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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!
Chicken Enchilada Zucchini Boat

Zucchini: Many More Uses than Just Bread

This week's blog post was written by our Nutrition and Wellness intern, Paige Meints. She is a student at ISU studying Food, Nutrition, and Dietetics.

Zucchini is a popular summer crop in the Midwest because it's a low maintenance plant and is fairly easy to grow. Zucchini plants do not take up too much space in the garden and yield an average of 6 to 10 pounds of delicious zucchini over the course of the season! Zucchini is a type of summer squash that is green and oblong shaped. The larger the zucchini gets, the more bitter it gets so it's best to harvest zucchini when it's about 4-6 inches long for the best flavor.

Zucchini is a great summer vegetable that is low calorie and high-nutrient food. It is a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. It can be stored in the fridge in a plastic bag, unwashed, for 4-5 days or it can easily be frozen to enjoy all year! To freeze zucchini, begin by washing the zucchini thoroughly and cut it into half-inch slices. Once cut, blanch the zucchini for 3 minutes (start timer when water comes to a full boil) and then quickly chill in an ice water bath. Drain off excess water and freeze immediately in airtight containers or freezer bags. Zucchini may also be grated rather than cut into half-inch pieces. If grating, steam grated zucchini for 2 minutes rather than blanching and then chill in ice water.

Although zucchini bread is a popular and delicious way to use up the crop, there are endless ways to cook with this summer delicacy. It can be roasted, grilled, fried, eaten raw in salads, or made into "zoodles" (zucchini noodles) and substituted in pasta dishes!

Chicken Enchilada Zucchini Boat

Yield: 4 servings

1 medium zucchini, sliced in half length-wise

2 teaspoon olive oil, divided

¼ C finely chopped yellow onion

¼ C finely chopped orange bell peppers

1/3 C corn

1 clove garlic

8 oz can tomato sauce

1 ½ teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ tsp paprika

1/3 c water

¾ tsp cornstarch

1 C Cooked chicken, shredded

1/3 C Black Beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 c shredded Mexican blend cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a spoon, scoop centers from zucchini into a bowl while leaving a ¼ inch rim to create boats. Brush tops and bottoms with 1 teaspoon olive oil and place in baking dish. Bake until zucchini is nearly tender; about 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add onion and pepper and sauté for 3-4 minutes until soft. Add centers from zucchini, corn, and garlic and sauté for approximately 2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour in tomato sauce and spices. In a small bowl whisk together the water and cornstarch until well blended and add to tomato mixture. Bring to a light boil, stirring frequently. Allow to gently boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in shredded chicken and black beans.

Remove zucchini from oven and spoon chicken mixture into zucchini. Sprinkle tops with cheese blend. Return to oven and bake 5-10 minutes longer until cheese has melted and zucchini is tender. Top with plain green yogurt and cilantro if desired.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 174 Calories, 14 grams protein, 14 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 7 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 3 grams monounsaturated fat, 589 milligrams sodium

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