I love the idea of using zucchini as a shell for a fun take on dinner. And I love love LOVE these taco boats! They were absolutely delicious. Trust me, for my husband to eat squash, it has to be stellar, and he loved these as much as I did.
Anything you like on your taco will work in these boats, so go crazy. You can make them in the oven if you’d prefer, but we liked the grilled flavor and those perfect grill marks made me kind of happy. It was as nice to look at as it was to eat.
This is definitely a healthy version of a taco. Not only does the zucchini replace the taco shell, but I also like to sneak some farro into dishes where I’m using ground beef. (If you aren’t familiar with farro, check out this New York Times article.) I actually just buy the microwaveable pouches of farro at Target and in 90 seconds it’s ready to be added to my skillet with the cooked ground beef. I use it in tacos, chili, and hamburger barbecue. No one is really ever the wiser, since it blends in well with the hamburger and takes on the same flavors it’s seasoned with. I like the idea that I’m replacing a little of the meat with a healthier grain that’s loaded with vitamins.
As we were finishing dinner, I was already planning the other things I want to try in a zucchini boat… pizza… buffalo chicken… I need to get back to the farmers market and pick up some more zucchini!
small zucchini squash (1/2-1 zucchini per person, depending on your appetite and the size of the squash)
taco meat, cooked according to package directions or your favorite recipe
sharp cheddar cheese
taco toppings, such as shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, guacamole, salsa, sour cream (or my favorite substitute, plain Greek yogurt)
Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and use a teaspoon or melon baller to scoop out the seedy part of the squash to create a boat to fill later. Brush zucchini with olive oil. Grill, cut side down, for 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Take the zucchini off the grill and fill the boat with cooked taco meat. Top with cheese. Return to grill, until the cheese melts. Serve zucchini with your favorite taco fixings and enjoy!
(If you’re making your taco boats in the oven, cook them in a 375 degree oven just as you would on the grill.)
I am SO addicted to Pinterest. The ideas that come across my computer screen make me want to cook, bake, craft, and redecorate my house. I love being able to pin other people’s great ideas and try them myself. Some have been real winners and a few have definitely been placed into the sarcastic “nailed it” category. Not everything works out, but I’m very happy that this basketball cake was one of the winners.
I had the perfect occasion to make this cake last week for Claudia’s basketball camp party. I tried to find the original source to give credit where credit is due, but every pin I found just led me to a photo and none took me to it’s source. So whoever you are, thank you! It was a huge hit with the kids and their parents!
Recipe: Basketball Cake
(original source unknown)
your favorite boxed cake mix or homemade cake
canned or homemade frosting (I prefer chocolate frosting.)
Reese’s pieces candies – 2 bags
Prepare 2-layer cake according to package directions or recipe. Cool and frost cake. Using the photo as a guide, place brown Reese’s pieces on the cake first, then fill in with orange Reese’s pieces.
Through a crazy match made in taste bud paradise, chocolate chip cookie dough and yogurt came together to make the creamiest, yummiest summer treat ever. EVER. I am not exaggerating here one bit. This is A.MAZ.ING. And guess what? You don’t even need an ice cream maker! What you do need, however, is patience, because it takes a couple hours (or overnight) for the frozen yogurt to firm up in the freezer. That was really the hardest part of the whole recipe. Well, right after not eating it all in one sitting.
I know when you see the words “frozen yogurt,” you’re probably thinking that this is going to be a lighter version of your favorite ice cream, right? Well, sadly, it’s totally not. In fact, the creamy yumminess can probably be credited to the whole stick of butter that’s in here. So while it isn’t necessarily something I can endorse for your waistline, your belly will be very, very happy.
Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frozen Yogurt
(slightly adapted from Anna at Tasty Kitchen)
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. vanilla Greek yogurt
3/4 c. mini chocolate chips
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and beat until combined.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to butter mixture and stir to combine. Add vanilla yogurt and stir again. Add the chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed.
Place in a container and cover with lid. Freeze until set, preferably overnight.
(Cookie dough recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Bridal Edition Cookbook.)
Makes about 2 cups.
Who would have guessed that spaghetti squash would become such a rock star on Pinterest? It certainly has, though I never made it until last night. And this wasn’t even a recipe I pinned!
I was making mac and cheese for the kids and wanted something lighter for Jim and me. The squash was eyeing me up from the corner of the counter so I took the plunge. I can’t believe I’ve never eaten this before. So simple and completely satisfying and delicious!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. (A good meal can do that to a person.) Anyway, since the squash and the mac and cheese had the same cooking times, it was low fuss. Just a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper and it was in the oven while I was boiling the kids’ pasta. I got the mac and cheese ready and the two happily cooked together at the same oven temp.
The squash did need an extra couple of minutes stovetop to finish it off, but we still all sat down at the same time for dinner. The only difference was that our’s was super healthy and the kiddos weren’t complaining that I was making them try new food. Although Claudia was very impressed that it came out of the shell looking like spaghetti and said I could probably have tricked her into eating it. (These kids know me so well! Next time!)
Recipe: Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Parmigiano-Reggiano and Thyme
(slightly adapted from chow)
1 spaghetti squash
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
handful of freshly chopped thyme
3/4 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, extra for serving
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Place squash halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet and rub them with 2 Tbsp. of olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cook until fork-tender, about 50 minutes.
Remove squash from oven and let sit a few minutes until cool enough to handle. In the meantime, heat remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and cook for about 2 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and thyme and cook an additional minute. Season with salt and pepper. Scrape the flesh from the squash into the skillet and toss to coat. Add cheese and toss as cheese melts. Serve with a sprinkling of extra cheese.
(My kiddos were eating peas with dinner, so I stirred some cooked peas into the skillet too. I think small pieces of cooked veggies would be a great addition!)
Back in February, I made some “breakfast cookies” with chocolate chips in them, thinking they’d be a great treat to start the day. They were good, but it got me thinking that a cinnamon version would be pretty darn good too, and I have to say they turned out even better than I’d hoped.
Think about cinnamon rolls and monkey bread in a kind of cookie form. Plus, who doesn’t love waking up to the smell of cinnamon and coffee wafting through the house? Most definitely better than an alarm clock!
Recipe: Cinnamon Cream Cheese Breakfast Cookies
1 can crescent rolls
4 oz. block of cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Unroll the crescent rolls and gently press seams together so you have a rectangle. Spread the cream cheese mixture onto the sheet of crescent rolls, leaving about 1/2″ all along the edges. Sprinkle a generous amount of ground cinnamon over the cream cheese. Roll the crescent sheet up, starting from one of the shorter ends. Sprinkle a little more cinnamon around the outside of the roll. Wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
When chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Slice the roll into 1/4″ slices using unflavored dental floss or a sharp knife. Bake on prepared cookie sheet for 12-14 minutes until rolls are golden. Serve warm.
I’ve had a bag of quinoa sitting in my pantry for months and months. I finally cooked up a big batch and will hopefully put it to good use this week, starting with these cinnamon quinoa bars.
Quinoa is a grain that I’m trying to work into our meals more often. It’s loaded with all 9 essential amino acids, plus it’s got a much higher protein content than other whole grains. It’s easy to find in grocery stores here too, because it’s popularity has really taken off.
Quinoa can be used in savory or sweet dishes, but I’m not sold on these particular bars. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but the texture is mildly unappealing for me. I tried them warm and at room temperature to see if I preferred one way over the other, but it really didn’t make a difference. The texture is rather like eating a bar of rice pudding, if that makes any sense at all. All those eggs and the milk give it a custardy consistency, and as much as I love rice pudding, I just wasn’t a fan of these. Plus, as far as appearance goes, I think they kind of look like ground meat, which is just weird. So after all that, if you try them and love them, that’s great. I’ve got some other sweet quinoa recipes to try another time, but I won’t be making these again.
(I do have to give an update about these bars. After spending all night in the refrigerator, I found that they improved greatly. I’m still not saying that I loved them or anything, but they weren’t so bad nice and cold.)
Recipe: Cinnamon Quinoa Bars
(adapted slightly from Gabby’s Gluten-Free)
2 ½ cups cooked quinoa, cooled
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup vanilla almond milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place cooked quinoa in a large mixing bowl. Lightly spray an 8×8″ baking pan with cooking spray or cover with lightly greased parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, almond milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon until thoroughly combined. Add maple syrup and mix well. Add egg mixture to cooked quinoa and stir to combine. Pour into baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until set and golden.*
*(Though the original recipe called for a 20-25 minute baking time, I found that I had to bake mine for 30-35 minutes.)
Cool completely and cut into squares.