Cranberry Maple Trail Mix. Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, & sliced almonds are lightly glazed in maple syrup & brown sugar until crispy, toasted clusters start to form. And finally folded together with lots of tart, chewy dried cranberries & rich white chocolate chips. A little bit of sweetness and holiday cheer in every bite.
Because right about now I think we could all use a little sumthin’ sumthin’ to help dispel the stress and anxiety we’re feeling after this year’s election results were finally revealed. No matter what side of the ballot you found yourself voting on, last night was in a word. INTENSE. The past year has been a whirlwind. A veritable rollercoaster ride of emotions - surging, ebbing and flowing their way in and out of our TV screens and minds. It seemed to stretch on forever, months upon months, until in a flash it was all over.
Politics and the elections that govern them are so very, deeply, profoundly personal. They involve our core values and beliefs, and challenge us to stand up and speak out for the issues we are most passionate about. They force us to reevaluate our traditions and long-held institutions, to embrace change and keep pushing exhaustively towards progress. They ask that we make a definitive choice on who we think is fit to lead.
But in doing so these elections bring out things in each of us, slowly turning up the heat under us until our truest selves bubble up to the surface and make their true intentions known. They bring about divisions, draw out deep-seated pain and reveal feelings of discontent. At the end of each election, there can only be one winner. And in such a contentious race as the one we saw unfold this year, that means that there is a huge part of the country that is disheartened and disappointed today. A huge part that is not rejoicing but rather carrying around a dull, heavy ache. Doing the best they can to recover from their hopes that fell short of the mark and make sense of how to best move forward.
To not at least acknowledge this reality seemed preposterous, insensitive even. To hop on here and dive head-first into a recipe without pausing to say that yes, something major did just happen. I speak about it on a blog predominantly based on one unrelated thing (food) not to break away from that or invite an actual political discussion, but to tip my hat to the gravity of this day and not diminish it's meaning. To be respectful and avoid seeming dismissive or nonchalant about our democratic process.
So today, I give you a handful of something that I hope will brighten your day enough to make room for hope and optimism to begin creeping their way back in. For forward thinking about what lies ahead and what we can do to rekindle a spirit of togetherness.
For instance, in the very immediate future. The holidays. As in plural. As in all of them. They are coming.
I know this because it happened. I heard it. The annual telltale sign. That unmistakable twinkly sound of Christmas music ringing throughout the store. They have plucked the pumpkins, ghosts, and ghouls from the shelves. Wiping out every trace of Halloween. Which I’m still not entirely sure how that came and went as quickly and soundlessly as it did this year. But the time of glitter, light strings, snowflake décor, and dancing reindeer robot toys has arrived. It’s officially upon us.
It’s almost enough to give me those wintry can-I-just-bake-all-the-things kind of vibes. But the actual motivation to bake hasn’t hit me. Not just yet. Might have something to do with the fact that my wedding dress measurements have to be taken in 6 days (count em, SIX. What. Is. HAPPENING). Or with that whole thing where I cannot be left alone with an entire loaf, frosted cake, or muffin pan until I have lots of friends and family surrounding me ready to help me devour it.
But I am absolutely READY to usher in all things holiday themed. I have been craving these holiday flavors all year. Maple syrup. The caramel notes in light brown sugar. Cinnamon. Cranberries. Nutmeg. Cloves. Toasted nuts & seeds releasing their fragrant oils into a hot pan. And WHITE CHOCOLATE.
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I want them here and now and always.
And they all get to come together in this ONE trail mix, which fits the bill nicely for bringing that little bit of sweet together with a little bit of spice. With some tangy, tart dried cranberries and creamy white chocolate chips to break up the salty, sweet, crunchy mixture and layer in some chewy, soft, bright, and mellow flavor notes all at the same time.
The different sizes and shapes of the nuts and seeds helps them collect together into the most delightfully, crispy, sweet clusters. I love how festive the green of the toasted pumpkin seeds are mixed with some bright white chocolate chips, rich brown walnuts, and vibrant crimson cranberries. All kinds of contrasting yet complimentary things are at play here and it makes my mouth SO happy. Palmful after palmful, always heading back to the bowl for more.
And so easy to assemble (and clean up for that matter). As in, the night before you have to go to your friend’s potluck in the city and need to make a lot of snacks to help fill up the party table kind of EASY. You can measure the ingredients and dump them straight into the pan, saving you from dirtying too many dishes. If you’re careful to line the baking sheet that they need to spread out and cool on, you can also save yourself from having to scrub the baking sheet too. Making this bad boy, technically a one-pan deal.
You’ll spend a few minutes of actual hands-on work and the rest is just allowing it plenty of time to cool and crisp on a pan. That’s it my friends. And that is my gift to you today. A no fuss recipe that I sincerely hope brings a little teensy glimmer of joy back into your week.
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Cranberry Maple Trail Mix
- 1 ½ c raw walnuts
- 1 c toasted pumpkin seeds
- ¾ c raw sliced almonds
- ½ c maple syrup
- 3 tbs light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg
- pinch of cloves
- 1 c dried sweetened cranberries
- 1 c white chocolate chips
- CANDY NUT & SEED MIX: Prepare a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper, set aside. Preheat a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and almonds and stir together until well mixed. Pour over the maple syrup, add the spices and stir until evenly coated. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring often, until the maple syrup has mostly adhered to the nut mixture. Then sprinkle over the brown sugar, stir and cook for another 3 minutes. Take off heat and spread out mixture evenly on the parchment paper lined baking sheet and sprinkle salt to taste over the top. Then allow the caramelized mixture to cool fully for 30 minutes. Break up into small clusters by hand.
- FOLD IN CRANBERRIES & CHOCOLATE CHIPS: Once the mixture has set up completely, sprinkle over chocolate chips and cranberries, mix together and store in an airtight container at room temperature for a week or more. Use little pieces of parchment paper to line the bottom of your containers to prevent sticking.