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No-Bake Cocoa Cookies

Baking is wonderful. No argument there. Baking makes the house smell great, and is a terrific way to warm the place up. In the winter, I'll look for an excuse to bake something even if we're overstocked with muffins and cookies, just to take that icy edge off the floor.

But it does take time. And some days, heating up the house isn't what you're looking for. It's eighty degrees out. Or somebody's about to come home from school, starving. With friends. Or all of the above.

Sometimes a stovetop cookie recipe is just what you need. This one is quick, it's easy, it's made up of stuff you probably have on hand already, and it's actually kind of healthy.

In a medium-sized pot, melt one stick (half a cup) of butter (I prefer salted, to bring out the flavor of the chocolate) with a scant half cup of brown sugar (light or dark) and a sprinkle of baking soda. Bring it to a boil, let it bubble for a minute, then turn off the heat.

Now stir in 2 cups of quick rolled oats. I don't care for these as porridge material, but they are great in pancakes and baked goods. Old-fashioned or thick-cut oats will make these cookies entirely too oaty -- you'd have to bake them to make it work. Don't use steel-cut unless you're ready to lose a tooth or two.

Stir in one and a half tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder (I wouldn't use Dutch processed). Then, while the batter is still in the pan but after it's had a minute or two to cool, stir in a teaspoon of real vanilla.

(Sorry to sound critical, but that imitation stuff is horrible and I'm begging you not to use it. Yes, it's less expensive, but you can save some money if you buy a big bottle of the real stuff, especially if you can get it at a membership grocery store, such as Costco.)

Press this mixture into a greased round cake pan and wait for it to cool. It will only take a few minutes to be ready to eat, if you don't mind it soft-serve. Or give it some more time to get nice and crispy.

Dried cherries are heavenly in these. So are chocolate chips -- just be sure to wait until the mixture is pretty much cooled, or they'll melt. You can also stir in half a cup of peanut butter.

These are bakeable. If you want to really crisp them up, throw them in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes. But the nice thing about them is you don't have to. They can be done and ready to eat in under twenty minutes, including a little time to cool.

Enjoy.

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