It was a big hit at the party. Some kids liked the "dirt" (especially with grass on top), some preferred the sand, and one chowed down on the "water." But they all thought it was super cool.
This is my very first Instructable, so please bear with me...
Step 1: Materials
• 18 cups of Rice Krispies cereal (or generic equivalent)
• 3 10-oz bags of mini marshmallows
• 1 package mini chocolate chips (we used semisweet)
• 1 cup Ovaltine or other chocolate powder
• 3 boxes blue jell-o
• 1 can white frosting
• green food coloring
• 1 9x13" pan
• 1 8x8" pan
• standard cookware
Step 2: Make plain rice crispy treats
The only tricky part here is that, to get the size right, you need to smoosh it into half a 9x13" pan. We're going to be making 1.5-inch cubes, so you want this to be flat and 1.5 inches thick. I actually measured it with a ruler, but found that using half the pan came out about right. Just butter a big metal spatula, and smash the mix into shape. Be sure to press pretty hard — you want firm squares to work with, not the loose chewy kind.
Cover and place into the fridge for a few hours to harden.
Step 3: Make the jell-o
So normally, you would make three boxes of Jell-o by boiling three cups of water, dissolving the powder, and adding three cups of cold water.
Instead, boil only two cups of water, dissolve the power, and add two cups of cold water, so that the total water is reduced 33%. This makes the gelatin more firm so it will hold its shape.
Pour into an 8x8" dish, cover it and place it in the fridge overnight.
Step 4: Cut the sand
This step is more difficult than it sounds; rice crispy treats are surprisingly strong! A warm knife helps, and a good metal spatula is even better. I measured 1.5-inch intervals with a (freshly washed) ruler, made little marks with a butter knife, and then went back for the full cuts with the spatula. Set the cubes neatly aside for now.
The pan is rounded on the edges, so you will have edge pieces that are not really cubes. Set these aside too; try not to mix them up with the true cubes, but don't let anybody eat them yet either; you will need some for the final arrangement.
Step 5: Make chocolate rice crispy treats
Here we need to make a double batch of chocolate rice crispy treats. I made these by first melting 1 package of semisweet chocolate chips along with the half stick of butter, before adding the marshmallows. And then along with the marshmallows, I threw in a cup of Ovaltine chocolate powder for good measure.
This is a double batch, so remember to use two packages of mashmallows, 12 cups of cereal, and a whole stick of butter.
Spread into the prepared 9x13" pan, cover, and place in the fridge to harden. Again, press it nice and flat with a buttered spatula, taking care to get the depth as close as possible to 1.5 inches.
I found that I had about 2 cups of chocolate rice crispies left over after getting the depth right in the pan. Cover this extra yumminess and set it aside for your wife. Also, remember to clean up your mess in the kitchen when done. (These marital tips are provided at no extra charge.)
Step 6: Cut the dirt
I found these to be much harder to cut than the plain ones — I don't know if it's because of the chocolate, or whether I pressed them in the pan more firmly. But it took some real persistence and elbow grease. The metal spatula was my savior.
You don't necessarily have to take all the cubes out, but they do need to be well separated from the pan. Also, there was a fair bit of chocolate rice powder left behind; I cleaned this out with a paper towel before moving on to the next step.
Step 7: Assemble the landscape
There's not much more to say about this step. After all that mixing, stirring, stuffing, and cutting, this part's pretty easy.
Step 8: Add frosting for grass
For those of you who aren't Minecraft players, please take note: do not frost the sand, nor the dirt cubes that are underneath other dirt cubes. Also, it's fine for the frosting to dribble down the sides of each dirt cube a bit — in the real game, grass does extend a bit down onto the sides in exactly the same way.
Step 9: Add the water
I cut the jell-o with a butter knife that had been warmed in hot water. Small squares of jell-o can be transferred with a fork; for larger sections, use a spatula.
I thought this would be the hardest step, but it turned out to be actually pretty easy. The jell-o was firm, shiny, and cooperative.
After you've got the jell-o in place, cut it into 1.5" squares to match the rest of the display (and to make it easier for your patrons to eat!).
It's all done! At this point, you should hear things like "oh man, you're the coolest dad ever!"