These crispy bars are a conglomeration of two favorite childhood treats, both of which I rarely ate – but enjoyed immensely – as a kid. S’mores were reserved for huddling around a beach bonfire at dusk during family summer vacations, melted chocolate and sticky marshmallows sandwiched messily between crunchy graham crackers. Half the fun of making s’mores was the marshmallow roasting process, and each of my family members staunchly stood behind their own technique. Whether the preferred method was to slowly rotate the marshmallows high over the fire until just barely softened or to stick the marshmallows straight into the flames until blackened and blistered, the end result was unfailingly delicious. Unless, of course, the toasted marshmallow fell into the sand, warranting an implicit “do-over”.
Rice crispy treats, on the other hand, were never made by my family while my brother and I were growing up. Every now and then I’d enjoy one of the pre-packaged treats, but it wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that I made my first-ever batch of the gooey cereal bars. I currently work at a suburban high school, and I somehow got into the routine of making treats for my students on their birthdays. Most recently, one of the boys requested rice crispy treats. As I was setting the purchased ingredients out onto the kitchen counter at home, I snuck a peak at the nutrition labels. I was not at all surprised to see listed on the packages the following ingredients: high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar and artificial flavors & colors. Although the treats came out perfectly, I couldn’t help but wonder if I could make a better – i.e. more natural and healthy – version.
I finally decided on combining a few recent finds from every health foodie’s mecca: Whole Foods. Lately, I’ve been enjoying the delicious duo of crunchy, all-natural graham cracker cereal and grain-sweetened chocolate chips (both linked below in the recipe section) as a light dessert. I found these tasty treats at Whole Foods, and I assume they are both widely available at locations around the country. The third ingredient – marshmallow creme – used for the crispy bars was also purchased at Whole Foods, but is produced by a local company. I am not sure if Tiny Trapeze ships their products to non-Boston-based Whole Foods locations; if you can’t find it, Ricemellow Creme is a fine stand-in. The final Whole Foods product used to make the crispy bars was puffed brown rice cereal. Consisting simply of organic brown rice, this cereal is a much better choice than Rice Krispies – which contains both sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
The trifecta of graham cereal, chocolate chips, and marshmallow creme (each of which features all-natural ingredients) was the perfect formula for creating my s’mores crispy bars. So, how did they come out? I’ll admit to giving myself a pat on the back for the resulting treats. Crisper and less gooey than their more traditional counterpart, these cereal bars are light as air, just sweet enough to satisfy a dessert craving, and jam-packed with s’mores flavors.
S’mores Crispy Bars
- 2 cups all-natural graham cereal, such as Three Sisters Graham Crackerz
- 2 cups puffed brown rice cereal, such as Nature’s Path Organic Rice Puffs
- 1/2 cup all-natural marshmallow cream, such as Tiny Trapeze Marshmallow Creme or Ricemellow Creme
- 1 Tbsp butter or Earth Balance margarine
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate) of your choice: semi-sweet, dark, milk, white, grain-sweetened (I used the Sunspire brand), etc.
- Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add in the butter or margarine, and heat until just melted.
- Spoon in the marshmallow cream, and stir until melted.
- Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the cereal.
- Fold in the chocolate.
- Using a rubber spatula, spread the mixture into an 8-inch square pan lined coated with cooking spray, pressing down to create an even top.
- Refrigerate until firm before cutting into bars.