Welcome, friends, to Guilty-Pleasure Food Week here on Carpé Season. While most of the time, I try to bring you good-for-you, real-food recipes, the recipes you’ll see here this week have very few redeemable qualities about them other than being awesome.
Maybe you’re about to get rocked by the IRS for the freelance work you did last year, so you are downing Skittles like they’re tax deductible. Maybe you simply need some O-Ke-Doke Cheesy popcorn to snarf during commercial breaks of Parks & Rec.
Or maybe, like me, you’re just cognizant of the fact that snakes are real.
What? Snakes? What do snakes have to do with Cool Ranch Doritos?
Well, every guilty pleasure has a story, and I’m about to tell you one that got me started on my go-to guilty pleasure: Cool Ranch Doritos.
Let’s rewind, shall we?
I was in kindergarten and loving it. I loved my teacher, Mrs. Sinclair; I loved picture day, and I especially hot-lunch days. And so, when we all boarded a bus for a field trip to a local camp that had a nature center, I was pretty set for a rapturous experience.
And mostly, it was. We got to meet a variety of formerly injured woodland animals that the center had nursed back to varying degrees of health and now kept at the center since the animals were unfit to re-enter nature after their recovery. I especially remember meeting Blossom the Opossum and somehow thinking she was cute. (Adult-perspective update: opossums are not cute.)
And then, the director of the center got all of us kindergarteners sitting down and told us that next, they were going to bring out The Snake. Sitting criss-cross-apple-sauce, we all leaned forward and craned our necks to see three staff members carrying out an enormous Snake…one person at the head, holding its (presumably venemous) mouth shut, another its belly, and another its tail end.
Now, it’s been a couple of decades since this experience, but I’m pretty sure that this Snake was five feet long, and probably the diameter of a large grapefruit. This was no garter snake. This was a real, as-seen-only-in-science-books-and-the-Amazon-rain-forest Snake.
The director proceeded to describe The Snake to my eagerly listening class. I’m sure he described its reptilian skin, its habitat, and how snakes are generally pretty calm unless provoked. But I don’t really remember what he said because I was sitting near the back, literally frozen in fear, eyes perma-open. From the minute they had brought The Snake in, I hadn’t moved, fearful that any sudden movement would be followed by a Snake attack…but I also couldn’t look away. I was just staring, mouth agape, probably trying not to pee my pants.
And then, the director informed us, that we could all take turns touching the snake. I remember him telling us to quietly stand up. I remember staff members herding us into some semblance of a line, in a manner that would fit comfortably within the definition of terrorism. And I remember trying to dash, unnoticed, to the back of the line.
I knew. I knew I couldn’t touch that snake. And then, to my horror, one of my classmates asked to hold the snake around his neck, and suddenly everyone was clamoring to do the same. One by one, I watched as my classmates put that scaly skinned Creature of Death around their necks, gleefully smiling for the pictures being taken by parent volunteers. This was probably my first experience with peer-pressure…something inside of me knew that I did not want to be the only one in my class to not participate, but I could also feel my insides turning to liquid the closer I got to the front of the line.
It was just about my turn, when I lost it. I visibly started trembling; my knees started buckling, and I started to cry. I remember the feeling of hot tears streaming down my blushing face. I remember the happy Snake-induced chatter of my friends coming to a complete and utter stop. And I remember exactly how I felt when the lovely Mrs. Sinclair came and put her arm around my shoulder and led me to the very back of the room…as far from The Snake as we could get.
She gave me the sweetest hug. And then she sat me down on a wooden bench and opened a snack-sized bag of Cool Ranch Doritos towards me. And while I sniffled into her Doritos, she rubbed my back and whispered that she didn’t want to hold The Snake either and assured me that she and I were No-Snake buddies.
I kept my eyes glued to that Doritos bag and downed them, one after the other, until The Snake made its exit. I don’t really remember my friends’ reaction, and I don’t remember the bus ride home, but I will never forget how sweet a rescue I experienced at the hand of Mrs. Sinclair and her Cool Ranch Doritos.
To this day, Doritos speak to me. And while I don’t typically keep them in the house (because I cannot keep from eating them) once in a while on road trips, I’ll grab a bag of Nacho Cheese or Cool Ranch Doritos, and last year, after a particularly long day of teaching, me and my pregnant belly ate a full-sized bag of Doritos. In. One. Day. Yeah, that happened.
Other than being completely unhealthy, Cool Ranch Doritos have no fewer than eight ingredients that I don’t recognize as food. Not exactly Michael Pollan material. But guilty pleasure foods are not about health; they’re about feeling just a little bit better about things.
And so, I give you a recipe for homemade Cool Ranch Doritos. No, these don’t taste exactly the same as their friends from the bag. But they’re pretty darn close, and you still get that numb-tongue feeling after eating twenty-three of them. Plus, they are super easy to throw together when you just need a taste of Doritos on a day when, let’s say, your teething ten-month-old has been screeching at you like an injured pterodactyl for the better part of an afternoon.
You simply bake up some corn chips from oil-brushed tortillas cut into triangles, spray them with oil or cooking spray, and then coat them with a guilty mixture of a ranch dressing seasoning packet, part of a packet of white cheddar mac ‘n cheese powder (ew, I know), garlic salt, salt, onion powder, paprika, and turmeric. And that’s it.
If you thought Cool Ranch Doritos were addicting, wait ’til you try them warm. Yeah, it was a little bit of a Dorito frenzy.
Snakes are big, ugly, and real. Doritos are now even more accessible than ever. Guilty-Pleasure Food Week is on.
(recipe slightly adapted from Instructables )
(yields app. 75 chips or the equivalent of a 1.75-oz. large single-serve Doritos bag)
Homemade Cool Ranch Doritos are super easy to make, will save you some money, and taste a lot like the real thing: perfect for those days when you need just a bite of a guilty pleasure.
about 12 small corn tortillas (mine were 5" in diameter)
app. 3 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
cooking spray or your own oil in an oil spray bottle or mister
3 tbsp. of ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix packet (from one 1-oz. packet)
heaping 1 tbsp. from a cheese powder packet of white cheddar mac 'n cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. onion powder
pinch turmeric (optional: for coloring only)
2 tsp. of mix + for stronger flavor
spray, sprinkle, turn; spray, sprinkle, bag, shake
Preheat oven to 350*.
Lightly brush oil onto both sides of the corn tortillas and stack them. Once oiled and stacked, cut the tortillas into triangular sixths.
Lightly brush oil on a baking sheet. Place triangles in a single layer on the baking sheet. (I had to do two batches). Bake for 10 minutes until just slightly browned; watch closely as they will burn quickly if left too long. Remove chips from oven and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, mix together the ranch seasoning, cheese powder, garlic salt, salt, onion powder, paprika, and turmeric in a small bowl.
Use your fingers to push the chips closer together on the baking sheet, while still not overlapping. Spray generously with cooking spray or oil mister, turning chips to coat both sides. Place oiled chips in a plastic bag and dump in the seasoning.* Shake gently to coat the chips with the seasoning.
These are best eaten immediately, but they do keep in a sealed, air-tight container.
*I used about 2 tsps. of seasoning mix per 11x17" baking sheet of chips. You can use a little higher ratio of seasoning to chips if you like a stronger flavor.