I might have already mentioned a few times that I don’t like to throw away old food. I get this problem from my Dad who would scream at you for tossing a clearly rotting item from the fridge — which he called “the Ice Box” to give you an idea how with it he was. He would snatch a moldy orange from your hand en route to the trash and ingest its putrefying flesh — simply to prove a point to you that you were being wasteful. It’s probably a minor miracle the man died of natural causes instead of food poisoning.
I had a whole bunch of almost finished boxes of cereal that were too stale to eat, plus two containers of old nuts with the same problem. One can of nuts with a few cashews left I simply threw away because they smelled wrong (nut oil can go rancid — see food poisoning, above) but the rest had to be dealt with in a way that would satisfy the shade of my dead dad.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Rice Krispies Treats (and beware if you follow that link and go to their site — there are some cute recipes, like a Thanksgiving turkey treat made from candy corn and dipped in chocolate, but it takes forever to load). I’m not sure if it’s because they are too sweet — because I like sweet so much “too” would never occur to me — or because I am a secret snob who feels that it’s declassé to create a dessert from cereal — like that salad that calls for mini-marshmallows. Is it Waldorf?
I’m afraid the truth is probably that I have a horror of stale cereal and a complex about the relationship between cereal and dessert because of the following: When we were little, my grandmother used to send us tins of chocolate chip cookies, and she would use stale cereal as packing material for the cookies, making the cookies taste like cereal, and probably the cereal taste like cookies, though we never bothered to find that part out. It was gross, simply put, but I decided it was time to overcome my aversion since I had way too much stale cereal to toss out and I knew for a fact that my mother had at least one bag of stale marshmallows in her cupboards.
By the way, you can apparently refresh stale cereal by toasting it in the oven on a low heat or nuking it briefly (and same goes for old nuts) and I did this because I wanted my cereal squares to be crunchy, but I’m not sure I would trust this technique if I were planning to eat the cereal plain again. Also, one of the recipes I saw warned against using stale marshmallows to which I say, “Huh?” You are melting the marshmallows so their freshness matters not at all.
The old cereals I used were Total and Special K. You will see Chocolate Cheerios in the photo but I never really liked them so I threw them away instead of including them in the recipe. Because I drizzled a really dark chocolate over the whole thing and used relatively low sugar cereals, I would argue my cereal squares are an adult version of the popular kids’ treat. They have a pleasing interplay of crunchy and sweet to bitter and dark. They are actually amazingly good. I was shocked but happy.
2 cups old cereal — any kind
1 cup marshmallows (size truly doesn’t matter)
1 cup nuts (optional)
1 stick Earth Balance
Half a chocolate bar — dark chocolate works best
Preheat your oven to 250.
Pound cereal (and nuts if you are using them) with a meat tenderizer or small hammer. I pounded them right in their bags but you can put them in a Ziplock if you are one of those types who stores your cereal in containers. (In which case, why is it stale?)
Lay the pounded mixture flat in metal baking pan and toast 15 minutes to restore crunchiness. Allow to cool completely before the next step or they will return to sogginess.
Liberally grease a Pyrex dish with about 2 tablespoons of your Earth Balance while you are toasting.
Take a microwave safe bowl and put 4 or 5 more tablespoons of Earth Balance and your marshmallows in there and nuke in 10 second increments, stirring in between, until liquid.
Put the rest of your Earth Balance in with the chocolate in another bowl and do the same thing. Remember when you are nuking chocolate that it will hold its shape after it is melted so be sure to stir in between. The reason I discourage milk chocolate in this recipe is because it burns fast and is tougher to melt. Plus, the dark chocolate cuts the sweetness of the marshmallows. Both of these steps can be done over the stove too but nuking is much faster.
Stir the completely cooled cereal and nuts into the liquid marshmallows and then press the mixture into your Pyrex with a spatula or greased knife. Drizzle the melted chocolate mixture over the pan and when it cools, cut into squares. Presto! Couldn’t be easier.