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Leftovers: Browned butterscotch cereal bars are a kid snack for adults, too

UPDATED: Tue., May 11, 2021

Leftover cereal can be turned into delicious and buttery butterscotch bars.  (Julia Ditto/For The Spokesman-Review)
Leftover cereal can be turned into delicious and buttery butterscotch bars. (Julia Ditto/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

Because I have approximately 95 million children, I buy lots of things in bulk: toilet paper, glue sticks, chocolate chips, Excedrin and always, always cereal. Normal-sized boxes of cereal simply won’t do in our family; one unsupervised Saturday morning breakfast is all it takes to lay bare the entire cereal shelf in my pantry.

So, I buy those huge bags of off-brand cereal, the ones that are bigger than most toddlers and have names like Fruity Delicious-o’s and Nutty Butter Crunchy Squares. But as much as my kids love cereal, getting to the bottom of one of those bulk bags takes a level of commitment that even they have a difficult time achieving.

Take, for example, the three off-brand bags of cereal – we’ll call them Cinnamon Sugar Toasty Cubes, Corn Flaky Flops and Popped Crispy Rice – that we’ve had sitting on our pantry shelf for a while – not long enough to go stale, but long enough that no one wants to reach for them when cereal day comes along.

What to do with such precious commodities that have been banished to exile on the back of the shelf? I’ll tell you what to do: Make browned butterscotch cereal bars. More than just your basic marshmallow-and-crispy-cereal treat, these cereal bars have two pretty majorly delicious things going for them: butterscotch chips and browned butter.

The butterscotch chips speak for themselves: delicious, brilliant, no explanation needed. The browned butter, on the other hand, might have some of you raising your eyebrows and wondering if it’s really worth the extra step. Now listen: You can use plain old butter in this recipe, and it will turn out just fine.

But if you’ll take the extra few minutes to swirl that butter over low heat until it turns golden brown and smells like heaven, the resulting cereal bars will be endowed with a hint of savory flavor that takes them from “kid snack” to “adult-worthy treat.” You won’t regret it, that’s all I’m saying.

As you prepare to make these delicious, buttery bars, a few words of advice: make sure the cereal you’re using will play nice with the butterscotch flavor. Cinnamon, peanut butter and neutral-flavored cereals like corn flakes or crispy rice will be delicious; fruity cereals or cereals with a dense texture might be more of a stretch.

For cereals that are a little large, like my Cinnamon Sugar Toasty Cubes were, consider lightly crushing them before you mix them in with the marshmallow mixture.

While these bars are delicious on their own, it never killed anyone to mix up a chocolate glaze and drizzle it all over the top just because. Such decadence is completely optional, but when you’ve been dealing with boring, off-brand cereal for so long, it certainly couldn’t hurt.

Browned butterscotch cereal bars

Adapted from melskitchencafe.com.

½ cup (8 tablespoons) butter, salted or unsalted

16 ounces large or mini marshmallows

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch salt

8 cups cereal, slightly crushed if necessary

½ cup butterscotch chips

Optional glaze:

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

½ cup butterscotch chips

Grease a 9-by-13 pan and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter on low heat and swirl it until it gets foamy and the solids start to turn golden brown, about 5 minutes. Once it’s a light amber color and smells fragrant, remove it from the heat. It will burn quickly, so watch it closely.

Add the marshmallows and cook them on low until melted, stirring constantly. Add the vanilla and salt and stir to combine.

Remove pan from heat and add the cereal and butterscotch chips. Stir until everything is evenly combined.

Scrape mixture into prepared pan and gently press it to the edges. Lightly grease your hands if mixture is too sticky. Don’t press too hard, or your bars will be too firm.

Make the glaze by adding semisweet chocolate chips and butterscotch chips to a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 30-second increments until the chips are melted, and stir to combine. Drizzle the glaze over the top of the bars.

Let the bars and glaze cool before slicing into squares.

Julia Ditto can be reached at dittojulia@gmail.com.

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