New Year’s Eve: Time to get your nibble on

Asian Firecracker Party Mix.
Asian Firecracker Party Mix.

New Year’s Eve get-togethers tend to be grazing affairs of finger-friendly appetizers. This year, consider making cereal party mix to take along or serve at your own soiree. Chex markets many pre-made varieties, but you can save money and tailor the melange to your taste when you make it yourself.

Besides cereal party mixes, spiced nuts and trail mixes that don’t require cooking make tasty additions to the celebratory food table.

Most recipes make oodles of mix. Don’t cut them in half: I’ve done that and have been unhappy with the results. For some reason, halving the spices leaves the mixes a bit wan. If the name is Asian Firecracker Party Mix, I want to taste the explosion. Make the full recipe and give some away if there’s too much for your purposes.

Mixes also keep in the refrigerator for weeks if tightly covered. Heating the spices develops flavors but can also mellow them, so you might want to sprinkle more cayenne pepper at the end. To boost the color and zip of the Asian Firecracker mix, I added more wasabi peas after it had cooled. (Find the peas in your grocer’s Asian food aisle.)

Some party mix recipes call for baking. Use a sheet with a lip, like a jellyroll pan; watch carefully and stir the mix every 15 minutes.

Trail mix is all about balancing sweet and salty with different textures and shapes. You need some softness and some crunch. My favorites always have nuts and chocolate. Yogurt- or chocolate-coated raisins are a nice touch. Dark chocolate and dried apricots take trail mix out of its backpack mode.

The bulk bins at natural or specialty food shops offer lots of ideas for mixing and matching. Peruse them for ideas.

It’s the last night of 2012. Once the calendar turns, so does our behavior. That’s when we mix the Chex cereal with skim milk.

Chocolate Peanut-Butter Munchies

5 cups Corn Chex cereal

2 cups pretzel sticks, broken in half

½ cup butter or margarine

½ cup creamy peanut butter

1 bag (11.5 ounces) milk chocolate chips

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup candy-coated milk chocolate candies, such as M&Ms

Cover 2 cookie sheets with waxed paper. In very large bowl, mix cereal and pretzels.

n medium microwave-safe bowl, microwave butter, peanut butter, and chocolate chips uncovered on high 45 seconds; stir. Microwave 15 to 45 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Immediately pour over cereal mixture, stirring until evenly coated. Spread evenly on cookie sheets. Refrigerate uncovered about 20 minutes or until set.

Break into bite-sized pieces. Divide mixture evenly into two resealable 1-gallon food-storage plastic bags. Add ½ cup powdered sugar to each bag. Seal and shake each bag until well coated. Add ½ cup candies to each bag. Seal and gently shake each bag to mix. Store in sealed bags in refrigerator up to 4 weeks.

Yield: 10 cups.


Cranberry Walnut Snack Mix

½ cup butter or margarine

1/3 cup honey

¼ cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

3 cups square oat cereal

1 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup chopped walnuts

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup chocolate or yogurt covered raisins

Preheat oven to 275°.

In a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl, combine the first five ingredients; heat until the butter is melted. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

In a large bowl, combine cereal, oats, and nuts. Drizzle with butter mixture and mix well. Place in a greased 15- by 10-inch baking sheet with a lip. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cranberries and chocolate-covered raisins. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: about 6 cups.


Asian Firecracker Party Mix

5 cups Rice Chex

2 cups sesame sticks (see cook’s note)

1½ cups wasabi peas, divided (see cook’s note)

1 cup chow mein noodles

1 cup honey roasted peanuts

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¾ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Cook’s note: To increase heat, add the additional half-cup of wasabi peas to the mix after the mixture has cooled. Baking the mixture cools the horseradish-flavor of the peas quite a bit. Sesame sticks can be found in the bulk food bins of some specialty and natural food stores

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250°. Combine cereal, sesame sticks, 1 cup wasabi peas, chow mein noodles, and peanuts in large bowl. Whisk butter and soy sauce in small bowl, then drizzle over cereal mixture. Sprinkle evenly with ginger, garlic powder, and cayenne and toss until well combined. Spread mixture over rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring every 15 minutes, about 45 to 60 minutes, or until crisp. Cool to room temperature on paper towels.

Yield: about 10 cups.


Deviled Chex Mix

2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground chili powder

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 cup assorted unsalted nuts, such as peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans

3 cups Rice Chex cereal

3 cups Corn Chex cereal

3 cups Wheat Chex cereal

1 cup miniature cheese crackers

1 cup miniature pretzels

In small bowl, mix sugar, paprika, chili powder, curry powder, cumin, coriander, pepper, and salt; set aside.

In large microwave-safe bowl, combine oil and nuts. Microwave uncovered on high about 2 minutes or until fragrant. Stir in cereals, crackers, and pretzels until evenly coated. Stir in sugar mixture until evenly coated.

Microwave uncovered on high 2 to 3 minutes, stirring every minute, until mixture is thoroughly heated. Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container.

Yield: 12 cups.


Brownie Crunch Trail Mix

4 cups Cocoa Puffs Brownie Crunch cereal

2 cups Golden Grahams cereal

1½ cups tiny pretzel twists

1 cup miniature marshmallows

1 cup candy-coated confections, such as M&Ms or Reese’s Pieces

½ cup dry-roasted peanuts

In large bowl or gallon-size resealable food-storage plastic bag, mix all ingredients. Store tightly covered.

Yield: about 11 cups.

Source: Betty Crocker