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Lighten Up Your Summer Cuisine with Zucchini

My dad is a very passionate gardner. Every time I go home I take pictures and drip with envy over the fresh produce he is able grow in the very same backyard I played in for years as a kid. While I absolutely love my high-rise, downtown, urban living, not having a garden of my own is one of the downfalls. This morning I got this series of pictures and found myself inspired by the zucchini…

santa cruz summer garden

A little zucchini backstory…

These guys are technically in season June through late August, although you can pretty much find them at the super market year round. But the eating-in-season-perk here is that you should find them at your local farmer’s market very easily right now, they will be larger, more flavorful, nutrient dense and less expensive. All around WIN!

Zucchini is a good source of folate and vitamins A and C as well as minerals copper, magnesium, potassium, manganese and of course, fiber. The high water and fiber content make this a great vegetable for weight loss. While yellow squash is higher in carotenoids, green is still a good source of lutein. Zucchini is low on the glycemic index and alkaline forming in your body helping to regulate PH and blood sugar.

How can you use Zucchini to lighten your summer recipes?

In addition to being a pretty awesome vegetable to brighten up and add color to your traditional dishes, it works a little on the sly as a sneaky potato or pasta alternative as well. You’ll see it pop up all the time in low carb and paleo recipes for this reason. Anytime you can cut processed carbs and replace them with a more nutrient dense vegetable, you’re winning.

3 creative ways to sneak in Zucchini this Summer (or any time really…)

1. Peel or spiralize: You can use a vegetable peeler and shred lengthwise or also buy a Vegetable Spiralizer that is specifically designed to shred cylindrical veggies into pasta like, noodle pieces. I LOVE mine and I got it on Amazon for less than $15! This works awesome as a traditional noodle replacement. You can top it with marinara, Alfredo, or pesto and your assortment of favorite veggies and lean protein. I have an awesome (and incredibly easy) recipe for pesto fettuccine in the Color Yourself Skinny program.

Dinner_Green_Zuccinni Squash Pasta

The benefits: Swapping one cup of regular noodles for 1 cup of zucchini noodles will save you…a LOT! Try 19 calories for the 4 oz of zucchini and nearly 200 for the pasta. See below for the full nutrition label comparison.

zucchini vs pasta

2. Slice and dice into disks: You can use a Mandoline or sharp knife and chop them up along the short length into thin disks and coat them lightly with oil, salt, pepper and your favorite spices and bake them. Then you’ve got a great replacement for greasy fried potato chips! While I haven’t tested this recipe from the Wishful Chef personally, it looks like a good one.  You can also cut them much thicker and toss them on summer grilling kabobs (which I do all the time).

zucchini chips

The benefits: Swapping 4 oz by weight of traditional potato chips for 4 oz zucchini chips will save you…a LOT! Try 19 calories for the 4 oz of zucchini and over 600 for the pasta. See below for the full nutrition label comparison. Granted, that does not include the calories from the spray oil, but you can still imagine it’s a significant savings on the healthier side of things.

zucchini chips

3. Slice lengthwise into sheets: using a long kitchen knife so that they are about 1/4 inch think. Then you can layer them in lasagna in addition to, or in lieu of traditional lasagna noodles.  You can use pretty much any traditional recipe, but here is my slightly healthier lasagna recipe. It’s also one of those that is great to make in bulk and have leftover for a few days because it only gets better as the flavors sit together.

roasted squash

The Benefits: This will be about the same benefit as #1. It’s really a great way to add color, nutrition, cut calories and carbs and still serve up a really tasty, satisfying dish.

There you have it, three easy ways to use a yummy and in season veggie to lighted up your summer fare just a bit more!

What’s your favorite way to prepare zucchini? 

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