Good Ol’ Trail Mix
How many of you ate trail mix while growing up? I distinctly remember enjoying it by the handful when we went camping. Sometimes it ended up in my lunch during the school year, a surprising but welcome addition to my PBJ, carrot sticks, and apple. There is something so satisfying about the flavor and texture combination that is found in trail mix. And don’t bother buying those pre-made (and more expensive) bags at the grocery store. Make it yourself, and make it even healthier!
Read on to learn how to soak and dehydrate raw nuts as well as how to avoid vegetable oils by checking the ingredient labels of dried fruit, and leave me a comment below after you create your trail mix.
What is Trail Mix?
The term trail mix originated way back in 1910 in a popular camping guide. Other terms for it around the world include gorp, scroggins, schmogle, and student fodder. Which term is your favorite? I rather prefer schmogle.
Trail mix consists of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and sometimes chocolate or candy. The simplest version I used to get when traveling around Nicaragua was a packet of salty peanuts and a packet of sweet raisins. I ate them together and it held me over until my next meal. It is said that is what gorp means: “good ol’ raisins and peanuts.”
My family has various versions. My husband and eldest prefer the works: nuts, seeds, dark chocolate chips, dried fruit. My youngest likes just the dried fruit and chocolate chips. I like a little less dried fruit and cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips. The main recipe is below, and you can get creative and customize it to suit your tastes.
First, A Word On Phytic Acid
Nuts and seeds are so good for you, but did you know they have a dirty little secret? They contain phytic acid. Phytic acid is found in grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. It can bind to nutrients in our bodies and take them away, as well as prevent us from absorbing nutrients from food. This can lead nutrient deficiencies, which can cause tooth decay, cravings, and other health issues.
Phytic acid levels can be too high if we don’t take the time to prepare our food in proper ways. Soaking, sprouting, and fermenting foods can make them more digestible, more nutritious, and less harmful to our bodies.
Soaking can be used to prepare oatmeal, beans and legumes, and nuts. Sprouting can be used with grains and seeds. And fermenting is done to yogurt, kefir, and sourdough breads. These are all traditional ways that ancestral cultures used to improve the nutrition of their food.
In this case, I will teach you how to soak and dehydrate nuts and seeds. If you choose to use raw or roasted nuts and seeds that haven’t had their phytic acid levels reduced, just be aware of other sources from which you may be getting phytic acid. Grains, legumes, nuts and seeds all have phytic acid in them, so if you are consuming a lot of those foods, you’ll want to consider how to reduce the phytic acid levels or eat less of them.
Healthy Ingredients in Trail Mix
- Dried Fruit: In a healthy trail mix, you’ll want to have dried fruit that has no added sugar or vegetable oils. Some good dried fruit options are raisins, fruit juice sweetened cranberries, cherries, coconut flakes, pineapple, mango, apricots, apple and dates. Some people also like to add banana or plantain chips. Just remember to watch out for added vegetable oils, which some say do more harm than sugar.
- Nuts & Seeds: My favorites are walnuts, pecans, peanuts, and almonds. Macadamia nuts are a splurge, but so delicious. Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are delightful. See below for how to soak and dehydrate these ingredients to make them more nutritious.
- Chocolate: Dark chocolate that is 70% or higher is optimal. Keep it simple with ingredients that are just cocoa, cocoa butter, and sugar. You can also use cacao nibs, which are straight up chocolate with no added sugar.
How to Soak and Dehydrate Nuts and Seeds
The basic idea for how to soak nuts and seeds is to combine the nuts and seeds (separately, based on type) in a large bowl filled with filtered water and sea salt. This briny solution draws out the phytic acid over a period of around 7 hours. After the soaking time, rinse the nuts or seeds and either dry them in a dehydrator (which will keep them raw) or dry them in an oven at the lowest temperature (which will mean they are no longer raw).
I prefer to use a dehydrator for the best texture. It’s foolproof. I find that my dehydrator does the job perfectly overnight while I sleep. I set it to 100 degrees and let it go for 10-12 hours. In the morning, the kitchen smells wonderful and it’s the one time that I eat something right when I get up: a handful of walnuts and a handful of pecans. Just testing for doneness!
If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can bake them in the oven at 150-170 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 – 60 minutes until absolutely dry. If you can’t get them to be perfectly dry in the oven, it’s best to store them in the fridge.
Regardless of which method you use, the most important thing is that the nuts are actually dry. They should be crisp and crunchy, not mealy or chewy.
For all nuts and seeds (except for flax, chia, and cashews*) the recipe is:
- 4 cups of nuts/seeds to 1 tablespoon sea salt. Add enough pure, filtered water to cover.
- Soak 7 hours.
- Rinse and dehydrate at 100 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-12 hours until perfectly dry and crisp.
- Alternatively, bake in a low temperature oven (150-170 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30-60 minutes until dry and crisp.
*Flax and chia seeds turn slimy when soaked, which makes a great egg replacement, but not great for dehydrating. Cashews have already been pre-baked in their shell in order to neutralize a toxic oil, so even raw cashews are not truly raw. To soak and dehydrate “raw” cashews, soak for no more than 6 hours, then drain and bake at 200-250 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-60 minutes.
Will you create your very own trail mix, filled with healthy fats, energizing carbohydrates, and some protein to keep you going on the trail or at the beach this summer? Let me know in the comments below what your favorite combination is. Also leave me a comment if you soak and dehydrate nuts and seeds! I’d love to hear how it goes for you.
Until the next recipe,
Other On the Go Snacks
- Sunflower Seed Snack Crackers The perfect crisp and crunchy snack for the nut-averse.
- Perfect Soft/Hard Boiled Eggs I almost always have these in my fridge to grab a snack when I need it.
- Grab and Go Honey Squares These are a treat and a snack. They hold you over between meals on active days.
Stick With You Trail Mix
- Food dehydrator, optional
- 2 cups nuts Use a variety of peanuts, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc. Avoid added vegetable oils.
- 2 cups dried fruit Such as raisins, fruit juice sweetened cranberries, cherries, apples, bananas, apricots, or dates. Avoid added sugars and vegetable oils.
- 1 cup seeds I used sunflower and pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut chips
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs 70 % or higher is ideal.
- If starting with raw nuts and seeds, measure out 4 cups of nuts or seeds (separately) and soak in filtered water with 1 tablespoon sea salt. You will need a separate bowl or container for each variety. Soak for 7 hours, drain, rinse, and dehydrate for 10-12 hours at 100 degrees Fahrenheit (or, bake in 150-170 degree oven for 30 – 60 minutes or until completely dry).
- Measure out each ingredient and mix together in a large bowl. Store in an airtight bag or container.
- Take along and enjoy hiking, camping, going to the beach, or on long car rides.