Toll House, Remixed

Some cookies taste better with milk.
Other cookies make milk taste better.
These are the latter: Chocolate-Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cookies, also known as Nestlé Toll House® Chocolate Chip Cookies On Steroids.

These cookies smell so good that I almost ate the raw dough. ALMOST.

I started with everyone’s favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, subtracted the nuts, and went a little crazy with the chocolate (and upgraded to dark chocolate chips) and some raspberry extract. Simple mods, but they worked out beautifully.

The Recipe:
Chocolate Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 sticks butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 package (12 oz) Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate chips
8 tbsp cocoa powder
5 tsp raspberry extract

Preheat the oven to 375. Mine actually made it to about 360 before the first batch went in, but if you’re careful and pay attention, the cookies will come out just fine.
In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder until the mix is well-blended and light brown in color.
Melt the butter in the microwave. Transfer to a large mixing bowl with the sugars, egg, vanilla extract, and raspberry extract, and mix until just blended (don’t overmix!). Gradually stir in the dry ingredient mixture, and work into a thick, sticky dough. Dump in the entire bag of chocolate chips, stir gently, and walk away from the bowl. Check your email, dry your hair, or otherwise occupy yourself for 5-10 minutes. When you return, the dough will be slightly less sticky, and ready to shape into cookies.
Unlike Toll House cookies, these aren’t really drop cookies. They don’t spread out in the same manner, and if you do just plop some balls of cookie dough onto the baking sheet, they’ll come out super thick and cakey. To get around this, roll out balls of dough (between 1 tsp and 2 tbsp in size, depending on how big you want the cookies to be) and smush them flat as you drop them on the baking sheet. Mine were about 3/8″ thick.
Bake for 8-10 minutes. My first batch took 10 minutes because the oven wasn’t done preheating, but the subsequent batches took 8 minutes or less.
Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a plate (or a wire rack if you have one) to finish cooling once the cookies are solid enough to transfer. And once they’re cool enough to not burn your fingers…not that I’d do that.
Serve with a tall glass of cold milk.

If you’re not a fan of raspberry – or if you really just want chocolate chocolate chip cookies – the raspberry extract is optional.

Also, if you happen to spill the milk, these cookies are a great vehicle for sopping it up. You know, in the interest of not being wasteful…or something.

Don’t cry over spilt milk. Just dip cookies in it.


Not Your Average Orange Slice

Fun presentation makes everything better.

Jello shots in little plastic cups? Boring.
Jello shots in citrus fruit shapes? Wicked cool.

I yanked this idea from Not Martha, and – as is usually the case when I use her ideas – I got a ton of compliments on the fruits.

Jello shots, classed up for the party.

You can click this link to find out how she made them. My modifications and thoughts on the recipe are as follows:

  • My orange jello mixture was as follows: 2 packets Jell-O (one orange and one lemon), 2/3 cup raspberry vodka, 2/3 cup hot water.
  • My green jello mixture was way too soft and didn’t hold its shape. That mixture was: 1 packet Jell-O (lime), 2/3 cup apple vodka, 2/3 cup hot water. Lesson learned, double the gelatin mixture for solid fruits.
  • I sliced each orange half into thirds. I did this out of habit (that’s how I slice oranges), but I probably should have just cut each one in half. The more cuts you make per orange half, the more strain you put on the jello. This means that some slices will come out super ugly from being smooshed.
  • Keep an even hand while you slice these. Otherwise, the jello will be jagged and less pretty.
  • Orange halves fit nicely into a standard cupcake tin, but lemon halves are too small. Stuff the tin with a bunch of wadded-up paper towels to accomodate this difference.
  • Cleaning out the orange rinds is very tedious. Also, don’t do it if you have any papercuts, or it will sting like none other.
  • The leftover orange/lemon pulp can be tossed in the blender with some sugar, booze, and Kool-Aid to make an easy party punch and not waste those oranges and lemons.

Dates. The Kind Wrapped in Bacon.

Bacon. Wrapped. Dates. With. Goat cheese. And. Almonds.

These are 100% as simple as they sound, and also absolutely delicious.

Mmmm, bacon-wrapped.

The Recipe:
Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese and Almonds

1 package center-cut bacon
1 can pitted dates
1 tub crumbled goat cheese
1 can whole almonds

Do This

Preheat your broiler to the regular or high setting. Cover a baking sheet in aluminum foil.
Slice each strip of bacon in half, so that you have two pieces approximately 5″ long. Make a pile of bacon strips for your mini-assembly line.
Slice each date in half longwise. Since they’re pitted, they should be pretty hollow. Make a pile of dates, making sure to keep matching halves together.
Gather three more piles: goat cheese, almonds, and toothpicks. Arrange your piles in this order: dates, goat cheese, almonds, bacon, toothpicks. Hooray, prep work is done!

Grab a date, and stuff each half with as much goat cheese as possible. Smush an almond into the center of one half, and cap it with the other half. Some of the goat cheese will squish out, but that’s okay. Wrap your stuffed date in bacon, and secure with a toothpick. Place on the foil-covered baking sheet and continue to stuff and wrap more dates.
When the baking sheet is full, place it in the broiler. Check after every minute, and when the bacon is visibly cooked (but not burnt!), flip the dates and return to the broiler. When the other side is also cooked through, remove, cool, and serve.

These things cook in a flash, so you’ll need to park yourself by the broiler. It’s worth it, though, and if you make them for a party, the entire tray will be gone in under a minute. Make several batches, so you can eat some, too. The ingredient list is intentionally vague so you can be sure to have as many batches as the bacon package will yield (if you get standard sizes of each, there will be extra goat cheese, dates, and almonds).

Cheesecake Bites

My original intent was to make a very cheesy (pardon the pun) red-white-and-blue American-flag-shaped cheesecake, with strawberries and blueberries. Somehow, during the pre-party havoc, all of the strawberries and half of the blueberries disappeared.

In retrospect, this saved me from making a dessert better suited to a home & garden magazine than a backyard kegger.

Instead, some cheesecake bites happened.

Click on the image to zoom in on these bite-sized desserts.

This was my first cheesecake ever, and I’m actually quite pleased with how it turned out. When I first pulled it out of the oven, I was terrified – it looked like a cake pan full of tapioca pudding. The next morning, it looked just fine. Apparently, the chilling overnight step is a very important one.

The Recipe:
Cheesecake Bites

1 box honey graham crackers
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 lbs cream cheese (3 packages)
7/8 cup and 1/2 cup sugar
5/8 cup sour cream
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon juice
3 eggs
fresh blueberries (optional)

Do This
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you’re using a less-than-stellar oven, you may want to go with 375.
Line a 13 x 9 pan with parchment paper, so that paper is sticking out of the pan by at least two inches on each side.
Fill a freezer bag with graham crackers (you’ll be using almost the entire box, minus the ones you snack on during the process), seal the bag, and place it inside of a second freezer bag. Use a rolling pin, saucepan, or whatever you feel like using to crush the graham crackers into a coarse powder. In a large mixing bowl, combine the crushed graham crackers with a melted stick of butter and half cup of sugar until well-blended and rather sticky.

This on its own could be a dessert, but there’s cheesecake to make, so pour the future crust into the baking pan.

Press the crumbs evenly into the baking pan, making sure to cover the entire rectangle. It would be moderately awkward to end up with a slice that didn’t have a crust, so – considering the size of the cheesecake bites – this is a somewhat important step.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese (Doesn’t that sound funny? Cream the cream cheese?), sour cream, remaining sugar, salt, vanilla, and lemon juice. Crack the eggs into the mixture, and beat until blended. The resulting batter should look like tapioca pudding.
Gently pour the batter into the pan, and smooth it out over the graham crackers. The top of the cheesecake should be just below the edge of the pan, and there should still be plenty of parchment paper hanging over each side. Smooth over the top with a spatula, and slide the cheesecake into the oven.
Bake at the higher temperature (350 if your oven works properly, 375 if it’s “vintage” and doesn’t work very well) for 25 minutes. After the timer goes off, turn the oven down to 275 (or 300) and continue to bake for an hour. Remove from the oven and let cool for an hour or so, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Here’s where the magic of parchment paper totally helps: I was expecting the corner/edge pieces to be really messy and awful because that’s what happens when one digs slices out of a baking pan. Not so! Grab a friend, and have them help you carefully lift the cheesecake out by the parchment paper, and gently place it on a cutting board. Peel down the sides of the parchment paper, and if all has gone well, you’ll have a perfectly rectangular cheesecake!
Slice the cake into small squares. Mine were approximately 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ apiece, but you can slice it however you like. Top with a handful of blueberries (or strawberries, or other fruit, or nothing at all) and serve!

If you’re buzzing around the kitchen and taking your sweet time slicing the cheesecake, note that it will be persnickety as it gets warmer. Firm it up for a few minutes in the fridge, and it will slice much cleaner.

Oh yeah, and every single recipe I was drawing from seems to yield two full-sized cheesecakes (which I found out after the fact…oops!), so the posted recipe is half of what I used (hence the funky measurements, like 7/8 cup). Cheesecake rises, kids, so if your pan is overflowing with batter, scoop some out and feed it to a friend who doesn’t mind eating batter that contains raw eggs*.

* I do not officially support this. The consumption of raw eggs is severely risky, and I won’t even do it on a dare.

The “Mrs. Hutch”

This past weekend, The Boyfriend and I celebrated our birthdays (and America’s birthday, too!) with a fabulous little shindig. And by “little,” I mean “300+ guests.”

The Boyfriend’s roommate’s family was in town, and his mother spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen while I was prepping the snacks for the party. Chances are, if you spend more than an hour in the kitchen with me, I’m either going to feed you or get you drunk (or both!).

And so…the Mrs. Hutch. A refreshing summer cocktail/punch for a sweet lady who doesn’t like beer.

Mrs. Hutch hanging out in the backyard.

The Recipe:
The “Mrs. Hutch”

juice of 5 oranges
2 tbsp lemon juice
2/3 c sugar
1 packet black cherry Kool-Aid
2/3 c raspberry vodka
7up (or Sprite, or other lemon-lime soda)

Do This

Pour orange juice, lemon juice, and raspberry vodka into a large pitcher. Stir in sugar and Kool-Aid until all powder has dissolved. Pour 7up into the mixture until the pitcher is full. Serve chilled or over ice, and enjoy responsibly!

Coming soon: more party foods. Cheesecake bites, bacon-wrapped dates with goat cheese and almonds, jello shot citrus fruits, and more!

Berry Bisque

Larger (clickable) photos coming soon, I promise!

Berry bisque, or, what to do with the random strawberries and blueberries that you aren’t using for a red-white-and-blue cheesecake.

The Recipe:
Berry Bisque

1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled
1/2 cup frozen blueberries (fresh work, too, mine were just hanging out in the freezer)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp raspberry extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Do This
Chop the strawberries into quarters, and place in a blender with blueberries. Add sugar, vanilla, raspberry extract, lemon juice, and cream, and puree (or pulse, or frappe, or whatever your favorite blender setting is) until the mixture is light pinkish-purple in color and the texture of a melted milkshake.
Pour the blend into a bowl (it’s okay to have a taste first, it’s berry delicious) and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for several hours.
When ready to serve, remove from the fridge. The bisque will have set, and thickened to approximately the texture of Cool Whip. Give it a few quick stirs to return it to a thick-but-pourable consistency. Serve in a martini glass or dessert bowl, topped with a strawberry.

Outside photos >>> windowsill photos.

If you look closely, you can see some of the pretty purple flowers from my front yard behind the rim of the glass.

This is unbelievably easy – put things in blender, push button, pour into bowl, chill. Despite the minimal effort involved, it’s very tasty. If I had fresh raspberries on hand, I would have added those as well. As it were, I had a bottle of raspberry extract.

I’m not sure if this even remotely resembles the strawberry bisque often served on cruise lines, but the recipe is quite similar, so I’m guessing it’s not too far off.