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Sweet treats help you spring clean

Spring is the time of year we make momentous, wake-up-from-the-dead-of-winter decisions. Not always about what to clean but rather what to keep or throw away.

No where is this more evident than in the kitchen pantry. Yes, cleaning fans, now is the time to pull out all of the half-finished, how-did-that-get-back-there packages, canisters and boxes of cereal and other items that you know are too good to throw away, but you don’t have quite enough to make into something else.

The following recipes are all easy and can be made with whatever you have in your pantry that’s kind of similar to what’s in the recipe but isn’t exactly it.

So make these treats and dishes to enjoy while the rest of your family is cleaning the house.

Fig Newton Carrot Cake

1 package (2-layer size) carrot cake mix

1 cup water

3 eggs

1/2 cup oil

15 Fig Newtons, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

1/2 cup coconut

1 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Zest of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan. In a bowl combine the cake mix, water, oil and eggs. Mix to combine, then add the chopped cookies and coconut. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake 25 to 28 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a rack. To frost, combine the powdered sugar, zest and orange juice. Drizzle the frosting over the cake. Serves 10 to 12.

Cereal Energy Bar

4 cups Cheerios or Rice Chex or Life cinnamon cereal (or a mixture)

1 cup dried cranberries or cherries

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1/2 cup chopped dates (optional)

1/3 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup corn syrup

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan. In large bowl, combine the cereal, cranberries or cherries, pecans, dates and sunflower seeds. In saucepan, combine the corn syrup, brown sugar and peanut butter. Bring to a boil, stir constantly for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Pour the hot mixture over cereal mixture and mix to combine. Let cool slightly, then press the cereal-fruit mixture (with your hands) into the greased pan. Cool for 30 to 45 minutes and then cut into 24 pieces.

Breakfast Cereal Cookies

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

1/4 cup water or milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 egg

1 1/2 cups flour

1 cup oatmeal (not instant)

1 cup raisins

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

4 cups cinnamon cereal (such as Cinnamon Toast Crunch)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl combine the sugar, butter, peanut butter, water, vanilla and egg. Mix to combine. Add the flour, oatmeal, raisins, salt, baking soda and cereal. Mix to combine. Using a 1/2 cup measuring cup, scoop the mixture onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Only place 6 cookies on each cookie sheet. On ungreased large cookie sheet, drop dough by rounded 1/3 or 1/2 cupfuls 4 inches apart. Flatten the dough slightly. Bake immediately for a crispy cookie; let the mixture sit in the fridge 1/2 hour and the cereal will soften and the cookies will be softer. Do not overbake. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before removing from cookie sheet. Makes 12 to 16 depending on size.

Oreo Cookie Candy Balls

1/2 package (4 ounces) cream cheese, softened

18 to 20 Oreo cookies, finely crushed (about 3 cups) (or other sandwich cookies)

8 to 10-ounce semi sweet chocolate chips

Chocolate sprinkles or multicolored sprinkles

In a bowl of an electric mixer combine the cream cheese and cookie crumbs. Mix until just well blended. Using a melon baller or small ice cream scoop make 24 to 36 balls (just make sure they’re not too big). Place them on a cookie sheet (lined with wax paper) and freeze them for 15 minutes. Melt the semi sweet chips in a bowl in the microwave and then dip balls in melted chocolate. Place them back on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle a few sprinkles on top. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Makes 24 to 36 servings. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

– Modified from Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.