Redemption Trail Mix + Cooking Mishaps

The very first time I ‘cooked’ for my family was an absolute disaster.

I’m not sure quite how old I was, but I’m guessing around 7 or 8 years old. I remember having watched my mom prepare dinner for us almost every night and my grandparents host impressively large meals for our giant extended family whenever everyone was in town. It was always such a nice feeling, sitting around together eating food. And so I thought to myself, “I wanna make something my family can have fun eating together!”

Ohhhhh, ohohoho, little Molly. I mean you tried, right?

Cherry Chocolate Redemption Trail Mix | memo2munch

Let’s think about this situation briefly. I was seven and roughly the height of our kitchen counter. I had no idea how to cook. So I did the obvious thing and mixed together all of my favorite snack foods at the time, creating the most horribly well-intentioned trail mix in history.

It had everything you’ve never wanted in your trail mix, and more:

-Bits of torn up white bread
-Crushed Pringles
-Goldfish crackers
-Pretzel twists
-Rustic pieces of broken pretzel rods

(Yep, two types of pretzel. For that textural difference, am I right?)

Long story short, it was awful, and I was super proud as I distributed my masterpiece among three plastic bowls decorated with cartoon animals to serve to my mom, dad, and sister.

They were so nice about it, the sweethearts. I remember them smiling while taking small bites and mmm-ing and ahh-ing over how yummy it was. And I was just there like, “Ok ya that’s great, fam, but like why is there still so much left in your bowls?”

Cherry Chocolate Redemption Trail Mix | memo2munch

Then I tried it, a bite with a fragment of white bread and a Pringle shard, and I understood.

I really love this story because it shows that no one is a hopeless cook. Anyone can learn. Sometimes people compliment my cooking and then say they wish they could cook. And I just think about how I began by making trail mix with ravaged white bread… You can cook!!!

I have so many stories about cooking mishaps like this, most of them embarrassingly dumb. But it’s ok because they’re hilarious, and I learn from them and keep going.

Like, this one time I was making these microwave French fries—I kid you not, they were these frozen, microwaveable French fries by Ore-Ida that I used to eat…USED TO–and listen to how simple it was to prepare them. You adjust the packaging a little bit by pressing in one side of the box so it lies flat against the fries, and stick the whole thing in the microwave for a few minutes, and BAM. Crispy fries. I know there are a lot of things wrong with this, but that’s not the point right now.

The point is that one time I managed to burn every single fry in the box to an absolute crisp. Black as coal, all of ’em. The whole house smelled awful. The smoke detector went off. I was home alone and confused and deeply ashamed. I think this happened early on in high school? I’m telling you, anyone can cook.

Cherry Chocolate Redemption Trail Mix | memo2munch

Here’s one more, from the first time I made bread. The directions said “rotate the bread halfway through baking.” So what did I do? I didn’t turn the pan around. No, I left that where it was, and I literally flipped the loaf of bread upside down on the pan.

I’m so serious, friends. That’s how I interpreted the directions, and I deflated my first ever loaf of bread. I remember telling my mom what I’d done and the look in her eyes said, “How do you think to do things like this??!”

So please, if I can rally from things like this, never doubt that you can cook.

Today I’m sharing a recipe for redemption trail mix. It still has snacks I like—chocolate, dried cherries, almonds, cinnamon chex—but it actually tastes good, I promise! I tried some before I gave it to anyone else this time. 😉

Do you have any cooking failures you’d like to share? Or a general memory including food? Tell me about it, anonymously or not, by clicking here!

Cherry Chocolate Redemption Trail Mix | memo2munch

Cherry Chocolate Redemption Trail Mix

Ingredients
4 cups cinnamon chex cereal (or any chex cereal of your choice)
2 tbsp. butter or Earth Balance
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
½ cup roasted, unsalted almonds
½ cup dark chocolate chunks, plus more for the drizzle
½ cup dried cherries

Method
1. Line a large baking tray with wax paper and set aside.
2. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and brown sugar together over medium-low heat until smooth. Gently stir in the chex cereal and almonds and continue cooking until cereal and almonds are coated, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes.
3. Spread the mixture evenly on the prepared tray. Sprinkle the chocolate chunks and dried cherries over the cereal mixture.
4. In a microwave safe bowl, heat about 2 tbsp. chocolate chunks in 30 second increments in the microwave, stirring the chocolate after each 30 seconds, until melted and smooth. Drizzle evenly over the trail mix with a fork. Let cool until the chocolate drizzle hardens completely, then break up the trail mix and enjoy. Store in an airtight container.

Cherry Pies Ought to Be You

Take aways: Frank Sinatra likes cherry pie, I need to plant a cherry tree, and it’s us vs. the birds?

Cherry Pies | memo2munch

Ok, so there’s this song that you might not know about but that you really need to know about. It’s a duet sung by Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney, and when I first heard it I just!!?!? Does it get any better than these two?!?

The duet is called “Cherry Pies Ought to be You,” and it basically consists of each trying to out-do the other with compliments. They get competitive. It’s grand.

Sinatra’s first go is the song’s title, “Cherry pies ought to be you,” and I just adore that. (I love Clooney’s response, too: “Autumn skies ought to be you.”) Although I guess the meaning could be kind of ambiguous. Like is he saying she’s sweet? Flaky? (I’ll stop.)

I’m choosing to see it this way: Sinatra must think cherry pies are outstanding, but not quite as outstanding as Rosemary Clooney.

Don’t we all.

Cherry Pies | memo2munch

Cherry pie holds a special place in my grandpa’s heart as well. He mentions it in a collection of food memories he wrote a few years back. (Sound familiar? He helped inspire memo2munch’s new format!)

“My mother was a wonderful baker,” he writes. “One of her specialties was cherry pie made from the tart cherries that grew on five cherry trees in our own back yard. When the cherries were ripe, my father picked loads of them which my mother made into pies, cherry slices, and also compotes.”

There’s a common theme among recipes that use tart cherries: “[They] required the use of much sugar, which when combined with the tartness of the cherries resulted in the most tantalizing pastries and compotes.” (common theme #2 —-> I want all of them in my belly.)

Cherry Pies | memo2munch

The cherry tree tradition was continued when my mom was growing up. She told me, “We also had a cherry tree in the corner of the backyard. Every spring, the cherry tree would fill with white blossoms, which turned into red sour cherries in the summer.”

However, my mom also remembers some unexpected cherry competition. “Every year, we would hope for lots of cherries so that my mom could make cherries preserves and a pie or two; and almost every year, the birds would get to the cherries before we did. Have you ever seen a pit attached to the stem, growing on a tree? We had a lot of those.”

Cherry Pies | memo2munch

On rare occasions, my mom said they would beat the birds to the spoils and were actually able to use some of their own cherries! “I remember my mom making cherry preserves. I would stand at the sink and pit the cherries using a paper clip. My fingers would turn red (my favorite color) from all the cherry juice.”

Ok, wait, pitting cherries with a paper clip? Yep, it’s a thing! Here’s a YouTube video to prove it.

I have to ruin the magic of these memories and tell you that I did not pit the cherries for today’s pies with a paperclip. I bought pre-pitted and frozen cherries and stood in the checkout line very pleased with the time and juice-stained fingers I would save. (I also bought the piecrust. Because honestly, I can’t pit cherries, make piecrust, and still pass survive biochem. These are my limitations. Just keeping it real.)

However, I then realized I had to halve all the cherries… So I got frozen fingers instead. It’s fine.

Cherry Pies | memo2munch

Pleasepleaseplease send me some of your food memories! Preferably fall-themed as we are officially in the season. You can submit them anonymously or not right here. 🙂

Mini Cherry Pies
(makes 6 mini pies or 1 standard double crust pie)

Ingredients

1 pint or 3-4 cups pitted and halved cherries (I used frozen)
3/4 cup granulated sugar (1 cup if using tart cherries)
Dash lemon juice
Piecrust (premade or homemade—enough for one double crust pie)
Milk and sugar for brushing and sprinkling pies before baking (optional, I used coconut milk)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C. Lightly grease 6 muffin tins.

2. Combine the cherries, sugar, and lemon juice in a large bowl.
Roll out the pie dough and cut into six 5-inch circles and six 3-inch circles. (I placed bowls on the dough and cut around them.) Prepare the pies one at a time by first pressing one of the larger circles into the tin, leaving the edges hanging around the outside. Fill generously with cherry filling so that it extends a little higher than the top of the tin. Cover the filling with one of the smaller dough circles, and crimp the leftover edges of the first dough circle as desired. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

3. Use a fork to prick holes in the top of each pie. Brush each pie lightly with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes for small pies, 40-50 minutes for a standard 9-inch pie. Let cool completely before cutting.