Meet Sarah, garden to table made simple

A big part of growing an edible garden is eating the food that you grow. This can also be the most challenging part. It requires attention to the garden, time to harvest and clean, and then preparation of the food.

Starting now, preparing your harvested food no longer needs to be a challenge. It can be easy and delicious with inspiration and guidance from my friend Sarah Adler, Founder of Simply Real Health. Sarah is dedicated to helping people eat in a healthy and simple way that happily works in the context of daily life, not against it. She takes the mystery out of eating real, whole food and makes it a lifestyle. Her cookbook and blog not only make it easy for me to turn my harvest into a meal, but inspire the vegetables and fruits that I choose to grow in the garden.

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I had the opportunity to ask Sarah a series of questions about incorporating eating real food into your daily life. Let’s be honest, it is hard enough to find the time to grow a garden, let alone harvest and prepare the food. Sarah was kind enough to provide advice and tools that make it easy to whip up your fresh harvest. Plus, learn how she developed Simply Real Health and what she believes is the key to making a healthy lifestyle an intuitive part of our daily lives.

Megan: What is your advice for taking the intimidation out of cooking food? How can it feel less overwhelming and time consuming?

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Sarah: Oh my gosh. YES. Healthy cooking has a weird connotation—that it’s either super complicated with obscure ingredients, or that it tastes so boring and bland. It doesn’t have to be either way. Honestly, if you start with fresh and good quality ingredients, it becomes more about slightly enhancing them, than trying to cover the flavor up.

I would say start with roasting a vegetable. All you need is a baking sheet, olive oil, good sea salt and some pepper at 400. Actually—you can cook MOST things this way, so don’t over complicate it. Butter/olive oil and sea salt and pepper are often times all you need to elevate most things.

Megan: Do you have any tips for making it easy to whip up something delicious with your fresh harvest without having to go to the grocery store?

Sarah: Yes! Make sure your pantry is intentionally stocked well. I don’t mean packed with random things—I mean just some basics. Butter, olive oil, sea salt and pepper, maybe some Italian herbs, some quinoa or brown rice, a few cans or jars of dried beans, organic sausages or chicken breasts in the freezer, and a good block of parmesan. Maybe some eggs and a harissa paste or Dijon mustard, and you can literally make 6 different kinds of meals there, with your fresh produce as the star. carinaskrobeckiphotography_simplyrealhealth4-0_536

Megan: What advice would you give to those who love real food, but struggle with finding the time and energy to prepare meals each week?

Sarah: Well, if you can find 1 hour to think about your food each week- whether it’s getting yourself to the store to buy healthy pre-made stuff, or to keep your pantry stocked so you can whip up some simple things that you know work well for your lifestyle, you can work a lot of magic.

But you have to have the value of eating well first. And the value that you are worth it- worth feeling great, worth investing in yourself. Because even that ONE HOUR of time can be the center domino that shifts and changes so much else in your week for the better. It starts there—not the other way around that everything else in life comes first, then food as an afterthought.

Because it impacts so much else, it has to be something you dedicate at least 60 minutes to. And it doesn’t have to be cooking huge meals from scratch everyday. It’s just the intention of feeding yourself well, whatever that means to you.

Otherwise, that Netflix marathon or those trashy magazines, or that instagram feed scrolling will always sneak themselves in. We all have the time, it’s a just a matter of making food a little bit higher on your priority list.  carinaskrobeckiphotography_simplyrealhealth4-0_441

Megan: Why did you write the Simply Real Health Cookbook?

Sarah: Well, two reasons really. One, I’m a cookbook lover, and I have so many- they’re beautiful and so soothing for me to read and wander through. But. I started to realized that I never really cooked from them—they’d sit there most of the time, because all of the recipes were either a) healthy and required 15 different ingredients and spices (and ain’t no one got time for that on a busy weekday), or b) they were “simple” and “quick” recipes that were all pasta or flour based. And as much as it would be nice to feel amazing eating pasta every single night, I knew my body well enough to know that wasn’t going to fly either.

So, I wrote the book as a solution, to my own problem really. That I am a small business owner first- and thus my days are totally packed to the brim, but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my health and energy on food that was just quick and easy and non-intentional.

Because Simply Real Health started as a food blog, I knew all the recipes that people loved and commented and shared all the time, so the book became my little gift to them- a way to have everything in one place, beautifully styled, and a true guidebook into HOW you make healthy eating and living doable, easy and delicious (all at the same time).

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Megan: What do people need to make eating real food an intuitive part of their everyday life?

Sarah: A basic understanding of what real food is vs. what is marketed to us as healthy food. The two are wildly different. And, starting to notice how connected your energy, mood and hunger are to what you eat. Once you realize how powerful food actually is to the things that matter most in your life, it becomes a little bit more motivating and encouraging to want to eat well.

Megan: Why did you start a career and business in teaching healthy lifestyles?

Sarah: Because truly, in this country, we are never taught how to eat in a way that creates a balanced and joyful relationship to food. In so many other countries, food is this centerpoint of a beautiful and celebrated life. Here in the US, the only way most of us learn about food is through marketing or through diets, which creates a terrible relationship to food, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Knowledge is power. And in the world of fad diets, extreme workout plans, social media, it’s so easy to get lost in all the clutter. I want to help people clear that clutter and confusion and see that it’s actually really easy (and such a better, happier way to live your life) if you can actually KNOW and appreciate good food, in all its beauty.

All of this comes from my own personal experience of course—I use to be obsessed with eating healthy, and counting my calories, measuring carbs, tracking my workouts, etc. But I had a TERRIBLE RELATIONSHIP with food that I didn’t realize was taking over so much of my life. Real food started the journey for me out of that more limited way of thinking and my life has changed because of it.simplyrealhealth-167

Megan: What is your greatest learning from helping hundreds of people to live a healthier lifestyle and eat real food?

Sarah: That getting clear once and for all about what healthy food actually is (instead of what we’re taught it is by the media) is the best gift you could ever give yourself- physically, mentally and emotionally. It changes everything.

Megan: What is your favorite edible plant to grow and why?

Sarah: I am currently working on my gardening skills, and so far, mint makes me feel like a gardening queen. Isn’t that because it’s the easiest to grow? So whatever that says about me. Ha! But I do love it—fresh mint tea, in greek salads, fun cocktails, marinades, etc. Give me all the mint. And the basil, although I eat it too fast for the poor plant to keep up. I could bathe in it.

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Megan: What is your most favorite recipe to make?

Sarah: I love the Pesto Kale Salad from the cookbook. I will never ever get sick of making or eating that salad- it transforms kale into this hearty, delicious and filling meal. And the process of making it—rubbing each leaf to help soften it, smelling the basil whirling around in the blender.. ah it’s heavenly! Not to mention it gets better the next day, so it is always such a great use of time for more than one meal alone.

Megan: What is your favorite food?

Sarah: I love mezze night. Like, lots of little jars of things, sauces, crackers, olives, good cheeses, smoked salmon, salami, nuts. AH, I die. You get a little bit of everything, and goes so well with a glass of wine, literally in any season. That’s my dream. Or, a huge salad and lamb burger on top.carinaskrobeckiphotography_simplyrealhealth4-0_455

Megan: If you were given a few more hours in the day, what would you choose to do?

Sarah: Oo, I’d do a yoga class or take a luxuriously long walk or read, or cozy up by the fire, or find a farmers market (so I could buy myself flowers) ha! Such girly things, but all of them give me fuel and make me feel relaxed and inspired.

Megan: What resources do you provide through Simply Real Health that make it easier to cook and prepare your own meals?

Sarah: The cookbook, for sure. There’s over 150 easy and healthy (and naturally gluten-free) recipes in there, every single one of them with a picture, and most of them with 5 ingredients or less.

I also write seasonal meal plans every quarter that help people learn to efficiently shop and cook and eat healthy delicious real food, all in under 3 hours a week.

carinaskrobeckiphotography_simplyrealhealth4-0_436Then there’s the online Food Academy, which is like a 3 week masterclass school in real food: what to pay attention to, what to ignore, how to navigate the store, cooking, eating out, dinners, traveling, and just REAL LIFE stuff, with a more balanced and joyful approach to being healthy.

I also work with people one on one, speak to a lot of different groups, teach cooking classes once a month or so, and run a big 8 week group coaching program twice a year. (all the details are over here).

Megan: Are there resources you recommend for making it easy to cook real food?

Sarah: Yes, there are so many!

I love Sara and Hugh Forte of Sprouted Kitchen (both their books and blog are amazing)

Dishing Up The Dirt by Andrea Bemis is such a beautiful farm to table food blog

Podcast wise, Shawn Stevenson of The Model Health Show is my all time favorite, as well as the Cherry Bombe Radio Podcast (from Cherry Bombe Magazine that celebrates women and food—another of my favorites).

I also have a list of my fav Seattle food spots here on the blog, and a list of my favorite books and resources here.

Megan: What is next for you?

Sarah: Oh gosh. So many fun things are coming, most of which are still under wraps right now. But, more than ever I feel so excited about being able to help more people address and create a more joyful, longterm and sustainable relationship to food, without ever having to diet or be continually doing program after program. I don’t think it’s talked about enough—but we all have a relationship to food, and when it can be a more positive thing in life, everything else lights up even more. I love seeing that light in other people, and feel so honored to play just a tiny role in that journey for someone.simplyrealhealth-170

Thank you Sarah for sharing this wealth of information, resources, and inspiration! Be sure to follow Sarah and check out Simply Real Health.

And stock the pantry with those key staples so that your fresh harvest can shine all season long.

Photography by Jasmine Pulley and Carina Skrobecki

Baby food made easy

The garden has been a source of energy, nutrition, and joy for me and my husband. When we had a baby, it became so much more. It is a place to teach our child about the ecosystem of life, real food, colors, textures, and responsibility. And as our baby begins to eat solid foods, the garden has provided the majority of his nutrients. I can’t think of a better source of food than the fruit and vegetables grown in our own backyard. dsc_0117

You might be thinking, “are you serious?” First, you want me to find the time to make baby food and on top of that, you want me to grow the vegetables and fruits? Of course not! But maybe.. a little bit. How about I provide a few easy baby food recipes for 6+ month olds. Maybe you try these and then realize you can grow most of the vegetables in the recipes and decide to try gardening? Just throwing it out there!

In all reality, I didn’t quite know what foods/recipes to start with for my baby, so below are a few ideas that have worked for us. As to how this relates to gardening? Children are one more reason to try growing food, even a pot of tomatoes. Whether they are babies, toddlers, or teens they can learn from being a part of the gardening experience and hopefully build a love for real food straight from the dirt. dsc_0113

If you are certain that you don’t want an edible garden, sign up for a CSA or head to the Farmer’s Market to gather these vegetables and fruits. Include your child in the experience so that they can develop an appreciation for their food. 

My top 6 baby food recipes for 6+ months

When making baby food, my goal is to make a lot of it at one time. Prep all of the ingredients, and then combine them in different ways to create a variety of purées and finger foods, then store and/or freeze.

Your grocery shopping / garden harvesting list for the following recipes:

1 bunch kale – wash, tear into smaller pieces (remove from stem), steam

2 pears – peel and cut into chunks (no need to steam)

5 large carrots – if organic / from the garden I do not peel, wash, cut into small chunks, steam

1 can white/ great northern beans – wash and drain

1/2 cup lentils (uncooked) – cook in broth (vegetable or chicken or whateverdsc_0107 you have on hand)

1 apple – peel, cut into chunks, steam

2 handfuls of green beans – wash and steam

1 bunch of spinach – wash and steam

2 beets – peel, wash, cut into chunks, and steam

1 banana and/or 1 cup frozen/fresh blueberries – no prep needed

Once you have prepared these items, you can mix and match to create the recipes below. The allocated amount of each ingredient is a rough estimate. Feel free to add however much you want of each of the prepared ingredients above. The below assumes that you have already peeled, washed, steamed, etc.

Carrots, kale, pear purée
½ of the prepared kale 
1 pear
1/2 of the prepared carrots dsc_0100

Lentils, carrots, white bean purée
½ cup lentils
1 can white beans
1/2 of the prepared carrots 

Carrot purée or finger food
If you have leftover carrots, either keep as steamed chunks for baby finger food or purée and add a little cinnamon.

Spinach, apple purée
½ of the prepared spinach
1 apple

Green beans, pear, kale and/or spinach purée
Prepared green beans 
½ to 1 pear
Any remaining kale and/or spinach

Beets, blueberries, banana purée (Beets are recommended for 8+ months)
Prepared beets 
1 banana and/or 1 cup blueberries

Always feel free to add cinnamon, sage, mint and other spices to the purées for some added flavor.

This will make a lot of food, prepare to freeze and store it.

You can easily make these recipes by steaming the fruits and vegetables in a pot and blending them together in any blender. However, if you want to get fancy, I recommend this all-in-one BEABA Babycook – Sorbet baby cooker.

Freezing and storing baby food

When you are first starting solid foods, your child may eat closer to 2 ounces per meal. As you near 8-9 months your child may be eating closer to 4 ounces+ per meal. 

I recommend to have a variety of 2 and 4 ounce storage containers. These OXO Tot containers are great for storing and freezing OXO Tot 12-Piece Baby Blocks Set

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If you do make all of the food above, you will most likely need more containers to freeze the food. In this case, I love these Fresh Baby So Easy Baby Food and Breast Milk Trays

Or of course, just a good ol’ ice cube tray works perfect Kitch Easy Release White Ice Cube Tray, 16 Cube Trays (Pack of 4)

If you use ice cube trays, when the food is frozen, remove it from the trays and put into ziplock bags. Label the bags with the recipe name and date you prepared the food.

When you need the food, put the cubes into a bowl or into reusable food pouches. There are double zippers at the bottom of this pouch, Reusable Food Pouch (6 Pack – Medium) – Easy to Fill and Clean – Double Zipper Means No Leaking – Perfect for Homemade and Organic Baby Food – Suitable for Babies, Toddlers and Kids of All Ages, to insert the frozen food cubes or fill directly with fresh food and then freeze.

Lastly, if you are feeling inspired and want to get a little fancy with your baby food making, check out this cookbook Bébé Gourmet: 100 French-Inspired Baby Food Recipes For Raising an Adventurous Eater

I hope this post gives you a little inspiration to try making your own baby food and even more so, include your child in the food experience. Whether that be growing food, exploring a Farmer’s Market, or cooking together. There is so much to learn from food and it is more fun to enjoy it together!img_4858

Winter squash + pumpkin recipes and planting

Confession: I totally missed the memo on planting winter squash. I was so focused on summer squash, that I wasn’t even thinking about growing my own fall decorations and more importantly, delicious fall and winter food. dsc_0087

So here we are, in the midst of fall and all of its glory. With Halloween right around the corner, pumpkins line patio steps and apartment balconies, and grocery bins are bursting with squash and pumpkins. And I suddenly realize that I want winter squash, of every kind, to line my steps, to spice up my fall decor, and of course, to eat!

Note to self: Plant winter squash and pumpkins (and gourds) next year (you should too). They are easy to grow and inexpensive (but do require some space).

What to plant:

  • Winter squash: acorn, delicata, butternut, and hubbard
  • Pumpkins: for carving and sugar pumpkins for eating
  • Gourds: if you have spacedsc_0086

When to plant: Direct seed in mid May. Winter squash need more time to mature than summer squash. You can also direct seed to grow your own transplants.

Reality check: We are well past May, so the opportunity to grow winter squash has passed, but it is added to the list for next year. The good news! Winter squash and pumpkins are readily available at the Farmer’s Market, Pumpkin Patches, and the grocery store.

NOW, getting to the actual motivation for this post – I encourage you to decorate for fall, Halloween, and Thanksgiving with winter squash and sugar pumpkins. They are beautiful, provide bold color, and the best part, when you are done using them as your autumn flair, you can eat them! So your decorations don’t go to waste. 

I have compiled a list of my favorite recipes that use an array of winter squash varieties and pumpkins. Check these out for some inspiration. 

Recipes for winter squash and pumpkins:dsc_0091

Winter Squash Pancakes with Crispy Sage and Brown Butter from Smitten Kitchen
Squash: you can use any variety
Are you kidding me? Pancakes for dinner?! Really they are for any time of day. Yummy!
Smitten Kitchen is an all time favorite of mine, check out her fabulous cookbook: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook.  

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash + Apple Soup from The Natural Nurturer
Squash: Butternut
Slow cooker? Say no more! Any recipe using my crockpot is worth trying – nothing better than the smell of dinner when you walk in the door after a long day! Not to mention healthy and delicious.
I have been following The Natural Nurturer for her easy, wholesome recipes that are intentionally crafted to be healthy, delicious, and family friendly. Check her out!

Chicken Sausage + Kale Stuffed Squash from Simply Real Health
Squash: Delicata
Not only is this recipe sweet and savory, but it is easy and healthy. Plus, 100% seasonal! I am still growing carrots and kale, and just finished harvesting my zucchini. You can find all of these ingredients at your local Farmer’s Market right now.
Sarah from Simply Real Health is the Queen of healthy, wholesome, tasty recipes that are designed for the seasons, so you can truly eat real food farm to table. Check out her cookbook: The Simply Real Health Cookbook: Easy Real Food Recipes For a Healthy Life, Made Simple.

Roast Pumpkin with Honey and Feta from Not Quite Nigella
Squash: any variety
I love this recipe – so simple and flavorful and you can apply it to any variety of squash or pumpkin.

Warm Winter Kale and Delicata Squash Salad with Maple Vinaigrette from Do You Even Paleo?
Squash: Delicata
Everyone needs a “go to” warm, delicious fall and winter inspired salad. Plus, if you still have kale in the garden, you can use that too!

Classic Baked Acorn Squash from Simple Recipes
Squash: Acorn
So simple and easy and NEVER disappoints. Pairs perfectly with just about anything. Plus, it is even a good leftover! Full of nutrients, regardless of the yummy brown sugar and butter.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Six Ways from Wholefully
Pumpkin
Whatever you do, don’t forget to roast your pumpkin seeds. I personally prefer the basic olive oil + salt. But may have to give one of these six other options a try this year!

What are your favorite recipes using winter squash and/or pumpkins? Please share!

And come May 2017, don’t forget to plant your winter squash!

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You want to be healthy? Try gardening.

I know this is a bold statement, but growing your own food actually makes you feel mentally, physically, and emotionally healthier. More alive. Fulfilled. And grounded. I promise I am not making this up.

We live in a time and place where everyone is BUSY. There is so much noise in our lives. There is enough work to always be connected, lots of social media to be glued to your phone all day every day, and then there is the rest of our lives. It can get really congested super fast, leaving us feeling overwhelmed, empty, and exhausted.

I used to commute every day on the bus to my 9-5 downtown. I would immediately connect on my phone when I got on the bus, spend all day in meetings, attempting to answer emails while sitting in them, and then reconnect on my bus ride home. By the time I entered the house, I had been inundated with screens, lots of data – some important, some that just filled my brain with too much white noise, and I hadn’t spent a minute just “being present” or taking in my surroundings. I was tired and felt disconnected from my real life.

Everyone talks about being present and living in the now. Spending hours “pinning” inspirational quotes about being more creative, working less, getting healthier, living life to the fullest, and taking chances. I am definitely that person. I could pin as many inspirational posts as I wanted to, but it wasn’t until I actually stepped away from the noise that I truly started to become more creative, get healthier, and felt like I was really living, all by taking the chance and time to grow my own food. Get my hands dirty.  

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Suddenly I was making time before and after work to get outside, take in the fresh air, and root myself in the earth. Believe it or not, this extra time each day pulling weeds, picking berries, cutting greens for my lunch salad, grabbing a few zucchinis to share with co-workers, filled my mind with joy, made me think more creatively, and actually helped me to be a healthier person physically and mentally. I don’t have my phone with me when I am in the garden. I am completely and totally present in the moment. Even better, I actually see results from my hard work. 

When you grow food, you think in an entirely new way about food. For years I struggled with food and my body. Always trying new diets and never loving the way I looked. When I started growing food, watching it from seed to sprout, harvesting it and making something delicious with it, I viewed it as nourishing, wholesome, and literally felt better in my body after eating it. Before I knew it, I was snacking on green beans, and carrots, and savoring fresh raspberries for dessert (with ice cream of course). I began to love cooking, which triggered a whole new hobby. And now, for the first time, I feel so mentally healthy in my relationship with food and truly appreciate and value my body. I am stronger from working in the garden and I am happy because I give my body good fuel to have more energy and good health for myself and my family. 

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I know I am making all of this sound really easy. The cool thing, it is. There are always excuses – I don’t have a yard, I don’t have a green thumb, I don’t have space. Good news – you don’t have to have any of those things to grow something. Yes, you do need sun and water. So if you have those two things, then buy a container and fill it with a few seeds of your favorite vegetable or herb. Grab another one for fresh flowers. Start here. If you need help, ask me or a friend. And for all you parents, there is nothing cooler than seeing your kids learn through the garden – touching, tasting, and even growing their own veggies, but that is a post for another day.

So take a small chance and try to grow something. I promise you will feel more present, happier, more inspired to cook and eat real, good food, and a little more rooted in the earth you live on. Take a break from the noise, and enjoy the peaceful moments of living outside. Remember to stop and smell the roses, literally.

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How to use zucchini

It is that time of year and the zucchini is flowing. Do you have a basket full of this bumper crop? Tired of the same old zucchini bread? I think it is time for some inspiration!

Check out my top 3 zucchini recipes, made easy.

#1 Zucchini Ribbons with Almond Pesto from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

This is a new family favorite – delish and takes 10 minutes to make. No cooking required. Plus, there is a chance you have all these ingredients sitting in your kitchen right now. DSC_0019

Ingredients
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and cooled – I just bought roasted almonds
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed – I added a few more
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2 pounds medium zucchini, trimmed (about 4 medium, thin and longer if you can find them) – I just used a 10″ zucchini
*I added tomatoes because I have a bunch ready to harvest!

Directions 
Grind almonds, Parmesan, garlic and red pepper flakes in a food processor until they are finely chopped. Add the lemon juice, salt and olive oil and pulse a few times until incorporated.

Peel the zucchini with a vegetable peeler and place zucchini ribbons in the dressing-coated bowl. Toss the ribbons gently (your hands work best) attempting to coat the zucchini as evenly as possible. Serve at room temperature.

#2 Zucchini + Egg Muffins from the Simply Real Health Cookbook 

Perfect for entertaining or grabbing breakfast while you run out the door! A great dose of protein and veggies. And once again, you may already have all these ingredients in your kitchen. DSC_0019

Ingredients
10 organic cage-free eggs
1 zucchini, grated or shredded with excess moisture squeezed out (use a paper towel)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup goat cheese, grated parmesan, or other artisan cheese of your choice (optional)
1 tablespoon freshly chopped herbs – I used chives, basil, and parsley straight from the backyard
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with baking cups or grease the pan.

In a bowl, whisk all ingredients together. Pour batter into muffin tins and bake until cooked through for approximately 20 minutes. Broil for the last minute to get a nice brown crust.

#3 Greek Yogurt Zucchini Bread from Sally’s Baking Addiction

I know, I said “the same old zucchini bread recipe”, BUT this is definitely NOT the same old zucchini bread recipe.

It is flavorful (can anyone say orange zest?), moist (greek yogurt to the rescue), and healthy (at least I feel no shame enjoying a couple of slices of this deliciousness).

Check out the recipe here.

A few notes:

  • I highly recommend adding the walnuts and raisins. If you have a sweet tooth, add dark chocolate chips.
  • I did not have agave on hand, so I used 1/2 cup sugar.
  • I used coconut oil and it was perfect.
  • Definitely add the orange zest and don’t be afraid to pile it on.
  • I baked two loaves for 40 minutes on convection bake and they turned out just right.

Go get those zukes out of the garden or gladly accept one offered to you and enjoy every bite.

Extra! Just before sitting down to write this blog post, a friend sent me an email with a bunch of tips and ideas for using zucchini. I guess this is top of mind for everyone?! Check out these helpful articles:

How to turn 11 Zucchini into a Week of Meals 
Put That Cucumber Down – Pickle This Instead 
The Most Flavorful Zucchini is Also the Simplest Make-Ahead Side 

What are you making with your zukes?