Sustainable Cooking: re-imagined holiday snacks

Sustainable Cooking by Mary June Thompson. (Part II of an exclusive recipe series for

In this season of entertaining, it is easy to end up with an assortment of miscellaneous leftover snacks. Whether the guys came over to watch the game and munched on popcorn and pretzels or the in-laws dropped by unexpectedly and you set out some nuts and cheese to serve as a quick nibble with a glass of bubbly, all of us end up with some sort of snack food remnants in our kitchens.

The day after a holiday party is one of the biggest opportunities to get creative with leftovers while eating sustainably and minimizing food waste. Whether you are a gourmet chef or a chip-and-store-bought-dip kind of person, odds are that not all of the food you set out will be eaten.

Sausage balls, a typical party food, are wonderful reheated and served for breakfast with eggs and toast the day after the party. A scoop of a cheese-based dip with hearty ingredients, such as corn and peppers or spinach and artichokes, or small chunks of cheese—grated or sliced—can be used as an omelet filling. A little leftover salsa is also great stirred into scrambled eggs and served over warmed tortillas with hot sauce on the side.

Serving Suggestion

While it’s likely that most of us will just toss those leftover snacks in the trash and not think twice about it, I have another idea for you that is a lot more fun, tasty, and supports a sustainable cooking lifestyle. Why not turn that handful of nuts and half a serving of popcorn into a totally new and delicious snack suitable for serving to the next round of guests that stop by—or simply as a treat for you to enjoy.

Re-imagined Snack Mix


2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

¼ cup chopped almonds (pecans, mixed nuts, etc. can be substituted)

½ cup broken pretzels

1 cup salted (unflavored) popcorn

?– ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)

½ Tablespoon black (or white) sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add nuts and toast just until fragrant, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle brown sugar over nut mixture and stir to combine. Add maple syrup. (Please note mixture will bubble so be careful.) Add pretzels, popcorn, and cayenne and toss well to combine.

Ingredients in the Pan

Immediately transfer mixture to a rimmed baking sheet coated with cooking spray or covered with non-stick aluminum foil. Spread evenly. Bake for 7-8 minutes, stirring twice, or until mixture is mostly dry and browned. Remove from oven and stir in sesame seeds. Cool on pan, stirring occasionally, and transfer to serving dish or to an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Note: Recipe can easily be double or tripled if you have more leftover snacks, but baking time may need to be increased slightly if your pan is very full.

Mary June Thompson has been cooking and entertaining for nearly two decades. During this time, her cooking style has expanded and evolved from typical American fare to encompass many different types of cuisines, including Italian, French, Greek, Asian, Mediterranean/North African, and Latin American. Focusing on obtaining the best available ingredients and preparing fresh, healthy dishes with bold flavor defines her cooking style, regardless of cuisine.