Produce Overload

First off, I’d like to say “hi” and thanks to the subscribers I have for sticking with me, as well as anyone else who happens to stumble upon my blog. I truly  appreciate anyone who stops by to take a peek, and it’s really fun for me to see what posts people have liked the most. I feel bad I haven’t written more posts, (especially because I had lots of fun things to write about) lately, but things have been pretty darn hectic for me.

My mom had her other knee replaced so I returned home to Minnesota in mid-June to help take care of her. She had the other knee done last year, so you’d think things would go more smoothly this year, but there was an added commitment this year: our horribly cute, still a puppy corgi, Nova would have to come to Minnesota with me. This meant having three dogs in the house and an extra “thing” to care for. The other two dogs, Indie and Pippin aren’t really super fans of other dogs and bringing a very jumpy, wanting to play all the time, wiggly puppy was hard on them. Thankfully, for the most part, they tolerate each other with no real fisticuffs, only some grrrrrrrring. They do much better when we take them outside for walks or playtime, but it’s either poured or we’ve had record breaking temperatures, limiting our outdoor time. Any free time I’d use to write a post has been filled with cooking, exercising/training all the dogs or just trying to rest instead, but we’ve finally gotten things settled down and schedules coordinated and I finally felt I had enough time to write a post I’d be proud of (granted, this one was written over a few days instead of all at once). Today’s topic: garden goodies.

My mom has a fairly decent-sized garden in our backyard, and we love to enjoy the produce throughout the summer. That being said, some items are easier to use up. Zucchinis are sadly, not really one of them. Don’t get me wrong, zucchini bread is great, and eating it raw in salads or steaming it is great and all, but after a while, there’s only so many loaves of bread (or zucchinis) you can make/eat/freeze/give away before you hit your limit.

Last year while I was home, I made stuffed shells with a  vegetable-filled sauce that used a fair amount of zucchini. Luckily, I brought the recipe with me so I was able to make it. Since we had so much zucchini, I decided to make a double batch (so don’t panic when you see the pictures and the quantities look huge compared to the amounts in the recipe) so we could eat some now and freeze the rest, fulfilling my Mother’s Day gift of making her some freezer-friendly meals to have on hand when it’s been “one of those days” and she’s too tired to cook.

I used an adapted version of Melissa d’Arabain’s recipe from Food Network Magazine, and while the original is vegetarian friendly, non-vegetarians will also enjoy it. Truthfully, it’s kind of pokey to make, but it’s well worth it, and it’s a great way to use up other produce you probably have on hand.

Cheesy Stuffed Shells (adapted version)

For the Sauce:

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 1/2 cup grated zucchini
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • Freshly ground pepper

For the Shells:

  • 1 12-ounce box jumbo pasta shells
  • 8 ounces ground turkey/beef/sausage, cooked and cooled
  • 1 10-ounce box frozen chopped broccoli, cooked until fork tender, cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrot, zucchini, onion and celery and saute until soft but not brown, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the basil, oregano, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, prepare the shells: Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 8 minutes; drain. Mix the turkey/beef/sausage, broccoli, cottage cheese, parmesan, 1/2 cup mozzarella, the egg and garlic in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Mist a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread about 1 cup of the sauce in the dish. Stuff the cheese mixture into the shells and place in the baking dish, open-side up. Pour the remaining sauce over the shells. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. Serves 4 to 6.

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At the time of this posting, we have six or seven zucchinis left, Despite my mom making quite a few loaves of zucchini bread. I fear when I check again in a few hours, we’ll magically have three or four more on the table, so I’m asking you guys: what are your favorite ways to use zucchini? Any helpful tips/tricks to get those who don’t really care for it (ie: me) to eat it without really noticing?

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Wendy
    Jul 27, 2012 @ 12:14:56

    Have you tried doing a stir fry? I read on another blog about chocolate zucchini cake.

    Reply

    • conversebear
      Aug 06, 2012 @ 22:01:01

      Sorry for the late reply, Wendy! We did try a stir fry after you suggested it–not sure why it didn’t cross my mind earlier, so thanks for the suggestion 🙂 It was a good way to use it up and I wasn’t able to really taste it, which was a major plus to me! My mom tried some chocolate muffins and we weren’t too impressed, but she’s going to try a cake next.

      Reply

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