September 11, 2014 08:30 AM

Steve Brown/Getty; Inset: Courtesy Ali and Georgia

Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark, a.k.a. Alie & Georgia, host Cooking Channel food-travel series Tripping Out with Alie & Georgia. Visit every Thursday for their playful spins on celebrity recipes, cocktails, entertaining ideas—and, of course, lots of laughs!

You stare at it out of the corner of your eye, with a mix of disdain and confusion. It looks like a lumpy sloth claw, and you don’t know what to do with it. It’s fresh ginger, and it’s intimidating.

We’ve all bought fresh ginger root at the store, taken it home and blinked at it on the counter, wondering what to do next. Don’t worry, here are a few magical things you can make with that funky looking root. No need to be scared — we’ve got you covered.

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Stir fry and rice dishes
If you’re cooking up a quick dinner of stir-fried veggies and meat, perhaps with a little bit of garlic and soy sauce, consider adding some finely grated fresh ginger to the mix. Right as you start heating up the oil, peel a 1- to 2-inch section of ginger and cut into ⅛ inch coins. As your oil heats up, toss 3–4 coins in and let them flavor the oil, then take them out just before you add your meat and veggies. The ginger will lend a spicy exotic aroma to the dish. How long did that take you, like 45 extra seconds? Nailed it.

Nothing beats a good gingersnap cookie and honestly, the best ones kick you in the mouth with a spicy, herb-y ginger assault. To give your gingersnap cookies a turbo charge, in addition to the ground ginger called for in the recipe, peel a 1- to 2-inch lump and finely zest two tablespoons to add to the batter. One word: Kapow!*

*Not really a word.

When in doubt, simmer something in sugar until it becomes candy. This works wonderfully for thin strips of peeled ginger, which turn into sweet spicy chewy treats. Peel yourself some ginger and cut into ⅛ inch thick slices, boil until tender (about 30 minutes) and then drain. In a saucepan, add equal weights cooked ginger and white sugar and just enough water to stir the mixture. Simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated and the ginger is crystalized (about 15 minutes), then transfer to a rack to drain and cool. Bam! That weird dusty root on your counter is now candy.

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What should you do with that candied ginger? Uh, how about garnish a cocktail with it? Perhaps a ginger cocktail? You see where we’re going here. We absolutely love muddling fresh ginger coins in the bottom of a cocktail shaker before we add in the other ingredients. This makes for a cocktail with a little heat, bite and complexity. We adore the Penicillin, which is a Scotch based cocktail with lemon, ginger and honey. We also find that a little muddled ginger goes great with bourbon-berry cocktail or a lemony gin one. When experimenting with your favorite tart cocktail, try tossing a few peeled ginger coins in the bottom of your shaker, mash them up, add the rest of the ingredients, shake over ice and strain — then feel that refreshing heat. Make us one while you’re at it.

Health Tonic
Now that you’ve been enjoying stir fry and cookies and cocktails, you may need a bit of a health tonic. Hey ginger, get over here. Eastern medicine has long relied on the restorative and anti-inflammatory properties of the root, and we love it as a warm sipping tonic to treat everything from upset stomach to back pain. Again, just peel 2–3 inches of fresh ginger root, and cut into coins. Add to a saucepan filled with a quart of water and let simmer on medium for about 30 minutes. Strain and sweeten with a little bit of honey to taste, then sip your ailments away.

Soon enough, you can load up on cocktails and cookies again.

In ginger we trust,
Alie & Georgia
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