Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mediterranean Zucchini Boats, Fresh Hummus, and Tabouli Salad

We still have a lot of zucchini, in case you can't tell.  We are also looking forward to the start of school, as Claire and I have found it significantly more challenging to cook at our usual pace and quantity with 6 kids running around. Not that having to pick out an occasional Nerf bullet out of a pile of chopped onions would break our stride at all. This collection of recipes is on the healthy side, with very little fat and lots of fresh vegetables and small portions of lean meat. We didn't leave out the flavor, however.  The leftovers from prepping the zucchini boats were nicely combined into a delicious pasta with whole wheat noodles. No one complained in our house.

Mediterranean Zucchini Boats
This is an original recipe. Cooking time can vary, depending on how soft you like your zucchini.  For a firmer texture, 35 minutes would probably do it. Serve this with the Creamy Greek Goddess dressing over the top.

4-6 medium zucchini
1 lb lean ground beef or chicken sausage
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 1/2 c cooked quinoa
2 cups spinach, chopped
1 egg (lightly beaten)
1 c low fat cottage cheese
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste (less if you used sausage)

Saute the garlic and onions until the onions are soft.  Add the meat and break up into little pieces until it's cooked. Add in the spinach.  Reserve about a third on an extra plate.  (This will be combined with the zucchini guts to make a nice pasta for the next night.)  In a medium bowl, mix the ground beef/spinach mixture (the 2/3 portion) with the cooked quinoa, egg, cottage cheese, and cinnamon. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out the insides or guts and reserve.  Thicker zucchini will mean a slightly longer cooking time, but less potential waste. Arrange the hollowed zucchini on a baking pan and stuff with the stuffing mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.  To make the zucchini more tender (or mushy), add a small amount of water to the bottom of the pan.  Serve with Creamy Greek Goddess Dressing drizzled over the top.

Creamy Greek Goddess Dressing/Dip
Using Greek yogurt significantly increases the protein content of this dressing.  If you like it more pourable, add a couple of tablespoons of milk, although I would let it set for a few minutes before you decide, as the high water content of the parsley and herbs tends to make it fairly liquid.  It's great on salad and as a dip, and in this case, a sauce for the Zucchini Boats above.

1 c non-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 T chives, chopped
1 T mint, finely chopped
2 T cilantro, chopped
2 T parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste

Blend in a food processor.

I had to convince Claire that we needed to make this.  She had a recent bad tabouli experience from which she is still recovering. This won her over in one bite, though, with its fresh lemon flavor.  I squeezed fresh lemon juice, so I used a bit of zest to give it an extra pop.   I'm pretty sure that real tabouli salad doesn't include cucumber, but we really liked the addition.

1/4 c bulgur wheat
1/4 c warm water
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, and cut into small chunks
1 1/2 large parsley bunch, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
4 scallions, chopped
1/4 c lemon juice with diced zest
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c olive oil

Soak the bulgur wheat in the warm water for an hour while you get everything else ready. (If you're in a hurry, stick it in the microwave for a couple of minutes.) Mix the bulgur wheat with the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

I used to always make my own hummus, in part because once you buy a jar of tahini, you are somewhat obligated to keep making hummus until the tahini is all gone. I've gotten out of the habit, but store bought hummus often has a weird flavor, and a lot of extra added fat. Actually making hummus is so easy and inexpensive that it's silly not to try it at least once. You will be a convert, I promise.  The garlic can be increased if you like the hummus spicy, and if you aren't interested in talking to people for the rest of the day.

2 cans chickpeas, drained, but with the liquid reserved
1/3 c lemon juice with a little diced zest
2 T tahini
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
2 T olive oil
paprika and chopped parsley for garnish

Blend all ingredients except the chickpea liquid and the garnish in batches in a small food processor. Or all at once in a big food processor.  Keep blending until it is creamy, adding reserved liquid as needed until the desired consistency is reached. Scrape out the hummus into a bowl and garnish.  Serve with veggies or pita wedges, or use on sandwiches.

Zucchini Guts Pasta
This pasta was created to eliminate any waste from the Mediterranean Zucchini Boats above. Some family members voted it better than the boats. It's got tons of zucchini in it, as well as chopped spinach, and we used whole wheat pasta!

2 c meat stuffing, reserved from above recipe (approximate)
2 c zucchini innards, chopped
2 c chopped spinach
1/4 c basil leaves, chopped
1/4 onion, diced (this was leftover so we added it!)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T chicken base + 1 c water, or 1 c chicken stock
4 c cooked whole wheat pasta noodles

In a large saute pan, add 1 tsp olive oil and then saute the garlic and onions until the onions are translucent. Add the zucchini, and saute until it is cooked.  Mix in the meat, spinach, and basil leaves. Add the base + water or stock, and add the noodles last.  Stir until everything is mixed in evenly. Top with shredded parmesan if desired.

Claire holding my twins.

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1 comment:

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