Santa Claus is coming to Mobile soon and this month’s Dinner’s Recipe isn’t really a dinner at all. This sweet, seven layer Christmas Magic Cookie Bar, brought to you by the Cooley family, is going to be the best way to have Santa arriving at your house first, year after year.
“The cookie bars are one of the things we always do this time of year,” shares Jennifer Cooley. “We put a few of these on our ‘cookies for Santa’ plate each year on Christmas Eve. We also include carrots for Santa’s reindeer and make reindeer food and sprinkle it in the front yard.”
Jennifer and her middle school sweetheart, Bryan Cooley, have been married 20 years, and they have two boys, Elliot (10) and Charlie (8). Their family is unique in the fact that Elliot was diagnosed with Down syndrome and autism when he was very young.
“I have lots of opportunities to be proud with raising Elliot because you get to see all of the hard work that he puts into accomplishing so many things,” Jennifer explains.
Jennifer and her family also love to give back to others. It is a core value in their family and it most certainly shines through in their day to day lives.
“I’ve worked my entire career in marketing and PR. In the years after I had Elliot and he needed more hands-on care, I did part-time marketing consulting work and went to graduate school for communication,” Jennifer said. “Now that Elliot requires a little less of my time, I was able to return to full-time work, but I needed a job where I felt like I was doing something purposeful. It just so happened that UCP was looking for someone with marketing experience and everything just sort of fell into place.”
United Cerebral Palsy of Mobile was a cornerstone organization that assisted the Cooley family when Elliot was young. Jennifer is very satisfied with working at UCP and raising money for important programs for south Alabama’s disability community.
Jennifer and her boys love the holiday season and make these cookie bars together.
“Charlie likes to help make them since there is a lot of sprinkling going on,” said Jennifer. “And Elliot will definitely have a little sweetened condensed milk while we make them.”
Christmas Magic Cookie Bars
1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup of butter, melted
1 can (14 oz) of sweetened condensed milk
1 1/3 cups of flaked coconut
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup M&M’s minis for baking (holiday colors)
1 cup chopped pecans or other nuts
1/3 cup of nonpareils sprinkles (holiday colors)
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Coat 13 x 9-inch baking pan generously with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Mix graham cracker crumbs and butter in small bowl. Press into bottom of prepared pan.
3. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture.
4. Layer with coconut, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, M&Ms, nuts and sprinkles. Press down firmly with fork.
5. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool on a wire rack for at least one hour. Cut into bars, serve and enjoy.
Pro Tip from the Chef: Jennifer likes to use salted butter for this recipe and will generally double it to make a ton of Christmas Magic Cookie Bars at once.
Gabriele has been married to her husband Daniel for 17 years. Together they have three incredible children – two boys, ages 16 and nine, and a sweet girl who will be two in August. Gabriele is a full-time Sales Director for Mary Kay Cosmetics. When she isn’t spending time with family or building her business, she supports her husband who is the Lead Pastor and Planter of Forward Church in Gulf Shores.