Quick-n-Easy Cookie Pops

Oreo Cookie Pops

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day – an especially fun and goodie-filled holiday for kids, as well as for women with creative, generous, romantic spouses . . .

While expressing love with a Valentine’s card is always appropriate, a little homemade treat can make the sentiment even sweeter. These Oreo cookie pops look fancy and festive, but can be assembled and decorated in less than half an hour. Sweet mother of shortcuts!


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Family Granola

Like our family, this granola is basically an eclectic mix of nuts, bound together and elevated to a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. It’s also wholesome, packed with protein, lightly sweet, delicately crunchy and moderately addictive. If you – like me – are facing a pantry full of impulse-purchased holiday baking ingredients (nuts, coconut, corn syrup, brown sugar), now’s a great time to make granola. As a snack, it’s delicious straight out of a jar or sprinkled onto yogurt. Because I have a sweet tooth and love extra crunchy everything, I add it to salads and even butternut squash soup.  My husband thinks this is weird.  I say we’re all entitled to be a little nutty.

Family Granola

  •  2 cups Quick/1-minute oats
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut (preferable, but unsweetened is OK too)
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • ½ cup raw pine/pignoli nuts
  • ½ cup unsalted pistachio nuts
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup (amber or dark)
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup corn syrup (light or dark)

Important first step any time you cook with nuts or seeds: taste a few before proceeding. Nuts can go rancid fairly quickly, especially if they’re not stored in the freezer.  I’ve had a few dishes ruined by bad nuts; don’t let this happen to you!

Preheat oven to 350°F. In large bowl mix together oats, shredded coconut, nuts and sesame seeds.

In a small bowl or Pyrex measuring cup, whisk together maple syrup, brown sugar, vegetable oil and corn syrup. Pour over oat/nut mixture and stir to coat evenly.

Spread granola onto rimmed baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes; remove from oven and stir/scrape so mixture cooks evenly. Return to oven and bake another 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Cool on baking sheet; granola will crisp up as it cools. Store in airtight containers; will keep at least a week. For longer-term storage, keep in freezer.

Makes about 5 cups.

No-Bake Pretzel Treats

No time? No problem! In just a few minutes you can whip up a batch of these white chocolate covered pretzels sprinkled with chopped M&M’s® Chocolate Candies. No rolling. No measuring. No baking. No nuts. No sweat. No kidding!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • M&M’s® Milk Chocolate Candies (find red & green by holiday displays)
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • Vegetable oil, such as canola
  • Mini pretzels (I found a big tub of Utz mini holiday shaped pretzels at Wal-Mart)

Place M&M’s® Candies in a large plastic storage bag. Take a moment to appreciate the beautiful glossy shell (which took hours and hours to produce); then, smash them gently, respectfully, with a rolling pin or jar.  You want to break the candies into big, colorful pieces – not pulverize them into a gray dust.  Set out at least 2 baking sheets; line with parchment or wax paper if you’d like to make cleanup a little easier. (Who wouldn’t?)

In medium-large bowl, mix chocolate chips with a splash of vegetable oil and melt in a microwave. Do this in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval until smooth.  (Microwaves heat differently, and you don’t want to overcook the chocolate.) Throw a few handfuls of mini pretzels into the melted chocolate and stir gently to coat. Using a fork, transfer the coated pretzels to baking sheets, arranging in a single layer. Quickly sprinkle with M&M’s® pieces before chocolate sets.  The thicker the coating of white chocolate, the better the M&M’s® pieces will adhere to the pretzels. Repeat as necessary to use up all the white chocolate.

When chocolate has set, transfer coated pretzels to airtight containers. (You can put the baking sheets in the refrigerator to speed up the set time.)

Tantalizing Toffee

Washington, my home state, is famous for many things: apples, Starbucks, Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, and Almond Roca. If you’re not from Washington, you probably just said, “Almond Whaaat?” But anyone from the Evergreen State, or the West Coast for that matter, would recognize the ubiquitous buttercrunch toffee shaped like little nut-studded logs, wrapped in gold foil and packed in Barbie-pink tins. We often used the terms Almond Roca and Almond Toffee interchangeably (a marketer’s nightmare!), and my high school friend Jen used to make Almond Roca/Toffee every Christmas. I always thought hers was much better than Brown & Haley’s pink-canned version.

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