Baking/ Recipes

Score One for School Food: Ranger Cookies or Flying Saucers

ranger cookies

Last week, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she had a craving for the cheese rolls that our high school cafeteria sold in the mornings and during passing period. That made me remember the big flat chocolate chip cookies — greasy with shortening, a little underbaked, and only 50 cents (or was it 25?).  It’s funny, because when it comes to school food — public school, anyway — there isn’t much that anyone remembers fondly. It’s easier to remember the horrors that the cafeteria churned out — ever heard of a taco snak (yes, s-n-a-k) burrito?

Cookies may be one of the few stand outs generation-to-generation. As I was digging around for cornflake cookie recipes, I came across a LA Unified School District recipe from the 50’s for Ranger cookies, also called Flying Saucers.  Now, I’ve seen recipes for Ranger cookies before — some with dried fruit, so they’re a little more trail mix-y. But this one’s got cornflakes, coconut and walnuts.  The cornflakes, coconut and oats seem to be the common elements. The variables include chocolate chips, dried fruit, pecans and Rice Crispies. You can see I went for the chips and ditched the walnuts.

ranger cookiesranger cookies

A couple of notes:
1. I halved the original recipe. Luckily, all the measurements halve easily, so it was low risk. I made half in their “flying saucer” size w/ the Oxo scoop (it doesn’t have a number – a 1/3 c. measure would probably do about the same), and flattening them w/ the palm of my hand before baking. I did the rest in a more regular drop cookie size – no flattening.

2. They do spread – so, if you’re doing the flying saucer size, I would do 6 on jelly roll size baking sheet and give them space.

3. If you want a big flat chocolate chip cookie, this one by YA author Maggie Stiefvater is a good one.

If you’re interested, you can take a walk down school cafeteria memory lane in this Chowhound thread. School Lunch, a book detailing how to run a school lunch program, with recipes, was published in 1962 and is posted in its entirety on

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  • Jill Freeman
    May 7, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    See, I went to Kester Ave. Elementary, and my Mom was the principal at Dixie Canyon Elementary both in the Valley, and I remember the Chocolate ones and the Vanilla ones too, but not this recipe, although it looks fantastic! I wish I could fine the recipe for the chocolate and vanilla ones…thank you for posting this recipe!

  • Joan Commons
    June 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    My mother was a teacher in LAUSD for many years and made these cookies for us. Since her death, my daughters and I have experimented with the recipe. Try using Raisin Bran in place of the cornflakes. In place of half the coconut, we added Craisins. Replace the 1.5 cups of white sugar with 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup honey to make a softer cooky. And we often replace half the white flour with whole wheat flour. This is a great recipe to experiment with and brings back great memories of Mom every time we take a tray out of the oven.

    • Michelle
      June 7, 2011 at 9:29 pm

      Joan, Doug, Elaine, Everyone….I love the memories and stories about these cookies that have been posted. Thank you for sharing them with me! When I made the cookies and photographed them, I didn’t realize they would make such an impact. It really makes this recipe a keeper all the way around.

    • Randy
      March 23, 2013 at 9:16 pm

      Thanks for the updated version. My mother & I made these too way back in the day. She worked in the accounting office at South High School in Bakersfield.
      We flattened them out with the bottom of a mason jar to make them as big as we could. Kids LOVE Big cookies! This and Wacky Cake are two recipes I fondly remember from my childhood.

  • Doug Collins
    June 3, 2011 at 11:12 am

    My wife waxes lyrical about these cookies from her days in LAUSD schools more than 40 years ago, so she was exited to find the original recipe. We haven’t made them yet, but it seems to me that raisins would be a good substitute if you’re out of chocolate chips or simply want a more healthful snack. However, IMHO leaving out the nuts would be just, well, nuts! 😉

  • Elaine Minamide
    June 2, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    I saw this picture in today’s LA Times and couldn’t believe it! I have a memory of cookies from my elementary school in Los Angeles (Toluca Lake Elementary School) that served these AMAZING cookies called “Flying Saucer Cookies.” I remember they were chewy and huge. I think I remember there being vanilla and chocolate, but maybe the vanilla cookies were in fact the ones you made here. Very fun to think that this 1952 recipe is the one I recall so vividly from my childhood. And we’re talking EARLY childhood, as in 1st and 2nd grade! Thanks for the memory!

  • Photo of the day: Ranger Cookies by Michelle Jenkins of the Daily Waffle | Los Angeles Local
    June 2, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    […] She tried one of our vintage recipes for Ranger Cookies, a.k.a. Flying Saucer Cookies, which call for cornflakes, walnuts and cocount, based on a 1952 recipe served by the Los Angeles Unified School District. You can read more about her excursion with the recipe here. […]

  • Jen
    June 2, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I have an old copy of the Betty Crocker Cooky Book, inherited from my grandmother, with this recipe hand-written on the inside cover. I had never made them, but my dad recalled a fond memory of his mother making these cookies recently – I will be making a batch for him for fathers day.

    • Michelle
      June 2, 2011 at 4:08 pm

      Jen — Sometimes the recipes jotted in cookbooks or on old slips of paper are the best! Though I have to say I like the chocolate crinkles in the Betty Crocker book, too. Hope your dad enjoys the cookies!

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