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Cooking Corner

Trail Mix Is Personal, so Concoct Your Own Batch of Nuts, Fruits

Trail mix. Photo by David Brooks

Trail mix. Photo by David Brooks

By Caroline Dipping

San Diego County is home to 18 state parks and beaches, not to mention dozens of city- and county-run outdoor venues. If the call of the wild (or suburban trail) beckons you this summer, you’re going to need a supply of quick fuel.

Trail mix has long fit the nutritional bill for avid hikers, bikers, runners and cavorters. And, fortunately for sun-loving types who don’t want to waste a single precious moment indoors, it doesn’t take much time in the kitchen to whomp up a tasty batch.

While pre-made trail mixes overflow at big box stores and specialty stores, it couldn’t be easier to make your own. A large bowl and a wooden spoon are as exotic as the necessary equipment gets.

Besides, trail mix is as personal as your favorite fruitcake or meatloaf. Buying a pre-made concoction is never as satisfying as customizing your own because invariably the store-bought stuff will include a stray peanut or dehydrated banana chip that you loathe. Prepackaged trail mix can also be loaded with unnecessary fat, sugar and unrecognizable dried fruit bits.

To get you started on making your own melange, we’ve compiled a few favorite recipes from a local nutritionist and biking enthusiast, members of the San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club and a couple of national park rangers.

Happy trails!


Whether sashaying along the banks of the San Diego River or scaling Cowles Mountain, spending time in the great outdoors can lead to the need for easy energy. Here are some suggestions for creating your own portable fuel:

— When it comes to morsels in your mix, the sky’s the limit. Personalize your own formula with Melba toast bits, animal crackers, goldfish crackers, mini pretzels, nuts (raw or roasted), corn nuts, dried fruits (cherries, cranberries, apricots, mango, etc.), chocolate malt balls, carob chips, chocolate-covered raisins and dry cereal.

— Sticky dried fruits like apricots and prunes help trail mix stick together without the addition of syrups and oils.

— Get a chocolate boost from cocoa-dusted almonds that won’t melt in the heat.

— There’s no getting around it. Trail mix is caloric. To lighten up granola-style trail mix recipes that can be loaded with unnecessary fat, substitute some fruit juice, such as apple juice, for the oil.

— Choose unsalted raw or dry-roasted nuts. Do not use canned mixed nuts that have been fried and salted.

— Not all dried fruits are alike. Choose dried fruits with no sugar added for the healthiest choice. Shop at health food stores for dried fruit that has not been treated with sulfur, a preservative.

— If you’re adding chocolate to your mix, opt for antioxidant rich dark over milk.

Caroline Dipping writes about food for The San Diego Union-Tribune.



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