Thursday, February 28, 2013

Why I Bike: Ashley

When did you learn to ride your bike? Who taught you?
I do not have any memories of learning to ride a bike, so I must have been about 4 or 5 years
old when my parents taught me to ride. I do remember helping to teach my younger brother and
sister to ride a bike when they were old enough.

In what city and state do you live? (country?)
I have lived in Medford, New York (Long Island) now for nearly 9 years, but grew up in New
Martinsville, WV.

What is the biking culture like there?

Many people are surprised to learn that Long Island has a ton of cyclists and many bicycle
clubs (I am the Secretary of the Suffolk Bicycle Riders Association).We have a few bike paths
and trails, but not nearly as many as I would like to see. Quite a few of our roadways have bike
lanes, but traffic here is so congested that even with the bike lanes, a lot of people do not feel
safe riding there. I am hoping that we will continue to see an increase in dedicated bike lanes
with the passage of the Complete Streets legislation in NY.

What kind of bike (or bikes) do you have?
I own a road bike: a carbon fiber Specialized Ruby Compact and I love her! I am hoping to get a
mountain bike in the next year so that I can extend my riding season into the late fall and winter
on the trails in some of the local county and state parks.

How often do you ride your bike?
My riding season is usually from March through November. I typically ride 2 days a week, but
if I am training for a century or a tour ride (like Climate Ride), I will ride at least 3-4 days per
week. During the winter, I move my training inside to spin classes and my indoor trainer (a Tacx
Fortius, generously given to me second-hand by a fellow Climate Rider) so that I’m ready to go
again in the Spring!

I wish drivers...
I really wish all drivers would ride a bike on the roads that they drive on for just one day so they
can understand what it is like to be on a bike sharing the road with cars. I think if more drivers
had those experiences, they would show more empathy and care when they come across
a bicyclist. They also would understand the many obstacles and dangers cyclists face on a
regular basis and might share the road a little more.

I would ride my bike even more if...
I would absolutely ride my bike even more if my office had showering facilities to clean up after
a commute to work by bike. I would also ride more if I lived somewhere where the winters were

My favorite bike snack___________

My absolute go-to choice while biking is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! I love PB&J’s so
much and they are an excellent source of protein and good carbohydrates, which are two things
needed to fuel you on a long ride.

My favorite piece of bike gear is
One bike accessory that I absolutely love is the MapMyRide app for my iPhone. I love that it
tracks all of my rides so that I can see what my average pace was, track my distance and know
how many calories I burned. It is a really important component for my training so that I can track
my progress and continue to challenge myself to be a stronger rider.

Do you ride your bike in all weather?
I typically do not ride during the winter because of the cold, ice and snow, and debris on
the roads. I prefer not to ride during rain, but have done so more times than I would care to
admit. My favorite weather to ride in is around 70* with a little cloud coverage to prevent pesky
sunburns! On Long Island, we usually are riding in very strong winds (8-15mph), so when there
is a calm, breeze-free day, I absolutely love it!

Do you own a car?
Yes, I own a Toyota Prius.

I mostly ride my bike ___
I mostly ride my bike for exercise and to spend time with my cycling friends and to raise money
for great environmental causes! I have commuted to work a few times and I am planning to do
that more regularly in 2013. It is tough for me, though, because I live 15 miles from work, so a
round trip commute is 30 miles (which will take about 2.5-3 hours total with all the stop signs
and traffic lights figured in).

My favorite thing about riding my bike....
I most enjoy the fact that I notice and see things I would normally miss if I were driving my
car. I love that I can stop my bike and take a picture of something that catches my eye. I also
thoroughly enjoy being a part of a cycling community. I have made so many friends just from
riding my bike! And after a ride, the adrenaline is pumping and the endorphins flowing freely and
I feel like I am on top of the world and can conquer anything!

Craziest thing I did on my bike:
The craziest thing I ever did on my bike was ride from NYC to Washington D.C….TWICE! I
participated in Climate Ride, an annual fully supported 5-day ride to raise awareness of climate
change and money for environmental and bike advocacy organizations. I heard about Climate
Ride in March of 2011 and I was so inspired by their mission that I went out and bought a bike
(I had not ridden a bike since high school) and 11 weeks later, I rode 300 miles! I am now in
training for my third Climate Ride. This time I am participating in the California Climate Ride and
I am so excited to see such a gorgeous coastline by bicycle!

The craziest thing I ever carried on my bike was some fresh rhubarb from my Community
Supported Agriculture pick up. It would not fit into my back pack, so I had to strap it to the rack
behind my seat post and it stuck out about two feet. It looked like a flag, but it made it home in
one piece so I made a pie!

Does your house/apt/work have special accommodations that make biking more feasible?

My office does not have any sort of accommodations. I wish that we had showering facilities so
that I could commute more often. I am appreciative, though, that they do allow me to bring my
bike inside the office.

Keep riding, Ashley!

Reader poll: Why do you ride your bike?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cauli-fail or Cauli-fun?

I have been seeing the trend of people using cauliflower as a substitute for pizza crust or cheesy bread, cauliflower to replace some or all of the potato in mashed potato and newest to me - chopped cauliflower in place of rice. Carbohydrates are not the enemy, but as many of us are focusing our diets too heavily on them, I thought I'd give this trick a try.

I used the food processor to chop the cauliflower florets into tiny pieces. I warmed up a skillet and melted a wee bit of butter and added some crushed garlic. The kitchen was smelling nice - but when does butter and garlic not make you hungry? I added the cauliflower bit to the pan and sauteed them until they were tender. I scooped them into a serving bowl, seasoned them with a bit of salt and pepper and readied my palate for a forkful of rice.


To me, it just tasted like little cauliflower bits. It didn't taste like rice at all. Shoot.

Why do I post this? I have no intention of discouraging those who do like this, if you like it, rock on. And it isn't that I disliked it, it just did a poor job of faux-rice. The cauliflower tasted like, well, cauliflower.

I post this report to remind people that things aren't always smooth sailing. Even for experienced cooks, things can go awry. And you know what? That's ok! If you are expecting your cooking experiments to be fool-proof, you're being foolish. There is no guarantee of success in (or out) of the kitchen. Does this mean you should set down your whisk and unplug your blender? Absolutely not. You are going to make some cooking masterpieces and learn from everything you try.

There you go - a behinds the scenes look at a dietitian's kitchen - it isn't all perfect, and that's ok! So, get in the kitchen, have some fun, get messy and make mistakes!

Reader poll: What kitchen experiment went awry for you?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

{Recipe ReDux} Oscars in the Kitchen: Jambalaya with farro

The theme of this month's Recipe ReDux is Oscars in the Kitchen. Our challenge? Create a healthy dish that is inspired by a favorite food scene or or featured dish from a movie.

Did you see Beasts of the Southern Wild? It was a really fantastic movie about many topics and starred the fabulous Quvenzhané Wallis. She really is phenomenal. What spoke the most to me in this movie were the messages of making the most of what you have and cherishing your own community.If you're making jambalaya, there are a lot of "right" ways to do it, and many ingredients that are delicious in the pot! Use what you have and what you like.

I chose to make a version of Jambalaya. I can make no claims to authenticity as I am a buckeye, but I will say that it does taste good. What are the health twists? I cut down on the sodium using my own cajun spice blend and homemade turkey stock and I also bumped up the veggies - I often double the veggies that are called for in stew and soup recipes. I did one other twist: I continue to experiment with new foods and for this recipe I am using a grain that is new to me called farro. It is high in fiber and b-complex vitamins and has a nutty flavor. Where to buy it? I bought mine at a food co-op from the bulk section - quite cheap! If it is pricy in your area, check out buying the farro online or try substituting hard red wheat or regular rice. Today I made a double batch of this recipe and the soup pot was full to the brim! Make sure you have a big enough pot :)  

Farro Jambalaya with Shrimp and Turkey Sausage
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 small (or 1 large) onion, diced 
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced or diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 ounces (or so) mushrooms, sliced or diced
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup raw farro (or rice)
  • 1-16 ounce can diced tomatoes (bonus points if you canned them yourself!)
  • 8 ounces andouille sausage
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups vegetable, chicken, turkey or fish stock (more bonus points if you made it)
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun spice (more or less, to taste)
  • 8 ounces raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
  1. In a large dutch oven or pot, heat vegetable oil over medium heat.Starting with the onions, add them to the pan. As you chop the rest of your veggies, keep adding them to the pan and stir. Once all of the veggies are in the pan, saute for a few more minutes or until they have softened.
  2. Add farro, sausage, tomatoes, water, stock, Cajun spice blend and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer or until farrow is tender - about 20 minutes. Add shrimp and cook for 5-8 minutes more or until shrimp is cooked.
Note: With this amount of water and stock, the Jambalaya is a bit thinner, more like a stew. I like it this way, but if you'd prefer it to be a bit thicker, use less stock or water.
    This is enough for a double batch
    Lots of veggies! I was going to add zucchini too, but ran out of room.
    Just added the shrimp
    Laissez le bon temps rouler!
    Reader poll: What new grains have you been cooking with?  get the InLinkz code

    Wednesday, February 20, 2013

    Why I Bike: Ben

    When did you learn to ride your bike? Who taught you?
    I was pretty young, 4 years old according to my parents. Learned in the driveway. Successfully ran in to a tree, a bush and the basketball pole.

    In what city and state do you live? 
    Portland, OR!

    What is the biking culture like there?
    Biking is THE culture. Everyone owns a bike, every business district has tons of bike parking, lots of bike lanes, and most importantly, drivers know how to behave around cyclists! Of particular note is not the quantity of bike lanes within the city limits, but rather the areas outside of the city where lanes exist. I can get to Mt. Hood or Willamette wine country entirely on bike lanes!

    What kind of bike (or bikes) do you have?
    My “old” bike is an early 90s Raleigh “mountain” bike. Really, it's more like a city bike with shocks on the front, plus I put city tires on it. My “new” bike is my dad's old Motobecane Super Mirage from the 70s. It's a killer French racing bike, but it's solid steel, so it's kind of heavy.

    How often do you ride your bike?
    It was daily before I moved and will be again once I switch jobs, but the last few months has been more like 2 or 3 times per week.

    I wish drivers...
    …weren't there.

    I would ride my bike even more if...
    Is that possible?

    My favorite bike snack___________
    Bananas, mixed nuts

    My favorite piece of bike gear is
    My waterproof pannier that becomes a backpack… or my East End Brewing “Big Hop” bike jersey. I get complements on it all the time, even outside of Pittsburgh.

    Do you ride your bike in all weather?
    With 9 months of rain in Portland, that is a must

    Do you own a car?

    I mostly ride my bike ___ (to commute? for exercise? touring?)
    All of the above

    My favorite thing about riding my bike...
    Beating the cars to work, or waking up really early and riding along the river before anyone else is awake

    The bike trip I'm dying to do…
    Oregon Coast, top to bottom

    Craziest thing I did (or craziest thing I carried) on my bike:
    Twice, my friend Josh and I rode a single Capital Bikeshare bike. The first time, I pedaled and he rode on the seat. It didn't work. The second time I rode in the basket on the front and he pedaled. Onlookers were shouting in support as we wobbled down the road, but it got easier after the first block.

    Does your house/apt/work have special accommodations that make biking more feasible?
    Don't know about the new job. People do bike to work, but I haven't heard about the facility yet. At home I have a garage.

    Reader poll: What bike trip are you wanting to do?

    Tuesday, February 19, 2013

    Snack Attack: Baked apple chips

    Let's face it - chips are pretty stinking delicious. Unfortunately, most chips aren't doing our health a lot of favors. Here is a sweet little snack that is both tasty and good for you.

    Slicing the apples can be done with a sharp knife and a steady hand - or, you can use a mandoline. A mandoline is a handy kitchen tool that creates very even, thin slices. They range from basic to deluxe and are priced accordingly. Look for one that is easily washable and has the features you're seeking - basic slicing is sufficient for your cooking needs, or are you going to use crinkle cuts and dicing?

    For the apple chips, simply rinse off the apples and slice quite thinly. You can dunk them in a solution of water and lemon juice if you wish - this will slow browning. Place them onto a cookie sheet (I lined mine with parchment paper), sprinkle with ground cinnamon and bake in a 225 for an hour and then flip the apple slices. Bake for another hour or so. They won't be completely crispy until they've cooled.

    Not crispy enough? Pop 'em back in the oven! Exact times depends on how thick or thin the slices are and the apple variety, as well as your personal preference - some folks like them to be more leathery and others prefer a crisp chip. You're the boss!

     Reader poll: What is your favorite healthy snack?

    Monday, February 18, 2013

    Spice of Life: Salt-free Cajun spice blend

    Did you know that making your own spice blend can be a simple trip to your spice drawer? No need to run to the store, and no need to mess around with too much salt or strange fillers or preservatives. Another added benefit? You get to make the spice blend just how you want it to be - you're the boss! Love garlic? Add more! Don't like too much heat? Cut back on the cayenne pepper.

    I am planning to make jambalaya soon and so was looking up recipes for Cajun spice. This is a blend of several recipes and I nixed the salt. I am also going to try this on scrambled eggs and baked fish. Stay tuned!

    Note: this blend has my parents breathing fire...their heat tolerance isn't all that high. If you don't like your dishes too spicy, cut back on the cayenne pepper and crushed red pepper. 

    Salt-free Cajun spice blend

    • 1 teaspoon thyme
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    • 1 tablespoon paprika
    • 1 tablespoon black pepper
    Mix everything together and get cooking!

    Note: This would make a great gift! Put this in a cute (recycled) bottle, label it and spread the love!

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    Why I Bike: Aurielle

    I am pleased to introduce a new column on my blog! I love to bike and am investigating why you  like to bike, too! Huge shout out to Aurielle for being my first nominee. Thank you, Aurielle! 

    When did you learn to ride your bike? Who taught you?
    I learned to ride a bike when most kids do, around 4 or 5 years of age…training wheels to boot!  My Aunt Rose taught me (as well as my brother and two cousins) how to ride because my mom was too scared to!

    In what city and state do you live?
    Blacksburg, VA

    What is the biking culture like there?
    Blacksburg, although a small college town, is actually very active.  There's a popular trail, the Huckleberry Trail, in town where you will see many cyclists.

    What kind of bike (or bikes) do you have?
    Schwinn 700…can't remember if it's for road or trail

    How often do you ride your bike?
    Thanks to Holly's passion for biking, I just recently got back into riding a bike this past year.  During the summer months my husband and I would try to take our bikes out at least once on the weekends if the weather allowed.

    I wish drivers...
    Would be kinder to cyclists…it's really scary to have a 4000 pound piece of metal whiz past you on the roadways!

    I would ride my bike even more if...
    I didn't live on the third floor of our apt building!  It's a workout in and of itself to piggyback my bike up the stairs!

    My favorite bike snack___________
    Bananas are an easy, portable snack that you can whip out at any time.

    My favorite piece of bike gear is
    My helmet.  I feel just the right amount of dorkiness and cuteness at the same time.

    Do you ride your bike in all weather? No, only when it's nice out.

    I mostly ride my bike ___ 
    For exercise and to spend quality time with my husband.  It was also a great reason to meet up with Holly when she lived in DC!

    My favorite thing about riding my bike....
    Is going downhill!  I instantly feel like a kid again.

    Does your house/apt/work have special accommodations that make biking more feasible?
    No, but I have seen neighbors who hang their bikes from the ceiling of their patio.  I'm assuming they bought the equipment themselves.

    Are you interested in being interviewed for Why I Bike? Know someone you'd like to nominate? Drop me a line halarson [at] gmail [dot] com. 

    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    Research Bites: improved performance with multiple transportable carbohydrates

    The main focus for fueling by athletes during endurance training is glucose, often in this form of sports drinks.  This study challenged the believe that oxidation rates could not surpass 1 gram per minute by diversifying the sources of fuel -  the investigators compared performance of cyclists drinking a glucose-only beverage to those drinking a glucose and fructose drink. The study results indicate that the mixed drink improved time trial performance by 8% over glucose-only drink. The investigators discuss the theory that intestinal absorption of carbohydrates may be the limiting factor. By providing different sources of carbohydrates, the athlete is less likely to be limited by saturation of a single type of carbohydrate. This is similar to a highway  having several lanes and a carpool lane - it helps move more cars along.

    How does this apply to you? When preparing for a big training day, diversify your fuels. You can purchase or make your own sports drinks, but be sure to add other snacks too - if you can safely eat a banana while riding, you would get glucose and fructose PLUS potassium. If you'd prefer a bar, check out ones that are make with dried fruit, such as LARABAR .

    Reader poll: What is your favorite snack while biking?

    Currell K and A Jeukendrup. Superior endurance performance with ingestion of multiple transportable carbohydrates. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008(40)2;275-281.

    Monday, February 11, 2013

    Black bean and sweet potato enchiladas

    Here is a tasty dinner that will appeal to meat eater and vegetarians alike! If you are avoiding gluten, swap out the flour tortillas for corn and you're good to go too!

    Have some bell peppers or zucchini? Feel free to add those too. There is always room for more veggies :)

    I served this dinner with corn - seasoned with chili powder - and a simple apple salad.

    Black bean and sweet potato enchiladas

    • 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, drained
    • 1/2 large (or one small) onion, roughly chopped
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • salt and pepper
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • 10 small tortillas
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1/2 large (or 1 small) onion, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 medium sweet potato
    • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • 1 16-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
    1. Preheat oven to 375. Spray a 13X9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or lightly oil.
    2. Prepare sauce: place tomatoes, onion and seasonings into food processor and puree until smooth. Set aside. 
    3. Prepare filling: in a large skillet, saute onion and garlic in olive oil for 2-3 minutes. Add sweet potato and seasonings and cook for 5-6 minutes or until veggies are softened. Add black beans and half of cheese and stir until evenly distributed.
    4. Pour half of prepared sauce into bottom of baking dish.
    5. Take one tortilla and fill with about 1/3 cup filling and roll up. Place in baking dish, seam side down. Repeat with remaining 9 tortillas. 
    6. Pour remaining sauce on top of enchiladas and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until heated through and cheese is bubbly. I served mine with corn and an easy apple salad.
    Prepare the sauce
    Saute the veggies

    Fill the tortillas
     Reader poll: What is your favorite meatless entree?

    Thank you for visiting my blog!

    Friday, February 1, 2013

    Guest post: Homemade applesauce

    I am please to round out my week of apple goodness with a lovely guest post from my good friend Sarah Waybright, friend and fellow dietitian and founder of WhyFoodWorks. We met while working on the Kids Eat Right campaign. Sarah did her Master of Science (MS) in Human Nutrition at Drexel University, and her dietetic internship through Utah State University’s distance program to become a Registered Dietitian (RD).  She grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania, does pottery as a hobby, and loves to do yoga and kickboxing to stay active. 


    After working all last season for a farmer friend at the Columbia Heights market in DC, I had MORE than my fair share of access to apples.  One afternoon, when I wanted to make a cake and substitute applesauce for the oil (a great trick; it makes your cake moist while reducing fat and adding fiber!), I found myself with apples, apples, everywhere and not a drop of sauce.  So I whipped up a quick batch!

    Check it out, these are from Rice orchards - I grew up with the Rices in Gettysburg, so I know for a fact that these apples are both local and delicious :)
    As I outlined in my original blog post, the benefits of making your own are higher fiber content, using up older or spotty apples, no added sugar, and above all else, improved taste.  Vastly improved.  And it's really, really not hard.  If you can boil water you can make applesauce.  But in my original recipe, I had to use a blender since I only chopped the unpeeled apples into cubes...which means another kitchen gadget to clean.  No me gusta.  And you definitely want to leave the peels on - that's what ups the fiber content, and a lot of vitamins and minerals are more closely concentrated near the skins of fruit.

    Enter a simple mandolin.  I got mine for $10, but you can go as fancy as you like here, and even pay over $100.  If you want.  But I'm here to tell you that the one I have works just fine for my purposes; it comes with a few julienne attachments, which make the pieces of skin so small you won't have to worry about pureeing the sauce after it's cooked.  A box grater would work here, too.

    That was a whole apple down in less than a minute, if you were paying attention.  And you NEED to pay attention when you use a grater or mandolin, because your fingers will pay the price if you don't.

    It's your turn!  Try it and let us know what your favorite flavor combo is.  Besides substituting for oil in baked goods, applesauce is also delicious for breakfast mixed with some plain greek yogurt, heated over vanilla ice cream as a dessert, or even frozen as a summer popsicle.

    2c water
    6-7 apples, preferably Nittany, York, or Braeburn (or any crisp, flavorful variety)
    Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, nutmeg 

    Bring the water to a boil in a large pan, and use a mandolin with a julienne attachment (or a box grater) to grate the apples.  Add to boiling water, reduce to simmer.  Cook for 10-15 minutes, then mash with a potato masher or fork, and season with a dash of any or all of the spices listed to taste.
    Thanks for posting, Sarah! 
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