Posts Tagged 'food'

Honking with doughnuts: ride to eat

When the Alliance for Biking and Walking’s Benchmarking Report was released last month, I wrote about a group of cyclists – those folks who have no option but to ride bikes where they need to go – that seemed to me to be underrepresented in the usual (a least my usual) bicycling media. The Report made me think of another underrepresented group:

Bicycling and Walking in the U.S.: 2010 Benchmarking Report, p. 41

That’s right – cyclists caught in the act of indulging in treats like doughnuts.

It’s no secret that cyclists can eat. And eat and eat and eat. And drink. And drink and drink and drink. The ability to eat just about anything I want is probably my top reason for riding as much as I do. Regarding doughnuts, as a displaced yankee down here in the south, one of the main things I miss from the north is cake doughnuts. I’m not talking about the gooey sweetened circles of fat produced by Krispy Kreme and the like. I’m thinking of the barely sweet dense, yet soft and moist doughnuts made in the kitchens of the old diners in places like Casco and Rangeley, Maine. Molasses, apple cider, plain, and chocolate “sinkers” so perfect for dunking in your morning cup of coffee it launched that ubiquitous brand (which I believe has gone downhill since I worked there when I was in high school).

That’s why I’m teaching myself to make doughnuts in my own kitchen. To turn a phrase from Greg Brown back on itself – when you can’t get it out there, you better look for it at home.

Now with a few experiments under my belt, wrestling with the frying process, and over-fried, under-cooked or rubbery attempts foisted off on polite friends and co-workers, I’m almost happy with the results. Today I greeted my friends who gathered at my house for a 40-mile ride with some pre-ride gingerbread cake doughnuts. I’d tell you the recipe but it’s a trade secret. Here’s an idea of the process and the results:

Start with the right flavors: real molasses and fresh ginger

As with bikes, it helps to have the right tools.

Doughnut holes fresh from the fryer.

The perfect group ride.

(Apologies for the poor-quality photos. I’m waiting for the new camera to return from Mexico with my tandem partner/fiancee.)

These definitely kept me riding for the duration, and the couple of remaining holes went perfectly with a warm cup of coffee to warm me up after the ride.

Last week I test-piloted a batch of banana-nut cake doughnuts and handed them out to the Haiti-benefit riders on their way through Saxapahaw. (I figured bananas and bike bikes go hand-in-hand, or rather, cleat-in-pedal.) Judging by the fact that they were gone in a matter of minutes, I know I’m not the only one who lives by the credo “Ride to Eat.”


Tables for tandems: A birthday brunch

One of the unintended effects of the long country commute during the work week is that we’re often less energetic and enthused about a leisurely weekend ride, which used to be the regular time for the 40+ milers. After a week of commutes of over 2 hours on the bike on top of work, weekends have become days to catch up with all the other things we want to do when we’re not working, like not work. A related consideration is that, if we do go out for extended weekend rides, we are unable to recuperate for the long rides to work during the week. The balance to strike is getting great rides in, while not getting too tired and therefore cranky.

Looking back on that opening paragraph, life doesn’t seem too bad – the problem is the embarrassment of riches of incredible year-round cycling here in the North Carolina Piedmont. That is, it’s not really a problem at all. This Sunday, we did in fact go out for a long tandem ride. And today, we were in fact too tired to bike all the way in to work. We could have done it, but it would have done harm to the positive attitudes so necessary for navigating work-a-day life.

Scene from a Sunday ride.

Scene from a Sunday ride.

Another richness of this part of North Carolina, what I like to call the Tri-Boro region – Carrboro, Hillsborough, Pittsboro (though that hardly does it justice because Durham county has to figure in there somehow) – is that it’s experiencing an incredible local food renaissance. The ingredients for this renaissance are just right – it’s an accommodating climate for agriculture, there’s ample farmland despite a high and expanding population, and mostly important, the movement is driven by enthusiastic people -dedicated producers and conscientious consumers – who know and care about food, how it tastes, and where it comes from.

Brunch was prepared by no less than ten people, among whom were people who have/do subsist/ed entirely on farms, teach urban gardening practices, have baked for a living, raise high quality pork, duck, and chickens, contribute to CSAs, buy from CSAs and the plethora of farmers markets around here, and have worked for Dunkin’ Donuts (that last one was me). I also met a fellow bike blogger/commuter.

Duck eggs from Duck Run Farm in Pittsboro.

Duck eggs from Duck Run Farm in Pittsboro.

Just a part of the brunch spread.

Just a part of the brunch spread.



The final menu –
-French toast with local blueberry compote
-Peach cobbler (with a surprisingly satisfying gluten-free topping made of almond flour, arrow-root starch, and butter)
-Strawberry muffins
-Collard greens that received some flavorful help from local shitake mushrooms
-Local bacon and sun-dried tomato sausage, raised and prepared by a farmer in attendance at the brunch, who’d also procured the above shitake mushrooms by bartering some of her pork for them
-Baked duck eggs with chives, a ridiculously creamy platter that sent me back to some medieval French village
-iron skillet corn bread
-Mimosas of champagne and freshly juiced carrot, orange, and grapefruit juice (us honkers had the juice, but not the mimosa version, lest we had not been able to leave this idyllic homestead tucked away in Duke Forest)
-plenty of coffee, and home-spiced chai (of which we honkers partook aplenty, and is perhaps the main reason we were able to power our full bellies home).

All the fuel you need to make it home, and leave some reserve in the tank.

All the fuel you need to make it home, and leave some reserve in the tank.

When we returned home, after an afternoon of feasting and more than 50 miles riding, I can say I was tired, but not hungry at all. I also arrived home full of ideas for the next brunch.

Tables for tandems: Honker’s energy bars

Finding the right food for “active transportation” can be a slippery endeavor. You need a lot of the right energy, little of the wrong energy, enough to keep you going for a while, but not so much to fill you up. When I leave the office after a day of coffee jitters, erratic snacking, and severe mental and emotional trauma, I need a serious pick-me-up before I gather my Honey on the tandem from her office on the other side of Chapel Hill, and we begin the 20-mile commute home.

Honkers bars.

Honkers bars.

A food or energy crash is a crummy feeling in the middle of the ride. The loss of focus, the shaking, and weakening muscles do more than slow you down. On the tandem, maintaining poise seems just that much more important for staying in control of the large machine. What’s more, nothing makes me crabbier and unable to communicate than a food crash, and I’m never more likely to grumble myself into an argument when I’ve hit that wall. The tandem is the last place you want to start a fight: see, “divorce machine.”

Yeah, we could buy a box of Clif bars or gels or whatever, but isn’t it great to make something yourself and know what you’re putting into your body? Call it active eating for active transportation.

I’ve struck on a great recipe for our own energy bars and have been making them for more than a year. What’s great about these bars is their ease (no baking), simplicity of ingredients, quick digestion, the protein, and the balance of quicker- and slower-release sugars (when one sugar gives out, maybe another kicks in? eh, don’t read this for the science). Given the name of this blog, let’s call them:

Honker’s Bars


1 cup oat bran

1/2 cup sunflower and/or sesame seeds (tip, toast them and grind them up first)

1/2 soy milk powder

1/2 cup dried fruit (your choice!)

2 tbs carob or cocoa powder

Optional – 1/2 tsp chili powder; 1/2 tsp cinnamon (I think this stuff might open up blood flow, and also spices the bars up like a mole)

Then add to:

1/2 cup brown rice (cooked + minced)

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup honey, brown rice syrup, or agave syrup (basically, some kind of low-glycemic index syrup)

Stir and knead together thoroughly, press down smooth into a baking pan, cover in plastic, and chill and store in the fridge. Cut into bars, wrap in your left-over pre-used aluminum foil, and stick in your handlebar bag for an energy boost that could save your ride, and your relationship.