Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Make-Ahead Zucchini & Summer Squash

If I had to pick my absolute favorite vegetables of all-time, it would have to be zucchini & summer squash, hands down.  Although their plants tend to take over our entire mini garden, I think this year we will try to make room for more.

I make this recipe every few weeks or so, portion it into small bags and freeze it.  It is very similar to my Make-Ahead Spinach recipe http://thenutritionchef.blogspot.com/2013/02/quick-healthy-cook-ahead-spinach.html. When I am ready to throw together my lunch in the morning before I go to work, I grab a bag of these - and I know I'm getting better nutrition this way.

Raw Zucchini

Raw Summer Squash

Make-Ahead Zucchini & Summer Squash
Yields: About 8-10 cups

4 medium-large zucchini, washed thoroughly, skins left on
4 medium-large summer squash, washed thoroughly, skins left on
2 cups water or vegetable stock, or as needed
1 Tbsp. sea salt, or as desired

Heat the water (or vegetable stock) in a very large pot.  Slice the zucchini and summer squash into coins about 1/4-inch thick.  Add coins to the pot and add salt to taste.  Let simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
Before Cooking

When vegetables start to soften and turn color, use a chopping or mashing device to cut up/mash the pieces (I use the Pampered Chef chopper - and let me tell you - that is my new favorite kitchen staple!).  Keep chopping until desired consistency is reached.  

Pampered Chef Chopper
Once Squash Starts to Cook Down - Chop

Let vegetables simmer for another 5-10 minutes or until they are completely cooked through.  Drain in a colander.  Let cool completely.  Portion into small bags and freeze.  Portions can be held in the freezer for up to 3 months (if they last that long - not in my house lol).

Drain In Colander
Freeze Portioned Bags
Portion If Desired

Quick, Easy & CLEAN, Healthy Lunch! (Chicken & Zucchini & Summer Squash)

Interesting & Helpful Facts:
  • You will get a lot of nutrition from the skins themselves.  Simply wash off any dirt and any of the tiny fibers on the outside of the skin before slicing.
  • Both of the squashes belong to the gourd Cucurbitaceae family.
  • Crookneck squashes have a bent neck and a bumpy wart-like skin - which are much tougher than the traditional varieties used here in the US.
  • Zucchini is high in antioxidants such as carotene, leutein and zea-xanthin.
  • They are high in Vitamins A, C and some B-complexes.
  • They pack minerals such as potassium - which helps regulate blood sodium levels.
  • They have a decent level of iron, manganese, phosphorous and zinc.
  • Although these veggies are not the best in their anti-oxidant group, they are used a lot when prescribing diets because you can get a lot of volume and a very small amount of calories - hence you feel fuller with fewer calories!

Uses for Zucchini & Summer Squash:
  • Can be sliced raw & put on salads.
  • Seed it and use as an appetizer "boat" with cheeses or dip.
  • Can be cut into sticks and used as a part of a vegetable tray.
  • Dice it and cook it up in spaghetti sauce to add texture and flavor.
  • Dice it up and use it as a bulking agent or the primary ingredient in turkey or chicken stuffing.
  • Toss lightly with olive oil, fresh herbs (such as rosemary and thyme) and grill....yum!!! (I like to add goat cheese or herbed feta cheese to my grilled veggies)
  • Can be used as the "noodles" in lasagna by slicing them lengthwise.
  • Can be shredded into spaghetti-like noodles (I use a 5 opening orange zester for this) and actually substituted for real noodles (which makes them a fantastic gluten free option!).
  • Makes a great ingredient for a stir fry.
Nutrition Facts for 1 cup Zucchini & Summer Squash Cooked:

Calories: 38   Carbs: 10g   Fat: 0g   Protein: 2g   Sugar: 4g


  1. I want to try this - do you re-heat the frozen vegetables in the microwave when ready to eat? Also, if I made several bags but all were going to be eaten in one week, would you still recommend freezing the bags, or just keeping them in the fridge?

    1. I do re-heat the frozen vegetables in the microwave. I usually pair them with chicken or turkey breast (which usually tends to be dry). The zucchini & summer squash give it extra moisture. When frozen and re-heated though, zucchini and summer squash release a lot of moisture. To prevent this, I usually drain them very well after cooking (in a strainer for at least 20 minutes). Also, yes you can leave the cooked product in the refrigerator for about 3 days before freezing. Three days is a good rule of thumb for any cooked foods that are in the refrigerator. After 3 days they are exposed to harmful bacterial growth, so I would just portion and freeze at that point. It also makes it easier to portion as the veggies are cold, not steaming hot :) Best wishes & happy cooking!