When previewing the 2012 cycling season from the perspective of the cycling shelf in your local book store we invited others to contribute to the Café Bookshelf. Here Astrid Rial - of the cycling foodie's website Velo Kitchen - takes a look at The Feed Zone Cookbook.
Title: The Feed Zone Cookbook - Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes
Author: Biju Thomas and Allen Lim (with forewords by Levi Leipheimer and Timmy Duggan)
Publisher: Velo Press
Order: Velo Press
What it is: A cyclists' cookbook, 150 recipes from the lab of Allen Lim and the kitchen of Biju Thomas.
Strengths: Recipes that call for fewer than eight ingredients, most of which are normally stocked in my refrigerator and pantry, and which can be prepared in ten minutes to an hour.
Weaknesses: Some of the dessert recipes don't look particularly appealing.
Review by: Astrid Rial (@Cycling_Chef)
Cookbooks aren't meant to be read cover to cover, but when I get a new cookbook I like to skim it and apply Post-it marker page tabs to easily locate recipes for later. After preparing new dishes, I often make notes on the recipe page to clarify instructions or add ingredient notes. My copy of The Feed Zone Cookbook, marked with numerous tabs and a few scribbled comments, is at the top of my cookbook pile.
In our family we strive for healthy, colorful meals made from scratch with locally sourced, in-season ingredients. Our eight year old athlete and his avid cycling dad always come to the table with a good appetite and dinner is their most important meal of the day. My son's first noun (after 'dada' and 'mama') was 'dinner.' I am drawn to cookbooks with appetizing photos and The Feed Zone Cookbook delivers. The plating of the recipes is beautiful, yet simple to duplicate.
Subtitled Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes, this cookbook is ideal for anyone looking for tasty, uncomplicated dishes - with minimal, but aromatic, herbs, spices and seasonings - that can be prepared in ten minutes to less than an hour. I appreciate the science behind the nutritional calculations of energy (calories), fat, sodium, carbs, fiber and/or protein provided for each recipe, but in our family we focus on balancing energy consumption with exercise burning activities. For gluten-free or vegetarian eaters, ingredient alternatives are suggested. I don't feel like I have to be a chef to athletes to appreciate recipes that call for fewer than eight ingredients most of which are normally stocked in my refrigerator and pantry.
The recipes are organized by meal and quite a few of the breakfast and lunch ones are also suitable for dinner. When I have extra time I enjoy spending hours in the kitchen cooking an elaborate feast, especially in the winter when our outdoor cycling rides are fewer, but when the weather is warm, and on most busy weeknights, I prefer cooking dinner in an hour (including prep time). I have found few recipes that accurately estimate preparation time, but The Feed Zone Cookbook fits my quick-family-meal requirements and the time estimates are on target.
The first recipe I prepared was 'Spanish Chicken and Tomato Stew,' (page 159), to serve after my son's early afternoon soccer practice in a driving, cold rain. I used the three suggested optional ingredients, including white beans, which added heartiness to the stew and added smoked Spanish paprika to boost the flavor. This meal was a hit and the preparation time estimate of one hour was accurate. My guys especially liked the addition of sausage. Even though this recipe estimated four servings, there were no leftovers.
Indian curries are a staple in our family's meal rotation, but many curry recipes call for twenty or more ingredients and require special coddling. The 'Lamb and Chickpea Stew' on page 167 intrigued me as it estimated two hours of cooking time (so the lamb can tenderize and simmer), but only calls for nine ingredients, one of which is curry powder. To this recipe I added a few black cardamoms for a smoky flavor, a cinnamon stick and a bay leaf. This meal in a bowl was also a success, especially because the recipe calls for chickpeas, adding flavor and texture to the nutritional value without empty calories. Now, we borrow this idea and often add chickpeas to our other curries allowing us to decrease the amount of meat while boosting fiber and using a vegetarian protein source. On another day when I was in a hurry, I substituted chicken for lamb and reduced the cooking time to an hour without sacrificing on taste.
Perfect for beginners in the kitchen, The Feed Zone Cookbook organizes the instructions in numbered order, in short, precise sentences and the ingredient portions are very straightforward. The notes and tips included in many of the recipes are instructional for both novices and those skilled in the kitchen. These tips share suggestions, substitutions, instructions for slow cooker preparation, and even clean-up tips that you can carry over to other recipes. While an experienced cook might enjoy adding a few herbs and spices to enhance the flavors in some of the recipes, these are not necessary to create a delicious meal. Clear-cut directions combined with a large photo of each completed dish ensure a successful outcome every time.
Many 'healthy' cookbooks shy away some of the less than healthy ingredients we all love, but know we should limit, but even wholesome cooks understand that, in moderation, we can add bacon, sausage or cheese, for example, to create a nutritional meal that does not taste like sawdust. Bijou Thomas and Allen Lim teach us how to use small amounts of these ingredients to create dishes that will appeal to even the fussiest eater.
After successfully preparing many of the recipes, on a whim, I decided to try the 'Chocolate Bread Pudding' recipe on page 260, described as 'last-minute' and presumably low fat and low sugar. The photo of this dish looks appetizing enough, but my outcome was not. Some of the other dessert recipes look similarly unappealing. Our philosophy is that if we are going to eat dessert, we don't want to skimp by substituting bananas for sugar, for example. After a fifty mile bike ride and eating healthy most of the week, we feel we deserve to splurge once in a while.
I congratulate the publishers who created this cookbook in a small, very easy to handle size, with a strong loose binding that makes it effortless to lay flat and open on the kitchen counter without losing your page. Whether or not you see yourself as an athlete, The Feed Zone Cookbook is a beautiful, practical addition to your kitchen's bookshelf.