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Adding Seven Layers To My Waist

March 24, 2015
Dorm desks.  My side (left) covered with books I don't remember and my roommates walls adorned with Steeler photos and hot rollers.

Our desks at Forest Manor in Clarion. My side (left) covered with books I don’t remember and my roommate’s side adorned with Steeler photos and hot rollers.

When I attended Clarion University of Pennsylvania, I studied Elementary Education. I use the term, “study,” loosely because I don’t remember a damned thing about education, but I do remember the Seven Layer Cookies my roommate, Margaret brought back with her. Her mom, Mrs. Spratt, lined a box with aluminum foil and filled it with homemade cookies everyone in the dorm swooned over — if they could pry them from my hands.

We stayed in a place called Forest Manor, which sounds way nicer than the concrete bunker it actually was, located about half a mile from the rest of campus. Detainees are kept in better looking places. The floors were concrete, covered by very thin, ugly gray, scratchy floor coverings (I can’t really call them rugs). We were given two beds, two desks and little potential for cuteness, but we tried; warming it up with cheerful red checked curtains and red bedspreads.

But since college boys do things like flood entire floors for fun and girls are notorious for never cleaning, it makes sense to give them the minimum. It didn’t matter, we had fun anyway, probably too much fun.

It’s been too many years, and yet, when I make Mrs. Spratt’s cookies for holidays or any other time, I fondly remember my college days (most of them anyway). These sweets are called Seven Layer Cookies because they actually consist of seven layers. (No, not because you look like you’ve added seven layers when you’ve eaten them.)

Some people call them Magic Cookie Bars, but that recipe doesn’t call for butterscotch chips, which I think, makes them fabulous. I call them heaven, and if you eat them when they’re still warm, they’re so good you go a little crazy.

This may be an old recipe, but it’s worth revisiting because these cookies are fantastic. The buttery, slightly salty layer on the bottom holds the sweet top ingredients and the nuts give them a nice crunch. I just made them and was tempted to eat five but forced myself to stop at two.

They’re really easy and through all the years, the only tweak I’ve made is to sprinkle a little salt on top when they’re done, so they’re the perfect combination of sweet and salty. Thank you Mrs. Spratt!

Close up of heaven

Close up of heaven

Seven Layer Cookies

1/2 cup melted butter (I use salted butter, it tastes better)

1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers

1 cup sweetened coconut flakes (I use Bakers)

1 cup butterscotch chips

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 can of sweetened, condensed milk

A sprinkle of salt (a quarter tsp. or less)

Use a glass pan (9 x 13). Spray the sides so the cookies don’t stick. Melt the butter and pour in bottom of pan. Next sprinkle crushed graham crackers on top of butter.  Next sprinkle coconut flakes, in a layer, then the butterscotch chips, the nuts, and the chocolate chips. Finally pour the contents of the sweetened, condensed milk as evenly as possible, over all the ingredients. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes and when edges start to turn golden brown they’re done. Remove from oven and sprinkle a LITTLE salt on top. Cut when cool, or dive in when they’re warm and live a little.

  • Reply
    December 26, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    Good heavens. Over the holidays I visited my parents and, as we drove on I-80, at the big old CSC (oops, CUP, now) sign, snow pelting the windshield, I remembered my freshman winter in Forest Manor (north? south??). That same kind of grey, hazy, wind-driven snowfall, seen from my 4th floor window, would always cause me to think twice about the half-mile hike (past the Owens-Illinois truck parking area) to my morning classes. Or afternoon classes. Didn’t stop us from attending the frat parties in the evenings, though. Lucky to still be alive. 😜

    So I *googled* Forest Manor, to see if it still existed, and found your blog post. My search sounds silly now, there’s no way that FM would still be a dorm. Kids these days wouldn’t stand for it! They need suites, or “pods”… laundry on the same floor, private bathrooms, yadda yadda yadda. Spoiled, they are!

    And when I arrived at my parents’ house, 45 minutes from Clarion, what was on the cookie tray but those 7-layer bars!

    Thanks for the memories, Fran!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      December 28, 2020 at 12:26 pm

      Victoria!!! So happy to read your comment. I truly could not have gotten through freshman year at Clarion without Seven Layer Cookies. They are a cherished family favorite now. I make them every Christmas and for special birthdays. I mentally thank my roommate Margaret and her mom repeatedly for always making and sending them.

      I think the girls were north and the boys were south. I still have letters from my mom from those years, so I will check that to make sure I’m right.

      As for Forest Manor, I did the same research and saw they do not house students there anymore. Too bad, it built character tromping down to the laundry room. Once my friend came home with a load of wet clothes she had to dry and her mom had also packed her a meatloaf to enjoy. As soon as she got to the dorm, she dropped the clothes in the dryer and ran upstairs to enjoy the meatloaf. It was nowhere to be found. So we ran downstairs and the aroma of meatloaf was everywhere. Yep, it ended up getting tossed in with the laundry in the dryer. It was so funny but such a bummer! If you’ve never cleaned meatloaf out of a dryer, you’ll have to try it. It’s quite challenging. It gets everywhere.

      Forest Manor was a bracing hike in the winter, and a good excuse to skip class as often as possible. But having us all together there united us as freshmen and that was a good thing. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading for a moment! It’s always nice to meet a fellow alumnus!

  • Reply
    August 14, 2017 at 8:44 pm

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    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      December 28, 2020 at 12:26 pm

      I’ll check it out.

  • Reply
    April 3, 2015 at 5:46 am

    These look awesome for sure I wish I had some family to share my baking with as can only bring into the office to share nowdays I think these would go over very well

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      April 3, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      My Dear Rosemary, I think I must adopt you. Please come to Los Angeles one of these days so we can meet and get the process underway!

  • Reply
    March 28, 2015 at 11:07 am

    These sound divine, Fran. And I LOVE the butterscotch chip addition. Mostly, I love the food/friend/memory connections and that those friends are here in the comments. Important question: sweetened or unsweetened coconut?

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 28, 2015 at 6:40 pm

      My Dear Linda, sweetened, of course. I usually use Baker’s. This is not a dessert for a diabetic. xo

  • Reply
    March 26, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Magic Cookie Bars… one of life’s great pleasures (I’m not a fan of butterscotch, so forgive me for not embracing that game-changing facet) and one of those tidbits sure to always trigger Pavlov’s Dogs’ response.
    But even better than that, you captured my interest and made me go looking on YouTube for the Price Is Right clip… what an amusing bit of entertainment that was! It was extremely generous of you to move to California for the sole purpose of enabling your mother to meet Bob Barker! That was quite extraordinary and I’m sure that’s the best relocation story ever! Surely you have a trophy on your mantle for being the best daughter in the universe! And your mother won the big TPIR prize! I’m betting that diningroom furniture was the crown jewel of the household for many years, perhaps with your name engraved on a brass plaque on one of the chair backs?
    Your mother certainly was a big personality and I can see why you have so many colorful memories of her. I’m sure you miss her a lot.
    As always, thanks for enlivening my day with your blog post! I always enjoy your musings on life!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 26, 2015 at 11:35 pm

      Oh Leslie, you crack me up. OK, for you, make the 7 layers with peanut butter chips instead of butterscotch (and trade the walnuts for peanuts) – yum, that might be really good! Thanks for checking out the Price is Right. My mom would be thrilled. Yeah, it was never dull with her around. She kept all the stuff from the show and after she passed away, my dad wouldn’t get rid of it. Like I said, even death does not weaken a finely honed revenge gene, so he wasn’t taking any chances.

  • Reply
    Chas Madonio
    March 25, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Your brother is cruel.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 25, 2015 at 8:43 pm

      Yes, he is Chas, it was like being raised with wolverines, but look at how tough I am now.

  • Reply
    Bernie Tunno
    March 24, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    Good article you little piglet

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 25, 2015 at 8:44 pm

      Thank you, my loving brother.

  • Reply
    Margaret Spratt Eichenlaub
    March 24, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    This is so funny! I am down at my daughter’s home in Savannah for two weeks helping her with my new twin grandsons, Andrew and Lucas. I haven’t seen The Price is Right for years and it was on today. I said to Gretchen, “Remember me telling you about my freshman room mate Frannie’s mother being on TPIR, well she has a blog now, etc. etc.”. Then I see your blog! I will tell my mom about this, she will be thrilled! Looking at the picture, I realized that I was the slob of 355! Thanks for the great memories – keep it up girl! XXOO

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 24, 2015 at 5:18 pm

      Thanks Margaret! Enjoy those grandkids (I can’t believe you have grandkids!) Joni reminded me your mom had a recipe for peanut butter bars, which I will have to get a hold of, if she’ll give it to me. My addiction to peanut butter is serious. Give your mom my best! (If you ever want to see my mom’s 15 minutes of fame, she’s on Youtube on the Price is Right.) It’s pretty funny. As for slobbiness, I don’t think you were any worse than me!

  • Reply
    March 24, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    I remember visiting you Dawn & Carolyn too Fran. Fun memories & the cookies are awesome!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      March 24, 2015 at 5:20 pm

      Thanks Mary, yes the cookies make life worth living.

  • Reply
    Fran Tunno
    March 24, 2015 at 9:47 am

    Thanks Della, I remember it all like it was yesterday, including you in the hallway, drying your beautiful hair, the air filled with the perfume of your shampoo. Was it Wella Balsam? No, wait, it was Revlon Flex!

  • Reply
    March 24, 2015 at 9:15 am

    I remember those days long ago fondly. We walked a long way to campus, but all of us together helped us to forge lifelong friendships! I do recall your waist line as a tiny one able to handle those seven layers😍

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