ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 20, 2013:
I think we’d all agree that the holidays are much more enjoyable when you’re not totally and completely stressed out.
That being said, this school year, the holidays and the treat-giving season that goes along with them, had the potential to put me right over the edge. And really, as a working mom of three this time of year, that edge is awfully close most of the time anyway, so I really didn’t have far to be pushed.
Normally, I’m a cookie baker at Christmastime. Between my mom and I, we bake over a dozen different types of cookies, creating cookie trays for our family and friends.
As a mom of three, I have always given all of our kids’ teachers a cookie plate at Christmastime. I also have given one to the secretary, bus driver and bus monitor, teacher aides, principal and I make a tray for the faculty room. I also treat the staff at my husband’s school to a tray of cookies in the teachers’ room, and then I make them for our family as well.
It seemed doable when my oldest was first in school, and even when two were in school. It started to get a little tougher when all three were in school, as well as my husband at his own school, but I continued on.
Then last year came middle school.
SEVEN TEACHERS. A whole new set of office staff. A principal AND an assistant. TWO secretaries.
A lot of people will say, “Oh, in middle school that all ends. No gifts for those teachers anymore.”
I’m not sure where that theory came from, but I will say I used to BE a middle school teacher, and I love cookies, but more than that, I liked being thought of at this time of year just as much as when I was an elementary teacher.
My daughter didn’t want to stop our treat-giving tradition, and I couldn’t find a good reason why she had to. And she didn’t want to leave any of her teachers out. So we didn’t.
This year, my husband has a new job at a larger school.
With 90 staff members.
I knew something had to give. I was not going to be able to do it. There wasn’t any way that I could possibly make enough cookies for all of the teachers and staff in all three schools and my family, and keep my job. Or my sanity. I’d be baking all hours of the day and night for weeks to make that happen.
There had to be another answer.
Enter The Tailgateista and her Homemade Crock Pot Apple Cinnamon Chex Mix.
That’s right. I said CROCK POT.
That was the answer to my problem, thanks to my Crock Pot partner in crime, Gina, who was also searching for another solution to the gift-giving issue. She’s the one who found this recipe and sent it to me.
We both decided to go with Chex Mix gifts this year, although we each chose a different mix to make, and today, as I type this three days before the last day of school before the vacation, I can honestly say that this saved my sanity.
My gifts are done. Cooked, cooled, bagged, tagged and ready to be handed out on Friday, the day you’ll be reading this.
And I still have my job and my sanity, thanks to this recipe from The Tailgateista.
I doubled her original recipe and made a few modifications to it, to serve my purposes. I will put her recipe and my modifications below.
I doubled the recipe SIX TIMES.
That’s right, six times. 72 cups of cereal, and the equivalent of 48 two-cup gift bags of Chex Mix.
And the best part of all? Not only is it a very cost-effective gift, but it cooks while you accomplish other tasks!!
For me, a journalist who works from home a good part of the week, I could type all day and my gifts were cooking themselves over in the crock pot behind me as I worked. Or, if I was working away from the house all day, I could throw in a batch at night to cook itself while we worked on homework and showers and cleaned up from dinner. Some days, I did both: a batch in the daytime if I was here, and a batch again in the evening or after school.
I’ll still be making Christmas Cookies this weekend, all our favorites, and I’ll still share them amongst our family and some close friends, but I won’t be cooking over the mixer and oven,rolling and frosting, baking and cooling late at night for a week in between working and parenting obligations, and still not having enough cookies to go around.
We’ve found a way to thank our teachers and staff members for their time, talent and hard work without pushing me over the proverbial edge the week before Christmas.
Below is the Tailgateista’s recipe and my modifications follow below it.
Give it a try, it’s delicious! Maybe this Chex Mix will be the key to saving your sanity too!
6 Cups Chex Corn Cereal
1/4 Stick Butter
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 Cup Chopped Dried Apples
***You can also add Pecans, M&M’s, any other candy,dried fruit or nuts!!
* In a microwave combine all spices, sugar and butter until it is melted.
* Add the Dry ingredients (cereal, apples) into crock-pot
* Add all melted ingredients into the crock-pot and mix
* Cook in crock-pot on low for 3 hours
1) I doubled this recipe each time, since my crock pot is large enough to hold a double recipe. ***2014: Another sanity-saving tip I have added in this year is using the plastic bag liners for the crock pot for every batch. The brand I used is an Aldi’s brand, Boulder, and they’ve been amazing. I would not make this again without using the bags.***
2) I substituted the Dulche le Leche flavored Cheerios for one cup of the Chex, (so two cups of Cheerios for a double recipe and ten cups of Chex.) ***2014: Substituted Frosted Cheerios instead of Dulche le Leche.***
3) The butter should read 1/4 cup for a single recipe, in my opinion, not stick. I used 1 stick per double recipe.
4) I opted not to use the apples, because the first time I did a trial run, they burned.
5) I did not stir the Chex Mix in my trial run, which may be the reason why the apples burned. In every subsequent time however, I stirred the Chex Mix every 45-60 minutes while it cooked for the 3 hrs.
6) For my mix-ins, I used 1/2 bag of mini marshmallows, 1/2 bag of red and green mini M&Ms, and one full bag of white yogurt covered raisins, per double recipe.
7) Each double recipe with my mix-ins filled eight gift bags. For my husband’s school, I filled a large Tupperware Cake Taker, normally used to carry layer cakes, with an entire double recipe, just for his faculty room. I sent in small plastic drinking cups for them to eat it out of.
Although cost is not always the deciding factor in gift-giving, it’s certainly taken into account. I think most everyone sticks to a budget when shopping for gifts. With each of the six double recipes yielding 8 two-cup bags of mix, and my ingredients costing a total of $40.68 for all six batches (I used coupons for the M&Ms and the cereals), these 48 gifts cost me $.85 per bag to make. I spent just under $2.00 on two packs of 20 gift baggies to put them in. Even still, that cost me less than $1 per gift.
Over 100 people will be enjoying my Sanity Saving Chex Mix this weekend, and I was able to accomplish it relatively stress-free and budget-consciously.
Have a great Christmas everyone!!