Saturday, November 21, 2009


For every successful invention, there are a thousand or more that don't work out quite so well, and new food inventions can take a few different paths. In some cases, like the now unremarkable turducken, they go from novelty to commonplace. You can order turduckens online now, and Jen just made one for the quickfire on "Top Chef" last week. Others, thanks to the wonders of the internet, become infamous, like the corn nut-trimmed racial hate crime that Sandra Lee refers to as a Kwanzaa cake. At least once a holiday season I see that someone's blog has once again trotted out that holiday horror, and now, with Christmas coming earlier every year, I might be the first for 2009.

Every friend I have who celebrates Kwanzaa has watched that video in open-mouthed horror when I've shown it to them, and then immediately gone on to show someone else. I feel like I'm passing around that video from "The Ring": Before you die, you see the Kwanzaa cake. And then Sandra Lee crawls out of your television and kills you.

Back to food, though, there is a hazy twilight between the famous and the infamous, a shadowy place filled with the urban legends of cooking that everyone has heard of but no one has actually eaten. I'm speaking of things like the Bacon Log, the Texas State Fair's deep-fried butter lumps, the Meatbaby, or... the Cheelow square.

The Cheelow square is a dessert/snack/culinary abomination that was described to me as "Rice Krispy treats made with Cheetos" by my friend Rod, who was discussing it on his Facebook page a week or two ago. At first, I thought he was pulling my leg, because mixing Cheetos with marshmallow and sugar sounded about as appetizing as mixing chocolate with industrial drain cleaner, but then he posted a picture. Beyond that, he even claimed that they tasted good, and when I expressed skepticism, he suggested I try it myself and then blog about it.

I was intrigued enough to say yes.

Here are my Cheelow ingredients:

cheelow ingredients

As you can see, it's a simple recipe. Three tablespoons of butter, a ten ounce bag of marshmallows, and a regular bag of Cheetos. Acting on Rod's advice, I decided to crush the Cheetos into smaller pieces before using them:

cheeto crushing

That approach lasted for about three seconds before I realized the rolling pin was going to push all the air to one end of the bag and then make it burst open all over the counter. Given the alarming frequency at which things burst, explode, and boil over in my kitchen, you'd never guess that I got an A in Physics. Lamenting my intellectual decline, I continued breaking the Cheetos by squeezing the bag with my hands.

After that, I melted the butter carefully over low heat, so that it wouldn't burn, and then added the entire bag of marshmallows:


With a little stirring, they rapidly melted:

melting marshmallows

melted marhsmallows

Once they were all melted down, I removed the pot from the heat and dumped in the Cheetos, stirring to coat them:

mixing the cheelows

At this point, I was convinced Rod was punking me. No way in hell would this be anything you wanted to eat, but I soldiered onward. Working quickly before the mixture could start to harden (congeal?), I poured it into a liberally sprayed baking dish, and then used a spatula, also sprayed with cooking spray, to evenly spread it:

spread cheelows

All I had to do now was wait for them to cool, and then find someone to eat them. Fortunately, Bryan and Kristen are babysitting Jeannie's baby, so I called and generously offered to bring a mystery snack that they would be forced to eat while I took pictures. I was afraid to tell Bryan on the phone what the snack was, because I figured he wouldn't let me walk over.

After an hour or so, I cut the Cheelows into bars, carried them over, and offered them to my guinea pig/involuntary research partner:

cheelow square

Bryan responded by dubiously sniffing:

guinea pig (1)

and then tasting:

guinea pig (2)

And the Cheelows, despite their shady pedigree, are sort of good. Bryan described them as purgatory food, which meant it wasn't good and wasn't bad, but he ended up eating three squares. I've eaten a few as well, and the exact taste is hard to pinpoint. They still taste like Cheetos, but with a slightly sweet undertaste and with the flavor of the orange Cheeto dust hitting the back of your throat after you've had a few bites. If I could think of the right occasion, I would make them again.

I left a plate for Jeannie and Brian:

plate of cheelows

which I'm sure they'll enjoy.

Unless they get scared and just throw the whole thing away. I like to hope, though.


strong cookie. said...

joel - this is GROSS.

Jeannie said...

Brian ate all of them when we got home. I declined to even taste it. I am glad you did not give any of these to my child. Wait, you didn't, did you?

Anonymous said...

My god! what a recipe....

Joel said...

Leo, gross, yes, but I had to try in the interests of SCIENCE.

Jeannie, I did not feed any to your child. I got to your house right when he peed on Kristen, and then Bryan gave him a bath and put him to bed. I only saw him for about ten minutes.

Otty, blame Rod. He gave it to me.

Derri-Gail Faulkner said...

Hi Joel, first let me say congrats on your blog. You are one of the funniest human beings I know ;) I'm glad you did this Cheelows experiment for me, now I never have to make it, see it or eat it! lol I can't wait to see what you do next!

Liz said...

You got me to watch the Kwanzaa cake video. Does this mean I'm going to die now?