Did you click over to this post because you saw, on a real food blog, what resembles a famous milk chocolate candy in the picture above?
It’s okay, you can be honest. I would!
Rest assured, friend, those little candies aren’t the artificially-dyed candies we all grew up consuming by the pound (wait, was that just me? #80skid). We’ll get to those little chocolate morsels later. First, let’s talk about trail mix…
Dustin and I spent most of our date nights last summer visiting grocery stores to create the Real Food Shopping Series. Normally, when grocery shopping, I visit the same stores: a local health food store, Publix, Costco, Whole Foods, and the seasonal farmer’s market. I don’t visit every store/market in a day; rather, my visits are spread across weeks or even months. For example: I visit Costco quarterly. My trips are usually quick. I go in the store with my list, shop, and leave.
As we visited each store in the shopping series, I was able to slow down and “take it all in.” I investigated aisles and shelves, as Dustin snapped photos of the real food that made the list. That assignment made me realize just how much real food exists in conventional stores, even Walmart. And while this was encouraging, I also realized that there a number of “healthy” products lurking on store shelves that are full of very questionable ingredients.
One of the food categories that caught my eye each time we visited a store was nuts and seeds, and along those lines, trail mix. I honestly assumed that nuts and seeds would be the cleanest real food option we’d find, other than produce. How can a brand mess up a simple almond or pumpkin seed? Surely, a package of trail mix must be a real food option!
Friend, I was shocked to find in store after store that nuts and seeds were some of the worst real-food-disguised offenders. As I turned over nut package after nut package, I found ingredients like refined sugar and canola oil, and not just in trace amounts. On some labels, sugar was the first ingredient. Now, I get that nuts and seeds can be a bit boring in their raw state, but really? Refined sugar and canola oil? Why ruin a perfectly good nut that’s full of potential.
I walked away from that series with a number of real food lessons, one of which is: Always read ingredient labels, even if you assume something is made with real ingredients.
All of this shopping series talk leads me to today’s recipe: a do-it-yourself trail mix that you can make in the comfort of your own kitchen, with complete control over the ingredients!
If your pantry is always stocked with a fair amount of raw nuts and seeds, then my homemade trail mix is relatively inexpensive to make and doesn’t require any extra shopping trips to gather ingredients. You can simply use the same nuts and seeds that you use to make granola bars, granola, cashew milk, or almond milk.
This trail mix isn’t something that I make regularly and keep in my pantry; rather, it’s a special sweet and salty treat that my family makes every few months.
The kids love to stir the raw nuts, pumpkin seeds, coconut flakes, maple syrup, ghee, and mineral-rich salt. Londyn usually does more taste-testing than stirring, which means I stand behind her adding two or three more cashews, and a few pinches of coconut flakes, to balance out the mix. After the trail mix roasts in the oven and cools on the counter, the kids return to the kitchen to add the finishing touches: raisins and chocolate.
You were waiting for me to talk about that chocolate, right?!
For this recipe, we’ll occasionally add SunDrops–check your local health food store, because they are over-priced on Amazon–(or Whole Foods carries a brand called, Unreal). Yes, this is candy, even if it’s made-with-better-ingredients candy. Yes, this candy contains sugar. No, they aren’t 100% perfect or “real.” But they are a treat, and 100% better than the artificially-dyed and flavored milk chocolate candy alternative that you’ll find in so many trail mix bags.
If you want to make this trail mix as a regular snack option, then I recommend skipping this candy ingredient, and either doing without the chocolate or adding real food-style chocolate chips (like Enjoy Life or Equal Exchange).
Whether you go with the made-with-better-ingredients candy option, use chocolate chips, or skip the chocolate completely, you can rest assured that you know exactly what’s going into this do-it-yourself trail mix.
Sweet and Salty Do-It-Yourself Trail Mix
- 1/2 cup raw and unsalted almonds
- 1/2 cup raw and unsalted cashews
- 1/2 cup raw and unsalted pumpkin seeds shelled
- 1/2 cup coconut flakes not shredded coconut
- 2 tsp ghee melted
- 2 TB pure maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips or SunDrops (naturally-dyed chocolate candies)
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Add the nuts, seeds, and coconut to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Pour the melted ghee (you may also be able to use an oil, like avocado oil) and maple syrup over the nuts, pumpkin, and coconut. Mix the ingredients together. Sprinkle with the salt, and mix again. If you'd like to add more salt, you can do this after the trail mix roasts.
Roast the trail mix in the oven for about 15-17 minutes, stirring half-way through to prevent the ingredients from burning. Make sure you keep an eye on your trail mix since baking times may vary, depending on your oven and the baking sheet. Once the nuts, pumpkin seeds, and coconut are golden, they're done! Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and allow the trail mix to cool on the sheet. Once fully cool, add the raisins and chocolate. Store the trail mix in an air-tight container at room temperature.
The trail mix only lasts a few weeks in our home, but I'm sure it could last longer than that. If you're concerned about the trail mix going bad (all the ingredients are shelf-stable, but it can go stale), then I recommend freezing it without the chocolate candies, until you're ready to enjoy!
I use whole whole nuts in this recipe. This is a fun recipe for experimentation. Try different nut and seed combos, as well as various dried fruit options (chopped figs, cranberries, chopped mangoes–just watch out for the added sugar). Also, if you don’t have any ghee, you can substituting with avocado, coconut, or olive oil–I personally haven’t tried these options.
If you’d like to increase the saltiness of this recipe, taste the trail mix once it’s roasted and semi-cool, and then add more salt based on your taste.
As mentioned above, for this recipe, we’ll occasionally add SunDrops–check your local health food store, because they are over-priced on Amazon–(or Whole Foods carries a brand called, Unreal). Yes, this is candy, even if it’s made-with-better-ingredients candy. Yes, this candy contains sugar. No, they aren’t 100% perfect or “real.” But they are a treat, and 100% better than the artificially-dyed and flavored milk chocolate candy alternative that you’ll find in so many trail mix bags. If you want to make this trail mix as a regular snack option, than I recommend skipping this candy ingredient, and either doing without the chocolate or adding real food-style chocolate chips (like Enjoy Life or Equal Exchange).
If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #LIVESIMPLYBLOG. I'd love to see what you make!
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