cornelius meets hillary: of cookies, chiles, and scrambled eggs

Some of you may know we love talking about Presidential Food here in the Alphabet Soup kitchen.

Whether it’s polishing off a bowl of JFK’s clam chowder, whipping up a batch of George Washington’s hoecakes, or wrapping our lips around Barack Obama’s homemade chili, learning about our leaders’ favorite foods makes them more human and accessible.

I like associating Ronald Reagan with jelly beans, George Bush with pork rinds, Jimmy Carter with peanuts. But what of the first female presidential nominee?

I guess Hillary Rodham Clinton can be summed up this way: she’s a hot pepper and a smart cookie.๐Ÿ™‚

We were able to confirm this when she dropped by recently (Mr Cornelius is her secret debate coach). You probably remember the kerfuffle years ago when she famously declared, “I suppose I could have stayed home, baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession.”

Despite all the backlash from stay-at-home moms, Hillary went on to win Family Circle Magazine’s First Lady’s Cookie Contest twice with her recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. It was because of Hillary they started the competition in the first place, and it’s been a fun tradition these last 24 years. This election season, the same recipe (on behalf of “First Gentleman Bill Clinton”) went up against Melania Trump’s Star Cookies and once again, it won.

Seems chocolate chip cookies were always a big personal favorite, and Hillary’s family used to compete to see who could make the biggest one. Besides a penchant for dark chocolate (chocolate covered almonds are a nice treat on the campaign trail), we also learned about Hillary’s hot pepper habit.

A jalapeno a day keeps the doctor away.

She does indeed carry a bottle of hot sauce in her bag (Ninja Squirrel sriracha is a current favorite), and eats a jalapeno pepper every day to boost her immune system. Aha! Now we know what fuels her fiery speeches!

Mr Cornelius is quite taken with her; he thinks potentially being the very first female President in our history is pretty darn amazing — and groundbreaking and incredible and fabulous and cool, and about time. Naturally he wanted to know more about what this powerhouse of a woman eats besides chile peppers (just in case he decides to run for office someday).

Chelsea and her daughter Charlotte.

In honor of Hillary’s visit, he and the Alphabet Soup kitchen helpers baked a batch of Chelsea’s Chocolate Chip Cookies —ย  a recipe adapted by the late White House Executive Chef Walter Scheib. Mr C thought these would be a nice “good luck on November 8” offering, a nod to the future generations of girls and women who will benefit and no doubt be inspired by Hillary’s singular accomplishments.

Hillary flanked by presidential friends.

While munching on cookies and sipping milk, Hillary described how she hired Chef Scheib a year into President Clinton’s first term of office in 1994. Since they didn’t care for the traditional, highly caloric French cuisine prepared by Chef Chambrin, they wanted to find someone else who could showcase the best of contemporary American regional cuisine and prepare healthier, lowfat nutritional meals and restaurant-caliber dishes for state dinners and other special events.

Scheib, who was then executive chef at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, was selected from thousands of applicants. For his audition lunch he prepared Pecan-Crusted Lamb with Morel Sauce and Red-Curried Sweet Potatoes. Just so happens lamb is Hillary’s favorite meat and she loves spicy food — so Scheib’s meal was a big hit. Scheib “modernized and Americanized the White House food program,” creating meals that were both interesting and eclectic, reflecting the ethnic diversity of the country. Middle Eastern food (baba ganoush, tahini, hummus) was a particular Hillary favorite during her husband’s Presidency.

Bill and Hillary having breakfast at Chez Vachon, Manchester, New Hampshire (photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters).

These days, Hillary especially enjoys the zesty flavors of Mexico and India. Whenever possible, she likes to eat locally, whether it’s pork chop on a stick at the Iowa State Fair, a hot pepper, sausage and onion sandwich at Gianelli Sausage in Syracuse, or a friendly sandwich and cup of coffee at Lange’s Little Store, a favorite neighborhood hangout in Chappaqua. She’s not a strict vegan like Bill and will indulge in the occasional ice cream treat (nice way to cool off from all those chiles :D). Her other foodie vices include Dove Bars and goldfish crackers.

She definitely has a soft spot for ice cream.
Madam President: Chili Pepper Chocolate Ice Cream made with sugar and spice and women’s rights (via Ample Hills Creamery).
Madam President vs. Make America Orange Again (orange marshmallow ice cream with brownie bricks. Warning: may contain bluster and hot air, artificially colored) via Ample Hills Creamery.

Is there a food item that most recalls her back-home origins? Hillary cites the Oliveburger (renamed the HillaryBurger) from Pickwick, a Greek-American diner that was her high school hangout in Park Ridge, Illinois. It consists of 6 ounces of grilled ground beef sirloin on a toasted hamburger bun with a thick topping of chopped, pimento-stuffed green olives. Closed in December 2014, the Pickwick will apparently reopen sometime this Fall (no word on whether the HillaryBurger will be on the menu).

Turn up the heat with HC’s Oval Office Presidential Hot Sauce via Peppers of Key West

So, does Hillary ever cook? She admits to being a lousy cook, but she can turn out a decent plate of soft scrambled eggs. Scheib remarked that once when Chelsea was sick, Hillary requested the ingredients and cooking utensils so she could make the eggs herself in the private family kitchen on the second floor. Nothing like comfort food from your mother to make you feel better.

Getting back to Chelsea, Hillary also asked Scheib to teach her daughter how to cook so she would be able to cook for herself while she was attending Stanford. So, the summer before Chelsea left for college, Scheib taught Chelsea and a friend how to cook some basic vegetarian dishes, such as pea soup, buckwheat linguine with lentils, carrots and Swiss chard, and black bean enchiladas.

Mr Cornelius was fascinated by all these stories, and begged Hillary to share just one more tidbit. Well, she thought the 1997 G-8 Summit in Denver, Colorado, was the perfect occasion to spotlight regional American cuisine and traditions. Guests were given cowboy boots as presents, and Chef Scheib and his staff served buffalo, Rocky Mountain Oysters, cowboy roll-ups and rattlesnake meat hors d’oeuvres!

Walter Scheib tragically died in a flash flood while hiking in Taos, NM, in 2015. This pic was taken right after he made his audition lunch for the Clintons.

Given Hillary’s inclination for authentic, restaurant-quality, diverse regional cuisine, safe to say she’ll keep the White House chefs on their toes if when she gets elected.๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s the recipe for Chelsea’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (the Clinton Family Oatmeal Chocolate Chip recipe can be found here). Unlike the Family Circle contest winner, this recipe calls for butter instead of vegetable shortening and cake flour instead of all-purpose flour. I’ve included Chef Scheib’s headnote for your reference.

Chelsea's Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Servings: about 24 cookies
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: average
  • Print

Chelsea and her friends would make these cookies during their White House get-togethers and slumber parties, starting the year I got there, when she was fourteen. When I got the call from Chelsea (or the word from a butler) that she and her friends were in a cookie-making mood, I’d assemble the ingredients and hand-write the basic method, sending it all upstairs with a butler. This recipe is adapted from one from the legendary Fannie Farmer Cookbook, but I omitted the nuts and added more chocolate chips. The cookies are soft and chewy right out of the oven, then firm up a bit, but don’t turn brittle.


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing cookie sheets
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two cookie sheets.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.
  3. Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda together, add to the mixture, and blend well, then stir in the chips.
  4. Place the dough in 2 tablespoon portions onto the cookie sheets, leaving 2 inches between the cookies.
  5. Bake until lightly golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool briefly in the pans, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Credit: White House Chef: Eleven Years, Two Presidents, One Kitchen by Walter Scheib and Andrew Friedman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007).


Everyone had such a good time, we hated to say goodbye. Mr Cornelius turned on the charm, and before we knew it, Hillary offered to make her famous soft scrambled eggs!

Oh, so fluffy and creamy!

One taste, and the resident chefs gave Hillary’s eggs an 8 paws up. They agreed that when it comes to eggs, Hillary knows how to step up to the plate.๐Ÿ™‚

After a round of hugs and handshakes, Hillary boarded her plane for the next stop on the campaign trail. She left us all starry-eyed and hopeful for the future. She and Mr C are best buds and agreed on a new campaign slogan:

When the chocolate chips are down, bake more cookies!

Hillary’s cookie platform is a winner!

ย โค๏ธClick here for more posts about Presidential Food.

Copyright ยฉ 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

46 thoughts on “cornelius meets hillary: of cookies, chiles, and scrambled eggs

  1. This is so great Jama!!! I always wonder how long these posts take you with the baking, photo styling, and writing–my goodness. I’m ready for the meanness of this election season to be over and to get back to work on solutions to policy issues that matter. AIforC!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your enthusiasm, Anna! We all need to fortify ourselves for the days ahead — I thought some levity and COOKIES would be in order. With all the negative distractions that have plagued this election, I don’t think we’ve had ample space and opportunity to simply bask in the enormity of Hillary’s nomination — this is a moment in history we should all be celebrating, regardless of party affiliation.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ample Hills Creamery… *makes a note* MUST TRY some of those ice creams, and I think the tagline of “Sugar and Spice and WOMEN’S RIGHTS” is the BEST THING EVER.

    So much YAY for this.
    *puts her I Voted sticker back on and struts around the house*


  3. You’ve outdone yourself, Jama! Love all of the figurines and the photos. That Mr. C has good taste!

    My husband is a sriracha fan too–much too hot for my tender palate. Loved all the foodie info, and I’ll have to try out this recipe with cake flour–never used that before.


  4. I have always loved your blog—- but why, oh, why, did you have to bring politics into it?????? Good bye!!๐Ÿ’›๐ŸŽƒ๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ


    1. Sorry you feel that way, Dianne. I consider this post history with only a smidgen of politics — and even then, presented in a lighthearted way with no negativity. I’ve written about presidential food for many years at this blog and don’t see any reason to change that. It’s a subject I’ve always been interested in.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Loved this! Thank you for writing such a delightful post — not to say that all your posts aren’t any less delightful, but this particular post highlighted a person who I’ve always held in great esteem, and I’m looking forward to seeing her conquer that nasty sack of rancid cheese-whiz.



  6. I love that Cornelius had this visit, and was delighted to hear all about those early White House years, the change in food style, etc. What a tough election time this is, but how great that some are making “food fun” of it, including you, Jama. Thank you!


    1. It’s always interesting in any election season to see what food products there are. It’s amazing that you can actually order that ice cream online and they guarantee that it will arrive on your doorstep frozen. Of course you pay a steep price for delivery.


  7. Well, my thanks to you and Mr. C for fortifying Hillary for what is surely going to be an *interesting* debate tomorrow night. I think she’ll need an extra shake of sriracha beforehand. And she certainly should enjoy some ice cream and fresh-baked cookies after her victory! Thank you for this fascinating post, Miss Jama. And go, Hillary!โค


  8. I just don’t have the adjectives to describe your blog. Every single time I read it, I think there is nothing like it on the internet. So much fun. I absolutely love it. Thanks so much. By the way, I bought Dumpling Soup for my part-Korean grandchildren! It is delightful and they will love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Nan. Your kind words mean a lot. It’s good to know you enjoy my posts, and I hope you know how much I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment.๐Ÿ™‚ Also nice to hear you’ll be sharing DS with your grandchildren. Maybe you should make dumplings with them for New Year’s๐Ÿ™‚.


  9. What a fabulous post. I learned so much. Funny that Hillary can’t cook but touching that still wanted to make something herself for her sick daughter. Love the idea of a slumber party / cookie baking session at the White House!


    1. A slumber party at the White House really does sound very cool. I also liked Chef Scheib’s anecdote about Hillary making scrambled eggs for Chelsea — very nice mother-daughter moment.๐Ÿ™‚


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