Spiced Chocolate Squares with Nuts

As the days shorten and the nights cool….we open the windows in the evening to enjoy the night air as we snuggle down in our beds to sleep.  The smell of fall is in the air.  As the seasons change so do our menus as we seek out the tastes of the harvest.

We have a huge walnut tree to the south of our home and this year is going to be a good one for walnuts.  I have a friend at work who is willing to do the husking to get black walnuts for free.  I do not want all the walnuts on the ground killing my plantings so I pick them up and am glad not to have to trash them.  I am a walnut fan, but not a black walnut fan.

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I brought a big bag of them to work for her and left them in our break room with a note.  There was a day in between till she worked again.  When she came to work on her birthday, the walnuts had disappeared.  Who would take a 30 lb bag of unhulled walnuts?  Wanda’s answer.. “a big squirrel!”

I mentioned their disappearance at our morning manager’s meeting and soon half the hospital’s staff was on the prowl to find them.  Numerous people stopped by my office to let me know that they were still looking.  I finally found out that another employee has misread the note thinking they were for anyone to take, she quickly returned them.  I told Wanda we had found the “squirrel”.  I will bring more walnuts in on Monday to take care of my new walnut lover.  It made for a bit of a laugh and something for me to tease her with in the days to come.

Since Friday was Wanda’s birthday,  I made a treat with walnuts for a small celebration at work.  She likes chocolate but is not supposed to eat it.  I found a way for her to enjoy it without being too bad.

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The chocolate flavor in this dish is a supporting flavor to all the additions: walnuts and almonds, golden raisins along with cinnamon, cloves and orange.  Very much a fall flavored treat.  Whole wheat flour and raw sugar keep this one a little healthier.  Try this one with your own “squirrels”.

Makes about 40 squares

You’ll need:

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tbs baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup dark rum

1 cup each walnuts and almonds, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup bittersweet (dark) chocolate chips

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

3/4 cup vegetable shortening

2/3 cup raw sugar

Zest from one large orange + 3 Tbs of orange juice

3 eggs

Preheat your oven to 325 F.  Spray a 11 x 7 in baking dish with oil and set aside.  In a small bowl, combine the golden raisins with the rum and place in the microwave for 45 secs, or long enough to bring the rum temp up to that of hot water.  Set aside to allow the raisins to plump up….about 15-20 minutes while you prep the remainder of the ingredients.

In another small bowl, combine both dark and white chocolate chips and melt them together either in the microwave or a double boiler. Stir until smooth.  Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a medium bowl. Chop the almonds and walnuts.  Add them to the raisins after they have soaked up most of the rum and stir.  Zest the orange.

In your mixer’s bowl, cream your shortening and sugar.  Add the melted chocolate and the orange zest.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined.  Add the orange juice followed by the dry ingredient mix.  As soon as it is incorporated, add the raisin-nut mixture and mix until just combine, do not overmix.

Transfer batter to prepared baking dish and smooth the top.  Bake for 50-60 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely before removing from pan and cutting into 1 inch squares.

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Great with your morning Joe or whatever squirrels like to drink.  Enjoy!

 

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