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:
- Krispies are cheap ($4.29 on Fresh Direct for about 12 cups). Recently, I bought a container of white rice for $9 but that's my own problem.
- Krispies last forever. Ditch the box and the bag and transfer them to an airtight container. Months, I tell you, months!
- Krispies are plain. Remember how they taste? No? Exactly. The whole point of serving rice with your meal is to soak up and extend the flavor of the thing you spent time cooking. Plain Rice Krispies act well in a supporting role.
- Krispies will soak up sauce. I don't know how they are made, but each kernel has tiny irregular holes in it from the puffing process. Under a microscope, it would not look unlike the craggy surface of a piece of toast.
- Krispies are krisp. This you already know.
- Krispies are healthy (-ish). I'm no nutritionist, but I think we can agree that rice is gluten-free, vegan, and a grain—and puffing doesn't change that. You can even buy brown Rice Krispies. I feel certain they're on the food pyramid.
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:
- With eggs. Slice a few tomatoes, fry a few eggs without letting the yolks set, and layer them onto a plate with a little lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add a heap of Rice Krispies for levity, crunch, and to soak up the juices. This is basically all I want to eat, all summer long, for breakfast/lunch/dinner.
- Instead of rice. I love white rice a lot, but a pile of krispies can do everything rice can do—and they also crunch! Served aside stir-fries, piled on top a bowl of chili, or flurried over marinated vegetables, krispies are an excellent option when you need a starch and either don't have another on hand or want added texture.
- On salad. I also love croutons, which can be far, far more delicious than krispies, but I don't always want to hack through the heel of bread in my freezer, oil it, and hope I don't burn the pieces in the oven. Shake a few krispies onto salad and you won't look back.
- With avocado. Never will this become an internet meme, but half of an avocado, squirted with lemon and sprinkled with salt, takes very well to a scoop of Rice Krispies placed right were the pit was. Spoon it up, no toast needed.
- For dessert. Okay, I don't actually do this but I cannot imagine that krispies would be anything but right at home on a bowl of ice cream. Consider how well they do with marshmallows!
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