Saturday, December 31, 2022

A Sweet & Spicy Snack Mix for New Year’s Eve

Most of the cooking that I have done at home in recent years has been all about using up odds and ends.  Sometimes these things come from classes and private events (leftover partial containers of ingredients…things I over bought so as not to run short…etc).  Other times it is simply the familiar story of cooking for a small household (a head of cauliflower or cabbage…a bunch of kale or chard…a big winter squash—are all things I love and want to eat, but because of their natural size they have to be spread out and worked into several meals in interesting ways).  I joked in a recent Instagram post that I needed to write a cookbook called “This Has Got to Go.”  But the truth is, it is difficult to share recipes/foods that come about because you are trying to use stuff up.  Everyone’s leftovers look different! 

Today’s post came about because of the remains of a box of graham crackers that I had to purchase for my private dinner business.
  After the event, I had 2/3 of a box left.  They will obviously keep for a little while….  But they will also be a temptation for late night snacking.  Finding a good home for them as soon as possible would be my preference.

Believe it or not, this rotating pantry of odds and ends is always rolling around in my head—as I look at cookbooks, recipes on line, food images on Instagram, etc.  Thus it was that the graham crackers came to mind as I was thinking about what to take to my family’s annual NYE game night.  Coming up with contributions is not as easy as I would like.  Foods I take to this gathering have to be appealing to a wide range of palates…easy to eat…and due to a nut allergy, nut free.  (This last is difficult for me.  I love nuts…and I use them a lot—particularly in snack-type foods.)

Nut free versions of “Chex mix” would obviously fit all of these criteria.
  But I have to admit I don’t like Chex Mix.  Furthermore I definitely don’t want any boxed cereal taking up space in my pantry.  But it occurred to me that shards of graham crackers would have the same textural impact as the cereal squares in the traditional mix…and would taste much better. 

After this “Aha” moment it was just a matter of coming up with seasonings. The sweet aspect of the graham crackers brought to mind an outstanding “Sweet and Spicy Seeds and Nuts” recipe from Sami Tamimi’s new book Falastin.  His unusual combination of curry, turmeric and hot pepper…along with sugar and salt…is positively addictive.   

As for the other components, pretzels seemed obvious.
  Yes, they appear in Chex mix.  But more importantly, they are the one “processed” snack that I occasionally buy, so having a partial bag in my pantry isn’t the end of the world.  And finally, I included Tamimi’s “seeds”: pepitas and sunflower seeds.  I love them both…and always have them in my freezer. 

There isn’t too much to say about the process of making this snack mix.
  Because the spice mixture is a bit sticky and thick, it will take a little extra effort to coat the components.  It works best to add it in two additions.  Drizzling the first bit over and tossing well…then doing the same thing again with the second addition.  Two rubber spatulas accomplish the job efficiently.  Just think of it as tossing a salad: dipping in from the sides of the bowl and moving toward the center before lifting the spatulas up and then rotating the bowl before the next pass. 

As for the baking, it is mostly about drying out the syrupy coating so that you don’t have a gooey, sticky snack mix.  When you can touch the mix without your finger coming away wet or sticky, it’s ready.  If you’re worried, leave it in for another five minutes.

Finally, snack mix recipes direct you to stir at regular intervals while baking.
  Don’t do that with this mix.  The stirring is mostly to separate the ingredients…and for this mix I want the seeds to stick to the pretzels and graham crackers.

Before I end today's post, it occurs to me I should mention my long hiatus.  It isn’t that I haven’t been cooking.  (If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I cook all the time!)  Rather, in addition to the difficulties inherent in translating recipes for one that have been created from odds and ends, for most of the past three years I have been too busy trying to cobble together an income from what remains of my professional work (after the pandemic) to spend the time it takes to write posts about the things I have been cooking. 

I don’t know if this will change too much in 2023.
  As much as we like to believe that things get a nice magical reset at midnight on new year’s eve, the sad reality is that they don’t.  But I have always loved posting to my blog…so as I am able, I will try to get back to occasionally (maybe even regularly!) adding to this catalog of foods and techniques that I find interesting, inspiring and delicious.

Sweet & Spicy Snack Mix

140 g. ( 3 1/3 c.) mini pretzel twists
140 g. (1 package) graham crackers, broken into rough 1-inch pieces (about 2 1/3 c.)
40 g. (1/4 c.) pepitas
40 g. (1/4 c.) sunflower seeds
45 g. (3 T. plus 1 t.) unsalted butter
40 g. (2 T.) pure maple syrup
37 g. (3 T.) packed brown sugar
1 t. (5 g). kosher salt
2 t. curry powder
1/2 t. turmeric
3/8 t. cayenne (more…or less…depending on your heat preference)

Place the pretzels, graham cracker pieces, and seeds in a large bowl.

Place the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally with a heat proof spatula, until the mixture is homogenous and bubbling.

Drizzle half of the spice mixture over the contents of the bowl and stir/fold to begin coating the ingredients.
  I find that two heatproof/non-stick rubber spatulas work best for this.  Add the remaining spice syrup (scraping the pan well) and continue to mix until all the components are evenly coated and sticky. 

Spread on an oiled/buttered/sprayed rimmed baking sheet/half sheet pan.
  Place in a 325° oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  I don’t stir during the baking process because I like the seeds to stick to the pretzels and graham crackers…stirring will keep everything separate.  Rotate the pan once.  When done, the graham crackers and pretzels will no longer be sticky/wet to the touch. 

Cool the snack mix completely on the sheet pan.
  Transfer to a bowl to serve…or a sealed container if making in advance.  Makes 7 to 8 cups.

Printable Version 




Cindy McCloud said...

I have missed your blogs and understand the struggles of small businesses the past few years. Looking forward to trying this recipe as I am not eating nuts at this time along with many other foods I love. Hoping to add them back in at some point, but in the meantime this snack looks perfect for me.

Paige said...

Thank you Cindy. And thank you for your support of my business over the years...and especially these past few. I truly appreciate it!

I think you will enjoy this snack mix. My family seemed to like it a lot (I made a double batch and it's mostly gone...).

Happy New Year!!

Anonymous said...

I refer to your blog often for recipes. Thank you for sharing your recipes, tips and techniques. I printed off the snack mix recipe and will make it soon. Looks delicious!

Paige said...

I'm so glad you find the things I post to be useful! Thank you for letting me know. I hope you enjoy the snack mix!