Almost a year ago, my partner and I left our very good jobs, sold our fantastic urban condo, and happily got rid of all our suffocating “stuff”. We took off on a journey we’d fondly end up calling our “midlife gap year”.
This granola became a constant companion on our journey.
Outfitted with an SUV, a tandem mountain bike, and a camper (okay, so we did keep some “stuff”), we embarked on a 15,000-mile road trip around the U.S. We visited 25 states in 10 months, biking and hiking countless miles across country we’d never seen before. In addition to camping, we signed up for house and pet sitting gigs and stayed in the guest bedrooms of some very generous friends. We had access to many kitchens along the way, so we cooked a lot. All this helped keep the trip very affordable.
We made and/or ate a version of this granola in all 25 states we visited. It became an anchor meal, a comfort food, something grounding in our otherwise nomadic lives. It represented our goal to eat healthy and shop frugally while on the road. (Did you know making your own granola can save 50% or more over the price of the prepackaged stuff?) It also made a great thank you gift to leave for the homeowners whose pets and property we looked after.
This is a great road trip recipe because all the ingredients can easily be found in any grocery store. My favorite store for granola ingredients, however, is Trader Joe’s. They have locations in most of the states we visited, and their cereal grains and premixed packages of dried fruits and nuts are so flippin’ affordable. You can use any of your favorite trail mixes in this recipe.
I use my secret chai flavor hack to season this granola: a three-to-one ratio of pumpkin pie spice to ground cardamom. It’s a simple way to capture all the flavors of chai using spices you probably already have in your cabinet. If you don’t have these spices on hand, ground cinnamon is a fine substitute.
No matter where your journey takes you, consider bringing this granola along for the ride.
Happy cooking and sipping!
Chai Spiced Trail Mix Granola
By Suzanne Klein, Tea Foodie
Makes about 7 cups
4 cups old fashioned oats or a hot cereal mix with oats (I like to use Trader Joe’s Multigrain Hot Cereal Mix with rye, oats, barley, and wheat)
1/3 cup coconut oil (or canola oil)
1/3 cup honey (or maple syrup)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (if your trail mix is salted, consider omitting the salt here)
1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
3 cups of your favorite trail mix of nuts and dried fruit (I like to use Trader Joe’s Trek Mix with almonds, cashews, and cranberries)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a baking sheet lightly with cooking spray.
2. Pour cereal into a large bowl. If using coconut oil, heat in microwave for 10 seconds to melt. Stir melted coconut oil and honey into the cereal until everything is coated. Add spices and salt and stir until it looks like the spices are evenly distributed.
3. Spread spiced cereal onto prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle coconut over top, then gently stir to combine. Bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheet.
4. Once granola is cool, stir in trail mix. Stored in an airtight container, the granola will keep for up to a month.