Saturday, December 14, 2013

Holiday Party Snacks

It started as an argument about, of all things, Chex™ Party Mix, AKA “Nuts ‘n’ Bolts,” “Scramble,” and “TV Mix.” A friend claimed to be using the “original recipe from the 1960s.” I found this claim to be suspect, since Betty Crocker first published a snack mix recipe in 1950, and the Chex™ Party Mix recipe first appeared on the boxes of Chex™ in 1952. In 1955, the wife of a Raulston Purina exec served the mix at a St. Louis holiday fete, and the popularity of the mix has grown ever since.
I asked my friend about the source of his party mix recipe. The recipe he uses appeared in a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook published in 1963, which my friend inherited from his mother. He was kind enough to lend me the book, and I have thoroughly enjoyed perusing the 50-year-old recipes for party snacks.

It has been almost as much fun to see the illustrations of “hostess accessories” which are used to display the foods. Whether in "Danish modern" style or otherwise, all of them look charmingly dated.

Following World War II, the cocktail party became an increasingly popular way for Americans, many of whom were enjoying the middle class lifestyle during the prosperous postwar years. Even for folks who avoided alcohol, party snacks began to take on a flair not previously seen outside high society. This was, in a way, America’s first step toward our modern obsession with food, not merely as sustenance, but as the product of a craft to be mastered.

This week, therefore, I decided to shift gears a little and talk about food. It is one of my favorite topics, especially during the holiday season. Some of my fondest holiday memories are of family gatherings where the tablecloth was almost hidden under dishes of food. When a friend recently loaned me a cookbook published in 1963, I found recipes for several of my favorites from way back then. Just in time for your holiday entertaining, then, here are some holiday snack recipes from 50 years ago.

I have modified them slightly for modern tastes and reduced salt content.

Original Chex Snack Mix
From the back of the box comes this classic recipe.  Makes 12 cups.

3 cups EACH Corn, Wheat and Rice Chex cereals
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup bite size pretzels
1 cup bagel chips, broken in 1-inch pieces
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
½ teaspoon seasoned salt
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon celery seed

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a large roasting pan, melt the butter in the oven. Stir in the seasonings Gently stir in the other ingredients, stirring until well coated. Bake one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Company Clam Dip

1 can minced clams (6.5-7.5 oz.)
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon catsup
Few drops bottled hot pepper sauce
1 cup diced sharp American or Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons chopped pitted ripe olives
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Drain clams, reserving the liquid. In a chafing dish, electric skillet or fondue pot, sauté the onion in the butter until tender, but not browned. Add the clams, 1 tablespoon of the reserved liquid (freeze the rest to use later) and the remaining ingredients. Heat and stir gently until the cheese melts and the mixture is hot. Makes 1 ¼ cups.
Serve with crackers and potato chips. [Or other vegetable chips suitable for dipping.]

Olive Cheese Ball

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
¼ cup butter, softened
2/3 cup chopped pitted ripe olives (about 3 oz.)
1 tablespoon minced chives

1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Combine the cheeses and butter in a large bowl. Stir in the olives and chives until well combined. Chill for 20 minutes. Form into a dome-shape on a serving dish. Cover with plastic wrap. Chill thoroughly. Can be made several days ahead. To serve, sprinkle with nuts, pressing in gently. Garnish with parsley.
Serve with crackers. Makes 3 cups.

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