Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Marshmallows, chocolate, and life

I've been having a bit of a hard time lately.

I'm in my last year of college and that means the long-term-plans type of pressure is palpable from everything. (Can the indecisive and tired girl get a waiver, please?) And anxiety is a cyclical beast, and my health is still weak (a common cold was enough to knock me off my feet for a week) and I'm struggling in that way of knowing you're not some place you want to be right now, but also knowing that where you are is probably just necessary in getting anywhere else. Some place you just have to get through for now. And that's not the most exciting or encouraging thing to be looking down the path at.

So I went home for a weekend. Tried to reset a bit with that specific kind of love you get from a loyal and lazy dog, the bed you grew up with, familiar food, and greener spaces (you know, in between taking a practice GRE and theoretically catching up on all the reading I was already way, way behind on for classes...but just don't remind me, okay?).
And this week I've felt better. Still not 100%, and the set of things that define my "self" is undoubtedly morphing though this period, but better. More giving towards others, more gentle on myself. And, yes, more generous towards my taste buds. These bars originally required no marshmallows, and they don't inherently *need* them, but I went for it. Because a little comfort food never hurt anyone's mental health.
I'm still behind where I'd like to be in many ways, still uncertain of so many things, but I am trying and that feels like it counts for a lot. After all, it is the first step to getting anywhere.

Rock Road Rice Crispy Treats
(adapted from this recipe)
yields about 16 1"-2" squares

For the bars:
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 1/2 c brown rice syrup *
  • 1/2 c almond butter
  • 1/2 c bittersweet chocolate (chopped, or as chips)
  • 2 T coconut oil (I use refined coconut oil for a neutral taste, but I'm sure virgin would work well if you like a little coconut flavor!)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2--2/3 c mini marshmallows
  • 4 cups puffed rice cereal **
For the topping:
  •  2 T coconut oil
  • 1/2 c bittersweet chocolate (chopped, or as chips)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
*you can find this at Whole Foods-type stores, or in the natural foods sections of some grocery stores--I actually found it at Kroger! I would imagine that if you can't find it, corn syrup would be okay as a substitute, though I haven't tried it.
**Rice Krispies use malt flavoring and are thus NOT gluten free!! I've had luck using the Whole Foods brand brown rice puffed cereal, which don't use any gluten-containing ingredients and hold their crispness nicely.

Line an 8" x 8" or 9" x 9"  pan with of parchment paper. In a large saucepan, bring the maple and rice syrups to a rolling boil for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Make sure it doesn't boil over. Remove from the heat and stir in the nut butter, 1/2 c chocolate, 2 T coconut oil, and 1/4 tsp salt until smooth and the chocolate is melted. Fold in the cereal and add the marshmallows (if you want your marshmallows to melt more, add them while everything's still warm; if you'd rather they melt less, let it cool a few minutes), then pack into the pan.

Melt the remaining 1/2 c of chocolate and 2 T coconut oil together over very low heat or via 30 second intervals in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring constantly just until melted. Pour the mixture over the bars, spreading it smooth, and then sprinkle with remaining 1/4 tsp sea salt. Let cool for several hours at room temperature or for about an hour in the fridge. These are best the day they're made, but store well 3-5 days when refrigerated to help the puffed rice keep its texture.