Zucchini Bake and Brownies

Plants and I have an ugly history. To date, I have potted and caused the eventual demise of six species of herb and one orchid. In my defense, orchids are notoriously fussy. I can’t say the same of the herbs. Rosemary, one of my victims, is reputably indestructible; I found a way.

An actual patch of earth and direct sunlight probably would have improved my herbs’ life expectancy.  Desperate for fresh oregano and basil on demand, I made friends with the garden guy at Home Depot and, with his advice, outfitted my kitchen with a large plant stand, organic soil, and a little sun lamp that screwed into the wall.  Six weeks later, I had a gnat infestation, sickly seedlings, and bruises on my shins from continuously bumping into the plant stand.  A 600-square-foot apartment does not afford spatial luxury for an in-house herb garden.

Despite my past flora casualties, I romanticize myself strolling into a future backyard to pick heirloom tomatoes I nurtured from seeds. In reality, I will grow zucchini. Some of it might even live.

Zucchini, ah zucchini! This delightful summer squash grows like a weed and by late summer, it is EVERYWHERE.  Come end of day at the farmer’s market, the vendors practically give it away. Bins at grocery stores overflow, and zucchini sales become a permanent fixture. Home growers can become so overrun that August 8th was established as National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day.

Summer’s ubiquitous zucchini is filling, healthy and at the moment, ridiculously cheap. What better ingredient for a Law Student’s Wife to work into her menu? Roasted or sautéed, it makes a fantastic dinner addition, but don’t limit this prolific vegetable to a side dish.  Zucchini can be a star entrée or even dessert! Skeptical? Check out my Zucchini Chicken Bake and Zucchini Brownies. The bake is a tasty, affordable way to incorporate veggies into your diet and celebrate zucchini’s flavor. The brownies, on the other hand, use the zucchini to add moisture without adding fat. They are so fudgy and dense, no one will ever guess your secret ingredient!
Zucchini Chicken Bake
Celebrate summer with this easy, healthy dish. Feeds a crowd or makes for leftovers you’ll actually want to eat.
Lean and mean. Homemade croutons add an extra crunch.

Makes one 9×13 bake (6-8 servings)
Ingredients
WHOLE WHEAT HERB CROUTONS
Feel free to substitute any dried or fresh herbs you have on hand
  • 4 c. whole wheat bread cubes (about 8 slices)
  • 1 – 2 T. olive oil or cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 T. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary or marjoram
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley
ZUCCHINI BAKE
  • 6 c. shredded zucchini
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup (low sodium if available)
  • 1 c. non-fat Greek yogurt (can sub sour cream or plain yogurt)
  • 1 c. shredded carrot
  • 2 T. fresh basil or oregano
  • 2 T. fresh parsley
  • 2 c. cooked, cubed chicken
  • 1 c. shredded cheese (I used half Parmesan, half cheddar)
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted
Directions
 WHOLE WHEAT HERB CROUTONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place bread cubes in a large bowl. Coat with cooking spray or toss with 2 T. or so of olive oil. Toss with herbs and Parmesan cheese.
  3. Spread on a large baking pan. Bake until crisp and dry, 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
ZUCCHINI BAKE
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine shredded zucchini, onion, and garlic.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine condensed soup, yogurt (or sour cream), and carrot. Once mixed, add chicken, basil (or oregano), parsley, and cheese. Stir into zucchini mixture.
  4. Toss prepared herbed croutons in melted butter. Spread half of croutons along the bottom of a 9×13 in. baking pan. Top with zucchini mixture. Top with reserved croutons.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes until croutons are golden and bake is heated through.
Layering it up.

Summer special.


Zucchini Brownies
with Lighter Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

So dense and fudgy, no one will guess the secret ingredient. 


The frosting is completely optional. The brownies will taste great without it, but if you are feeling uber-indulgent (as was I), go for it! 
For the true fudgy brownie texture, keep the chocolate chip measurements below.

makes one 8×8 in. pan
Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce (1 snack pack size = 1/4 c.)
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 2 c. grated zucchini
  • 1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
CHOCOLATE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
  • 4 oz (1/2 block) reduced fat cream cheese
  • 2 T. butter, room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 T. skim milk
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 3/4 c. cocoa powder

Directions

BROWNIES
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla extract, sugar, salt and applesauce.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa powder into another bowl.  Stir in baking soda, cinnamon and cardamom until fully combined.
  4. Gradually add the the flour mixture to the egg mixture, combining until the batter is well mixed.
  5. Mix in the grated zucchini. Fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Pour the batter into a greased 8 x 8 in. baking pan. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out semi-clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
FROSTING
  1. Beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Mix in vanilla, milk and salt.
  2. Sift together powdered sugar and cocoa. Slowly add to cream cheese mixture until combined. Add additional powdered sugar or milk as necessary to reach desired texture.
  3. Frost brownies and enjoy!
 
All I see is chocolate and chocolate. Zucchini, where’d you go?

I may forget the V-8 and fill my 5-a-day with one of these.