Every few pins I see people pinning recipes that are a “healthier” alternative to the original one. Cauliflower pizza dough, quinoa instead of rice, and using applesauce, Greek yogurt and avocados for baking. The current big craze is using zucchini: zucchini bread, zucchini pizza and bread sticks, zucchini brownies and cookies, etc. I have not jumped on any of the above bandwagons because I tend to like the real thing (plus I am a really, really picky eater)! Over the past year, Brad and I have done our best to change many of the ingredients we use and the type of food we eat. After reading Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess (totally recommend!!!), the MOMs group I am in decided to try clean eating for 10 days. This means zero processed food…. yep that’s right, no sugar, soda, bread, cereal, etc. Basically anything not found in its pure form was off limits. Oh man my husband can contest to this, but I was not a happy camper during the first two days!
Yes I cheated every once and awhile with certain ingredients like sugar..I just used evaporated cane juice (less processed) and agave as well. I need my coffee in the morning with lots of cream, so I went with a natural creamer (be very careful of the word “natural”). <—–READ……In my opinion, this word should be taken off all products! This cleaning eating challenge happened to take place right around the time we were transitioning to feeding Everett our mealtime food, so I figured this was the best for him. After all, I had decided I wasn’t about to give Everett anything I did know in terms of ingredients. Brad and I committed to an all organic food lifestyle, well as best as we could. This cleaning eating challenge also come at the time when I was trying my hardest to loss the last 10 pounds from pregnancy. See I gained 60 lbs. while pregnant with Everett and in desperate need to get back into shape, my clothing bill was getting a little ridiculous going up 10 sizes and then back down again. Well after the 10 days, I was down about 7 pounds and officially on board with healthier eating habits. Don’t get me worry, we were not a twinkie and chips a day type of family but we did have snacks and appetizers at dinner type of family. The first changes we made to our pantry was adding whole wheat and evaporated cane juice. Also adding veggies and fruits to our daily meals. I also found myself reading all ingredients before buying products. We cut out BHT, colored dyes and really anything else we couldn’t pronounce. Also, we started cooking with turkey and chicken instead of beef (but we still mix in some but only grass feed, organic beef). All these changes lead to another 10 pounds of baby weight, who doesn’t love seeing results. Plus I felt amazing! Try eating fast food after all these changes, let’s just say NOT GOOD. Que the stomach pains, fatigue, bloating, etc. Even strengthening my desire to eat better!
Ok all that led to something, I promise. So instead of using alternative ingredients, I just choose the “less” processed version of the same thing. That was until a girlfriend brought me three larger than a baby, zucchini. I have really only had zucchini a few times and didn’t know how I was going to use all of this, especially since my husband isn’t a big fan. Well like every other day, I took to Pinterest (I promise I do have a life). There were so many options: zucchini pizza, breadsticks, cookies, brownies, bread, lasagna, soup, noodles, fried things, etc. I believe I pinned “50 zucchini recipes”. I decided lasagna and brownies were a good start and sounded like a delicious dinner.
Zucchini Lasagna (parts of different recipes)
- 2 cups shredded Mozzarella
- 1 24 oz. jar Spaghetti sauce
- 1 can tomato paste
- 12 oz. fat free cottage cheese
- 1/2 pound turkey, 1/2 pound lean ground beef, 1/4 pound hot Italian sausage
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 large zucchini
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a medium skillet pan, brown all three meats together.
- Cut zucchini into 1/4 in. strips. This would work great if you had a handheld, adjustable cheese slicer. I just had a knife with made this difficult at times to get perfect strips. Set aside to let extra water evaporate off.
- In a small bowl, mix together 12 oz. cottage cheese, 1 egg and salt & pepper. Set aside.
- Once the meat has been browned, in a large bowl, mix together meat (drained if needed), Spaghettis sauce, tomato paste, sugar and any Italian seasoning wanted for taste. I just use a combination mix with oregano, basil, thyme, garlic, onion, black pepper and fennel. But I saw a number of recipes with homemade sauce but that usually takes 30 extra minutes.
- In a large skillet or gas grill pan, brown/cook strips of zucchini over medium heat. DON’T cook for too long, usually 1-2 minutes per side.
- Layer the zucchini on bottom followed by the meat mixture and then the cottage cheese mix. REPEAT. Add shredded mozzarella on top
- Cover and cook for 45 at 375. After 45 minutes, uncover and finish in the oven for 15 minutes. Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes
***********DON’T BOIL zucchini!!!!!! I ruined my first batch of zucchini because I followed a recipe that said to boil. It completely fell apart and wanted work in the lasagna. Luckily I had extra to go back to the cutting board and try again.*************
Well since I had plenty of left over zucchini from my screw up, I decided instead of wasting (well it would go in my compost bin) I would use it to make zucchini brownies. Turns out I had the perfect amount!
Recipe taken from original pin: Crazy for Crust.
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups sugar *(I used evaporated cane sugar)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour *(I used whole wheat)
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups shredded zucchini (1 large or 2 small zucchinis)
- 1 tablespoon water *(I didn’t use this)*
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the oil, sugar, and vanilla until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir. Fold in the zucchini. If your mixture is still very powdery, add up to 1/4 cup hot water (start with 1 tablespoon and work up from there, stirring well after each addition). The batter will be crumbly, but shouldn’t be powdery. Add walnuts, if desired.
- Bake 25-30 minutes until the brownies spring back when gently touched.
- To make the frosting: Mix softened butter, cocoa, and powdered sugar with a hand mixer. Mix in milk and vanilla. Spread over cooled brownies. Cut into squares.
I will say, I am not “in love” with the brownies. The frosting is too sugary (so I only put a little on top) and the brownies are missing something. I would recommend using chocolate chips, melted, instead of the cocoa powder in the actual brownie mix or both 🙂 and leave them chunky. Also, you would be fine without the frosting if you add the chocolate chips into the mix. With the brownie recipe, I used a 8×8 pan so I had to cook the batter for 40 minutes.
The lasagna was awesome! Both Brad and I really enjoyed it. I don’t’ necessarily like veggies and Brad doesn’t really like noodles but this was the perfect compromise. It was my first time using Italian sausage mixed into the lasagna and that really spiced it up, making it that much better. We will definitely me eating this again. Pinadvise with the lasagna, just don’t boil the zucchini. Feel free to layer the lasagna to what you usually do. I saw multiple different versions for the layering of ingredients but just stuck with what I usually do when making lasagna with noodles.
My husband liked it all so that to me, is a WIN!
Happy Baking 🙂