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5 easy no-bake desserts

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Relax -- you won't need to cook up these treats! (©iStockphoto.com/Alexey Stiop) Relax -- you won't need to cook up these treats! (©iStockphoto.com/Alexey Stiop)
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By Peg Rosen
From Ideas That Spark

You're expecting guests, and it seems like you've been rolling cookies and baking pies for a month straight -- and there are still more desserts to churn out. Why not take a break from the oven and keep things simple? "In truth, some of the most elegant desserts -- like fresh fruit with a champagne zabaglione sauce -- don't involve baking or much actual cooking at all. All it takes is a little creativity," says Lauren Chattman, author of the newly released book Cookie Swap!

Here, some super-quick, simple no-bake desserts to put you on everyone's sweet side.

Shortbread Cuties

"Walkers Shortbread is a very high-quality, all-butter cookie that makes a great, ready-made base for all kinds of desserts," says Chattman. To make her shortbread cuties:

1. Dip each cookie in melted semisweet chocolate chips.

2. Roll in bits of a crushed Heath Bar.

3. Chill cuties on wax paper, then place on a platter and serve.

Drunken Pears

Elegant and light, poached pears are a great way to use up those half-empty bottles of holiday wine.

1. Peel Bosc pears, leaving stem intact. Slice small amount off bottom so they stand upright.

2. Place them stem-side up in a saucepan so they fit snugly.

3. Add good red wine (enough to reach stems), 1 cup sugar, two whole cloves, a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, and the grated rind of one lemon or orange.

4. Bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour, or until pears are tender (but not mushy).

5. Carefully remove pears, boil sauce down to a syrup-like consistency and pour over pears. Serve warm or chilled with a dollop of creme fraiche or whipped cream.

Itsy Bitsy Ice Cream Sandwiches

This classic party favorite is easy to make -- and a great treat for the kids.

1. Spread 2 tablespoons of your favorite ice cream (softened) onto a store-bought chocolate wafer. Top with another wafer.

2. Roll the edges of each sandwich in toasted coconut, sprinkles or mini chocolate chips.

3. Freeze until firm.

Nutella Nirvana

Europe's favorite cocoa-hazelnut spread is finally catching on in the U.S.; it's available at many major supermarkets. Use it to make a cloud-like mousse:

1. Pour 1 cup of cold heavy whipping cream and 1/2 cup Nutella into a bowl.

2. Whip until mixture makes soft peaks.

3. Chill for about 4 hours. Then, portion into pretty bowls and garnish with chocolate shavings and chopped hazelnuts. Or, top with golden-brown marshmallows you've run under the broiler on a baking sheet.

Black Forest Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

These decadent layers will only look like they took hours to prepare:

1. Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with store-bought ice cream sandwiches. Break sandwiches if necessary to fit.

2. Spread cherry pie-filling and then a layer of homemade (or store-bought) whipped cream on the sandwiches.

3. Repeat layers two more times, ending with whipped cream.

4. Drizzle decoratively with chocolate syrup, then garnish with maraschino cherries and chocolate curls.

5. Freeze overnight and serve.  

Peg Rosen has contributed to numerous magazines and websites, including More, Self, Redbook, Real Simple, Parents, Family Circle, American Baby, ParentCenter.com and WebMD.com. She blogs at Relish-This.Blogspot.com.

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