January 09, 2023
We are getting ready for the Championship game of the 2022 college football season which airs tonight. I had not thought much about the game until Melissa asked if we were going to have snacks for supper. I have mentioned snacks and sides are our go to meal for most of the big games (and often holidays) we celebrate. Since Melissa is working and on a day long Zoom call, that meant I needed to see what we had available, and what else I might want to prepare to get ready for the game. When I looked in the pantry, there was not much. I noticed we did have leftover boxes of cereal, nuts, and the spices I used to make Chex Mix. I poured them all together in a large bowl and added the seasonings. As I mixed it together and put it in the oven, I realized this was probably the last time I will make this snack until the next Christmas season.
When I looked online, I found the preferred form of Chex mix is oven-baked. When you bake the mix in the oven it transforms into a toastier, crunchier version of the classic, and makes the flavors of the spices pop and become bolder. The trick to getting the mix perfectly crisp and golden is to toast it at a low temperature. Most recipes call for baking at 250F (121C), which for some ovens is the lowest temperature it will go. If your oven only goes down to 275F (135C) it can still work, but you need to watch to make sure it does not burn. Baking low-and-slow helps the moisture in the butter evaporate to let the mix get crispy. Baking at higher temperatures can allow the nuts and cereal to burn and will make the mix bitter. I have found that making Chex mix is a lot like making ribs. Low-and-slow allow the ribs to cook while forming the bark from the rub, yet keep the insides moist. Like many tricks of a chef (do chefs make Chex Mix?), it does not take long to learn this wisdom.
I have found the best part about making Chex mix (aside from eating it), is you can make it in a variety of ways and it still comes out great. It is a good thing too because the wheat variety of cereal is rarely available during the holidays. It always comes out featured as an endcap at our local markets, but by the middle of November it is gone, period. That included in all seven different stores of three different chains where I searched. I checked with my sister-in-law and she confirmed there were no boxes on the shelves around her either. I did try another wheat cereal last year, but it was full of sugar. I do not like to mix my sweet and savory when it comes to the mix.
THOUGHTS: The directions on the boxes all specify three cups of each type of mix. Since this was my final attempt at making the mix, I just dumped whatever was left in the two boxes I had and added more butter to the sauce. This came out tasting great, (who can go wrong with butter?) but ended up making a double batch of the cereal mix. While this was not my intent, it just means more for me to eat. After all, this is probably the last time I will make this snack until next Christmas. Traditional foods are often used to help define an event and set the mood. Whether this is pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, Challah bread for Hanukkah, or (for me) Chex mix for Christmas, enjoy the flavors of the season. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.