tomato and zucchini solutions
Growing vegetables is one of the simple pleasures in life. Well, sometimes it is not so simple; being a good gardener takes a lot of knowledge, experience, hard work, and a bit of meditation on the harmony of nature. But once you get the hang of it, you can be blessed with too much of a good thing.
Especially in the Northwest, where we enjoy moderate weather, tomatoes, and zucchinis can burst full of life. It is a first-world problem, for sure. If you know me, you know I have a problem with wasting food. What we in America and First World do to our food is an outrage; my latest internet search found: "Each year, 119 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States. That equates to 130 billion meals and more than $408 billion in food thrown away each year. Shockingly, nearly 40% of all food in America is wasted." We could feed the world by finding better ways to distribute and consume our food.
I cannot change the world, but I try to make a little difference by educating the public on how to run a household better to have less waste AND healthier meals. I do this every year in January during my 40 Days of Mindfulness Nutrition and Yoga Workshop.
I also try to sprinkle in little ideas here and there for inspiration.
This blog is one of those "sprinkling of ideas."
You can cut down on food waste by making a weekly menu and going grocery shopping based on a shopping list built on your meal plan.
Planning ahead is the key!
But if you are a gardener, Mother Nature sometimes throws off your plan, and one day you go out to water the vegetable patch just to find 5 pounds of tomatoes and the world's biggest zucchini.
If you have already given away so much zucchini to neighbors and friends that they are protesting and running away from you, you know you need to cook them up.
So here is what I did to one very large zucchini and some mushy tomatoes that were no longer good for a salad.
Italian Tomato Soup and Mexican Zucchini Boats
The great thing about this recipe is that they share many ingredients, so I cooked them simultaneously, side by side. Both meals took me less than 30 min to prepare. Great way to save time but not recommended if you are new to cooking. :-)
Tomato Soup Ingredients:
1 yellow onion finely diced
3 cloves of garlic crushed
Enough butter to sautee the onions - I love lots of butter
3 tablespoons of minced peppers (any pepper; I had one jalapeno, one red bell pepper, and one hatch chile - so I took the seeds and veins out and blitzed them together in a food processor. I used only 3 tbsp in this recipe; I used the rest in the Mexican zucchini boat)
5-6 medium or large tomatoes - I just placed them in the food processor and blitzed them for a few seconds
2 cups of chicken stock
1 can of tomato sauce
1 tbsp of Italian herbs or just dried basil
1/2 tsp black pepper or to taste
1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream - or more till you get that beautiful creamy color
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, to taste
Instructions for Tomato Soup
Melt butter and saute onions for 5 min.
Add crushed garlic, and further saute for 2 min
Add minced peppers, further saute for 5 min
Add crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce, and chicken stock
Stir in the black pepper, salt to taste, and Italian herbs
Bring it to a boil, then let it simmer. Add the heavy whipping cream and little parmesan cheese
Take an immersion blender and blitz until it is nice and creamy, or leave it chunky if you prefer.
Mexican Zucchini Boat Ingredients:
One ridiculously overgrown zucchini or 4-5 normal ones
One pound of ground meat of your choice
One large yellow onion minced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
minced peppers (any pepper; I had one jalapeno, one red bell pepper, and one hatch chile - so I took the seeds and veins out and blitzed them together in a food processor.)
1 tbsp of paprika
1/2 tbsp of smoked paprika
1 large tbsp of ground cumin
1 tbsp of ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
whatever shredded cheese you find in your refrigerator.
Instructions for Mexican Zucchini Boat
Preheat oven to 375 F
Lightly grease a large casserole dish. I like using parchment paper; it makes for easier cleanup.
Slice zucchini lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Rub the inside of the zucchini with olive oil. Place them into the oven; 15 min for small and tender zucchinis. 30 min for your overgrown monster-garden zucchini.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil, and add the minced onion; saute for 5-7 min. Add crushed garlic, and saute for another 2-3 min. Add the minced pepper mixture, saute for another 5-7 min.
Then add ground meat, and cook until well cooked through. Add spices: paprika, cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper, and make sure all spices are well distributed.
Remove mixture from heat and scoop them into the zucchini boats, top with cheese, then return to oven for 5-8 min. or until cheese is melted.
Serve with sour cream and cilantro - if you like that sort of stuff.
Enjoy and remember; whatever is wilting or too much in your refrigerator - there is always a recipe! Get creative, take inventory of your perishables, and plan accordingly; it saves money and the planet.