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As a mother of 4, I am always trying to get my kids to eat healthy. My husband is a successful home gardener and we are always blessed with the most beautiful bounty of fresh produce from June to September in this part of Canada. One of the vegetables we always get way more than we can use is zucchini!

I sauté it with onions and peppers as a side dish. We stuff it with an herb bread stuffing in one of my Classic Italian I classes. I add it to primavera sauces with pasta. I make it “a la parmigiana” in place of eggplant. It is a very versatile vegetable. Unfortunately, my kids would not have any of it when they were young! This is where the sneaky, “Italian Mama” comes in. Why not hide it in a dessert?

In the late 1990s when we were living in Milano, Italy. My Italian teacher, Elizabeta, would come to our apartment twice a week for my Italian lessons. We always started out with the Italian course protocol set out by the American company my husband worked for at the time, but inevitably, we always ended up talking about food… in Italian of course! So, although my conversational Italian is very good, my Italian grammar and written Italian leave something to be desired because of this!

Often, I would offer Elizabeta espresso and whatever home baking I had on hand. One day, I offered her some fresh baked zucchini bread with raisins. Well, when I told her what was in it she was in such disbelief.

“Zucchini, the long green vegetable?!… Impossible! In cake?!”

She tasted it and was pleasantly surprised! She then asked me, quite embarrassed, if she could bring her Nonna a piece “because she would never believe me if I told her!” Of course I sent a few pieces home with her. The next time she came Nonna wanted the recipe!

Natalina’s Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

I make a lot of different zucchini breads but this is my family’s favourite! Along with the zucchini, I use heart-healthy olive oil, a mix of white and whole wheat flour, and ground flax. Let them think it’s dessert when there are all these healthy ingredients in it!

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 cups shredded zucchini, with the skin left on
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 2 1/3 cups flour (I use 1 cup whole wheat & 1-1/3 all-purpose, plus 1/8 cup ground flax seeds)
  • ¾ cup good quality, unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (1/2 cup nuts, optional)

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 loaf pans. Wipe with vegetable oil and dust with flour.
  • With a whisk, beat the eggs, olive oil, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the grated zucchini, set aside.
  • In another bowl, thoroughly mix all the dry ingredients and chocolate chips & nuts, if using.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ensuring it is all mixed well with no dry clumps. Don’t overmix.
  • Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans and bake for 45-55 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely. Wrap tightly in tin foil for home freezing.

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