A Balm for the Heart: Lemon Vanilla Bean Rice Crispy Treats

Rice Krispy Treat Ideas: Lemon Vanilla Bean Rice Crispy Treat Recipe on http://www.theculinarylife.com

– Life is hard sometimes. I needed Rice Krispy treat ideas. This a good one. –

I’m having a hard time rallying today, but it’s a gentle sort of lethargy, the kind that comes in the middle of a long journey when one reaches a long-overdue rest stop. Instead of finding jubilance in the break, I’m lightly unraveling into a slack heap of fiber on the floor, like the remains of a sweater caught on a doornail and whisked away, unaware of its snag. Part of me is holding fast to the sharp reminder of memory and regret, another piece exists in the future where I hope things will be ok, and the rest of me is strewn haphazardly between the two points, colorful clumps of soft tissue that dot a jagged timeline where there are as many bad days as good days.

I’ve even titled the name of this document I’m typing into “Blah.txt.” Fitting.

I’m often vague in my writing here and I struggle with that, caught in the sticky wicket of other people’s stories and what I can, might, and should share. That ambiguity leaves me with an unbearable empty space, the unmistakable feeling of a story untold, a stunted tale that grew in ways it wasn’t supposed to. Not telling the whole story feels like I’m robbing everyone involved. Or maybe I’m not a talented enough writer to make the disjointed parts compelling to the point that they’re worth reading.

A few months ago, my mother called me to let me know that my brother was missing. My brother is 33 and prone to doing his own thing, so this wasn’t a huge ordeal, but she said that he had been acting strangely for the few months before he vanished. Strangely as in, a few weeks prior he called the police on someone that wasn’t there. Oh. The GPS on their linked cell phones had said he was somewhere in Oregon – we live in the San Francisco Bay Area – and that he was seemingly driving a circuit of wooded areas, not dwelling anywhere more than a day or two. She suspected he was either camping or living in his car.

Several weeks later he turned up, his car having suffered engine damage. My mother retrieved him and brought him home. Only he wasn’t my brother anymore, the cheerful, resourceful boy of a man that I’d known for 33 years. The person that returned was a brooding, terrified victim of Unknown Psychosis, as I’ve taken to calling it, as he won’t consent to any sort of medical help.

Flash forward to a few days ago. Camera pans to a man sitting in a dark motel room, all draperies snapped shut, the odor of cigarettes so thick, so palpable, that anyone entering the space wipes it from their faces and limbs upon departure. The man spins his hands around his foot, untying invisible ropes (or vines, we’re not sure) from his legs, shaking them off before untying the other foot. His beard is long enough to comb and he occasionally chuckles to himself and mumbles the words, “Necessarily, necessarily, please accept my sincerest apology.”

I have a new brother now.


I’m often vague in my writing here and I struggle with that, caught in the sticky wicket of other people’s stories and what I can, might, and should share. That ambiguity leaves me with an unbearable empty space, the unmistakable feeling of a story untold, a stunted tale that grew in ways it wasn’t supposed to. Not telling the whole story feels like I’m robbing everyone involved. Or maybe I’m not a talented enough writer to make the disjointed parts compelling to the point that they’re worth reading.

I’m so grateful to have the friends I have, who shine through the ick. I recently spent nearly a week at Garrett’s house, filming our cookbook trailer and just generally hiding out and relaxing. We spent a lot of time cooking and eating, of course, but also doing things that don’t really exist in my life, like going to plays and planting fruit trees. Those are the exact things that any doctor worth his salt should prescribe a patient going through a rough patch. They’re better treatments than any medication I’ve yet to experience.

While we were driving around one hot Sacramento afternoon, the subject of Rice Krispy treats came up. I have no idea how we ended up on the topic, because at that point, neither of us had had* them in years. With the windows down and the radio turned up, we started tossing around Rice Krispy treat ideas like teenagers belting out song lyrics. I considered the idea of adding a few tablespoons of lemon zest to my Rice Krispy treats, while Garrett, of course, thought to add vanilla beans to his. (He is the writer of Vanilla Garlic, you know.) There was a shared, startled pause.

“Oh my god,” I mused. “Together they sound amazing.”

He agreed. “We should make this. TONIGHT.”

So I’d like to present you with the first collaborative recipe we’ve come up with since writing a whole f**king book together. It’s simple, it’s easy, and it’s god-forsakenly delicious: Lemon Vanilla Bean Rice Krispy Treats. If that doesn’t make even the worst week just a little better, then you might as well throw in the towel.

Here’s Garrett’s post with the same recipe, but likely a very different story.


Summertime Rice Krispy Treat Ideas: Lemon Vanilla Bean
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Total time: 
If you're looking for awesome rice krispy treat ideas, this lemon vanilla-bean rice crispy treat recipe is a perfect lemony snack with a kiss of sweet vanilla. Quick and easy - made in just 15 minutes.
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 10 to 12 ounces small marshmallows
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • A generous pinch of salt
  • 6 cups crispy rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies
  1. Lightly butter the inside of a 8x8 or 9x9-inch baking dish.
  2. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean half down the middle lengthwise. Use a spoon to scrape out the tiny beans from the pod and set them aside.
  3. In large pot, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. When they are almost completely melted but not entirely, add vanilla beans, lemon zest, and salt. Stir constantly until the marshmallows are fully melted. Remove from heat.
  4. Add crispy rice cereal and stir under completely coated with marshmallows. Be careful not to smash the cereal while stirring.
  5. Using a buttered spatula, scoop the cereal into the buttered baking pan. Use a piece of parchment or wax paper evenly press the mixture into all the corners of the pan and smooth the top. Allow to cool completely before cutting and serving.

* Is it grammatically correct to use the word had twice, one right after the other? Apparently it is indeed grammatically correct, though incredibly awkward to type and read. Grammarians: do you have any recommendations for better ways to structure a sentence like this?

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Comments from other ninjas:

  1. Genie Gratto says

    This is hard stuff, Stephanie — thank you for sharing, and yes — it is amazing what medicine friendship, food, the arts and respite can be. Still, so sorry that you and your family are struggling through this, and wishing all of you — especially your brother — some peace on this journey.

  2. Jenni says

    Oh, Stephannie. I don’t even quite know what to say. I lost my brother in 1998, but he died. At least it’s final that way. I can’t imagine having your brother but *not* having your brother.

    Take very good care of yourself–I imagine your whole family has a long road ahead.

  3. Cindy James says

    I’m so sorry Stephanie, I can say that my son’s mental illness has left me feeling like I have lost a child…I still have trouble accepting it. He is 22 and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia approx. 2 years ago. I would def refer you and especially your Mom to NAMI…support for patients and families with mental illness. My son is an addict so we don’t know which came first, mental illness or drug addiction. Last week I lost my brother, also an addict (with Hep C) to liver disease. This is a personal roller coaster , I’m glad you have family and friends to support you. Please feel free to contact me or your Mom is she has questions or needs a shoulder. hugs, Cindy

  4. Lydia says

    Stephanie my heart breaks for you and your family. I can’t imagine what you are going through. Try not to lose yourself in this tragedy and continue to find comfort in the people you love and the things that you love doing.

  5. Laura says

    Good for you for writing part of your story! Helps to process…welcome to your brave new world:( keep sharing!

  6. Deborah Mele says

    i grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic Dad and firmly believe at least one of my siblings has mental illness of some description. I rarely talk about it with anyone, not because I am ashamed of my Dad (or sibling), but only because so few folks can really understand.

  7. Julie says

    My sweet cousin – you were a wonderful gift that I found in cyberspace although we lived only miles apart our whole lives – I feel like I’ve let you down for not making more of a nuisance of myself. I could selfishly say that the past 3 years of my life have been so upside down, but that would be the easy excuse. I had and still have such plans for developing a wonderful relationship with you – I hope that you can read the sincerity in my words.

    Please email me with your number. My number is still the same – if you have it please text or call whenever you need to reach out. There are so many parts of our lives that could be viewed as parallel and I’d like very much to listen, share, cry, laugh and comfort you…

    Be good to yourself and know you’re loved.


  8. Mary Ching says

    Oh, Steph…I’ve been trying to think of something to write that might help to soften the hard reality of what you’re going through with your brother, and make sense of something that I know is impossibly devoid of sense. I’ve been there and yet the only thing I can think of right now is to tell you to keep writing and sharing your feelings and doing the things that feed your soul. Surround yourself with people who are positive, creative and caring, to counteract the pain and rage of your brother’s internal demons that are undoubtedly spewing onto everyone around him. <>

  9. Maui says

    Steph… I’m so glad that you shared that. It will help you to keep doing so.
    People can and do recover from episodes like this without medical help. Support is crucial, and he’s got that.
    According to recent reading schizophrenics (for example) are much more likely to have a good outcome with less medical treatment, as American medicine’s answer would be neuroleptics, which are decidedly not safe… and sadly, not even effective — except as a chemical straightjacket, which your brother thankfully doesn’t need.
    I don’t recall the rates of complete recovery, but they were very good (provided neuroleptics were not part of the picture). One young man I read about recently still hears things that aren’t there; he asks his wife if they’re real or not, and moves on. (He has also devoted his life to helping other schizophrenics.)
    While you don’t know what the proximate cause for this event has been, please don’t be too discouraged and know that this sort of thing does tend to resolve favorably. Brains are amazing things!

  10. Chris J says

    Ok, as the cop always says with professional detachment, “I’m sorry for your loss”, though as you yourself needlessly stated (though it was cool you acknowledged it), your ‘tough times’ sound possibly medical and my less-than-thorough reading might indicate that the difficult personal time may involve another family member.

    I don’t think you’re being coy, simply wrestling with how much you feel you should reveal within this venue, not to mention that this reflects my own growing concern for imagined privacy on the Internet as what one SHOULD and SHOULDN’T DO for both safety’s sake and…for lack of propriety.

    Your blog post was quite the tease, though, and I respect your agonies over what one should or shouldn’t say. Gak. I’d probably say it, but that’s me because I really have no sense of personal shame or embarrassment. I somehow floated in the fact that I’d had a uteroscopy to remove a kidney stone. How that got injected into a food blog I don’t recall.

    Perhaps its because I feel like I have nothing to lose? No sponsors, no ads to lose…just me blabbing away on my blog. Well, regardless, I hope your ‘issue’ resolves itself. Let me leave you with this pearl of wisdom– 90% of the things we worry about never come to pass, and the 10% that do are so changed by the passage of time that your initial worry is pointless brcause life has given you an entire new thing to worry about.

    Moreover, if you can remember what you worried about 365 days ago, I’ll be amazed. And if you DO remember, well…you probably need more therapy than me.


  1. […] These books would all make good gifts for a brave prepare in your family that loves to demeanour outside American food enlightenment for culinary ideas, for those of we who adore robust German roasts, off-hand Austrian pastries, or European cookies. […]

  2. […] Life has been a whirlwind lately, to say the least. I haven’t had a lot of time to cook, so salads have been my mainstay for the past month. There’s a bright light on the horizon, though – Labor Day Weekend. The infamous span of three days that marks the end of summer, that last long weekend to pull out your grill and fill your deck with friends in shorts gnawing on corn on the cob and lemon-vanilla rice krispy treats. […]