Zucchini at the market

Summer squashes, such as zucchini, and winter squashes, are native to the Americas. Archaeologists have traced their origins to Mexico, dating back from 7,000 to 5,500 BC. They were an integral part of the ancient diet of maize, beans, and squashes. This trio of foods is still the mainstay of Mexican cuisine and is commonly referred to as the “three sisters.”

A derivative of the word meaning “sweetest”, Zucchini was given its interesting name by the Italians. With their high water content (more than 95 percent), zucchinis are low in calories, carbs, and are fat free. Nutritionally, zucchinis offer valuable antioxidants, and they provide some beta-carotene, trace quantities of the B vitamins, folic acid, and small amounts of vitamin C and calcium. They also provide a healthy dose of potassium and are a good source of fiber.

Age to introduce: 6-8 months (cooked and pureed).

Toddler Treat: Frosted Zucchini

The fun name of this recipe may be just enough to get your kids to try this delicious veggie dish. This is also a great recipe to get the kids involved in preparing. Older children can frost the zucchini and younger ones can dip them into the bread crumbs.

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium zucchini (about 8-9 inches long)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 3 Tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup Panko or other bread crumbs

Directions:
Cut zucchini into 3/4-inch rounds. Steam in microwave until barely tender, about 2-4 minutes (test with fork). Drain and let cool. Mix together remaining ingredients except the bread crumbs. Frost one side of the zucchini slice with the mayonnaise mixture. Dip the frosted side of the zucchini in bread crumbs and place them on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Broil them in the oven until lightly browned. (4- 6 servings)

Zucchini For The Family

At the market: Zucchini should be firm with dark green, shiny skins. Smaller sizes are more tender and flavorful. Avoid zucchini that shows signs of injury, pitting, or dull skin.

Storage: Refrigerate. Zucchini can be eaten raw or cooked.

Here are a few easy ideas to add zucchini in your meals:

  • Shred a zucchini into a tossed salad, or make cole slaw with ½ shredded zucchini and ½ shredded cabbage.
  • Slice zucchini into sticks and serve with ranch dressing or dip.
  • Add some crunch to homemade or store bought gazpacho by garnishing it with diced zucchini and chopped green onion.
  • Add culinary zip to plain rice or couscous. Sauté one cup of diced zucchini, ¼ cup dried cranberries and ¼ cup chopped onion in 2 Tbsp of olive oil and dash of turmeric. Cook 4-6 minutes, until softened. Toss the mixture with cooked rice or couscous and serve.
  • Sneak some extra nutrition into your children’s food. Add shredded zucchini to a muffin or sweet bread recipe, or replace some of the potato with shredded zucchini in a potato pancake recipe.
  • Zucchini boats for your dinner table: Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the centers to make a boat. Fill the boats with one of the following mixtures:
    • Chopped onions, mushrooms, peppers, tofu, and tomatoes
    • Chopped walnuts, dried cranberries and apricots, and honey.

Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil or butter. Bake covered in a casserole dish at 350 for about 45 to 60 minutes.