cookie monster

Packing school lunches can be hard work. It's too easy to rely on pre-packaged snacks. Take a break from chips and preservative-laden store-bought cookies. Make these kid-friendly oatmeal treats. They're great as after-school snacks, too. Remember advice from Cookie Monster: These are a sometimes food.

Banana Oat Muffins

1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mashed bananas

Combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. In a large bowl, beat the egg lightly. Stir in the milk, oil and vanilla. Add the mashed banana, and combine thoroughly. Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture until just combined. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper baking cups, and divide the batter among them. Bake at 400 F for 18 to 20 minutes. -- Gina, Indiana

Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups uncooked old-fashioned oats
1 to 2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks
1 cup pecan pieces, optional

Beat butter and sugars with a mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat well. Add flour, baking soda and salt to butter mixture, and mix well. Stir in oats, chunks and pecans, if using. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 F for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden. Let the cookies cool a bit on the sheets, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. -- Nancy, Virginia

Oatmeal Brownies

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1-1/4 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup quick oats
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped, optional

Combine all ingredients in order given. Mix well. Spread batter in greased 8-inch-by-8-inch pan. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. The batter for these will be very thick. -- Michelle S., Massachusetts

S'mores Bars

4 cups rolled oats
4 cups Rice Krispies cereal
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups miniature marshmallows, divided
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 425 F. Grease one 18-by-13-inch jellyroll pan. Place the oats on the pan. Bake for 6 minutes, and stir at the 3-minute mark. Remove the pan from the oven; transfer the oats to a bowl, and add rice cereal. In a large saucepan, combine sugar, butter, water, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 250 F on a candy thermometer. Pour over oats and cereal. Toss to combine. Add half the marshmallows, and stir again until well combined. Place the mixture on the prepared pan. Press flat with greased spatula. Sprinkle the remaining marshmallows and chocolate chips. Press flat. Bake in oven for 3 minutes, or until the marshmallows are slightly browned. Remove from the oven, and cool for 10 minutes on a rack. Cut into squares while still warm. -- Becky, Texas

photo by twoshortplanks