This beautiful mess of a cookie is exactly what I needed right now.

When times get tough, I bake. Tying on the apron is my immediate, instinctual reaction to big life changes or crises of all sorts. In the kitchen, I find a moment of solace—it’s a place where I can escape the pessimistic drone of the news and endless push notifications populating my screens. For an hour or two, all the pressures of the outside world fade into the periphery.

The amount of chaos and stress in my life directly correlates to the number of baked goods lining my countertop. And right now, as we live through a global pandemic and take unprecedented measures to care for ourselves and our loved ones… well, let’s just say that my oven has been working overtime.

If you’re anything like me and find comfort in the kitchen, this uncertain moment feels like a good time to dive into deeply tangible, highly rewarding culinary projects. Maybe you’re taking a baking challenge or testing out that pasta recipe you’ve been meaning to try for ages. Maybe you’re finding creative ways to use canned or frozen food.

Or maybe, like me, you’ve decided that it’s time to embark on a full pantry clean-out. In the process of purging, I stumbled upon some shelf-stable relics from months (and maybe even years) past: An unopened box of cereal, a crate of assorted chip bags, a container of rolled oats I bought to make overnight oats once and never touched again.

As my fridge supply has started to dwindle, I’ve been hunting for a recipe that would use up the odds and ends found in the depths of my pantry. When I stumbled upon this recipe for Kitchen Sink Cookies, the name alone drew me in. It suggests flexibility, bounty, and resourcefulness, three qualities characteristic of Southern cooking that I crave now more than ever. A cookie that contained everything but the kitchen sink sounded like just what I needed.

In this recipe, chocolate chunks, almonds, corn chips, rolled oats, and flaky sea salt come together with all the standard players (butter, sugar, etc.) to compose a beautiful mess of a cookie. The oats give the cookie body (and let you convince yourself that these cookies are in fact healthy); the dusting of flaky sea salt complements the salty crunch of the corn chips (if you don’t have flaky salt on hand, use regular sea salt). The final result ticks all the boxes: Sweet, salty, chocolatey, and nutty. In short, this cookie has it all figured out, even if you don’t.

When it comes to Kitchen Sink Cookies, improvisation is part of the deal. Feel free to toss a handful of M&Ms or crushed Oreos into the dough. For those with nut allergies (like me), exclude the almonds. Add in cereal or mini marshmallows. This cookie wants you to have fun.

We can’t promise that a plate of these addictive cookies will last very long on your countertop, but since one batch yields 28 cookies, it stands a chance to sustain you for a week or two. I recommend freezing half the dough as a gift to your later self.

Kitchen Sink Cookies
Credit: Jennifer Causey

In a time of great uncertainty, I hope that this cookie brings you a little taste of comfort.