I get several letters a year asking me how to make trail mix. So often in our packaged, ready-to-eat on-the-road culture, we look for packaged foods that we can take with us, and this seems like a good one. It is. But there is no magic recipe. Packagers of health-food products have been capitalizing on this snack that hikers have been making for themselves for years.
Nothing could be easier than making it at home. Find a food cooperative or natural food store that sells dried fruit and shelled nuts in bulk. That means in bins, or boxes, or drawers, or something that you can reach into and take as many or as little as you want. Browse through these bins, and buy 1/4 to 1/2 pound of each of several things that you like. Some standards are sunflower seeds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, almonds (perhaps flavored with tamari sauce), flake coconut (taste a piece first to make sure it isn't rancid -- the oil is volatile), dried apricots, pieces of dates and raisins. You can choose anything you like. One or two ingredients could be salted, probably no more than that. Flavored wheat berries are good (they've been soaked and then popped, then covered with garlic salt or parmesan cheese -- you can also find them plain), or toasted soybeans.
Take these little bats of goodies home with you. Find a large bowl, pour them all in, stir them around and mix up well. Place this mixture in a large jar with a tight-fitting lid. Keep it in a cool place, for munching or filling lunchboxes. You have trail mix.
Sometimes the letters read, "My husband especially likes the trail mix at the health-food store. Can you find out what the recipe is so that I can make it at home?" There is a much easier way for you to get the recipe than writing to me. Buy some of this great-asting trail mix. Take it home. Pour it into a bowl. Now, on a sheet of waxed paper, take out each piece of trail mix and place it on the waxed paper, sorting all of one kind of ingredient into a pile with its mates. All the cashews together, all the dried figs together, all the sunflower seeds together.
When you are done (try not to nibble while you sort, or you'll mess up the recipe) write down each of the ingredients and their approximate proportions (you can measure each one if you really want to be precise). You probably need at least a pound of trail mix for this method to work, as they are not always blended evenly at the packers. Now go to the natural food store that sells in bulk and purchase your ingredients.
I do have some bad news for you, however. In many cases your private blend of trail mix will be more expensive, not less, than the ready-to-eat variety, at least if you purchase it in bulk. You can probably beat the prices of the small packages of trail mix, but that's just because you are eliminating the packaging step. The same companies who sell dried apricots and sunflower seed to your health-food retailer make trail mix, and because they make it in such quantity, they can often do it more cheaply than you. However, if you intend to create something personalized, say without sunflower seeds, which you hate, and with twice as many almonds, which you love, it is difficult to use the price argument.
Granola recipes are much the same as trail mix ones. My granola recipe is an adaptation from a recipe that came in my grocery bag from the Berkeley Cooperative Grocery Store in 1969, several years before the granola mix idea became commercialized by the major cereal conglomerates. We change it from time to time, depending upon our mood and the state of our refrigerator, but this serves as a good basic recipe. OATMEAL GRANOLA 6 cups old-fashioned rolled oats 1 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened) 1 cup fresh wheat germ 1/2 cup sunflower seeds 1/4 cup hulled sesame seeds 1/4 cup finely chopped nuts 1/2 cup melted butter or vegetable oil 1/2 cup honey 1/4 cup water 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 cup raisins
Combine oats, coconut, wheat germ, seeds and nuts in a large bowl. In a small saucepan over a low flame, combine butter or oil, honey, water, salt and vanilla. Pour over grains, stirring thoroughly. Spread mixture thinly on cookie sheets and bake at 325 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Oats should be crisp and brown, but coconut should not be dark. oAllow to cool thoroughly, then add raisins and place in an airtight container for storage. Serve as snacks or with milk for breakfast.