This week’s recipe was inspired by an article I came across last week in the The New York Times. The article (found here) covered New York City Public Schools’ ridiculous decision to limit, if not outright ban, student bake sales in their schools. They claim the reasoning for the restrictions stems from a concern over the growing childhood obesity epidemic in America. The article does a great job of providing counter arguments that poke holes in the city’s logic including highlighting what most in the food community believe to be the real source of the nutritional crisis in our schools – the processed, high sodium, chemical-laden contents of those vending machines that occupy prime real estate in school cafeterias across the country.
But instead of tackling the complicated challenge that is Goliath, NYCPS turned its slingshot on David.
It’s true that bake sales are typically chocked full of sinful sweets that shouldn’t make up a large part of any child’s – or adult’s – diet. But it’s also true that bake sales are just as much about building community dialogue and sharing family traditions through recipes. They bring children into the kitchen, get them up close and personal with real food, and teach math skills through money exchange. And though desserts may dominate the table, bake sales provide a perfect opportunity to teach children about eating sweets in moderation to maintain a balanced diet.
As a child and teenager that loved being in the kitchen, I have fond memories of the bake sales of my youth. In elementary school it was the annual cake walk that captivated my attention. For those unacquainted, a cake walk is a bake sale meets musical chairs event in which kids compete to win the most coveted cakes and raise money for the school. Genius idea, really.
In high school, it was the annual Trash Sale for Quill & Scroll club (nerd alert!) Trash is the simple, ubiquitous and always wildly popular treat known by many names, including “puppy chow,” “muddy buddies,” and according to a friend, “frosty treasures.”
So in honor of bake sales everywhere, here is my re-imagining of trash, in bar form. I also went old school and made a batch of real trash for inspiration which, I highly recommend doing as well. But the bars are a perfect blend of decadent, creamy, chewy and crunchy – like a Rice Krispies treat on steroids. I can promise that like most bake sale offerings, these are not good for you, especially in large quantities. But take one, maybe two, and then make like a bake sale, and share the rest.
4 Tbs unsalted butter
10 oz marshmallows
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
6 cups Rice Chex cereal
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Powdered sugar, for dusting
1. Lightly butter or spray with nonstick spray a 9 x 13 baking dish, set aside. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, melt together the butter, marshmallows, 1/2 cup of peanut butter, and cocoa. Stir mixture frequently to prevent marshmallows from scorching.
2. When mixture is melted, quickly fold in Rice Chex cereal and mix until cereal is evenly coated. Press evenly into 9 x 13 pan, pushing down lightly on the cereal to pack it tightly, but not crushing it. You want those little air pockets intact! Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup of peanut butter and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Microwave at 15 second intervals, stirring in between to prevent chocolate from burning, until chocolate is completely melted. Spread evenly over the cereal mixture in the pan and allow to cool and chocolate topping to firm up. When firm, dust with powdered sugar, cut in squares and serve.