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.

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

Snyder’s pretzel mixes (including jalapeño bits)

Crispex

Cheese-Its (different favors)

Goldfish (different favors)

Bugles

Mixed nuts

Chex (rice, corn and wheat)

Gardellos rye crisps

Pretzels

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.

 

 

Shrimp Scampi with Homemade Fettuccine

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Sunday my friend and I had a great time making homemade pasta together.  Tonight I used some of the pasta and made shrimp scampi for dinner.  Lots of garlic, oil and butter.  Probably not high on the healthy, low calorie meal pyramid.  Definitely not a dish I grew up eating.  As I think about it, I don’t recall ever eating shrimp or other shellfish as a child.  We ate a lot of fresh water fish but no shellfish or ocean fish except an occasional cod filet at a Friday fish fry.  I remember one time when my parents went out to dinner for what must have been a special occasion.  One of them had ordered lobster for dinner and they brought home the lobster shell to show us.  I remember being fascinated and a little repulsed and wondered how someone could possibly eat that creature!

Scampi is an easy dish to prepare and it doesn’t take a lot of time.  Even if you didn’t make your own pasta I hope you’ll try this.

Ingredients:

1 pound of uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 cup olive oil

5 T unsalted butter

4 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced

2 shallots finedly diced

juice and zest of one lemon

1/4 cup of minced parsley

1/2 cup white wine (or chicken broth)

red pepper flakes

salt to taste

pasta of your choosing

fresh grated asiago or parmesan cheese for serving

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This dish comes together pretty quickly so prepping all the ingredients before hand is important.  Press or mince the garlic and dice the shallots.

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Juice and zest the lemon.  Mince the parsley.

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Put a pot of salted water on the stove and bring it to a boil for cooking your pasta.  Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer cook your shrimp.   Cook in batches to avoid crowding them in your pan.  Cook the shrimp until they start to turn pink, then turn them.  Once cooked, they only take a minute, set them aside on a plate.

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Add the garlic, shallots, and red pepper flake to the oil.  Cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the white wine or broth.  Simmer for 2 minutes.

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Add the butter until it melts into the garlic and shallot oil.

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Once the butter has melted stir in the parsley, lemon juice and zest, and return the shrimp to the skillet.  Remove from the heat and set aside until the pasta has finished cooking.

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Cook the pasta until it is al dente.  Reserve some of the pasta water before draining in a colander.

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Return the pasta to the kettle or put it into a large serving bowl.  Add the shrimp scampi to the pasta and gently toss.  If additional liquid is necessary add in some of the reserved pasta water.  Serve immediately with some fresh grated cheese.

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Serve with a salad and a nice glass of wine.  If you’d prefer skip the pasta and serve the scampi with a baked potato and a vegetable.

NOTE:  I cooked the shrimp in a cast iron pan and there was a lot of oil splatter on my stove.  I’m not a big fan of cleaning greasy messes so next time I will do the scampi in my dutch oven.  A deeper dish will help to minimize the splatter.  It’s also important to pat the shrimp dry with paper towel before frying.