Show of hands here: Who likes caramel corn? Ok, good. Now, who likes Chex mix? Great. Allow me to introduce you to the easiest caramel snack ever.

No, seriously. There’s no chance of burning the sugar while you try to reach the exact temperature. We’re talking about 15 minutes, max, for prep time. And maybe four items to wash (saucepan, measuring cup, measuring spoon, spatula); three if your spatula is dishwasher-safe. 🙂 Did I mention that you MAKE THIS IN THE MICROWAVE?

Consider yourself warned though; it’s ridiculously addictive. I find this makes it ideal for sharing with friends and family. (Sharing = Beth doesn’t eat the entire batch.) Best of all, it travels well, both in the car and in the mail! I also think it would be great with some roasted peanuts thrown in, but I haven’t tested that theory.


Caramel Chex 

1 14 oz. box Corn Chex cereal
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 stick of butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 large paper bag*
non-stick cooking spray

Spray the inside of the paper bag with the cooking spray and set aside.

Place the sugar, corn syrup and butter in a medium saucepan. Melt over medium-low heat, stirring until the butter is completely melted and the mixture is combined.

Add the baking soda and vanilla to the butter mixture and stir briefly to combine. The mixture will foam up.

Pour the box of cereal into the greased paper bag, then pour the caramel sauce over the cereal. Stir to combine, then roll/fold the paper bag shut.

Microwave the bag on high for 1 1/2 minutes. Take the bag out of the microwave and shake it briefly. (Be sure to  hold the bag closed!) Microwave the bag again for another 1 1/2 minutes. Spread the cereal out of a piece of waxed paper and allow it to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

from my coworker Kevin, via my coworker Tina

*I’ve had some people tell me that it’s not safe to microwave things in paper bags. That may be true, but I haven’t figure out a way to make this without using the bag, as I don’t have a bowl that is big enough to hold all the cereal, small enough to fit in the microwave and is also microwave-safe! If someone figures out a way to do this without using a bag, I’d love to hear about it. 

Click here for a printable version.


Cheese Snowflakes (a.k.a. Cheese Straws)

I’m not sure where this greatness has been all of my life. Being a Midwestern girl through and through, cheese straws weren’t something I’d ever encountered before. But a wonderful friend gave me a gift subscription to Southern Living, and these babies were featured in the recipe section of my first issue. A easy-to-prep, savory snack that I could add to my Christmas goodie boxes? I’m in. (After all, I’ll try anything once.)  

One of my Christmas gift boxes: Smoked Almonds, Everyday Granola, Cheese Straws, and a bottle of my favorite local wine.

Then, I baked these suckers and discovered that they taste just like A HOMEMADE CHEEZ-IT. Seriously. And now that Christmas is over, you don’t have to add them to anyone’s gift box. You can keep the whole batch for yourself and not feel guilty about it. (Hey, New Year’s resolutions don’t kick in until Tuesday.) 


Cheese Straws

10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), softened
1 tablespoon half-and-half (I diluted some heavy cream)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (I went easy on this, since the cheese has salt in it.) 
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cheese and butter together. Beat in the half-and-half and salt. Gradually add the flour and spices, mixing until just combined. Form the dough into a ball.

Turn the dough out on to a well-floured surface (I used my pastry mat) and divide the dough into two equal portions. Roll out the first portion until it is 1/8″ thick. Using cookie cutters (or a knife, if you’re not interested in fun shapes!), cut out shapes. Place cheese straws on prepared cookie sheets about one inch apart.

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. (Mine were done in about 14 minutes.) Remove from oven and let cool on sheets on wire rack. When straws have cooled, remove them from the cookie sheets.

Repeat with second ball of dough. When finished, reroll all of the scraps and cut into shapes. (Southern Living suggested only rerolling the scraps once; I disregarded that advice and kept rolling and cutting until all of the dough was gone.) 

Store in an airtight container.

Note: I had the best luck with the snowflakes and the tiny airplanes. I also used my tiny biscuit cutter to make round ones, however, I found that those softened the quickest after being stored overnight. The snowflakes and airplanes kept their crunch. 

Barely adapted from Southern Living, December 2012

What we’re eating – 12/10/12 – 12/14/12

It’s been a really long time since I did a “what we’re eating” post! I’m hoping to try a few new things this week, so I figured I’d share. 🙂

Monday 12/10 – Roasted spaghetti squash, pork chops and spinach
Tuesday 12/11 – Creamy Taco Mac (I think I’ll use Annie’s and Elly’s recipes as guidelines and go from there. Hopefully it’s better than my last taco-chili mac!) 
Wednesday 12/12 – New recipe number two! Thai chicken tacos. I don’t have a cucumber on hand, and I’m thinking I’ll add shredded carrots to the cabbage mixture.
Thursday 12/13 – We’re having pizza with some friends! Woohoo! 🙂
Friday 12/14 – Burgers! Roasted sweet potatoes! Broccoli! (Andy’s not the only one who’s excited about this meal…) 

I’m taking Tuesday off work to bake Christmas cookies. I am ridiculously excited about this. 🙂 Here’s my list so far:

Nutter Butter Santas
Peanut Butter Blossoms
M&M Cookies

I’m planning on adding a molasses cookie of some kind to that list, plus at least one type of fudge or candy. I’ll also be working on some goodies for Christmas gifts, so I’d better not talk about what I’m making, at least not until after I give those gifts away!

Smoky Nuts

Sometimes, I think the ideal job is naming paint colors. You pick an adjective (let’s say… wistful) and a noun (skies), and bam! You have a paint color. (For the record, I think that “wistful skies” would be a blue-gray color.)  This is where you’re wondering what on earth naming paint colors has to do with food, right? Well, friends of ours selected a warm, rich brown color for some walls in their home. The name of the paint?

Toasted Nuts. Which was all I could think of while I made this recipe.

It’s easy, tasty and way too addicting. The recipe says it feed eight to 12 people. When I told Andy this, he immediately came back with, “Eight to 12 what? Babies?” Seeing as the two of nearly polished off the entire batch in about 30 minutes, I’m kind of inclined to agree with him. Either that, or it feeds eight to 12 people as part of an appetizer spread (which was probably what the magazine editors were envisioning…).

Smoky Nuts 

2 cups of almonds
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 375. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the almonds with the olive oil until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and paprika and toss until evenly coated.

Bake for 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant. (I should have pulled mine from the oven about 2 minutes earlier.) Let cool before serving.

Store in an airtight container.


From Everyday Food Magazine, November 2012 (As of right now, the recipe wasn’t online – probably because my issue is only a week old.)