Sunday, October 13, 2013

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Are tight economic times forcing us to make better food choices? Not if we’ve forgotten how to cook the basic, simple, comfort foods with which we grew up. Dried lentils and beans, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy grains are some of the least expensive foods on supermarket shelves - as well as being some of the richest in nutritional value. If we already know that, why do so many home cooks buy high-salt, high-fat, high-cost processed convenience foods? 

The obvious answer is time. Cooking from scratch takes longer - but often not significantly so. I suspect it’s the planning that throws cooks off-course. Preparing a shopping list, checking what’s already on hand, matching recipes, meals, and energy levels to personal and cultural preferences and food sensitivities ... all of that can be daunting for anyone.

Time-saving meals that use leftovers usually taste better and are better for you than prepackaged meals. I prefer to think of leftovers as plan-overs - a category that also includes batched quantity cooking for future use. 

These Stuffed Zucchini Boats are easy to prepare and quick to bake. You’ll probably have leftovers for another day.

Stuffed Zucchini Boats:

1 or more medium-sized zucchinis, unpeeled and halved lengthwise (see Note)
Homemade or commercially made meat sauce (see Further Note)
Mozzarella or other meltable cheese

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Hollow seeds from centre of zucchini using grapefruit knife or spoon. Peel a paper-thin slice from bottom of zucchini so “boat balances on serving plate. Spoon meat sauce (or your choice of fillings) into hollowed zucchini halves, topping with cheese or croutons. Bake 15 min. A medium halved zucchini serves 2.

Note: Large zucchinis can taste “woody. I prefer to use them in soup or as a late addition to stew. 

Further Note: Now for that meat sauce ... On a day youre planning ahead, scramble-fry ground beef or pork in quantity. Transfer to sieve, rinsing with hot water to drain away fat. Blot dry, package, label, and freeze in meal-sized packages. Add meat to lightly fried onion and garlic, stirring in seasoned, canned tomato sauce. Or do what I do - use the Slow-Simmered Tomato-Meat Sauce indexed under Sauces. I make this in quantity on a day when I have time, chilling, packaging, and freezing it for future use as one of your Plan-Overs.

By the way ... you neednt limit yourself to meat sauce. Try chunked light tuna in cream sauce, topped with mozzarella or flaked almonds. Or try a vegetarian filling that combines chopped onion, garlic, and a variety of sweet bell peppers sautéed in a little olive oil and topped with seasoned croutons. No matter which filling you use, the baking time and temperature remain the same for a medium-sized zucchini. 

I warmed homemade meat sauce from the freezer ...

... Halved one medium zucchini ...

... Removed the seeds with a grapefruit knife ...

... Filled it with meat sauce ...

... Topped it with cheese ... And baked it 15 min. 

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