Hot Mess: Quick Mix

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a snacking fiend.  Whoever said that we should only eat three meals a day, is either eating enormous meals or is completely crazy.  Snacks represent those few happy moments of relaxation than anyone living in the 21st century desperately needs.  And therefore, it’s is our responsibility as rational human beings to always keep a few munchies nearby. One of my favorite snacks is Chex Mix.  It’s filling, it’s crunchy, and it’s not completely unhealthy.  Plus every time I’m eating it I think of that commercial and wonder where I can get a boring potato chip decoy bag. But, true to myself, I prefer to make my own Chex Mix, which isn’t really Chex mix since I don’t use the cereal, but sometimes I call it that for clarity’s sake.  What it actually is, is just a raiding of my local bulk foods store.  There are many country-esk stores that sell bulk snack foods, packaged in plain plastic bags with stuck on labels.  These are the best way to make a large amount of mix quickly, easily, and cheaply.  All the snack foods are there and all that has to be decided is which ones to use.

Photo by Jasmine McNenny

To make a great quick mix requires no cooking, no baking, and no extra seasoning.  The only thing that differentiates a good mix from a bad is the ingredients you choose, and therefore, the balance you achieve.  Though there are numerous combinations, with flavors ranging from spicy to sweet to bold to salty.  However, my personal preference is to go with combined flavors, especially the classic sweet and salty.

My favorite mix right now is completely made from ingredients found at my local farmers’ market.  I basically just ran up and down the snack foods aisle and found  things that I thought would be good together.  For salty I chose salted almonds and sesame sticks.  For sweet I went with chocolate covered peanuts, craisins, and banana chips.

But, I guess I did lie at the beginning when I said there was no baking involved.  In this case the banana chips were not sweetened, which if you’ve ever had an unsweetened banana chip, you know it tastes a little like crunchy cardboard.  To rectify this, I decided to caramelize the chips by simply covering them in honey and white sugar and baking them at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes until the sugars began to turn golden brown.  By doing this, I added sweetness and unknowingly, a pleasant bitter taste that was missing.  If you do decided to caramelize banana chips or something similar, make sure you stir the chips a few times while they’re in the oven for even baking, and break up or spread out the chips when they come out of the oven while they’re still soft.  If you don’t spread out the chip immediately, they will cool, harden and stick together and to the pan.  If this happens, just put them back in the oven for another minute until they soften again.  It makes clean up easier too.

Photo by Jasmine McNenny

To make the actual mix, it’s as easy as opening bags and dumping them into a large bowl or container.  Just be careful that you aren’t adding too much or too little of any one ingredient.  I hate those premade mixes that have five chocolate pieces and two pounds of bread sticks.  Just add a little of each, stir, and check.  A good mix has a completely different flavor when all the ingredients are eaten together, so it’s crucial that amount of each you add makes it possible to do this.

Photo by Jasmine McNenny

Ok, so with the bitter-sweetness from the banana chips, the sweet and sour craisins, and the distinct flavor of the sesame sticks, this mix it not just your typical sweet and salty.  If you’re a purest, you may choose ingredients in which the flavors are more muted and the mix plays with only one or two taste buds groups.  However, if you like bold flavors and want to set a challenge to yourself, try to get all four tastes into one mix: bitter, sour, salty, sweet.  In my mind, these mixes are the most addicting because you are never left craving anything, except maybe glass of water.  Munch munch munch.