Pumpkin Spice Chex Mix + A DIY Chex Mix Bar!

Do you know that last half hour or so just before a holiday party starts? That’s usually when I freak out a little bit.

It’s like time suddenly speeds up, nothing is ready, something always burns or spills or breaks (or burns AND spills AND breaks…eeek!). It’s also the moment when I start to worry that guests are going to show up early to find me in the midst of complete and total disaster.

Does this happen to you, too?

This season, I partnered with Chex to share some of my holiday entertaining tips, and immediately knew that I wanted to talk about what I do to get through that hectic pre-party moment. I figured if it happens to me (the “expert!”) it must happen to some of you, too.

Right? (Please say yes…)

OK so here’s my big secret: Don't fight it!

Over the years, I've learned to accept that I'm probably always going to be running behind and feeling a little crazed before a party starts. Instead of trying to avoid it and getting frustrated when it happens again and again, the trick is to plan for it. I essentially add 30 minutes of disaster time onto my to-do list, right along with “Buy napkins” and “Chill drinks.” 

Instead of worrying about falling behind schedule, I just assume it's going to happen and opt to take the pressure off by prepping an activity that will keep my guests happy and entertained while I deal with whatever last-minute emergencies need handling.

This year for Thanksgiving I'll be treating my guests to a super cute (and deceptively easy!) DIY Chex Mix Party Favor bar. Interactive food or craft bars are always a hit with guests of all ages, because it gives them a chance to personalize and create something that's unique to them. It's playful and the perfect ice breaker to bring together friends and family alike. All while buying you a few extra minutes to take care of things in the kitchen.

The star of the show is obviously the homemade Chex Party Mix. The salty savory classic is always appropriate, but I recommend trying this Thanksgiving-perfect Pumpkin Spice Chex Mix recipe. It's a sweet and crunchy mix made with brown sugar and spices that's perfect for the season. So many of us grew up eating and loving Chex Party Mix that serving it to holiday guests is a quick way to make everyone feel instantly happy and at home.

A batch of it set in the center of a small coffee table or console would be a treat on its own, but I like to dress it up a bit by offering a variety of sweet and savory store-bought toppings like dried fruits, nuts, small candies, and chocolate chips. Add some twine and plastic favor bags from the party store, and let your guests get creative making their own snack combinations to bring home or enjoy while you finish up with the last bits of the meal.

A Few Tips:
  • Place the DIY bar in a location in your home that's easy to access and visible, but not in the center of activity. This will help draw guests over to it, so that everyone isn't crowded in a single spot.
  • Sometimes guests can be hesitant to be the first to try something, so encourage a friend or even one of the kids to break the ice and create their own favor first. I also like to create one or two finished favors and leave them on the table as an example for guests to follow.
  • Offer small bowls or plates for guests who just want to snack right away. 
  • To save time, fill all your topping bowls and place everything out in advance. Cover with plastic wrap to keep the food fresh, then remove and discard just before your guests arrive. 
  • A few simple decorations like tea lights, small gourds and pumpkins, or twinkle lights on the table will give it a festive appeal!

Scroll down for the Pumpkin Spice Chex Mix recipe + more details on how to build your own DIY Chex Mix Favor Bar. Thank you to Chex for sponsoring this holiday entertaining post! All opinions are my own. For more recipes and ideas, please visit Chex.com.

Pumpkin Spice Chex Mix™ + A DIY Chex Mix™ Bar
Feel free to personalize this Chex Mix™ recipe by substituting your favorite varieties of Chex™ cereal.

1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups Cinnamon Chex™ cereal
2 cups Honey Nut Chex™ cereal
2 cups Wheat Chex™ cereal
1 1/2 cups raw pecans

In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice. In a separate microwave-safe dish, microwave butter on High for 30 seconds or until melted. Stir in vanilla and salt. In a large microwavable bowl, combine all cereals and pecans. Pour the butter mixture over the cereal and stir to combine evenly. Add the sugar and spice mixture and stir until coated.

Microwave uncovered on High 5 minutes, or until mixture begins to brown. Spread on prepared cookie sheet and let cool. Transfer to an air-tight container to store.

To Create a DIY Chex Mix™ Bar

You will need:
  • 1 or 2 large batches of prepared Chex Party Mix™ (recipe above)
  • Clear plastic favor bags (look for these at craft and art supply stores)
  • Twine
  • Scissors for cutting twine
  • Small bowls to hold toppings
  • Decorations for the table (textured napkins and fabrics, twinkle lights, a decorative sign)

Toppings such as (choose your favorites—or get creative with other ideas!)
  • Dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, pineapple, banana chips, apricots, raisins)
  • Bacon bites or chopped cooked bacon
  • Nuts (almonds, macadamia nuts, cashews, etc.)
  • Chocolate chips (dark, milk, white chocolate)
  • Candy chips (butterscotch, peanut butter)
  • Small candies (nonpareils, chocolate-covered nuts, candy-coated chocolates, mini peanut butter cups, etc.)
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Dried Coconut Flakes
  • Sprinkles or Edible Glitter
  • Spices like cayenne, flavored salts, cinnamon.

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