I bought a copy of Feed Zone Portables: A Cookbook of On-The-Go Food for Athletes by Biju Thomas and Allen Lim because I saw an ad for it somewhere on the cycling internets. I was drawn into the idea of homemade snacks wrapped up like little gifts. Much more exciting than unwrapping an orange. Again.
I classify myself as a serious recreational cyclist, not an athlete, so it was an aspirational purchase. I justified it to myself by mentally reclassifying as "badass recreational cyclist." I do ride year-round, I ride on dirt and gravel, I change my own flats, and badass anything is waaaayyy closer to "athlete" than "leisure cyclist." At the time, I thought I would use the book very sporadically, to fuel long rides, or for occasional camping. I thought of it as a bit of a novelty. I had no idea how much I would end up loving and using this book in ways the authors probably did not expect.
My children are also cyclists. And soccer players. And swimmers. And runners. And academics. And growing like weeds. They are constantly starving, and I'm constantly looking for quick, healthy snacks that integrate smoothly into our lives. I can't overstate the degree to which everything in life is easier if the children are well-rested and well-fed. I always need new ideas for something nutritious that I can give them when they've already had a post-dinner piece of fruit, or they need a quick snack in order to finish a hike, or an appealing alternative to junk food after school. This book fills that niche for me. Many of the recipes have become instant favorites with my kids.
Bonus: the book contains lots of valuable information about diet and nutrition. The first section of the book is all about energy, sports nutrition, hydration, digestion, calorie output, and figuring out when and what to eat during training. It's data-dense and full of all kinds of information for professional, and even badass recreational, athletes. I haven't fact-checked any of it, but it all seems plausible and credibly sourced to this recreational scientist.
Among many very informative charts is this one on page 43 comparing the nutritional value of sports bars to Feed Zone Portable rice cakes:
There are additional charts in the appendix identifying recipes that target specific nutritional requirements, if the reader wants to get that granular.
The entire introductory section is fascinating and feeds right into my own bias favoring simple, natural, nutritious foods. The authors lead the reader through compelling evidence favoring real food instead of pre-packaged snack bars. I'm a huge fan of journalist and unprocessed food advocate Michael Pollan, who says, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." The Feed Zone authors express a similar sentiment on page 48:
The prevalence of unidentifiable ingredients is why I've become so fervent about cooking from scratch-about having control over the most basic ingredients we put into our body. This alone is reason enough to take the time to make your own foods....
Preach it, brothers.
The rest of the book is filled with recipes, techniques, and packaging logistics. The recipes are all intuitive, simple, and easy to prepare and eat on the fly. I haven't tried them all, but I've eaten my way though at least half of them. Below are three of my favorites so far.
We eat a lot of rice, and the leftovers easily lend themselves to rice cakes. There are a variety of both sweet and savory rice-based recipes in the book. Our family favorite combines fresh blueberries, chocolate, and coconut milk. My Trophy Husband and I packed these on a cold morning ride in the Grand Valley. We left our children with grandparents and rode out into low-lying fog. An hour later, we stood shivering in the emerging sun, savoring our treat and our time together with our bikes.
Another variation we like is the date and almond baked rice cakes. The texture is a little drier, and these pack well. My son and I like to break one up, warm it in the microwave, and drizzle with a little milk. It's a cozy way to start the day.
There are several egg-based recipes in the book, but the convenience simple baked eggs, with just a pinch of salt and pepper, has changed my life. They are another item that is super easy to make while you're in the kitchen doing other things. They keep well for a few days and stand ready for anything. Throw one on top of leftover cilantro lime rice and toss in some corn and black beans, then top with salsa. Make a breakfast sandwich with good cheese and hearty bread; wrap it and take it along for a ride. Toss one on leftover pancakes or waffles. Chop for egg salad. Chop and use in a burrito or wrap. On top of green salad... and so on. The list is endless. The book offers great ideas for stacking the raw eggs with complimentary foods like sweet potatoes prior to cooking. When they come out, they look like sweet potato parfaits. This cooking technique and the authors' advice to use a plastic knife to loosen the eggs was worth the cost of the book alone.
These are thick, sweet, yeast-based waffles that boast a hearty 6g of protein. You prepare and portion the dough in advance, then keep individual servings frozen for easy use later. My children love cooking and eating these, and I love the fact that they can do it "by themselves."
I've never eaten a waffle on a ride because we've never had leftovers. They would be great with peanut butter and bananas. Or a baked egg. Sometime I'll make a double batch take a couple along for the top of some hard climb. The authors even suggest taking some frozen dough portions along when you travel. Then you can use the hotel's breakfast room waffle iron to make your own nutrient-rich goodness on the go.
In addition to the recipes, the logistical information for preparing and packaging the portables is invaluable. Seriously. The methods are efficient and easy. The other aspect I like is that the recipes aren't dogmatic. They're all flexible, so if you don't have the specific almond milk a recipe calls for, or you need to adapt in some other way, you can substitute whatever you have on hand. There are also a number of gluten-free recipes. Of course you can use wheat flour instead, but I like having these options for the surprising number of kiddos we know who don't eat wheat.
The images throughout are phenomenal. The food pictures are all the more gorgeous juxtaposed against a plethora of uber-fancy bikes. My daughter loves the actual badass female athletes featured throughout. It inspires us and reinforces the equality mantra I preach to both my children.
Until the authors invite me to collaborate on a kid-oriented portables book, I highly recommend this as a versatile and useful tool for anyone looking for healthy snack or mini-meal ideas.
Thanks to Dave at VeloPress for permission to publish this recipe:
BLUEBERRY & CHOCOLATE COCONUT RICE CAKES
TIME> 25 minutes
3 cups uncooked sticky rice
4 ½ cups water
¾ cup coconut milk
¼ to ½ cup raw sugar to taste
juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt, or to taste
6 ounces chocolate chips (half of a regular bag)
1 pint fresh blueberries
- Combine rice, water, and a dash of salt in a rice cooker and let cook.
- Transfer cooked rice to a large bowl and add coconut milk. Add sugar and lemon juice.
- Stir thoroughly and salt to taste.
- Let rice cool then spread half onto a 9” x 13” baking pan. Press flat.
- Sprinkle chocolate chips and berries evenly over the rice.
- Gently press the remaining rice over the berries and chocolate.
- Let sit for 5 minutes, cut into squares and wrap.
PER SERVING› Energy 249 cal, Fat 6 g, Sodium 194 mg, Carbs 45 g, Fiber 2 g, Protein 4 g, Water 65%
Republished with permission of VeloPress from Feed Zone Portables. Try more recipes at www.feedzonecookbook.com.