I know I said a few weeks ago that I was done with the zucchini. That wasn’t totally a lie, because this week’s recipe isn’t just about zucchini. And I talk about one recipe, but really you can apply this to many recipes.

I realized when I was baking these cookies the other night that you might think you need a “special” recipe if you want to add things like zucchini (or pumpkin and squash in the fall). The fact is, I usually just tinker with a recipe that I already like. How do you do that? you might ask. Here’s an example.

Take the Toll House cookie recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag. Now I don’t always use these chocolate chips, and I don’t always use this recipe, but I think most bakers are familiar with it so it’s a good place to start. This is what it looks like:

– 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

– 1 teaspoon baking soda

– 1 teaspoon salt

– 1 cup butter or margarine, softened

– 3/4 cup granulated sugar

– 3/4 cup packed brown sugar

– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

– 2 large egg

– 1 (12 ounce) package NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

– 1 cup chopped nuts

When I want to add zucchini (or squash or pumpkin) to my cookies, I will reduce the butter by half and replace it with the same amount of pureed or grated veggie. So in this case I would use only one stick of butter and 1/2 cup of veggies. Of course I usually can’t stop with making just that one change; usually I reduce the sugar by 1/3 (I promise you that no one will notice if there’s ONLY a cup of sugar instead of a cup and a half). And I replace the white flour with white whole wheat (also no comment with this change, though you may need to bake with a mixture of white and whole wheat and gradually increase the amount until your family is used to it).

Now I’ve always done this because a) it’s a great way of getting veggies into kids and b) it makes the cookies lower in fat. But as I’m sure you’ve noticed, these are chocolate cookies pictured here. And what you can’t see is that they also have toffee bits in them. And espresso powder. So I surely wouldn’t call these health food (although they DO have zucchini in them…and just like Bill Cosby’s chocolate cake, they also have eggs! and wheat!). In case you were wondering, I add 4 Tbsp cocoa and 1 heaping Tbsp espresso powder. And I leave out the nuts. Oh, or sometimes replace the nuts with oatmeal.

The other thing you’ll need to know for these cookies is that after you spoon them out onto a nonstick pan, you’ll need to pat them down a bit. You know how regular chocolate chip cookies will melt down and flatten out? Yeah, these won’t do that as much. With less butter, you’ll have to help them out. The result, though, is a super cake-y cookie, very soft and light. (I still bake at 350 or 375° for 10 minutes.)

I have other recipes that called for pumpkin and I found that shredded zucchini was just as good (if not better). And as fall is coming and the apples are getting ready to pick, I should also mention that I bake a lot with applesauce, too. (I know, it’s not a veggie, but it works about the same in these recipes.) If you have a favorite recipe that you think would be good with squash or pumpkin or…yes, my favorite, zucchini, just give it a try! The great thing about cooking experiments is that the mistakes are often delicious. What do you think?