Christmas gift inspires search for ono pretzels


POSTED: Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Two Christmases ago, a bag of pretzel sticks coated in some kind of magical flavoring made its way into my house. I think it came from the mom of a friend of one of my kids. What I remember clearly is that I ate way more of those pretzels than good health or sense would dictate.

I hadn't thought about those pretzels in many months until a request arrived from Charlotte Chow, for a snack she also remembers from Christmastime. You start with pretzel sticks, she said. “;You do something to them, and they are ono!!”;

I imagine many legendary snacks start off as gifts from the kitchen at the holidays. A few people make up a few batches, pass them around, recipes are shared and soon—with no official media sanction—the item is part of the vernacular. I bet Chex Mix started like this.

Perhaps these pretzels are headed for similar fame, although I couldn't find a recipe in any of my dozens of local cookbooks. But lots of suggestions live online, particularly at a site called CDKitchen.

The basic formula is simple: A little oil and some seasoning; toss and bake at low heat. It's a formula that encourages experimentation. Ranch flavoring is the closest to the gift batch that I got, but the possibilities are endless. I tried one batch with powdered kim chee mix. When I offered them around, people said, “;Kim chee? Ewwww. Hey, gimme some.”;

All it takes is a visit to the supermarket aisle where they keep the pre-made spice mixes—you know, for tacos, spaghetti, salad dressings and the like. Or raid your own spice cabinet. A curry mix or some plain old Parmesan cheese would also be good ideas.

Start experimenting now. You'll be ready for Christmas.

Seasoned Pretzel sticks

1 pound bag pretzel sticks (see note)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
» Seasoning (choose one):
Italian: 3 tablespoons packaged dry spaghetti sauce mix plus 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Ranch: 1 envelope (1 ounce) packaged dry ranch salad dressing mix (3 tablespoons), 1-1/2 teaspoons dill weed and 1 teaspoon garlic powder
Taco: 3 tablespoons packaged dry taco mix, plus 1 teaspoon chili pepper
Kim chee: 1 tablespoon packaged dry kim chee spice mix, or more, to taste

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Combine oil with chosen seasoning in a large bowl. Add pretzels and gently stir until pretzels are well coated and seasonings are mostly absorbed. Arrange pretzels in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Pour any remaining seasoning over pretzels. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool. Makes about 6 cups.

Nutritional information unavailable.

Note: Best made with thick pretzel sticks, sometimes called braids, typically about 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Other shapes and sizes may be used, but thinner pretzels tend to be saltier and might crisp faster.

Can you help?

Pat Terauchi is looking for a recipe for a Dwight Eisenhower Red Velvet Cake that was printed in the newspaper 30 or 40 years ago. It was a favorite of her family, but the recipe has been lost. All her relatives can tell her about it was that it was good and “;the frosting was a perfect consistency and flavor.”;

I have lots of recipes for this type of cake but can't find a reference to a presidential version. Anybody have it?

Write “;By Request,”; Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813. Send e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).