Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thrifty Acres: The "Evil" Roasting Pan

Hello! Up until about a month ago, I'd never had a roasting pan. When I wanted to roast a turkey or other large piece of meat, I made do with my large rectangular glass baking dish and would cram a small metal cooling rack in the bottom of the dish for draining off drippings. 

I'd use the same large glass baking dish for those times when I wanted to mix up a large batch of a crunchy-type snack mix (ie cereal-based snack mix, caramel corn, etc). 

The casserole dish worked well enough, but even if I greased the pan before putting anything in it, it was a pain to clean. Baked-on grease didn't always come off in the dishwasher and needed further scrubbing by hand. And even a smaller turkey was a bit unwieldy in this dish.

So I decided to look out for a roasting pan at thrift stores; was hoping to find one in good condition and at an acceptable price. 

Mission accomplished:

These are fairly common at thrift stores; mine is about 16"lx13"w. I paid four dollars for it, which I thought was a decent price - I've seen them marked higher for the same size roasting pan. It was in good shape; all it needed was a good scrubbing inside. 

Now, why would I call an ordinary roasting pan "evil"? Well, it's because what's inside it:

A batch of homemade Chex Mix. Since I'd purchased the pan while our daughter was home on spring break, of course I had to make a goodie in it to test it out, right? 

And since I had cereals left over from making her batch, I had to make more, right? 

Like with a lot of other recipes that have been around a long time, there are many versions of Chex Mix out there. For instance, some recipes call for the addition of bagel chips, which doesn't seem to be an original ingredient. I don't think bagel chips were a common grocery store item back in the day! 

Came across this discussion of what might be the original Chex Mix recipe, based on a 1952 magazine ad: 

I read through the adaptations mentioned by the blogger and by commenters, then combined some of the suggestions with a recipe from a much newer magazine ad to come up with my own version. Here's how I made it:

Chex Mix

6-8 tablespoons butter
2-4 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce 
Several shakes Tabasco or other hot sauce, optional
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder, optional
1/2 teaspoon onion powder, optional
3/4-1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3 cups Corn Chex
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Wheat Chex
1 cup Cheerios
1 cup pretzels (use a thin type)
1 cup cheese crackers 

Preheat oven to 250. Melt butter in small pan or in microwave, using small microwave-safe bowl. Remove from heat or from microwave, then stir in desired seasonings. Pour into large roasting pan. Gradually stir in remaining ingredients until evenly coated. Bake one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container. Makes 12 cups snack mix. 

Note: this is a very flexible recipe! There's a Chex variety that has both corn and wheat in it, so I just use six cups of that instead of the three cups each Corn and Rice Chex. I'm actually not crazy about the Cheerios being in the mix, but I had some on hand that needed to be used up, so I tossed them in. I really liked the addition of cheese crackers, but then again, I like cheese crackers in general.

I used store brands of all products - no reason why not, especially when those brands are on sale the week you go shopping for Chex Mix ingredients and the big-name brands aren't. 

Both the old and new versions of the recipe say to melt the butter in the oven, right in the roasting pan, but that results, of course, in a rather large, flat surface for stirring in the dry seasonings. I thought it easier to make the seasoned melted butter as I described at the beginning of my recipe, even if it does result in an extra dirty pan. 

I love Worcestershire sauce, so I put a bit more in. Same with the Tabasco sauce, which isn't in the original recipe. Several shakes spiced things up nicely. Onion powder isn't in the original recipe, so I omitted it. Forgot to add garlic powder (I don't use garlic salt), but believe me, the results were just fine without it! I used the lesser amount of seasoned salt (a homemade version of Lawry's) since there's already salt on the pretzels and the cheese crackers. 

Besides pretzels and the aforementioned bagel chips, nuts are another common addition (my newer recipe says "mixed nuts" but the version shown in the above link simply states "nuts". Our daughter doesn't like nuts in snack mixes, so I omitted them. I would think there's a lot of leeway in what "extras" (ie, non-Chex dry ingredients) could be used.

Needless to say, the roasting pan passed inspection both times Chex Mix was made in it! And it cleans up better than the glass baking dish does too. 

Fortunately, I'm now pretty low on some of the ingredients needed to make the recipe, so I'll be spared the "evil" ways of my roasting pan until I feel like buying more cereals. 

PS there are microwave directions for making Chex Mix: follow the recipe above, but use a large microwavable bowl for the cooking. Microwave uncovered on high 5-6 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. Because microwaves cook differently, time is approximate.

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