Happy December! As is our tradition, for the next 25 days we’ll be mixing holiday posts in with our usual assortment of music and food, namely in the form of Christmas food and music pairings. We did some fun ones last year with cookies (Rum Balls and Boney M! Bailey’s Irish Cream Thumbprints and The Pogues!) and this year we’re expanding to other festive food as well.
In my family, Chex Mix (or Nuts and Bolts as it’s more commonly called here in Canada) was an absolute must at holiday parties — it’s easy to make in advance, stores well, and is usually enjoyed by all. For years I used to make my Grandma Ruby’s nuts and bolts recipe, but despite loving it as a kid, it never seemed quite savory enough. This year I changed it up, but I’ll get to that in a minute. First up: the music pairing.
Recipes for Chex Mix first started appearing on the back of Chex cereal boxes in 1952, so it seemed appropriate to pair this tasty mix with something from that era. Jimmy Boyd had a #1 hit with “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” that year, but I’ve always found that song to be pretty creepy and I definitely don’t want to steer anyone the wrong way. Luckily, 1952 was also the year that the late great Burl Ives (best known as the snowman in the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer cartoon to anyone under 60) released his very first Christmas album: Christmas Day in the Morning. Featuring eight songs, mostly on the serious side (which, other than disco-ized versions, tend to be my favourite Christmas songs), this isn’t the “Holly Jolly Christmas” version of Burl that most people know and love. But man, it’s good stuff:
Though, not exactly the party music that you want to put on with your party Chex Mix, right? So, listen to the above when you need a solemn moment before your guests arrive. Then when the party gets going, turn it over to fun 1965 Burl:
Now, back to the mix itself. Like I said, I used to always follow my Grandma’s recipe to the letter (because she was a wise woman well versed in the arts of mid-centry cooking), but this year I tried something different and I won’t go back. I made my mix in the slow cooker (which strangely, works much better than a low level oven when it comes to infusing your cereal and snack bits with buttery goodness). I also added in a spice mix that I had in my cupboard, leftover from another recipe, but any slightly spicy seasoning salt will work (anything with the word “Cajun” on the label should do just fine) and omitted the barbeque peanuts found in most mixes so that my kids could take the leftovers to school as a snack. Finally — and this surprised me too — I accidentally bought honey flavoured off-brand Cheerios rather than the regular kind, and the sweetness goes really well with the spice blend and the saltiness of the other snacks.
A note about Bugles: Bugles are a must when it comes to this stuff. The absorb the butter nicely and give you the opportunity to bit off the end and then pretend to play along to whatever music is playing. Bugles were discontinued in Canada in 2011 to the horror of just about everyone — the public outcry was so intense that General Mills brought them back. Thank goodness!
Slow Cooker Chex Mix
6 cups Chex Mix Cereal
3 cups Honey-Os Cereal (you can use Honey Nut Cheerios if you’re not worried about it being nut-free)
3 cups Bugles
3 cups pretzel sticks
1 cup melted butter
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 tsp spice mix or Cajun seasoning
Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a 6-quart (or bigger) slow cooker. Stir the Worcestershire and spice mix into the melted butter, then pour evenly over the slow cooker mix. Toss it with a big spoon and fork to get it as evenly distributed as possible. Cook uncovered on high for 90 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, making sure that you cycle the cereal on the bottom to the top so that it doesn’t burn. Turn down the slow cooker to low and cook for another 20 minutes, still stirring. Stores well in a airtight container for a couple of weeks. Makes: 15 cups, or enough for a very large party (or a smaller party with leftovers to stick in Mason jars to bring to other parties as hostess gifts).