Curry Butternut Squash Soup & Quinoa

By: Lauren Kling Apr 25

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This has been a particularly brutal winter. Cold temperatures and weekly Wednesday blizzards that have graced us with 50+ inches of snow so far this season have put a severe cramp in my outdoor riding style. To limit my time spent on the rollers staring at my basement wall, I have resorted to increased running workouts and learned how to cross country ski this winter. As much fun as I have been having expanding my snow sport horizons with skiing, however, I cannot justify hanging up my bikes till the snow melts. I need to get the hours in and lately rollers are the only option I have had for time on a bike. Riding indoors is an inevitable, if not entirely desirable, aspect of being a competitive cyclist in New England.

And so, a few times a week, I am in the basement on my rollers, music blasting in my headphones, dreaming of sunshine and warm pavement while the time ticks by. The last thing I want to do after emerging hungry and sweaty from the dimly-lit basement at the end of the night is prepare an elaborate meal. To make life easier on myself and my belly, I make it a point to have a consistent supply of curry butternut squash soup and quinoa on hand as a go-to dinner option. The soup is really easy to make and one good-sized squash usually yields enough for that night’s meal plus a quart or two of leftovers. I like to let the soup reduce until it is nice and thick and is more of a sauce over the quinoa, and I top it with a little bit of sharp cheddar cheese. The meal is a warm, filling, and very nutritionally dense post-workout dinner. I can prepare the soup, let it reduce while I ride, and then cook the quinoa while I shower. By the time I am done and cleaned up from riding, dinner is ready and waiting for me.

Butternut squash has an amazing creamy texture that translates into a rich, dense soup without all the fat and adding a little bit of yellow curry powder brings a whole new dimension to the flavor. Along with great taste, butternut squash is great for you. It is full of fiber, packed with antioxidants, and is also an excellent source of potassium, vitamins C and B6, and carotenoids like beta-carotene. Quinoa is a grain-like seed that is loaded with protein – it is one of only a few plant-based foods that contain all of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. It is also a good source of fiber, iron, and other important nutrients. The soup and quinoa alone make a complete and filling meal but if I am craving something more I like to cook a side of kale as well. The dark, leafy green is another source of antioxidants, fiber, minerals and vitamins and also contains omega-3 fatty acids. It has a great flavor when lightly steamed with a splash of lemon juice that really compliments the soup.

Ingredients:
1 Butternut Squash
6 c. Stock (I use vegetable; you could use any kind of stock or substitute water if you prefer)
1 tbs. Yellow Curry Powder
Salt & Pepper (to taste)

1 c. Quinoa
2 c. Water

Shredded Cheddar Cheese as topping (optional)

1 bunch Kale
Splash of Lemon Juice (optional)
To prepare the soup, peel the squash and halve it. Scoop out the seeds and then cut it into 1-2” chunks. Put the squash in a large pot with the 6 cups of stock, a tablespoon of yellow curry powder, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cover, bring to a boil, and cook on high for about 20 minutes or until the squash is soft enough for a fork to easily pass through it. At this point, I take my potato masher and pummel the squash into pulp. You could also use the “Puree” setting on a blender or food processor to achieve the same result. Once the squash is thoroughly mashed/pureed, turn the heat down to low and allow the soup to simmer uncovered until it has reduced to the desired consistency. This takes approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour and, in addition to allowing the soup to thicken, really lets the flavors set in. When the soup looks almost ready sample it and add any additional seasonings if necessary.


As the soup is finishing up, start the quinoa. When making quinoa, you need a 1 part Quinoa: 2 parts Water ratio. 1 cup of dry quinoa yields about 3 cups of cooked quinoa, which is usually enough for 2 hungry people or 1 person + leftovers. If you want more or less you can adjust accordingly, provided you keep that approximate ratio. Put the quinoa and water in a covered pot and bring to a boil on high. Once the water is boiling, reduce the temperature to low for about 20 minutes or until the water is evaporated and the quinoa is cooked and fluffy.

When the quinoa is almost done cooking begin to prepare the kale. To cook kale, you get the best nutritional benefits if you briefly steam or boil it. This will enhance the cholesterol-lowering properties of kale without losing important nutrients by overcooking and it gives the tender greens a satisfying crunch. Wash the leaves, cut them into bite-sized pieces, and put into a covered pot with a steam basket or directly into a small amount of water. Add a splash of lemon juice, if desired, and cook on medium heat until the leaves are a bright green. Remove from heat and serve alongside a hearty bowl full of quinoa and the soup topped with cheddar.

*Originally published March, 2011

 

Pineapple Coconut Speed Bars

By: Stephen Pierce Apr 23

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The meandering early-season base miles have segued into focused, interval-heavy training, and as such I’ve reinvested myself in nailing down the perfect ride/race foods. It’s incredible how much the DIY whole performance foods movement has gained traction since my last contribution to the dialogue, what with the invaluable inspiration that the Feedzone cookbook has provided. After a winter of culinary laziness (read: buying big-brand packaged bars at the grocery store), it’s time again to bust out the food processor and allow my body what it needs to perform. Nothing more, nothing less.

Like my last bars, you will need precious few ingredients to make these little blocks of fast happen. The idea is as simple as the recipe: the fewer items that the body has to worry about breaking down, the quicker they can be converted into energy. Here’s what’s what:

1 cup Dried Pineapple
1 cup Raw whole Cashews
8 oz Dried, pitted Dates
1/2 cup Coconut Flakes

(and later, 1/4c more of the Cashews, for the powdered coating)

The kitchen implements you will need are a food processor, parchment paper, non-stick aluminum wrap (Reynolds makes an aluminum wrap with one non-stick side, thanks to reader George Berger for the crucial heads-up on that), a sharp chef’s knife, and some form of blender or nut & spice grinder.

So I choose to buy sugared pineapple rings from Whole Foods. These are nice because they don’t have any added sulfur dioxide, which can exacerbate asthma-like reactions in some people. Further, it’s one of those chemicals which might increase the risk of developing cancer with prolonged exposure. In any event, I don’t want potentially sketchy chemicals and neither should you, so I avoid it. These pineapples don’t totally need to be cut up, but for the sake of my wheezing, tired food processor, I cut them up into bite-size chunks.

Add the remainder of the ingredients to your food processor. Take care to ensure that your pitted dates actually are pitted. I was hasty with this once and ended up biting into a rogue pit at Battenkill last year. Unpleasant!

Process it until it’s wanting to stick together in big clumps. The cashew chunks should be small & well-integrated. This took me about two to three minutes using primarily the pulse button on my processor.

Roll out a piece of parchment paper and shovel the contents of your food processor onto it. Using your hands, flatten the gooey mass into a rectangular shape & cut into your desired shape using a knife.

At this point, these bars are going to be super sticky because of the consistency of the pineapple. What I do to keep them from tediously clinging to the Reynolds wrap when I’m trying to get at them on the bike is to coat them in a fine powder of cashew or almond. So, using a blender or spice grinder, powder some raw cashew. Apply to both sides of the bar, rubbing it in with your hand. A lot will end up on the parchment paper afterwards – I end up keeping it around in a sandwich bag for future use.

Now to wrap them up. I cut my Reynolds wrap into roughly 6“x6” squares and fold them up kind of like I’m gift-wrapping a box. Works out reasonably fine, but there is definitely room here to improve & streamline.

This recipe yields about 10 bars, give or take. As with the last bars, it’s super easy to adapt this recipe to work around your preferred fruit. Try swapping the pineapple for apricot, papaya, etc; Creativity brings about some great combinations.

Thanks for reading. See you out there!

Steven Pierce races for the Embrocation Cycling team and his musings can be found on Twitter @awfulideas and on Tumblr.

 

Recipe: Stuffed Peppers

By: Stephen Pierce Nov 9

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It's that time of year again. Looking out of my apartment window, it looks more like winter than fall. My bike is propped up by the trainer, aimed right at the TV, and I've chosen the gym over riding at least once in the past week. With apologies to the die-hard cyclocross racers, I think it's fair to say that the off-season is firmly upon us. With it comes a welcome paradigm shift: with recovery in mind, my on-bike hours thin out in direct correlation to my in-bed hours, red wine and the occasional beer make their happy return to routine, and the food I eat becomes heartier. A light, crisp salad is a thing of beauty, but looking out the window at cascading snow and slushy sidewalks inspires thoughts of shepherd's pie, stroganoff, and the recipe that I'm going to share with you here, stuffed peppers.

Here's what you'll need:

  • -4 Medium to large Peppers
  • -1 Onion, doesn't matter what color
  • -3-4 cloves of Garlic
  • -2 Carrots
  • -1 Big bag of Baby Spinach (10 oz)
  • -2 stalks of Celery
  • -1 package Tempeh (8 oz)
  • -2 15 oz cans of Diced Tomato
  • -1 15 oz can of Beans: black, pinto or blackeyed peas
  • -1 TBSP Cumin
  • -1 cup Pearled Couscous
  • -2 TBSP Olive Oil

First things first: Preheat your oven at 350. May as well get this going before anything else.

Also in the interest of preparedness, get the pearled couscous going on a back burner. Pearled couscous, or Israeli couscous, is essentially typical couscous on a larger scale. In its absence, feel free to use regular old couscous, quinoa, or rice, but having tried all these combinations, these peppers are definitely best with pearled couscous.

You'll need a big skillet. Mine is 12"x4" (Or, you know, 30cm x 10cm, this is after all a cycling website). Get the olive oil going at medium heat. First into the pan: the onion & celery, both of which finely diced. Dice up the tempeh & garlic as well, add those 5 minutes after the celery/onion, immediately followed by the tablespoon of cumin. Let that simmer for a minute, then add the spinach & tomatoes. Now, you don't want to just dump the contents of the cans of diced tomatoes in. Instead, use a fork to take only the tomato bits from the can, leaving the juice behind. It doesn't matter if you leave some chunky bits behind. Put the juice aside, you'll use it later. Cook this mix for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

At this point, you can add your black beans, couscous, carrots (which you're going to want to very finely grate), and a cup of water. Here's a good point to season it as you see fit. It's pretty adaptable. I like to add a little hot sauce, salt, pepper, and paprika. Turmeric would be nice, as would Garam Masala or Marjoram. You can add habañero, jalapenos, etc if you wish, as well. Once it's nice and seasoned, let it simmer until the water heats off.

While all that's going on, wash & half your peppers, removing the ribs & seeds. Take a baking dish (or two) and coat the bottom with the juice from the diced tomatoes. When the water is gone from your skillet, fill each pepper half with the mix, setting in the baking dish. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, and put into the oven. After 35 min, remove the foil & continue to bake uncovered for another 15 min. This would be a good time to put any sort of cheese or Daiya on top, if that's your style. It really doesn't need it, though. I usually use this time to make some guacamole for on top.

Here's the recipe for that:

  • -3 ripe Avocados
  • -Salsa to taste
  • -Garlic powder to taste
  • -Salt to taste

This is super easy. So easy that you'll feel like a sucker every time you buy guac from here on out. Cut up & de-skin the avocados. Put them into a big bowl. Spoon in some salsa, I'd guess that I usually use around 1/4 cup. Use a big fork to smoosh it all together, keep going 'til it's uniform & without any noticeably inconsistent chunks of avocado. Add some garlic powder - maybe 1 TBSP but start out smaller, since I tend to like a little more garlic than some folks - and salt, 1/4 tsp. Mix it all up, and have some tortilla chips handy to taste. Adjust as needed. Seriously, this takes about 5 min.

So now you're ready to take the peppers from the oven. Get 'em plated, cover with guac, and enjoy!

 

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