- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 31, 2006

When it comes to planning ahead for the winter holidays, I say you can never start too early. The most enjoyable holidays I have spent with my family have been when I was not too stressed.

I like to have plans for weeknight dinners with the ingredients at my fingertips in the pantry or freezer. I like to get a jump on gifts, too, by baking bar cookies and quick breads.

Let them cool completely then wrap in foil and place in zipper-lock plastic bags. As long as you place them in the coldest part of your freezer — not on the door — they will stay fresh for up to two months.

This bar cookie is great for baking and stashing away. It takes only 10 minutes to prepare and less than 30 minutes to bake. It contains all the right goodies — butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, coconut and chopped pecans or walnuts.

It’s so scrumptious, your mouth will greet it with a big, welcoming “Hello.”

Five time-shaving goodies to stash in your freezer now:

• Sugar cookie dough. Flatten into rounds, freeze in plastic bags, then roll out and cut into cookies in December.

• Pasta sauce. Go ahead and cook up a batch of spaghetti sauce, then freeze for those busy nights ahead.

• Banana, pumpkin and your favorite quick breads may be baked in small tins. They are perfect for teacher gifts.

• Watch for the supermarket specials on tenderloin of beef and shrimp. Freeze them for dinners ahead.

• Freeze homemade burgers ready to grill for weeknights. Freeze the buns, as well.

Chocolate Hello Dollies

1 package (18.25 ounces) devil’s-food cake mix with pudding

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature, cut into 8 pieces

1 cup butterscotch chips

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set aside an ungreased 15- by 10-inch jellyroll pan.Place the cake mix and butter in a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into the cake mix with two knives or a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly.

Sprinkle this mixture over the bottom of the jellyroll pan and press it into the pan with your fingertips to form a crust.

Sprinkle the top of the crust evenly with the butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, coconut and nuts. Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over all the ingredients. Place the pan in the oven.

Bake the bars until they are lightly browned and bubbly all over, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a rack to cool for 30 minutes. Cut into bars.

Makes 48 bars.


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