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Good Old Raisins And Peanuts

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Chomp, chomp, crunch, chomp, gulp, gulp, gulp.

Ahh, the sounds of the wild, the sounds of nature, the sounds of . . . trail mix.

A large part of the outdoors experience is the ritual eating of the snack food every Girl Scout knows as gorp.

The word is actually an acronym for “good old raisins and peanuts.” It’s evolved to mean a mixture of all kinds of dried fruit and nuts, often with a bit of chocolate or other snack foods thrown in.

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In my Girl Scout days, the ultimate gorp was a plastic bag stuffed with every junk food imaginable: M&Ms;, chocolate chip cookies, marshmallows, candy bars, pretzels--the gooier, the better. We’d trade gorp like baseball cards. The better the gorp you brought, the more gorp you would amass.

b Evelyn Levine of the Sierra Club says eating gorp while hiking serves several purposes. “The reason you take snacks on the trail is you need energy,” she says.

Selina Lai, a Santa Monica-based registered dietitian, says trail mix is good to eat on long hikes because it is almost a complete food in itself, containing carbohydrates, proteins and fats (assuming you haven’t assembled an M&M-and-marshmallow; gorp).

The carbohydrates in fruits and raisins are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream and provide energy; the protein in the nuts and seeds keeps hikers feeling alert. Fat provides the stamina needed on a long hike; the body, says Lai, begins to use the fats when it runs out of the energy provided by carbohydrates and proteins.

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Both Lai and Levine stress that drinking plenty of water when eating gorp is essential. Water allows the gorp, which is very concentrated, to be broken down and absorbed by the body.

The best thing about gorp is that there are thousands of combinations. It’s a near-perfect food for even the pickiest eater because it can be tailored to individual food prejudices. Hate raisins? Leave them out. When you make your own gorp, you can include only foods you enjoy.

Gorp guidelines are simple: Choose ingredients that won’t spoil or get crushed and foods that don’t take up a lot of space. Ideally, you’ll use foods that don’t melt, but if you do, you’ll miss the fun of gooey gorp.

Making gorp is a highly creative process. We came up with a non-health food nut-free “kid gorp,” for instance, made with animal cookies, M&Ms;, mini marshmallows and golden raisins. (We’ll assume your kids will eat healthful foods at the campsite.)

The most difficult aspect of creating your own gorp is limiting the number of ingredients. The more you look around at farmers markets, at health stores, in the nuts and snack sections of supermarkets, the more you find.

To experiment with combinations, we bought 15 kinds of dried fruits (including three types of raisins, dried pears and nectarines), seven types of nuts, some crystallized ginger and all sorts of cookies, jelly beans, marshmallows, rice crackers and candies.

Organizing the ingredients and trying them together proved to be fun, although it took my stomach several days to recuperate. There were some surprises as well as lots of disagreement among the tasters.

Skittles, dried oranges and toasted walnuts made up one combination that some cherished, though others sneered. Dried persimmons, bright orange and sweet, were loved by just about everyone. A combination of sprouted chickpeas, black-eyed peas, soybeans and almonds was deemed “too healthy-tasting,” as well as too moist for a camping trip. And just about everyone took guilty pleasure in munching our cookie-marshmallow-chocolate bit kid gorp.

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Our favorite gorp combined walnuts, pecans and macadamia nuts with dried nectarines and persimmons, assorted raisins, banana chips, crystallized ginger for sharpness and, for salty contrast, Japanese crackers.

Later, we discovered that gorp makes a good baking ingredient. We tried--and loved--a recipe from “The Well-Fed Backpacker” (Vintage Books, 1981) called “gorp squares.”

One last thing to remember about gorp: It tastes best fresh. Many of the combinations we tried were terrific the first day or two, then deteriorated into stale crunch. For longer storage, don’t use oil (which turns rancid in time), and leave nuts untoasted.

SWEET-AND-FRUITY GORP

Toasted nuts taste better than untoasted, but their great flavor doesn’t last long. If you are planning to keep the gorp more than a few days, leave the nuts untoasted and try the gorp without the oil.

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup walnuts

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1/2 cup pecans

1 to 2 teaspoons peanut oil

1/4 cup fresh coconut pieces

1 cup Japanese rice crackers

3/4 cup banana chips

1/2 cup dried nectarines

1/2 cup dried persimmons

1 cup assorted raisins (black, golden, flame)

1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger

1/2 cup macadamia nuts

Combine sugar and salt and sprinkle over walnuts and pecans in bowl, then toss with oil. Spread nuts in single layer on baking sheet and toast in oven at 350 degrees, turning occasionally, until golden and aromatic, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Spread coconut in single layer on baking sheet and toast in oven at 350 degrees until golden brown and aromatic, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

Combine rice crackers, banana chips, dried nectarines, dried persimmons, assorted raisins and crystallized ginger in bowl. Add toasted walnuts and pecans, then macadamia nuts and mix well. Sprinkle with coconut pieces and mix gently. Store in 1-quart plastic bag at room temperature.

6 cups. Each 1/2 cup:

201 calories; 408 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 11 grams fat; 27 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 1.03 grams fiber.

KID GORP

1 1/2 cups bite-size marshmallows

2 cups animal crackers

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup M&Ms; or other bite-sized candies

Combine marshmallows, animal crackers, raisins and M&Ms.; Serve or store in 1-quart plastic bag at room temperature.

5 1/2 cups. Each 1/2 cup:

203 calories; 60 mg sodium; 2 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 39 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.57 gram fiber.

GORP SQUARES

This recipe is from “The Well-Fed Backpacker,” by June Fleming, a book that should be of interest to anyone who spends a good deal of time outdoors.

1/2 cup chopped dates or prunes

1/2 cup golden raisins or currants

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup cashews

1/2 cup walnuts, almonds or peanuts

1/2 cup wheat germ

1 cup rolled oats

1 (12-ounce) package chocolate chips

1 (6-ounce) package butterscotch bits

1/2 cup honey

Combine dates, raisins, coconut, cashews, walnuts, wheat germ and oats in large bowl.

Melt chocolate chips and butterscotch bits in top of double boiler over simmering water. Add honey and stir to mix. Pour over dry mixture and mix well.

Pour mixture into greased 9-inch-square pan and cool. Remove from pan and break into bite-sized chunks or cut into squares and remove from pan.

About 36 squares. Each square:

146 calories; 17 mg sodium; 2 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 21 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.27 gram fiber.


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