An Oriental Snack Mix Kit

A couple of years ago, Jerri and I agreed that it was time to begin downsizing our household, so we select things to take to the barn at the Heritage Center where they will find a new owner. For us, downsizing means not giving each other Christmas gifts that, while they may be nice, are not really necessary. In other words, Jerri and I ask each other for gifts we would like. This year among other gifts I got some sound reduction earmuffs and Jerri found a new wristwatch under the tree.

Wanting to surprise her with something, I was on the lookout for ideas when a package of wasabi peas caught my eye at the supermarket. Jerri loves wasabi, the Japanese horseradish that looks so cool and inviting until it lands on your tongue, at which time you begin reaching for a glass of ice water. Wasabi peas are green peas that have been roasted and coated with a mixture of dried wasabi and other ingredients to ensure that there is a nice thick coating of fire on each pea.

Jerri’s favorite way of enjoying wasabi peas is crunching them along with the starchy tidbits found in Oriental Snack Mix. Until recently Jerri had been buying this treat at the food co-op in Stillwater, Minnesota, but they quit stocking it, and none of the other stores we visited carried it either. When it comes to oriental snack mix with wasabi peas, Jerri has been going cold turkey for at least six months.

Seeing that package of wasabi peas inspired me to create a unique Christmas gift, an Oriental Snack Mix Kit. I recalled my mother making something she called Chex Mix to put on the card table when friends came to play Canasta or Smear with her and Dad. Since my plan was to make an oriental version, I bought the peas along with boxes of Rice and Corn Chex as the basic ingredients and stored them in the trunk of my car.

When I got home I checked the web for guidance. The results of my search prompted me to go back to the store for sesame sticks and pretzels, but I had bought a can of mixed nuts a few days earlier, and we had everything else needed in our kitchen. I then put all the dry ingredients in a large Christmas gift shopping bag we had saved from years ago, enclosed a recipe explaining how to put the mix together and wedged some tissue paper over the contents so the gift would really be a surprise.

A gift tag cut from some recycled wrapping paper and taped around the bag handle to prevent Jerri from sneaking a peak before Christmas Eve when we open presents, and her surprise gift was finished without my even needing to wrap it. That’s my idea of a perfect gift.

Jerri actually liked it too. On Christmas Day she was busy roasting a turkey and cooking the rest of our holiday dinner, but the next day she made her first batch of Oriental Snack Mix. The recipe makes a lot. We shared some with friends and relatives, took a container of it to the cabin for our New Year’s Eve observance and still have a little left.

Here is how you can make your own Oriental Snack Mix.


2 cups Rice Chex
2 cups Corn Chex
1 1/2 cups sesame sticks, either plain or garlic-flavored
1 1/2 cups pretzels
1 cup salted nuts
4 T salted butter
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 T soy sauce
1 T Teriyaki sauce
1/2 T brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 – 1 1/2 cups wasabi peas


Preheat the oven to 250º. Coat a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss together the cereals, sesame sticks, pretzels and nuts.

Combine the butter, soy and teriyaki sauces, garlic and onion powders, sugar, ginger, cayenne and cumin in a medium-size glass bowl or measuring cup. Microwave until the butter is melted. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients, and toss the mixture to coat everything evenly.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and bake at 250º for an hour, stirring every fifteen minutes.

Cool the mix in the pan on a wire rack for fifteen minutes. Stir in the wasabi peas. ENJOY!!!!

NOTES: Some recipes call for Wheat Chex, which I am sure would work fine too. Jerri really likes sesame sticks, so she added a cup of garlic-flavored ones a few days later. They worked fine in the mix.

Linda’s Cranberry Salsa

Fruit salsas are examples of fusion cuisine, which combine recipes or ingredients from two different cultures. Rick Bayless, the Oklahoma kid who abandoned barbecue and took up with tacos, says that fruit salsas apparently originated in the United States but have been infiltrating Mexican cuisine. He should know, since he and his wife Deann spent over six years researching Mexican cooking before publishing Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico in 1987.

Linda’s Cranberry Salsa is a good example. It combines traditional ingredients of Mexican salsas—jalapeño peppers, cilantro, and onions—with fresh Wisconsin cranberries. I got the recipe from my sister Patsy in an email which began with a question: “Did I ever give you a recipe for cranberry salsa?”

She had not, but I am always interested in new family recipes. Patsy explained that she got the recipe from Linda, a friend who worked with her at the hospital in Hayward. Linda turned out to be a classmate of mine who shared some of my interests and was on the staff of the school newspaper and competed in forensics.

When I asked Linda how she learned to make this salsa, she told me that she wasn’t sure, but that she thought a friend of hers who lives in Green Bay gave it to her many years ago. Linda liked the salsa and told Patsy about how good it was, prompting my sister to ask for the recipe. Linda obliged, proving once again that we all benefit from an ancient tradition that is still a friendly custom.

To be painfully honest, I had my doubts about this recipe when Patsy sent it to me. Cranberries and jalapeños with cilantro and cumin? No way! But when she told me that she makes a batch every fall when fresh cranberries become available, I decided to try it. She’s a good cook. I now have to agree with her conclusion: “The salsa is sweet, but oddly enough the bite from the jalapenos and the salt from the chips (I use mulitgrain Scoops) made it taste good.”

When I offered a sample to our neighbor Jill, she hesitated before saying she would try some. Later she confessed to the same doubts I harbored, but she now wants to make more herself and has asked for the recipe.

Cranberries are plentiful now, and you can find jalapeño peppers and cilantro at your local supermarket. Now’s the time to treat your football fans to a batch of Linda’s cranberry salsa.


1 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 cups cranberries
2-3 jalapeño peppers
1 T cilantro
2-3 green onions
1/2 tsp. cumin
Dash of salt
1 T fresh lime juice (half an average lime)


Wash the cranberries and jalapeño peppers. Coarsely chop the cranberries.

Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil Reduce the heat and boil slowly for ten minutes without stirring to make a thin syrup.

Prepare the vegetables while the syrup is cooking. Cut the stems from the peppers, slice them into quarters and remove the seeds and white membranes. Then slice each quarter in half and chop the peppers into a quarter-inch dice. Clean and cut the onions into eighth-inch slices, discarding the root ends. Wash and chop the cilantro medium fine.

After the syrup has cooked for ten minutes, pour it into a mixing bowl and allow it to cool slightly, four or five minutes. Wash a lime and juice half of it.

Add the cranberries, peppers, cilantro, onions, cumin, salt and lime juice to the syrup and mix lightly. Taste and adjust the flavors as you wish. You may want to add a little more cilantro, cumin or lime juice.

Refrigerate the salsa for at least an hour. Serve at room temperature with tortilla chips or dippers.

NOTES: The flavor improves if you allow the salsa to rest for several hours or overnight so the flavors can blend. When you adjust the seasoning, be careful not to add too much salt. Keep in mind that tortilla chips usually are quite salty.

My brother-in-law Patrick grew up around a lot of Scandinavians and acquired their preference for less spicy foods. He likes a mild version of this salsa with only one jalapeño. As Pat says, “You can make it exactly the way you like it.”

If you don’t have a food processor (like us) or a food chopper, you can just cut the cranberries into fourths.