Chewy Chocolate Ginger Cookies

IMG_2622Double-doses of ginger—fresh and ground—amp up the flavor in these chocolate and spice morsels. These came from Martha Stewart’s website, and I’ve done some updates as dear Martha sometimes takes things a step too far—like  lining every baking sheet with parchment paper and chilling dough not once, but twice, etc. I made them as I’ve recorded below, and they were just fine! And a lot less labor-intensive.Given the amount of spices and overall richness of these cookies, my taste testers thought they would be best served warm with a bowl of vanilla ice cream. But try them yourselves, and you be the judge!Makes 1½ dozen cookies

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1½ tablespoons boiling water; set aside.

Beat butter with brown sugar until combined. Add fresh ginger and mix on high until butter is light in color. Beat in molasses. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Slowly add to butter mixture, with baking soda mixture, stirring until thoroughly combined.

Stir in chocolate morsels by hand. Scoop teaspoons of dough and roll into balls. Roll dough balls in ¼ cup granulated sugar and place 2-inches apart on baking sheets. Transfer to oven and bake until surfaces crack slightly, about 10-12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cake

IMG_2423What’s the best way to get your daily dose of vegetables? In a cake, I say! OK, you’re not going to win any “Nutrition Expert of the Year” award by throwing zucchini in a dessert, but you will win people over with this moist, delicious creation. I went on a bit of a zucchini bender last weekend, after my co-worker Nita brought me a gourd the size of a baseball bat (well, half the length, but otherwise the comparison is accurate…). Her mother had pawned the monster off on her, and she brought it to me, rationalizing that a foodie would accept the challenge of how to make use of massive amounts of the veggie. And she was right.

So this was the first of three new recipes I tried in order to use up the behemoth. I found several variations of this on allrecipes.com, and added in the cinnamon and cloves per a reviewer’s comment. How was it? DEE-licious. I will definitely make it again! And my taste-testing co-workers concurred. They all thought these bars/cake were great. No one minded the added fiber in the dessert—it only made it all the more moist and memorable.

Serves 12-16

½ cup milk
1½ teaspoons distilled white vinegar
2½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon cloves
½ cup butter, softened
1½ cups white sugar
2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat an oven to 325° Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 9×13-inch pan. Mix the milk and vinegar in a large bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes to sour the milk.

Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, and cloves in a bowl. Set aside. Beat the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl on medium to high speed. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vegetable oil and vanilla extract, and beat until combined. Slowly add the flour mixture alternately with the soured milk until all ingredients are combined. Fold in the zucchini. Pour batter into the prepared pan, and sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Ice cream or whipped cream topping always a welcome addition, but not required. Cover with foil if serving next day.

Chocolate Brownie Bars

FullSizeRenderA combo of Hershey’s cocoa and semi-sweet chocolate chips give these bars a rich, chocolatey appeal, and are pretty quick to throw together. I clipped the original recipe from a magazine ad for Eagle Brand® sweetened condensed milk (the same one where I got the delicious Squirrel Bars recipe previously posted), and they were called Triple Layer Chocolate Bars. Now, I’m no Einstein when numbers are involved, but I couldn’t come up with three distinct layers in these. My co-workers called these “brownie bars” when I brought them in to work, so let’s go with that. (My husband was kinda “meh” about this particular recipe, and I could see he wasn’t going to finish off the pan, so that’s why my colleagues were summoned for a second opinion. People, I’ve created a monster! His standards for baked-goods has risen significantly since I first met him, scarfing down a sleeve of Oreos after his Arby’s roast beef sandwich.)

These aren’t super sugary sweet, and hold together fairly well because of the sweetened condensed milk in the middle. They’re an easy picnic or potluck take-along, so give them a whirl and see what you think. Just don’t offer any to my husband Rich. I’m sure you can find a more appreciative audience.

Makes 20 bars

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs (1 package, plus 2-3 more crackers)*
½ cup cocoa, divided into ¼ cup and ¼ cup
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick), melted
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk!)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour or Namaste gluten-free flour blend
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 (12-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips, or 1½ cups of same

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine graham cracker crumbs, ¼ cup of the cocoa, sugar, and melted butter in medium bowl. Stir until butter is thoroughly incorporated. Press into bottom of 13″x9″ baking dish. In medium bowl attached to electric mixer, beat sweetened condensed milk, flour, egg, vanilla, and baking powder. Stir in nuts and pour mixture on top of graham cracker crust. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake 25 minutes or until set. Cool before cutting. Store tightly covered.

*NOTE: Use gluten-free graham crackers to make these if you’re GF.

Also, I wondered if maybe a step was missing in this recipe. Usually a graham cracker crust recipe has you baking the graham crackers for 10 minutes or so before adding other layers. That would make these have more distinct layers, and would make for a crispier crust. I might try that next time, and will update the process here if I do.

No-bake Chocolate, Pretzel, and Peanut Butter Squares

FullSizeRenderIt takes longer to type the name of these salty-sweet treats than it does to make them. My friend Sherie made these for the book club babes last time she hosted, and since she’d used Trader Joe’s gluten-free pretzels, all her GF friends were delighted to have sweets they could eat! Then when I was dying for a wheat-free cookie or a bar last week (that didn’t taste like sawdust), I asked her for her recipe. She’d found it on foodnetwork.com, recipe courtesy of country star Trisha Yearwood. My only adjustment was to use Nestlé’s semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate, as that’s what I keep on hand.

All you need for tools is a big bowl for stirring, and a 9″x13″ pan to chill them in. No oven! All you need for ingredients is butter (of course!), pretzels, confectioner’s sugar, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. I found an 8-ounce bag of Snyder’s gluten-free pretzels at Kowalski’s, but I’m sure there’s a good brand at just about any grocery store. The original recipe didn’t call for GF pretzels, so use whatever kind of pretzels your little heart desires, my Valentine. 

These were so easy! (In fact, your kid’s pet hamster could probably make them, unsupervised.) I thought I was making these treats just for me, but my husband loved them, too. In fact he liked them so much he ate half a pan, all by his lone self in two days time. BOOM! He told me someone broke into the house and ate them. They didn’t touch the TV and computers, but ate my bars. Imagine that! Smart thieves.

Ease rating: Judy easy (anyone can make them!)

Makes 20 bars

1½ sticks (¾ cup) butter, melted
2 cups (8-ounce bag) pretzel rods or sticks, crushed into crumbs*
1½ cups confectioner’s sugar
1¼ cups smooth peanut butter, divided
1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

In large bowl, stir together melted butter, pretzel crumbs, confectioner’s sugar, and 1 cup of the peanut butter. (Recipe calls for smooth, but I only buy chunky, so there are visible peanut bits in my chocolate “frosting.”) Press mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9″x13″ pan. Combine the chocolate chips and the remaining ¼ cup peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl or 2-cup measuring cup and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir, and microwave for additional 30 seconds. Stir again, until peanut butter and chocolate are smooth and creamy. If needed, heat for another 15 or 30 seconds, until all chocolate chips are melted. Spread over peanut-pretzel layer. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting into squares. Do not need to keep refrigerated once chocolate has cooled. Keep covered, and store at room temperature.

*NOTE: Gluten-free pretzels have a unique texture, and do not crumble quite as easily as regular pretzels. You can try crushing them by putting them in a Ziplock bag and using a rolling pin to pulverize, but I found I needed a food processor to crush them into crumbs.