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Chef's Hat: Here's a new twist on an old vegetable

Hamburger with onion bun and baked zuchinni.

In the last few weeks, area gardens have been popping with produce. And, just like every year, my neighbors' gardens have an overabundance of zucchini.

The joke about zucchini is that the way to get rid of it is to wait until your neighbors are gone and then put it on their doorstep. I have not found a bushel basket of the vegetable on my doorstep, but I was handed a large bag of those green vegetables (even though I had asked for two).

After I realized I was stuck with an entire bag of zucchini, the research began. I ran across several new recipes that gave me hope that these vegetables would be eaten and not end up in the compost pile.

So for those of you who have lost all hope of what to do with that basket full of zucchini, there are interesting ways to use zucchini without having to make and freeze a dozen loaves of bread.

What seems to be the most traditional way to use zucchini is to make it into a loaf of bread. But let's face it, plain old zucchini bread is boring. After doing some reading and a bit of trial and error, I came up with the perfect bread recipe that includes a bit of lemon in the bread and a sweet glaze on the top.

Cake is a favorite of mine, and many people find it hard to pass up. One of my favorite desserts is banana cake. So when I came across a recipe using bananas and zucchini, I couldn't pass it up. This is a great recipe for a light dessert, and it's classy enough for a special occasion.

If you still have zucchini to spare, don't give up hope. There are a couple more unusual ways to use this overproducing vegetable. Zucchini is great on the grill and combines well with sausage for an easy and fast kabob.

Another recipe that's a tad bit different and calls for whatever you have around the house is zucchini boats. The recipe lists mozzarella cheese, but you can use any type of cheese you have on hand. Green olives add a nice bit of spice to this recipe, but if you prefer, you can replace the green olives with black olives, or leave the olives out.

Don't lose hope with that mound of zucchini that keeps growing. There are a lot of creative recipes that your family will enjoy. Start today and whittle down that ever-growing mound of green. Happy Eating!

Glazed Lemon Zucchini Bread

Makes 1 loaf

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup grated zucchini

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8- by 4-inch loaf pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.

In another bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest and stir well. Add eggs, oil and lemon juice and stir until smooth. Stir in the dry ingredients until combined.

Fold the zucchini into the batter and pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to rest in the pan for 10 minutes before removing the loaf onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

While the bread is cooling, make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the bread. Slice and serve.

Zucchini Boats with Mozzarella and Olives

From thekitchen.com

  • 2 medium sized zucchinis
  • 8 balls of fresh mozzarella cheese, halved (or about 1/2 cup of any cheese you have on hand)
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved (or any tomatoes you have on hand, cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • 8 green olives, pitted and cut in half (or black olives)
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh basil, cut into slivers
  • Breadcrumbs (canned breadcrumbs work)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut zucchinis lengthwise and scoop out about 1/2 inch of the very center of the squash. The indentations will be small and it doesn't have to be pretty. Make these deep enough so you can place some cheese, olives and tomatoes into the squash.

Drizzle the hollowed squash with a small amount of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes, until squash gives a little to the touch.

Remove the par-baked zucchini and dot with halved grape tomatoes, halved mozzarella and sliced olives. Put in as many of the items as desired. Drizzle with more olive oil, and sprinkle fresh basil slivers and breadcrumbs over the top. Drizzle a little more olive oil over the top and season with salt and pepper.

Increase the oven heat to 450 degrees and cook for another 10-15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. When breadcrumbs are golden and cheese is melted, the zucchini boats are done.

Grizzled Zucchini and Sausage Kabobs

  • 4 sausages (precooked pork, turkey or chicken sausages)
  • 4 small zucchinis
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • ½ cup bottled Italian dressing

Preheat grill. While grill is preheating, prepare the skewers. Cut vegetables into ½-inch chunks. Put into a zipped bag and pour in the Italian dressing. Marinate for 15 to 30 minutes.

Cut sausages into ¼-inch chunks. Thread sausages onto skewers, alternating with the vegetables.

Grill over medium heat until meat is browned and vegetables are just tender, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Banana Zucchini Sheet Cake

From tornadoughalli.com

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 small zucchinis, grated and drained
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup milk

Frosting:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Up to 4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 12- by 17-inch sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In bowl, beat butter and sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add bananas and continue to beat until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well mixed. Fold in zucchini and mix until well incorporated.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture into the wet mixture and beat until well combined. Add the milk and beat just until mixed. Pour into your prepared pan and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden.

Remove from oven and let cool completely.

To make frosting, in a bowl beat butter until fluffy. Add cream cheese and mix well. Beat in salt, cinnamon and vanilla until combined. Slowly add powdered sugar until reaching the desired consistency. Spread frosting over the cake. Cut and serve.

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