As I mentioned in my last post, we recently took a family vacation up north to New Hampshire. The White Mountains specifically were my family's vacationing destination growing up. We went there every summer we could. A couple years, we did winter vacations instead. Philip and I went by ourselves in October when expecting Edith, right at the start of gorgeous autumn foliage. But going in November was quite a different experience. Hikes were virtually unpopulated -- we would pass perhaps one or two other groups, if that. The trails themselves were particularly alluring amid the bare trees, allowing a deep view into the stark, still woods. Beauty could be felt in the very crispness of the air. Although I have hiked Mt. Willard almost every visit to New Hampshire, I had never reached the summit and been surrounded by frosty capped mountains. It was stunning.
Hiking with an almost two year-old was also quite an experience. Maria is much more weathered in this regard. Philip and I had noticed, however, on a brief Sunday outing shortly before our trip north how ecstatic Edith got when hiking a small wooded trail. Every rock she encountered, she would squat down, climb over with much more effort than necessary, jump off the other side, and end with a satisfied exhale. She literally ran the trail from one rock to the next. Observing her, we confirmed our desire to foster her love for the outdoors and capacity for exertion.
As it was quite chilly during our vacation (the Northern cold has a particular bite!), Edith remained a young child despite her love for outdoors and challenges, and I was in my final month of pregnancy, we kept our hiking itinerary very reasonable. No hike was much beyond 3 miles round trip or rated more than moderate. Edith was a trooper, more often than not hiking a good portion of the trail. Something that helped keeping her motivated was a family snack traditionally reserved strictly for hiking: Gorp.
Gorp is essentially a homemade trail mix. Even though a quick web search reveals that this is indeed a well-used term, I have yet to encounter someone who knows what I'm talking about when I mention it. We asked my dad about the name one year and he said, "Why, it stands for good ol' fashioned raisins and peanuts." But that explanation didn't clear things up too much for me; our recipe always included M&Ms and coconut as well.
Regardless of the name, there is nothing like Gorp when hiking. The mixture is the perfect combination of protein and sugar to give you instant energy but also lengthier sustenance. It is immensely satisfying. And, it was a saving grace with Edith. She would stubbornly clutch it double-fisted, refusing to free up her hands. Seeing that we were doing hikes where rocks were slick with recent rains and often icy, we weren't always too thrilled by her love for Gorp. But, when cajoling her to stick out the cold at higher elevations or persuading her to get back into the Ergo carrier (so we could make some decent progress!), it was highly effective.
Now growing up, the rule was you reached into the bag of Gorp and got what you got. No picking allowed. We fudged the rule a bit for Edith who usually dove for the M&Ms, no surprise. (She is not even two, after all.)
Another snack I made for the trip was Chocolate No-bake cookies. I remember making them for the first time with my Grandma Pakaluk. What's not to like? Chocolate, peanut butter, oats, and a fair share of sugar, milk, and butter. Grandma also called them Chocolate Candy Cookies. We whipped them up and have loved them ever since. That first time we made them, my dad took one and was brought back to childhood: "I always loved these!"
From satisfying unquenchable peanut butter and chocolate cravings in my childhood, these cookies have now become a go-to for road trips and other traveling. I justify them as "energy bites." (Granted, I will usually cut back on the sugar for such occasions.) They sustained and appeased Edith during the many, long car rides.
Chocolate no-bake cookies
2 cups sugar (I will cut back up to 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup cocoa
1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups quick oats
1 cup chopped peanuts (optional)
Combine sugar, cocoa, butter, and milk in medium saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for one minute and remove from heat.
Stir in oatmeal, peanut butter, vanilla, and oats. (And peanuts, if using.)
Drop by teaspoon onto greased baking dish, spread into a greased pan, or drop into lined mini cupcake tins. Place in fridge to cool. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge up to two weeks.
Roasted salted peanuts
Shredded coconut (we have used sweetened, but I prefer unsweetened)
Mix an equal part of all four ingredients. Store in airtight container indefinitely.
Other favorite homemade snack recipes: