Saturday, April 16, 2011
The Best Homemade Trail Mix Ever!
Occasionally I will tune in to the Food Network at an odd time of day and come away very pleasantly surprised. This time it was a show I had never heard of, it was called Five Ingredient Fix. The host is a pretty young lady named Claire Robinson, and not only did she have me glued to the TV for the full 30 minutes, but I came away from just one show with 3 different recipes that I couldn't wait to try. One of them was a whole wheat penne pasta dish with turkey and asparagus made with garlic infused oil and white balsamic - it was so delicious my husband even liked it. Screw Rachael Ray, this chick is hot! She's on at 4:30 Central if you would like to take a peek. This trail mix is one of her recipes from that same show.
This recipe is so, so easy, even a... okay, that's not even funny anymore... was it ever? Seriously though, this is super easy, and it only has 5 ingredients - 6 if you count the light sprinkling of salt. This is a wonderful snack because the combination of these nuts, seeds and cherries packs a nutritional powerhouse of antioxidants, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, plus there is no added fat except for what is naturally found in the ingredients. The pumpkin seeds even have cholesterol-lowering phytosterols. I don't want to shock you, but I do know some big words.
The cherries I used are Montmorency dried cherries which are tart pie cherries. This is some added sugar in these, otherwise you wouldn't be able to eat them because your face would shrivel up and fall off from the tartness - 1/4 cup of these has 34 grams of carbs. If you don't like cherries you can always substitute raisins or dried cranberries, or any other dried fruit you like. Go wild.
I got the cherries at Costco, but just so you know, I was in there the other day and the packaging is a little different now. I got this cute jug of Grade B maple syrup along with the rest of the seeds and nuts at Whole Foods.
Grade B maple syrup is darker and has a sharper maple flavor than the lighter Grade A syrups, and is used primarily in cooking and baking. I just want to tip up the jug and drink it. Maple syrup makes everything better. The name of the recipe is Pumpkin Seed Dried Cherry Trail Mix, and here's what you will need to buy:
2 cups raw pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas)
3/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup slivered blanched almonds
6 Tbsp pure Grade B maple syrup
1 cup dried cherries
Coarse salt (I use Kosher salt for everything)
First, heat your oven to 300 degrees F. Next, line 2 large jelly roll pans with parchment paper. I refuse to be without parchment paper in my kitchen, it saves so much time and makes both baking and cleanup so much easier. Just roll it in the opposite direction to flatten it out because it has a mind of it's own and likes to curl up when you try to lay it down on the pans. Measure your seeds and nuts and dump into a big bowl. The package of pumpkin seeds I had was a little less than 2 cups, but I overfilled the bag with sunflower seeds, so I just made up the difference with those. I always do that when I'm scooping out of those huge bulk containers. I swear it looks like I hardly have any in my bag and it always ends up being enough to feed a large army.
Add 6 Tablespoons of maple syrup and mix until everything is evenly coated. Spread the seed and nut mixture in a single even layer, divided so half goes on each pan. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt to taste. Don't skip this step, the light saltiness along with the deep flavor of the maple syrup is pure bliss.
Bake for 20 minutes, stirring several times with spatula or wooden spoon, until just golden.
Confessional time - I went rogue and used a stainless steel spoon. I tried to do the stirring thing, and the first time I did it I inadvertantly shut the oven off when I thought I was turning off the timer. Good thing I went back to stir again 5 minutes later! I ended up leaving it in the oven for a full 15 minutes after that without stirring, and it really made no difference. It wasn't sticking together and it wasn't sticking to the parchment paper, so I wouldn't worry too much about stirring. Just check on it periodically during the 20 minute baking time.
Doesn't this look good? Nice and lightly golden brown, and it smells wonderful!
Leave the pans alone and let this cool completely. Go do something else for awhile. When it's cool, the stickiness of the syrup is gone and you are left with clusters of lightly sweet & salty, crunchy, nutty goodness. I carefully lifted up the parchment paper and let it all slide into a clean bowl, but I can see where this could be just asking for trouble. Fortunately, it all landed in the bowl and not on the floor, much to the bitter disappointment of my dogs. Stick your hands in it and break up the chunks - this is so easy, it breaks apart perfectly so not one single seed is stuck together. Mix in the cherries and toss to combine.
This makes 4 cups. Store it in an airtight container at room temperature, but I think I'll have to bag it up into individual servings, because it's really hard to stop once you've tasted it. Enjoy!