Monday, October 20, 2014

[Gluten-Free] Lauren Marie's Spiced Trail Mix

When I was a kid, I would go camping every year with the Girl Scouts. It was always so much fun! All us girls running around the woods, walking the trails, and making s'mores by the campfire. Organized chaos, really. Can you imagine being in charge of 15 third graders? God bless those chaperones.  

I distinctly remember the smell of the old wood cabins and staying up much later than our "lights out" time because we were too busy debating about who was the cutest boy in our class. One year a raccoon bit its way into our screened-in porch and ate all the doughnuts we had bought for breakfast the next day. That caused a little pandemonium. Ah memories... But do you know what I remember the most? 

The trail mix.

I know what you're thinking. I should be reminiscing about the friendships I made while singing "Kum Ba Yah" around the campfire. And trust me, I do. But I think a lot of those girls will agree with my opinion of "that trail mix was awesome." It had everything a little kid could want from chocolate to pretzels to marshmallows. It was stored in this huge aluminum cylinder that never seemed to empty no matter how many handfuls you took! 

So ever since then, I've had a soft spot for trail mix. I have been making my version for years now. It kind of happened by accident. I made a spiced nut mix with smoky cumin, sweet cinnamon, and spicy cayenne pepper. It was really good, but I wanted something more.  So I added some of my favorite trail mix accompaniments like pretzels, chocolate chips, and dried cranberries.  What I got was a seriously tasty combination just as magical as that bottomless container of trail mix from my childhood.  Without the raccoons...

Lauren Marie’s [Gluten-Free] Spiced Trail Mix
This ain’t your mama’s trail mix!  This simple recipe has got it all - sweet, spicy, and salty.  This recipe makes a lot because it goes fast.  Make it for your next barbecue, tailgate, or cocktail party!

Makes 6 cups

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups mixed nuts, roasted and salted
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon water
1 cup gluten-free pretzels (I use Glutino brand)
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
¼ cup dried cranberries

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, cumin, and cayenne pepper.  Place nuts in a large sauté pan and heat over medium heat until warm, about 3-4 minutes, stirring often.  Add the butter and stir until it is melted and all the nuts are coated.  Add the brown sugar mixture and water.  Stir constantly until the sauce thickens and glazes the nuts, about 2 minutes.  Then add the pretzels and stir constantly for 1-2 minutes until everything is evenly glazed.

Transfer nut mixture evenly over the 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Use a fork to separate nuts that may have clumped together.  Let the nuts cool and harden, about 15 minutes.  Pour nuts into a large bowl.  Add chocolate chips and dried cranberries.  Stir to combine.  Trail mix will keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days.