The cooking theme continues!

This past weekend was another massive brick session, and I needed to be sure to power up for it appropriately.  It dawned on me to try two of my own foolproof recipes.  These ones are guaranteed delicious.

Banana Muffins or Banana Breadimage

I have made this banana bread for years, but this time I made the same recipe into muffins in order to have portable food for the bike, and it worked perfectly.  The original recipe comes from A Little Bird with the omission of the booze and sultanas. I save old bananas by popping them into the freezer, and when I have enough I thaw them out and bake ’em.  I should add that the quantities set out below are for one cake or one pan of muffins…. I nearly always double that batch and either freeze the second loaf or give it away, ‘cuz that’s how delicious it is.

175g plain flour (=1 1/2 cups)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

125g unsalted butter (melted, or not – I’ve done both. I also frequently use salted butter. = just over 1/2 cup)

150g sugar  (=2/3 cup)

2 large eggs

around 4 very ripe bananas

30g chopped walnuts (walnuts aren’t my favourite nut, but they work well in this recipe. I’ve also used pistachios in a pinch. = a handful)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 170°C / Gas Mark 3 / 338°F.  Grease up your loaf tin or muffin tin. I’ve used butter for this or olive oil spray.

Spread the walnuts out onto a baking sheet and place them high up in the oven so they toast.  Keep an eye on them; it only takes 4-6 minutes and you don’t want them to burn.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl.  Melted or room-temperature butter makes this much easier.  Add in the eggs and the bananas and mash it all up.

Slowly mix in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt. Don’t over stir.  Add in the vanilla then stir in the walnuts.  Boom, you’re done.

Pour the mixture into your tin(s) and bake.  If you’re making a loaf, it will take around an hour.  A big loaf may take more time (put a knife into it when you think it might be done. If it comes out clean, you’re good.  Messy, bake some more).  I’ve found that it’s hard to overbake these babies.

If you’re making muffins, around 40 minutes should be enough.

Cool and enjoy.


This recipe does seem to be pretty idiot-proof. I’ve not managed to mess it up yet. However, see those chocolate cookies on the right in the above photo? Don’t they look delicious? Want a closer look?


Don’t be fooled. They were disgusting.  My attempt at gluten free chocolate cookies. Tom and I shared one freshly baked, both made faces and the rest went straight into the bin. Yuck. Epic fail. No, I’m not giving you the recipe.

But I was on a cooking binge. That same evening I also whipped up most delicious carb-loaded trick of all: tortilla española. I learned to make tortilla years ago when I was living in Ireland, taught by my Irish boyfriend Des who had in turn been taught by his Spanish ex-girlfriend.  Thank you, Des – this recipe has proved to be the gift that keeps on giving!


Tortilla Españolaimage

Tortilla to Spaniards is like PB&J to Americans or tea to the Brits – as commonplace as it comes, but always welcome, always delicious. But to be boringly healthy, I’ve changed the oil from the gallons of vegetable oil to much less coconut oil. It makes the tortilla just as moist and you can use way less.

3-5 potatoes, depending on how big you want it to be. If you’re making your first one or if you have a small pan, smaller is definitely more manageable.  I try to make them as big as possible!

a hearty tablespoon of refined coconut oil

around half a cup of frozen peas (other veg can be used too)

4-6 eggs, depending on how much potato you’re working with.

1/2 chopped onion (I buy frozen chopped onion and it’s a great shortcut)

Get the onions gently cooking in the coconut oil in a large frying pan.image

Cut the potatoes into very thin slices. Think dauphinoise type slices. As you cut them up, add them to the onions frying away, until all the potatoes are in the pan.  Keep the heat low and stir occasionally so the bottom potatoes don’t burn and so that the top potatoes get their turn on the hot bottom too.  If you have a lid to your frying pan, putting that on in between stirrings will cook the potatoes through even faster.  You want the potatoes to be cooked through so they are really really soft. This normally takes 15-25 minutes depending on how many potatoes you’ve used.  If at any point you notice the pan going too dry, add a little bit more coconut oil.

If you are using a fresh vegetable, like chopped up asparagus or peppers, add them in with the potatoes to cook. If you’re using the extremely convenient and very tasty frozen peas option, add them in at the end. I find that the peas give a really satisfying pop of moisture and sweetness.image

Crack open your eggs into a large bowl and beat them.  Add a bit of salt and pepper, but don’t overdo it (you can always add more to the cooked product, but you can’t remove it!).  Add in the cooked potato, onion, and miscellaneous veg and stir it up. You can mash it up a bit too with your wooden spoon.  Then pour it all back into your frying pan, still on low heat on your stove top.  Let the mixture settle into the bottom and pat it on top until smooth and press the spoon around the sides to try to bring the mixture into a vague cake-shape.  Leave cooking for maybe 15 minutes or so. I watch for little bubbles appearing at the sides of the tortilla – usually a sign that it’s ready to be flipped.

Flipping sounds scary, but it isn’t. Just place a large plate on top of the tortilla, hold it in place and flip the pan so the tortilla ends up on the plate. Then gently slide it back into the pan to let the other side cook. This side takes less time – maybe 5-10 minutes.

Then stick a plate back on the tortilla and flip it out of the pan again. Presto!  A perfect looking potato “cake”, absolutely delicious and full carbs and protein. I cut a few squares, wrapped them in cling film and stuck them in my jersey pocket for the ride. Delicious. As a main meal, it looks impressive to guests and is a vegetarian (although not vegan) meal.


These foods kept me going strong for the day – a 1 hour swim, 6 hour bike ride, and 50 minute run. Best of all, my friend Molly surprised me by showing up for the run, meeting me at my house, no less. With our chit chat, the run flew by and suddenly I was done for the day – relief! 12 hours later I was back out running at 5:20 am, 2h45 minutes with the Wellington Runners’ Club and feeling surprisingly good. Which I put down to being adequately fuelled from the day before.

This Saturday is my very last mega swim-bike-run session and I’m also racing the Wellington Horse Country 10 Miler on Sunday.  I’m using the term “race” here very loosely as I don’t expect to have much oomph left!

3 weeks 1 day until Ironman Florida! 

What are you training for?

Let’s talk food! Sadly I don’t mean pizza and beer, but rather the much less appetising notion of energy food, food on the go, sport food.  I hate it all. It has taken me years to be able to choke down a gel and even still I’m rubbish at it.  If I wouldn’t eat it while sitting at my desk at work (when I am always ravenous!), why would I want to eat it on the bike when food is the last thing on my mind?

Last year my good friend Karis (who incidentally thinks gels are scrumptious, damn her) gave me a copy of Feed Zone Portables when she came to visit us in London. She gave it to me right before we both did Ironman Lanzarote, and then I took some time off of mega long bike rides after that, so I didn’t get around to testing out any of the recipes.  And then suddenly we were moving to the US, and everything in our lives was upside down, and half our kitchen equipment was shipped around the world while we were in limbo.  Then the move happened, and everything was in boxes…. ok, enough excuses.  The point is, now that I am back doing long rides and gagging on jacked up pouches of gelatinous sugar, I finally remembered the book, dug it out and made something.

The authors of the book have cooked up food for riders for the Tour de France and pro Iroman athletes, so they know what they’re doing, and it gives a really detailed breakdown of the nutrition, carbs, protein, etc., so you know exactly what you are consuming on the bike.  The idea behind it is that unlike gels and bars, you actually can eat real food all day long, and even enjoy it rather than forcing it down.

I ended up adapting their recipe for Potato & Sweet Ginger Baked Rice Balls – it called for crystallised ginger, which I didn’t have, so I went with leek and potato instead (always a winning combo, right?).  In retrospect I should have gone for something a little less healthy in order to pack a bigger calorie punch, but going by the information they set out in the book, I would estimate that each ball I made had about 200 calories – not too bad.

Potato & Leek Baked Rice Balls

1 cup uncooked sticky rice (they recommend Calrose rice, which I used)

1 1/2 cups water

2 small potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed (~1 1/2 cups)

1 chopped leek

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon olive oil


Heat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 C) and lightly grease a baking sheet.

Cook the rice in a rice cooker if you have one, or just in a pot if you don’t, adding a dash of salt.

Boil the potatoes until they are soft.

Sauté the chopped leek and minced garlic in the oil.

Combine the potatoes and the leek and garlic and mince in a food processor to get a uniform finish (or if you’ve chopped the leeks fine enough, then just mash it all together by hand), then thoroughly with the cooked rice.

imagePlace clingfilm into a small bowl and then pack the rice mixture into the bowl.  With a little tug of the clingfilm, your ball will pop out in a perfectly uniform shape, beautiful!  Repeat until you’ve used up all the rice mixture, then bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes.


Once you take them out of the oven, wrap them individually in cling film, tinfoil, or parchment paper, and they’re ready to go into your jersey pocket on the bike.



The rice is pretty dense, so there is no fear of them falling apart.  They were relatively easy to eat on the bike in terms of reaching into my pocket and grabbing one, and obviously with no packaging to tear open, they were easier to get into.  I would add more salt next time, as really, salt on a long sweaty bike ride is only a good thing, and the balls were slightly bland without it. Were they scrumptious? No, but they weren’t bad, and there are lots of other baked rice ball recipe choices in the book (date & almond; lemon ricotta; honey banana; peaches & coconut cream; BBQ chicken; sweet & sour chicken; curry pumpkin date; spicy black bean; sweet potato & bacon).  Let us not forget that I also messed with their original recipe of potato & ginger.

Baked rice balls are just one type of portable food suggested by the book – it has a gazillion others, from two-bite pies to baked cakes and cookies, baked eggs, waffles and pancakes, and many more.  So I will try again and see if I can find something that truly is delicious, both on and off the bike – but my initial reaction is generally positive.

Nutrition info: for the entire rice mixture, so divide between however many balls you make

Energy (calories): 940  Fat: 1  Sodium: 465  Carbs (g): 220  Fiber (g): 6  Protein (g): 17  Water (%): 57

On a side note, the good people behind Feed Zone Portables also make Skratch Labs electrolytes, which I only just discovered while out running the Leadville Marathon this summer. They are the tastiest electrolytes I have found to date (with about 40 calories per bottle) and I truly recommend them.  Yes, these I even would drink while sitting at my desk!


In the lead up to Ironman Florida (6 weeks away!), I’m now doing big brick sessions every Saturday, getting progressively longer each week.  Last weekend was a 50 min swim, a 4:45 bike ride, and a 50 minute run. Just to give you an idea of when I’m munching on the rice balls – all during the bike ride (sadly still doing the gels thing on the run). We get to the ocean at first light, and my favourite part of the whole brick is seeing the sunrise over the ocean in the morning.  Moments like that remind me why I’m in Florida.


Heading into the ocean at sunrise

Last weekend, my friends Ben and Molly came along for part of the swim and bike portion – not because they needed the training, but mostly because they were worried about me swimming all alone in the semi-dark and being eaten by sharks.  I am pleased to report that not one of us was eaten or even tasted, but we did have a few brushes with jellyfish and sea lice.  All part of ocean swimming. But seriously, I’ve been living here for less than a year and I’ve already met people who are willing to be eaten by sharks with me.  How awesome is that?

A long day in the hot sun isn’t complete without a puncture either.  Did you know that frozen CO2 cartridges will stick to your clothing if you try to use them to cool off?  Try it, then you can get a really cool photo like this one:

imageIt was so hot out there that I drank 8 bottles of water and electrolytes. Apparently it was 100°F/ 38°C with the sun. Turns out there is a secret spot in West Palm Beach that has a cold water fountain rather than the molten lava that spurts from the other fountains all along the A1A beach road. Info like this from friends on a scorching day is worth its weight in ice.image

Happy cooking, happy eating, happy riding!  We are racing Ironman 70.3 Augusta this weekend in Georgia and praying for rain!

What do you eat on long rides and runs?

02. February 2015 · Comments Off on Ten fun things that happened · Categories: Run, Trails, Weekly Roundup · Tags: , , ,

TEN fun things that happened this week:

1.  Brunch with my sister (and brother-in-law, not pictured).



2.  Tom came back from California and we had our first ride together in a month! Oh, how I missed that sweet drafting pull!



3.  We took Haile shopping.  Here he is enjoying his first ever ride on an escalator.



4.  Tom bought some crazy shoes.  Hoka Bondi 4.  First time trying Hokas!  And I also bought crazy shoes – On Cloud!



5.  We cooked up cat for dinner.image

6.  We watched some polo and then ate BBQ’d lobster.  I know, it’s a tough life!image

7.  I ran 27.5 km along the Apoxee Wilderness Trail with Ben, which was so so fabulous.  I love trail running, and this was a great trail with great company.  The miles flew by.  I wish every long run could be like this.


8.  Tom and I did yoga.  With candles.

image image

9.  We had a puppy play date with Ben’s dog, Alice (who is crazy fast!).  Haile conked out for the ride home!image image

10.  We generally eat pretty healthily, but sometimes you need to just go for it… and Sunday night we gorged on veggie cheese burgers with avocado, onion rings, sweet potato fries, baked beans and vanilla milkshakes!  It was definitely worth it!


How was your week?  

Weekly Update

I am now starting to focus on training for the London Marathon, which means less cycling and swimming.  That results in less time spent training in general, but more time spent doing nasty things like tempo/threshold runs.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 09.08.00

Totals:  14:23

Swim:  0

Bike:  38 km, 1:19

Run:  73 km, 6:38


Totals for January:

Swim:  8.04 km, 3:07

Bike:  412 km, 13:39

Run:  222 km, 19:54


08. January 2015 · 2 comments · Categories: Food · Tags:

When I wrote about the quasi cookie-crusted sweet potato mash we had at our very first American Thanksgiving this year, there was quite a reaction from our UK friends.  Mostly flabbergasted.

I have to say that I prefer to leave dessert to the last course, but we’ve found it to be a stumbling block here in the USA.  It seems that dessert is lurking everywhere.  Coffee-flavour iced coffees, for example, are actually coffee ICE CREAM flavoured iced coffees – big difference.  We’ve taken to calling it Beware the Lurking Cookie.  The Lurking Cookie hides where you least expect it.

This week’s Lurking Cookie caught us by surprise. I’d bought some butternut squash ravioli at Trader Joe’s.  Sounds innocuous enough, no?  Cooked it up, served it with a bit of butter, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and a dash of black pepper.  Tucked in….

Spat it out!   The Lurking Cookie wins again!

I checked the ingredients.  Would you believe the ravioli filling was butternut squash and amaretti biscuits?!

Is this a time-saving device to eat your main and dessert in one go?

Savoury and sweet: yay or nay?