A lot of people, me included, like to take little gifts of food to people at holiday time, whether the gift is a bottle of wine for a hostess, a festive package of Christmas cookies for the neighbors or a box of chocolates for the piano teacher. There's just something about a gift of food that seems very friendly and welcoming.
In my mind, it's even better to give gifts of homemade food because it can be made with love (which my family claims to be able to taste), and possibly put together much more cheaply than you could get it at the grocery or one of those little gourmet kiosks at the mall. The cost in dollars can be minimal -- unless you insist on making gifts with saffron imported from Spain or white truffles imported from France or if you soak your fruitcake in Courvoisier L'Esprit (approximately $6,800 per bottle) or something -- so your time is probably the most costly thing that goes into heartfelt homemade gifts.
But what if you have some weird friend who has no appreciation for Mexican Wedding Cookies or those peanut butter cookies with a Hershey's kiss in the center or candy canes and pretzel sticks dipped in chocolate? WHAT DO YOU DO WITH PARTY POOPERS LIKE THAT??
In my opinion, you stir up a batch of Party Snack Mix, line a cute tin you purchased at Dollar Tree with some parchment paper or plastic wrap and gift away, my friends. This Spicy Snack Mix recipe makes a very cute gift for those who don't have a sweet tooth (yes, I agree that they should probably be shunned by society, but just keep saying "peaceonearthgoodwilltowardsmen" and sooner or later you'll be able to hand them a tin of snack mix without thumping them on the head with it first.) It also makes a nice crunchy/salty snack for Sunday afternoon football or a nice little dish of nibbly something to set out at your party while guests are drinking their mulled cider, soda pop or beer. For some reason, this snack mix just doesn't seem to lend itself to a glass of wine. I think it must be too rustic, a little too hearty, for vino.
SPICY SNACK MIX
The beauty of this stuff is that you can throw just about any type of pretzel or other doo-dad from the snack aisle at the grocery (we like Bugles) and unsweetened cereal into this stuff and you have a winner. I've used roasted soy "nuts," sesame sticks, wheat or rice Chex cereals....make it your own! Here's what I used in the photograph above:
6 cups of Corn Chex
4 cups of Cheerios
4 cups of Bugles
3 cups of dry roasted peanuts (or mixed nuts if you want a more elegant snack mix)
2 cups of tiny twist pretzels
2 cups of colored goldfish crackers (I used the neon ones in the mix above and I don't think they're as cute)
two sticks of butter
2 tablespoons of Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning
(The nuts can be omitted; just substitute 3 cups of of something else.)
Preheat over to 250 degrees. Stir all the snacks and cereals together in a large -- and I mean LARGE -- roasting pan. Turkey-sized would be a wise choice, because you do not want to be stirring this stuff on an oven rack and having bits of it fall overboard into the bottom of your oven because your smoke detectors will be going off with wild abandon before you can say "Cheerios smell funny when they're burning."
In a two-cup Pyrex measuring cup or similar, melt two sticks of butter. When it is melted, stir the seasoning mix into it until thoroughly combined. Pour the butter/seasoning combination over the snacks and cereals in the roasting pan and stir. Place roasting pan in oven and set timer for fifteen minutes. At the end of fifteen minutes, stir the mixture carefully. Continue with the cooking/stirring for 45 more minutes. At the end of one hour, remove the roasting pan from the oven and allow the snack mix to cool completely. Sneak a little bowl for yourself and enjoy with a cold Diet Coke (my pref) or a cold beer. Scoop snack mix into lined tins and seal tightly. Any remaining snack mix can be stored for a week or so in an airtight container, but it probably won't last that long, truth be told.