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Ajil: The “Other” Trail Mix

While I do blog in the US, many of you don’t know about my Iranian/Persian background. Growing up with duel cultures has really enhanced my intellect, sense of self, and especially my culture. I’ve loved learning about traditional Persian dishes–the only problem is some of the preparations are very tedious, and definitely not ideal for a working girl like myself. So over time, I’ve really enjoyed modifying a lot of these recipes so that the flavors are the same and the prep is much easier. Ajil

I’m super lucky that “ajil”  is a dish that requires little to no prep! It’s a dish we’re known for in Iranian cuisine. Every region and even family has their own recipe. Traditionally, ajil was made with dried fruits, nuts, and seeds that were endemic to the area, making it a great snack and source of energy for long trips across Iran’s rugged terrain. Today, ajil is as common as potpourri. It’s not atypical to find random dishes of ajil all over a Persian house 🙂

I was eager to make a tasty ajil that was the perfect combination of sweet and savory. I also wanted to avoid GMOs, pesticides, unhealthy trans fats, and unneeded sugar that are often in a ton of store bought trail mixes. My reading of David Wolfe’s Superfoods led to me some great ingredients for a tasty ajil that is loaded with nutrients!

A little info about our shining star ingredients:

  • Goji berries–Who knew there was a fruit that had 30 times the antioxidants of blueberries? If you’re looking for a bigger bang for your buck, this is it! Goji berries are one of the richest sources of antioxidants and nutrients, and yet few people have heard of them. They are one of the most important foods in Chinese medicine, known for balancing the ying and yang energies in the body. Known for combating heart disease and  improving hormonal balances, this is a great superfood to incorporate into your diet.
  • Cacao nibs–No trail mix is a trail mix without chocolate. But instead of trans fat-laden M&M’s, I wanted a healthier alternative. Enter Cacao nibs. This is chocolate in its rawest, purest form. Raw caocao is one of the most mineral rich foods on the planet, and given all the processed food we eat, often times a lot of our health problems are linked to mineral deficiencies in Magnesium, Iron, etc. The Aztecs worshiped cacao, using it as a food source and in some of their cultural sacrifice rituals. Clearly, they knew what was up!
  • Mulberries–This food is native to the Turkish and Greek regions, where some of the first modern civilizations  formed. If you love raisins and other dried fruits but hate all the sugar they contain, mulberries are your new best friend. With less than half the amount of sugar as traditional dried food, they won’t create a huge spike in your blood sugar. In fact, mulberries are rich in a compound called 1-deoxynojirimycin (DNJ). This compound is known for increasing insulin sensitivity, making you less likely to become diabetic.  With more than 40% of your RDA of Iron, mulberries are a great trail mix ingredient.
  • Pumpkin Seeds–Want clearer, healthier skin?  Try pumpkin seeds. They’re rich in selenium, a mineral that has recently been linked to skin health and even skin cancer prevention. They also add a salty crunch to this ajil.

For our recipe:

Makes about 3-4 cups. Note that these measurements aren’t exact. I always encourage my readers to use their best judgement!

  • 1 cup organic dried goji berries
  • 1/2 cup organic raw cacao nibs
  • 1 cup organic dried mulberries
  • 3/4 cup organic raw pumpkin seeds.

Combine all ingredients and keep in an airtight container. Store in a cool, dry place for ultra longevity.

Remember that it’s your trail mix and you can do what you want! Don’t like pumpkin seeds? Try sunflower seeds! Out of mulberries? Golden raisins will also work well. It’s your trail mix and it’s your body. Make a healthy mix of foods that you enjoy eating and don’t be afraid to get creative!

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