Filled with the easy goodness of quinoa and black beans, smothered with spicy enchilada sauce and baked to perfection. Sound good? That’s what Mexican zucchini boats are all about. This easy, no fuss recipe delivers the enchiladas flavor you crave resting on tender baked zucchini for the satisfying comforting experience we all deserve.
Make a quick enchilada sauce
Super-easy enchilada sauce calling. I used a quick foundation of vegetable broth with tomato paste with a bit of garlic mixed with chili powder, smoked paprika and oregano. To bring a bit of creaminess and slightly cheesy flavor, add a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast and you are saucing in minutes. The great bit about this sauce it that it can simmer on low while you cook that quick quinoa and prep everything else.
Quinoa and beans – MFEO
That’s code for ‘made for each other’ and when it comes to a protein punch, beans and quinoa happily deliver it. When I’m creating recipes and I’m thinking no fuss, quinoa immediately springs to mind. It’s just too easy and quick to prepare to be denied. Now, if you find quinoa a bit bitter, I’ll let you in on the big secret to perfect quinoa – rinse it. It’s that simple.
How to cook quinoa
If you struggle to get quinoa that fluffs up, try cooking it with the lid off. That cuts out the steam factor in the cooking process, so the quinoa holds less of the moisture. Cooking quinoa is a lot like cooking rice. You want to use a 1:2 ratio of quinoa to liquid. I simply rinse the quinoa, toss it in the pan, add the water, stir, let it come to a boil and then simmer until all the liquid is absorbed. If you have one, try to use a pot with higher sides so that you don’t have a splash-over. No time to waste cleaning the stove.
I used a can of black beans for this recipe. Turns out, when it comes to beans, not all cans are created equally. We often hear about quality and certainly brands want us to be loyal, but what exactly does the elusive term quality actually mean?
When you start staring at the shelves of beans, you want to start with the label. It should tell you everything. If it doesn’t, try another can. You want just beans, please. No added sugar or salt. The American Heart Association has easy advice here – look for beans that contain no or low sodium. Salt is used to preserve beans and other canned vegetables (and sometimes fruit), so brands that have no salt are going to expire more quickly. Just a thought that when you read the label, check out date, just to be sure. That’s rarely a problem because most canned foods have an extremely long shelf life.
BPA (bisphenol A)
There has been increasing concern about BPA which is found in plastics and some cans. Some research has demonstrated that BPA can have health risks to children and potential links between BPA and blood pressure. As concern has increased amongst the public, so has the demand for BPA-free products, including cans. If you have concerns about BPA and can’t find canned goods, there are often options to find glass jars, although you may want to consider if the lids contain trace BPA. Often, as the Guardian reminds us, there is a dilemma between the good things you want, like low or no sodium or organic versus the container your beans are stored in.
Preparing zucchini boats
Zucchini halves serves as the vessel for the filling and sauce. It’s really easy to prep because all you need to do it trim off the ends, cut them in half and make your boats. I found that using a teaspoon is particularly helpful for this. You want to be sure that you just scoop out the seeds and some of the flesh, leaving the ends with enough that you keep the filling from falling out over the end.
Prepping the zucchini should take about 10 minutes at the most which is just enough time to prep the onion and green pepper. I only used half a green pepper for this recipe, but if your pepper is small, use the entire thing. Your aim is to not overpower the filling.
This is super-easy recipe that doesn’t taste like it. That said, I learned a practical cooking tip – get the straightest zucchinis you can find. It won’t change a thing about the taste, it’s just easier to fit them into your baking dish. I never thought twice the first time I tried this recipe, but let’s not complicate our comfort food my making the source too difficult to fit into the pan.
Comfort food starts here
That feeling of well-being you can experience after eating something that not only tastes good and leaves you satisfied, but make you feel better. That’s my idea of comfort food. I have to admit that Mexican zucchini boats surprised me at how good they made us feel after having them. Possibly it was the slow release of energy (carbohydrates) from the fiber of the beans, quinoa and zucchini. What I can say is that eating something really delicious that is highly nutritious is a high I can definitely live with – and live better with.
Because there’s just not enough comfort sometimes, I made my go-to avocado salsa. It’s the same one I use for white bean chili with polenta fries. The result is always the same. Just the right burst of crisp, fresh and spicy to make a special dish even more special.
Food is complicated. At least for me, it’s always been filled with complications and trade offs. It’s tension between getting a quick fix from something unhealthy with making something that will keep me feeling good or what’s in the can with the can itself. The balancing act is always present, but perhaps we can take at least one ball out-of-the air, maybe trade hummus for a chocolate bar and put at least one ball on the table. Peace.Print
Mexican zucchini boats
Mexican zucchini boats, easy, plant-based goodness filled with quinoa and black beans and smothered with homemade enchilada sauce and baked to perfection.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Main Courses
- Cuisine: Mexican
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ⅓ cup tomato paste
- 2 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 Tbsp. oregano
- 2 ½ cups vegetable broth
- 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 1 Tbsp. lime juice
- ¾ cup quinoa, rinsed
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 - 15 oz. (400 gm.) can black beans or pinto beans
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- ½ green pepper or red pepper diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. maple syrup
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- ½ tsp. cumin
- 1 Tbsp. lime juice2 zucchini squash (courgette), cut in half, lengthwise with the seeds cleaned out
Avocado salsa (optional)
- 1 ripe avocado cut into small cubes
- 1 cup diced tomato
- 1 small red onion, diced small (about ½ cup)
- 1 cup fresh cilantro (coriander) chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- To make the enchilada sauce, heat a saucepan over medium heat and add the garlic and stir it around for about 30 seconds.
- For ease of fitting them in the pan, try to get straight zucchinis.
- Add the tomato paste, chili powder and oregano and stir so the spices are mixed in. Whisk in the vegetable broth and then add the nutritional yeast. Bring the pot to a slow simmer for 15 minutes, whisking it occasionally until it starts to thicken. Once you take the sauce off the heat and before you cover the zucchini boats, stir in the lime juice.
- While the sauce is simmering, add the rinsed quinoa and 1 ½ cups of water to a medium pot and bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Cook the quinoa, covered or uncovered (fluffier if you cook it uncovered) until all the liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes).
- Pause to prepare the zucchinis by trimming off the stems and ends and then cutting each zucchini in half, lengthwise. Use a small spoon to scoop out the middle of each half, being sure that you leave enough at each end, so you form a bit of a zucchini canoe. Place each zucchini half in a baking dish. Set aside for the moment.
- Now, preheat the oven to 4000F (2000C).
- To make the filling, in a medium skillet, sauté the diced onion and green pepper until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, 1 tsp. maple syrup, 1 tsp. chili powder and 1 tsp. cumin and continue to sauté for another 30 seconds.
- Stir in the black beans and the quinoa and mix in 1 cup of the enchilada sauce. Take the filling off the heat.
- Use a spoon to fill each zucchini boat with the filling. You may need to press it a bit to get it all in. It will set up as it cooks, so it’s ok to pile it on.
- Add about half of the reserved enchilada sauce over the zucchini boats and place them in the center of the hot oven, uncovered and bake for 25 minutes until. Halfway through the baking process, add the remainder of the sauce. You can also baste the zucchini boats with sauce from the bottom of the baking dish to keep the filling moist.
- While the zucchini boats are baking, you can make a quick avocado salsa by simply mixing all the ingredients together. This dish is also great with just a simple green salad.
- Nutritional information does not include avocado salsa.
- To reheat Mexican zucchini boats, cover them with foil. They can also be reheated in the microwave.
Keywords: Mexican zucchini boats