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Whoo!  It's been a crazy couple of weeks, hasn't it?  Holidays tend to do that.  I'm back, though, and I have lots of yummy thin...

A Trail Mix Primer

By 1/19/2013 ,


Whoo!  It's been a crazy couple of weeks, hasn't it?  Holidays tend to do that.  I'm back, though, and I have lots of yummy things to share.  This week, though, is a pretty easy one...some assembly required.

Homemade Trail Mix

This is the ultimate make-your-own food!  Trail mix is, quite possibly, my most favorite snack of all time, and, in my own non-professional opinion, it's really healthy too as long as you follow some guidelines.  Here's my theory...where's my trail mix soapbox?

Chocolate - Lets address this right off the bat, chocolate is not energy food, it's happy food.  Do I love chocolate so much that I would voluntarily jump into a river of it and pretend to be Augustus Gloop without the panic?  Heck yes!  Does it make me feel like a fluffy unicorn running through a field of rainbows and butterflies.  Undoubtedly!  Do I think it belongs in trail mix?  ...Eh...I guess I could be convinced, but only if you use dark chocolate and it does not comprise any more than 1/8 of the total mass of ingredients...I'll get to that formula later.

Dried fruit - I like to make sure I have an almost 50/50 split between dried fruit and nuts and seeds.  Any more than that and I feel like I'm just phoning it in.  Personally, I love raisins, dried cherries, and dried cranberries, but there are loads of options out there.  You could go tropical with bananas, pineapple, mangoes, etc.  Or go all-American with blueberries and apples.  Get fancy with goji berries!  Whatever you like.  Do look out for dried fruits with sugar added, though.  Fruit already has the perfect amount of sugar in, so why add more?

Nuts and Seeds - Number one rule: Get unsalted!  I know some people love salty snacks, but you need to make sure you and you alone are controlling your salt intake here.  It's your kitchen, after all, so take control!  Personally, I'm a bit sensitive to salt, so I go without completely.  If you really feel like you need it, buy your nuts and seeds un-roasted and then add salt before you roast them.

To roast, spread your nuts/seeds out on a baking sheet, add salt if desired, and pop them into a 350 degree oven for no more than 10 minutes.  You want to be able to just smell them getting nutty up close, not from outside the oven.  If you can smell them from outside the oven, they're already burnt.

As for what to choose, again, that's up to you.  There seems to be a bit of a battle out there over the most superior nut...Almonds, peanuts, or pistachios?  You could do all three.  Personally, I like almonds and sunflower seeds.  There are also flax seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), chia seeds...you get the idea.

But wait!  Isn't squirrel food like this really high in fat?  Balance, people, balance.  You know what else has a lot of fat?  A delicious slab of lamb or a perfectly grilled steak.  I'm not saying eat 8 pounds of this stuff a day.  Lets stop freaking out over what has the most fat and remember everything in moderation, which leads me to...

Portion Control - Trail mix is not a meal.  Let me repeat, trail mix is not a meal.  This is meant to be a snack, so treat it like one.  I got a set of leftover containers from Ikea for about $1, and it came with a ton of two-ounce containers.  Those are my trail mix carriers.  I take one to work and that is my snack food for the day.  It's so satisfying, though, I usually don't eat the whole lot in any one day.

Cost - Fun fact: Making your own trail mix is cheaper than buying it!  You have to make a bigger investment on the front end, though.  All of my numbers are based on Trader Joe pre-packaged products, so your store's prices will vary, especially if they are having a sale.  Also, I cannot speak to bulk pricing, as 1) we can't buy bulk due to the risk of cross contamination and 2) I have always found it to be very expensive, which is odd because I've always heard the opposite.  $8.99/lb of almonds vs. $5.99 for a bag of the same weight at Whole Foods (my Trader Joe's doesn't have a bulk section) is hard to argue with, though.  Again, maybe your store is different.

A 1-lb bag of trail mix = $5 (technically $4.99, but lets keep this simple)

My ingredients
A 1-lb bag of roasted, unsalted almonds = $5
An 8-oz bag of dried cherries (by far the most expensive ingredient) = $5
An 8-oz bag of dried cranberries = $2
A 1-lb bag of raisins = $2.50
A 1-lb bag of roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds = $2
Total = $16.50 for 4 lbs of trail mix ingredients, which equals $4.13/lb

*According to my 1/8 chocolate rule, I could have added a bag of dark chocolate to this mix if I wanted to.

And the best part is that my trail only has things I like in it and none of the stuff I don't.  It can turn out to be even cheaper too, depending on your choices.



Here's a picture of my stash after a few weeks of me munching on it...still going strong.  Wine bottle included for scale.

So what do you like best in your trail mix?


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