Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Savoury Blended Christmas Traditions


Advent is here and so begins a time of preparation – a time of preparing our hearts, our minds and our lives to welcome a tiny baby, the son of God, born humbly into this world.  A baby whose birth some 2000 years ago continues to make a huge difference in people’s lives today.

I want to share with you a recipe for Nuts and Bolts that makes a fabulous, salty snack that kids and adults alike love!  It’s easy to make, tastes way better (in my humble opinion) than the ones you’ll buy in the store, and makes great hostess gifts over the holidays.  But before the recipe, the story behind it...

My mother was a great cook and baker.  The weeks leading up to Christmas were always exciting – the kitchen air was thick with the spicy, sweet, homey scents of baking and you could almost see the scent waves wafting through the air.  You could certainly follow them with your nose!  One of the many traditional treats in our house was homemade nuts and bolts.  As a kid I loved to take a pretzel stick from the bowl, push small, round Cherrios on either end and pretend it was a car driving across the table!  Of course I enjoyed eating the cars after I was finished playing with them!

In January of the year I turned fifteen my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  She died in December of the same year, just two weeks before Christmas.  When I was in my early twenties my father met a lovely woman and re-married.  Beryl, my step-mother, also enjoyed baking. She had her own traditional Christmas goodies, one of which (low and behold) was nuts and bolts. She used a slightly different recipe, giving the finished product a little more zing (and a lot more garlic!).  We welcomed Beryl and her traditional baking into our Christmas celebrations and the recipe you see at the end of this story is the result of blending my mother’s recipe with Beryl’s recipe for a taste sensation that is savoury, salty and sensational!

Christmas traditions change over the years as our families and lives change. My family’s traditions changed after my mother died. They changed again, and became blended with some of Beryl’s traditions, when she joined our family and yet again when my father sold the farm where we grew up as children. Traditions continued to change and evolve when my father died, when my marriage ended, and now as I start a new marriage it’s a time of change again. I’d like to encourage you this advent season to think about the Christmas traditions you try to honour. If there are some from your childhood or your past that you need to let go of, give yourself permission to do so.  Perhaps you’re secretly still clinging to some traditions in your heart.  Don’t give up the memories, allow yourself to grieve the loss of these traditions, the same way you grieved the situations that led up to the loss.  All I’m saying is don’t allow your grief over the loss of the past to prevent you from experiencing the joy that new traditions can bring to you and your family in the present.

Remember, family comes in many different shapes, sizes and configurations.  I’m happy to say that over the years, Beryl has become a cherished member of our family and also one of my best friends!  Maybe this year your family includes a friend or neighbour whose spouse has died.  Maybe it includes a friend who is going through a divorce and is alone for the first time at Christmas, maybe it’s someone from your church or work who has no family. Perhaps it’s a new step-child or maybe you’re experiencing Christmas for the first time as a single parent. Whatever form your family finds itself in this year, remember that blended families can be just as spicy and savoury as blended recipes – you don’t have to stick to “time-honoured” traditions, give yourself the freedom to start some new ones today. 

You’ll need two big roasting pans – if you don’t have these, that’s OK...go to the grocery store and buy 2 aluminum foil roasters (they’ll cost around $5 to $6 for two). You can wash them and re-use them next year.

1 box (620 g) Shreddies
1 box (260 g) Cherrios
1 box (350 g) Crispix
2 lbs Spanish peanuts
1 or 2 packages pretzel sticks

Divide the cereals, peanuts and pretzels evenly between the two roasters – getting approximately the same amount of each cereal in each pan.  Feel free to adjust the amount of pretzels to your liking – I prefer to use two packages but some people like less pretzels.

Mix 2 tablespoons soya sauce and add enough Worcestershire sauce to equal ½ cup.

In a pot on the stove melt 2 cups butter or margarine and add 1 cup cooking oil. (Yes, I know it looks like a whole lot of fat in that pot – remember it’s spread out over all that cereal so you’ll only be eating a little at time! That’s my rationale anyway! J) Then add the soya sauce and Worcestershire mixture. 
Add 2 generous tablespoons of each of the following:
onion salt 
garlic salt
celery salt
And 2 teaspoons paprika

Cook the sauce mixture slightly to dissolve the spices (they won’t quite all dissolve but that’s OK).  Now pour the sauce gradually over the cereal in the roasters, stirring as you pour so everything is evenly coated.

Bake at 225 degrees F for 1 ½ hours – stirring every 15 minutes.

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