Trail mix: It’s not exactly sexy. Just one look at the usual nuts, M&Ms, and raisins is enough to take you back to the worst days of your childhood camping experiences. Besides, you might be avoiding nuts these days. Or sugar. Or raisins. Or … whatever.
It’s just as easy to customize your road food with a few minutes at a bulk store and a few moments of thought about what you like when you’re hungry and tired, but exhilarated and blissed out at the same time. And if it really is road food — say, you’re commuting or driving kids to faraway college — just put it in a small go-cup and tilt carefully.
The following blends aim to combine sweet with salty, spicy and tangy flavors. The curry-dusted pumpkin seeds would also be great to top a salad or sprinkle onto a peanut butter sandwich. (Speaking of PB&J, there’s a grown-up’s version of this trail staple below as well.)
RELATED: What Colorado’s top chefs cook when they go camping
Curried pumpkin seeds
Use your favorite curry powder on these — green, yellow, hot or mild. The coconut aminos add a touch of sweetness; they’re available at most grocers, usually in the Asian food section as a substitute for soy sauce. (If you’re not avoiding soy, you can use tamari, but you might want to add a teaspoon of sugar to it.) Wait until the seeds come out of the oven to add salt; you may not need any.
2 cups raw, shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 tablespoons coconut aminos
2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
Fine salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin seeds and the coconut aminos and stir to coat. Add the curry powder and stir until each seed is coated. Taste; add more curry powder if desired. Lay parchment on a half-sheet pan and spread the pumpkin seeds out as evenly as possible. Roast for 10 minutes or until slightly brown and fragrant. Allow to cool. Keep refrigerated in an air-tight container.
North and South Blueberry Mix
Dried, sweetened blueberries are delectable, but expensive. Maximize their sweet-tart flavor with salt, spice and crunch. You can use banana chips instead of plantain chips if desired, but the mix will be more sweet than salty.
1/3 cup sweetened dried blueberries
1/4 cup best-quality semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup salted plantain chips
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl until well mixed. If any of the plantain chips are bigger than a nickel, feel free to break them. Add salt; taste for seasoning. Add more if desired.
Island Heat Mix
Dried mangoes don’t do the fresh fruit justice. Chili-spiced dried mangoes, however, are worth chewing on. They’re usually dried and packed in large slices; use sharp kitchen scissors to cut them into bite-size chunks. You can also try this mix with roasted cashews.
1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
1/2 cup raw, unsweetened coconut chips or chunks
1/2 cup dried chili-spiced mango chunks, about a half-inch square
1/3 cup dried, sweetened pineapple
1/3 cup yogurt covered raisins OR white chocolate chips
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Taste the mixture; add more mango if it needs more spice, and more pineapple or raisins if it isn’t sweet enough.
Prunes are the wallflowers of the dried-fruit world. It might be partly because they’re so sticky. But they’re also full of minerals as well as fiber, and are less sweet than the usual trail-mix dried fruits. This counterintuitive combination might make you forget bacon-wrapped dates. If you made the curried pumpkin seeds above, you’re already halfway to having this recipe finished. Need a killer canape? Pair these dried plums with a ball of creamy, smoky cheese like a mild bleu or a smoked chevre or wrap them in prosciutto. Or both!
1/2 cup curried pumpkin seeds (recipe above)
About 12 prunes
1 teaspoon kosher salt (if desired)
Chop the pumpkin seeds finely (but not into dust) by hand or with a food processor. Pour the chopped seeds into a shallow bowl. Add the prunes and with clean hands or a flat spatula, roll and flatten the prunes until they are coated with the chopped pumpkin seeds. Taste; add 1 teaspoon kosher salt if desired. Pack carefully; these will still be a bit sticky.
Organic black grapes are a burst of flavor that, when cold, beat jelly hands down. Plus: less sticky. Freeze these finger sandwiches; they’ll be thawed when you’re done paddling or pedaling. (Serves 4)
8 slices whole-grain bread
64 organic, black seedless grapes
1 cup almond or peanut butter, divided
Toast the bread in batches or in the oven. When cool, spread half of the slices with most of the nut butter, reserving about four tablespoons. Wash and halve the grapes. On half of the bread slices, push the cut side of the grapes down into the nut butter. Spread the other slices with a small amount of nut butter. Assemble the sandwiches; place in an air-tight container and refrigerate for an hour or until well-chilled and not oozing. Remove and with a large, sharp knife, cut each sandwich into four triangles. Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper and freeze; pack frozen for the journey and devour when thawed.
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