When the plainest box of cereal on the shelf ends up becoming a pantry staple.
I'm a pretty scrappy cook. Not in the punny, nose-to-tail eating sense—that I know just the thing to make from those carrot skins! (no idea)—but, rather, that I try to make do, and make better, with what I've got. Sometimes that means mashing up a green sauce because cooking next to Kristen is enough to make a girl feel GENIUS, and other times it means I put cereal on everything I eat. More specifically, Rice Krispies, and I am here to recommend that you do the same.
Here's how my own krispie habit came about:
Earlier this year, I found myself in a pantry stare down with a half-full box of Rice Krispies. I'd used four cups of "krispies," as we call them around my house (i.e., when I talk to myself about dinner circa 8 A.M. everyday), in a recipe for cheese wafers my mom and I like to make. You fold them into a batter of butter, flour, cayenne, and cheddar shreds before baking to give each wafer a little crunch.
But waking up to a bowl of plain puffed rice in milk is not really my idea of breakfast, so the remaining krispies were threatening to go stale.
One night, I decided to make Moro's Chickpeas and Spinach, a Genius recipe and a staple of my weeknights, but found myself without toast or rice to serve it with. Yes, I could walk downstairs to the 24-hour grocery on my block, but I was already in a pink pajama set by this point and a girl's got to draw some lines. I needed something plain, starchy, porous, and crisp (I absolutely love this dish, but it's a big bowl of mush if you eat it as is and I'm no Kenzi Wilbur).
Rooting around the cabinet, I spotted the krispies and without thinking too hard about it, poured a little pile and scooped the chickpeas and spinach on top.
Snapping, crackling, and popping as I settled into the meal, the krispies stole the show. Just a dehydrated puff of rice (plus 13 other ingredients I do not recommend you read for yourself), a krispie has all the merits of a crouton plus all the merits of rice—and yes, I know them's fightin' words.
Let's review what makes them so great:
Ever since this fortunate act of skimpiness, I intentionally use krispies all the time when I'm cooking—in place of rice with stir-fries or wherever croutons (or toast!) would work. There is no risk of burning a Rice Krispie because they are krisp right from the box. Instead of weighing down your meal, as a starch so often can, a pile of krispies makes it feel light, krisp, and nostalgically fun. I don't have kids and I don't gamble, but I would bet a pot of gold that a sprinkle of krispies over top the dinner plate, followed by the sound of them singing their popping song, could be the fairy dust that makes vegetables go down a little easier.
Here are some ways I love to use Rice Krispies:
And on and on the list goes. Mayhaps you can't get behind krispies because they're void of nutrients and/or probably loaded with secret sugar and salt, or maybe you just want to go and eat burnt toast with everything, okay? And I salute you for drawing these lines. But for me, Rice Krispies are just the thing to make a good meal even more of a treat.
First and last photo by Bobbi Lin, second by Mark Weinberg