Foodie mama Ghillie James has three fab recipes for sneaking nutrient-packed zucchini (aka courgette) into your kids’ meals and snacks
Zucchini, or courgettes, are my favourite hidden ingredient for adding an extra boost of nutrients to family dishes. Added to pasta sauces, curries, dips and soups, as well as muffins and even brownies, grated zucchini just disappears like magic, enabling you to whack in some nutrients without so much of a whinge or a cry!
Note: ‘Zucchini’ and ‘Courgette’ used interchangeably throughout this article.
Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies
Yes, really! This is a wonderfully versatile recipe, given to me by a fabulous baker-friend, Mary. What I love about it is, it’s a true brownie recipe which, even though it’s got courgette and apple in it, holds up against the best! This is in contrast to a ‘mock brownie’, which might contain black beans, chia seeds and loads of other healthy things but then actually ceases to taste like a brownie anymore! This recipe can also be made gluten, egg and/or dairy free with ease (see notes in brackets)
Makes 20 squares
280g plain flour (or gluten free plain flour)
3 eggs (or 3/4 tsp xanthan gum – but omit gum/eggs if using GF flour blend that has xanthan gum already added)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 level tsp sea salt flakes
250g golden caster sugar
3 heaped tbsp unsweetened apple sauce
60g melted unsalted butter (or ¼ cup canola oil)
2 tsp good quality vanilla extract
25g cocoa powder, mixed to a paste with 1 ½ tbsp. boiling water (make sure dairy free if need be)
220g zucchini, grated (if you like you can peel, then weigh, to avoid any green flecks! If large courgette, discard seeds)
175g semi-sweet chocolate chips (can use dairy-free if you like)
In a large bowl, sieve the flour, xanthan gum (if using), bicarbonate of soda, and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, using an electric whisk, beat together the sugar, apple sauce, butter//oil, eggs (if using), cocoa paste and vanilla extract for 30 seconds.
Add to the flour mixture and continue beating for about 1 minute.
Add the shredded zucchini and 125g chocolate chips and mix on a low speed until combined.
Pour brownie batter into greased 8 x 10 inch tray bake tin pan.
Sprinkle extra 25g chocolate chips over the top of brownie batter. Bake at 350°/ 175C for about 23-28 minutes, or until brownies are just set. (Due to chocolate chips in batter, it is hard to get a toothpick to come out entirely clean. However the mixture should be cooked around the edges and just set but with a little wobble in the centre).
Let them cool in pan about 10 minutes, then gently use a palette knife to loosen the edges, then remove and cool on wire rack.
Serve at room temp or still warm.
Beef, Quinoa and Courgette Burgers
I love this recipe for the fact it’s healthier and that the additional zucchini and quinoa also make the mince go further. This mixture makes 4 medium sized and 4 smaller burgers – not bad for 500g mince! You can also use chicken mince instead of beef, if your kids prefer the flavour. I have also used this recipe for meatballs too, topped with a tomato sauce and served with spaghetti.
500g good quality beef (or chicken) mince
100g grated zucchini
3 tbsp cooked quinoa
½ small onion, grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ tsp English mustard
1 tsp Worcester sauce
1 tsp ketchup
½ tsp dried oregano
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl with a good grind of pepper and ½ heaped tsp sea salt flakes. Using clean hands, squeeze and mix together. Then form into burgers of your desired size, pop into a Tupperware or onto a plate and chill for at least 1 hour (you can freeze them at this stage). Cook over a high heat on the barbecue (you can brush them with bbq sauce at the end of cooking if you like. Serve with burger buns, cheese slices, and salad.
Chicken, Pesto and Zucchini Linguine
This is seriously versatile, so omit the mushrooms and add peas or broccoli if your children prefers them, swap linguine for gluten free pasta (or make zucchini noodles), or even swap the pesto for a glug of tomato pasta sauce if preferred. You can also take out the chicken or swap with chopped bacon if you like. The secret winner is the grated courgette (which you can peel to make even more under cover!), which tastes fabulous when simply stir-fried.
350g linguine or a pasta of your choice
1 tbsp olive oil
450g skinless chicken breast, sliced
150g mushrooms sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
450g (about 2) courgettes, grated
3 heaped tbsp pesto, homemade or good quality jarred
3 heaped tbsp creme fraiche or cream
3 heaped tbsp low fat cream cheese
50g grated parmesan
Cook the linguine according to the packet instructions, then drain, reserving a little of the cooking water. Meanwhile, fry the chicken in olive oil over a high heat until browned all over. Add the mushrooms and garlic and stir-fry for a minute before adding the courgettes. Toss over the heat for a minute or two, then once most of the liquid has evaporated, stir in the pestp, crème fraiche, cream cheese and parmesan. Taste for seasoning, then add to the drained pasta. Add a little of the cooking liquid if needed. Serve with extra parmesan on the side.