Seven Layer Cookie Bars: The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts

When I was in grammar school I had a close friend whose life was the opposite of mine in many ways. She lived on a cul de sac in the suburbs, I lived in the city with no driveway. Her parents both worked, my mother stayed at home (but still working, as she would remind me). She was the youngest with two older siblings in high school, I was the oldest – by far – with my closest sibling ten years younger than me – a baby. Her mother baked, my mom did not.

I spent many a weekend at her home and the breakfasts were like nothing I had ever experienced. While we had a decent weekend breakfast – my dad was all-time french toast maker on Sunday mornings, my friend’s was something else all together. I have fond memories of grits topped with melted butter and real pork sausage; I came home and asked my mom if we could have grits and sausage for breakfast. She changed the subject (wise woman – I have learned from her).

Whenever our school had bake sales my friend’s mom would send in Hello Dollies, also known as Seven Layer Cookie Bars and I fell in love. I never knew what was in them, but they were out of this world. Chewy with a graham cracker crust and studded with chocolate – but not too much – wow. When I got a little older and started baking I began making them and was amazed to find out they are pretty much the easiest cookie to make on the planet. No bowl required, they are sturdy and keep well and are open to interpretation – I have replaced the original recipe’s butterscotch chips with peanut butter chips, I have used mini m and ms instead of chocolate chips, I have omitted the nuts for my husband (who by the way swears he hates coconut yet there is plenty in these babies), I have replaced the graham cracker crumbs with crushed oreos – the possibilities are endless. Bring them to your Memorial Day get together this weekend and you are assured an easy wow.

Seven Layer Cookie Bars


1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter

1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk (in the baking aisle and carefully look at the label – you don’t want unsweetened or evaporated)

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup peanut butter chips

1 1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 x 9 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Melt the butter in the microwave and pour into pan so the pan’s bottom is evenly coated. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs evenly over butter and press down lightly with your fingers so it’s even. Pour the condensed milk over the graham cracker crust. Then layer, in order, with the chocolate chips, the peanut butter chips, the coconut and the walnuts. Press down firmly all over with a the back of a fork and bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned and firm. Let cool and lift foil out of pan and cut into bars. Makes 24.

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