Austin Food Bloggers’ Hunger Awareness Blog Project: Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini

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I was delighted when I learned that the first formal activity of the newly formed Austin Food Blogger Alliance would be an internet campaign for the Capital Area Food Bank.  I learned so much from last year’s education campaign and I am looking forward to exploring new ways to end hunger in Central Texas because hunger is unacceptable.
This year our focus is on how important the SNAP program can be for fulling in the nutritional gaps for low-income families and individuals.  Many people who qualify for the program don’t apply because the forms are onerous, requiring that you prove the identity, income and expenses for you and every member of your immediate family every six months to a year.  If you receive toward the high end of the benefit (several hundreds dollars for a multi-person family), then it is more clearly worth the time invested.  But for many individuals who might receive the minimum amount, $16 per month, it is easy to dismiss the amount as too little to justify the effort.  
We are exploring healthy, nutritious recipes that you can create with $16.  For my first recipe, I picked a dish I could make from items bought primarily at the farmers markets.  Many markets accept SNAP funds including the SFC Triangle Market by my house.
I wanted a dish that was healthy and satisfying, could be used as a side dish or a main course, and was easy enough that kids could help prepare.  I’ve been excited about the first of season zucchini and decided a stuffed zucchini fit the bill.  Dos Lunas Artisan Cheese is selling light, creamy ricotta at the market and it makes a terrific filling for the zucchini.   I also like this dish because it looks “fancy” and is an easy way to dress up an every day meal.   
This recipe takes about 25 minutes to make and you an easily prepare the rest of dinner while the zucchini are baking.  If you are using the zucchini as a main course, you could serve it with a salad and a pasta or grain on the side.  Or, you could pair it with a main dish like grilled chicken or pork chops and serve with a salad.  
The cost for the dish was $8.00 with the two key ingredients coming from the farmers market.  Here’s the break down:
$1.50  zucchini, ($3 for 4, used 2) 
$5.00  rictotta for 8 oz
$1.00  parmesan (Not purchased at the market – $3 for cheese, used 1/3)
$  .50  basil (Not purchased at the market.  Mine was free because I grow it, but it would cost $2 for a bunch at the grocery and I used two sprigs – about 1/4 of a bunch)

I priced the zucchini and ricotta from the grocery store as well.  The zucchini was $1.38 per lb and two equivalent sized zucchini were 1 lb.  The ricotta was $4.88 for 15 oz.  Using the grocery store ingredients, the price of the dish would have been $5.48.

If you agree that hunger is unacceptable, please donate to the Capital Area Food Bank today.

Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini
Serves 4
2 zucchini
8 oz ricotta
2 oz parmesan, grated
2 sprigs of basil – about 8 leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the zucchini in half.  Scoop the center (seeded) portion out with a spoon [great job for kids.]  As you scoop, make sure you leave enough flesh on the sides and bottom that the zucchini can act as a “boat” for the ricotta stuffing.
Scraping out the zucchini
Pull the basil leaves off of the stem.  Stack the leaves on top of each other and roll them like a cigar.  With a sharp knife, but the basil into strips.  This is called a chiffonade (in case you want to impress your friends.)
Rolling the basilChiffonade of basil
In a bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, basil, salt and pepper until the mixture is even and smooth.  
Ricotta filling
Spoon a fourth of the ricotta mixture into each zucchini boat.  Place the zucchini in a baking dish and place in the oven.  Cook for 20 minutes.
Ricotta stuffed zucchini before cooking
 The cheese should be gooey and the tops lightly browned.

Ricotta stuffed zucchini

Note: I’m participating in a one month challenge with other Austin Food Bloggers to raise awareness for the Capital Area Food Bank about the SNAP program.  We were asked to create fresh, healthy recipes for $16 or under from the locations where someone could use SNAP funds.  

I’ve chosen to do 4 posts total – two on each of my blogs.  I’m using a maximum of $16 for each blog (approx $8 per post.)  The two posts on Austin Farm to Table will be made primarily with farmers market ingredients as SNAP participants can buy from the market.  For comparison purposes, I will list the grocery store price as well, but SNAP participants aren’t limited to the store.   The posts on Ditch the Box will use grocery store ingredients.  
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