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Back-to-School Cookies are simple pleasures

I was in high school when a new friend told me about her favorite after-school snack. She would butter a piece of toast, smear it with a thick layer of peanut butter and then arrange banana slices over the top. I'd never heard of such a thing. Peanut butter and bananas? On toast?

Feeling a bit adventuresome, I went home and tried the weird-sounding concoction. It's been one of my favorite flavor combinations ever since.

It's that time of year, once again, when many parents are challenged with what to pack in school lunch bags. And a quick after-school snack that's good to eat and maybe a little healthful, too, is always appreciated by hungry munchkins after a long workday at school.

Cookies, one of life's simple pleasures, are fun to make, easy to pack and so enjoyable to eat. Just a little measuring, mixing, shaping and baking, and voila - irresistibly fragrant, fresh-from-the-oven cookies.

Back-to-School Cookies combine peanut butter and banana with another of my favorite flavors - chocolate. I have a big basket of chocolate in my pantry. Bars of white chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, bags of M&M's, toffee bits and chocolate-covered coffee beans are lined up in the large, flat basket, waiting for their turn to be stirred into some kind of sweet treat. Half-filled bags of milk chocolate, semisweet and peanut butter-flavored morels along with chunks of partially-used bittersweet bars all go into one big tightly sealed bowl to be tossed into cookie dough. That variety mix of morsels and chunks is what went into my batch of Back-to-School Cookies. It makes each delicious bite of cookie a big surprise.

There is really only one secret to producing delicious cookies: using top-quality, fresh ingredients. For this recipe, you'll want to be sure that the whole wheat flour you use is fresh, with no rancid odor. Whole-wheat flour, which has five times the fiber of all-purpose, retains the bran and the germ as well as all the beneficial vitamins and nutrients that go with them. The shelf life of whole-wheat flour is much shorter than all-purpose. Oils retained along with the germ can cause the flour to go rancid, which will affect the flavor of baked goods. To prevent this from happening, I store the bag of whole-wheat flour inside of a large freezer-strength zip-top bag, in the freezer.

Banana and honey keep these cookies soft and chewy-moist. They freeze well, so make a double batch. Or if you're just a big kid at heart and still enjoy an afternoon snack, make a batch of Back-to-School Cookies and freeze little packages of a half dozen each. Or put them all in one freezer container. When you need a cookie fix, just grab one out of the freezer and eat it frozen.

Everybody loves cookies. No matter how old you are, Back-to-School Cookies will take you back to a warm kitchen where you sampled cookies straight from your mother's or grandmother's oven.

For me, each cookie reminds me of that after-school snack of peanut butter and banana on toast that came with a new friendship.

Back-to-School Cookies

1 egg, beaten

1 ripe banana, mashed

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup standard or white whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups quick-cooking oats

1 cup chocolate morsels

In mixing bowl, use a wire whisk to combine egg, banana, honey, brown sugar and peanut butter. Sift both flours, baking powder and baking soda into a medium-sized bowl. Add the sifted ingredients to the banana mixture. Stir to combine. Add oats and chocolate morsels and stir to mix in.

Drop dough onto greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Press each mound of dough with the palm of your hand to flatten slightly. Bake cookies in preheated 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden brown. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Tips from the cook

--Dried fruit, such as cranberries, apricots, apples or even raisins can be used in place of the chocolate morsels.

--I used white whole wheat flour in this recipe. This flour, which has all the nutrition and fiber of standard whole-wheat flour but with a lighter color and milder flavor, is milled from a hard white winter wheat berry, rather than the hard red spring wheat berry of traditional whole-wheat flours. White whole wheat flour is especially good for blending with all-purpose flour. It is often found with the specialty flours in well-stocked supermarkets. I've also ordered it online from