2019 Updates: Since publishing this recipe, I’ve made a few tweaks. I’ve increased the Cheeto quantity (a frequent request), slightly reduced the pretzel quantity, and learned how to gently speed up roasting time. I’ve also received questions about what a “big” bottle of Worcestershire sauce is, so I’ve tried to clarify below. Amusingly, I just received a gift of a very old Merry Mix recipe card my father once gave to my brother. I can tell it’s old because it uses only one kind of Chex, no Cheez-Its, only 3/4 cup butter, and a paltry 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (gasp!). Also, all the seasonings were salts (celery salt, garlic salt, etc.). I’ve verified with Papa that he makes his Merry Mix the way I describe below now, and it’s how I’ve been making it for years. What can I say? Never stop improving.
As far back as I can remember, my Papa involved me in cooking projects. He’d arm me with a paring knife so I could help prep, or he’d drag a chair to the stove so I could stir. I loved squishing meatball mixture through my tiny, chubby fingers. I got really good at pleating gyoza. One of the all-time favorite recipes we made as a family was Merry Mix.
He’d pull out the enormous, commercial-kitchen-size stainless-steel mixing bowl and plunk it on the table. (When I say this bowl was enormous, please understand I could sit in it and sled down a hill. And I did. We had to take all the racks out of our oven and bake it with the door slightly ajar because it scarcely fit.) I’d open all the bags and boxes and dump everything in, mixing gently with my hands.
Papa always claimed Merry Mix was “an old Moore family recipe,” but I know he’s modified it over the years. I think his original recipe was inspired by a Nalley’s snack mix from his youth. In the ’80s, we sometimes included Bugles. My brother, Matthew, has had good success experimenting with new ingredients, including one notable version using wasabi peas. I tend to make it with the same ingredients every year, just as we did in that giant steel bowl when I was really little, but I have some suggested modifications down below in the notes.
Oh, and don’t make the mistake of calling this Chex Mix. The “Official” (barf) “Original” (lies) Chex Mix recipe from General Mills doesn’t call for nearly enough flavoring agents and it leaves you with half a dozen partially eaten boxes of cereal and snacks (hisssss). Merry Mix completely eliminates the waste and most of the measurement required in the corporate-sanctioned recipe. It goes like this: READ MORE
I read a lot of certain kinds of blogs: food, nail art, DIY lifestyle. (I read a lot of animal blogs, too, but the issue I’m about to describe comes up less frequently there for reasons that will soon become obvious.) There’s a certain amount of borrowing that happens in these communities and it’s generally considered above board so long as credit is given.
This, my friends, is where we encounter the scourge. Somehow, for reasons that are not immediately apparent to me, the English-speaking world has forgotten a critical hyphen. All day I encounter post after post touting “amazing recreations.” These aren’t articles about impressive outdoor adventures or extreme hobbyists, oh no. These are simply people trying to give credit and failing spectacularly.
It’s simple. If you want to add the prefix “re-” to a verb to indicate the action has taken place again, usually you should “close it up” (shove that prefix right up against the verb). The exception is when a closed-up word that starts with re- already exists! Example: to recollect is to remember something; to re-collect is to collect again. See? Simple!
The internet loves infographics, right? Well, internet, I made you one.
I haven’t written here in a long time. Partly that’s because, in the immortal words of the Fresh Prince, our “life got flipped, turned upside down.” Starting in the middle of last October, I was selected to serve on my church‘s leadership table (and then had to step down before I was ever “sworn in”), we finished our PADI open-water scuba-diving certification, and then we weathered Hurricane Sandy. That involved late-game evacuation, a week without power and water, 16 days without hot water, and 20 days without heat. In the middle of all that, my magazine folded and I lost my job (RIP, Everyday Food). Then we celebrated Thanksgiving with our largest table of friends yet, my best pal Ivo came to visit from the Netherlands to celebrate the ordination of our friend and pastor Emily Scott, I turned 33 on 12/12/12 and we went to Medieval Times, we got Nitrox certified (more diving stuff), we celebrated Christmas in Hawaii with my parents, we moved across the friggin’ country, and now we’re firmly ensconced in a beautiful (rental) home in Seattle, establishing a very good life there. Yesterday was the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s arrival in New York City, so I spent the evening reading through my Facebook updates from a year back. It made me realize that they already tell the story better than I could rewrite it, so I collected them here, along with links to additional illustrative photos from the Flickr set I made after the fact.
There will be no apple cider as good as the cider my family and friends pressed every autumn when I was growing up, which has more to do with what went into it than the actual taste. My godparents, Dick and Margaret, lived in a farmhouse in Alderwood, a small town 30 minutes north of Seattle now known for its mall. Dick and Margaret, two artists, loved the land and the modest-but-roomy house. They ended up with a small apple orchard, which yielded far more apples than they could ever eat, so they’d invite a bunch of folks over for a day of apple picking. We’d dress in our flannels and our boots, climb ladders, scour the grass below, and use pole pickers to collect every single ripe fruit, which we’d haul over to Ray and Nancy’s house. Ray and Nancy were consummate hosts…and owned an antique cider press. For weeks, everyone had been rinsing out their plastic milk jugs, stockpiling them, waiting for the day they’d be able to fill them with fresh-pressed apple cider. It was a full day of sticky work and everyone was tired by the end, but what a triumphant moment when the last bushel of apples was dumped into that press and the last drops of cider poured out. We looked forward to it every year, and that delicious cider never lasted as long as I would’ve liked.
The other day, I posted this on Facebook: Fact: Taco salad is the best salad. Not a single person dissented; many agreed quite vocally. Seriously, what’s not to love? Taco salad can feel somewhat virtuous (though frequently it’s far from it), it’s a little more kicky than your usual garden greens, and it’s fairly customizable. One complaint I often hear about eating salad for lunch is that you wind up hungry by 3pm. Not so with a taco salad! There’s so much happening in there, so many good, filling ingredients, that you’ll be satisfied till supper.
When I was growing up, we’d often have taco salad for dinner. Matthew and I loved this meal and happily ate it out of an enormous salad bowl in which Papa tossed everything together, but if you have fussy little ones, it’s easy to do individual plates of taco salad, omitting the undesirable ingredients as needed. Feeding a crowd? For heaven’s sake, make a taco salad! I’ve yet to meet a person who was not delighted by the appearance of a bowl of these Mexi-ish greens.
Confession: Hot dogs are directly responsible for me quitting vegetarianism after more than 15 years. You guys, I love hot dogs. My brother, Matthew, and I used to split a package of Lit’l Smokies when we came home from school (for the record, that’s four servings each; it’s a miracle we’re not dead). I like a hot dog off the grill, I like a boiled dog, I like a dog charred in the flames of a campfire, I like sliced dogs stirred into stovetop mac and cheese, I like pigs in a blanket…I even like tofu dogs, but when I was faced with a hot dog at my first Mets game in Shea Stadium, I folded like a cheap suit. Folks at my old magazine caught wind and asked if I’d eat meat for a week and write about it. The rest is history. Sweet sweet sustainably-and-humanely raised animal-eating history.
In my childhood home, there were always three sodas: caffeine-free Coke, root beer, and ginger ale (preferable Canada Dry). My Papa and my brother were the real soda drinkers, but given those options, I usually gravitated toward the ginger ale. As I got older, I learned that most canned ginger ale is a lot tamer than many bottled varieties, and my allegiance lay with Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew. I like the burn, friends. I like a ginger ale that doesn’t just politely ring your doorbell but instead bashes in your front door, shakes the rain off its coat, and leaves muddy footprints in the entryway. That’s a soda I know I can bro down with—not just a delicately flavored vehicle for sugar and empty calories, but a soda that feels like a full-bodied treat, loaded with nuance and spice.
Last year, I asked my food-loving friend Lauren if she’d like to undertake a culinary project with me. When I was small, my family made big-batch gifts all the time—jars and jars of homemade pickles or jam, preserved bounty from our garden, etc.—and often my Papa and Dede make ambitious trios for Christmas presents. One year: chili oil, Worcestershire sauce, raspberry vinegar. Another year: chili powder (Papa smoked the chiles), Herbes de Provence (Dede picked and dried the lavender), curry powder (Papa toasted and ground all the spices). Clearly, this is in my blood, but I live in New York City. Storage space is tight and I live far from at least half the intended recipients. A food gift seemed unmanageable. READ MORE
Last year, my Papa sent me a surprise package of goods, unbeknownst to me. He’s the kind of guy who does that, you know? I opened a nondescript box and out tumbled these curious green objects. What on earth were they? I did some googling and figured out he’d sent me finger limes, a microcitrus from Australia (not a true lime at all, actually). This wild fruit has only been cultivated commercially in the last couple decades and only within the last few years have they really come to the U.S. In the last couple years, a farm in California has been growing and selling them from trees they imported. And friends? They are delicious! They taste a bit like a lemon-lime combo with a slightly floral note. And they’re fun as hell.