Trail Mix

by Nancy on August 30, 2011

in Snacks

I’ve been experimenting for a while to make the perfect trail mix. My trail mix has to have the right mix of flavors and all of the pieces had to be about the same size and chunky. Mixes with little pieces and big pieces are out. With similar sizes you get a handful containing all of the different ingredients each time instead of a handful of one or two chunky ingredients at the beginning and a handful of tiny bits at the end. Sunflower seeds are a good example of a flavor that’s great in trail mix but is so small that it sifts to the bottom. You should be able to grab a handful of trail mix without looking at the container to pick it up so the ingredients need to be chunky.

I like coconut in my trail mix but most store bought coconut flakes fall into the category of too small. Bob’s Red Mill makes a large flaked coconut that I use when I’m in a hurry to put together a batch of trail mix. You can find it packaged in the baking section or in a bulk bin in stores that carry bulk ingredients. If I have the time, I make my own coconut chunks like the ones in the photo. Directions for making coconut chunks are in the accompanying post.

When I told my family that I had perfected my trail mix recipe and was going to make a batch for photography, I was inundated with requests – use walnuts, use pecans, add dried cherries, don’t use coconut, use peanut M&Ms! Apparently everyone has his or her own idea of the perfect trail mix. Substitute ingredients to fit your personal tastes.

Trail mix is designed to be a high energy (high calorie) food for hiking or other strenuous activities. If you’ll also be sweating during your activity, use salted nuts to help maintain your salt level. Eat trail mix sparingly unless you are active. Don’t make up a gallon ziplock bag of trail mix and munch your way through it on your next cross country car trip!

Trail Mix


  • one 15 oz. bag dark chocolate M&Ms
  • 3/4 cup roasted, salted cashews
  • 3/4 cup Sunmaid jumbo raisins
  • 3/4 cup coconut chunks
  1. If dried fruit is very moist or sticky, place on tray to dry for 2 or 3 days or dry in 200 degree oven for 30 minutes. If fruit is too moist, it will melt the coating on the candy.
  2. Prepare coconut chunks according to accompanying recipe.
  3. Mix all ingredients in large container.

Here are some substitution suggestions:

M&Ms – milk chocolate M&Ms, peanut M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces. Candy coating keeps chocolate from melting in warm weather. In cool weather you can use chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips.

Cashews – peanuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds, pumpkin seeds. Nuts and seeds can be raw or roasted. Use roasted, salted nuts if weather is hot (salted nuts don’t come unroasted).

Raisins – dried apricot pieces, dried raisins, dates, dried apples, dried pineapple. Any bite-sized dried fruit will work. Dried cranberries (cran-raisins) and dried blueberries are good but a little small for my trail mix.

Coconut chunks – large flaked coconut, banana chips.



Prepare Coconut

by Nancy on August 30, 2011

in Fruit,Tips and Tricks

Most grocery stores only carry one kind of dried coconut. It’s very fine and very sweet. It doesn’t taste much like coconut either so about all I buy it for is making tinted Easter grass for decorating cookies and cakes. When I want coconut with real coconut taste, I go to a store that carries bulk foods (Whole Foods where I live). I can usually find a large-flaked, unsweetened coconut in the bulk bins. You can also order this large-flaked coconut from Bob’s Red Mill who is a supplier of bulk ingredients and who has been a sponsor of Kuchen Together supplying us with some ingredients for our recipes (although I bought my last supply of large-flake coconut from the store). The 3.5 lb. mail order size is pretty big but you can freeze dried coconut to keep it fresh.

Sometimes the large-flaked coconut still isn’t large enough for what I want. In my trail mix I want coconut chips! I’ve never seen chips in a store so I have to make them myself. I do live in a culturally diverse area where fresh coconuts are available in the supermarkets year round. Preparing your own fresh coconut isn’t hard but it is a little time consuming. Plan half a day to complete the process. Select an “old” coconut. Recently I’ve seen “young” coconuts in the stores along side “old” coconuts. Young coconuts are not fully developed and the coconut meat inside is still in a jelly stage. Some people will split open a young coconut and eat the insides with a spoon like pudding.

With a large nail and hammer, pierce two or three of the eyes in the coconut.

Turn coconut upside down over container to drain. You have to leave at least one hole a little “up” from the others so air can get into the interior of the coconut as the liquid drains out. If the liquid doesn’t drain, make the holes larger.

Place coconut in 300 degree oven for 30-45 minutes. If you are lucky, the shell will split.

Use a hammer to break into the coconut if it didn’t split and then to break it into smaller pieces.

Wedge a thick-bladed knife between the shell and the meat working around the inside of the shell until the meat comes free.

Peel the skin from the outer surface of the meat with a potato peeler.

Slice or grate the meat to the size you want. For my trail mix I cut the meat into 1″ wide strips and then slice it about 1/16″ thick.

Fresh coconut can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer.

For dried or toasted coconut, place sliced or grated coconut in a single layer on a flat tray. Bake at 200 degrees (or as low as your oven will go) checking and stirring every 15 minutes for grated coconut or 30 minutes for sliced. The coconut will dry and then brown. Remove when it is as dry as you like. Store as for fresh coconut.

For my trail mix the coconut slices (or chips) need to be very dry or moisture from the coconut will melt the candy coating on the chocolate pieces. Dry and toast the coconut until it is brown over at least half of the chip’s surface. Check for dryness before adding to trail mix by placing coconut in a container with a few chocolate pieces. Leave 1 day and see if the candy coating melts or not. If it does, place the coconut back on a tray in the oven and dry some more.




by Nancy on August 23, 2011

in Desserts,Snacks

Aloha! Carrie and I are in Hawaii so, of course, we have to feature a Hawaiian food this week. Haupia is a coconut milk pudding that is served at luaus and social gatherings. I first had haupia 30 years ago at a picnic on the Big Island hosted by some colleagues who had lived and worked there for several years. I even got the recipe!

Haupia is referred to a pudding in most recipes. It is similar to Vanilla Pudding that we published a few weeks ago. Coconut milk replaces at least half of the milk, in this recipe it replaces all of the milk but you could use up to half milk. Haupia should be stiff enough to be picked up and eaten as a finger food. This is accomplished by doubling the cornstarch. Haupia was originally made with pia – arrowroot starch – and you could use that instead of cornstarch in the same portion. Keep servings small, coconut milk is a laxative in large quantities.

Coconut milk is not the liquid in the center of a coconut, that is coconut water. The milk is made by grating coconut meat, mixing it (either fresh or dried) with equal parts boiling water, letting it sit 20 minutes and then draining. The liquid you drain off will be white and is the coconut milk you use. You can make it yourself and I have but the quality and flavor varies a lot. It’s better (and easier) to just buy coconut milk in a can if your grocery store carries it. Look in the Asian section.

Haupia is traditionally served on a section of ti leaf. I don’t have ti leaves available so I decided to use an origami leaf instead. Finding a pattern for the leaf was easy. A quick internet search turned up both written and video instructions for how to make this leaf. Finding the right paper took longer. I wanted green paper that would stand up to the moisture in the haupia square and be stiff enough so that you could pick the leaf up off of a serving tray. I finally settled on opalescent origami paper which has a somewhat water resistant coating on it.


25 servings


  • 2   13.5 ounce cans of coconut milk or 1 can coconut milk and 1 can milk
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • coconut (optional)
  1. In heavy bottomed 1 1/2 quart saucepan, mix cornstarch, sugar and salt thoroughly.
  2. Add 1/2 cup water and stir to make a paste.
  3. Add milk and stir.
  4. Place on medium high heat and bring to a boil stirring constantly especially as the mixture nears the boiling point. Use a spatula so that you scrape the bottom as you stir. The mixture will thicken on the bottom of the pan first and will be lumpy if not stirred well.
  5. Remove from heat when first bubbles from boiling appear.
  6. Pour into 9″ square pan. Top with coconut flakes if desired. Chill. Cut into 5 sections each way.