Skillet Cheesy Italian Squash Casserole

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(Becky, the Mama.)

In my home state of Texas zucchini grows in backyard gardens with such profusion that almost everyone I knew had a steady pile of it sitting on the kitchen counter waiting to be washed, diced, sliced, grated, grilled baked, steamed, frozen — or ignored until it grew mildew and could finally be thrown away without guilt. My mother remembers having to remove a bunch of zucchini from my kitchen sink in order to make room to give one of my newborn babies their first bath. During Texas summers it is almost impossible to walk to or from your car without at least one neighbor strong-arming you into accepting a bag or bucket of ever present green squash. Everywhere you turn, zucchini lurks.

To get my children to eat their share of it, I invented Skillet Italian Squash Casserole. By cooking the squash until just crisp tender, then topping it with an Italian style tomato sauce, gooey cheese, and buttery crackers, I had a winner! It was a family favorite for many years.

Soon after we married, nine years ago,  my husband Greg let me know, “I’m not really a squash kind of guy.” So I avoided serving him squash in any form. But the other day, I threw caution to the wind and made this casserole anyway, since I liked it so much. He graciously agreed to try it. To my surprise, he loved it, too.  Ate every bite. I made it again tonight, and there was not a speck of squash left on his plate,

One day we came home from some errands to find a grocery sack of [zucchini] hanging on our mailbox. The perpetrator, of course, was nowhere in sight … Garrison Keillor says July is the only time of year when country people lock our cars in the church parking lot, so people won’t put squash on the front seat. I used to think that was a joke …” Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

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Skillet Cheesy Italian Squash Casserole

5 smallish to medium squash, yellow or zucchini or a mixture of both
Salt & Pepper
1 T. olive oil
1 large clove grated garlic
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes (preferably the kind with basil)
½ t. oregano
2 t. brown sugar
1 c. grated cheese (I like mozzarella but really, any cheese you like & have on hand will be yummy)
3 T. butter
20 buttery crackers, such Ritz or Townhouse (I used Ritz wheat crackers)
2 T. grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:
Heat oven to 400 degrees

Slice squash about ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle all with salt and pepper. Heat oil in an 10-12 inch iron skillet on high flame until very hot. Put squash and garlic into pan and saute until many of the pieces are golden on the outside and cooked until just crisp-tender.

Remove from stove top and pour crushed tomatoes evenly over the top of the squash. Sprinkle the tomatoes with oregano and brown sugar. Top with grated cheese. Melt butter in a medium-sized bowl in the microwave. Crumble crackers into the melted butter, add Parmesan and mix. Pour this crumb mixture on top of the cheese, then place the skillet in hot oven. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until squash is tender, cheese melted, and cracker crumb topping is golden.

Veganize This: Substitute vegan ‘Mozzarella” and “Parmesan” cheese and dairy-free butter and you are good to go on this one.  Simple to do!

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Double Chocolate Veggie Nut Bread (Zucchini, Carrots & Applesauce)

  • huevos rancheros, choc veggie bread 033(Becky, the Mama.)

Yes, you can have your moist, dark, chocolate cake-bread, and enjoy your health, too!

This recipe began stewing in my mind when my sister-in-law Gail came to visit.  Every morning, without fail, she has the same breakfast: a chocolate chip chocolate muffin and a Starbuck’s frappucinno.  I am not a big fan of breakfast foods, in general, but those double chocolate muffins …. oh man, they looked and smelled and tasted soooo good!

Since Gail’s muffin’ lovin’ visit,  I’ve been in search of a moist, super chocolately bread or muffin that I can feel good about eating, even for breakfast.  I came across a Cooking Light recipe for chocolate zucchini bread that used squash and applesauce to substitute for most of the oil. It was quite moist and… pretty okay, but a “fer piece” (as they say in Texas) from that perfect dark, rich, chocolately bite I was looking for.

So I started tweaking and baking like one of those OCD chefs from America’s Test Kitchens.  By the time I was done, I’d changed every ingredient and added more, and made the recipe entirely my own. I don’t like the taste of baking soda so I switched to baking powder. It wasn’t chocolately enough so I used dark Hershey’s cocoa, added ¼ cup Hershey’s syrup and doubled the chocolate chips. I added a cup of chopped walnuts.  I substituted ½ the zucchini for grated carrots because that’s what I had in the fridge.  (Actually I just put all the veggies in the food processor and whirled them.I’ve no patience for hand-grating veggies and I value my knuckles.)

When the finished loaf came out of the oven, fragrant with rich chocolate aromas, I took one bite and said, “Now, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!”  Chocoholics rejoice! You have seriously got to try this recipe to believe how good it is.  No one will suspect it has 1 ½ cups of veggies and 1 cup of applesauce & only 3 T. of oil and ¾ cup sugar – in two loaves.

Valentine’s Day is coming up and this would make a fun breakfast or snack or dessert for yourself or your kids or your Honey Pie.  Just garnish it with a few heart shaped strawberry slices and serve it with all the love in your heart. 

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Double Chocolate Veggie-Nut Bread

Creaming Ingredients

¾ c. organic sugar

3 T. olive or canola oil

2 large eggs

¼ c. Hershey’s chocolate syrup

1 t. vanilla

 

Sifted Dry Ingredients

2 cups unbleached or whole wheat white flour

2 T. Hershey’s dark cocoa powder (you can use regular cocoa as well, just won’t be quite as dark a loaf)

3 T. plus 1 t. baking powder

½ t. cinnamon (more if you like a stronger cinnamon punch)

½ t. salt

 

The Goodies!

¾ cup grated or ground squash, any kind (zucchini, yellow, butternut, pumpkin….)

1 c. applesauce

¾ cup grated or ground carrots

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

2 T. flour

Directions:

Using a mixer cream all the “creaming ingredients” together until eggs are very well beaten and mixture is smooth.   Sift together all the ingredients from the “Sifted Dry Ingredients” list.  Use food processor to grind/process carrots and squash, or grate them by hand.   Alternate adding squash-carrot mixture and sifted dry ingredients to mixing bowl.   Mix until well incorporated.  Put chocolate chips and chopped walnuts in a small bowl and toss with 2 T. flour (this helps them not fall to the bottom of your bread, keeps them floating evenly throughout the loaf).  Stir these final goodies into the batter, by hand.

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(In the picture at top above, I had frozen grated yellow squash and zuchinni from the night before, and just tossed it back in food processor with a couple of large carrots. Next pic is batter awaiting the bowl of floured walnuts and chocolate chips.  Finally my super-long bread pan, found at an estate sale.)

Pour batter into two well greased and floured loaf pans.  (Note: I baked my bread in one super-long baker’s loaf pan, a find at an estate sale.  But I’ve never seen another bread pan like it, so just use two regular bread pans instead.)

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Bake at 350 for 55 minutes. Let cool to warm and carefully run sharp knife around edge to loosen and remove from pan.  Let cool some more and then slice with a sharp serrated knife to serve. After first day, store in fridge (otherwise the moist veggies and fruit could start fermenting)  and either nuke for a second or heat slices in skillet with a little butter.

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This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook

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The Title: Double Chocolate Veggie Nut Bread

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