Sentimental Cereal: Easy Almond Bars

I found out this week that my Grandma’s house has been sold.  It’s a strange sense of relief to see it go, and as my sister puts it, I hope the new owners end up with memories as sweet as ours.  Aside from our weekly visits there as kids, I lived with Grandma for part of fourth grade and again in junior high.  Her house was not only our go-to place, but also our ultimate safe place.  It provided more sustenance, order, and peace than we knew to exist in the world, even in our own home.  Simply put, we were happy at Grandma’s.

A rather funny trademark of Grandma was her stockpiling of household items she’d bought on sale.  Her cupboards were packed neatly with vast rows of canned tuna, packs of toilet paper, bottles of dish soap, and much more.  She took pride in letting her loved ones pick freely from her supplies on each visit.  When I moved away after high school and would come back to town, I felt lucky to reap these benefits.  On one instance, I returned to my apartment with two jumbo boxes of cornflakes: Grandma’s favorite cereal.  Upon an urge to make sweets soon after, I ignored my lack of cooking experience and turned to the cornflakes for inspiration. With a salute to Grandma’s generosity, I came up with this simple little recipe.

Easy Almond Bars (makes a 9 x 13” pan, up to 24 bars)

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2-3 dashes salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 10 ounces (about 6 cups) marshmallows
  • 1.5-2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 8 cups corn flakes
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

Line a 9 x 13″ pan with foil or parchment, and oil or butter the lining.  Spray or butter a large, heat-resistant spoon or spatula. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat until it barely becomes brown; quickly turn heat to low.  Move the pot to coat its inner walls with the butter.  Add marshmallows and let them melt, stirring occasionally. Just when marshmallows are smooth, turn off heat; stir in extract and salt (if using). Add cornflakes alternately with almonds; mix until all are coated, then quickly pour into prepared pan.  Press down with buttered spoon or hands to make even.  Cool and slice.

Chewy, crisp and full of amaretto essence, these scrumptious bars are a distinctive twist on a no-bake treat. Their fragrant, simple flavor is sure to please a crowd – plus they’re gluten-free.  I admit that easy almond bars are far from my most extravagant creation, but they take me to a place I can’t otherwise go: Grandma’s house, with all its sweetness.

Maybe next time… These bars allow for some flexibility in measurements; i.e., you might use less extract to make them more mild, or more marshmallows if you want them really chewy.  A generous dollop of almond butter would be a delicious addition to this recipe; try stirring some in just when the marshmallows have melted.  Of course, the possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to nut and extract combinations.  But let me not forget the ingredient Grandma loved most: chocolate.  For a decadent addition, cool and cut the bars, then dip or drizzle them using melted dark, milk or white chocolate.

Yes, this is the same Grandma I wrote about before.  What can I say?  I love her!

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12 Responses to Sentimental Cereal: Easy Almond Bars

  1. Pingback: My kitchen table | butter, sugar, flowers

  2. Pingback: Sesame Halvah Cookies | butter, sugar, flowers

  3. mmmarzipan says:

    I love this post! Reminds me of my childhood! I never ate cereal bars as sophisticated as this though (with the addition of almonds and extract), but I really like the sound of them… actually, I feel like one now!

  4. katy says:

    This post makes me happy for so many reasons: a celebration of corn flakes, an excuse to eat marshmallows and the way it evokes my own memories of my grandma’s house. I also lived with my grandma, oddly enough, for part of the fourth grade (my mom was in nursing school) and I’ve always loved returning there. It’s not only where I learned to bake, but a place of great comfort. Thanks for bringing forth those memories. 🙂

  5. Erica says:

    For me sometimes, the simple things…like a delicious cereal bar, can bring me as much pleasure…if not more sometimes…than the fanciest treat I could make…Needless to say, I am a huge fan of cereal bars, and I really love your idea of using the almond extract in them as well. I’m going to have to try that the next time I make some. Strangely enough, my Grandma’s house just sold in the past few weeks as well, so I have been thinking a lot about place and memory and time and change…And food would definitely be a part of all that as well.

    Oh, and that photo you included is so very special (and cute) too. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you, Erica! It’s so true that the simplest treats can be even more enjoyable than the most extravagant. How neat that both of our Grandmas’ houses sold recently! It is indeed a time to reflect on place, memory, change, and food — all of which are meaningful and important parts of our lives and identities.
      I appreciate your comment here so much. Thanks again!

  6. What a beautiful post & I appreciate the link to your story about your grandmother. It’s funny how childhood memories of grandparent’s houses stay with us forever. My maternal grandparents lived at the very top of Maine on the Canadian border and had a fairly large farm. I still vividly remember the house, the barn, the animals & of course her cooking on a big black wood burning stove. I really wish that I had some of her recipes although everything was in her head. I don’t think she’d have been able to cook a meal if it was for less than 12 people.

    • Thank you, Diane. I loved hearing about your grandparents’ house, too. Grandparents’ houses can surely become vivid memories, which seem to be woven with stories of cooking and eating. Our current culinary adventures are perhaps more meaningful than they might seem on the surface!

  7. Shawna O says:

    My favorite part of this post is the pic. But I may be a little biased. 😉 I think I will try this recipe with my girls. Mwah!

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