Making Zucchini Less Meh- Zucchini “Blooms” with Caramelized Red Onion and Goat Cheese

Zucchini you could bring home to mom!

Zucchini you could bring home to mom!

Zucchini is usually a filler vegetable that takes on the personality of whatever you season it with- kind of like a boring friend who always mimics the likes of the group- you don’t love them but they never cause any problems, so why not invite them to the party?

But here’s something to love about about zucchini: it’s super low-calorie and flexible. Literally, flexible. Inspired by a zucchini roll-ups, I set out to make a healthy side dish to a spring holiday feast- that still looked presentable.

Zucchini "ribbons"

Zucchini “ribbons”

A few things I learned along the way: a) This is a labor of love. It took a while… b) in this recipe don’t salt zucchini until it’s been cooked. Zucchini is 95% water and salt turns the zucchini ribbons to complete mush c) the surface area of the baking dish you’re trying to fill with blooms should be no more than 70 square inches. The vessel I used in the picture is 6 x 10″- which made about 6-8 little zucchini buds per person.

Serves 5

  • 1 Red Onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 C Water, plus 1/4 C Water
  • 2-3 oz Goat Cheese
  • 1.5- 2lbs Zucchini (about 6 medium zucchini)
  • Olive Oil Cooking Spray
  • salt and pepper to taste

1.) In a Teflon pan put the sliced red onion with 1/2 C water and heat to medium. Cook until all the water has evaporated and the onions have cooked through- about 10 minutes. Spray a few times with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to medium low, then add remaining 1/4 C water. Keep your eye on the onions as they begin to caramelize. When they start to brown, take pan off heat and add the goat cheese to the hot pan, stirring to create a homogenous mixture. Put in a bowl and set aside to cool.

2.) Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Using cooking spray, coat a 6 x 10″ baking dish.

3.) Wash zucchini and cut off tops and ends. Using a vegetable peeler (I prefer pull-peelers for this), shave all of the zucchini into long ribbons lengthwise. Reserve in a bowl.

4.) Put 1 tsp or less of goat cheese and onion mixture on a ribbon of zucchini. Roll the zucchini around the mixture, then add more strands of zucchini and keep rolling until it makes a “bloom.” Each “bloom” takes  4 to 6 ribbons of zucchini at least. Nestle each one into the dish and rinse repeat. And maybe watch a movie. Or sucker a child into thinking it’s the funnest thing ever and leave them to it. Try to pack them in there because they shrink a bit when cooked.

5.) Once your baking dish is full, spray the top with cooking spray and cook for 1 hour.

6.) After it’s out of the oven, sprinkle with salt and pepper on the top. Yum!

Calories: 99  – Fat : 5 grams –  Carbs: 9 grams – Fiber: 2.5 grams – Protein: 6 grams – PP: 3

You either get faster at making the bloom thingees, or you begin to care less...

You either get faster at making the bloom thingees, or you begin to care less…

In A Pickle

Pickles can be pretty, too!

Pickles can be pretty, too!

I wish getting back into healthy living/weight loss was a 100% empowering moment. It’s a good moment- don’t get me wrong- but it’s not 100% empowering, especially if you’re someone like me. This is a marathon I’ve signed-up for a dozen times. Thus far, each time found me a) falling to the asphalt, grabbing my ankle, and limping off to the sidelines (less common), or b) starting the race strong, but being completely distracted by a taco cart on the sidelines of the race… mmmm… delicious tacos… and before I’m done licking Tapatio off my fingers I’ve completely forgotten I was supposed to be running a race (far, far more common). When I start this anew I feel like I have to acknowledge that this is something I’m an expert at failing at. And it’s totally killing my Xena-like war cry. So I’m not gonna right now.

So yeah. I haven’t updated in a while. But I’m back. Now let’s make pickles.

These quick house pickles are delish- even for people who don’t generally like pickles in a jar. It’s a great way to enjoy veggies without a dip or squirt of ranch dressing. Recently I entertained and made a platter of heirloom carrots, french green beans, red onion, and Persian cucumber pickles. It looked very chic and took almost no effort. There were no leftovers, but the pickled onions would have been fantastic on a sandwich or a turkey burger.

For the Stuffs:

  • 1- 1 1/2 lb of veggies. This can include almost anything. Carrots, onions, green beans, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccolini, asparagus, zucchini. Run Wild!

For the Brine:

  • 1 1/4 C Cider Vinegar
  • 1 C Hot Water
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 1/3 C Sugar or 1/2 C Agave Nectar
  • 2 TBsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 TBsp Whole Peppercorns, give them a good smashing
  • 1-7 Cloves Garlic, Chopped (I love garlic so I used a lot)
  • 1 Bay Leaf

1.) Dissolve the Sugar or Agave into the hot water. Add the peppercorns, bay, garlic, salt, lemon juice, and cider vinegar. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

2.) Cut/trip your veggies so they’re uniform in size. If using carrots, green beans, cauliflower, broccolini, or asparagus, blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes. This really helps get a nice texture and color.

3.) Pack your veggies tightly into your pickling containers of choice (I used several tupperware containers) and pour the cold brine over them. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Serving size is 1 Cup.

Eat within a week. These are not the kind of pickles that hang out in your fridge for an eternity! 1 week tops!

Calories: 60  – Fat : 0 grams –  Carbs: 15 – Fiber: 4 grams – Protein: 1 grams

(Nutrition info given for pickled carrots)

Steamed Artichoke Hearts with Lemon Chive Dipping Sauce

The antioxidant capacity for the artichoke is one of the highest reported for vegetables. Good stuff!

When I was a kid artichokes were served with one condiment, and one condiment only: Mayonnaise. Then I became a teenager and was too good for mayo. Mayo was gross. Why did my mom ever feed me mayo?!

On my Weight Watchers stint of 2006, a friend reintroduced me to the allures of artichokes as we were both counting calories and budgets. They were cheap in spring, since California produces about 100% of the US crop of artichokes we could wrangle them at Trader Joe’s for a dollar a piece. My friend would stuff their leaves with copious amounts of garlic, boil them, and then we’d dip them in spiced light butter and “ooh and ahh” like a pair of cooing Gollums. Oh artichokes, we will never be apart again!

Then Julie and Julia came out and I discovered Hollandaise sauce. I had never had Hollandaise sauce before (I’ve also never had eggs benedict. I know this is culinary sacrilege, but poached eggs kinda creep me out) but after seeing Amy Adams dip an olive-y petal into the stuff I vowed to try it. Hollandaise was dreamy and frothy buttery goodness- but oh so, so bad for you. Like someone said, “Hey, let’s take a stick of butter and add more cholesterol to it!”

So now I’ve endeavored to find a new condiment, a new yin to the artichoke yang.

This recipe serves four people. Each person gets their own artichoke- it’s artichoke law, because everyone should have a tender artichoke heart of their very own. I’ve used regular sour cream here. You could theoretically sub in a lower fat sour cream, but don’t. You’re already a hero for not using butter, no need to martyr yourself. When buying artichokes, look for ones with green leaves that are tightly packed and feel heavy. Her majesty Julia Child said, “Very fresh artichokes will talk to you when you squeeze the head- squeaky fresh, in other words.”

  • 4 medium sized artichokes
  • 1 C sour cream
  • 5-7 cloves garlic roughly chopped (be bold! The sour cream will dampen the garlic)
  • 2 TBsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 C chopped chives
  • 1 TBsp champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

1. Steam your artichokes until tender. I put mine in a large pot stem side up, add about two inches of lightly salted water at the bottom, and put over medium heat for about 40 minutes, or until you can easily pierce where the stem meets the bloom with a fork. After cooked, set them aside to cool a bit.

2. In a food processor add the lemon juice, chives, vinegar, salt, honey, and pepper. Process and put into a bowl (it will look similar to a pesto). Add the sour cream and stir in. I like portioning the dip into individual little ramekins.

Calories: 198  – Fat : 12 grams –  Carbs: 19.6 – Fiber: 5.2 grams – Protein: 7.2 grams

Note: Calories were calculated assuming everybody eats their entire portion of dipping sauce, which is unlikely. This dip would also make a good condiment to a crudites platter.