most of the bounty and throw this zucchini-tomato gratin together.  I made it after work one day (it’s that easy!) and Jake and I ate this side dish as our entire dinner.  Mainly because I didn’t make anything else.  But he didn’t complain.  He also didn’t complain when I asked him to clean up this mess.  What a guy.
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