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Hit the Trail with this Tasty Treat!

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Hit the Trail with this Tasty Treat!

If you think of trail mix as a sometimes bland, routine necessity to power through long hikes or mid-afternoon energy slumps, you may want to think again. With all due respect to pecans, walnuts, dried fruit, M&M’s, and carob chips, by its very nature trail mix is limited only by one’s imagination. Leaving itself open to sweet or savory ingredients that may challenge convention and satisfy both your appetite and the body’s need for vitamin-rich veggies and fruit–not to mention your palate’s quest for a little passion–traditional trail mix can be upended, becoming anything and everything from gourmet to spicy to international and more, and many recipe possibilities are gluten-free.

While nuts have been called the “powerhouses” of trail mix, adding protein-rich soy beans, or edamame, can pack an additional nutritional punch. The dried, roasted kind (available at most health food and larger grocery stores) provide a crunchy, slightly salty nutritional nudge to classic nuts and raisins.

Taco strips, soy nuts, bits of dried genoa salami, crunchy noodles, sun dried tomatoes, sunflower seeds, oats, candied orange peel, dried raspberries, dates, macadamia nuts, dried peas, and whole wheat pretzels all up the ante on routine trail mix. What’s more, a sweet trail mix topper (try dried pineapple, pecans, peanuts, and shredded coconut) can ignite your ice cream or frozen yogurt (think: ice cold and creamy meets crunchy and salty), and trail mix added to everyday muffin batter makes breakfast a crunchy, buttery-tasting, velvety treat.

Finally, if you know friends’ and family’s favorites, personalized trail mix for each can make a fun, special gift no one else will have. So hit the trail with these recipes for a nifty treat!

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Basic Trail Mix
Any combination of nuts, dried fruit (raisins; apricots; cherries; dates), seeds, shredded coconut; M&M’s or chocolate or carob chips.

Combine in a bowl. Scoop into individual bags for afternoon snacks, hiking, etc.

Spanish Trail Mix
2 cups whole natural almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
1 cup 1/3-inch cubes dried apricots
1 cup 1/3-inch cubes pitted dates
1/2 cup 1/3-inch cubes smoked Spanish chorizo (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup 1/3-inch cubes Manchego cheese

Toast almonds in large dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, occasionally shaking skillet, 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then add smoked paprika and orange peel; toss. Remove from heat. Transfer almond mixture to bowl; cool. Toss with apricots, dates, chorizo, and cheese. Keep refrigerated until ready to eat or chilled on the trail (a soup thermos works well for a few hours).

Baked Trail Mix
1 cup uncooked old fashioned oats
2/3 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350. Combine rolled oats, cherries, almonds and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add butter and honey slowly. Mix well. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spread mixture on cookie sheet. Bake 20 minutes, stirring periodically for even cooking. Cool.

Trail Mix Muffins
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granola without raisins
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

In a large bowl, combine flour, granola, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl beat eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in chips, peanuts, raisins and apricots. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 – 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Serve warm.

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