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Prairie Fare: Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

I remember bringing home a zucchini in my purse. Someone had handed it to me at a gathering, and my purse became a makeshift grocery bag.

When I pulled the zucchini out of my purse, my daughter, who was preschool age at the time, looked at me in amazement. I think she wondered if I had a magic purse that grew long-necked, shiny green things.

After I set it on the countertop, she studied it and sniffed it. Then she helped me wash and grate it. Finally, she helped me transform it into some zucchini bread.

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If you have a mass-producing zucchini plant, did you miss an opportunity? Aug. 8 was “National Sneak Some Zucchini Into Your Neighbour’s Porch Day.” If so, perhaps you can choose your own day to continue the recognition and distribution process.

Few foods are associated with as many good-natured jokes as zucchini. Zucchini plants are very easy to grow and, most of the time, produce an abundance of green fruit.

Yes, we consider zucchini vegetables on the menu, but technically, a zucchini is the fruit of the plant. Zucchini is a type of summer squash and also is known by other names. The name “zucchini” comes from the Italian word for squash.

A botanist might call it by its scientific name, “Cucurbita pepo.” If you want to disguise the contents of your casserole, try renaming the dish. In France, zucchini is called “courgette.” In England and Ireland, zucchini is called “marrow.”

Would you like a slice of “marrow bread?” Those alternate names make “zucchini” sound more appetizing, don’t they?

You need to keep an eye on zucchini in your garden or they will grow large. In fact, if you stood the largest zucchini on record on its end, it would have been more than five feet, nine inches tall. This record setter was a skinny fruit, though, at 65 pounds.

For best quality, select zucchini that are small to medium in size. Zucchini should have shiny skin and be free of bruises. The bruised areas are more likely to spoil rapidly. Try to use refrigerated zucchini within a week.

Nutrition-wise, zucchini is fairly high in vitamin C, provides fibre and is low in calories. To get more fibre, eat the skin.

Zucchini has inspired cooks to create recipes that range from traditional to the slightly unusual as they chop, grate and slice zucchini. Most of us have tasted zucchini muffins, cake, casseroles or salads. How about zucchini fritters or zucchini curry?

You might want to try to use zucchini as a “vessel” to fill with a favourite casserole, and after cooking, slice your zucchini boat into servings. Or try one of the more recent kitchen tools that allow you to make skinny zucchini noodles called “zoodles.”

Personally, I like to sauté sliced zucchini with onion and add some salsa from a jar to the consistency I like. I have a quick side dish without a real recipe.

If you enjoy surfing the web, a simple search for “zucchini recipes” will provide you with hundreds of ideas. Visit ‘Food and Nutrition’ on the NDSU website and search our database for zucchini recipes, too.

In the meantime, here’s a chocolatey treat made with antioxidant-rich cocoa powder and fibre-rich whole wheat flour, plus a not-so-secret ingredient. Add a thin layer of frosting if you’d like or simply dust with powdered sugar to keep the calorie count moderate.


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Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/4 c. non-fat or low-fat milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. zucchini, puréed
  • 1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Frosting of your choice, optional

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place cupcake cups in muffin tin and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk sugar, oil, eggs, milk and vanilla. In a separate medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Fold this mixture into liquid mixture. Then fold in zucchini and chocolate chips. Pour batter evenly throughout cupcake cups, each about half full. Bake for about 30 minutes. To test readiness, poke one cupcake in the centre with a toothpick. If it comes out of the batter clean, the cupcakes should be ready. Let cool for 10 minutes on a cooling rack and top with your favourite frosting and sprinkles as desired. Serve within one to two days for freshness. Makes about 30 cupcakes.

Each cupcake has 110 calories, 4.5 grams (g) fat, 3 g protein, 18 g carbohydrate, 2 g fibre and 105 milligrams sodium.

About the author

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Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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