Monday Night Martha: Chocolate Ginger Bars

Monday Night Martha has its roots a couple years back, in a now-defunct book club. The book club had been around for years -- members had come and gone -- and the thing really was on its last leg, when we decided (well, I decided -- it was my pick that month) we should read the book "Julie and Julia" by Julie Powell -- and cook a Julia Child meal.

If you haven't read "Julie and Julia" but you're interested enough in food and cooking to read Chow Bella, you really should go out and grab a copy. I believe a movie's forthcoming, as well. The idea was simple (if difficult to execute): cook every recipe in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in a year's time.

I won't tell you what happens. But it's a good read.

Michele (thank the food gods I'd dragged her into the club) and I scoured the book, choosing the easiest recipes, and it was a terrific evening, particularly when Michele rescued my coq au vin from a bland fate.

We left with vows to switch out book club for cooking club -- something that never quite happened, though we still discuss it from time to time. So following holiday recipes (we intend to continue beyond Christmas -- we'll see) and blogging about it was a natural progression and a welcome time to socialize, as Michele mentioned last week.

I'm not proud. I will admit that while I slaved over just one recipe, Michele pretty much single-handedly made the other three (including one involving a candy thermometer -- more to come on that in a later installment, as well as details about our third cook). But mine turned out damn well, I have to say, and even with tripling the recipe.

Yes, tripling. When you only bake a couple times a year, you triple. This can be tricky without a Kitchenaid (I gave it away to a close friend after realizing I'd had the thing for five years and never turned it on -- I'm afraid of it) but it is doable. The key: let the butter get soft enough.

And choose your recipe wisely. Real Simple's recipe for chocolate ginger bars is just that. (And I'm not ALWAYS a fan of the magazine. Early in RS's days, someone slipped in a clever idea for passing off fast food fried chicken as your own -- just drive through Kentucky Fried Chicken and slip the chicken out of the bucket and into a cute basket with a gingham napkin. OK, anyone who's ever tasted KFC knows that just isn't gonna fly. Nothing lamer than a cheater "recipe" that fools no one, unless it's a regift presented to the original giver.)

Ah, but I digress. The recipe was straightforward and the best part is that you can freeze the dou gh in the pan (they recommend lining with parchment; so do I) and take it out to bake later.

I tried it for our office holiday party. Smash hit! Even C.M. Redding of "Spooning" fame raved. -- Amy Silverman 

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at