Too many zucchini? How to use your surplus

Zucchini photo courtesy of graibeard, Creative Commons.

It is that time of year when zucchinis seem to multiply overnight in the garden. What can you do with all this zucchini? Fortunately, this vegetable’s mild flavor is like a blank canvas and takes on the flavors of what you prepare with it. You can sneak nutrition into a variety of products with this versatile vegetable. Instead of the usual stir-fry, grilled and fried zucchini, be creative and try new ways to use it in your meals.


Use zucchini at breakfast by preparing it with eggs and add some spices to jazz it up. Whip up some zucchini and kale with fruits like cherries and blueberries to make a nutritious smoothie. Shredded zucchini can be added to waffle or pancake batter for extra moisture and texture without changing the flavor.


The shape of zucchini is perfect for making vegetable boats. Slice off the center piece of one side of the zucchini and carefully scoop out the flesh to make a boat. Stuff the boat with your choice of veggies, grains, meat or cheese. Just bake and serve. It looks impressive but requires little work. Add grated zucchini to your favorite pesto recipe, using half basil and half zucchini. You can even add grated zucchini to hamburgers, meatballs and meatloaf for extra moisture and nutrition, using one cup of grated zucchini to one pound of ground beef or turkey.


Another fun way to use zucchini is to make zoodles. Use a spiralizer or just a vegetable peeler to make a pile of thin spaghetti-shaped strands. Eat it raw topped with diced tomatoes and a vinaigrette dressing or lightly cook them in olive oil and garlic.  Add some other veggies to top the “pasta” if you like. Try using strips of zucchini in place of noodles to make a vegetable or meat lasagna. This decreases the carbohydrate and calorie content of the dish.


Zucchini bread
Zucchini bread. Photo courtesy of thriftyknitter, Creative Commons

Since zucchini has an extremely high water content, using shredded zucchini to baked goods adds extra moisture so you can use less or even no oil to make cakes, muffins, brownies and the infamous zucchini bread.


When you have reached your limit of using zucchini, freeze the rest to use later. You can freeze it cut or grated. Choose young zucchini with tender skin. Wash well. For cut squash, cut into ½-inch slices and blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes. This destroys the enzymes and bacteria that would decrease nutrients and flavor over time. Immediately put squash in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain the cut squash to remove excess moisture and place in freezer bags leaving ½-inch headspace. Label and date. It is best to freeze in small quantities for single use.

For grated zucchini, wash young tender zucchini and grate. Steam blanch in small quantities 1 to 2 minutes until translucent. Do not drain; pack in measured amounts, like 1 cup, into freezer bags or containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Cool first by placing the containers or bags in ice. Once cool, seal, label and freeze. When thawed, discard extra liquid before using in recipes.

Water Bath Canning


Preserving foods at home, especially canning, is becoming more popular and there are a number of recipes, blogs, and canning guidelines available on internet. As exciting as it is, some of these sources are not research-based and give unsafe food handling advice.

We here at Breathing Room want to make sure your homemade products are safe, healthy and delicious. Considering the food safety issues associated with home preserved foods, I will be providing instruction and advice on canning methods in this, and upcoming, blogs.

Let’s start with canning fruits and pickles. Most beginners tend to start canning fruits, jams, jellies, and pickles over other food items because it utilizes water bath canning – a method recommended for canning high acid foods – as opposed to pressure canning.

What Equipment Do I Need?

Water bath canner – a large aluminum or porcelain pot with a lid. It also comes with a wire rack that fits inside to hold canning jars.

Mason jars with two lids – a metal lid with sealing compound, and a metal screwband. They come in different sizes such as half-pint, pint, etc., or with a wide mouth (for pickles or whole fruits).

Canning toolkit – contains a lid magnet (for lifting metal lids), a funnel, tongs, a bubble wand (for removing air bubbles and measuring headspace), and jar lifter (to lift and handle hot jars).


What Products Will I Need?

Most jam and jelly recipes will include the following general items:

Produce: Use almost-ripe fruits for products with better taste and texture. Support local agriculture by using produce grown at home, from local farm stands, or by participating in Community Supported Agriculture.

Pectin/Gelatin: Pectin helps to form gel by holding moisture present, and is sold as a powder and a liquid. IMPORTANT: Use the form indicated in the recipe, do not substitute.

Acid: Acid content in fruit varies. Some jellied products may not need added acid, whereas others may use lemon juice (commercial juice with 5% acidity) or citric acid.

Sugar: Sugar enhances taste, acts as a preservative, and works with pectin and acid to stabilize the gel. To limit sugar, use a tested and reliable recipe that uses modified pectin. You can also use recipes with artificial sweeteners however, it will not provide preservative properties and can alter the taste of the product. Note: do not swap sweeteners in recipes calling for sugar.

General Steps for Canning Jams and Jellies

  • Sterilize your jars:
    • Wash glass jars and metal screwbands in hot soapy water (if reusing jars). Sterilize in boiling water for 10 minutes. This step can be skipped if the processing time for canning is longer than 10 minutes.
    • Sterilize new metal lids with sealing compound in simmering water. NOTE – These should NOT be reused.
  • Recipe preparation:
    • Thoroughly wash produce. Trim, cut, and prep your fruit as indicated in the recipe. Cut pieces as evenly as possible.
    • Follow tested recipe guidelines without altering the ingredient amount.
  • Processing:
    • Use a funnel to pour the prepared recipe in the sterilized jars.
    • Remove air bubbles using the bubble wand and measure and/or adjust the headspace as indicated in the recipe.
    • Wipe the jar rim with clean towel without touching the food.
    • Use the lid magnet to lift metal lid and place it on the jar. Place metal screwband and finger-tip tighten the lid.
    • Place prepared jars in the canner and cover with the lid. Wait for the water to come to a rolling boil.
    • Start timer for the processing.
    • Turn off the burner and let it rest for 10 minutes.
    • Remove the jars with the jar lifter, and remove the lids. Rest the jars on the counter for at least 12 hours.
    • Clean the jars and label with recipe name, production and expiration date. 

What are Tested/Reliable Recipes?

These recipes are lab-tested for time, temperature, and pH to ensure safety of the product if followed diligently. These recipes can be found on USDA’s website, state extension websites, So Easy to Preserve Book, and the Ball Book on Preserving. You can also participate in the University of Maryland Extension’s statewide Food preservation program to gain hands-on experience.

Have fun canning!






Eat It, Don’t Toss It

Did you know that American families throw away almost 50% of their produce, either from expired food, uneaten leftovers, or spoiled produce? In dollars and cents, that translates to a family of four discarding about $1,600 worth of produce per year! So, in March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrated National Nutrition Month with the theme, “Go Further with Food”, which focused on choosing healthier foods and developing habits to reduce food waste at home.

Here are more tips to help keep your money in your wallet:

Check your refrigerator and freezer before you go shopping

I make it a habit to plan my meals for the week. I take an inventory of what I have, then create a shopping list, and I stick to it. Shopping with a list prevents you from buying too much food. Plus, planning meals will save you from the nightly struggle of staring blankly into your fridge, deciding what to prepare at the end of a busy day.

Don’t forget your leftovers

Leftover Food_Pexels-105588_Keegan Evans
Make a plan for leftovers and then store them in the fridge or freezer using the FIFO method.

If you often have leftovers, designate a “leftover day” to finish them, or freeze them to use in stir-fries or soups at a later meal. Once you plan around your leftovers, you can save money and food by only buying the amount of food that can be eaten or frozen within a few days.

Properly store your food

Make a point to practice FIFO, or “First In, First Out.” Before you unpack new groceries, move older products to the front of the fridge/freezer/pantry and use these first. You’re more likely to see and use these items before they spoil or expire. Also, store leftovers in clear containers so you don’t forget to use the food.

Donate unopened food to your local food bank

Working as a food bank’s Nutrition Educator Programs Director was an eye-opener for me. I had the unfortunate opportunity of seeing the face of hunger on children, adults, and seniors living in our state. Sadly, people in America do go to sleep hungry every night. Don’t toss out good food. By donating unopened food and beverages, you can help feed the hungry and reduce the amount of wasted food.

Eat more meals together as a family

Try our family favorite Chicken Vegetable Stir Fry recipe that uses leftovers

Learn to Preserve

Drying, canning, and freezing foods are all methods you can use to make food last longer, avoid wasting food, and save you money. The University of Maryland Extension offers an array of food preservation classes through our Grow It, Eat It, Preserve It programs.

Want to learn more?

University of Maryland Extension is hosting film viewings and panel discussions! Get details and RSVP to Karen Basinger (, 410-313-1908) on these upcoming events:

  • Wasted (September 17, 2:00pm, East Columbia Library)

More tips and guides from the EPA:

Keep the Taste of Summer All Year Long

Blueberry season has finally arrived and Pick-Your-Own (PYO) farms across the state are open for picking. I love fresh, local blueberries, so I was thrilled to wake up on a recent Sunday morning with comfortable temperatures in the high-70s. Mother Nature was giving my heat-sensitive kids at least 30 minutes to pick before they started melting into a sweaty, cranky chorus of “Carry meeeeee!!!!” and “Can we get some ice cream?” So the family headed to Butler’s Orchard for a morning of blueberry-picking.

I had dreams of coming home with quarts of blueberries to eat and freeze. I even had plans to use my berries in this blueberry French toast bake. But then, my kids saw this:

And they said, “What blueberries?”
Daphne_Blog_Blueberries_Butlers Orchard Slides
They also saw these massive slides, so you know…
Daphne_Blog_Blueberries_Butlers Orchard Pump Race
I could go on… but you get the idea. 

So, my plans to come home with insane amounts of blueberries resulted in lots of happy, smiley kids, but no blueberries (or pictures of blueberry picking for this post). #momwin #pyofail

If you are fortunate enough to actually reach the blueberry fields of your local PYO farm, look for plump and firm berries with a dusty-blue color. Jon Traunfeld, Director of the University of Maryland Extension Home and Garden Information Center, also warns against picking berries with a reddish tinge, “These berries are under-ripe and they will not improve after picking.”

And if you get home with as many berries as I had hoped to pick, make sure to freeze some. Karen Basinger, our Extension Educator in Howard County, says that “Freezing will retain more of the original flavor, color, texture and nutritional value of fruits than any other home food preservation method.” Freezing also happens to be the easiest way to preserve fruits and they can last up to a year in the freezer if processed correctly.

To get the best end-product, first discard soft, under-ripe or defective berries, and remove any stems. You do not need to wash the berries, as that can cause tougher skin. Lay the (completely dry) berries on a parchment lined cookie sheet, leaving space between them. Place the cookie sheet into the freezer. Once the berries are firm, you can remove the pan and store all the berries in a freezer container or bag.  Make sure to mark the container with the type of berry and the date frozen. And don’t forget to wash the berries before using them.

If you want to savor more of summer’s bounty, we have Educators who will teach you how to safely jam or jelly your berries, or preserve any other harvested goodies. Check out our calendar of workshops!