I Can’t Believe It’s Not Apple Crisp: A sneaky and sweet way to use an overabundance of zucchini

Summertime Farmer’s Market Dessert

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.”–Jim Davis

There is an oft repeated cautionary tale reminding parishioners to lock their car doors during the summer months when attending worship services.  Otherwise, when you return after service, your car will have been gifted all the extra, and unwanted, zucchinis from a neighbor’s garden!  

My mom recently repeated that story to me, and it made me think of my grandmother, her mother, Helen.  As a child, my siblings and I often stayed with my maternal grandparents during the summer months, and we came to know much of the ins and outs of their life.  This understanding of their life grew even greater during a two year stint in which I lived with them, as a young adult.  And, that day-to-day life revolved around projects/chores around the house, their church community, family, and most importantly, mealtimes–with special emphasis on summertime produce for freezing, canning, and, of course, eating! 

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For example, during the summer months as a child, Pappaw grew a garden, as did all of their neighbors and fellow church community. Throughout the summer Pappaw gave extra vegetables to neighbors and friends.  In return, they reciprocated with their bounty.  Their in-home summer diet was supplemented with regular trips to a nearby produce stand, one town over from the little community in which they lived.  

Therefore, even though, as a young child, I grew up surrounded by distinct aromas, vibrant colors, and a wide variety of shapes of summer produce.  Half-runner beans, strung and broken into pieces cooking on the stove in a pressure cooker; sweet ears of corn on the cob, shucked, boiled and ready to be served up with tubs of “oleo;” glass jars of a neighbor’s sorghum syrup ready to be drizzled over biscuits, fresh bell peppers–although they called them “mangos”–chopped and ready for salads, sauces, or other recipes, and thinly sliced beefsteak tomatoes sprinkled with salt were common weekly summer meal features. Summer desserts featured strawberry shortcakes and blackberry cobblers, as each of those fruits came into season.  Other summertime desserts included watermelon wedges cold and salted, along with fresh summer melons, cut in half, and filled with ice cream or cottage cheese.

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Then came the two years that I lived with them.  No longer were my grandparents able to grow, manage, and maintain their garden, but it didn’t stop their neighbors and community members from sharing the bounty of their gardens with them.  Cue stage right, enter the oversized zucchini–countless oversized zucchini covering the kitchen counter from well-meaning garden-growing church community members!

Grandmother would cut up those zucchinis with fresh peppers, onion, and tomatoes.  Then, she’d season them and cook ‘em all up together–sometimes on the stovetop, like a stew, and sometimes in the oven with cheese and bread crumbs on top.  Her favorite variation was something she called zucchini boats in which she sliced large zucchinis in half, smothered each half in spaghetti sauce, sprinkled the sauce with parmesan, and baked them until golden brown in the oven. Finally, Grandmother Helen also baked zucchini breads and zucchini cakes–sheet or layer with cream cheese or buttercream icing.  Therefore, I absolutely believe that she would have loved the recipe that follows.

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Here’s to my grandparents’ summer time vegetable meal memories. And remember, if life gives you lemons, I mean zucchinis, then here’s a way to turn them into a sweet, summertime dessert!  It may have you saying, “I can’t believe it’s not apple crisp!”  

P.S. Be sure to tag me on social media, or reach out to me via email if you make this!

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Apple Crisp:

Summertime Farmer’s Market Dessert

Gluten-Free and Vegan Options

Ingredients:

Filling:

6 cups peeled, deseeded (if large) and cubed (think thick pineapple chunks) zucchini* (About 5 medium store-sized zucchini/squash)

½ cup sugar or pure maple syrup

¼ cup lemon juice

1 ½  teaspoon apple pie spice (Can substitute with 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼  teaspoon nutmeg, & ⅛ teaspoon allspice)

2 tablespoons all purpose flour, gluten-free if needed

Streusel Topping:

1 cup oats

¾ cup all-purpose flour, gluten-free if needed

¾ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup cold butter, cut into pieces (can use vegan variety)

Directions:

Peel and cube zucchini.

Over medium heat, add prepared zucchini and all filling ingredients EXCEPT flour.

Allow to cook down, approximately 10-20 minutes, or until zucchini chunks are super soft when pressed with a spoon.   

Stir in flour and allow to cook 3-5 more minutes, or until flour has been well incorporated and filling has thickened.  

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray 8×8 or 9×9 square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, mix together oats, flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon until well blended. 

Cut in cold butter into mixture, using a fork or pastry blender, until crumbly, careful not to overmix. Set aside.

Spread zucchini filling mixture evenly into prepared baking pan.

Sprinkle with streusel topping mixture.

Bake 30-45 minutes, or until topping is crispy, golden brown and juices are bubbling along edges.

Allow to cool 15-20 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 generous servings or 9 smaller servings.

Feel free to top with favorite ice cream or whipped topping if desired.

*Feel free to experiment with other summer squashes, such as, yellow squash, crookneck squash, pattypan, cousa squash, and zephyr varieties 

Peel zucchini 🥒

Cut them up into pineapple chunk size.
MIx the filling up, add it to pot, and cook it down.
MIx together dry ingredients for streusel.
Cut cold butter into streusel mixture.
Bake it up until top is crispy and golden brown, and the juices are bubbling around the edges/sides.
Serve it up, once cooled!

Here's a sweet way to get a serving of vegetables in, and it will also help you use up all of those zucchinis your neighbors love to share! 🥒
With or without topping, you won’t believe it’s not apple crisp!

Gluten-free Snickerdoodles (with vegan option)

“Baking cookies is comforting, and cookies are the sweetest little bit of comfort food. . . .”--Sandra Lee

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Years ago, back in the days of the VHS tape cassettes, when my daughter, Maddie, was quite young, she had her fair share of age-appropriate videos.  These were special treats as her TV time was limited. John, my husband, and I are both educators, and we strongly believed then–and still do–that screen time should be limited, especially before the age of five years.  Therefore, these videos were not watched daily, but rather saved for “special times,” such as holidays, sick days, and weekends. 

One of her favorites was Barney: Night Before Christmas.  It was 57 minutes of so much saccharine sweetness that John and I felt cavities forming, if not in our teeth, then in our minds! It used to drive us crazy with its terrible acting and poorly written script. Regardless, Maddie loved it, and she especially enjoyed singing along with the Barney closing jingle. I can still recall the way in which she would plead for her Dad and I to join her in singing it’s catchy refrain, followed by a group hug. 

One line from this video, ultimately became–and still remains–a running joke in our family.  Let me set the stage for you.  Magically, a flawlessly dressed and styled girl wakes up to find snow has fallen just in time for Christmas Eve.  Poof! Out of nowhere, a perfectly coiffed mom, garbed in stereotypical Christmas attire, emerges to hug her daughter at the window.  As Mother and daughter turn away from the window, in walks the doting Dad carrying boxes of Christmas decorations,“just in time for Christmas Eve too!”  Suddenly, Dad feigns hunger like Santa, so Mom suggests that she should bake cookies.

Ooo! Snickerdoodles cooling on a wire rack!

“Ooo–snickerdoodles?” says Dad, rubbing his hands together.

“Chocolate chip?” asks Daughter in a sing-song voice.

Mom smiles methodically in assent, as both parents make their way through the Christmas greeting card house and disappear behind a swinging door to presumably bake cookies.  Twenty or so minutes later, both parents will reappear, no worse for the wear, carrying a large Christmas basket filled with piles of Instagram worthy cookies–had social media been around then. 

The days of Maddie’s Barney obsession are long past; however, if I state that I am going to bake cookies, John, and/or Maddie, will both mimic the lines from the video.  John especially loves to say, “Ooo–snickerdoodles?” and dramatically rub his hands together as if teaching a primary science lesson on friction. As inside family jokes go, it never gets old! 

Gluten-free and vegan? Yes!

Therefore, this past Christmas week, I decided to be ironic and make those Barney dreams come true!  I researched and cobbled together my own version of gluten-free snickerdoodle cookies!  As an added twist, John inadvertently played the role of doting dad by scavenging stores for cream of tartar, the secret ingredient to these magical cookies, since it was out-of-stock at the store I most often frequent.  

Barney may have magic, but snickerdoodles have cream of tartar.

My family and I recommend giving these cookies a try.  At first glance, they may seem quintessentially Barney–simple and sweet. Unlike Barney, however, the cookies are not overly-sweet.  Instead, they are soft, pliable, and slightly complex in flavor due to the combined tang of the cream of tartar and the spice of the cinnamon.  Nonetheless, when you bake this recipe, don’t be surprised to discover that your home has been transformed into an idyllic world filled with singing dinosaurs, cued laughter, and a lovey-dovey theme song that won’t leave your head . . . “I love you, you love me . . . .

You get a cookie, and you get a cookie, and . . .

In the meantime, feel free to drop me a line anytime. Let me know your thoughts and/or suggestions. I always enjoy engaging with readers.

From my home to yours, I wish you sweet baking experiences!

A few of the tricks to making gluten-free, and vegan, snickerdoodles!
Blend the cinnamon and sugar first!

Gluten-free Snickerdoodles (with vegan option)

Ingredients for topping:

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Ingredients for cookies:

1 cup softened butter (You can substitute vegan butter for this if desired.)

1 ½ cup sugar

2 large eggs (You can substitute with *flegg.)

1 tablespoon vinegar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose, gluten free flour

2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

Directions:

If using flegg, mix first, and set aside.

Mix sugar and cinnamon together, and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Mix in egg, vinegar, and vanilla, scraping down sides as needed, until creamed well.

Add in cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt until well blended.

Mix in flour, a cup at a time, until dough forms.

Using tablespoon, or cookie scoop, scoop out small amount of dough, and roll into balls

Roll each ball in cinnamon sugar mixture and place on the prepared cookie sheet.

If you prefer a flatter, crisper cookie, flatten each dough ball with a spoon, otherwise for fluffier, more soft cookies, leave as is.

Bake 8-12 minutes, depending upon how soft you prefer your cookies.

Allow cookies to cool 2-4 minutes on pan before removing to a cooling rack.

Store cookies in an airtight container.

*flegg=egg substitute: Per egg, mix 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons water.  Set in refrigerator 15-20 prior to mixing dough

Are you hungry yet?