Wednesday, July 16, 2014

:: Let's Talk Zucchini : The Good the Bad & the Ugly ::

Since my last post, the garden has doubled in size (unfortunately, so have the weeds)!
It's just the beginning of "pickin" season and so far we are enjoying snap peas, cucumbers, and lots and lots of zucchini. Today, let's talk about the latter.

I only put two plants in to start this year and the reason being; squash bugs. Ugh, these things are like the garden devil. I fought with them last year and they've made their presences once again.

They look like a "stink bug" on steroids. They are ugly and will wilt your zucchini plant almost over night.

You'll find their little rows of eggs on the under side of the leaves like this : 

Last year, I found Bayer Advanced Veg Spray worked great to get rid of these pest, but I prefer to only use it on veggies that we won't be eating, such as pumpkins.
A few suggestions that seem to be silly but work: when you see the little pests, burn them with a lighter. Yes, I would be the crazy lady out in my garden burning bugs with a lighter. LOL!
Another suggestion I found that works brilliantly, using a strong tape such as duct tape to remove all the eggs from the leaf without damaging the plant.  Throw them things in the burn barrel and say good-bye!

So, we've covered the bad & the ugly; let's cover the good!
Most summer night suppers around here include zucchini. Often, cooked in the cast iron skillet with onion flakes & garlic salt, but sometimes directly on the grill. For my husband and I, it's such a treat; for our kids, they prefer it in bread form. (well, so do I.)

So, how do we turn these giant green veggies into yummy bread? Here's how:
Wash, cut and shred the zucchini with skins left on. You can use a cheese shredder if you don't have a food processor.

 If I'm going to make bread, I try to make at least 4-5 loaves at a time since there's a mess going anyways. If you have a few extra loaves, wrap them up good and pop them into the freezer for a later date. But, you can also freeze the shredded zucchini! It's so awesome to be able to pull out the shredded zucchini and bake a wonderful treat on a cold winter day!

 :: Zucchini Bread ::
3 eggs, 2 c. sugar, 1 c. veg oil, 1 tsp. vanilla, 2 c. shredded zucchini
Cream the first four ingredients and then stir in the zucchini.
3 c. flour, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. baking powder, 2-3 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/2 c. nuts (optional)
Mix together all dry ingredients listed above and then incorporate into the wet mixture from step one.
Pour into 2 bread pans and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

What to do with the rest?
We opt to cut it into chunks, blanch it, and freeze for later use. 
Start by cleaning and cutting it into chunks ( our youngest son loves to help in the kitchen which is great because a second pair of hands definitely makes things quicker)...
We then submerge the zucchini into a boiling pot of water for only 1-2 minutes. (This is the blanching part.)
Have a bowl of ice water in the sink ready to go next. The cold water stops the cooking process so COLD is important.
 I have found putting the zucchini into a strainer and then dip that into the ice water works so much faster than trying to separate the ice cubes out in the next step.
I then lay the blanched zucchini onto a baking sheet to pop into the freezer for a few minutes. This just helps keep the pieces from becoming one big chunk in the freezer bag.
The last step, measure out the blanched zucchini into freezer bags & freeze for later use!

Got a favorite zucchini recipe you'd be willing to share? I'd love to give it a try!

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