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Delicious garden-to-table recipes

September 22, 2022 | Valerie Elwell
Zucchini coffee cake and muffins are made with oats and fall spices.
This zucchini coffee cake has 100 fewer calories than a slice from Starbucks, plus 3 grams of fiber! You can even freeze this scrumptious treat to give to family and friends, or share with co-workers at the next potluck. Photos by Jessica Van Roo.

If you've ever wondered how to use up your bumper crop of home-grown vegetables, these recipes are for you!

The farm-to-table restaurant movement has been around since the early '70s, but a more personal "garden-to-table" version is taking root. Whether it's a community plot, an apartment rooftop or a raised-bed backyard planter, it doesn't take much space to reap a bounty of delicious organic fare.

Cultivating your own food means fresher, higher quality, budget-friendly meals. It's also a wonderful way to teach kids where their food comes from and they're also are more likely to try vegetables and fruit they've had a hand in growing.

"Picking vegetables at the peak of ripeness means they're also at their most nutritious, plus they just taste better,” says Katie Rankell, a registered dietitian and program director of the UCI Health Weight Management Program.

"Grow food you love to eat and don't forget to plant fresh herbs that help boost flavor without adding sodium to recipes."

Try bringing your bountiful harvest to the dinner table with these recipes created by Jessica Van Roo, executive chef of the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, part of UCI Health.


Dill Pickle Chopped Salad

A dill pickle chop salad on a white platter with dressing on the side.

Serves 8 (Cost: $14.49/$1.81 per serving)
Calories: 215 per serving

This salad features all the fall colors with a special focus on making the most of your bounty of cucumbers — both fresh and pickled. Top this cornucopia of veggies with crunchy pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of tangy dill pickle dressing and without a doubt, you'll be dishing up second helpings.

Van Roo suggests making your own dill pickles, adding, "It's really not as hard or time-consuming as people think."

Though commonly thought to be a vegetable, the cucumber is actually a fruit. They are low in calories and contain a good amount of water and soluble fiber, making them ideal for promoting hydration, digestion and aiding in weight loss. They're also rich in vitamins C and K, magnesium, potassium and manganese, as well as antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress in the body. They are best eaten raw and unpeeled for maximize nutrient content.

Adding chopped red cabbage to this salad keeps the calorie count low while adding an impressive volume of nutrients and antioxidants, including sulforaphane and kaempferol, which reduce chronic inflammation.

Kale is also part of the cabbage family and, given its incredibly low calorie content (33 calories per cup), it's among the most nutrient-dense foods and with large amounts of vitamins A, K and C plus alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for normal human growth and development.

Chickpeas, feta cheese and pumpkin seeds round out the ingredients and dial up this chopped salad's protein count to keep muscles and bones strong.

Ingredients

Dill pickle dressing

  • 1½ cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup avocado mayonnaise
  • ⅓ cup chopped dill pickles (try using homemade)
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seed
  • ¼ teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 tablespoons pickle juice or lemon
  • Pinch of brown sugar or squirt of honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Salad

  • 2 cups red cabbage, shredded
  • 2 cups romaine, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups kale, stems removed, leaves chopped
  • 1½ cups cauliflower florets
  • ½ cup shredded carrot
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed, drained well
  • 1 cup chopped cucumbers
  • ½ cup feta cheese
  • ½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Directions

  • Combine dressing ingredients in a jar or other container, mix well and season to taste, adding more pickle juice as needed. Set aside.
  • Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl, mix and add half the dressing.
  • Toss well, adding more dressing as needed.
  • Serve extra dressing on the side.

Barley-and-Sausage Stuffed Zucchini

Four barley and sausage stuffed zucchini on a cutting board with fresh tomato and mushroom in the background.

Serves 6 (Cost: $20.68/per serving $3.45)
Calories: 259 per serving

Two of every summer garden's most prolific performers — zucchini and tomato — come together in this hearty recipe.

Like cucumber, zucchini is actually a fruit. With several varieties, it's color can range from deep yellow to dark green. Its high fiber,  potassium and carotenoid content may lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce other risk factors for heart disease. Zucchini also helps stabilize blood sugar levels and is high in vitamin A, which supports vision and immune health.

Tomatoes are another fruit generally eaten and prepared like a vegetable. They are the major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to a reduced risk for cancer and heart disease. Tomatoes also are loaded with vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin K.

This recipe calls for barley, a versatile grain with a chewy consistency and a slightly nutty flavor that complements many dishes. Barley's high fiber content, particularly the soluble fiber beta-glucan, may also promote feelings of fullness, which may lead to weight loss over time.

Consider using leaner chicken or turkey Italian-style sausage for this savory dish.

Ingredients

  • 3 large zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil plus more as needed to brush on zucchini
  • 1½ lb Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 6 oz mushrooms, finely minced
  • 2 tomatoes, finely chopped (about 8 oz) or half a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup reserved zucchini (you may need more than you saved!)
  • ½ cup barley (about 1½ cups cooked)
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast or grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1¼ cup grated cheese (mozzarella or provolone)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment or foil.
  • Scoop meat from zucchini halves, dice and set aside.
  • Season both sides of zucchini halves with salt and pepper, then brush with oil.
  • Place zucchini halves, hollow side down on baking sheet, bake 12 minutes.
  • While zucchini is baking, heat ½ tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium high heat.
  • When oil is hot, add sausage, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon.
  • Continue cooking about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add onions and continue cooking until onions soften and begin to brown.
  • Add mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid and begin to brown.
  • Add tomatoes, garlic and diced zucchini, cooking just until both soften.
  • Stir in cooked barley.
  • Add nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Stir in beaten egg, mix well.
  • Distribute filling among the zucchini halves.
  • Top with cheese and bake 20-25 minutes.
  • Turn on oven broiler at the end if browned cheese is desired.

Zucchini Coffee Cake

Zucchini coffee cake and muffins displayed with oats and cinnamon sticks.

Serves 12 (Cost: $5.58/per serving $0.47)
Calories: 222 per serving

Wondering what to do with the rest of your zucchini? Try this moist, delicious coffee cake, which has three grams of all-important fiber!

With 100 fewer calories per slice than similar offerings at Starbucks and elsewhere, this coffee cake is a welcome treat to give to family and friends or share with co-workers at the next potluck.

The oats in this recipe add complex carbohydrates and fiber. Oats also are higher in protein and healthy fats than most other grains and they contain powerful antioxidants, including avenanthramides, which can increase the body's production of nitric acid and  lower blood pressure.

The soluble fiber in oats also helps remove cholesterol from the blood stream, especially low-density lipoproteins, the bad cholesterol that can boost the risk of heart disease.

Adding almond flour, which is rich in magnesium and has a lower glycemic index than other conventional flours, will also help keep blood sugar levels steady. 

Extra tip: These coffee cakes freeze well but are best eaten within three to four months.

Ingredients

Cake

  • ¼ cup yogurt
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted
  • ⅔ cup light brown sugar or monk fruit sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1½ cups whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
  • 1 heaping cup shredded zucchini (about 1 large fruit)

Topping

  • ½ cup almond flour
  • ⅓ cup old fashioned oats
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar or monk fruit sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup unsalted butter or coconut oil

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Coat 8-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray or brush lightly with oil.
  • Combine topping ingredients in a bowl, then use hands to rub butter or coconut oil into the mixture to create a sandy texture and set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl, whisk yogurt, butter or coconut oil, sugar, egg and extract until thoroughly combined.
  • In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda and powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom.
  • Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Leaving a few streaks of flour is OK!
  • Fold in shredded zucchini, but do not overmix.
  • Pour batter into pan, bake 35-40 minutes until golden brown. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs, not completely dry!
  • To make individual servings in a muffin tin, reduce baking time to 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Cool at least 10-15 minutes before serving.

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