We’ve all been there. You’re cleaning up after a party and you’re faced with three or four bowls of various salty crispy snacks, reduced to about an inch of broken shards or small pieces, having been thoroughly picked over for whole chips or pretzels by guests. They’re not crumbs, not really, but there is nothing worth sticking in the dip bowl and is of the size guaranteed to end up halfway down your shirt if you try and transfer a pinch to your mouth. It’s sad, really, that post-fete detritus, and for those who cook, a challenge. Other than picking up the bowl and shoveling the bits into your face, is there anything to be done with the collected leftovers?
The same holds true of houses where cereal lovers reside, eventually there is a morning where a shake of all available boxes reveals not enough for a single serving bowl of any one variety. And while many of us have simply made the mixed-variety bowl in such a circumstance, it isn’t exactly crave-worthy. (Unless, of course, you are lucky enough to have equal parts of Cap’n Crunch and Cocoa Puffs lying about, in which case you have a chocolate peanut butter flavored crunchy glory breakfast in your future.)
There is a well-known cooks’ trick called “bottom of the jar” salad dressing. When your jams, jellies, mustards gets down to about a half-inch in the bottom of the jar or bottle, you add in one-part acid (like vinegar, citrus juice or leftover wine) and three-parts oil, a bit of salt and pepper, and a good shake right in the vessel and you have a quick, easy, and often really interesting and delicious salad dressing. Which begs the question, what would be the bottom-of-the-bag/box equivalent?
The surprising answer is granola. You can granolafy almost anything. Since salty and sweet is such a boss combination, adding leftover snack bits and pieces into your granola recipe makes for a delicious and unexpected version. Cereal is happy to come to the party if invited, providing more crunch and texture, and often a bit more sweetness to balance the salt. A simple technique that once learned, lifts these bits and bobs—which often just end up in the garbage—to their higher power.
Don’t have a party cleanup in your future or a gathering of sad staling cereals on hand? Never fear. As you indulge in either, when you get down to the last inch in the bag or box where the small bits live? Dump them in a Ziploc bag and stash in your freezer until you have enough to make a batch.
- 3 cups broken chips, pretzels, snack mix, cereal in any combination
- 1 cup nuts of your choice
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
- 1 egg white, beaten until frothy
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups add-ins like dried fruit or chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Farenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the oil and syrup together and stir into the dry ingredients. Stir in the beaten egg white, being sure that everything is well mixed. Pour the granola mix onto the sheet pan and spread into an even layer. If you like a granola with chunks, press it down firmly. If you prefer a looser granola texture, just spread it out lightly.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, and break up into your desired texture with a spatula or wooden spoon. Stir in your add-ins, and return the granola to the sheet pan, spreading it back out again, and let cool on a rack until completely cooled. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Makes 7-8 cups.
Depending on the leftover snacks you are working with, you can add seasonings or other flavors. If you mostly have neutral items such as plain potato chips or pretzels, you can add heat with chili powder or sweet with vanilla.