The greatest cookie of all time, in my opinion

I’m sure there’s a lot of sentimentality that goes into why I believe Nestle Tollhouse’s chocolate chip cookie recipe is the greatest of all time, but I don’t care. I have never, ever made this recipe and had it turn out bad. It always works, it’s always wonderful. And there’s something about that crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, slightly salty but very sweet flavor that makes me go ga-ga for these cookies. I always will. They’re just that good. Even the legendary New York Times fancy schmancy cookie can not beat this one, if you ask me. So there.





Last year I wrote a story about how you could take this recipe and make 6 different versions of it. I didn’t consult any other recipes to create those, by the way, I just threw in this or that, and because this recipe is so incredibly flawless, it worked every time. Well, almost. The coconut one managed to not taste enough like coconut. Maybe it needs an extract? But anyway, here’s what I made, and I’d encourage you to break out of the mold and try it too. I don’t recommend making six batches of this dough in one day, though. Yeesh.

-Good old chocolate chip
-White chocolate chips, dried cranberries and chopped walnuts
-Add cocoa to the dry ingredients, mint extract and swirled mint chips
-Split the dough in half, add cocoa to one half, chill the doughs, then roll them up and slice them for swirl cookies
-Add a cup of coconut and chocolate chips and bake as a bar cookie

And my favorite of the bunch, red velvet sandwiches with cream cheese frosting.

After you’ve mixed up the dough, leave out the chocolate chips and add a whole bottle (that’s right, a whole bottle) of red food coloring. Skimp on this and you will get pink cookies. The liquid will thin the dough, so add a little more flour and chill the dough before you bake them (you could also use gel paste food coloring, which wouldn’t affect the consistency).

Make the cookies smaller, maybe a teaspoon of dough at a time, and let them cool before you put a swipe of cream cheese frosting in between two cookies. I have no problem with store-bought frosting, if it means I don’t have to clean the mixer again.

See, so pretty. And tasty.

Tortilla Soup

Here’s part-two of our fiesta.

This is another recipe I adapted from a childhood fave. I believe it came from my best friend’s mother, Trish, the awesome cook who grew fresh veggies in her garden and made salsa and this wonderfully soothing soup with a kick. I always thought it was weird, the idea of tortillas in soup, until I realized you could toss in a handful of bottom-of-the-bag tortilla chips and call it good.

Or, for a healthier version, you could cut corn tortillas into strips and toast them for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees.

The original recipe also called for roasted chicken pieces and chicken broth. If you want to make it meaty, just bake some boneless chicken breasts with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and cut them into 1-inch pieces. You can toss them into the soup at the same time as the beans and corn, or even leave out the beans altogether.

That’s the great thing about this soup – it is awesomely versatile. If you like it mild, skip the jalapeno. If you want it to burn your face off, throw in that jalapeno seeds and all.

But here’s how I like it. This recipe is super healthy and vegan. I ruin that by adding a few shreds of cheddar cheese. But, like I said, up to you.

Tortilla Soup

1 large onion, chopped
2 T. olive oil
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. spice blend of cumin, chili powder and salt (a taco mix would do)
1 32-oz container no-chicken broth
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn

Add-ons: Tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, sour cream, avocado slices

Heat a soup pot to medium, add the oil and saute the onions and garlic. Toss in the bell peppers and jalapeno and cook a few minutes until the onions are translucent and the peppers are soft.

Mix in the spice blend. Then add the no-chicken broth, tomatoes, beans and corn. Simmer for 15 minutes. Then turn off the heat and serve.

There’s no way it could be that easy, right? Well, it is that easy, and that’s why you should make it, and then crunch up the chips in your hands and lick off the salt. Or don’t – it’s your soup.

Holy Guacamole

Because Mike and I felt like having a little fiesta in this 30-below weather, and because avocados were so surprisingly ripe at Hy-Vee today, I give you the only recipe for guacamole you’ll ever need.

But first! I give you my most frequently used spice blend, which you’ll need for this recipe, and it goes like this:

3 T. ground cumin
3 T. ground chili powder
1 T. Celtic sea salt

Why so little salt? That particular kind goes a looong way because it’s in a very natural form, and that’s a good thing, right? I buy my spices from Penzeys, or at Mexican or Indian grocery stores where they usually have a wide array of affordable bulk spices.

Guacamole

3 ripe avocados
2 cloves garlic, minced
About 1/8 of an onion, diced
As much fresh jalapeno as you can handle, diced (I use maybe 1/4 of one, seeded)
The juice of half a lemon
2 T. of your spice blend
10 grape tomatoes, halved, or half a seeded tomato, diced

As you can see, this is a very imprecise recipe, so if you have more avocado, add a little more of each ingredient. The important thing is to use fresh ingredients. If you get a little too much garlic, so what?

Scoop out your avocados and dice them up. Squeeze in the lemon juice so your avocados don’t turn brown.

Add the garlic and mash it all together with a fork.

Add the onions and jalapenos, then the tomatoes.

Mix in the spice blend. Taste it. If it needs a little more seasoning, adjust it here.

And for God sakes don’t feel guilty about eating guacamole. Avocados are full of good fats. This recipe is vegan, raw even. If you’re not going to eat it with other veggies just go easy on the chips. Lots of guacamole on a little chip. Cerveza. Tortilla soup (recipe coming). Perfect dinner for a ridiculously cold night.