Friday, April 30, 2010

Tour de Omaha

Since I'm having a bit of a staycation, I asked Redemske over at GamJamsMidwest for a route around Omaha. I wanted to try something new and something with a bit of climbing. He sent me this.  Later today, I'll decide if I still like him. I'll tell you one thing, though, I hate MapMyRide. I've never known such a site to pressure a visitor to become a premium member to such an annoying degree.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Albuquerque sourdough turns one year old

Last year, Marc, Aaron and I headed to Tour of the Gila early and stayed a few days in Albuquerque. I was getting into bread making and had become interested in sourdough. While at our host house, I took a couple kumquats and mixed the juice with some whole wheat flour and let it sit out overnight. The subsequent days, I kept it covered and fed it each day with a little more flour and water. Sure enough, by the time we arrived in Silver City, I had wonderful bubbling and kicked off my first Tour of the Gila with a breakfast of sourdough pancakes. Yes, I know it might have been foolish to do a new food on such an important day, but I was confident and pancakes have always stood me well. I've not made pancakes any other way since. The flavor is just that much better.

A year later, a container of sourdough continues to be cultivated in a container sitting on my counter. Each day I feed it an equal volume of water and flour, building it up for a recipe. When I travel, I feed it and put it in the fridge. Try that with your kids or pets.  :D  

I use the sourdough for bread, pancakes, pizza dough, biscuits, muffins, pitas and tortillas.

There are lots of ways to get starter going. I used citrus and flour. You can also soak raisins in water and flour. That whitish color you see on black raisins contains wild yeasts. You can also order cultivated strains like that from San Francisco, the "mother dough"  has been cultivated since 1849.

My starter's flavor is mild in terms of sourness. I have considered making some with local wild yeasts to compare flavors, but haven't got around to it. I don't think it would be that different though. All the times of opening and closing the container have probably allowed enough local wild yeasts to take over the culture, but it might be a cool experiment.

If you have kids in need of non-screen entertainment, get them into the kitchen.

About sourdough from Wikipedia
A history of sourdough

Purported health benefits of wild yeasted over commercially yeasted breads:
from Jacques de Langre

Specialized sourdough tolerated by celiacs
"A double blind test was then conducted in which 17 celiac disease patients were given 2 grams of gluten-containing bread started with bakers yeast or lactobacilli. Thirteen of them showed distinct, negative changes in their intestinal permeability after eating the bread, and 4 of them did not show any negative effects. The specially prepared sourdough bread was then given to all 17 patients and none of them had intestinal permeability reactions that differed from their normal baseline values.

The researchers conclude: "These results showed that a bread biotechnology that uses selected lactobacilli, nontoxic flours, and a long fermentation time is a novel tool for decreasing the level of gluten intolerance in humans.""

Lower blood sugar levels
"With the sourdough, the subjects' blood sugar levels were lower for a similar rise in blood insulin," said Graham, whose findings are to be published in the British Journal of Nutrition. "What was even more interesting was that this positive effect remained during their second meal and lasted even hours after. This shows that what you have for breakfast influences how your body will respond to lunch."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How to make yogurt -- the illustrated guide

We go through yogurt rapidly at our house, especially now that the boys have discovered thick, creamy yogurt with honey and fresh fruit is quite tasty. Yogurt is one of the easiest things to make at home that can save you lots of money. Case in point, I like the greek-style, which runs around $5/lb.  I can make 4 lbs. at home for the price of a gallon of milk (2.80-3.20) and a 50 cent container of plain Yoplait yogurt.

You can use whole or 2% milk. The whole milk is a little richer, but since we'll be draining off the whey, creaminess is unaffected.

Heat up the milk to 180 degrees F. If you don't have a thermometer, this is when it's hot enough to be frothy, but not boil.  If you use whole milk, you can bring it to a boil with no problem. 

Cool the milk to 110 degrees. I put mine in a bowl like this with a little cold water. Doesn't take long. If no thermometer, test on the inside of your wrist like you would for a baby's bottle. It shouldn't feel ouch-your-mouth hot, but it should be pleasantly warm.

Take about 2 cups of the warm milk and mix it with a container of plain yogurt in a separate bowl. I like the plain Dannon, but you can use any kind of yogurt so long as it says "live culture" on the label. Different yogurts have various bacterial cultures which affect the flavor. This is what I like and for consistency, I use a fresh container each time. Once mixed in the smaller bowl, add to the large container and gently stir. You don't want to mix a lot of air in. Just stir to distribute the culture throughout the milk.

Cover the yogurt and let it sit and place with a consistent temperature from 5 to 12 hours, or until it firms up to a desired level. I heat my oven at 400 degrees F for 1 minute, turn it off, and set my covered yogurt in it overnight. This is convenient. Less time would probably be fine, but the trick to working "slow food" into a busy life is fitting it into the rhythm of your days.

When checking how it's "set up," I tilt the pan and it will pull away from the edge. You can kind of see it in this picture, but the pan was too heavy to take the pic and tilt it as I normally do. You'll know if it's firm or not. Trust me.

The next step is to strain off some of the whey. I line a colander with dampened coffee filters because that's something I have in abundance right now, having thought I was out and buying bulk. Others use cheesecloth, but I find that a pain to clean. The coffee filters work great and then go into the compost pile.

Here you see the yogurts been poured into the colander and is set to chill for another 5-12 hours in the fridge. Since I let the culture go over night, I usually do this step in the morning.

By the time I get home and finish my workout, the whey has drained out. You can see the yogurt is thick and pulling away from the sides of colander. Put the whey in a storage container to sue for soups. Then, flip the yogurt into the bowl and peel off the coffee filters. This is an easy job if you've flipped with confidence.

To further develop the creaminess quotient, I vigorously mix the yogurt. Those of you who prefer the yoplait custard style yogurt --- I'm talking to you.

Pour the yogurt into a storage container and put it in the fridge along with the whey.

Yogurt: My teen boys like yogurt best with fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey. If you're craving chocolate, mix in a chocolate syrup to taste. I eat mine mixed with rolled oats and blueberries for lunches. I also use it in place of sour cream and add it to baked goods to enhance moistness and often reduce the amount of butter or oil. If you enjoy indian food, you'll love having a large quantity of high quality yogurt on hand.

Whey: Add to soups and breads instead of water. Whey greatly improves the flavor of both.

Monday, April 19, 2010

First races in the bag - patience is key

Many of you know I struggled with early season leg problems (baker's cyst) which culminated in a plantaris tendon rupture the beginning of the month. Thus my season has been late in starting and has been highly modified, with me sitting out planned stage races like Gila and Joe Martin. Nonetheless, I did get to race this weekend and felt better than I thought I would, leaving me optimistic for later season competition.

Saturday, I spent two and half hours with the men 1/2/3 doing 5 laps at Branched Oak. It was pretty fun and perhaps I should have ridden more conservatively and been able to finish with the group, but I spent as if I were in a women's field and my legs turned in their resignation about 5 miles from the finish. Nonetheless, I thought that was a good thing since I was using my powertap and having spent it all, I'd be able to look at the file and get a picture of where I was capability-wise after the injury related layoff.

Later in the afternoon, I busted out the time trial bike and joined forces with friends to form the Dixon Slayers. Could have also been called "Three chicks and strong dude." We finished up second overall in the team time trial competition, which was pretty darn cool.

The 1/2/3 men's crit in Pioneer's Park Sunday was a 16 or 17 lap hill repeat. The first two laps, I went up the hill with the guys, but I did have to jam it pretty hard out of the saddle to do so and that wore on my leg enough that I decided to let 'em go, do six laps and then just go get in some endurance and tempo work, which doesn't hurt at all anymore.

I believe it was the right decision. When coming back from an injury it's so important not to let the joy of healing up override your good sense and lead you to push too hard. Though, I do have to admit, it's much easier advice to give than to adhere to.

Huge congrats to all the Joyridians who turned out for the event. As the Dixonator likes to say, "the 'J' stands for 'Just awesome'," and that's that.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A time, space and financially constrained cyclist needs to eat

As a time, space and financially constrained cyclist, the food I eat and prepare for my guys has to meet four standards.

  1. Nutritionally sound - I'm a cyclist, remember? My body is my engine and part of keeping it strong is proper fueling. Those I often cook for include another elite cyclist, a young man on a mission to become an officer in the Marines, and two teen boys in the midst of going through that Incredible Hulk transformation requiring so very many high quality calories.
  2. My kitchen is small and has little storage space, thus each pan and tool must be carefully selected. How often will it be used? Is it really worth storing? For example, I was dicing some celery last night and my eldest told me I needed one of those dicer things. This isn't the first time it's been suggested, but each time I've said no. Why? Because while it might make dicing marginally faster, the time to clean it takes longer. Personally, I'd rather spend the time dicing that washing. Additionally, I enjoy the feel of a quality chef's knife. It's a pleasure to wield and is a much more effective flourish when underscoring an important discussion or lecture point. I mean, seriously, imagine you have a group of male teens invading your kitchen. You really think shaking a "Slap Chopper" at them is going to give them pause? But a gleaming blade -- that's communication.
  3. Coming in on the budget it is a challenge. If you've ever noticed, coupons are primarily pushing packaged, preservative-laced boxed and canned items, so I don't do much of that. Mostly, I keep an eye on the going prices and my pantry fluctuates with what's currently plentiful. For example, due to Florida's recent strawberry problem, prices dropped like crazy last week, so that was our "fruit of the week." I buy things in bulk and make several things of which we use a lot. Thick greek-style yogurt, for example, is a staple for smoothies, my lunches, breakfasts, toppings, etc., but if you've noticed, it's pricey: $5-7 a pound. My recipe for yogurt yields ~4lbs and costs about $4, plus a little time. In a month we go through about 16 lbs., so you can see the savings adds up and rapidly makes it worth the effort. Another staple is granola. I won't buy snack foods and boxes of cereal can disappear in a matter of hours. But, homemade granola meets the nutritional bar and the price point, providing hungry teens a much liked bowel of cereal any time of day. We use about 10 lbs a month. The cheapest granola I can buy at the store is about $3.50/lb and I don't know what's in it as it comes from the bulk bin. My basic recipe costs me ~$2/lb. and has high-quality, known contents. So, that's $15/mo. savings that also results in better nutrition. Finally, we eat a lot of chicken, but I no longer purchase chicken breasts or anything like that. They simply cost too much at ~$5-6/lb. when you can buy the whole bird for about $1.50/lb at a nearby place like Ideal grocery. I roast two at a time while out riding my bike. Upon my return, the family eats its fill, leftovers go to next day's soup.
  4. The food also has to be simple. I love to cook and there have been periods of my life where the time I now spend on the bike was allocated to more elaborate dishes and dinners. Not now. These days, the inclination is a 5-ingredient or less approach. There haven't been any complaints. In many ways, I believe this is helping me appreciate each item's contribution a little more. For the boys, it means recipes they can easily do.
So there it is. The nutritional envelope of this household. The next post will be about how I make yogurt and a few of the ways it's used around here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Masters Worlds Trip Booked

Thus far in my cycling career, I've aimed to do one or two "big things" each season. Last year, I went with Mom to the Senior Olympics in San Francisco where she got 7th in the time trial, and we also went to Louisville, KY for Masters Nationals where I got my first national jersey. This August, we'll be returning to Louisville, and then it's off to Austria for the Masters Worlds road championships. I'll be focusing on the time trials in both events, but will also be participating in the road races.

It's a little nerve-wracking to have your season's goals rest on one or two events, but it's really the only way to  structure everything to channel towards success on those targets. Thankfully, things appear to be falling into place. My early season injury knocked out my 2010 stage racing, but seems to be clearing up rapidly and I have so much support. All that remains is for me to execute the plan and do justice to everyone's efforts on my behalf.

On a lighter note, I'm also going to have a little fun next week and see what this Lincoln Hustle is all about -- at least for April. No doubt it will be something I'll be terrible at, but it'll be fun to meet a new two-wheeled crew and see what else is going on in my town. If you're game, come join me. We'll get our asses kicked together.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

2010 Race Calendar

Due to injury, I've revamped the race calendar somewhat. To locals: see something you want to go to, let me know. Maybe we can travel together.