June marks the beginning of summer, and for many of us, it’s time to start camping and hiking (unless you’ve started already). The warmer weather and longer days seem to draw us all outside to enjoy the great outdoors. To help you stay nourished during your outdoor adventures, I will share with you my recipes for phytonutrient-rich rainbow trail mix and granola bars.
For those who are not aware, trail mix is a blend of nuts, dried fruit, sometimes granola, and oftentimes chocolate. Originally shared by outdoorsman Horace Kephart in his outdoor guide in the 1910s, this snack mix has become a common staple for hikers, campers, and parents worldwide.
When in need of a quick, easy to pack snack that can keep your energy up, trail mix hits all the buttons for a healthy option. This easy to make snack provides a balance of protein from nuts and seeds and healthy carbohydrates from fruits. This combination works to provide a quick burst of energy (from the fruits), as well as a prolonged source of energy from protein (from the nuts) to keep you going and to help regulate your blood sugar. You can take it to the next level, and use fruits that have a low glycemic index such as apples, bananas, and berries, if you are so inclined.
Other healthy ingredients that are often included are granola and chocolate. With the latter, be sure to look for dark chocolate that is 65% or more cacao to ensure the most nutritional benefits. Overall, the options in this month’s recipe will provide you with a variety of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients that will keep you going during your many adventures this summer.
Recipe tips and tricks
The key to a good trail mix is the right ratio of nuts to dried fruit. A general rule of thumb you can start with is using a ratio of approximately 3:2:2 of dried fruits/nuts/dark chocolate.
To convert these into granola bars, you can bake them or have them set in the fridge or freezer (I’ve included directions for both options). I suggest baking them if you plan to travel with them and using the refrigerator for a great at-home pick me up. You will also need to make sure you add a combination of a dry base and binders. I’ve shared for you my favorites in the recipe below, but you could also try:
Dry Base: Rolled oats, shredded coconut, chopped/sliced nuts
Dry Binder: flour, almond meal, coconut flour, flaxseeds, shredded coconut, protein powder
Sticky binder: Honey, maple syrup, nut butter
Liquid binder: Coconut oil, egg, flax egg, pureed banana, butter, nut butter (almond, cashew, peanut, etc.)
Fillers: Phytonutrient Rainbow
- Red: Dried goji berries, craisins, cherries
- Orange: Dried mango, apricots
- Yellow: Dried yellow raisins, banana
- Green: Pistachios, pumpkin seeds
- Blue/Purple/Black: Dried blueberries, prunes
- White/Brown/Tan: Chocolate chips, sunflower seeds
Helpful tips for soft and chewy bars:
- Try NOT to go overboard with your mix-ins, otherwise, the granola bars will crumble and fall apart.
- I found that using my hands to really get it all mixed together and pressed into the pan worked best; however, these will be very sticky. Be sure to coat your hands with some extra oat or almond flour to keep the mess to a minimum.
- Another important step is to press the granola mixture down VERY tightly and firmly into the pan. Use a spatula or lay a piece of parchment paper over the mixture while pressing down very hard using your hands.
PREP TIME: 5 minutes
- 1 cup mixed dried fruit — 1/4 cup each of craisins, dried mango, yellow raisins, dried blueberries
- 2/3 cup mixed nuts — 1/3 cup each of pistachios, sunflower seeds
- 2/3 cup dark mini chocolate chips
- Mix all ingredients together and store in a sealed container.
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
COOK TIME: 15 minutes (or overnight)
TOTAL TIME: 30 minutes
- 1/2 cup honey
- 3 Tbs creamy almond butter
- 1 Tbs coconut oil
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1/4 cup oat flour
- 1/2 cup ground flaxseed meal
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup mixed dried fruit — ⅛ cup each of craisins, dried mango, yellow raisins, dried blueberries
- 1/3 cup mixed nuts and seeds — ⅙ cup each of pistachios, sunflower seeds
- 1/3 cup dark mini chocolate chips
- If you plan to bake your bars, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- For both methods, line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a few inches of overhang on two of the sides like handles. Set aside.
- In a microwave-safe bowl or a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the honey, almond butter, and coconut oil. Melt gently using 10–30 second intervals in the microwave and stir until smooth and combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool for about 5 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, oat flour, flaxseeds, cinnamon, and salt, then stir in the dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and chocolate chips. Pour the nut butter mixture over the top, then stir until the ingredients are evenly moistened.
- Scoop the mixture into the prepared baking pan, then with a spatula or your fingers, press into an even layer.
- Baking Option:
- Bake for 15–18 minutes, until the edges are slightly brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, remove the bars, using the parchment overhang to transfer the uncut bars to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut into even rectangles. Store the extras at room temperature for 1–2 weeks in a sealed container.
- No-Bake Option:
- Place the bars in the refrigerator to set, at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Once fully chilled, remove the bars from the pan with the foil or paper ‘handles’; then, using a very sharp knife, slice into bars. Store the extras in the refrigerator (up to a week) or in the freezer for later.
Erika is a Certified Health Coach at Empowered Health Institute in Richland. She can usually be found either with her nose stuck in a book or experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen.
Main image courtesy of Erika Zink