If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably heard me whining about having the flu this past week. I rarely get sick (one of the many benefits of working from home), so when I do, I’m a miserable bundle of pitifulness.
Not to toot my own horn (okay, a little bit—toot), but I kinda have a rockstar immune system. It wasn’t always that way. I used to get sick all the time, but a switch to a healthier lifestyle—eating better, staying hydrated, sleeping more, drinking less, exercising, quitting a stressful job—really had a huge impact on my immunity. I went from getting stuck-in-bed sick once a month to maybe catching the sniffles once a year. It was like night and day.
Unfortunately, I’ve been slacking on my immune-boosting ways lately, and like clockwork, as soon as I stopped acting healthy, I stopped being healthy and came down with this ickiness. Sleep has been in short-supply (um, hello, new mom here), and I have been indulging in way more cookies than I planned (I know, I only have myself to blame for that one). I’ve also been really bad about drinking water. I used to be so good at it, but I’ve let that one slip. And my biggest stumbling block? I haven’t been getting in my fruits and veggies. With December being the crazy month that it is, I’ve been opting for fast options in the kitchen, and often, that doesn’t involve fruits and veggies.
Put all this together, plus the fact that Indiana is a flu hotspot right now, and I pretty much sent a hand-addressed invitation to the flu virus to come set up shop in my body.
But, the awesome thing about healthy living is you’re never out of the game. Even if you’ve eaten your weight in cookies, forgot what a water bottle looks like, and haven’t seen the inside of a gym in a year, you can still pick back up and benefit from healthy choices. Sure, I might not have been able to starve off the flu, but I was able to turn around and fuel my body to help fight it off. I put away the cookies (mostly), filled up my water bottle, and filled up my plate with veggies! And I am feeling much, much better.
I call this salad the December Detox Salad, because, even if you don’t get sick during the month of December, I think a lot of people need a little bit of detoxing from the indulgence right around this point in the month. Many of you have already had holiday parties and cookie exchanges and family gathering—and your holiday cheer might be feeling a bit lethargic. I’m, for one, okay with the overindulgence that is the holidays. I think it’s perfectly fine (and healthy!) to enjoy some Christmas cheer, but I also think all that indulging can be a bit taxing after a while. It’s nice to step back from the cookies, and instead enjoy a nice, healthy salad to right the ship.
I love the combination of this salad because it has so many elements that will help you get back on track. A bed of greens that are packed with vitamins, minerals and iron. Hydrating cucumbers (for those of us who have been skipping the water glass). Protein and omega-3s in the form of chia seeds, which will not only help keep your brain sharp, but also help you stay hydrated. Fresh blueberries and carrots which are both excellent sources of vitamin C—and important nutrient to keep your immune system in tip-top shape. And creamy avocado, which is packed with healthy fats that will help keep you full. The salad is dressed with one of our favorite salad dressings—a creamy lemon-sesame dressing that is full of flavor and is good for you!
Enjoy. And stay healthy!
This detox salad is packed with a variety of tastes, textures and colors to make sure you get all the nutrients you need!
I did a lot of debating over which cookie should close out the 12 Days of Christmas Cookies. I thought maybe I should do something über decadent and overly-rich. My husband suggested I take the best elements out of the best cookies from the series and mash them into one cookie (ha!). But in the end, the classic, delicious, totally perfect chocolate chip cookie won the anchor leg.
I know there are about as many ways to make a chocolate chip cookie as there are people on this planet. And everyone has their own definition of a “perfect” chocolate chip cookie. Some like it flaky and cakey. Some like it crisp. Some like it gooey and chewy. Some like milk chocolate. Some like dark. Just so we’re on the same page, let me tell you about my perfect chocolate chip cookie.
It’s thin, but not too thin—you still have to have something to bite into. It’s got a tiny bit of crunch around the edges, but the inside is soft and chewy. So soft, that it’s a little hard to pick up because it wants to just fall apart in your hand. It’s a sweet cookie, but not overly so. It’s packed with dark chocolate morsels. Oh, and it’s salty. Just a little bit. A little to balance out the richness of the chocolate. Those, my friends, are the best ever chocolate chip cookies.
So with that in mind, let me introduce you to what I consider the best ever chocolate chip cookie. This recipe is a variation on the classic (and darn good) Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe. If you’re looking for a fool-proof chocolate chip cookie recipe, you really can’t go wrong with just using the one on the back of the bag of chocolate chips. But I’ve been tweaking that recipe for years now, and I think I’ve landed on the way to turn that recipe from good cookies into absolutely spectacular cookies.
There are four big changes I make to that recipe. I reduce the overall amount of sugar—I tend to find most cookie recipes are just a touch too sweet for my tastes. Instead of tasting like chocolate chips or peanut butter or whatever else they are supposed to taste like, I think they end up just tasting like pure sugar.
Secondly, I changed the ratio of sugars. The original version calls for equal amounts of granulated and brown sugars, but I’ve found that by tipping the scales in favor of brown sugar, you get a softer, chewier cookie—with just a touch of rich flavor that I really like.
Next up, salt. I really like a salty chocolate chip cookie. I’m not talking potato chip salty (although, a chocolate chip potato chip cookie sounds awesome—maybe next year), but there needs to be a heavy hand of salt to help balance out the sweetness and richness of the chocolate. So I up the salt just a touch.
And the last big change I made is my secret ingredient—I add almond extract. It doesn’t end up tasting like almond, but I think it adds a really nice rich, underlayer of flavor to the cookie.
Just like most of the other cookies I’ve been sharing with you, the key to the right texture of these cookies is to keep a close eye on them in the oven. Just a minute or two too long and you’ve got a crunchy cookie that requires glass of milk to enjoy (which is not bad, just not my definition of perfect). To me, for a chocolate chip cookie to be really good, it has to taste good both warm out of the oven and after it’s cooled down. I’ve seen recipes for cookies that say, “these are best served warm, because they get too tough once they’ve cooled.” You don’t have that issue with these cookies. They’re nice and tender even out of the fridge.
I’ve had so much fun sharing all of these cookie recipes with you guys over the past few weeks. I know it’s a little bit of a departure from my typical M.O. of healthy balance, but I have to be honest, this is one of the most fun projects I’ve done on this blog in a long time. I’ve so enjoyed making these cookies for you!
And tomorrow, I’ll be back with a salad recipe (no really, I will).
Soft, chewy, sweet, and chocolatey, these cookies use a secret ingredient to help make them the best ever chocolate chip cookies!