Step-by-Step Stuffed Zucchini

When we first started trying to eat more fruits and vegetables I was completely lost.  I had grown up  in a house where our vegetables came out of a can and I had never even seen most types of fresh vegetables.  This zucchini dish is one of the first items we tried, and it is still one of our favorites.  It has the feel of a main dish although I have it listed under vegetable recipes.

Stuffed Zucchini. Nancy Walker, Healthy Eating

Start with the basics – an onion, tomato, sweet bell pepper and some zucchini.  This dish is fairly forgiving so if your zucchini has gotten a day or two beyond its peak, it will still work fine in this recipe.


Stuffed Zucchini. Nancy Walker, Healthy Eating

Peeling an onion is always such great fun.  Sometimes I cut off a piece and then peel it, but today I decided to peel the whole onion.  Everyone has a favorite way of peeling an onion.  I simply cut off the top and bottom, make a slice through the skin and use my fingers to peel.


Stuffed Zucchini. Nancy Walker, Healthy Eating

A nice moist and fresh onion should peel very easily.  If your onion is a little older and drier, it will take a little more work with the knife to get it done.


Stuffed Zucchini. Nancy Walker, Healthy Eating


Since I am only stuffing 3 zucchini, I am using only about 1/4 of the medium onion.


Stuffed Zucchini. Nancy Walker, Healthy Eating

Dice the onion up.  This is typically when my children leave the room.  I like a nice strong onion and it takes a lot to get my eyes to tear up – but my children bail out everytime I go near a raw onion. (Perhaps they use it as an excuse to get out of helping!)



Stuffed Zucchini. Nancy Walker, Healthy Eating

Remember, chopped onion is a little bigger than diced onions.  If I was stuffing something larger than a zucchini, I wouldn’t mind slightly bigger onion pieces. But the zucchini is fairly narrow and little onion dices work best.


Nancy Walker Healthy Eating stuffed zucchini

Every cook’s dilemma is what to do with the leftover onion so that it stays fresh and doesn’t make the whole refrigerator and crisper smell like an onion.  I have found a nice piece of aluminum foil works best.


Nancy Walker Healthy Eating stuffed zucchini

Simply wrap up the onion, making sure it is fully covered, and your onion will stay strong and your refrigerator will stay sweet.



Stuffed Zucchini. Nancy Walker, Healthy Eating

We’ll only need a half of a sweet bell pepper with 3 zucchini.  I like red, yellow or orange peppers the best.  Green peppers are a little strong for my digestive system so I use them more in chili dishes or for stuffed peppers.  I also like to use a variety of colors when cooking and since the zucchini is green, the tomato is red and the onion is white, I decided to use a nice orange pepper.  Any color will do!  Remember to dice the pepper from the inside out.  The outside skin can be a little tough for the knife to make it’s initial cut. So I turn my pepper half cut side up and chop from the inside out.



Stuffed Zucchini. Nancy Walker, Healthy Eating

Dice the bell pepper. Again, I like a nice small pepper piece to balance out the other sizes and textures.


Suffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

Add the pepper and onion and a little bit of water to a saute pan.  You can use oil, but why waste the calories?  The flame or stove top should be set at a medium to medium high level.  We are going to saute, not blacken the pepper and onion.


Suffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

Add a minced garlic clove or two to the saute pan.  (Oops, I forgot to include that in my original picture didn’t I?)  Here I am mincing fresh garlic cloves, but bottled minced garlic will work just fine.



Suffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

While the peppers, onions and garlic are sauteing, grab that lovely tomato and get it ready.  Notice my tomato has a little bad spot up at the top.  The only perfect tomatoes are generally the ones not worth eating.  Either they have been overly sprayed with pesticide, or refrigerated – which ruins the tomato.  Don’t be shy about using not so perfect produce.  The top of the tomato is going to be discarded anyway. Simply make sure to remove the soft spot before dicing the tomato.


Suffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

Remove the top and very bottom part of the tomato and slice in half.  This is just the way I like to tackle my tomatoes.  Everyone has their own way, but it seems to work pretty good to chop a tomato half rather than try to dice it while it is still rolling around on the cutting board.


Suffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

Dice the tomato into comparable size of the onion and pepper.  Notice that I did not remove the skin of the tomato.  If I were going to cook the tomato for a long time or use it in a creamy sauce, I would probably remove the skin first.  As the tomato heats, the skin will separate from the body of the tomato leaving lots of strange stringy skins in your dish.  In this dish, the skins left on work just fine.


Suffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

My tomato is diced and it’s time to check back on the peppers and onions.  They are sautéing nicely.  If yours have gone a little dry, then simply add a little more water along the way.  Sometimes I like to let mine get a little dry – it tends to almost caramelize the peppers and onions.



Suffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

Once the peppers and onions have softened up it is time to add the diced tomato.  The peppers and onions will soften up in about 5 minutes.  There is no exact science to all of this – at least not in my house.  Use  your best judgment.  If you like things a little crisper, then don’t let them cook as long.  Modify the recipes to fit your tastes!  Toss the mixture and continue to let the ingredients sauté over medium heat.



Suffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

Time to add a little bit of Italian Seasoning.  I typically will add about 1 teaspoon of seasoning.  Feel free to substitute another seasoning if you don’t like this one.  Perhaps some cilantro instead?



Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

Sprinkle the seasoning on top of the sautéed vegetables.  (Okay, some of you may argue that a tomato is actually a fruit and not a vegetable.  Add the seasonings anyway!)


Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

Add a twist or two of salt and pepper if you want.  Stir the seasonings in and turn off the heat.



Suffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

Once the vegetables are soft, it’s time to start making the stuffing.  I like Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise.  I tried quite a few vegan mayonnaises before I settled on this one.  None of the other ones can hold a candle to this one – at least with my taste buds.  Feel free to use any mayonnaise type product that you like.



Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

I can’t bring myself to actually measure the veganaise.  Perhaps I don’t really want to know how much I am adding.  As you can see from the spoon, I use about 1/4 cup of veganaise.  (That’s only 4 tablespoons and it will feed the whole family.  Remember I water sauteed so I could use the calories to be a little more generous with the veganaise.)  Make sure to thoroughly stir in the veganaise.



Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

Now, it’s time to add some great whole wheat bread crumbs.  If you can’t find whole wheat bread crumbs, use what you have.  (I make my own bread crumbs from the little leftover pieces of bread from our loaves. I simply let them sit out until they are nice and stiff, and then throw them in my Vitamix or food processor.  Not only are they quite inexpensive when you make them yourself, but they also don’t have a lot of other chemicals in them like the store bought ones do.  It also makes me feel quite thrifty to actually use our bread crusts.)  As you can see, I have measured out about 1/2 cup of bread crumbs.  Depending on how wet your sautéed vegetables are, and how much veganaise you added to them, you may or may not need this many bread crumbs.



Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

Notice that I am not just dumping the whole measure of bread crumbs into the mixture.  I add them a spoonful at a time to make sure I get the texture of the stuffing just like we like it.


Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

Mix all of the ingredients well and then set it aside.  Remember, you have turned off the heat underneath it so it can sit as long as it takes you to prepare the zucchini.



Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

Slice off the top and bottom of the zucchini.  The zucchini should be nice and green and fairly firm.  If there happens to be a soft spot, make sure to trim it off before you stuff it.



Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise.  Be careful to keep your fingers away from the knife at this point.


Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

Notice how nice and creamy white the inside of the zucchini is.  It has more flesh and less water than a cucumber but it does resemble a cuke.




Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

With a regular spoon, scrape out the insides of the zucchini.  Simply turning the spoon
upside down works quite well to scrape out the seeds.



Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating


Be sure not to scrape out too much.  You want to leave about 1/4 inch of zucchini all the way around.  If you scrape out too little, there is no room for your stuffing.  If you scrape out too much and there is nothing left to hold your stuffing.


Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

What you are left with is a great vehicle for holding all of that wonderful stuffing.
(Discard the seeds and flesh that have been removed.)

Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating


Place the zucchini shells in a baking pan.  Mine most often fit quite nicely in a 13x9x2 pan.  For easier clean-up, you can spray the pan first or line it with either parchment paper or aluminum foil.  This dish does not give off a lot of liquid while cooking.



Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating


It’s time now to start stuffing the shells.  I simply “eyeball” the amount of stuffing that I have and visually divide it into 6 equal parts.  Notice some zucchini boats are slightly larger and will hold a little more stuffing than other ones will. There’s no science here, just stuff until the stuffing is gone and fairly evenly distributed between all of the shells.



Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating


All of the stuffing has been stuffed and we are almost ready to put them in a 350°F  oven.



Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

I like to top my stuffed zucchinis with a little topping.  We like this Vegan Parmesan-style “cheese”.  If I don’t have that on hand, I will use a little sprinkle or two of grated vegan cheddar style “cheese”.  The parmesan style product goes a little better with the Italian Seasonings, and the cheddar goes a little better if you use cilantro instead of the Italian spices.



Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

The topping has been sprinkled and we’re ready to put them in the preheated oven.  There is no need to cover this dish while baking.  Covering it will make the zucchini a little too soft and soggy for my taste.





Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

After baking them for about 35 minutes, the zucchini boats should be fork tender
and the stuffing nice and lightly browned.






Stuffed Zucchini Nancy Walker Healthy Eating

This night, we added saucy creamer potatoes and spinach with raisins and pine nuts along side the zucchini.  Wow!  I love my own cooking!  This night’s dinner was an exceptionally good one.  Normally I make one item to please everyone, but tonight I loved them all.  My kids loved the potatoes best, my husband loved the spinach best, my mother-in-law liked the zucchini best – and I just loved them all!

Healthy eating just doesn’t get any better than this!

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