Marilyn’s Party Mix

Marilyn’s party mix has become a holiday tradition.  About eight years ago I quit smoking and decided to learn to knit to keep my hands and mind busy.  I’m sure this is a story I’ve blogged about previously but regardless…It was a great decision for a number of reasons but one of the best outcomes was the amazing band of women that became a very important part of my life.  We call ourselves the Knit Wits.  We meet almost weekly to knit, take road trips, and share stories and recipes (our pot lucks are fabulous).  Our ages and life paths varied pretty significantly but we all quickly grew to love and respect each other and cherish our time together.  Marilyn was the oldest of the Knit Wits.  She was 80, give or take a year, when we first met and we lost her to the ravages of cancer about three years ago. She was funny and spunky, told wonderful stories, was extremely generous and an excellent cook.  She shared recipes that we all still make and think of her every time we do. One of those recipes is her party mix.  I cannot imagine how much of this she made each year.  She would start shopping in the fall for ingredients.  I’m sure she went through no less than 20 pounds of butter or more each year just for her party mix. She could always tell us which grocery had butter on sale.  She gave party mix to friends and family by the gallons.  I always take some to my daughters for Christmas and her friends look forward to noshing on it.  So much so that I mailed some to a friend of hers in Miami who wasn’t able to make it to Chicago this Christmas.


Almost everyone has had “Chex Mix.”  Marilyn had her own special version.  She embellished!  Her ingredients included but were not limited to:

Per batch in a LARGE roasting pan…

Snyder’s pretzel mixes (including jalapeño bits) – 1 11oz package

Crispex – 1/2 standard size box

Cheese-Its (different favors) – 1/2 standard size box

Goldfish (different favors) – 2 to 3 cups

Bugles – 1/2 standard size bag

Mixed nuts – 1#

Chex (rice, corn and wheat) – 1/2 standard size box of each

Gardellos rye crisps – 1 8oz bag

Pretzels – 2-3 cups

Adjust ingredients based on your personal tastes.

Marilyn passed away in late August of 2012 and that Christmas we all got together and made Party Mix.  We had large bowls of all the ingredients on an assembly line and added a cup of this, a cup of that until we had filled a large roasting pan.  Then came the buttery, garlicky goodness.

4 sticks of butter

4 T worchestershire sauce

3 1/2 T Lawrey’s seasoning salt

1 T Lawrey’s garlic salt

1 T garlic powder

Peheat your oven to 250.  Melt 3 sticks of butter and add all of the spices.  Stir well.  Pour 5 T of the seasoned butter over the roasting pan full of mix and stir carefully to coat.  Bake for 20 minutes and repeat.  Do this three times until an hour has passed.  Melt and add the fourth stick of butter to the mix and repeat at 20 minute intervals for another hour.  After two hours pour the mix out onto freezer or parchment paper on your counter and allow it to cool completely before packaging it in zip lock bags or other containers.  Marilyn always saved coffe cans and the large containers nuts and other ingredients came in to package her party mix.  Your house will smell like garlic.

It’s addicting.  You will have garlic coming out of your pores and still go back for a little more.  RIP Marilyn.   I will think of you every year when I make this and I know that you are smiling.



Christmas Cookies


For over thirty years my friend Georgia and I have gotten together for a Christmas candy/cookie making marathon.  We turn nearly 30 pounds of butter, 40 pounds of flour, 4 dozen eggs, 25 pounds of sugar, lots of nuts, chocolate and other things into delicious and beautiful candy and cookies that we share with friends and family.  This year we made overs 2,000 cookies, 35 pounds of fudge, and 8 gallons of caramel corn.  In our younger days we did this over a 3 day weekend but we are getting older…and slower.  I retired several years ago and Georgia retired a year ago.  The last couple of years we’ve taken a week to work our magic.  We have developed an easy routine.  We each have certain “jobs” that we do.  She measures and mixes the cookie doughs, does the chocolate dipping and nut rolling, and counts and packages all of the cookies.  I roll dough, shape cookies for baking, and do the candy stirring.  We both do cleanup as we work.  A clean and neat work environment makes a huge difference.  Our cookies and candy are an awesome result but the real treasure is a very long term and loving friendship and the ability to work together so smoothly in a kitchen without conflict.  I want to share some of our long standing recipes with all of you.  Some are family recipes and others are recipes we have picked up and added over the years.

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1 1/2 cups butter at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp almond extract

4 cups AP flour

1 tsp baking powder

Cream together butter and sugar.  Add egg and extracts.  Beat well.  Combine dry ingredients and add gradually to creamed mixture.  Dough will be stiff.  Do not refrigerate.

Divide dough into batches and add food coloring if desired.  Force through a cookie press onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 8-10 minutes at 400.  Cool on wire racks.

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Lemon Cream Cheese Spritz

1 cup butter at room temperature

6 oz cream cheese at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 egg yolks

2 tsp lemon extract or lemon oil

2 T zested lemon peel

3 1/2 cups AP flour

1 tsp salt

Cream together butter and cream cheese.  Add sugar.  Add egg yolk, zest and lemon extract.  Stir in dry ingredients.

Force through a cookie press onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 14-16 minutes at 400.  Cool on wire racks.

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Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter at room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs

5 cups AP flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup sour cream

1 tsp vanilla

Cream together sugar, butter and eggs.  Combine dry ingredients and alternate beating in with the sour cream and vanilla.  Refrigerate dough overnight.

Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut into desired shapes.  Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes at 350.  Cool on wire racks.  Ice and decorate as desired.  If you have children or grandchildren let them help with the decorating!  Thank you Chloe for doing such an awesome job and for the very generous sprinkling of red hots!


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Candied Fruit Slices

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup butter at room temperature

1 egg

2 1/4 cups AP flour

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 cup candied red and green cherries

Cream together butter, sugar and egg.  Stir in dry ingredients.  Stir in nuts and fruit.  Shape the dough into logs.  Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.  Slice.  Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 8 minutes at 350.  Cool on wire racks.

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Thumb Prints

1 cup room temperature butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs separated

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

2 cups flour

1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Cream together butter, sugar and egg yolks.  Add vanilla.  Stir in dry ingredients.  Roll the dough into balls and dip into whisked egg whites.  Roll in nuts and place on ungreased cookie sheets.  Make an indentation in the center with your thumb.  Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350.  Cool on wire racks. Fill centers with your favorite jam or jelly.

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Chocolate and Almond Tipped Shortbread Cookies

1 cup butter at room temperature

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups AP flour

6 squares baking chocolate or chocolate chips

1 1/4 cups finely chopped almonds

Cream together butter and brown sugar.  Beat in vanilla.  Gradually beat in flour.  Shape into logs and cut in about 2 inch pieces.  Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake 15-17 minutes at 325.  Cool on wire racks.

Melt chocolate.  Dip one end of cookie into chocolate and sprinkle with almonds.  Place on wax paper to set.

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1 cup room temperature butter

8 oz of cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups of flour

1/2 tsp salt


1 cup sugar

2 T ground cinnamon

1/2 cup melted butter

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Cream butter and cream cheese together.  Combine flour and salt and gradually add to creamed mixture.  Divide dough into fourths making each into a disc.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or until easy to handle.  Room out each disc on a lightly floured surface into a 12 inch circle.  Combine sugar and cinnamon.  Brush each circle with butter.  Sprinkle with 3 T of cinnamon sugar and 2 T of pecans.  Cut into wedges and roll each wedge up from the wide end forming a crescent.  Place seam side down on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 24-26 minutes at 350.  Cool on wire racks.  (Seems like a long baking time but it is correct.)

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Ginger Shortbread People

2 sticks butter at room temperature

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 T molasses

2 3/4 cups AP flour

2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

Cream together butter, sugar and molasses.  Combine dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture slowly.  Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface.  Use a cookie cutter and place cookies on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 14-16 minutes at 350.  Cool on wire racks.

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Koulourakia or Biscuit Cookies

1/2 cup butter at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 egg yolks

3 T half-n-half

2 1/4 cups AP flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Sesame and/or poppy seeds

1 egg yolk and 3 T half-n-half whisked together for brushing

Cream butter and sugar.  Beat in 2 egg yolks one at a time.  Stir in 3 T half-n-half.  Combine dry ingredients gradually and mix until well combined.  Take approximately 1 T of dough at a time and roll into a rope and shape into a knot.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and brush with egg and half-n-half mixture and sprinkle with seeds.  Bake for 15 minutes at 350.

NOTE:  We make double and triple batches of most of these cookie recipes but the Koulourakia cookie is best NOT doubled.  All butter and cream cheese should be at room temperature for easy of creaming.  We use only air bake cookie sheets.