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

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

1. Preheat oven to 350ยบ.
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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Chocolate Mint Cheesecake

As you may have noticed from your facebook or twitter feeds, I’ve been doing a lot of baking lately. I’ve been trying to justify the amount of time I’ve spent creaming butter and sugar together as practice for the bakery I’ll open when I’m done teaching, but the truth is that I don’t have a job and I’m bored. I was lamenting my lack of income to my dad one of the last times he visited when his fiancee offered me a solution: in order to help me have some kind of income this summer, she’s hired me to proofread things for her for a quarter per page. This may not seem like a lot of money, but when you realize that a 300-page document is $75, you find this number to be more reasonable.

Tonight I’m in the middle of one such 300-page document and it’s a doozey. And, because it’s taking me longer than I thought it would, I’m missing out on two events that I would’ve loved to have gone to. Tonight calls for something special.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve worked on creating what I think is the perfect crust. I’m not quite there yet, but this almond crust is pretty darn close. [I definitely “cheat” and use my food processor to mix the dough for the pie crust, though I’ve done it by hand before too.]

Almond Crust
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch table salt
1/4 cup butter, cold, cut into pieces
1/4 cup crisco
2 tbsp ice water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease one round pie pan.
2. In a food processor, add flour, ground almonds, sugar, salt, butter and crisco. Pulse mixture until just combined. Then add the water and pulse again until the water is mixed throughout.
3. Turn dough onto a flour surface and roll flat until about 1/4 inch thick. Line the rolled out dough into the pie pan, pinching the edges up. [Because I have still not gotten the hang of picking up pie crusts, I roll my dough onto a piece of parchment paper and flip that into the pie pan.]
4. Line the dough with foil and add pie weights or a bag of dried beans. This will prevent the crust from rising up.
5. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the crust turns a pale golden color.

Chocolate, mint and I have been bffs for years. I probably should’ve realized sooner what an amazing addition they’d make to cheesecake, but I didn’t. Better late than never?

Chocolate Mint Cheesecake
3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips, melted and cooled
1 tsp peppermint extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cream together cream cheese and sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. With the mixer running on low speed, add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add in the vanilla, mix for 30 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
4. Mix the cooled chocolate and peppermint extract in the cream cheese mixture until all the chocolate is combined.
5. Scoop the mixture into the prepared pie crust, being careful not to overfill.
6. Bake for about an hour, or until the cheesecake has set.
7. Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate for about 4 hours.

[I had a bit of both leftover crust and batter, so I made two mini cheesecakes. This works out nicely, because I owe someone a cheesecake and now I can just give him one of the special mini ones!]