By Stephanie K.
I don’t mean to brag, but growing up, my mom made the BEST Cheerio Treats. A (slightly) healthier spin on classic Rice Krispie treats, mom’s version with Cheerios and chunky peanut butter were ooey gooey and oh so tasty. The stuff of school lunches and post-soccer practice dreams. Cracking open my 90210 lunchbox, I hoped to see one of those treats packed in a neatly tucked Ziploc baggie between the baby carrots and pita pocket sandwich. I knew by smell alone whether it would be a good lunch day. Did the hunger inducing scent of peanut butter waft out from underneath my teen idols? If not, odds were dessert that day was a Little Debbie snack cake instead. Not ideal, but not a bad second best (especially Pumpkin Delights, Cherry Cordials, and Star Crunch). Then the inevitable happened. I grew up…and lunches lost their luster. One of the downsides about being an adult? It’s really boring packing lunch for yourself.
Another downside about becoming an adult? (There’s a theme here, apparently) Cheerio’s became off limits thanks to my body’s estranged relationship with gluten that came to a head in my mid-twenties. I wish we could all just get along, but I guess having nemeses keep the universe balanced. And if there are nemeses, there have to be heroes, right? Enter Chex Cereals.
Gluten-free, affordable, and available at pretty much any local grocery store, Chex is a cereal aisle “win.” With numerous flavors, it’s hard to get bored (unless you buy the same one week after week…which is why Husband and I can’t eat the Apple Cinnamon flavor anymore). Chex, with its crunchy but not too crunchy texture, make for a great “treat” base. I’ve played around with different variations the past few years – two favorites are Honey Chex with walnuts and butterscotch chips and Rice Chex with peanut butter, almonds, and chocolate drizzle. I would cut them into perfect little squares and pack them in my purse (in Ziploc baggies, of course), reminiscent of school days past and mom’s packed lunches. What can I say, I’m nostalgic.
I miss being a student, and I tend to get even more nostalgic at the beginning of fall when yellow school buses color the streets like golden, autumn leaves. To continue learning and growing, I test myself in the kitchen. My latest test: Vegan, gluten-free, and tasty Chex treats. Initially, I stuck with the traditional marshmallow approach and found one brand at Whole Foods both gluten-free and vegan. Because it’s Whole Foods, the product seemed extra promising. Wrong. So, so wrong.
The tapioca-based vegan marshmallows, I learned, had a higher melting point than “regular” egg white and gelatin-based marshmallows. While they took a long time to melt, they cooled/solidified very quickly. The resulting marshmallow blob made it impossible to mix and combine with the cereal into ooey gooey treats. It was the biggest fiasco since my first Driver’s Test (What, 12 inches is too far from the curb?) The traditional marshmallows-melted-in-butter approach simply wouldn’t do. I had to think outside the (Chex) box.
Thanks to Google research and inspiration from The Detoxonista, I abandoned the idea of marshmallows as a cereal binder for something completely different – coconut oil and brown rice syrup. Whoda thought? The two ingredients melted together like, well, butter, and united the Chocolate and Cinnamon Chex combo with an ooey gooey goodness even I was impressed by.
Add a drizzle of Cinnamon Dark Chocolate Ganache, and you have a lunchbox treat that would make mom proud.