9/1/2022 | By JeanMarie Brownson

Easy and fun to eat, cookies can be simple, like sugar cookies, or packed with abundant ingredients. These Back-to-School Cookies from JeanMarie Brownson are packed with healthy, tasty ingredients including nuts and dried fruits plus bits of chocolate. But don’t let the name fool you – these are for kids of all ages. Perhaps you can rename them “Back-to-Fall Cookies” or “Back-to-Pickleball-League Cookies” or “Just Because Cookies”!

In my book, a well-made cookie beats just about any other treat or protein bar every time. Especially when the cookie is oversized and chock-full of crisp, golden nuts, bits of dried fruit and tiny nuggets of chocolate. Who can resist?

The base of my giant cookies – suitable for sharing with friends or tucking into a backpack for replenishment on hikes, day trips, or outings – uses creamy nut butter. The nut butter adds protein and a bit of sweetness. I’m particularly fond of roasted almond butter, but peanut butter also tastes delicious here.

Hearty oats add crunch and fiber. Instead of plain rolled oats, I often use a muesli cereal mix that includes seeds and nuts. Dried fruit also adds fiber along with a pleasing chewy texture. Other add-ins can be customized to suit tastes. Broken salty pretzels and chunks of chocolate keep things interesting. Sweet and salty trail mixes work too.

When baking large cookies like these Back-to-School Cookies, keep the additions in larger pieces. If you choose to make smaller cookies, break the pretzel pieces or chop fruits and nuts a bit more. Make these cookies gluten-free by using gluten-free muesli or oats, a gluten-free 1 to 1 baking mix in place of all-purpose flour and gluten-free pretzel sticks.

Balls of raw cookie dough can be frozen up to several months. Place on baking sheet and bake from frozen; increase the baking time by a few minutes.

Be sure to check for nut allergies before sharing these cookies.

Giant Back-to-School Cookies

Makes 16 large cookies OR 40 smaller cookies

Note: Try Bob’s Red Mill Muesli cereal here, or substitute 1 1/2 cups rolled oats and 1/4 cup each: raisins and sliced or chopped almonds. Granola will make a sweeter cookie. Substitute your favorite sweet and salty trail mix for the dried fruit and chocolate if desired.


Back-to-School Cookies are packed with healthy, tasty ingredients like nuts and dried fruits plus bits of chocolate, for kids of all ages.
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup each: granulated sugar, packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup creamy roasted almond butter or peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups muesli cereal with sliced almonds and raisins or not-too chunky granola
  • 2 cups (about 4 ounces) broken skinny pretzel sticks
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (chopped if large), such as dried cherries, cranberries or apricots
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) milk chocolate covered candies, such as M&M’s, OR chunks of white or dark chocolate or dark chocolate bars, roughly broken into 1/4 inch pieces


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  2. Beat together butter and sugars in large bowl of electric mixer until light. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until smooth and creamy. Beat in almond butter, baking soda, vanilla and salt until smooth. Beat in flour until incorporated. Use a wooden spoon to stir in muesli, pretzels, dried fruit and chocolate candy pieces.
  3. For giant cookies, divide dough into 16 equal portions (about 1/3 cup of the batter weighing 4 ounces). Roll into balls and place on prepared baking sheets, about 3 inches apart and flatten slightly with a spoon. Bake until set and bottoms are slightly golden, about 20 minutes. (For smaller cookies, shape into 40 balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter; bake 12 to 15 minutes.)
  4. Cool cookies on pan for 5 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a wire rack to cool completely. (You can reuse the paper-lined baking sheets to bake the remaining cookies.)
  5. Store the Back-to-School Cookies in a covered container up to several days or freeze up to two months.


Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Hot Honey S’more Brownies from the “Hot Honey Cookbook”

© 2022 JeanMarie Brownson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

JeanMarie Brownson