Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Secret Ingredient Desserts, Part 2: Zucchini

Much like Jessica Seinfeld in Deliciously Deceptive, I starting the Secret Ingredient Desserts series because I really wanted to include vegetables into the kiddos diets, particularly without them knowing it. The problem however lies in my kiddo's sensory integration issues. Just to begin with, he is very picky about what he eats at all, but when it comes to new textures, temperatures and looks, that goes doubly.

I started to research a number of recipes for very basic things, cookies, cakes and such that contained a vegetable that reviewers said was not noticeable and started experimenting. I found though that in many of them, while they did adequately use the specified vegetable, it was something that changed the taste or texture of the overall product in the end. Kiddo is way too sensitive so I know that before I present something to him, I have to have it expertly disguised. In addition to that I am working with gluten-free flours and casein-free ingredients.

My first shot was with the Black Bean Brownies, which were a HUGE hit. Next I felt that I really wanted to tackle  a cookie and use something in season locally. Zucchini, who doesn't love zucchini? Ok, well my kids hate zucchini's, but just one medium zucchini is packed with over 50% of your recommended amount of vitamin C, about 10% of your daily vitamin K, over 20% of your B-6 and 14% of folate. (see link for more details- So with a great amount of vitamins and fiber, its a fantastic veggie to include in something like baked goods.
Most people have had Zucchini Bread at some point, so that was a no-brainer, I wanted more of a challenge and I also really had a hankering for cookies and chocolate  therefore cookies it would be!

Let me tell you, there isn't much in the way of zucchini cookies on the good ol' interweb. But I did find this great recipe Megan posted here at When Harry Met Salad that is an adaptation from Cook’s Illustrated’s Baking Illustrated and Carole Walter’s Great Cookies. So in the end, to make the required changes I had to alter the amount of flour- more gluten-free blend than conventional flour. Additionally, the amount the original recipe calls for is rather scant, so I doubled it. Kiddo also hates nuts, so I omitted them for half the batch (but pecans are super tasty with these cookies!). Of course I also used a dairy-free butter substitute to make them casein-free as well. For a little addition in flavor I also added some cinnamon and a wee bit of allspice because we like spicy cookies! The result was something that the kids now are calling their favorite cookie I have ever made. Kiddo wolfed his down and then I revealed the secret ingredient and he said "I knew I saw something green!" But the verdict was that it tasted good enough to ignore the specks of greenery. Phew!

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Zucchini Cookies

1lb. zucchini
¾ C packed brown sugar
2 ½ C Quick Oats, divided
2/3 C sugar
1 ¾ C Gluten-free flour blend
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 C Dairy-free butter like Earth Balance, softened
½ tsp fresh grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1 Egg
2 tsp vanilla
2 C Dairy-free chocolate chips
1 C chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

With a box grater, grate the zucchini to yield about 2 cups of shredded zucchini. Transfer the grated zucchini to fine mesh strainer over a bowl to drain for 30 minutes or more. It is an important step, don’t skip it! (unless you want cakey or slimy cookies)

In the bowl of a food processor add ½ C of the oatmeal and the brown and white sugar and pulse until the oatmeal is finely processed.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices in a bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer add the butter, egg and vanilla. Slowly add oat and sugar mixture until completely combined. One cup at a time, add the dry mix to the bowl and blend until mixed. Remove from mixer and add remaining oatmeal, chocolate chips and nuts (if adding) and blend.

Squeeze out the remaining liquid from the zucchini and mix into the dough until blended.

Drop dough by tablespoon on prepared cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies between 15 and 20 minutes or until the edges are slightly browned.  Remove from oven and let the cookie rest about 5 minutes before removing them from the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack. 


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