Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini

  • 2 large or 3 medium zucchini
  • 1 cup quinoa, precooked & cooled
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 10-12 pieces of pearl mozzarella (the kind that come in a small tub)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Cut off the thick stems at the top. Using a small metal spoon, carefully scrap out the inside of the zucchini to create “boats”. (Leave a little inside for structure so that they don’t fall apart.)
  3. Using paper towels, squeeze excess moisture from the zucchini pulp over the sink. Measure out 1 cup of shredded zucchini into a large bowl.
  4. Add the precooked & cooled quinoa of your choice to the zucchini pulp. Add the tomato sauce, parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, garlic & crushed red pepper. Stir until everything is combined. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  5. Spoon the sauce/quinoa mixture into the zucchini boats & place them on a lined sheet pan. Cut the mozzarella balls in half & place them evenly on top of the stuffed zucchini.
  6. Cook for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of the zucchini, until the filling is bubbling & the mozzarella is melted. Let them cool slightly, about 5 minutes, before serving.

Suggestions & Substitutions: I used a simple instant red and black quinoa package that you make in the microwave, because if there’s one thing I always seem to mess up, it’s cooking grains on the stovetop. (I still never feel like I get rice quite right.) It is totally your call on how you want to make it. This is a great recipe if you happen to have leftover quinoa laying around from another meal.

Does the color matter? Not really. White/tan quinoa tends to be the most delicate and as it gets darker (red and black) they have more flavor, texture and fiber. The flavor will be dominated by the sauce here, so I went with the mixture of red and black because I wanted that added texture and fiber in the recipe.

This is a vegetarian meal, as I mentioned, but if you want to switch out the parmesan for some breadcrumbs or nutritional yeast and omit the mozzarella, you have a vegan meal!




Ravioli Zucchini Casserole

I really had a hard time naming this one. I toyed with calling it shortcut lasagna, or baked ravioli, but I settled on dubbing it a casserole. Whatever it is, it’s a fun and easy dinner great for a weeknight or to feed a family, that sneaks in some veggies amongst all that delicious sauce and cheese.

This recipe is also versatile. If you have read my other posts, I love giving people options and shortcuts, because everyone is different. Different schedules, different pantries, different tastes. Since I used to be an unbelievably picky eater, I think it’s important to let people have some room to play around.

Yields 6-8 servings

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (+extra, optional*)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 24 oz marinara sauce
  • approx 20 oz package ravioli
  • 2 large zucchini, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella
  • fresh basil
  1. Boil water in a medium to large pot.
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute until fragrant. Add chopped onion and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until translucent.
  3. Pour marinara sauce over the onions, reduce heat to low and stir until combined. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and remove from heat to cool.
  4. When the water is boiling, add the ravioli and cook about 1-2 minutes less than package directions for an al dente texture. In the last 3 minutes of the pasta cooking, add the sliced zucchini. Drain and let cool. (*After draining, tossing with a little olive oil can help prevent sticking)
  5. While the sauce and pasta cool, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray
  6. Spread 1 cup of the sauce evenly over the bottom of the pan and sprinkle on half of the Parmesan cheese. Arrange half the ravioli evenly in one layer over the sauce and sprinkle on half the mozzarella cheese. Arrange all the zucchini slices, evenly in one layer. Take some basil leaves and spread them out on top of the zucchini, as much or as little as you like.
  7. Use the rest of the ravioli to create a layer over the zucchini. Pour the remaining sauce over the whole dish and sprinkle with the rest of the mozzarella and Parmesan.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes, until cheese is melted and let rest for at least 2 minutes prior to serving. Garnish with fresh basil.

Here’s a visual on how to arrange the layers

Ravioli bakes are not a new thing, a lot of people have done it before with just sauce, pasta, cheese, sauce, pasta, cheese. It’s a quick meal that pleases most. You can use cheese or meat ravioli, whatever your preference.

By adding a whole chopped onion to my sauce, it gives it more of a thick texture and a noticeable crunch. You could alway substitute with finely chopped bell peppers or mushrooms to get that extra vegetable element. If you don’t have time for prep, cheat and get a super chunky jarred pasta sauce.

I love zucchini and think it’s really what makes this dish special, but it would completely work without it. To slice it you either need a mandolin or a really sharp knife and patience. I don’t have a mandolin, so start by cutting the two ends off, cutting the zucchini in half, and then very carefully slicing it into thin strips. By halving the zucchini it makes it easier to slice by hand and also easier to get through when you are scooping out portions of the finished dish. Worst case, you could slice it into coins like you would a cucumber, it will just take longer to layer and you won’t get total coverage like you would with retangular pieces.

This is not what I would call a totally healthy dish, but if you have kids, it’s an easy way to sneak in some fresh vegetables. You can also easily feed 6 to 8 people with this dish by serving it up with a simple salad and maybe some garlic bread. Since its just my husband and I, we portion it out and save what we don’t eat for leftovers. It holds up very well in the fridge.

Overall this requires a little more time and a little more mess than the standard ravioli bake, but it’s those extra elements that really make this more than just a big block of sauce and cheese. Adding in just a couple vegetables and fresh basil takes it to the next level of texture and taste. It’s also fun to dig in and see that bright green layer of zucchini right in the middle. Try it out! I promise it’s easy and everyone will end up with a clean plate.

 

 

 

Lemon Garlic Shrimp & Zucchini Noodles

This dish is becoming almost a weekly occurrence at my house. It took some convincing to get my husband behind the idea of zucchini noodles instead of pasta, but there’s no denying this recipe is a flavor bomb. It tastes even better when you think about how light and low in calories it is.

Yields 2 servings

  • 1/2 lb (approx. 16) jumbo shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon pepper
  • 2 medium or large zucchini, cut in noodles
  • 1/3 cup white wine (I use Pinot Grigio)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • fresh parsley to garnish
  • salt & pepper on hand
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Stir and simmer for 1 minute.
  2. Add shrimp to the pan and sprinkle lemon pepper over them. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally until shrimp are pink and opaque. Remove shrimp and set aside, reserving the liquid in the pan.
  3. Add wine and lemon juice to the oil and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the zucchini, tossing to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes until tender.
  4. Toss shrimp with the zucchini noodles and serve with a garnish of fresh parsley.

This is a great weeknight dinner because there’s hardly any prep except for the zucchini and it can be executed in about 10 to 15 minutes. You might want to have some bread on the side to soak up all the sauce that will be at the bottom of your dish. And with a dinner this light, there’s no guilt about a few extra carbs!

{follow me on twitter & instagram: @thepickygourmet}

Healthy Pasta

I am obsessed with pasta. Between that and pizza, it’s safe to say if I had to choose one cuisine for the rest of my life it would be Italian. I’ve even joked that if I could change my last name to whatever I wanted, it would be Mozzarella. (Actually, I wasn’t joking. I so would.) But I digress!

The sad truth is that too much pasta isn’t the healthiest of diet plans. I wouldn’t categorize myself as a healthy home chef, but it’s nice to have some alternatives. Here’s a countdown of my top three favorites:

Number 3: Spaghetti squash. While delicious, they can be a little daunting. To cook them you have to cut them in half lengthwise (carefully, they can be hard to get through), scoop out the seeds and roast for about 30-45 minutes. It becomes tender enough to scrape the “meat” of the squash into strands that resemble angel hair pasta. Bonus! You can use the shell of the squash as a bowl and top with sauce, cheese and whatever else you like. Easy clean up!

Number 2: Whole wheat pasta. Essentially the same as any boxed pasta you would normally make. The color is a little darker, the texture is a little less tender but dressed up with sauce and veggies the taste is great. A cup of whole wheat pasta can have around 25% of your daily fiber, not to mention more vitamins and less calories than the regular pasta. Bonus! This is as easy as skipping the regular pasta at the grocery and picking up a different box. Same preparation.

Number 1: I think you can guess by the photo. Zoodles! Zucchini noodles are my new obsession. Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables as it is. In noodle form, they only take a couple minutes to cook and come out beautifully tender. Zoodles also have like NO calories. OK, about 30 calories per medium zucchini. You can manually cut noodles with a veggie peeler or splurge a bit and get a spiralizer like I did. Bonus! The spiralizer is so fun! Also zoodles can last in the fridge for 3-5 days in an airtight container. Sometimes when I have leftovers, a couple days later I will make a dish and use less whole wheat pasta than the recipe calls for and add the zoodles for the last two minutes of cook time. Half whole wheat pasta, half zucchini, all delicious.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a recipe using my beloved zoodles. stay tuned!

{follow me on twitter & instagram: @thepickygourmet}