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I Dream of Zucchini: Recipe Round-up

Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash

Zucchini and yellow summer squash have an almost identical flavor and texture. They’re also in season right now!

Earlier this week, I declared my love for cucumber. Today, it’s time to show some love to an equally worthy veggie: the zucchini! I love how versatile zucchini is. There are so many ways to prepare zucchini that it’s really hard to get tired of eating it. Here are a few of our favorite ways to prepare zucchini:

So Many Ways to Prepare Zucchini!

  • Sauté it! With a little veggie broth, garlic, and spices (we like basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper for a Mediterranean flair)–this is a perfect side dish for almost any meal.
  • Roast it! With some cherry tomatoes and a few whole cloves of garlic, and salt and pepper. Place the roasted veg atop a bed of quinoa and arugula, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar for an easy and delicious salad.
  • Bake it! In some muffins or bread; zucchini makes a sweet treat, too!
  • Spiralize it! Make zucchini noodles or “zoodles” and eat them the same way you would ordinary pasta. How fun is it to say “zoodles”?! (Recipe found on One Green Planet.)
  • Steam it! With an assortment of other veggies, zucchini often makes it way into many of our Buddha Bowls.

But, wait– there’s even more ways to eat zucchini!

Zucchini Recipe Round-up:

(Some of the recipes below call for oil.  Since we eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet, we avoid processed ingredients like oil and always omit it. It’s really easy to leave the oil out and not have any impact on the taste of the final product.)

We eat zucchini year-round, but peak time is right now. Zucchini is in season mid- to late summer and can be picked up at grocery stores and farmers market for a great price. I find that you can also substitute yellow summer squash for zucchini in any recipe that calls for it. When we go to our farmers market, we like to buy from the growers that have the half zucchini/half summer squash trays to get a variety of color onto our plates.

Do you have a surplus of zucchini to go through this summer? What are your favorite plant-based recipes that feature zucchini? Let us know in the comments!

Produce Picks, Recipes

Crazy ‘Bout Cucumbers: Recipe Round-up

 

Kirby cucumbers

Just a handful of our cucumber haul from the farmers market.

Cucumbers are in abundance right now. So much so that many vendors at our local farmers market have been selling them by the bucket!

This is great news for me. Cucumbers have always been my favorite vegetable ever since I was a little kid. I was a picky eater then, and not a huge fan of veggies in general, but I was always in the mood for some sweet, crunchy cucumber. I would often ask for an entire cuke to myself and try to eat it whole like an apple!

I still enjoy just snacking on a plain cucumber. I also add them to almost every salad I make, and it’s my primary vehicle to transport hummus to my mouth. Last night I took some thinly sliced cucumbers, tossed them with some rice vinegar, salt and pepper, for a super easy salad that took literally a minute to make.

Since it’s prime time for cucumbers, we decided to pick up 10 lbs. of them at the farmers market last Saturday. What are you going to do with 10 lbs. of cucumbers?! I’ve got plenty of ideas, but I wanted to try something new. Here’s a list of some great plant-based recipes I found featuring cucumbers as the star ingredient.

Cucumber Recipe Round-up:

Cucumbers are at their peak flavor right now. You’ll also find them cheaper in the summer than any other time of year, especially if you pick them up at your farmers market.  Last year, Josh and I joked that we ate our body weight in cucumbers over the summer.

What are your favorite ways to prepare cucumber? Let us know in the comments!

Books, Budget-friendly, Lifestyle, Produce Picks

Farmers Markets Make Plant-Based Eating Cheaper

$21 worth of whole, plant-based food from the local farmers market.

Farmers markets make plant-based eating even more affordable. This is what $21 worth of food looks like from our farmers market.

A whole-food, plant-based diet is already the cheapest way to eat. During farmers market season, it’s even cheaper.

Our introduction to the whole-food, plant-based lifestyle came from an unlikely source. Some years ago we became more serious about saving money, so we started participating in online finance forums. We found that quite a few of the most frugal members ate a plant-based diet. At first they started with a plant-based lifestyle because it saved them so much money, but in the end they kept it up because it made them feel so good and energetic.

A quick look at the numbers

Of course this was old news for those who had been plant-based before us. John McDougall has been plant-based for 40 years and specifically addressed the money-saving benefits of the lifestyle in his classic best-seller, The Starch Solution. He also put together a striking comparison between the costs of conventional diets versus plant-based eating, where he explained that you can enjoy a plant-based diet on just $3 per day. Following up more recently on his comparison, Rosane Oliveira wrote an article entitled “Cheap or Expensive? The REAL Truth About Plant-Based Diets.” She showed that the cost of an omnivorous meal is roughly three times higher than that of a similar plant-based alternative. Michael Greger, author of How Not to Die, has also addressed the topic on numerous occasions, both in his book (briefly) and in videos posted on his website. In these three videos he specifically talks about how the cheapest foods can represent the best long-term investment.

$14 worth of plant-based food from Midtown Farmers Market.

This haul cost only $14. It’s amazing to think that you can eat so many delicious plant-based foods at such low prices.

Farmers markets make cheap food even cheaper

Simply having access to fresh, delicious fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods is fantastic on its own. Thanks to farmers markets, they are also at their lowest prices of the year right now. It’s the middle of summer, we are enjoying the life-giving bounty of the best the earth has to offer, and yet somehow we are spending the least amount of money on food that we will spend all year. Cucumbers are 50 cents per pound, bell peppers are 63 cents each or even less, potatoes can be cheaper than 25 cents per pound, collard greens cost six times less than grocery stores or coops (see below), beets with their greens average less than $1 per pound, and so on.

We are fortunate to live near what I believe is the most reasonably priced farmers market in all of Minneapolis. The Midtown Farmers Market is active throughout the season, but this is the time of year when prices start to drop the most, since yields and competition keep increasing from now until the end of October. Competition is best on the main market day, however, so if your market meets more than once per week, be sure to go on the primary market day. For us that’s Saturday. It also meets on Tuesday, but there tend to be far fewer vendors and customers. Because of this, they don’t always discount their food as much as when the market is full. There is little incentive to offer discounts when both merchants and buyers are scarce.

Purple cauliflower from the Midtown Farmers Market.

Be sure to look out for exotic produce at your local farmers market. Purple cauliflower is a lot like regular cauliflower but with an earthy taste.

Farmers markets let you buy more “exotic” foods

Although kohlrabi is not really exotic at all, it is prohibitively expensive in grocery stores near us. Buying it at the farmers market, however, makes it affordable, since it costs about five times less. Other farmers market foods like heirloom carrots, purple cauliflower and purple potatoes are generally priced about the same as their traditional counterparts, so rather than spending more for the exotic color of purple potatoes, for example, you simply pay the traditional potato price. In grocery stores this is rarely the case, so you’ll find yourself paying a premium for the added color.

While they are also not exotic per se, hearty greens are so inexpensive during farmers market season that we eat them nearly every day. Kale, Swiss chard and collard greens cost $1 per bunch at our farmers market, compared to up to $3.50 per bunch in a grocery store or co-op. Not only are the grocery store bunches more than three times as expensive, they are also usually about half the size. Collard greens are currently my favorite vegetable, and I love being able to eat them more often during farmers market season.

Try a different farmers market if yours is overpriced or low in quality

It’s true that some farmers markets in the Minneapolis metro area are significantly more expensive and also offer produce whose freshness and quality seem pretty dubious. If your farmers market doesn’t offer low enough prices or fresh enough produce, try a different one. The main farmers market in downtown Minneapolis is the biggest and is generally as cheap and as fresh as Midtown.

Also, don’t be afraid to touch and even pick up the produce to get an idea of its quality and freshness. I do this all the time, and while I occasionally get confused looks from sellers, they are never rude about it. If I am spending money on something, I am definitely going to guarantee its quality first. If there is a stack of kale on the table, there is no reason not to go through all of it to find a bunch with the fewest blemishes. I find it’s especially important to double check cucumbers and bell peppers as the season goes on, since they easily develop soft spots. I’m always bewildered by buyers who simply ask for produce by name and don’t personally inspect what is clearly laid out before them.

Seize the kale!

Saving money year-round is a nice bonus to the plant-based lifestyle in general, but the biggest opportunity is happening right now during farmers market season. Don’t miss out!

What are your favorite ways to save money on plant-based foods? Let us know in the comments!

Budget-friendly, Lifestyle, Produce Picks

Much Ado About Plant-Based BBQ

Grilled squash is a perfect addition to any plant-based BBQ.

Grill your squash in foil, flesh-side down, but watch for temperature fluctuations! Squash is not as resilient as potatoes. This one still tasted good.

BBQ season is well underway. There is a common misconception that you can’t participate in a barbecue if you eat a plant-based diet, but it’s simply untrue. It’s easy to turn any party into a plant-based BBQ!

First there are the usual sides you find at any typical barbecue: plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit and refreshments. If you’re going to be loading up on fresh fruits and veggies, though, do your host a favor and bring some of your own to share. Just because you maintain healthy stores of fresh fruits and vegetables at home doesn’t mean other people do. In fact, I’ve found that hosts often underestimate by a pretty wide margin how many fresh foods to have on hand for entertaining, especially when it comes to vegetables (think broccoli, carrots, celery, tomatoes [I know: it’s a fruit] and so on).

Now for the main course.

Our top plant-based BBQ picks

  • Portabella mushroom caps (stems removed, no added oil)
  • Corn on the cob (in foil, no butter or oil)
  • Potatoes (russet, in foil)
  • Sweet potatoes (in foil)
  • Squash (in foil and in season! grill flesh-side down)
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple
  • Pizza (with oil-free crust)
  • Vegetable kebabs
  • Asparagus

Potent potatoes

My favorite foods for a plant-based BBQ are potatoes and sweet potatoes, simply due to their ease of preparation. Yes, they still take about an hour to cook, but how many barbecues have you been to where the grill was on for less than an hour?

Grilled potatoes are a hearty addition to any plant-based BBQ!

Hot potato fresh off the grill. Careful: they’re hot!

We were invited to two barbecues in as many days. On the second day, I completely forgot our grilling potatoes at home. We had to stop at a gas station to get some more, but at $0.38/lb I was definitely not complaining about the price.

Gas stations are a great place to buy cheap potatoes for your plant-based BBQ!

Affordable produce is showing up everywhere. We picked up our grilling potatoes at Kwik Trip in Plymouth. As you can see, even the avocados are very reasonable.

A winter squash in summer?

Once we arrived there was also a huge spaghetti squash on the counter that we cut in half and put on the grill. Even though it wasn’t in season, it still tasted pretty good and added some nice variety to our plant-based BBQ. As you can see in the picture above, it did not stand up as well to the heat fluctuations as the potatoes did.

Winter squash is trickier, mostly because you should really only eat it at the very end of barbecue season. The char gave it an interesting flavor, though, and in the end none went to waste.

What are your favorite plant-based BBQ hacks?

Also, if you’re from the South, and you’re cringing at our use of the word “barbecue” to refer to the northern practice of “grilling,” please accept our apologies. And let us know what plant-based foods you grill down there!