I’ve been baking for days in preparation for this weekend. Monday, I’ll take ten boxes to the post office, each filled with bubble wrap and packing peanuts (boxes and filler are all recycled from packages received) protecting cookie tins and little gifties. Bags of granola. Jars of jam. Squat pint jars for my pals who love sweet pickles. Slivovitz and limoncello.
In some of the boxes, I’ll be including a big bag of Nuts ‘n’ Bolts, one of those crazy, retro holiday traditions.
Our first Christmas together, thirteen years ago, a giant box arrived the week before Christmas. Dennis’ eyes lit up and he gleefully declared “Nuts & Bolts!” That year, and for a few after, Aunt Dorothy sent a huge coffee can filled with this savory treat, as well as two or three pieces of her hand painted china.
She was a marvelous botanical artist, capturing the essence of her favorite blossoms. This is my favorite of her dishes. She painted it for us the year we were married; the purple pansies a nod to those I dried and decoupaged on each of our wedding invitations. (I know! Crazy!)
Aunt Dorothy’s been gone for a couple of years now. We think of her often, her gentle nature, crossword puzzling, I Love Lucy watching, and appreciation of the world at large. For awhile, she and I corresponded, hand written letters with news and thoughts of baking or gardening or her Denny, whom she adored. Making Nuts & Bolts brings her back to our hearts every Christmas.
This is a tasty, savory, snacking food – utterly addictive. Make a huge batch, pack it up in jars or bags tied with a bow. Take it along with you to a holiday party and watch what happens. Start a tradition of your own.
Nuts and Bolts
One 12.8 oz box Corn Chex
One 12.8 oz box Rice Chex
One 12.8 oz box Cheerios (we forgot these! oops!)
One bag pretzel sticks or miniature pretzels
4 c salted roasted peanuts (skin on or off, your choice)
8 oz (two sticks) unsalted butter
1 c olive (not extra virgin,) safflower, or other lightly flavored oil
1/2 c Worchestershire sauce
3-4 T salt, to your taste
4 T celery seed
1-1/2 T onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder or granulated garlic
Preheat the oven to 200° (225° if that is the lowest your oven will go.)
You’ll want two rimmed baking sheets, or use a large, deep roasting pan (this is more efficient – you can mix right in the roasting pan.)
Empty the cereals, pretzels and nuts into a huge bowl.
In a small saucepan, heat the butter, oil and Worchestershire sauce until the butter is completely melted.
Add the spices to the melted butter/oil/sauce mixture, stir well, and pour over the cereals/pretzels/nuts.
Mix well but very gently using two big spoons or your impeccably clean hands. Spread the mixture over the two baking sheets or into the roasting pan.
Bake for about two hours, stirring gently every half hour or so.
Allow the mixture to cool completely before packing it into big decorative bags, tied with a bow. Or, do as Aunt Dorothy did, and use giant ChocFullofNuts coffee cans. Send some Nuts & Bolts to all your loved ones.
Does your family have a favorite, traditional, holiday treat? Tell me about it in the comments! I’ll randomly select one of you to receive a holiday package from my kitchen. Candy, cookies, jams, pickles, booze, nuts & bolts – might be any of the above! US residents only.
I’ll mail on Wednesday, with hopes it might get to you before Christmas, so you only have until Tuesday, December 20, 9PM EST to enter to win.
Happiest of holidays to all of you.