Recipe: Super Easy Banana Muffins

This is a quick, healthy recipe for banana muffins. No added sugar, no oil. Maybe they won’t be sweet or fatty enough for some taste buds, but…get over it. I enjoy them and they seem to go over well with friends/unwitting taste testers. They’re also small and hardy enough to stuff into a jersey pocket before a ride.

Super Easy Banana Muffins

Makes 4 decent-sized muffins

600 calories total/150 per muffin

  1. Put two bananas and about a half cup water in your blender of choice and blend.
  2. Throw the yellow mixture in a bowl.
  3. Add a cup of whole wheat all purpose flour.
  4. Add a splash of vanilla.
  5. Add a couple spoonfuls of baking powder.
  6. Mix it all up.
  7. Add water in small increments and mix until desired consistency is achieved. It should have a creamy texture, not thick like cookie batter but not as thin as pancake batter. I never measure the water; I just do it by feel. Sorry I don’t have specifics.
  8. Spoon into a sprayed muffin tin
  9. Bake on 375 for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown (duh)

That’s about it. These are plenty tasty on their own, but if you’re feeling funky, you could add all kinds of stuff: chocolate chips, nuts, other fruit, frosting, coconut, maple syrup. You could use non-dairy milk instead of water, or a half-cup apple sauce as an egg replacement. But none of that is really necessary.

ENJOY.

banana muffin

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Eating on a Business Trip

Ever find yourself in a foreign city on business, looking for a healthy and filling meal after a long day in the bad lighting and too-cold AC of a hotel conference center?

That’s where I found myself the other night. I could have gone to a restaurant (after all, I’d be reimbursed by my organization for the expense), but–surprise!–Reading, Pennsylvania is not a culinary hotbed. There was actually one all-vegan Chinese place, which is about as rare as a logical Trump tweet, but it was closed. So I did what I’ve becoming fond of doing, especially since going vegan.

I went to a grocery store to see how much I could get for $15.

It’s kind of a personal challenge of mine, to get the most food for the least money. It’s why the only restaurants I enjoy are buffets; everything else is simply not cost-efficient. Specifically, I’m interested in getting the most low-fat, nutrient-dense food as possible. This time, I set the bar at $15 because I figured that’s what I would have spent if I went to some crappy chain off the interstate like one of my coworkers would have done. Normally I eat local and organic, but those criteria were impractical for this challenge.

I found a supermarket and walked in with my backpack. Here’s what I emerged with:

lots of food

 

Peasant food. Man, it’s the way to go. Healthy, filling, tasty, cheap, vegan. Corn tortillas cost basically nothing. Same with canned beans and corn. The giant tub of salsa was only five bucks. And sauerkraut doesn’t fit with the whole taco thing, but I love it, so I got some.

All told, it was just about $15. I absolutely stuffed my face and only ate about half of it that night. I finished the rest on the drive home the next day, and still had salsa left over for the week. I don’t think I could have done much better in terms of dollars–calories ratio.

I hate when people say that being vegan is A) not for high-level athletes or B) people on a budget. Those assumptions are patently false. And you can find a great meal in the big-box sprawl outside the poorest city in America when the only vegan place is closed.

Coffee and Beer

Besides water, coffee and beer are the drinks of choice for cyclists. This isn’t really surprising, given that the rest of humanity kind of loves these drinks as well. But they are so embedded in cycling culture that it’s not hard to think that cyclists have an even stronger connection to them than anyone else. That they were designed by nature or some benevolent, Merckx-loving god as complementary beverages for riders of the bicycle. After all, what’s better before a ride than sipping espresso with friends outside a local shop, sharing laughs and secretly hoping passersby notice your perfectly matched kit? What’s better after a ride than enjoying amber liquid carbs that make you forget about the soreness in your legs?

I’m bombarded with these images all the time, showing how much people love drinking this stuff before, after, and during rides (apparently beer hand-ups in ‘cross races are real, or maybe it’s just more ‘cross propaganda aimed at attracting roadies who are tired of people risking their lives in 10%-off coupon primes and 55-year-old guys barking at them to “hold their line” through corners). The images are everywhere: Rapha videos, cycling Youtubers, Bicycling magazine. I want so badly to partake in these drinking rituals of cycling culture.

cafe stop
I’m not in this photo, because a) I don’t drink coffee and b) I don’t live in England

But I have a confession: I don’t like coffee or beer.

My first taste of coffee was when I was twelve or thirteen, out hunting with my dad on a cold morning in November. Instant stuff in a percolator. I thought it was gross. like something that was supposed to be discarded got mixed up with the good part. Just to make sure that early impression wasn’t unfairly clouding my view, I recently tried a cup from our local shop, which my coffee-loving sister says is amazing. Still gross.

And beer. I didn’t drink in high school or college. It wasn’t a taste thing; it was more about the alcohol and my desire to stay clear-headed. But now the moral side of things is less of a concern. Recently I tried a Steam Anchor, just to see what I’d thought of the taste. Terrible. I was amazed that people enjoy this stuff, and I immediately let go of any regrets about not imbibing during college.

So where does that leave me, as a cyclist? I fear that, like a Catholic who doesn’t drink the communion wine, I can never be a full member of the tribe. But then again, cycling is not the Catholic church. In cycling, women have equal opportunities (well, not in racing). In cycling, the stories are (mostly) true. In cycling, there are lots of great books, but none of them are holy. And in cycling, all the paths lead to some kind of paradise.

So maybe I’m okay.

 

Ride Food

What to eat while riding? It’s an age-old question. Back in the day, the answer was “steak.” Or “egg custard.”

Fortunately nutrition science has advanced since then, and we know that those probably aren’t the best fuel sources during a race. Carbohydrates, people generally agree, are the way to go. There’s this stuff in your muscles called glycogen, and your legs use it to ride hard. Carbs replenish those glycogen deposits. Or something like that. I was an English major.

Still, it’s a hotly debated topic. People have taste preferences, dietary tribes, misconceptions, biases. Real food vs. gels. Vegans vs. the world (hey, we kinda have a point). Like pretty much every food/nutrition-related discussion, it’s a mess.
The best you can do is find something that works for you.

My criteria for ride food is pretty simple:
-Tastes good
-Fits in a jersey pocket
-Has lots of carbs
-Comes from a plant
-Is solid food (life’s too short to eat goo)

When I first started riding, I leaned pretty heavily on Alan Lim’s excellent Feed Zone cookbooks. Lots of prepared stuff (sometimes by me, more times included in a care package from mom). Rice cakes, mini loaves of banana bread, these amazing oat-date bars, sweet potato muffins, little apple pies. Tasty, to be sure. But I’d have to plan for a weekend of riding and do the shopping and baking ahead of time. Sometimes you don’t want to bake or don’t have time. Also, they are tough to unwrap and eat while riding, and can be heavy/bulky in jersey pockets.

small potatoes
Fuel for days.

Lately, I’ve ditched the tinfoil-wrapped goodies. Instead I’ve opted for dried fruit, either figs or dates. Figs are great because you can put them straight into your pocket and they won’t stick, they taste amazing, and they are easy to chew and swallow. They are a bit more expensive than dates, which offer the same benefits but require a plastic bag to prevent a sticky mess. I did my 134-mile ride powered solely by dates and Skratch drink powder, and felt great. Clearly it works, at least for me.

Recently I didn’t have time to get to the grocery store for dates, and didn’t want to bake anything. I was at a loss for what to bring–my fridge is usually just full of vegetables and fresh fruit; the pantry stocked with split peas, oats, and flour. Then the beautiful realization: potatoes. They’re one of my favorite foods. I love ’em baked, straight out of the oven, or pretty much any other way you can prepare them. This time of year at the market they are on the small side, about the size of Barbie doll heads, which is annoying for cooking but PERFECT FOR A JERSEY POCKET.

I baked a few and stuffed them in my pocket the next day and ate them as my Garmin clicked over mile 50. They check all the boxes (plus, they are more filling than dried fruit). The little ones are perfect because they are self-contained in their skins; you’d have to cut larger potatoes into chunks, which would then necessitate a baggie and make them harder to grab while riding.

So, my ride food is pretty simple, I guess you could say. Dates and potatoes, figs if I’m flush with cash money. Raisins could work too, if you have tiny fingers.

Just stay away from that egg custard.