09 November 2011

Quinoa Porridge: a Recipe for Success from the Bicycle Chef

By Guest Blogger Denine R. Gorniak

I call myself The Bicycle-Chef because I am a chef and an avid cyclist.  I’m also a lot of other things, such as a mother to a rambunctious 2 year old  - He’s called, Nate, or Nibblet, depending on the moment and I’m Momma Neeny!  I am a passionate “eatie” - that’s the non-snobby foodie; and I am an adventurous amateur photographer, chronicling the burgeoning and interesting Street Art Scene in Philadelphia.  My blog, The Bicycle-Chef, grew out of my passions for biking and cooking.   While the blog is primarily about my culinary and two-wheeled adventures I also like to serve up side orders of other interesting topics.  I’m a three-time Sprint Triathlete and mentor, having competed in three triahlons and I mentored over 20 women for the The SheRox Triathlon Series.  I take tons of photos of urban city images and found art. Furthermore, I’m a huge baseball “PHAN” for my beloved Philadelphia Phillies.  In addition to all of these hobbies and interests, I work full time and and, oh, yeah, I'm on a mission to cook and eat healthy and to share my weight loss and exercise experiences with others.    

I started biking on the road to wellville on July 31, 2007.  That was the day I set forth to become a healthier person.  At age 40, I had a jolting wake up call about my life. I was over 70 pounds overweight, diagnosed as pre-diabetic with the beginnings of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  I have a family history of heart disease and diabetes so I knew I was facing a shortened life. I joined Weight Watchers that night. The next day, I started to eat and cook healthier and within the month, I bought a used bike from a friend and I began bike riding in earnest.  Cycling had been a passion of mine when I was 19 and 20, and I set the interest aside for 20 years!  Now it was time to for me to become reacquainted with my lost riding spirit. 

Within a month I lost 15 pounds and my medical numbers and stats improved. Each month thereafter my blood pressure decreased and my doctor became more amazed with my weight loss and determination. Since that time I have lost over 60 pounds and found my inner athlete. While my weight has fluctuated from 60 to 75 pounds total pounds lost, I am still determined to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

Cycling has been a tremendous help to me in keeping my weight at bay, my muscles toned and my over-all well-being in check.  During my cycling “season,” from April to the end of September, I bike 3 to 5 mornings a week, rising at 5:50 AM and meeting my cycling buddies for a 24 mile, hour and a half ride through the City of Philadelphia and around our beautiful Schuylkill River and through Fairmount Park.  My riding crew is known as the "Sue Crew;" several of the women in the group are named Sue.  We’ve been doing our morning ride for at least three seasons.  People come and go, but the core Group of “Sues” have lasted.  There’s Sue S., The Original Sue; “Sue” Ellen; Carrie-”Sue”; Aaron “The Boy Named Sue”; Fair-weather Sue K.; and me - Sous Chef!  Since we all have busy schedules, meeting in the early morning gives us motivation to exercise and thereby giving us more energy for the day ahead. 

Good Grains and Hearty Breakfast Recipes for Cyclists

It took me over a year to figure out the best nutritional balance for pre- and post riding meals.  Typically I grab a strong shot of coffee and some water and a homemade electrolyte beverage (1/4 cup of lemon or citrus juice mixed with 2 cups of  filtered water, a 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a 1/2 tablespoon of sugar) before my morning ride.  I don’t like to eat beforehand but by the time I come home, I’m famished.  Depending on the time of year, I may eat fresh fruit with mix of non-fat, plain Greek-style yogurt with a high fiber and low sugar cereal.  Or I’ll splurge and make an egg white microwave and veggie omelet and serve it on a high fiber, low-calorie deli flat, with low-fat cheese and Canadian bacon. 

During the colder season, typically the early spring and beginning of the cooler fall cycling season, I want hearty and hot whole grain cereals.  Oatmeal gets boring, so I mix it up; multigrain hot cereal blends; whole wheat breakfast couscous, or my new favorite, Quinoa Porridge.  Quinoa is an old grain, high in protein and easy to cook.  Usually it’s made as a savory side-dish, used like brown rice but not as heavy or difficult to cook.  It works beautifully as a breakfast cereal.  I made my porridge by flavoring the cooking water, using a cinnamon stick, a large piece of diced candied ginger (which works as an anti-inflammatory agent) and a pinch of ground clove. Flavoring the water ensures tasty grains that don’t need to have fat and refined sugars as flavoring.  Added fat and sugar would counter-act the health benefits of this nutritional powerhouse grain.  When the quinoa is almost cooked through and has absorbed all the flavorful cooking water, I toss in some dried cranberries and cherries.  In my cereal bowl I top the porridge with warmed non-fat milk for my calcium intake; unsweetened coconut flakes for crunch and a tropical taste; flax seeds for iron replenishment and a dose of high antioxidants; toasted cashews for a bit of healthy fat and a tiny drizzle of pure maple syrup to round it out.  This isn’t Goldie Locks bowl of porridge that’s for sure and the Three Bears wouldn’t have left any of it behind for the flaxen tressed lass to gobble! 

The porridge is an easy recipe to make, and can be embellished with whatever dried fruits and nuts that you prefer.  It’s important to flavor the cooking water.  Once you find a combination that works for you, feel free to experiment.  The flavor combinations are endless!

Quinoa Porridge Ingredients:

   1 Cup Dried Quinoa - rinsed and shaken dry
   2 1/2 Cups Cold Water
   1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
   Pinch of Salt
   1 Cinnamon Stick
   1 Large Piece Candied Ginger (about 1 Tablespoon) - finely diced
   1 Whole Clove or 1/8 Teaspoon Ground Clove
   1/4 Cup EACH Dried Cranberries & Dried Cherries (or dried fruits of choice)

For Serving/Garnish per bowl:
   1/4 Cup Non-Fat Milk - warmed
   1 Tablespoon Flax Seeds, Sesame Seeds or Chia Seeds
   1 Tablespoon Dried and Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
   1 Tablespoon Toasted Cashews, Almonds or Walnuts (or toasted, unsalted nuts of choice)
   2 Teaspoons Maple Syrup

1.     Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer under cold running water.  Shake off excess water and then add the wet quinoa to a 3 or 4 quart pot with a heavy bottom and a tight fitting lid.  Pour the 2 1/2 cups of cold water into the pot with the quinoa.  Add in the vanilla extract, cinnamon stick, a pinch of salt, the diced candied ginger and the whole or ground clove.  Turn heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil; when the water reaches a boil, immediately reduce the heat to low and cover the pot, allowing the quinoa to absorb the cooking water, about 15 to 20 minutes. 

2.     Before all the water has been absorbed, after about 15 minutes, add in the dried cranberries and cherries.  Turn off the heat and keep the pot covered and let it sit for a total of another 15 minutes, then fluff the quinoa grains with a fork.  Remove and discard the cinnamon stick and the whole clove (if using.)

3.     Serve hot topped with warmed non-fat or low-fat milk, a sprinkle of flax, chia or sesame seeds, a generous pinch of toasted unsweetened coconut and toasted nuts.  Drizzle with one to two teaspoons of maple syrup.  Makes 4 servings and will hold in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  35 to 40 minutes total cooking time, prep through cooking time.

I truly believe that anyone can make positive life changes and stick with them as long as you try, start and pick yourself up if you fall off that wagon and start anew.  It is my mission to cook simple and healthy meals that look and taste great.   Photography and food writing are other passions of mine. Join me at my table while I dish up some tasty stories about life, biking and cooking in Philadelphia, home to more than just the City of Brotherly Love.  For more healthy recipes, tasty food photos and other tales, visit my blog at www.thebicycle-chef.com  

02 November 2011

Cyclocross Day of the Dead Festival, Costume Race, and Party video

If you've ever wondered what makes Oregon such a great place to ride a bike, why Bend is a cycling destination hotspot, or how come cyclocross is so popular in the Pacific NW, the next 4 minutes of video footage of the 2011 Halloween Cyclocross races and Day of the Dead Festival this past weekend will answer all your questions:

P.S.---CONGRATULATIONS to Cheryl Myers Willson, who just won herself $25 in BicyclingHub Bucks to spend on some cool new cycling gear at BicyclingHub.com for sharing the video with family and friends. In 36 hours, we've hit over 2,864 views, including honorable mentions on BikePortland and BikeSnobNYC.

Please share the links with your family, friends, and fellow cyclocross fanatics!

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