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Is your garden overflowing with zucchini or another type of summer squash? Lucky you!  Summer squash is a warm season vegetable that can be grown throughout the frost-free months.  Varieties of summer squash can be found in grocery stores year round, but they are most plentiful during June, July, and August.  Summer squash is harvested while the vegetable is still immature.  As a result, the skin of the squash is tender and is edible, unlike its fall and winter counterparts.

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What are the health benefits?

  • Summer squash is low in calories with only 16 calories per cup of raw squash. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is high in fiber and low in calories which can help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Summer squash is free of sodium and cholesterol. A diet low in sodium and cholesterol decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Summer squash is high in vitamins A and C. Vitamin A is important for healthy skin, vision, cell growth, and fighting infections. Vitamin C helps to fight infections, build new body tissue, heal wounds, and eliminate cancer causing substances.
  • Summer squash also contains potassium, manganese, folate, riboflavin, and vitamin B6. These help the body turn food into fuel as well as ensure proper contraction of the heart and skeletal muscles.

How do I select a summer squash at the grocery store?

  • Choose summer squash that has a firm, glossy/shiny skin that is free of cuts, bruises, and blemishes.
  • The summer squash should be heavy for its size. If comparing two of the same size, buy the heavier squash.
  • Choose small to medium varieties. Smaller squash is more flavorful than larger ones.

How do I store summer squash?

  • Store summer squash unwashed in plastic bags in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Any water on the squash will promote decay while in storage.
  • Summer squash can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator.

How should I prepare summer squash?

  • Summer squash should be washed well right before it is used in a meal.
  • Cut off both ends of the summer squash, but do not peel off the skin. Most of the vitamins and minerals are found near the skin. The skin of summer squash is very tender and easily eaten.
  • Summer squash can be enjoyed either raw or cooked.
  • Slice the squash and sauté, grill, steam, boil, roast, or microwave.

Top 5 ways to enjoy summer squash:

  1. Grate zucchini using a cheese grater and use it to make delicious zucchini bread or zucchini muffins.
  2. Chopped, raw summer squash can be added to a salad of lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and chickpeas to make a colorful, refreshing dish on a hot summer day.
  3. Use squash as part of a summer chili.
  4. Use summer squash to make a delicious veggie lasagna.
  5. Use summer squash to make vegetable kabobs on a summer night. Toss summer squash, red bell peppers, and onions in olive oil, add salt and pepper, place on a skewer, and grill to perfection.

Sources:

https://extension.illinois.edu/veggies/ssquash.cfm

https://www.whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/factsheets/HHFS_SUMMERSQUASH_900151Dec2012.pdf

http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/summer-squash-nutrition-selection-storage

Author: Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences/EFNEP Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County.

Reviewer:  Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences/EFNEP Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County.

 

 

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zucchini.jpg

As my family gardened this week we noticed that we have an abundance of zucchini. It’s that time of year where everyone is getting more than they anticipated and they are trying to find ways to use it up, preserve it, or give it away.

When picking zucchini look for firm and wrinkle free zucchini that is about 6 to 8 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. If you are anything like me, you likely have zucchini in your garden that’s 12 inches long and 4 inches in diameter. The larger the zucchini the tougher it will be and it will also contain more seeds. These zucchini are best for baking. Scoop out the seeds and pulp, grate the zucchini and use in your favorite recipes.

Zucchini have a high water content which makes them lower in calories. They provide us with vitamin C, fiber, vitamin K, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, and potassium. This makes them a fantastic vegetable to eat. However, not all children are big vegetable eaters. If you are like me, you sneak them into things when they don’t notice. Zucchini bread is always a good option but if you have a picky eater like I do, the green flecks in the bread can quickly turn them away. Have you ever put it in your chocolate cake or finely shredded in spaghetti sauce? My kids don’t know it’s there and I get them to eat a vegetable! I count it as my mom super power! The below recipe is a great one to try from USDA’s Mixing Bowl recipe collection. You can also check out some of their other zucchini recipes.

The big zucchini that I picked from my garden will make a lot of Chocolate Squash cake. I won’t use all of my grated zucchini before it goes bad so I will be freezing my leftovers. For proper freezing procedures please check out these safe instructions by the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Make sure you blanch zucchini before freezing to ensure quality.

Eating the squash cake is not as healthy for you as eating the raw vegetable itself but we all have to start somewhere.

Aunt Barbara’s Chocolate Squash Cake

Makes: 12 Servings

Instructions

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 package cake mix, dark chocolate

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups water

1 cup squash (shredded or finely chopped)

1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10″ tube or bundt pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and cinnamon.
  3. Add eggs, water, and oil. Blend until combined, then beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes on medium speed.
  4. Fold in squash. Add nuts if you like.
  5. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until cake springs back when lightly touched.

Other Ideas:

  • Use a greased 9×13-inch pan. Bake for 45 minutes.
  • To lighten cake, try 6 egg whites in place of whole egg.
  • Replace 1/2 cup oil with 1/2 cup applesauce.

WRITTEN BY: Amanda Bohlen, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County.

REVIEWED BY: Lisa Barlage , Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension,  Ross County.

SOURCES:

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Basil Herb Bowl

Basil Herb Bowl

My herb pots are growing and I need to harvest some of them. All of the rain we’ve had this summer in Ohio has made them lush and ready to pick. I’ve enjoyed substituting fresh herbs for dried herbs in many dishes this summer. Let’s talk about a couple of dishes we’ve enjoyed this summer. Not sure about which herbs to use with which foods? This Ohio State University Fact Sheet will give you some great suggestions for selecting, storing and using fresh herbs.

Have you tried a Caprese sandwich with fresh basil? If not, try one for a yummy treat.

How about a dish of caramelized onions, summer squash and garlic? Stir fry these vegetables and add fresh basil or oregano. If you have zucchini, slice it and add it to your recipe. Try this version from USDA for summer squash medley.

This year I made a version of Mala String Beans with fresh green beans. Cook your green beans in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Once they are blanched, you can store them in the refrigerator for 3 days. To make your Mala String Beans, caramelize onions and garlic (be generous with garlic) in a small amount of olive oil. Add your blanched green beans and stir fry. Add a small amount of sesame oil and low sodium soy sauce. Enjoy. Using fresh onions from my garden made this dish extra tasty.

Back to my herbs. . . I want to have the taste of fresh herbs after they’ve dried up and there’s snow on the ground so I decided to freeze some of my herbs so that I can enjoy them this winter.

Here’s my pictorial of picking and freezing herbs:

Basil just picked, washed and drying on paper towel.

Fresh Picked Basil

Fresh Picked Basil

Chopping fresh basil with specialty sheers. You can also chop with a knife.

Chopping Fresh Herbs

Chopping Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs in a tray ready to be frozen. You can use an ice cube tray or a special herb tray with a lid.

Fresh Herbs in Tray

Fresh Herbs in Tray

Frozen herbs on a plate before placing in airtight freezer container.

Frozen Herbs

Frozen Herbs

Frozen herb cubes in airtight container to be stored in freezer.

Frozen Herbs

Frozen Herbs

I found out that it is relatively easy to freeze herbs. I picked my herbs and lightly rinsed them. Lightly dry them on a clean towel or paper towel. Chop them with a knife or special herb chopping scissors. Freeze in ice cube trays or in special herb freezing trays. Fill the trays with about 2 Tablespoons of herbs and water. Freeze overnight. Pop out the cubes and place in airtight containers. I would recommend storing your herbs in separate containers so the flavors don’t mix. I have basil and rosemary frozen in my freezer waiting for my next creation.

What will you create with fresh herbs?

Writer: Michelle Treber, M.A., L.D., Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Pickaway County, Heart of Ohio EERA, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Cheryl Barber Spires, R.D., L.D., West Region Program Specialist, SNAP-Ed, OSU Extension Northwest Region Office, spires.53@osu.edu

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