CHEW THIS! Celebration Party Mix

Celebration Party Mix

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The following “Chew This!” column has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times”, Sunday, January 1st 2017 edition. By: Blaise Doubman 

Party Mix to celebrate the New Year!
Blaise Doubman

For years and years my family and I would all make “New Year’s Resolutions” but after awhile we stopped. It was almost like no matter what the “resolution” would be, it would automatically fail within the first few weeks. Once we stopped doing it, it was almost like a weight had been lifted. There was no restraints on what we should or should not be doing and we were all able to come into the New Year without any heavy expectations. Celebrating the New Year was just an all around more enjoyable experience. I always admired people who made a resolution and stuck with them – good for them! And if you do now – good for you! I, however, gave up on that tradition long ago. However, I do let myself make “New Years Goals” for the coming year, which always seems to help guide me over the course of the coming year. Life happens unexpectedly most of the time but it does help when there is a little bit of a navigational course you plan for yourself. This year some of my goals are personal, some professional. Personally I am wanting to make more time for spontaneous things. Professionally I am wanting to expand my knowledge of foreign cuisine and customs.

I am also setting the goal of making and developing more recipes that are “seasonal” in aspect of ingredients and taste. I love celebrating the Holidays with family and friends and so many of our recipes are geared towards certain Holidays, without even really thinking about it. I am going to try and make more of a point to make certain recipes for certain Holiday celebrations and I am going to start here with this one! My “Celebration Party Mix” was inspired by a recipe that my Grandma Barbra and I have been making for years that was originally found in an old children’s cookbook that my Grandma bought at a book sale. Over the years we have added and subtracted all kinds of ingredients and what is listed below is our favorite combination of flavors and textures. Save this recipe and stir up a batch anytime there’s a celebration!

Celebration Party Mix

This recipe is one of the most versatile recipes I think I have ever created. You can literally add anything you want to this mix, customizable in thousands of different options. Add your favorite cereal, granola, raisins, dates, dried fruits or nuts. The flavor is customizable as well! Add your favorite hot sauce, seasoning packet or favorite powder staple. The sky is really the limit with this mix! This is best served warm but can also be served at room temperature. Feel free to double or even triple this recipe. Experiment and have fun with the flavors and textures!

4 tablespoons salted butter
1 cup salted mixed nuts
1 cup pretzel sticks
1 cup crispy rice cereal
1 cup wheat squares cereal
1 cup cheddar square crackers
1 cup large wheat crackers
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
5 drops hot sauce
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder

Start by preheating your oven to 250 degrees F.

Place the butter in a large 9×13-inch shallow baking pan and place in the oven.

Once the oven has preheated and the butter has completely melted, carefully remove the pan and add the salted mixed nuts, pretzel sticks and cereal. Add the Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, paprika, onion powder and garlic powder. Stir everything together well to coat.

Place mixture in preheated oven for 30 minutes, removing and stirring every 10 minutes.

After baking, remove from the oven and pour the snack mix into a large serving bowl.

Leftovers can be kept at room temperature, in a covered container for 5 days.

Ask and Answer: Several readers have been asking how to properly melt chocolate chips in the microwave. The answer is simple – always add a little bit of solid vegetable shortening to the chips. In a microwave safe bowl, add the desired amount of chocolate chips and add a little less than 1 tablespoon of pure solid vegetable shortening for every 1 ½ cups of chips. Microwave on 100% power in 30 second intervals until the chocolate is smooth and silky when you stir it.

CHEW THIS! Candied Pecans

Candied Pecans

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The following “Chew This!” column has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times”, Sunday, February 1st 2015 edition. By: Blaise Doubman

Candied Pecans are simple, flavorful and perfect for snacking!
Blaise Doubman

I’ve loved pecans for as long as I can remember. The earliest memory I can recall is my Grandma Barbra buying me a small bag of pecans at the old New Castle “Becker Brothers” grocery store. I loved them from my first taste. They add so much flavor to chocolate fudge, blondie brownies, on top of sweet potatoes and in spicy chili pecan soup. Yes, soup! It’s made with chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, onion, garlic, tomato – and topped with pecans. (A little hot for my taste, but good with a little sour cream and still in my recipe development process). It wasn’t until about three years ago though, that I started tinkering around with the process of actually candying the pecans. Want to make pecans better? Candy them with white and brown sugars and cook them in a low and slow oven – they’re incredible! These are not only delicious and easy; they will make your house smell better than any candle ever could!

Did you know that pecans are an excellent source of Vitamin E? Did you know they are a good source of energy? Pecans are also rich sources of several B-complex vitamins and great providers of minerals like potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc! They really are a “miracle” nut – so don’t feel guilty when you’re snacking on your third or fourth handful. Don’t get me wrong – this is not a “diet recipe”, but pecans are more beneficial than eating a candy bar. And these candied pecans really add a flavorful crunch on top of your salad too. Sprinkle a few on top of your grilled chicken salad with orange dressing – how delicious does that sound? You’ll be amazed at how easy these are to make! Even if you’re a novice in the kitchen – try this recipe! It’s foolproof…

Candied Pecans

This recipe really is foolproof. Just follow the directions and you’ll get perfectly candied pecans every time. Store these in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. They are delicious sprinkled on top of salads, desserts or even main courses like soups, chicken dishes, etc. These are also a perfect gift for Valentine’s Day! Wrap them in little Valentine’s bags and tie with a red or pink ribbon. Be creative and have fun with different flavor combinations! Creativity and having fun are two important things when entering the kitchen. Leave your reservations at the door and enter with an open mind and have fun!

½ cup granulated white sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups pecan halves
1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Splash of water

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a 13×9-inch baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium sized bowl mix together the granulated white sugar, light brown sugar, ground cinnamon and salt.

In a larger bowl, whisk together the egg white, vanilla extract and splash of water until combined and frothy. Once combined, add in the pecans and toss until evenly coated with the egg white mixture.

Next, add the sugar mixture to the pecans and stir gently until all pecans are evenly coated with the mixture.

Pour the pecans onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet and spread out evenly.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Once completely baked and candied, remove the pecans and allow to cool slightly before serving.