gooey corn flake holly wreaths

I first had these in the 2nd grade when I traded for them in the lunch room.  My mom tended to make fancier cookies (nut balls, thumbprints, etc.)... nothing as gooey and colorful as what my friend Melissa pulled out of her lunch bag.  It should tell you something that one of the many things I looked forward to about adulthood was getting to choose which Christmas cookies to make during the holidays, knowing that these would always make the list.

The recipe follows the same basic approach as making Rice Krispie treats, but the corn flakes and shape create a much more tender, though no less crunchy, texture.  And the Red Hots give it a nice seasonal twist.  Here's what you'll need:

  • 1 (16 ounce) package large marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons green food coloring (much less if you're using gel food coloring)
  • 4 1/2 cups cornflakes cereal (about half a box)
  • 1 (2.25 ounce) package cinnamon red hot candies

The first step is to melt the marshmallows, butter, and vanilla over low heat.  You could add the food coloring at this point, too, but I prefer to wait until everything has melted together so I have better control over the color.

Go ahead and add the food coloring now if you haven't already.  Be sure to use less than the recommended amount if you're using gel food coloring.

Now you're ready to add the corn flakes.  (Mix them in gently.)

Here comes the tough part.  You'll want to work fast, and keep the mixture over very low heat while you work so it doesn't cool to a big clump.  There are two ways of going about assembling the wreaths - the over-achiever way, and the lazy way.  I opt for the lazy way, but if you're feeling up for a challenge, the over-achiever way produces some very cute treats (that actually look like wreaths.)

Here's the over-achiever way:

Portion warm cereal mixture evenly by using a 1/4 cup dry measure coated with cooking spray. Using sprayed fingers, quickly shape into individual wreaths. Dot with cinnamon candies, using prepared frosting to hold candies in place.  Store in single layer in airtight container.

Here's the lazy way (aka my way):

Take a spoonful of the mixture and drop it onto wax paper.  Stick the candies on while the mixture is still warm (so they'll stick).  Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container with wax paper between layers so they don't all stick together.

Whichever way you choose, they'll be delicious.