The never-fail, ever-popular, go-to cookie: for the time-challenged potluck baker/parent

You’ve been there, right?

Your teenage son comes home, dumps his backpack on the kitchen floor, opens the refrigerator, drinks from the milk carton with one hand while grabbing a box of cereal, bag of chips, and fistful of cookies with the other, and somehow, through his full mouth, manages to mumble, “Remember the team dinner tonight—you have to bring dessert.”

Team dinner… tonight?! When… where…

“Hey, wait a minute, buddy, you NEVER told me about any team dinner. What do you mean, dessert? It’s 4:30! What time is this dinner?”

But you’re talking to his back as he exits the kitchen, basketball in hand. “I-told-you-you-never-listen-it’s-at-the-school-at-6-o’clock-see-ya-there.” Slam.

The kitchen, silent once more, glares balefully at you. Bad mom! So now what are you gonna do, huh? You’ve got 90 minutes. Your reputation as the team’s reigning-champion, bake-from-scratch parental unit is at stake.

Are you up to the challenge, or is there a quick trip to the market and three packs of Double-Stuf Oreos in your (very) near future?

Save yourself a trip (and some gas)—these cookies go together in no time flat, bake for 15 minutes, and make a boatload—54, to be exact. Just about right for a bunch of teenage boys who’ve chowed down on vats of American chop suey, buckets of squishy white rolls, and gallons of Gatorade. And are about to attack the brownies, cupcakes, and these whole-grain, mineral- and antioxidant-rich (but they’ll never know it) Kids’ Choice Chip & Fruit Oatmeal Cookies.

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As is true of nearly every drop cookie recipe I’ve ever baked, these are fast and easy—a simple matter of beating together a bunch of ingredients, dropping the resulting dough onto cookie sheets, and baking. So let’s start by combining butter (for flavor), shortening (for texture), brown and white sugar, vanilla, salt, and vinegar.

Vinegar?! Vinegar cuts the sweetness just a bit; and it reacts with the leavener to give the cookies a tiny bit of rise, which makes them crunchy rather than hard. Well, that’s my theory, anyway, and I’m sticking with it!

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Next, beat in 1 egg. It’s not much for the size of the recipe, it’s true. But it adds a tiny bit of fat, and some structure. We don’t want our cookies to crumble, right?

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Now come the oats and whole wheat flour (preferably King Arthur white whole wheat flour, and even better KA organic white whole wheat flour, my favorite). Why whole wheat? Because you absolutely can’t tell these cookies are made with whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose. So the better question is, “Why NOT whole wheat?”

While our organic white wheat is sometimes challenging to find (grocers don’t like filling their shelves with multiple kinds of whole wheat), it’s an outrageous flour, especially for bread—yeast loves organic flour. Give it a try sometime.

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Next, 3 cups of your favorite cookie supplements: chocolate chunks or chips; dried fruit, and/or nuts. I’ve chosen dark chocolate chunks, cranberries, and walnuts here. I often substitute chocolate chips for the chunks, and pecans for the walnuts.

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Mix to combine. A stand mixer makes this task easy. If you’re mixing by hand, I hope you have an Armstrong (which is the kind of snowblower my husband always told friends we had when our teenage son was shoveling the driveway… get it?)

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Scoop the cookie dough onto parchment-lined (preferable) or lightly greased baking sheets. This recipe makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies, so you’ll probably be able to fill four pans. Since most of us don’t have four pans, that means two pans, two bakes. Again, parchment makes this easy, as you can “stage” cookie dough onto parchment while the pans are in the oven. When the cookies in the oven are ready, simply take the pans out, and replace the sheet of baked cookies with the sheet of unbaked ones.

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All spaced out and ready to go.

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If you stagger the dough balls as pictured, you can fit 15 onto a standard 13” x 18” half-sheet pan.

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OK, here’s a short side trip: bake-sale cookies. You know, the bigger, palm-sized ones. Use a muffin scoop or 1/4-cup measure to scoop dough onto the sheets. You’ll get about 24 cookies out of this recipe.

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Since these cookies are bigger, you’ll need to pat them down gently on the baking sheet. Bake till very light brown (for chewy cookies, about 17 minutes); or till golden brown (for crunchy cookies, about 20 minutes).

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OK, back to the standard-size cookies. If you bake them till they’re a very light gold (at left), they’ll be chewy. Bake till they’re dark gold (at right), and they’ll be crunchy. In our ovens here, this works out to about 12 minutes at 350°F for the chewy cookies, and about 14 minutes for the crunchy version. Times may vary; depends on your oven. Just keep an eye on them and take them out when they look done.

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Nice looking stack of cookies, eh?

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These are great candidates for freezing. Imagine having cookies all ready to bake next time your son drops the time bomb on you… Here’s how to be prepared. Scoop the dough onto cookie sheets close together; no need to leave any space.

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Put the cookie sheet in the freezer (no need to cover it), and freeze till the cookies aren’t sticky or soft. See that frost?

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Put them in a bag, and remove as much air as possible. Close the bag nearly all the way, insert a drinking straw, and suck out as much air as you can, then quickly close the bag. Instant shrink-wrap! Freeze cookie dough for up to 2 months.

When ready to bake frozen cookies, take them out of the freezer, place on baking sheets, and let rest at room temperature while you heat your oven. Partially thawed cookies will need about 3 minutes longer in the oven than cookies baked from room-temperature dough.

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And here they are, warm, fresh cookies from frozen dough, in under 30 minutes. This was an entire sheet of cookies when I went to get my camera; when I came back, about half were missing. The culprits have yet to ’fess up.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Kids’ Choice Chip & Fruit Oatmeal Cookies.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Nature’s Promise All-Natural Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies with Pecans, 47¢/ounce

Double-Stuf Oreos, 23¢/ounce

Bake at home: Kids’ Choice Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies, made with chocolate chips, cranberries, and pecans, 20¢/ounce