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I'm pleased to introduce guest blogger and Illinois State University, Food, Nutrition and Dietetics student, Tessa Spinelli!

Since early spring, you have been patiently waiting for your vegetables to grow. Thanks to your hard work, time, and patience, you now have a garden filled with nutritious homegrown vegetables that are ready to be eaten. Home grown vegetables are not the only gift you receive from gardening. Gardening also provides stress relief and moderate exercise. As a result, gardening's health benefits can help reduce one's risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancers, and may reduce the risk for stroke.

Now that it is mid-summer, you most likely have a bountiful amount of garden fresh vegetables. Preserving your vegetables is an option, but there is nothing like eating perfectly ripened produce after it has just been harvested. Garden fresh vegetables are great on their own, but showcasing them in a recipe is a wonderful way to bring out their flavors and add variety to your meals.

One of the most common garden vegetables is zucchini. Zucchini is a versatile vegetable that can be used in many different ways. My favorite way to eat zucchini is in noodle form. Simply use a julienne peeler and peel long narrow strips of your zucchini, so that they resemble spaghetti noodles. All you have to do is lightly sauté your zucchini noodles for a few minutes, and they are done! No boiling water required! Zucchini noodles are a quick low-carb alternative to pasta. Replace zucchini noodles for spaghetti in your pasta dishes or use them in my pesto sauce.

Zucchini Noodles with Pesto Printable PDF

4 zucchini, ends trimmed
Cooking spray
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ½ Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of salt and pepper
20 cherry tomatoes

Place the basil and garlic in a food processor and pulse several times. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and pulse until the mixture becomes a paste. Scrape down the sides. Add parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Pulse a few times until blended. Use a julienne peeler to cut zucchini into noodles. Set aside. Heat a skillet to medium heat and spray with cooking spray. When heated, add zucchini and sauté for 4-5 minutes. Add pesto and cherry tomatoes to the zucchini. Toss until zucchini is thoroughly covered. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield 4 Servings

Nutritional analysis per serving: 150 calories, 10 grams fat, 135 milligrams sodium, 11grams total carbohydrate, 4 grams dietary fiber, 8 grams protein.