Summer vacation! The kids are out of school, and you would like to spend some quality time looking at their smiling faces rather than the crowns of their heads as they stare down at their screens. Allocate some time in the kitchen to create a fun snack or dessert you can prepare and enjoy together.

This recipe is based on the well-loved and classic Rice Krispies ® Treats with optional variations. Let’s start with the original recipe:

Cereal Bars

3 tablespoons butter (not margarine)

1 10-oz package puffed marshmallows / or / 1 7-oz jar marshmallow creme

6 cups packaged cereal*

Non-stick cooking spray (not the kind with flour)

In a microwave-safe bowl, heat butter and marshmallows on high for two minutes; stir until smooth. Return to microwave and heat up to one additional minute, stirring after each 30-second interval. Add cereal and stir until completely coated.

Working quickly, spray spatula and 13x9x2 pan with non-stick cooking spray. Do not use spray if using a non-stick pan. I prefer to line the pan with parchment paper and lightly spray the paper. Using spatula, press cereal mixture evenly into pan. Allow to cool. Spray a cutting tool with non-stick cooking spray and cut into squares. You may need to spray the cutting tool more than once.

Store cereal bars at room temperature in an airtight container up to two days. I’ve never had any leftovers, but I understand they can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen up to a month. Allow to stand at room temperature 20-30 minutes.

*Packaged cereals containing flakes, oat clusters, and/or small nuggets (such as Grape Nuts) do not work well with this recipe.

Put your own spin the on the original recipe by making these ooey-gooey cereal bars fun!  I’ve switched up the crispy rice cereal with the following packaged cereals for rave reviews:

  • AlphaBits ®
  • Cocoa Krispies ® and Rice Krispies ® (half and half)
  • Cheerios ® (plain or any flavor)
  • Cap’n Crunch ®, any flavor, with or without Crunch Berries ®
  • Cinnamon Toast Crunch ®
  • Cocoa Puffs ®
  • Golden Crisp ® / Honey Smacks ®
  • Golden Grahams ®
  • Lucky Charms ®
  • Trix ®

Variations:

You might try adding a punch of color or flavor with mix-in’s. When combining cereal to the melted marshmallow mixture, add up to one cup of the following mix-in ingredients: chocolate or butterscotch chips, Reese’s Pieces ©, M&M’s ©, rainbow sprinkles, strawberry slices, blueberries or raspberries.  You might also substitute an equal amount of peanut butter for the butter. It blends especially well with plain or chocolate cereal.

Cereal Pops: 

Instead of pressing the cereal mixture into a pan, spray your clean hands with a quick shot of non-stick cooking spray and form about ½ cup of the cereal mixture into a ball or other desired shape. Insert a cake pop stick approximately 2” into the shaped cereal. Allow to cool on parchment or waxed paper. Tightly cover in plastic wrap until ready to eat.

Dessert Option:

Not enough time to make a dessert or birthday cake? Problem solved! Prepare cereal bars and choose a mix-in as directed above; press into a 13x9x2 pan. Cool, cut into squares, and place on a cake plate, allowing just a little space between bars. Glide your favorite prepared frosting over the cereal bars, shake rainbow sprinkles over the top of the frosting if desired.  When ready to serve, simply pull them apart and onto plates.

These ooey-gooey cereal bars are fun to make for any age and any party crowd. They’re a smash at an office potluck, your friend’s backyard barbecue, a family picnic, and inside school lunchboxes when the summer is over.  Choose your favorites and make them in your own style!

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