As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not much of a cook. Combine living in NYC for the developmental years of young adulthood and the patience of a golden retriever puppy, and that pretty much explains why I’ve relied on takeout and hummus for the last 6 years.
My studio apartment in NYC was something like 35 square feet, so as much as I enjoyed the cute french doors that “led” to my “kitchen,” I pretty much used that area for storage and somewhere to put my impressive collection of wine glasses. The refrigerator never held anything but 1/4 of a wheel of brie (the other 3/4 eaten upon purchase), leftover Indian food, and a few dead cockroaches in the butter compartment. NYC, you’re so special.
I never got around to cooking when I lived in the D.C. metropolitan area, either. I guess I’ll blame the fact that I moved 3 time when I was there, so I never bothered to unpack my things into a kitchen. Those 22 months were also when I was deep into my Chipotle addiction, which was a dark hole I simply couldn’t escape. Chipotle, all day, everyday.
I’ve been in Virginia Beach for a little over a year, and my excuse this time is that I’ve been slightly busy since my return to the greatest beach town on the East Coast. The whole meet-your-husband-and-get-married-in-six-months thing really had me distracted for a while. And since then, I’ve spent 70% of my time traveling to visit friends while he’s deployed, or traveling together when he’s home.
I’m over it, though. No more excuses. I need to start cooking, because I need to have at least 7 go-to meal options by the time we have babies in a few years, because nightly dinners around the kitchen table will be mandatory in the Leyko household. And obviously I’m not going to start learning to cook when I have a screaming child on my hip all the time. I need to perfect my meals now, so that cooking them will be a breeze later on. Plus, I need to find my favorites. Plus, I need to stop spending a million dollars per week on food.
I’ve had a few friends and family members walk me through their favorite meals, just to show me that it’s not rocket science. I love them. Shout out to the masters of the shrimp scampi, enchiladas, and cauliflower rice burrito bowl. You know who you are.
A few people have recommended SkinnyTaste.com as a place to start, which speaks to me on many levels. First off, I want to get skinnier, so that’s a really great name for a website. [I know, I know, “strong is the new skinny.” Whatever.] Second, the recipes don’t call for ingredients I’ve never heard of before, so the intimidation factor is pretty low.
Today, I want to share with you a little review of Skinny Taste’s Taco Stuffed Zucchini Boats (click for recipe and directions). I’m sharing my experience 50% because they’re really good and I want you to try them, and 50% because I want to brag about the fact that I successfully made something that isn’t Velveeta Shells & Cheese.
I chose these zucchini boats because their main ingredient is ground turkey, and that’s something I’m comfortable with. Baby steps, people. Today, ground meat, tomorrow, Beef Wellington!
These carb-free tacos took me about 2 hours total, but that’s because I don’t know how to prep vegetables. Cutting an onion takes me like, 15 minutes. It’s embarrassing. To make matters worse, I had to use my coffee table as counter space because the one night I chose to cook happened to be the same night my landlord scheduled someone to fix the leak in our kitchen. Our kitchen can only fit one person at a time, so the handyman and I could not share the space. Still, I refused to let that deter me from my plans of playing Chef, so into the living room I went with my onions, zucchinis, and peppers in tow!
I think the whole thing should take about 1 hour and 15 minutes if you’ve ever used a knife before.
Something I learned is that although a meal may take 1 hour and 15 minutes to make, that doesn’t mean you’re working for 1 hour and 15 minutes. 75% of that time is waiting for stuff to cook. Not so bad!
Scooping out the center of the zucchinis was pretty fun, for the record. It reminded me of scooping out an avocado, which I eat straight up with a spoon all the time, so that put me squarely in my happy place.
I wasted 20% of the peppers because I had no clue how to properly cut them, but it’s fine because I bought an extra one just for kicks.
You were supposed to cut up the scooped-out zucchini into small pieces, but I missed that part of the instructions, so my tacos had large chunks of zucchini in them. They were still delicious, so the lesson here is that you don’t always have to listen.
The most dangerous part of this whole experience was dropping the zucchini boats into boiling water. Thanks to my extensive experience cooking noodles, I knew that a large pot of water would take about 4 years to boil, so I had that bad boy heating up the entire time I was prepping the veggies in the living room. I figured the kitchen guy would tell me if a fire started.
Once the handyman left and I was free to use the stove, I had to drop all 8 zucchini halves into the boiling pot. Sounds simple enough until you get a little too comfortable after 5 successful drops, and drop #6 splashes scalding hot water onto your forearm. Literally the scariest moment of my life. But I didn’t have time to think, because I still needed to get 7 and 8 in there so they could equally cook with the others for two minutes. Now I know why chefs are both the crankiest and toughest people I know.
Skinny Taste says to measure out the amount of taco mix (that I successfully made on the stove) into each zucchini boat, but ain’t nobody got time for that. My eyeballs work just fine, thanks. If I can perfectly split a bottle of wine between four glasses, I can equally distribute taco mix into hollowed-out zucchinis.
She said to put just a little bit of cheese on the top, but I definitely didn’t listen to that. I put ALL of the cheese on top.
It was hard enough to wonder if I should trust this website when they said I should use MILD salsa, but now “only a little bit of cheese”? Who does this lady think she is??
I forgave her once I pulled the final product out of the oven 40 minutes later, though. They were THE BOMB and only 290 calories for two. Yes please. Aaron loved them, too (or at least pretended to because he wants me to continue making him dinner).
All in all, I’d give these zucchini boats a 10! Try them. If I can make them, you can make them. Trust me. Happy eating!