Sometimes, we want the easy ones.

Sure, it's fun to put time into digging up information on little companies Wall Street hasn't caught on to yet, and it can be very profitable, too. Lots of Fools have made big bucks buying tech or pharma startups and riding their picks to success.

But sometimes, we don't want to do all that work. My sister recently asked me to suggest some "no-brainer" stocks, stocks she could put in her IRA and not have to worry about. She's a lawyer who once worked at an investment bank -- she certainly knows how to do the research. But right now, for this particular account, she doesn't want to put the time in.

Like lots of folks, right now she wants companies everybody understands, companies she doesn't have to lose sleep over. The easy ones.

The good news is that some of the easy ones can be really profitable.

Sometimes, the obvious answer is a really good one
Just about everyone has heard of Philip Morris International (NYSE: PM) -- or at least of its products, cigarette brands like Marlboro, Merit, and Virginia Slims. Philip Morris International was spun off from Altria (NYSE: MO) a while back, and the spinoff makes and sells these famous-brand cigarettes in markets outside of the U.S. Altria retains the home market.

You might not want a cigarette company in your portfolio, but hang with me for a minute -- there's an important point here. Love it or hate it, a well-run tobacco business is exactly what the next great biotech start-up isn't -- stable, cash-rich, profitable through good economic times and bad. Philip Morris International isn't ever going to have a 50-bagger's vertical growth, but it's a cash flow monster -- steady growth from $4.4 billion in free cash flow in 2005 up to more than $8 billion in the past 12 months. And it's got one other big thing going for it: a 4.3% dividend yield.

Sure, 4.3% doesn't sound like much when compared to that mythical 50-bagger. But it's right in front of us for the taking, and the nature of the company's business suggests that it should be able to sustain those dividends through good times and bad. And as it turns out, Philip Morris (again, like its parent, Altria) has a history of raising its dividends every year. That, in turn, will tend to drive the stock price up over time -- there are always plenty of investors willing to pay for yield, particularly when interest rates are low, as they are now.

Philip Morris International has only been around for a few years, but $10,000 invested in Altria 10 years ago would be worth more than $57,000 now, assuming that you had reinvested the dividends -- through the dot-com wreckage, the real estate bubble, and the banking crisis of 2008. That's much better than you would have done in an index fund.

"Boring"? Maybe. The thing is, there are lots of other "boring" stocks like these -- easy picks that can do very well for you over time.

Great stocks are right in front of you!
What if we'd put that hypothetical $10,000 in McDonald's (NYSE: MCD)? Mickey D's won't rock your world, but it's another low-drama company with free cash flows having risen 45% since 2005 and a dividend that has grown steadily through good times and bad. And as Fool Alyce Lomax noted recently, the company still has some room to grow abroad -- even going hamburgerless as it expands in India. If we'd chosen Chicken McNuggets over Marlboros over the past 10 years, we wouldn't have done quite as well, but we'd still have a respectable sum -- almost $33,000.

Got Kleenex? I'm fond of saying that toilet-paper kings Kimberly Clark (NYSE: KMB) are in the most recession-resistant business out there. Making toilet paper isn't hard, but the strength of Kimberly Clark's brands and the distribution network that puts the company's products in every supermarket in America makes for one heck of a moat, which means that the cash is likely to keep rolling in. The company's earnings have risen at a 14% annual rate over the past five years, and like Altria, Kimberly Clark has a long tradition -- 38 years long -- of increasing its dividend every year. At a pretty generous 4% yield, that should pile up well over time. Even better, the stock might be undervalued right now.

Want more? Just look around. PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) doesn't just sell the fizzy sugar water. It uses its own super-powered distribution network to move a whole bunch of related products. Maybe you've heard of Doritos and Cheetos? They ride the same trucks to your supermarket -- and all those gas stations and corner convenience stores, too. PepsiCo hasn't grown its free cash flow as fast as archrival Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO), but at $5.3 billion, it's no slouch in that department either. For your trouble, you get a dividend yield around 3%, and some growth prospects, too, as the company continues to spread the Pepsi spirit (and orange-stained Cheetos fingers) around the world.

I could go on and on, but it'd make my editor grumpy. But you get my point: There are easy answers -- good easy answers -- to the what-to-buy question all around us.

The magic of dividends in your IRA
Dividend stocks held in a taxable account can have frustrating effects on your tax bill, but they're ideal for an IRA, where those reinvested dividends can compound without interference from the IRS. And as we've seen, some of the biggest-name dividend stocks -- companies that you won't struggle to understand, and that shouldn't keep you awake at night -- can pile up impressive returns over time.

Looking for more ways to shore up that IRA? Dan Caplinger has 6 stocks that could save your retirement.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.

Fool contributor John Rosevear has no position in the companies mentioned. Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Philip Morris International is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick. Kimberly Clark, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on PepsiCo. The Fool owns shares of Altria Group, Coca-Cola, and Philip Morris International. You can try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has an easy-to-love disclosure policy.