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Hosting a Cracker Snack Mix and Cookie Exchange with Carissa Trygstad and Val Ellens

Friends since kindergarten and K-mart co-workers in high school, Carissa Trygstad and Val Ellens have a bond that even Val’s dense molasses cookies can’t break. 

They’re joining me today from Sioux Falls, South Dakota because I heard Carissa hosts an annual ranch cracker snack mix tossing party, and to top it off, she weaves in a Christmas cookie exchange and an evening of cocktails and appetizers with their friends. 

It hasn’t always gone as planned though, so along with Carissa’s snack mix recipe from her friend Lorna Nielsen and Val and Carissa’s tips for planning a successful night, these BFFs share some pretty funny stories from over the years. Like how they define the 5-second rule and why scented garbage bags aren’t on their list.

Ranch Cracker Snack Mix Tossing Party

Listen to their Funeral Potatoes & Wool Mittens episode in your podcast app or using the Spotify link below and get inspired to host your own annual friends get together.

From Carissa on Planning Your Party

Carissa has turned what started as a cookie exchange with her book club in 2015, into a ranch cracker snack mix tossing party, cookie exchange, and an evening of drinks and food with friends.

She’s done this enough years now to know a few things about what works, what doesn’t, and what to do when things go hilariously wrong. Like how a bag of snack mix ended up on the floor so now they use the large, heavy duty Ziplock bags.

Val and Carissa agree that creating a Facebook event to invite everyone to the party and ask them to say what they are bringing helps prevent guests from showing up with all the same crackers or cookies. Did you hear about the year with all the almond bark dipped goodies?

From Carissa:

Ranch Cracker Snack Mix

There are 10 boxes/bags of crackers per recipe, so based on how many people are doing the snack mix, that helps me determine how many batches I’ll need to mix up.

Ask everyone to bring 2 large boxes/bags of crackers each. If 20 people bring 2 boxes each, that’s 4 batches I’ll be mixing up.  

I supply:

  • A disposable roasting pan for each person to bring home, as well as one Jumbo Ziploc bag per recipe to shake it all up in (gently). 
  • Ranch dressing packets.
  • Orville Redenbacher’s Butter Flavored Oil for all recipes. 
  • Lots of Press’n Seal!!!

The Cookie Exchange

  • Have a cookie platter set out for everyone to bring home.  
  • Provide Ziploc bags available for people to package individually if they have lemon or mint cookies, or messy cookies, etc.  
  • And once again, Press’n Seal.  
line of platters piled with cookies

I have everyone commit a week before the event so I can go over numbers, etc. If there are 22 people coming, for example, I’ll have everyone bring at least 11 dozen cookies so every platter gets at least 6 of each kind of cookie. I also have everyone share what cookie they’ll be baking so we have a nice mixture. I, for example, always make Reeses peanut butter cup cookies.

Ask everyone to bring a bottle of wine to enjoy the night of, as well as an appetizer to share if they want. I supply the wine glasses, plates, napkins, and silverware. I bring extra wine and appetizers to share as well.

Carissa and Val with their decorated cookies
Carissa and Val with their decorated cookies

Val in the kitchen holding cookie dough
Val Ellens with her cookie dough

In this podcast episode with Val and Carissa, I mentioned my Chex Mix and Spicy Ranch Pretzels.

Thank you, Val and Carissa, for sharing your friendship, tossing and exchange tips and funny stories.

Val, Staci and Carissa
Val Ellens, Staci Mergenthal and Carissa Trygstad

Do you host an annual cookie exchange or a snack mix party? I’d love to hear about it!

Sweet holiday wishes,


Ranch Cracker Snack Mix

Staci at Random Sweets
No ratings yet
Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine American


  • 2 bags Ritz Toasted Original crackers
  • 2 bags Ritz Toasted Sour Cream Crackers
  • 12.25 oz package Nacho Bugles or Original Bugles corn snacks
  • 15 oz package Cheddar Flavor Chex Mix, (or two smaller bags)
  • 8 oz pretzels, (half of a 16oz. bag)
  • 1 box Cheese Nips or 1 bag of Gold Fish Crackers
  • 1 box Cheez-It White Cheddar Crackers
  • 1 box Mini Original Club Crackers
  • 2 oz Ranch Dressing Mix (2, 1-ounce packages)
  • 2 bottles (16 ounces each) Orville Redenbacher's Popcorn Popping & Topping Oil


  • Mix ranch dressing and oil. Stir well.
  • Pour over crackers in a large bowl or large foil pan.
  • Pour into two roasters. Bake at 250℉ for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
Keyword Chex Mix, crackers, Hidden Valley Ranch, holidays, party mix, popcorn oil, snack mix

All text and images © Staci Mergenthal • Random Sweets

Tried this recipe?Mention @RandomSweets and tag #OurSweetMidwestLife

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