Z is for Zucchini

beef and zucchini meatloaf

beef and zucchini meatloaf photo by vsimon

Are you playing ring and run, leaving sacks of zucchini on your neighbor’s porch yet? When they ripen in the garden, it seems like they grow 5 inches a day.

Here is a suggestion. Use grated zucchini in place of breadcrumbs in meatloaf. I routinely use minced veggies to tenderize and moisten meatloaf. Your meatloaf will be half meat and half veggies!

Beef and Zucchini Meatloaf uses zucchini, onion, and mushrooms. Topped with additional sliced zucchini, and glazed with preserves and mustard to make it fancy. Fancy meatloaf, does that sound funny to you too?

You cannot hide the zucchini, nor would you want too. Some kids (and adults) will notice those green specks. But you can hide the mushrooms and onions if you process them fine enough in a food processor.

Choose the leanest meat

The original recipe called for ground turkey and that works well. But I like to use naturally grass-fed beef. Whether you choose beef or turkey, choose the very leanest you can find.

This meatloaf is beyond moist; it is juicy because of all the veggies. And it is low fat, not at all greasy, because of the lean meat.

Increase the vitamin D

This has nothing to do with zucchini. But I cannot resist sharing this every time I get a chance. You can increase the vitamin D in the mushrooms! Unwrap them and put them in the sun for 5 minutes. They make vitamin D when exposed to the sun just like we do. Amazing!

sliced beef and zucchini meatloaf

sliced beef and zucchini meatloaf photo by zsimon

Beef and Zucchini Meat Loaf

Adapted from turkey and zucchini meat loaf at epicurious.com

The glaze gives this dish a sweet and tangy flavor. And the sliced zucchini are so much fancier, and prettier, than plain BBQ sauce.

Serves 4-6

ingredients metric measures
2 medium zucchini, about 10 oz. total 300 gm
1 small onion 150 gm
8 oz mushrooms 240 gm
1/4 cup fresh basil 10 gm
1 pound lean ground beef 480 gm
1 large egg 50 gm
1 teaspoon salt 5 gm
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 gm
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1 gm
1/4 cup apricot preserves 60 ml
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard 20 ml

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Process 1 zucchini, onion, mushrooms, and basil in a food processor. If you only have a mini processor, do each veggie individually and add the basil to one. There is no need to rinse the processor in between. Whirl for a few seconds, to get small pieces. If you must, you can even process to a paste, with no identifiable bits.

Put the processed veggies, ground beef, egg, salt, pepper, and garlic powder into a large bowl. Mix thoroughly by hand. Put meat mixture into an 8×4 inch loaf pan, or 4 mini loaf pans. Flatten the meat mixture so the topping will not slide off it while it cooks.

Thinly slice remaining zucchini and layer on top of the meatloaf.

Stir preserves and mustard in small bowl to blend. Spread glaze over top of the sliced zucchini.

Bake meat loaf 45-60 minutes, to an internal temperature of 165. Allow to rest for about 15 minutes before slicing.

How do you use zucchini?

Are you Vitamin D deficient?


We often think of vitamin D and its role in bones. But it is important in all tissues and cells. So it follows that vitamin D deficiency effects all tissues and cells, not just bones. If we increased our intake, could many cases of cancer, type 1 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, or autoimmune diseases be prevented? New research shows this is possible.

Who is effected?

Many researches believe there is an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency. So everyone should be aware of their intake and blood levels. But some groups are more likely to be effected. These include people who have fat malabsportion or inflammatory bowel disease, the elderly, those with dark skin, those with obesity, and infants that are exclusively breast-fed.


How much do we need? Don’t we get enough form the sun?

Vitamin D is often called Vitamin Sunshine. Our bodies make vitamin D when we are outside on a sunny day. But many of us spend precious little time outdoors. And when we do, northern latitudes, smog, sunscreen and clothes J limit the amount of sun exposure we get.


The current recommendations are 400-600 IU, depending on your age. This could come from food or supplements. But there is mounting science recommending 1,000 IU per day for adults. Some say 2,000 IU is better, again for adults.


Natural food sources

The only foods that naturally contain significant amounts of Vitamin D are oily fish. These include herring, catfish, salmon (wild has more vitamin D than farmed), mackerel, sardines, tuna and eel. Cod liver oil is especially rich in vitamin D, but it tastes awful.


are surprising in that they develop vitamin D when exposed to light, just like we do! They are the only fruit or vegetable with natural vitamin D. Simply remove the wrapper and place in sunlight for 5 minutes. A serving of 4-5 button mushrooms goes from 15 IU to 400 IU of vitamin D.



Fortified food sources

Milk has been fortified with vitamin D since the 1930’s, and the bone disease rickets has largely disappeared here. Americans get most of their vitamin D from fortified fluid milk. Skim, reduced fat and whole milk all have added vitamin D, 100 IU per 8 ounces. You need to drink four 8 oz glasses a day to meet the current recommendation of 400 IU per day.


This is often problematic for many since lactose intolerance often goes hand in hand with gluten intolerance. Lactose free milk is available, it is a bit sweeter than regular milk. I like it on cereal because it sweetens my breakfast a bit without adding sugar. Yogurt and cheese are often recommended as low lactose dairy sources. They can provide you with calcium, but not vitamin D. It is not usually added to these products.


Theoretically, you could meet your vitamin D needs with a steady diet of wild salmon, milk and mushrooms. Am I kidding? Yes. It could make a lovely meal, but I wouldn’t want to eat it everyday.



photo by lsimon

So supplements are needed. And some people will need higher doses than others.




Are you vitamin D deficient?

Ask your doctor for a blood test to measure your vitamin D levels. Be sure to ask for the total 25(OH)D test. This is also called “25 hydroxyvitamin D”. Other vitamin D tests aren’t as accurate for determining deficiency.


If you are deficient, start with a D3 (cholecalciferol) supplement. It is the most active form of vitamin D. And it is readily available. Rechecking the blood test in a few months will show if your dose is adequate.


Or visit Grass Roots Health and their D Action research project. They are a group of scientists, institutions and individuals committed to solving Vitamin D deficiency and improving health. D Action offers in-home blood testing, for a reasonable fee. They recommend 25(OH)D blood levels between 40 and 60 ng/ml. Some prominent researchers believe the blood level should be higher yet for optimum health. You could even contribute to their ongoing 5-year project researching vitamin D levels and disease risk.


Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute also has a very useful webpage covering on all things vitamin D, with links to research papers.