Long before you could buy Chex Mix seasoning packets at the grocery store, there was Nuts & Bolts – the Original (and so much tastier!) Party Mix.
Every year at Christmastime back when I was a child (just after the dinosaurs died) my mother’s best friend Mrs Houston would make a giant batch of Nuts & Bolts and give our family a big bag of it. The problem with that was, it didn’t matter how big the bag was – there was never enough. Spicy, smokey, and perfectly seasoned, I could have crunched through handful after handful for breakfast, lunch, and late night snack and still not have had enough.
Later, as a young married, I got a hankering for my favorite holiday treat, so I made “Chex Mix” with the packet stuff. Once. It didn’t even compare: it was like jonesing for a Dark Chocolate Raspberry 12-Layer Torte and getting a Hostess cupcake and a jar of jam instead. Luckily, Mrs Houston was still living at the time, so I asked her for the recipe and wrote it down on a 3×5 card, which I guarded for years like it was Charlie’s golden ticket.
Unfortunately, we had a few bumpy years, and amid all the moving, my little golden ticket got lost in the frey. I didn’t discover the disappearance, of course, until I got a bug to make Nuts & Bolts a few years ago; at which time I spent a couple of weeks silently panicking while I tried to piece together the ingredient list from fuzzy memories of batches past.
This story has a happy ending though. After some trial and error, Mrs Houston’s was recipe at last reclaimed, and now my holidays (and my hands) are once again filled with smoky, spicy, savory, snacking goodness.
Note that the recipe below makes a boatload and then some, so feel free to pare it down. (However, if you make the whole batch, you’ll have plenty to give away as gifts. Maybe.)
- 1 - 14 oz. box Wheat Chex
- 1 - 12 oz. box Corn Chex
- 1 - 12 oz. box Rice Chex
- 12 cups Cheerios
- 1 bag thin pretzels – the stick kind (about a pound)
- 2 cups nuts
- 3 sticks (1½ cups) butter
- ½ cup light olive oil
- ½ cup Worcester Sauce
- 2 Tablespoons Liquid Smoke
- 1-2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
- 1½ teaspoons Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
- Take out the extra rack in your oven if you have one, and put the remaining rack on the bottom or next to the bottom level. Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
- In a large paper grocery bag, mix cereals, pretzels and nuts together and set aside.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and oil together, and then blend in Worcestershire Sauce, Liquid Smoke, and hot sauce. Slowly pour over mixture in the bag, shaking as you do to cover everything. Sprinkle seasoned salt over everything, shut the top of the bag, and shake the heck out of it.
- Pour the mixture into a large (turkey) roaster pan. (It will barely fit.)
- Place mixture in roaster pan into oven. Bake for 45 minutes.
- Using oven mitts, carefully pour mixture into the large paper bag and shake a couple of times. Return mixture to roaster pan and return to oven.
- Repeat 4 times, for a total baking time of 3 hours.
- Roll the top of the bag down and place the whole thing on a large cookie sheet.
- Place the bag on the cookie sheet into the preheated oven. Make sure that the top of the bag is at least a few inches away from the top oven element.
- Bake for three hours, shaking the bag every 30 minutes.
- NOTE: To make things easier when using the paper bag method, I prepare two bags - one full and one empty. Then every half hour, I just take the hot mixture out of the oven on the cookie sheet, pour it from the full bag to the empty one on the counter, and then put the (new) full one back in the oven. That way, the mix at the very bottom gets stirred, and I never have a clump of mix that doesn't get stirred. If you do a half-batch, you can easily make it in a large roasting pan.
- Most people use peanuts in this mixture, but Mr B doesn’t like them, so I use cashews instead.
- Do not leave the Liquid Smoke out! (Did you know that Liquid smoke really is made from smoke? Yep. Chips or sawdust from hardwoods such as hickory or mesquite are burned at high temperatures, and particles of the smoke are collected in condensers. The resulting liquid is concentrated down for a stronger flavor.) Anyway, it lasts forever, so even if you never use it for anything else, you can keep it in the back of your seasoning shelf and pull it out every year just for this.
- If there is a chance that vegetarians might be eating this, be sure to use a vegetarian Worcestershire Sauce.
This recipe has been updated since it was originally posted, December 2013.