Cereal Mix Hero
It is always difficult when we live solo or in pairs to find ways of bringing the holidays into our homes. This is especially true with food treats which, for many of us, seem too grandiose to create on a manageable scale.
There is one treat that I make every year and, as it turns out, I make a lot of it. It is one of many things that reminds me of this time of year and is a welcome addition at any gathering I go to. I am referring of course, to Chex Mix. No matter where I go, whether holiday, New Year, or football gathering, a gallon zip lock bag of Chex Mix will be not only welcome but one of the first things gone on the snack table.
Many people think I make amazing Chex Mix. I don’t…really. What I do is make Chex Mix the old fashion way with a couple of modifications. Knowing a few simple rules about this snack will allow you to go to any gathering a cereal mix hero and become the master of crunchy salty, and addictive, goodness.
There are only two things that you must have for superior Chex Mix. First, you must have butter…only butter…NO SUBSTITUTIONS. Butter is the key to the whole snack and it is the only way to make cereal mix. Remember, this is a food treat, not a healthy alternative to potato chips. So use butter…NO SUBSTITUTIONS.
The second thing you need is a spoon. Chex mix needs to be made in the oven. One hour at 250 with a stir every 15 minutes…hence the spoon. Forget about microwave or crock pot recipes. In the oven, one hour…NO SUBSTITUTIONS. I realize that the box of Chex talks about “in 15 minutes.” If by 15 minutes they mean one hour at 250 F with a stir every 15 minutes then great.
The other thing that is convenient but not necessary is a disposable foil pan. Available at any dollar store you can use it throughout Chex mix season then throw it away at the end. If you have a large roaster pan or half sheet pan that will work fine as well.
The traditional recipe consists of the following: 3 cups each rice, corn, and wheat cereal for a total of 9 cups then 1 cup each of peanuts, pretzels and bagel chips. This makes a total of 12 cups of ingredients. The key here is 9 cups of cereal and 3 cups of “special” stuff. I usually do the following 3 cups rice, 3 cups corn, 2 cups wheat, one cup of Cheerios, 1 cup pretzels, 1 cup dry roasted peanuts, and one cup of Cheez-its. The point is it doesn’t matter what kind of things you use AS LONG AS you keep the ratio: 9 cups of basic cereals with 3 cups of special stuff.
Let me make a note here about gluten free. Rice and corn cereals are usually gluten free as are many of the oat “O” cereals. So are peanuts. Gluten free pretzels and crackers are readily available. This combination alone gets almost all the way to the ratio without much effort. In other words, it is pretty easy to convert this recipe to gluten free. Just use gluten free cereals, like rice, corn, and oat cereals, then pick gluten free things for the “extras.” Just keep the ratios: 9 cups of basic cereal to 3 cups of extra stuff. Below is a bunch of examples of gluten free products readily available to create the gluten free version of this snack.
The other thing to note is that the special stuff can be about anything you want. Bagel chips have been in the recipe for years but I think they are expensive. I like little cheese crackers. I have seen cashews, Goldfish, pretzels of all kinds, bagel chips, corn chips (Fritos), and a host of crackers too numerous to count. The key is size. You may have to break up some of your crackers or pretzels a bit to keep all the sizes pretty close.
Here is my recipe:
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Corn Chex
2 cups Wheat Chex
1 cup Cheerios
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
1 cup pretzels (or pretzel pieces)
1 cup Cheez-its
6 Tbs butter
1 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbs Worcester sauce
2 Tbs basic hot sauce (like Texas Pete)
Melt butter in a 250 F oven in a roaster pan. When melted place the seasonings with the butter and mix well. Place all the cereals and other ingredients in the roasting pan and stir to coat completely. Bake at 250 F for one hour stirring every 15 minutes (3 stirs). Let cool and bag up.
Buttery, Salty, Addictive
That is all there is to Chex mix. I have made it out of any number of generic brands of cereal with the exact same results. The real key is that I bake it, use real butter, and actually add the hot sauce. I realize that some will think that 2 Tbs of a basic red hot sauce seems like a lot. However, those types of sauces (Texas Pete, Red Hot, etc) are mostly vinegar and will not be that prevalent after the baking. They make a wonderful addition to the mix. I have never had anyone, even the most delicate palates, tell me that my snack is “too hot.”
Let the Chex mix cool completely then bag it up. One batch will fill a gallon zip lock bag. The standard size boxes of cereals will get you about 3 batches. A gallon bag is way more than the pre made stuff you will get at the store and is much, much tastier. Plus you home smells amazing while it is baking. When going to any party buy a cheap and supposedly festive plastic bowl at the dollar store, dump in your home made snack mix, and impress your friends with the easiest holiday food treat in the snacking lexicon.