As someone who is endlessly fascinated with learning about food traditions, it makes me sad to say this, but we don’t really have many traditional Christmas foods at our celebration. Growing up, whenever my dad’s side of the family was together, we had a huge German feast, an homage to my grandmother. We had German sausages, real pumpernickel bread, sauerkraut and pickles galore. It was a sweet sentiment, but about 10 years ago we realized few of us actually enjoyed German food, plus, our hands were so swollen from salt it interfered with our ability to unwrap presents! So, tasked with creating a new tradition, we all settled on steamed lobster from the nearby DC docks.
The only other food that makes a regular appearance at Christmas is my aunts homemade nuts & bolts snack mix. It’s an addictive combination of chex cereal, pretzels, cheerios, peanuts, cheez crackers and pumpernickel bagel crisps. Being the whole foodie I am, it may surprise you to learn how much I love this mix, and frankly, I am too! Separately, none of those ingredients tempt me, but when they’re drenched in the combination of spices and baked crisp, it’s insane!
When I’m around this mix, I tend to throw away all the mindful eating skills I usually practice. I mindlessly much on it while watching Christmas movies, grab a handful after walking the dogs, and even nosh on it with a glass of champagne while opening presents! I hate to use the word bad in reference to food, but it is sooooo bad!
We all tend to pick out the best parts of the mix, the cereal and cheese crackers, and leave everything else behind. By the end of the week, it truly is “nuts and bolts” because the peanuts and pretzels are the only things leftover!
So, I decided to create a healthier version of the mix. Although it’s certainly not the most nutritious thing on the planet, it’s just as tasty. For my version, I pared down the ingredients, mainly because I couldn’t find cheerios made without corn starch or 100% whole grain pretzels. Feel free to add those in too, but you might want to increase the seasoning mix accordingly. I also swapped the cheez-its for Van’s gluten free Say Cheese crackers. Made with a mixture of oat, brown rice, millet and quinoa flours, they’re a much healthier option than other cheese crackers. Chex does make a whole wheat version, but I used an organic, whole wheat one from Cascadian Farms. Whatever you get, make sure it has less than 5 grams of sugar in a serving.
- 1 5-ounce box Van's Say Cheese crackers, or other 100% whole grain cheese cracker
- 1 13-ounce box 100% whole grain "chex-style" cereal
- 1½ cup peanuts
- ⅓ cup flax seed
- 4 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1½ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅓ cup coconut oil, melted
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
- In a large bowl, mix together crackers, cereal, peanuts and flax. In a small bowl, mix together spices.
- Drizzle oil over the cereal mix, tossing to combine. Sprinkle the spice mix over the top, tossing well to combine again. Spread evenly over a large baking sheet. Bake for an hour total, tossing every 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Will keep at least a week in an airtight container at room temperature.