Chocolate Chip & Peach Cookies

My kids drew things they know I love them more than.

After a parent told me that my empty bulletin boards made the room “look sad,” I had the kids decorate them.

Last Thursday was the 180th school day. My kindergarteners and I celebrated in the most appropriate way we could think of: by watching a Disney movie and eating sprinkle cookies. At 12:30, I hugged each of my kids goodbye, tried not to ugly-cry (at least, not in front of them), and sent them off for summer break.

However, just because my students are on summer break does not mean that I’m done and beach-bound. For the past two days, we teachers have packed up our rooms and stripped the brightly colored decorations off our walls. Our classrooms are huge, empty shells and the whole thing is, frankly, incredibly depressing.

My coworker and friend Lindsay has been using the hashtag “#99daysofsummer” in her Facebook and Instagram posts, so I’ve got to believe that’s how many days we’ve got until we head back to school for pre-planning. And knowing how fast 180 school days went by means that I’ll blink and all 99 summer days will be gone. Since I’m not willing to miss out on pretty much anything, I need to jump start myself. Enter: peaches.

For me, no fruit screams “it’s summer!” louder than a peach. (I know, I know, watermelons, but aside from using them in seed-spitting contests, I’ll pass.) There isn’t a dignified way to eat a whole, ripe peach. Go ahead, try to bite into a really ripe, sweet peach and not have juice drip all over your face and fingers. That mess means summer.

#99daysofsummer. Don’t miss a single one!

Chocolate Chip & Peach Cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tbsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup fresh diced peaches
1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350º.
2. Cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. Add in egg and vanilla and continue beating for 1-2 minutes.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt.
5. Add flour mixture into egg mixture 1/4 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as-needed.
6. Add peaches and chocolate chips. Use a spatula to combine.
7. On a parchment-lined cookie sheet, scoop dough and roll into 1 1/2″ balls and place on cookie sheet about an inch apart.
8. Bake for around 10 minutes, until golden brown.
Note: because of the moisture of the peaches, cookies with more peach chunks may need to be cooked a bit longer.

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Aunt Liz’s Pie Recipe

Ingredients:

filling:
2 Red apples
1 Green apple
2 Yellow apples
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

topping:
1/2 c softened butter
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c flour
1/2 c quick oats

also needed: graham cracker pie crust (either 1 large or several mini)

directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Mix together the ingredients for the filling in one bowl. Peel and dice the apples, then toss in the dry mixture.
3. Blend together all ingredients for the topping.
4. Spoon filling into the pie crust(s), then add the topping on top. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees, then 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

My mom never really cooked when we were growing up. I remember eating chicken nuggets and french fries a lot during my childhood and not a whole lot of other things. I’m sure we must’ve, but for whatever reason I can’t remember many meals from when I was little. What my mom did well in the kitchen, however, was bake. We grew up knowing how to make everything from brownies to cheesecake, muffins to sugar fudge. (I know somewhere in there we covered “cookies,” as our pantry was stocked with dozens of cookie cutters, but I haven’t been able to bake them correctly in my adult life.) One of my mom’s favorite things to make was her older sister’s pie recipe. She wouldn’t bake it while we were awake, most likely because keeping track of four small children and using a sharp knife at the same time seem like a bad decision. I remember waking up in “the middle of the night” (also known as 10 pm) to the sweet smell of cooking apples. My mom would be sitting on the couch, watching that day’s episode of “Days of Our Lives” that she had taped. My room shared a wall with the family room and I’d sit as quietly as I could next to the door frame, watching the actors on the screen, (thankfully) not understanding what was going on. Inevitably I’d wind up in the family room with my mom, whether it be because she heard me making noises (small children are never actually as quiet as they think they are) or because I got brave and walked in. She’d give me my favorite midnight snack, those handisnacks cheese and crackers with the bright red plastic stick, and I’d sit on the couch and wonder if Bo and Hope would ever be together and why Sami was so mean to her sisters.

We grew up Catholic, and as such, had godparents. Honestly, I’m not very familiar with how many different sects have godparents, but I know that we did and the idea was that if anything ever happened to my parents, we’d be sent to live with our godparents. Only, none of us kids had any godparents in common; in fact, my parents ran out of aunts and uncles so Kelly’s godparents are our cousins. I remember asking my mom if the four of us would actually get split up if anything happened to her and dad. She explained that we’d all go to live with my Aunt Liz, mom’s oldest sister and my godmother. I didn’t know a lot about my Aunt Liz except that she lived in Salisbury, MO on a farm with my Uncle Don and their two kids, Amy and Danny. Every few years we’d pile into our van and drive the 20 hours from Orlando to St. Louis to see grandma before hopping back in the car for the 3 hour drive to Salisbury. I have great memories from the farm, of picking strawberries, going mudding and playing in the corn silos.  We would visit all the animals, especially the pigs, and light fireworks at night. And while it was fun to visit in the summer time, I knew I never actually wanted to live with my Aunt Liz. Not just because Florida winters were already cold enough for me, but because I knew that living with my aunt and uncle meant something had happened to my parents.

Last night I decided to bake my Aunt Liz’s pie recipe. I love baking and hope one day to have a house big enough in which to hold dinner parties. In the meantime, I try to make my apartment feel “cozy” rather than “tiny” when I have people over. My kitchen has never actually been big enough to prepare anything in, and as a result my cutting board is more often found on the coffee table than on the counter. I sat down to watch House and peel apples, trying to see how long I could get the peel to be before it snapped and broke off. When we were younger, we were told an old wives’ tale about peeling apples. The idea was however many pieces you had after you were done peeling the apple was how many kids you’d have. I always wanted a large family so I would “accidentally” break the peel or cut the knife at too sharp an angle in order to increase my fertility. I finally finished peeling, dicing and mixing so I put my mini apple pie creations into the oven. I have learned over the years that you need to have a foil-lined pan underneath your pies. There is always some spillage and it’s easier to buy a new cookie sheet than it is to pry the burnt cement-like topping off. Last night was no exception, as 10 of the 12 tarts had produced an overflow, and even required me to move all the tarts to a third pan to avoid the oven lighting the spilled topping on fire. But, they survived and now sit in my fridge, awaiting visitors.