There isn’t much I love about summertime in Missouri. Intense, breath-taking heat, high humidity, biting and stinging insects…discomfort is virtually assured from June through September. However, there are few a things that make all that discomfort worthwhile. Long hours of daylight, spending time at the river and, most of all ~ fresh garden veggies.
No summertime garden would be complete without Zucchini. Baked, fried, stuffed, pickled, raw ~ it doesn’t matter how you prepare it~ I love it! The last couple of years have solidified my favorite method of eating those big, fresh beautiful zucchini, though. It is definitely stuffed and baked. Which means that I have to share that wonderful recipe with you.
The beauty of stuffed zucchini is that it comes out tasting perfect weather you use fresh or frozen zucchini. I always like to take a few zucchini and stick them in the freezer for this garden-fresh treat during the cold months of winter. Zucchini is one of the few veggies that requires little or no processing before freezing. Simply cut into slices, shred or grate it, stick it in a freezer bag and pop it in the deep freeze. To freeze it for stuffing, cut off the ends, scoop out the seeds and voila!
Admittedly, zucchini can get a little mushy after it thaws, but if you aren’t eating it raw it doesn’t really matter. Use the slices for fried zucchini, pizza topping or add them to a quiche or pasta sauce. Throw chunks in some chicken or beef broth to make a delicious winter soup. Use it grated in zucchini bread or, as I’m about to share, as stuffing.
If you are looking for an exceptionally healthy veggie, this one nears the top of the list, providing you leave the skin on. Zucchini has a high water content, making it very low in calories, and contains no fat or cholesterol. It contains 7 g of carbohydrates, 56 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin C, 11 percent of your daily value of vitamin K, 16 percent of riboflavin, 21 percent of vitamin B-6 and 14 percent of folate, plus vitamin A, vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, calcium, iron, sodium, zinc and selenium.
Anyway…my stuffed zucchini recipe…
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
3-4 large zucchini
8 oz cream cheese
1-2 cups shredded cheese -any kind will work, but we prefer shredded Italian blend, cheddar and/or pepper jack
2-3 cups diced or grated raw veggies ~ tomatoes, squash, carrots, cabbage, peppers, celery… This is a great recipe for using up some of those veggies that have gone soft but aren’t bad yet.
1 lb cooked meat (if desired) ~ ground turkey is amazing, but so is sage sausage, hamburger, steak…
Herbs of your choice ~ I love fresh basil, thyme, dill and oregano in this dish. Just a tsp of each, chopped super-fine, works perfectly
Like all my recipes, this one is adaptable. If you are using frozen zucchini, you can skip this first part and jump ahead to the stuffing part. If you are using fresh zucchini here’s what you do.
Take the 3-4 large zucchini and fill a pot big enough to lay them in. Fill the pot with water and bring to a full boil, then place zucchini (with ends still intact) in pot. Boil for 7-9 minutes. Remove from pot and place in ice cold water for 2-3 minutes.
Remove from water and slice off the ends of the zucchini, then cut the zucchini lengthwise down the middle. Gently scoop out the seeds, saving as much of the flesh as possible. Place zucchini on a cookie sheet lightly coated with the cooking oil of your choice and sprinkle with sea salt.
Mix all of your other veggies and the meat in a large bowl. Make sure you get the cream cheese mixed well enough that you don’t have large chunks in the blend. Add herbs and squeeze lemon juice over the mixture. Mix well.
Fill zucchini with stuffing. Pile it on thick and high!
Cook for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle extra cheese across the top. Return to oven and cook until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and cool for 3-5 minutes.
Serve it up!
I feel it is only fair to warn you that this dish is VERY addictive! I grew extra zucchini this year so I could make sure I have enough to last me until next growing season.
If you make more than you can eat at one sitting, you can throw the extra in the freezer and they reheat beautifully.