Merry Mix: a better way to Chex Mix

Merry Mix recipe from heatherplusmike.com
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.

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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

Boiled Cider (a.k.a. Apple Cider Molasses, Cider Syrup, Bottled Autumn)

The best thing you can do with a gallon of fresh apple cider is make it last all year.

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.

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Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata

This is a recipe I knew before I met Heather and, had she not been a strict vegetarian at the time, one that I no doubt would have made to woo her. It’s delicious, impressive, and very easy to prepare. If you make this for the lady or gentleman of your fancy, it could very well result in after dinner sexytimes. I make no promises, but your odds are definitely improved.

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Ginger Ale: Now with Real Ginger

This ginger ale is not for sissiesIn 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.

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Finger Lime Curd: Quite Literally Bursting with Citrus Flavor

Made with this kooky Australian microcitrus, this sweet treat will be a big hit.

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.

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