Cookie Comfort: Break Bread Without Breaking the Bank

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Until the recent economic downturn, many people lived lavishly and spent excessively on everything, even food. In some cases, particularly food. Widespread financial success bred a new generation of foodies and wine collectors. Even the Semi-Homemade guru, Sandra Lee, who came to fame by making the most out of very little, was given a show that upped the entertainment extravagance by changing window treatments to match various color scheme.

Everywhere you looked it seemed as though someone had a successful real estate investment, no matter how young and fresh out of school. Much like the dot-com success of the mid-nineties, people had money to burn. And much like the dot-com fallout, real estate development is in the dumps with perhaps years before a turnaround, according to msnbc.com only one in five college graduates are able to find employment.

So, how does this new generation of foodies still entertain their friends with a diminishing budget? There are dozens of celebrity chefs’ books and shows dedicated to helping us still look good in the kitchen. Sandra Lee is back to promoting her economical savvy. There is a pretty good series of recipes to be found through The 99 Cent Chef. And there are shows introducing us to empowerment and ease of kitchen DIY, like Sam the Cooking Guy on Fit TV’s Just Cook This.

Personally, when providing food for friends or myself, nothing is more powerful than the almighty cookie. Strange as it seems, the small crunch can be a transformative experience, somehow reminiscent of the safety and innocence of youth. Is it possible to derive real comfort while trying to stay financially self-sufficient? The answer is yes. The recipe below is quick, easy and can as easily entertain your inner child as it will youngsters. Bonus, by swapping a few ingredients, these cookies can be made safe for almost any common food allergy. Gluten free, peanut free peanut butter cookies… you bet.

Basic Peanut Butter Cookies
1 C Peanut Butter
1 C sugar
1 egg
½ C crispy rice cereal

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Combine first 3 ingredients
Stir in cereal
Scoop out a tablespoon of dough and shape into a ball
Place on cookie sheet
Flatten with fork or hand
(if dough gets sticky, wet the fork or the heel of your hand a little)
Bake for approx. 10 minutes, checking after 8 minutes

Easy swaps for allergies:
— Allergic to eggs — use milled flax seed, found in the baking section of most super markets or health food stores.
— Allergic to peanut or tree nuts – use sunflower seed butter, which can be found at Trader Joe’s and health food stores.

You can always include chocolate chips when combining ingredients or use your thumb to make an indentation in each ball of dough on the cookie sheet and add a bit of jam for a PB&J cookie or a Hershey’s kiss for PB & chocolate.

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