snacks

Gochujang Snack Mix (Recipe Redux)

This month’s theme on the Recipe Redux is a fun one that couldn’t have been better timed with all of my spring and summer travel plans — healthy recipes for snacks that will travel! You know I love a good travel snack so this was right up my alley. I put a spicy twist on the classic plane snack mix and upgraded the ingredients to be a little bit more balanced and interesting with this Gochujang Snack Mix.

Gochujang Snack Mix

Before we get to the recipe, let’s talk more about travel snacks and why it makes sense to actually pack them in the first place. Rarely do I go on a trip sans snacks!

I’m not opposed to airport food and the Denver airport actually has some really solid options (it’s the only reason I started getting there early 😂). But I do like having choices and not spending my entire food budget before the trip even starts, so I always pack a few things of my own, even if just to complement whatever I grab once I get there.

You never know when a flight will be delayed or cancelled so having something to tide you over to your next meal could be more clutch than you think. And besides being overpriced, a lot of the snacks available once you get on the airplane, are lacking in in the nutrition department (I’m looking at you, weird plane snack boxes).

Tips for Packing Healthy Travel Snacks

Protein & Fiber

Try to pack things that have some protein and/or fiber because these are generally a little bit harder to come by in the airport. Sure, you can probably find a banana or a red delicious apple but chances are it’ll be overpriced and flavorless.

Stay Hydrated

Stop paying an arm a leg for bottled water (or your other bottled drink of choice) and instead pack an empty re-usable water bottle that you can fill once you get through security. I have this one and LOVE it because I can toss it in my backpack without worrying about a leak, plus it keeps liquid really cold. Almost every airport has one of those handy filling stations now, and you’ll be happy to have it during your wait time and flight.

Keep it Varied

Bring a variety of options to suit whatever mood you’re in. Sweet, salty, savory, crunchy. You’ll be prepared for anything!

Favorite Healthy Store-bought Travel Snacks

Here are a few of my go-to choices for store-bought options, although this list changes as I find new products:

  • bars for something convenient, portable and filling

  • nut butter packets — especially the RX Bar ones that have added egg whites for more protein along with really fun flavors. These are great for adding to coffee shop oatmeal for early morning flights or eating with fruit for a snack later.

  • trail mix — usually a mix of dried fruit, nuts & dark chocolate

  • salmon jerky for a salty/savory option. I love this EPIC brand because they have interesting flavors like chicken sriracha and turkey cranberry sage.

  • a really good apple, because it’s sturdy, holds up well and isn’t a mess to eat (eating something like an orange on a plane is my WORST nightmare)

  • ginger chews. Does anyone else get queasy on take-off? I’m not sure if these do anything besides distract me, but I’ll take it.

  • tea bags. Just ask for hot water on the plane and you’re good-to-go. I take the lower caffeine options for evening flights and especially love TAZO green ginger.

Gochujang Snack Mix Recipe

Southwest is my airline of choice and they always pass out a free snack mix and pretzels once up in the air. So generous of them being that some airlines don’t even offer free water anymore. I wanted to put my own twist on the popular cheese version (you know the one!) and I thought I would spice things up a bit.

How to Make a Healthy Homemade Spicy Snack Mix

Lately I’ve been loving Korean flavors so for this recipe I leaned on gochujang, sesame oil, soy sauce and garlic. Gochujang is one of my favorite condiments of the moment!

Gochujang Snack Mix

If you aren’t familiar, it’s a fermented chile paste that has a mix of sweet, savory and spicy flavors and you should be able to find it at most grocery stores. If you want to learn more about Korean cooking and flavors, this podcast episode was awesome — they talked a lot about the staple ingredients and flavor profiles in Korean cooking.

I mixed the paste into some melted ghee along with a few other key ingredients to create a super flavorful liquid component and then poured it all over the mix before baking to get a nice caramelization. You can certainly use butter, but the ghee gives this extra depth of flavor so if you have it, use it!

Gochujang Snack Mix

The end result has a nice kick, but I promise it’s not too hot for those of you who are spice averse. Between the crunchiness from the nuts, the salt crystals from the pretzels and the crispiness from the cereal, this really has everything covered texture-wise too.

Whip up a batch to take with you on that next flight to make your snack game more interesting while keeping hunger at bay. Your seat neighbors will probbbbbably be asking you to share some.

Gochujang Snack Mix

Gochujang Snack Mix

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 8 cups | Prep time: 5 min | Cook time: 45 min | Total time: 1 hour (including time to cool)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cheddar square crackers

  • 2 cups wheat square cereal

  • 2 cups salted pretzel twists

  • 1 cup whole raw unsalted almonds

  • 1 cup whole raw unsalted cashews

  • 1/3 cup melted ghee or butter (melt first, then measure)

  • 1 Tbsp (heaping) fermented chile paste (aka gochujang)

  • 2 tsp soy sauce

  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil

  • 1 tsp granulated garlic

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

  2. Combine all dry ingredients (crackers through cashews) in a large dish or bowl.

  3. Melt the ghee in a liquid measuring cup (about one minute on high in the microwave), then add chile paste, garlic powder, soy sauce and sesame oil and stir with a fork until well combined.

  4. Pour the liquid over the snack mix and toss well to completely coat (it takes a minute or two). Transfer to a large foil-lined baking sheet and spread into a single layer.

  5. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Cool completely before transferring to an airtight dish or freezer bag.

Notes:

this mix will likely keep for up to a week. You can also freeze it for up to four months.

if you like heat, increase the amount of gochujang to 1.5-2 Tbsp.


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BYO Popcorn Bags

Well it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of awards show but my absolute favorite of the whole year is the Academy Awards and in case you didn’t hear, it’s coming up this weekend. Perfect timing because I just recently joined a monthly recipe challenge called The Recipe Redux (focused on reinventing delicious food and adding a healthy spin) and this month’s theme is… the Oscars!

Now I don’t know about you, but when I watch movies I almost always want some freshly popped popcorn. It can make a basic Friday in feel like a fun date night (or self-care night!). So yeah, add wine and popcorn to a movie night and I’m sold.

These BYO (aka “build-your-own”) popcorn bags are perfect for your Oscar party needs because everyone gets to pick their own favorite add-ins and build their version of a perfect movie-watching snack. We’ve got both sweet and savory covered here so no one will leave unsatisfied. Bonus: you might also learn a new technique for popping that takes all of two minutes and could very well replace the artificial butter flavored packets in your pantry.

BYO Popcorn Bags

All you need to make the base is these classic brown paper lunch bags and popcorn kernels. Did I mention how budget-friendly this is? I played around with the amount and I think 2 Tbsp is a good amount for one adult (for the kids, you might do just 1 Tbsp). No oil/butter or seasonings necessary yet, just add the seeds to the bag and microwave until popping slows to 2-3 seconds. You could even pass out sharpies so everyone can write their name/decorate their bags. Or perhaps write guesses for best picture winners on the bottom?

BYO Popcorn Bags
BYO Popcorn Bags

Leave the popcorn uninterrupted for a minute or so just in case you have any rogue last-minute pops. Then you can take the bag out of the microwave and you should see something similar to the beautiful sight above.

At this time, you can add your melted butter, salt and seasonings of choice because personally, I would rather have no popcorn than butter/salt free popcorn. That’s just me though! And remember, since everyone makes their own, there will be no popcorn to butter ratio disputes here.

BYO Popcorn Bar

Next comes the toppings. You guys, I could have seriously gone all out with this but for the purpose of this photo shoot (because I don’t have that wide of a lens, or enough of those cute little dishes) I decided to limit it to a few favorites. I went for a mix of raw unsalted nuts (since you will likely be salting the popcorn), unsweetened dried fruit, chocolate, something vinegary and something just for fun. Here are the specifics:

Other ideas that would be delicious: everything-bagel seasoning, truffle salt, nutritional yeast or grated parmesan cheese, wasabi peas, honey-roasted peanuts, pretzels, mini marshmallows, dark chocolate chips or white chocolate chips, spiced pecans/almonds, golden raisins.

No matter what you choose, I think everyone will go nuts for this! It’s a fun way to make party food interactive and still delicious. Plus, what could be more appropriate for a celebration of movies than popcorn? Enjoy!


Build-Your-Own (BYO) Popcorn Bags

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 2.5 cups | Prep time: 5 min | Cook time: 2 min | Total time: 10 min (including setup & toppings)

Ingredients & Supplies

  • One brown paper lunch bag (per person)

  • 2 Tbsp popcorn kernels (per person)

  • Melted butter

  • Kosher salt (to taste)

  • Various toppings including: cashews, walnuts, dried cherries, dried chickpeas (salt & vinegar), peanut butter M&Ms, Junior Mints, coconut chips, everything-bagel seasoning, truffle salt, nutritional yeast or grated parmesan cheese, dried edamame, wasabi peas, honey-roasted peanuts, pretzels, mini marshmallows, dark chocolate chips or white chocolate chips, spiced pecans/almonds, golden raisins.

Instructions

  1. Add popcorn kernels to a brown paper lunch bag and fold the top down twice. Place in microwave on its side (so the bag stays folded).

  2. Microwave on high for 2-2 1/2 minutes or until popping slows to 2-3 second intervals.

  3. Let the bag sit untouched for about 30 seconds to make sure everything is done popping! Then gently open the bag and add butter, salt and seasonings as desired (shaking well to evenly distribute).

  4. Finally, add toppings of choice.


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Maple Tahini Snack Balls

You guys, I have a simple, sweet and salty snack recipe for you today that is delicious, if I do say so myself. Sometimes I get an idea for a new creation in my head and will not stop thinking about it until I bring it to fruition. These maple tahini snack balls are the perfect example of that. 

It all started several weeks back when I took a poll on Instagram. If you follow me over there, you know that I constantly rave about my love for tahini. I was mentioning some different uses for it and then asked if anyone had tried it in a traditionally sweet recipe. Most people responded "no" so I immediately started thinking of a way I could incorporate into a snack. I decided to try to replicate the ever-so-popular oat ball and use the tahini in place of more traditional nut butters.

Maple Tahini Snack Balls by Leanne Ray Nutrition

All About Tahini

In case you are way confused, tahini is essentially ground sesame seeds (a sesame seed "butter" if you will) that is popping up in sweet and savory recipes all over the place right now. I am thoroughly obsessed with tahini sauce on noodles, grain bowls, and in homemade salad dressings. And while I'm not really a dessert person, my interest is piqued when someone swirls tahini in brownies

See also // Spiced Chickpea and Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Tahini Sauce

Last week in my ultimate guide to nut butter, I included tahini in the list and mentioned that it's a plant-based source of calcium along with magnesium and iron, all of which are hard to come by nutrients (especially for plant-based eaters). It adds 6 grams of protein and some satiating, heart-healthy fat with each two tablespoon serving as well. So as if there weren't already enough reasons to try it... nutrition!

Unlike some of the other more popular nut butters on the market, tahini is not typically eaten straight from the spoon because it's on the bitter side (I warned you). It does however transform into pure gold when mixed with something sweet and spicy - or in the case of these, sweet and salty. 

ingredients to make maple tahini snack balls

Process

Here's the line-up for what you need to make these happen:

  • Old-fashioned rolled oats + quick oats (if you have them)

  • Ground flaxseed. I love this Manitoba Milling Co brand because it's smooth, almost like a protein powder instead of gritty like the traditional versions (full disclosure: I'm a brand ambassador for MM).

  • Salt

  • Tahini

  • Maple Syrup

  • Vanilla extract

  • Sesame seeds

With energy ball recipes, it's best to use a combination of whole rolled oats and some "quick" oats, but instead of buying two different kinds - especially since I much prefer the rolled oats for breakfasts - I just give half of them a whirl in my food processor until they look like quick oats. This will make your final product more cohesive, as opposed to crumbly. 

dry ingredients and wet ingredients maple tahini balls

Once you are set with your oats, you will simply combine all of the dry ingredients in one bowl, all of the wet ingredients in another bowl, and then mixed them up until the result is a nice "dough" of sorts. This step is always a little awkward because you will think it's impossible to mix together, but use the flat side of a wooden spoon to really work the wet ingredients into the dry. They will come together - trust me!  Once you get everything mixed well, you will want to cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes to rest so the oats can soak up some more moisture and it will be much easier to handle.

maple tahini ball mixture resting

After 20 minutes, portion into one inch balls using a small cookie scoop to make them uniform. This is definitely the most efficient way I have tried and also results in less sticky hands along the way. An optional but fun step is to roll each ball in sesame seeds. I really loved the extra crunch/texture this provided and it also looks really pretty!

dipping maple tahini balls in sesame seeds
maple tahini balls stacked up

The flavor of these is nutty and complex. As much as I love classic peanut butter, I eat it a lot so these were a nice change and the tahini really comes through. Plus they are a breeze to throw together! The recipe scales well too, so feel free to double it like I often do. 

maple tahini balls packed up in storage container

Maple Tahini Snack Balls

Yield: 10 balls | Prep time: 15 minutes | Total time: 45 minutes (mostly hands off)

Note: This recipe has been updated since it's original version. After making these several times, I decided that the dates were unnecessary and added an extra step so I removed them to make it easier and quicker without impacting the final product! 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed

  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup tahini

  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • optional: 3 Tbsp sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Place 1/2 of the oats in a food processor and pulse until it resembles quick oats. Add these to a bowl with the other 1/2 of the oats along with the flaxseed and salt. Mix well.

  2. In a separate smaller bowl, combine the tahini, maple syrup and vanilla.

  3. Add wet ingredients to the dry and mix until thoroughly combined. Cover bowl and put in the refrigerator to rest for 20 minutes.

  4. Using a small cookie scoop, portion into one inch balls and roll in sesame seeds.


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