Welcome back to the eighth update of the 12-Month Produce Challenge!
Late to the party? No worries! All the “rules” for the challenge can be found in THIS post. Just return here when you understand what you need to do and find out the vegetable of the month for September.
I wanted to do this challenge with my family in the first place because I felt like we were stuck in a rut with eating the same vegetables over and over again. After completing 8 months of the challenge now, I feel like I’m doing a much better job at giving my family the variety that we all need for our bodies for optimal health.
I also wanted to do this challenge so we could learn to eat in season as well as discover new ways to enjoy foods that we aren’t too keen on eating.
August’s Veggie: Summer Squash
Most of the vegetables we’ve focused on this year have been ones that are quite “unpopular” for most people. But I decided to throw in summer squash in August since a lot of people either grow it or can get some from someone who has a bunch from their garden. I used both yellow squash and zucchini since they are both categorized as “summer squash.”
This month, my family and I ate 11 different meals with summer squash, including pizza, pasta salad, oatmeal, and more.
Why Summer Squash?
It seems like every August there’s a nice abundance of summer squash, so why not take advantage of that fact and try it in several different ways?
My Inhibitions About Summer Squash
I like summer squash, but zucchini is not my favorite because sometimes it can taste too bitter (which is definitely not what you want when you make it as the star of the dish). I didn’t know this before now, but if it does taste bitter, don’t eat it. It can make you sick.
How I Used Summer Squash in Our Meals & My Family’s Honest Opinions
Summer squash is so easy to find this time of year, so it was nice to use a familiar veggie this time. My family and I ate it 11 times this month and found several favorites.
Taco Stuffed Summer Squash Boats
Except for the first part of this recipe, these Taco Stuffed Summer Squash Boats were really a breeze to pull together. You have to turn on the oven to bake them, so it’s not the ideal summer recipe, but I’m not making them every day! 😉 I used some ground chicken I had in the freezer instead of the ground turkey. I served it with some delicious homemade salsa and an arugula salad, as well. I put cheese on half of them and left cheese off the other half (for my daughter and myself who eat a mostly dairy-free diet).
If you want to make these and spend less time overall making them, you can definitely prepare the squash ahead of time. Just keep them in the baking dish in the fridge until you need them. You might even be able to prepare the ground turkey with all the other ingredients and fill the boats so they are ready to be put in the oven as soon as you walk in the door after a long day.
These were met with a lot of excitement by my kids. I don’t know if it’s because they were hungry or they thought it was cool they got their own little boat. I would say they are definitely a family favorite!
Lemon Basil Vegetable Pasta Salad in a Jar
I love make-ahead lunches, and this Lemon Basil Vegetable Pasta Salad in a Jar made my heart happy. I put the pasta salad in quart size jars, but I’m pretty sure each portion was meant to be put into a pint size jar. It still worked! I left out the red onion (still working my way up to eating large pieces of raw onion) and just diced up pieces of mozzarella rather than used mozzarella balls.
My husband took one to work, but I forgot to ask how he liked it. He always complains about cold pasta salads, so this was probably no different. My middle child loved this as well as my 2 year old who really only wanted it for the pasta and tomatoes. He even picked the cheese out and didn’t eat it! I liked it, and I’ll be keeping this recipe around for whenever we need to use up basil or summer squash.
Salmon and Summer Veggies in Foil
I made this Salmon and Summer Veggies in Foil with one of the brightest pink and longest pieces of salmon I’ve ever bought.
My daughter and I were both sick (stomach flu) when we ate this. She felt really nauseous, but I was starting to feel better so I ate it. I wish I hadn’t because I think the tomatoes made it worse. My other two kids couldn’t have cared less about this meal. They didn’t touch it. My husband really liked it (he likes fish, though) and even had some leftover to take to work!
Side note: After sleuthing around some, I’m wondering if my daughter and I got sick this month from eating bitter zucchini. It had to have been right after we ate the pasta salad in a jar, but it’s all starting to make sense now!
Lemon Poppy Seed Summer Squash Bread
Oh mylanta, this Lemon Poppy Seed Summer Squash Bread was absolutely fabulous. First, disclaimer, it is not a health food…at all. However, I do love the fact that it is full of 2 cups of squash 😉 The overall taste reminds me of lemon poppy seed muffins, so in my mind they are a healthier version of those, but still not a health food (just have to keep saying that because I don’t want anyone to think that 2 cups of sugar is healthy).
I don’t make a lot of quick breads around here (my husband is not usually a fan), but this one is so worth it. Besides, my husband almost refused to try it because of the squash, but then he did try it and claimed he could taste the squash and didn’t like it. About an hour later I noticed more of the bread was gone and thought it was my kids, and then he fessed up. So you know it’s good!
Summer Vegetable Tian
This Summer Vegetable Tian was a lot of fun to make because of the alternating veggies in the pan. I added probably half of the cheese that the recipe called for since myself and my daughter are both sensitive to dairy. I served it with some skillet chicken and leftover coconut rice we had in the fridge. I wasn’t expecting much in terms of flavor, but boy was I in for a treat…
It was very flavorful and my kids even were asking for more (especially the potatoes). I am keeping this recipe on hand to make every year around this time with the summer squash that is so abundant.
Zucchini Chocolate Chip Baked Oatmeal
Who says zucchini isn’t for breakfast?! You can totally incorporate summer squash into breakfast foods, like this Zucchini Chocolate Chip Baked Oatmeal. I served it with some strawberries and bananas, and it really didn’t take that long to get in the oven. I think if you want an effortless breakfast, though, you should either make and bake this ahead of time or at least get the zucchini shredded and all the dry ingredients mixed together the night before you plan on making it.
My kids liked it well enough. My oldest asked for seconds, so it’s definitely worth trying if you’re on the fence.
Zucchini and Yellow Squash Spaghetti
I keep wanting to get a spiralizer so I can make zoodles anytime I want, but since I am holding back the next best thing is using a cheese grater to get your summer squash into small pieces so they can be cooked and eaten like noodles. I liked that this Zucchini and Yellow Squash Spaghetti used spaghetti noodles, zucchini, and yellow squash. I wish I had served it with some chicken and french bread, but I didn’t plan it on my menu so I didn’t realize I would miss those things until I actually ate it.
My family was partial to this meal. Two of my kids picked at it, but the 2 year old loved it (he’s a huge fan of pasta lately). I liked it, but I didn’t season it well enough and I think it would’ve tasted better with some meat. My husband didn’t say whether he liked it or not, but he ate it. So I’m happy.
Roasted Summer Squash
Just like in previous produce challenges this year, you can’t forget to try most veggies in their simplest form: roasted. Roasted Summer Squash is a must if you have a bunch of summer squash coming out of your ears. It makes an easy and quite tasty side dish. Plus, it goes with almost any kind of protein. We ate this dish with pulled pork sandwiches (I had the pork already cooked in the freezer, so I just added some BBQ sauce) and coleslaw.
My kids didn’t care for the squash as much as they did for the pulled pork, but who doesn’t love sugar-covered pig?!
Sweet Potato and Summer Squash Muffins
These Sweet Potato and Summer Squash Muffins are great to make for a healthier breakfast or snack option, especially for kids. They do require some preparation, including cooking both the sweet potato and yellow squash first, before you can start mixing everything together.
My kids were big fans of these muffins. I made them right before we went on a little weekend trip, and I took a couple for breakfast on one of the days. I kept them in our cooler since it is so hot and muffins tend to get sticky-ish when they are warm. When I got them out for our breakfast, my kids gobbled them up! We ate them with applesauce and bananas.
Summer Squash Pizza Crust
If you’ve still got some summer squash sitting on your counter, run to your kitchen and make this Summer Squash Pizza Crust NOW. It’s not a quick weeknight meal, but it’s perfect for pleasing a crowd. It’s not “healthy,” but it is healthy-er than regular ol’ pizza because summer squash is in the crust. It’s not gluten free, dairy free, or even vegan. It’s just veggie-fied. 😉
I used 2 yellow squash and 1 zucchini (all from the store, so not large) to get the 4 cups required for this recipe. The biggest tip I have is to start letting the summer squash drain early in the day so you can get all the moisture out of it by the time you make the crust. I also recommend using parchment paper on the baking sheet, as some people mentioned in the comments. I made the mistake of not flouring the baking sheet before putting the crust on it, and it was a little difficult to pry up when I needed to flip it and continue broiling.
There are no words for how good this crust is. We all wanted more, but, sadly, I only made one crust. I would be hesitant to make too much, though, because I’m not sure how leftovers would taste in terms of texture. I do think that the pizza sauce made a big difference as well. Just for reference, I used “Pizza Sauce #1” in my post on The Ultimate Pizza Sauce Taste Test. The toppings I used were pepperoni, olives, and artichoke hearts.
Herb & Cheddar Squash Bread
I made this Herb & Cheddar Squash Bread with my 4 year old while her older sister was at school. She just loves helping me in the kitchen and she could not wait to eat it. When it finally came out of the oven, her little brother was keen on finding some way, any way, to get just a small taste, even at the expense of his little hands getting burned.
Lemme tell you, my kids were both sooooo happy to sit down (for a mid-morning snack, which we NEVER do) and just eat some bread slathered with butter. I decided to slice the bread and put most of it into the freezer because it will be perfect to eat with soup, in my opinion. And we ain’t eating soup quite yet.
How Much Does Summer Squash Cost?
If you get to pick your own summer squash from your garden, consider yourself lucky. But for the rest of us who have to buy their summer squash, you can expect to pay for it by the pound. Summer squash ranged in price from $0.78/lb-$0.98/lb where I live (in August). I spent a total of $14.41 on summer squash (including yellow squash, zucchini, and Mexican squash) in August or about $1.31 per meal (there were 11 meals).
Selecting and Storing Summer Squash
Whether you buy your summer squash from the grocery store or pick it from your garden, you need to be aware of a couple things in order to keep your squash fresh.
Whether it’s yellow squash, zucchini, or some other variety of summer squash you want to buy, make sure it is free of mold. Yes, mold. At least two times last month when I bought zucchini, I came across moldy ones and even the ones I chose to buy and bring home became moldy within a matter of days. If I had a farmer’s market nearby or a different store with nice fresh produce, I would probably shop there instead. But, alas.
Just be sure to inspect the summer squash before you buy it.
What I’ve learned about summer squash this past month is that it goes bad quite fast. The proper way to store summer squash is in a plastic or paper bag with a hole in it. You also don’t want the squash to be wet. Wait to wash it until you intend to cook with it.
Another thing I think is important to point out is that sometimes zucchini can be bitter. If you come across bitter zucchini, do not cook with it or eat it. I believe that the reason my daughter and I got super sick early in August is because we ate bitter zucchini.
Preparing Summer Squash
You can peel the skin of the summer squash or leave it on before you use it. You can also grate summer squash, slice it, or cut it in half and scoop out the middle for stuffing with a meat mixture. Probably the most popular way to prepare it is spiralizing it to make zoodles. You can eat it raw or cook it (but, just like I mentioned above, don’t eat it if it’s bitter).
Nutritional Benefits of Summer Squash
Summer squash is a powerful vegetable (okay, it’s actually a fruit, but come on, do you really think of it like one?). Zucchini, in particular, has a high amount of antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, and B vitamins. It can help you fight inflammation and control diabetes. You can read all about this incredible
vegetable fruit over on Dr. Axe.
Radicchio Eggplant In September, my family and I are going to eat radicchio a couple of times. I still don’t know if the two grocery stores I shop at even carry it, but I’ll find out when I go shopping this week. If it turns out they do not, I may have to change the veggie of the month! I have never bought radicchio (unless you count all the times I’ve bought a salad mix that came with it), and I’m not a huge fan of the taste, so I hope that I can find a couple recipes I like.
Edited: It’s now the 11th and the stores I shop at don’t carry radicchio, so I have decided to change the veggie this month to eggplant. If you have access to radicchio, I say go for it. But if you don’t, you can probably easily find eggplant.
Do you have a favorite summer squash recipe you can link to in the comments below?
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