Super Good Snack Mix by emily penn

I’m not sure if it was just a my-family thing or a universal thing, but somewhere in my childhood we got into the tradition of making homemade Chex Mix around the holidays. I LOVED Chex Mix growing up, store-bought or homemade. It embodies the two most important components I’m constantly chasing in food - salt and crunch.

Ever since I started giving a damn about what I was eating (about 7 years ago) I’ve tried to recreate a healthier version of homemade Chex Mix every holiday season. The problem I run into every time is the cereal - all of it is garbage. It’s either made from inflammatory grains (hi corn) or it has added sugar - even the not-sweet cereals! I had just kind of resigned that this was going to always be the case, but things really turned around this year.

I finally figured out a way to make a (super-addictive) snack mix that is salty, savory, crunchy and NOT TERRIBLE FOR YOU! If that’s not a holiday miracle, then I don’t know what is!


Super Good Snack Mix

cook time 1 hour / total time 1 hour 10 minutes
makes approximately 5 cups

3 cups plantain chips
1 cup cashews
1 cup pecans
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1⁄2 tbsp coconut aminos
1⁄2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1⁄2 tsp garlic powder
1 1⁄2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp sea salt
1⁄4 tsp paprika


  1. Preheat oven to 250.

  2. Add plantain chips, cashews and pecans into a large bowl. Set aside.

  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the rest of the ingredients. Whisk together until there are no clumps and the oil mixture is slightly warm, about 3 minutes.

  4. Pour oil mixture in the bowl with plantain chips and nuts. Stir the mixture with a large spoon until the everything is evenly coated.

  5. Pour the snack mix on a baking sheet in an even layer and pop in the oven. Give the mix a stir every 15 minutes for an hour.

  6. After the hour, remove from the oven and allow the mix to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. It will be best for up to a week, but I doubt it will last that long.

* I like Inka brand plantain chips, which uses palm oil. Palm oil is a better choice over refined vegetable oils such as canola, soy or sunflower.
* You could use worchestire sauce or tamari in place of the coconut aminos.

Sweet Potato Salad with Celery, Pecans and Cranberries by emily penn

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This recipe is inspired by one of my favorite things to make around the holidays. The original recipe from Smitten Kitchen involves sweet potatoes cut into coins with a “salad” that goes on top - like little one bite hors d’oeuvres. I’ve been making these for holiday gatherings since I was in my early 20s and they’ve always been a huge hit.

I wanted to revamp the concept this year and so this sweet potato salad was born. It is so delicious and has so many wonderful seasonal flavors all wrapped into one bite. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t enjoy it! While it definitely has strong Thanksgiving vibes, it still holds its own for gatherings and dinners throughout the rest of the year.

It’s grounding, it hits all the flavor buttons and it’s easy to make ahead of time and transport. It comes off as way more sophisticated than most other potato or sweet potato-based side dishes this time of year and is sure to freshen up the staple sides that everyone is secretly a little sick of.

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Sweet Potato Salad with Celery, Pecans and Cranberries

serves 4-6 as a side
cook time 45 min / total time 1 hour

2 large sweet potatoes, cubed
2 tbsp avocado oil
5 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
¼ cup dried cranberries, finely chopped (ideally unsweetened or sweetened with fruit juice)
½ cup packed parsley, chopped
½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped

¼ cup olive oil
2 tbsp white or red wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt + pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400. Toss sweet potatoes with avocado oil and a generous sprinkling of salt. Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring once halfway, until cooked through and golden.

  2. While the sweet potatoes are roasting, chop your celery, shallots, dried cranberries, and parsley. Add to a large bowl and set aside. Make the dressing and set aside. Reserve the pecans for garnish.

  3. When sweet potatoes are done, remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.

  4. Add the sweet potatoes and dressing to the large bowl and toss everything together until well-coated with the dressing. Taste and add salt/pepper if needed.

  5. When ready to serve, transfer to a dish and sprinkle chopped pecans on top. Salad can be made up to 2 days ahead of time. Leftovers will keep for several days in the fridge.

Good Food: Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet + Spicy Pecans by emily penn

This was one of my favorite easy dinners to make when I was in my early twenties. I roasted some squash, crumbled some goat cheese on top and sprinkled it with Trader Joe’s Sweet and Spicy Pecans. The combination of the crunchy nuts, creamy goat cheese and sweet butternut squash is SO GOOD.

I wanted to upgrade this recipe, though because I don’t really do dairy anymore and the Trader Joe’s nuts are made with… sugar and canola oil. So while the convenience is nice, I’d much rather make my own sweet and spicy nuts with ingredients I feel good about.

If you do dairy, go for goat cheese. If not, Kite Hill makes an almond milk ricotta that stands in nicely. However I must warn you, the flavor profile has gone down since I last tried it a year ago. It’s really pretty bland (which makes a nice blank canvas!) so I add salt and lemon juice to give it the same flavor profile as the goat cheese. There’s also lots of smaller non-dairy cheese brands, so check your local grocery store for something that might stand in well for goat cheese or ricotta.

This is still one of the most low key dinners and it’s a beautiful side dish for the holidays and upcoming gatherings. You can make the pecans ahead of time and you’ll likely have extras, so keep some on hand for a great little seasonal snack, to. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet + Spicy Pecans

Serves 2 people as an entree, 4-6 as a side
Cook time 1 hour 5 minutes / Total time 1 hour 30 minutes

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sweet + spicy pecans
1 ¼ cups pecans
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
¼ tsp salt
cayenne to taste (about ⅛ tsp for a subtle kick)

1 large butternut squash, cubed
2 tbsp avocado oil
generous salt + pepper

garnish with
crumbled cheese of choice (goat cheese or Kite Hill Almond Milk Ricotta)
chopped parsley
pomegranate seeds


  1. For the pecans - preheat oven to 275. Toss everything in a large bowl until the pecans are well-coated. Arrange the pecans in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, just until pecans start to get a little dark. Allow to cool completely.

  2. For the squash - preheat oven to 400. Toss the cubed butternut squash with avocado oil, salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, undisturbed.

  3. Remove the baking sheet after 30 minutes and increase the heat to 425. Give the butternut squash a stir. It should be starting to get golden.

  4. Roast for an additional 15 minutes, until the squash is golden and crispy on some edges.

  5. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to the dish(es) you’d like to serve it in.

  6. Sprinkle with a generous amount of pecans, your favorite cheese or non-dairy cheese, and any other toppings you’d like. Enjoy!