This idea came to me last night when I was thinking about dinner, and about our garden, and about zucchini. We had planned to make taco salad for dinner, which has genuinely become a fan favorite dinner in this household. I usually top it with normal ground beef taco meat, with added seasonings and such. Considering that taco salad is technically a salad and my salad strategy usually involves adding as many veggies as possible, I thought about ways to add some extra veg to my meat to bulk it up a little, and make it *a little bit* healthier.
Which leads me to my garden, and my freezer still full of last year’s zucchini. If you have been a fan of the blog since this time last year, you may remember that we grew so much zucchini during the last season. As such, we had a weekly ritual of making and freezing zucchini jam to store and use for the rest of the year, and to keep our zucchini pile under control. But guess what? I barely touched it all year. Perhaps it was because we were so zucchini-ed out last year. Perhaps it was because I kept finding other things to eat (as I always do). Either way, my zucchini jam supply has not really reduced over the course of the year. Oops.
I posted in my garden update that this weekend we once again planted our zucchini plants for the season, and I’m suddenly so excited and craving fresh zucchini. We told ourselves that we would only plant 2 plants this year due to the shear amount of zucchini we harvested off of our three plants last year, but we couldn’t resist and of course repeated history, and ended up with three plants for this season. So, with lots more zucchini to come in about a month’s time and a lot of new ideas of how to tackle this year’s pile , I realized that it is time to chip away at the rest of last year’s supply to make room for more. Spring gardening really sparked my excitement for the coming season, so the freezer cleanout has begun!
I decided to try to include a whole pack (about 1 ½ cups) of zucchini jam in with my ground beef for taco salad last night, and let me just say – it was excellent. Even my skeptical boyfriend was shocked at the results, and proclaimed that this is the only way we are making taco meat moving forward. Because the zucchini jam is essentially very cooked down zucchini, it did not make the ground beef watery and just blended right in. The added chili powder and seasonings made the color of everything a delightful, vibrant red, and because zucchini itself is pretty neutral in flavor, everything still tasted very beefy and well-seasoned.
This recipe was a huge hit, and I’m so excited to share it here on the blog! This would be a great way to sneak in some veggies for picky eaters or kids in the house, or if you are simply looking for a way to add more veggies in your diet like me! Get ready for a lot more exciting zucchini content – I’m sure I’ll have a lot of it to cook up soon!
Recipe down below, photos up top and below! This makes a lot (enough for 2 people with plenty of leftovers). Also, if you don’t want to pre-make my zucchini jam (recipe linked here!), I’ll include instructions for starting with raw zucchini below!
Recipe: Taco Meat with Hidden Veggies
- 2 zucchini (or 1 large)
- Sub with 1 ½ cup of Zucchini Jam
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb ground beef
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp salt
- If starting with raw zucchini, make the zucchini jam by using the following steps. If starting with zucchini jam, skip ahead to Step 2.
- To make the zucchini jam, grate the zucchini using the large holes of a box grater. In a large pan or Dutch oven, heat up the 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat, and add the grated zucchini when warmed. Stir to combine, and allow to cook over medium high heat until most of the water has been evaporated, and the zucchini shreds break down and begin to caramelize. Stir occasionally during the cooking process. Total cook time should be about 20-25 minutes to be sure that most of the water has been cooked out. Once completed, remove from heat and set aside.
- Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a pan, and heat on medium-high heat for 30 seconds. When the pan is hot, add the ground beef. Break up the ground beef into a single layer and cook through until fully browned over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
- Once the ground beef has been cooked through, drain any excess fat from the pan into a heat-safe container and discard.
- Return the pan of ground beef back to the heat, and add the zucchini jam and spices (chili powder, cumin, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt). Stir to combine, and allow to cook through, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
- Once everything is hot and fully combined, serve and enjoy!