Loaded Zucchini Boats

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Very rarely is there a day that goes by when the thought of eating something I can find in a bar doesn’t cross my mind, especially after chatting over the phone with some of my dear friends from Wisconsin twice in one week. Exchanging texts and hearing their voices spark a desire in me to find the nearest pub, order a 1/2 pitcher of domestic and gorge myself on every greasy, carb-heavy appetizer and entrée on the menu. What else is going to soak up all the booze consumed?

While throwing caution to the wind and indulging every now and then is something of which I am in full support, smarter day-to-day decisions have to be made for the simple sake of living. So when those cravings hit, gears in my brain start to turn, and recipes like this one blossom.

My Loaded Zucchini Boats are my low carb substitute for the potato skins I’ve grown accustom to eating at bars. Instead of carb-heavy potatoes loaded with bacon, cheese, sour cream and chives (which really is freaking delicious), this version utilizes hollowed zucchini as the carrier for a hearty and flavor-packed filling that is low in fat and hugely satisfying.

While loading potatoes is classic, this recipe introduces layers of distinct flavor that is often times nonexistent otherwise. So for the next time your pub food craving strikes, pull up this recipe and give it a go. This dish works great in all settings, whether it be a dinner for 2 or a large party. And it can all be done in about 30 minutes.

Loaded Zucchini Boats

(recipe serving size – 6-8 boats)

For the zucchini:

3 large zucchini or 4 small zucchini

1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise and scrape out the insides of each half, creating a hollow well down the center of each piece. Set the scraped out insides aside. Sprinkle the hollowed zucchini with the salt and chipotle powder. Place the zucchini on a baking sheet and roast on the center rack of your oven for 10 minutes, cut side up. Turn the zucchini over and roast for another 10 minutes or until tender.

Prepare the remaining components of the meal while the zucchini cooks.

For the sauté:

1 medium red onion, chopped (roughly 1 1/2 cups)

1 red bell pepper, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tb olive oil

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder

Sauté 1 cup of onion and 1/2 of the pepper in the olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 of the garlic and all of the chipotle powder and sauté for another minute.

For the filling:

1 lb ground turkey (93% lean)

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 cup marsala wine

1/4 cup crushed tomatoes

Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the ground turkey and season with the oregano, paprika, cumin and salt. Break up the turkey, folding in the onion and pepper while you do this, and brown the turkey for 3-4 minutes. Add the marsala and crushed tomatoes. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed by the turkey.

Remove the turkey filling from the pan and cover to keep warm.

For the topping:

Remaining 1/2 cup of red onion, chopped

Remaining 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

Remaining garlic, chopped

Scrapings from inside the zucchini

1 tb olive oil

1 tb cilantro, chopped

1/4- 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Lower the heat to medium. Add the olive oil, red onion and the red bell pepper. Season with the salt and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and the cilantro and sauté for another 2 minutes.

Drop the heat to the lowest setting to keep the filling warm.

Bringing it all together:

2-4 oz provolone cheese (or any of your favorite cheeses)

Cilantro for garnish

Turn your oven to broil.

Divide the turkey filling amongst the zucchini boats. Top with the cheese and place the boats back onto the center rack of the oven. Broil until the cheese has melted completely and transfer the zucchini boats to a plate.

Place some of the topping on each of the boats and garnish with the cilantro. Serve while warm and enjoy!

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