Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tamale Pie


In magazine world, spring has already sprung with food articles featuring such harbingers like asparagus, poached eggs, lamb, and yes, even rhubarb.  However, even though the calendar turns to April in a few days, when I look out the window, I still see this:


And this:


And this:


The longer days and flocks of geese overhead tease us with the reminder of spring just around the corner. We've JUST ABOUT made it through another winter without a snow blower...although that blizzard last week was a doozy and we found ourselves gazing longingly at the neighbor's snow removal horse-power. Needless to say, the anticipation of it all brings out the impatient family vacationing eight-year-old in all of us: "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"

But I still love good 'ol winter comfort food, and this is Exhibit A: Tamale Pie. Chili (made with ground venison, of course) topped with cornbread batter and baked until the cornbread is crispy and the chili is bubbly, scooped out and served with sour cream and cilantro indoors...'cuz the patio furniture is, you know, occupied.


Tamale Pie
Adapted from fellow Midwestern food blogger Phoo-D

Filling
1 large onion, diced
1 lb ground venison
1 4.5oz can diced green chilies
1 15oz can tomato sauce
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 can large black olives (6 oz. dry weight), drained and left whole
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon chili powder
Dash of pepper
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)

Topping
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal (preferably stone ground)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water
1 Tablespoon butter

Place a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the ground venison and cook, breaking it into small chunks with a spatula. When the meat begins to brown add in the onion and chilies. Cook until the veggies are tender. Stir in tomato sauce, corn, olives, beans, garlic, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, chili powder, and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Add in the cheese and stir until melted. Turn off the heat and set the pot aside.

Place a small pot over over medium heat. Add in cold water, salt, and cornmeal. Whisk the ingredients together until the cornmeal absorbs all of the water and has thickened. Stir in the butter. Spoon the cornmeal mixture over the top of the skillet, spreading it into an even layer. Place the skillet into the oven and bake for 40 minutes. Serve warm with sour cream and cilantro.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cobb Salad Dip


It's been 12 hours since I made this dip and my kitchen still smells like bacon. What if the bacon smell never leaves? What if it's now embedded in the walls and the light fixtures and the window shades? What if anytime someone walks into my kitchen, they ask "Mmm, is that bacon you're cooking?"

I can't say that would be a bad thing. In fact, I should swing by Yankee Candle and see if they have anything in the pork product scent family....

One of the great things about this blog is that it has unexpectedly brought other opportunities. I now have lovely little freelance writing gigs that pay enough to cover the cost of my new camera and the occasional splurge on a nice dinner.  Aside from the extra income, though, I've found the most enjoyable aspect of freelance writing to truly be the things you learn and the people you meet. For example, if it wasn't for an article I was writing about wine awhile back, I never would've met Maurice.

Maurice is a 75-year-old connoisseur of The Good Life with a treasure trove of stories to tell and an engaging way of telling them. Asking around town for people who had some insight into the pleasures of wine, his name constantly came up, and when I finally called him, he not only accepted my request for an interview, but offered to come to our home for a little Wine 101.  We invited friends, set the table with plenty of snacks and wine, and had a memorable evening that resulted in a new friendship (and a pretty good article).

When Maurice talks about his love of opera, his enthusiasm is contagious and you want to go - no, run - to the nearest opera house to get a glimpse of Wagner's work. When he talks about his sailing adventures, you can see yourself right there, pulling on the ropes to raise the sails. And when he talks about wine, he's a true egalitarian, seeing wine as one of life's simple pleasure that should be accessible to and enjoyed by all.

Needless to say, when we got an invitation to Maurice's retirement party (75 years and just NOW retiring? Impressive), we were happy to attend and knew the occasion would bring together all sorts of interesting people and, of course, good wine. However, when the invite mentioned to bring an appetizer to go with wine, I was at a loss. What to bring, what to bring - little fried bites of shrimp or veggies are always good with wine, but better hot, not sitting out for an evening.  There was already going to be plenty of cheese.  A Facebook friend mentioned caprese salad, which I adore in the summer, but I wanted something a little more hearty.

I thought Maurice commented once on how he likes blue cheese. Running with that as a starting point, I finally landed on this dip on Chow. The flavor of blue cheese, onion, and bacon is thick and rich and a little salty, which in my novice wine drinker's mind makes a perfect match for being cut with a sip of a cold white wine.  And when I scraped this dip out of the mixing bowl onto the serving platter and found myself licking the almost-empty mixing bowl as if it were brownie batter, I knew it may not be the fanciest dish there, but it would sure be good.

Whether you dig listening to Maria Callas with a cold glass of Chablis or watching the Final Four with a tall pale ale, this is a crowd pleaser. And I think Maurice would approve either way.

Cobb Salad Dip
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese (about 2 ounces)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 medium avocado, finely chopped (about 1 1/3 cups, cut just before serving)
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
4 pieces bacon, well-browned and crumbled


Place sour cream, blue cheese, lemon juice, salt, and Worcestershire in a medium nonreactive bowl and stir until well combined. Fold in avocado, scallions, and parsley, transfer to a shallow serving dish, and top with bacon. Serve with celery sticks or assorted crackers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Crunchy Asian Noodle Slaw


Remember that episode of Seinfeld when Elaine wanted a big salad?  Not just a salad; a BIIIIIG salad. Seinfeld being Seinfeld, they made a whole Big Salad episode (if you don't know what I'm talking about, click here for a clip).

I totally get that. Sometimes, all I want is a big salad; no, a BIIIIIG salad. Often on weekends, especially in the summer when more fresh veggies are around, I'll just mix up a huge salad and keep it in the fridge, munching on it all weekend long.

Sorry, any "salad" involving Cool Whip doesn't count as a salad in my book.

Good fresh veggies are still pretty sparse, but cabbage is plentiful. I saw this recipe in Midwest Living magazine and being a sucker for anything with cabbage and/or crushed-up ramen noodles, I had to give it a try. It's meant to be a side dish, but I mixed up a huge bowl of it, grabbed a fork, and just starting munching right out of the bowl for lunch.

Ben toddled up to the table, so I gave him a fork and, to my surprise, he starting chowing down. Apparently, Ben likes a big salad now and then too.


Crunchy Asian Noodle Slaw

2 Tbls. sesame seeds
1 tsp. celery seeds
1 3-oz pkg chicken flavored ramen noodles, broken into small pieces (reserve the seasoning packet for the dressing)
1/2 head green cabbage, chopped into thin pieces, about 4 cups (ok to use 1/2 a 16-oz pkg of coleslaw mix instead)
2 cups broccoli florets, coarsely chopped
Slaw Dressing (recipe follows)

In a shallow baking pan, spread out sesame and celery seeds.  Bake in a 300 degree oven about 10 mins or until lightly toasted, stirring once.  Remove from oven, cool, and reserve for dressing.

In a large bowl, toss together broken dry ramen noodles, cabbage and broccoli. Shake the dressing well; pour over veggies. Toss lightly to coat. Serve immediately for maximum crispness or cover and chill a few hours to let the flavors meld.

Slaw Dressing
In a screw-top jar, combine 1/3 cups sesame oil (not toasted), peanut oil or vegetable oil (I mixed sesame and veg oil); 1/3 cup rice vinegar; 2 Tbls. sugar; 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger; 1 Tbls. reduced-sodium soy sauce; crushed red pepper to taste (optional); the seasonings from the ramen noodles package; and toasted seeds. Cover; shake well.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Marinated Beef Heart


A short ten years ago, I was a vegetarian college student, just back from an exhilarating semester abroad in Spain, where I acquired a modest level of Spanish fluency, a new Euro-rific wardrobe, and a taste for Rioja. After college, I had my sights set on working in U.S. embassies, traveling the world on the State Dept dime. The plan was in place, I was set to take on the world.

Needless to say, I thought I was hot stuff.

So if you would've told me that in ten years, I'd be living in back in my hometown of Bismarck, spending my Sunday afternoon cooking beef heart in the fat I rendered off of it, and actually choosing to do so because I thought it would be fun, I would've considered you absolutely nuts. Or, at the thought of something so antithetical to everything I believed in, everything I stood for, everything I was, I would've become disillusioned and depressed and started listening to The Cure alone in a corner of my dorm room with headphones. So good thing you didn't swing by in your time machine and tell my 10-years-younger self that, if only to keep me from subjecting myself to The Cure, bleh.

Funny how things change. I'm completely happy with where I'm at now, despite the fact I never could've predicted my current circumstances. But seriously, you think I'd give this guy up? Things have a way of working out for the best.


So back to the, ahem, "heart" of the matter, if you want to freak out your co-workers, casually mention that you ate heart for dinner. You'll get some great looks out of that comment.

Our wonderful hobby-farming Aunt T gifted us this beef heart and a few chickens. We cooked up the chickens quickly, but the heart remained in our freezer for awhile, it's hulking meaty mass with globules of fat attached reminding me that I had no idea what the heck to do with the thing. But finally, this past weekend, I decided it was time to tackle the heart.


Even though heart is technically a muscle, it's usually placed in the offal category of meats, next to the liver, tripe, sweetbreads, and all those other nose-scrunching animal organs. This was my first offal experience. I was nervous. I needed a hug and reassurance that it would all be ok. Most of all, I needed advice.

As I took the heart out of the freezer to let it thaw a bit in the kitchen sink while I researched, I pulled out Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, thinking, 'Ok, Mark, let's see if you really mean EVERYTHING...'  Surprise, he actually did have one recipe for heart, but it was grilled veal heart.  A veal heart is about 1 pound of meat; my full-grown beef heart weighed in at nearly 5 pounds.  Grilling wasn't going to do it.

I grabbed my copy of The Joy of Cooking and it had one recipe for baked and stuffed beef heart.  I set it aside as an option and then I turned to the web.  This article was great, telling me more about the denser heart texture and giving me the courage to render some of the fat off of it for frying potatoes, but it didn't really give me a recipe to go by. Then I found this humble little Yahoo! forum with my answer: thinly sliced, garlicky marinade, quick sear.

Bingo.

While the heart was still mostly frozen, but yet pliable enough to get a knife into it, I asked hubby to start cutting it up. It was already cleaned of arteries, so first, he cut off the chunky bits of fat that edged the heart and set them aside in a bowl for my potato frying experiment. Then he cut the meat into thin slices - lots of thin slices, considering the heft of this thing, filling a large bowl. I mixed up the marinade, poured it over, and let it sit overnight in the fridge. That marinade gave me some confidence. It smelled so good in itself, I was sure I could marinate a dog turd in it and still have it coming out quite tasty.

No, I didn't attempt to prove the marinated turd theory.

The next afternoon, I got cookin'.  Rendering the fat was easy. I just threw the fatty bits in the Dutch oven over low heat and let them melt until I had a nice puddle of fat in the bottom of the pot. I cranked up the heat on the pot of liquid fat, thinly sliced some potatoes, sprinkled them with a little salt and pepper, and fried them up for some homemade potato chips.


While nibbling on chips, I started cooking the heart slices, letting the marinade drip off before throwing them in the pot.  The thin slices cooked quickly, and I set it out the first hot batch on a plate on the table next to the potato chips and took a bite.

It was good.  The flavor was excellent - the marinade was most certainly a keeper.  The texture was slightly more chewy than a roast or flank steak, but not in a bad way. Cooking it in the beef fat gave it a heavier mouth-feel that I wouldn't usually go for, being more accustomed to cooking in a light swirl of EVOO, but somehow it worked for this. I was glad we went with the thin slice route, rather than cooking it whole like a roast for two reasons: the slices gave more surface for the marinade flavor to cling to, thus more flavor and the chewy texture may have been more oddly apparent if cooked as one big chunk of meat with pieces cut off from there.

We dished up on a sunny Sunday afternoon and dined like kings on what was my first meal of heart, or any offal for that matter (hubby has had liver and venison heart before).  We ate up the leftovers as sandwiches doused with mustard over the next couple days. I can't say heart is going to be a frequent guest at our Sunday dinners, but I did gain some kitchen confidence from the experience.  Dare I say it, much like my college student self, cooking up beef heart made me feel a little like I'm hot stuff again.

Marinated Beef Heart
1 beef heart, 4-5 lbs., cleaned and trimmed of excess fat
8-12 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
About 2 Tbls. brown or Dijon mustard
1-2 Tbls. rice vinegar
About 1/3 cup soy sauce
About 2/3 cup olive oil

While still frozen but pliable, slice up beef heart as thin as you can.  Fill bowl with slices.  In a separate bowl, mix garlic, mustard, vinegar, and soy sauce; then whisk in olive oil, pouring in a slow stream while whisking. Add more marinade ingredients to taste, if desired.  Pour marinade over meat, mix, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Heat fat (either the fat from the heart or vegetable oil) in a Dutch oven or large pot. Add slices of meat to hot oil in single layers, cooking quickly until browned, flipping to cook the other side.  Remove with slotted spoon and continue cooking rest of meat in same manner.  Serve heart hot.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Pi(e) Day

It's 3/14, and strawberry rhubarb season can't come fast enough...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Not-So-Irish Soda Bread


I'm not Catholic, yet I'm four days into the annual Lenten fast, which basically means making a concerted effort to eat more simply, cut back on sweets, and avoid snacks.

Four days down, 36 long days to go.

Lent is an interesting time in our house.  I always ask my husband what he is going to do for Lent and remind him of the Ash Wednesday service times, trying to be the supportive spouse of a devout Catholic man, even though growing up, my family didn't observe Lent (but we never missed an Easter, as my childhood memories of many foil-covered chocolate bunnies can attest).

I know I'm not "obligated" to partake in Lent, but the straight-edger in me likes the idea of fasting, taking a moment to throttle back, simplify, observe, cleanse.  The lull of late winter feels like the best time for it, too, being quiet and introspective before the energy and vibrancy of spring arrives. There must be historical/cultural precedence for fasting during this season as well; after all, back in the days before grocery stores, the larder probably got pretty sparse around this time.  But it's a test of will, especially when your body is programmed to inhale a couple miniature Snicker bars every weekday at 3 pm.

I made this bread with St. Patty's Day in mind, but the buttermilk sitting in my fridge wasn't going to last another week, so I whipped this together on a recent weeknight.  It's a quick bread, so no yeast involved, with a mild sweetness instead of that overpowering sugar saturation of most quick breads. And this bread arrived at a perfect time, considering our mission to eat simply right now. Bread + cheese + apple = a pleasant, easy-to-pack lunch for Yours Truly.

PS - Thanks to Sarah (aka The Leftoverist) for the inspiration to simplify.

Not-So-Irish Soda Bread
Adapted from In The Kitchen With A Good Appetite, it's "not-so-Irish" because true Irish soda bread would NEVER include the likes of raisins, caraway, or even sugar. The only change from the original recipe is the whole wheat flour substitution, which added a nice wintry heartiness.  Oh, and I added the pan options that you'll see below. The caraway seeds lend a unique flavor, but it pairs perfectly with the cheese and apples.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 and 1/2 cups raisins
1 scant tablespoon caraway seeds
Cheddar cheese, for serving
Tart apples, sliced, for serving

Grease a 10" skillet and line with parchment or wax paper, or select one of the following adaptions:

a) Grease a 9" or 10" cake pan or Springform pan and line with parchment or wax paper. (my adaptation from the original recipe, since I didn't have a 10" skillet)

b) Grease a large baking sheet (my adaption from my adaption, since I then realized I didn't have parchment or wax paper. Without pan sides, the bread will spread into a wider, flatter loaf - still works though).

Blend together in a large bowl flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs, and 2 Tablespoons of the melted butter.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined.  Don't overmix. Stir in
 raisins and caraway seeds.

Pour batter into prepared pan (or onto prepared baking sheet).  Brush top of bread with remaining melted butter.  Bake until golden and firm to the touch, about 1 hour.  Cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving with cheese and apples.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Creme Brulee French Toast


A couple weekends ago, while Kent was bowling (I know - bowling!), I took Ben to the library.

I love my local library and frequent it often, and now that I have the little man, I have an excuse to go enjoy the adorable kids area with the toadstool seats scattered under trees that reach the ceiling. Unfortunately, Ben doesn't have much patience for books right now, so we flipped through a few pages of A Very Hungry Caterpillar, and then he went off to play with blocks. And then add his fingerprints to the glass of the fish tank.  And then pull some books off the shelf as I hurried up behind him to replace them.

I love being 'that mom' in public with my rambunctious child. 

I stole a few minutes to browse the shelves myself, keeping him entertained with a Bob the Builder book long enough to grab two titles: a work-out book (Tracy Anderson's 30-Day Method) and a cookbook (Melissa Clark's In The Kitchen With A Good Appetite).  Now that I've had a chance to flip through them, I realize I couldn't have found two more polar opposites.

I like mixing up my workout now and then, so trainer-to-the-stars Tracy Anderson's 30-Day "boot camp" of rigorous workouts appealed for about three seconds...and then I remembered oh yeah, I have a life.  Then I hit the chapter with her comically insane diet plan.  It was an absolute starvation diet.  Lunch one day was a baked sweet potato.  That's it.  A snack may be kale juice or a serving of cucumber-mint relish.  I like veggies, but bleh, I'd last 6 hours, tops, then dive head first into a bowl of mac and cheese. 

I tossed Tracy's book aside and plunged into In The Kitchen With A Good Appetite and immediately felt at ease.  A food writer for the NY Times, Melissa Clark isn't afraid to wax poetic about sopping up escargot butter with thick slides of French bread, the nuances of a truly good grilled cheese sandwich, and why breakfast for dinner is one of life's most basic pleasures.

Now this woman I can relate to.

This was the first recipe out of her cookbook that I whipped up, and not to be my last.  The crispy burnt sugar creme brulee top to the French toast was an amazing contrast to the custardy center, plus it was great to have breakfast baking in the oven so it was all done at the same time, rather than my usual method of cooking French toast a few pieces at a time on my electric skillet.

Now I have my eye on a few other recipes from the book, including the blood orange olive oil cake and this granola too.  I may not have a Hollywood boot camp bod, but dang it, life's short.  I'm here to enjoy it

Creme Brulee French Toast
When you pull the French toast out of the oven, remove it from the pan immediately and soak the pan in water.  That burnt sugar left in the pan will harden into lovely little sugar chips, but you'll need a chisel to get them out. 

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
A baguette, sliced 1" thick, or slices of white Texas toast-style bread
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a medium glass or ceramic bowl, melt butter in the microwave, then whisk in brown sugar until sugar dissolves. Pour butter into a large rimmed baking dish or jelly roll pan (I used an 11x17" jelly roll pan).  



In a large shallow dish, combine eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.  Coat both sides of bread with egg mixture, filling the dish with bread and letting it soak in the custard for a few minutes. Arrange bread slices in one layer in baking dish over the brown sugar mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the tops of the bread are golden brown and the sugar is bubbling. 

Serve hot French toast immediately with the crunchy brown sugar side up, spooning more of the pan syrup over the tops.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Midwestern Stir-fry Saute


For all the buzz about eating locally, people sure to get persnickety about it.

per·snick·et·y/pərˈsnikətē/Adjective

1. Placing too much emphasis on trivial or minor details; fussy.

I'm a big fan of eating locally - good for health, good for local economy, good for environment, everyone wins.  But frankly, when you live in Bismarck, North Dakota, local ingredients available in early March include a) potatoes and b) "artesian ice water," aka snow (take that, Fiji!).  Yay for Napa Valley residents that can nosh on local baby greens, asparagus, and organic Meyer lemons in early March.  The rest of us appreciate Super Target. 

However, even in the middle of winter, I try to be aware of where my food comes from. Although I'm not a flag-waving patriot™, I try to stick by a simple rule: buy USA.  

It's easy, really.  In the produce section, most everything is labeled with a country of origin.  Look at the packaging and flex your geography muscles. 

Potatoes: Produce of USA (North Dakota even - bonus point!)


Broccoli: Produce of USA, although me thinks "Ocean Mist" is probably not a North Dakota company. 


Clementines: Produce of USA, and "premium fresh" no less.


Red pepper: Produce of Honduras (minus one point, but I really wanted a red pepper, so just bought one instead of my usual two or three)


This simple rule helps our little household eat somewhat in season (no blueberries or grapes in March) and close our food footprint radius a tiny bit, even in the bitter winter months.  However, this also means that we rarely purchase kiwi and mango and truth be told, we still have a banana habit that's been hard to kick. I blame the two year old.  

Once you've mastered the country of origin search in the produce section, you can take it to another level and start checking things like shrimp (most likely China), canned pineapple (probably south Asia), and even your morning orange juice (Brazil?).  I'm not advising a complete elimination of imported food - today I'm not feeling extremist - but a heightened level of awareness about the origins of our food supply could do us a lot of good.  

There may be something to be said for sweet ignorance.  Imagine how low stress life could be if we were blissfully unaware of the consequences of our choices and simply didn't give a damn. 

Fortunately, we give a damn. 

A Midwestern Stir-Fry Saute
I don't dare call this stir-fry since a) I don't own a wok and b) I don't use the quick high-heat method, instead sauteing the veggies and then covering the pot to steam them.  An authentic stir-fryer would freak out at my slapdash method.  But it works for me, and it's tasty too, so I hope you enjoy it too.  Any veggies work - just be sure to add the dense veg first, since they take longer to cook.  And yes, the pepper, spices, and probably the sherry and soy sauce are all imported items.  But I can a point for the broccoli, right?  

Oil for the pot (I usually use about 1 Tbls. canola oil with an extra drizzle of sesame oil)
1 large head broccoli, stem sliced and top cut into florets
1 red pepper, sliced
1/2 tsp. Chinese five spice (don't have Chinese five spice?  Use some ground ginger with a pinch of allspice.)
2 Tbls. dry sherry
Low sodium soy sauce to taste

Heat oil in a pot or large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add broccoli to hot oil, stirring quickly to distribute oil. Sprinkle Chinese five spice over broccoli, then add sherry and a good drizzle of soy sauce.  Stir, then immediately cover pot to capture steam and let broccoli cook for about one minute.  Uncover, add peppers and stir, covering for another minute.  Remove from heat and serve immediately with brown rice, scrambled eggs, and extra soy sauce to taste. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Leftover Cereal Bars


We have a new word in our household.  Hangry.  It's a mix of "hunger" and "angry," for when lack of food makes you cranky, as in "I'm not mad; I'm just hangry."  Our pals Keriann and Alex introduced us to this word, explaining that this simple word has basically saved their relationship. It has quickly gone into heavy vocab rotation in our house.

During a particularly hangry moment today, Kent complained that we don't have any cereal in the house.  I calmly explained that we have three boxes of cereal in the house, the same boxes that have been there for a couple months now: All-Bran, Crunchy Raisin Bran, and Cheerios.  He gave me that look that says, "Sorry honey, but none of the above qualify as cereal."  And I have to admit, even as a person whose breakfast cereal often resembles something off the SNL Colon Blow mock-mercial, I saw his point. We went grocery shopping and stocked up on Frosted Mini-Wheats.

Still, those other stubborn boxes of cereal remained.  I wanted to reclaim the precious kitchen real estate they took up, but I couldn't throw them out, and the thought of another week of Cheerios for breakfast did not appeal. That's when I knew it was time to make cereal bars.

Gourmet these are not.  They even include the villainous sweetener known as corn syrup!  However, it's my go-to way of cleaning out the breakfast cereal shelf.  I've made these bars with Rice Krispies, corn flakes, Cheerios, Raisin Bran, Wheaties, and any combination thereof.  Although Frosted Mini-Wheats would be weird in this recipe, I think you could use most any basic flake or puff cereal - even Golden Grahams or Cocoa Pebbles would work (but probably not Froot Loops or Fruity Pebbles - the fruit and the peanut butter might be odd).

Fortunately for me and my husband, a big cereal bar and a glass of milk is a surefire cure for a case of the hangries, ensuring continued marital bliss.

Leftover Cereal Bars
I cribbed this recipe off the Cheerios website and found it works great with other types of cereal too.  Just use what you have and see what you come up with. 

6cups cereal (i.e., Cheerios, Wheaties, Raisin Bran, Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, or any combination thereof)
3/4cup raisins (optional)
1cup corn syrup
3/4cup packed brown sugar
1cup creamy peanut butter
1/2cup milk chocolate chips



Spray 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. In large bowl, combine cereal and raisins; set aside.

In 2-quart saucepan, combine corn syrup and sugars. Heat to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter.

Pour peanut butter mixture over cereal mixture; mix until thoroughly coated. Spread evenly in pan.

Place chocolate chips in a Ziploc bag and seal.  Microwave chocolate chips on High 1 minute, squishing the chocolate around in the bag every 15 seconds, until melted and smooth. Snip off a corner on the bottom of the bag and drizzle over bars. Refrigerate 15 minutes or until chocolate is set.