Thank Target once again for pushing me over the edge. Its $8 miniature white tinsel tree proved irresistibly priced and enough to unleash my retro impulses with a bang: strung with a set of neon-pink lights, it liberated me to deck the halls in a style that would fit right at home in Edward Scissorhands’ neighborhood. Now there are bright orange candles in my windows, a tiny leg lamp (a Minor Award?) on our console, and Chex Mix in my vintage bowls. Come on, what’s more retro than Chex Mix?
Even though savory Chex Mix drenched in buttery Worcestershire sauce has been making the rounds at holiday cocktail parties since bubble lights and tinsel trees were new and innovative, I felt the holidays called for a blend of sweet and salty. Replacing the Worcestershire with maple and vanilla, and garlic and onion with the traditional warming spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, seemed appropriately festive for this time of year. (The plastic lawn flamingos I picked up at the garden center while looking for old-school plastic light-up snowmen might not be seasonally appropriate, but they sure are festive too. Dan wouldn’t let me get a single sheep, though I thought it would be hilariously random.)
I don’t like to mess around with lots of different nuts and add-ons in my Chex Mix: for me, it’s about one thing and one thing only, and that’s buttery, toasty cereal bits. (Yes, I am the kind of person who eats cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Why do you ask?) That’s why my holiday version is mean, lean, and streamlined with only cereal and pretzels. Heck, even the pretzels are pushing it, but their saltiness really does blend so well with the sweetness of maple.
If you feel like a nut, go right ahead and add a cup or two of coarsely chopped pecans, peanuts, almonds, cashews, or whatever you like into the mix. Just make sure that your nuts are raw and not already roasted, since the heat of the oven will take care of that for you—because who wants burned nuts in their Chex Mix? Party violation!
Holiday Chex Mix
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Makes enough to feed a small army
- 3 oz. (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup (2 3/4 oz.) grade B maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 pound (4 oz.; about 4 cups) Rice Chex
- 1/4 pound (4 oz.; about 4 cups) Corn Chex
- 1/4 pound (4 oz.; about 4 cups) pretzel sticks or mini pretzels
- sesame seeds
- kosher salt
- 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat the oven to 300˚.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, then whisk in the maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
Toss the Rice Chex, Corn Chex, and pretzels together in a large mixing bowl, breaking the pretzels into smaller pieces if desired.
Pour the spiced butter over the Chex and pretzel mix and stir to coat evenly.
Divide the Chex Mix between 2 large rimmed baking sheets, spreading in an even layer on each. Sprinkle the Mix liberally with sesame seeds and lightly with kosher salt.
Bake until golden and crispy, stirring the pans every 10-15 minutes to toast the cereal evenly. Depending on the size of your pans, this could take anywhere from 30-45 minutes.
Remove the Chex Mix from the oven and cool to room temperature before serving.
Optional: Immediately after removing the Chex Mix from the oven, pour one of the pans of toasted Chex Mix back into the large mixing bowl and toss with the chocolate chips until the chips are fully melted. Cool completely to harden the chocolate, then toss with the remaining Chex Mix.