M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies

m&m chocolate chip cookies

m&m chocolate chip cookies | sunsets on the side

My husband does a fair amount of traveling for work.  Most of the time it’s just local travel, but a few times each year he makes a road trip to a site a few hours away.  Usually, when he takes those trips, I make treats for him to take to everyone on the team.

A little goodwill never hurt anything.

So, to kick off this round of treat baking for an upcoming journey, I’m starting with my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe and then I’m going to Valentine it up a little bit.

That’s a thing, right?  Valentining things up?

m&m chocolate chip cookie dough | sunsets on the side

This version of chocolate chip cookies is the one that my mom has always made, so it’s the one that I always make.  So many things in life are that way, aren’t they?

It’s an adaptation of the recipe that started it all: the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe.  But, this one uses shortening in place of butter and an extra (almost) quarter cup of flour to offset that change.  It gives the cookies the soft, chewy consistency that I love.

The only other addition here is that I swapped half the chocolate chips for Valentine-colored M&Ms.  I mean, if work friends are getting cookies, they might as well be holiday-appropriate!

m&m chocolate chip valentine cookies | sunsets on the side

M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Makes: 4 dozen
  • 2 ¼ cups (plus a scant ¼ cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup Crisco
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup lightly-packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup M&Ms
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) on medium speed, beat the Crisco together with the granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  5. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Using a spatula, gently fold in the chocolate chips and the M&Ms.
  6. Using a medium (1 ¾”) cookie scoop, drop the batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes until the cookies are just set.
  7. Cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Adapted from Nestle Toll House.

Raspberry Dark Chocolate Chunk Blondies

raspberry & dark chocolate chunk blondies | sunsets on the side

raspberry & dark chocolate chunk blondies | sunsets on the side

What is it about my brain that makes it want to categorize everything?  When I was little, my “grouping” skills were always on display at Halloween.  As soon as I’d get in from trick-or-treating, I’d sort all my candy into piles.  It was really just so I could see what I had and could give anything with nuts in it to my dad.  I mean, I didn’t eat it in order or anything, so it wasn’t that weird.  (?)

This month, I’m categorizing cookies.  I like to make a mix of sweet things at Christmastime.  Some easy cookies, some more involved.  Some old favorites and some new recipes.

a very blondie beginning | sunsets on the side

These blondies fall into the “easy” and “try something new” quadrant of my baking brain.  They come together so quickly and easily that I don’t even bother with the mixer.  Just a big bowl, a whisk, and ingredients you probably already have on hand, and you’ve got yourself some seriously rocking Christmas cookies.

raspberry jam swirl | sunsets on the side

The sweet-tart raspberry jam in these pairs so well with the dark chocolate, although other flavors would be delicious, too.  I used raspberry because it’s my husband’s favorite flavor, but you could use whatever you like: blackberry, apricot, orange?  All would work.  But, these are so Christmas-y (a word or not a word?), studded with the jewel-red raspberry jam, and the buttery, gooey consistency makes them completely decadent.  I thought about cutting them into smaller pieces, but what’s the point, really?  You’re definitely going to eat two.

These are bar cookies that have graciously gotten all dressed up for Christmas.

raspberry dark chocolate chunk blondies | sunsets on the side

Raspberry Dark Chocolate Chunk Blondies
Makes: 2 Dozen
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup lightly-packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chunks
  • 2 T. seedless red raspberry jam
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8 x 8” baking dish lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the melted butter and brown sugar together until smooth. Add the egg, vanilla, and salt, and whisk to incorporate.
  3. Add the flour and stir just until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chunks.
  4. Pour batter into the prepared baking dish.
  5. Dot the raspberry jam evenly over the top, and swirl it into the batter with a butter knife.
  6. Bake for 25-28 minutes until the middle is just set and the edges come away from the pan. Cool completely before cutting.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Spiked Halloween Truffles

spiked halloween truffles

spiked halloween truffles

Well, friends, the time of carefully-carved jack-o-lanterns and adorably-costumed children is upon us!  It’s less than a week until Halloween.  Are you ready?

Unfortunately, we tend to get very few trick-or-treaters at our house.  I’m not sure why exactly.  Although, I have heard that one of the neighborhoods closer to town is the place to be if you’re on the hunt for good candy.  We have a couple friends who live in that area, and they get hundreds of kids on trick-or-treat night.  I guess word of full-size candy bars has hit the streets?

spiked halloween truffles

Regardless of the reason, I can usually count on one hand how many kids we get at our door.  So, since I don’t typically buy very much candy to hand out, I really love to make some of my own candy this time of year.  We’re all grown-up kids on Oct. 31 anyway.  We just want to eat candy and curl up with a scary movie, right?

These are grown-up truffles that will allow you to connect with the long-lost trick-or-treater in you.  Not only are they orange colored on the inside, they’re orange flavored, too, thanks to the Grand Marnier that “adults” them up a bit.

spiked halloween truffles

These have my husband’s name written all over them.  He loves white chocolate and Grand Marnier, so these are custom made for him.  They’re infinitely adaptable, though, so play around however you like.  Dark chocolate?  Nuts instead of sugar on top?  Raspberry-flavored liquor?  The possibilities are endless.

Let the kids have the fun-size candy bars.  These are ours for the night.

Happy almost Halloween!

Spiked Halloween Truffles
Makes: 25 truffles
  • 12 oz. white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 T. Grand Marnier
  • Orange food coloring
  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 T. granulated sugar
  1. Place chopped white chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream in the microwave until hot but not boiling (mine took two 20-second increments on high). Pour cream over the white chocolate and stir until totally melted. (If it doesn’t melt completely, place the whole mixture in the microwave for an additional 20 seconds).
  2. Stir in the Grand Marnier.
  3. Add orange food coloring to the white chocolate mixture, a little bit at a time, until it reaches your desired shade. Place mixture in the refrigerator for 2 hours or until chilled enough to work with.
  4. With a 1 ¼” scoop, scoop balls of white chocolate onto a plate or cookie sheet. Place the scoops back in the refrigerator for another hour until firm.
  5. Meanwhile, add a little bit of orange food coloring to the granulated sugar. Mix with the back of a spoon until all sugar is colored. (Or, you could buy orange sanding sugar if you prefer). Set aside.
  6. Melt the semi-sweet chocolate over a double boiler. Using a fork and a spoon, dip the white chocolate balls into the melted semi-sweet chocolate. Coat completely. Place on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet.
  7. While still wet, sprinkle the tops of the truffles with orange sugar. Let sit until dry.

Adapted from Claire Robinson.


Cookies & Almond Cream Ice Cream


cookies-and-almond-cream-ice-creamThe summer of homemade ice cream (!) marches on.  This time, it’s another special request from my husband: cookies and cream.

Last month, we stopped at the Cassis bakery to get dessert after my birthday dinner.  Truthfully, I wanted at least eighteen things I saw in their bakery cases, but ice cream won out in the end.  I had one scoop of blueberry ice cream and one scoop of lemon sorbet.  I’m a sucker for anything lemon, and the sorbet mixed with the rich blueberry was creamy and refreshing.  Scott had cookies and cream, and it was so good that he’s been thinking about it ever since.

I mashed up a bunch of recipe ideas to create this version of cookies and cream.  I used a basic method for a vanilla ice cream base, but I jazzed it up with a method I saw Claire Robinson use to flavor milk for an almond mocha drink.  Between the almond-flavored base, the almond extract, and the roasted almonds mixed in, this recipe is super almond-y (?).  Even so, it doesn’t lose sight of the cookies.

Speaking of those cookies, I sort of went a little over the top on that part.  Have you ever tried Martha’s recipe for homemade Oreos?  They’re completely delicious and really taste like the real thing.  I made them last Christmas with red and green filling, and they were adorable.  I had some of the cookies (minus the cream filling) in the freezer from the last time I made them, so I used them in this ice cream.  DO NOT feel like you need to make cookies for this.  It’s perfectly delicious with Oreos that aren’t insanely made from scratch.  Substitute away.

Cookies & Almond Cream Ice Cream
Makes: 1¼ Quarts
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 4 cups half and half
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 15 Oreo cookies, homemade or store-bought, broken into pieces
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spread sliced almonds out into an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 5 minutes. Reserve ¼ cup of the roasted almonds.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat the half and half, brown sugar, salt, and remaining ¾ cup roasted almonds over medium heat, stirring often, until mixture is scalded (there will be small bubbles around the outside of the saucepan). Do not boil.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and granulated sugar until pale yellow in color, about 2 minutes. While whisking constantly, slowly pour in 1 cup of the warm half and half until totally incorporated into the egg yolk mixture.
  5. Pour egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the half and half. Stirring constantly, cook mixture over medium heat for about ten minutes until the mixture thickens and can coat the back of the spoon.
  6. Pour mixture through a mesh strainer into a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pushing wrap directly onto the surface of the custard so a skin doesn’t form. Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least four hours or overnight.
  7. Pour chilled mixture into the frozen bowl of an ice cream maker and mix according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When ice cream is at soft serve stage, pour the reserved roasted almonds and cookie pieces into the machine and let mix until combined. Transfer to freezer-safe container and freeze until firm.

Adapted from Cuisinart and inspired by Claire Robinson.