|Grilled Chicken with Summer Orzo, plated with a small side salad|
I also ordered their two cookbooks, The Feed Zone Cookbook and Feed Zone Portables. I was curious to see what foods would be recommended for pre-race and recovery for endurance athletes. I was won over by their real-food approach. Most of the endurance sports "food" market is a glut of weird astronaut nutrition: Gummy shot blocks, candy-colored recovery drinks, packets of goo, bars that look and taste like cardboard mixed with twigs. I can't stomach most of that stuff. I don't think it is healthy either.
|Summer Orzo in the mixing bowl|
On the surface, people who want to lose weight might not seem to have much in common with the professional cyclists who inspired this book. For one thing, cyclists in training might require three times as much food as the average person.
At the same time, though, cyclists do have to be careful to stay lean. They also need to maximize the nutrition they get from their meals. Instead of accomplishing this through some kind of sports chemistry experiment, sports physiologist Allen Lim and Chef Biju Thomas fell back to the food they grew up with. Lim writes in his introduction that all his years of studying physiology were not helping him make practical meals the athletes would like, so, "like any good scientist, I called my mom." As a result, Lim writes, the cookbook features "recipes from India, where Biju is from, or from China and the Philippines, where my family is from." But both grew up in the United States, and were living in Europe, so there are plenty of other influences here too. There are tacos and burritos, frittatas and panini, a sandwich that looks like a Croque Madame, as well as waffles, pancakes, and hot breakfast grain dishes.
|Biryani, one of my favorites so far|
The Feed Zone Cookbook has a lot to offer for active people. Most of the recipes are designed to be built from precooked parts -- rice and other grains can be prepared ahead, and so can much of the meat in the recipes. There are handy instructions in the back of the book for how to prep meats, pasta, and veggies ahead of time. Because many of these recipes were designed for cyclists, there are lots of options that are portable for eating on the go. The recipes are also highly nutritious. There are plenty of vegetables, minimal sugar, and not a lot of fat. None of the food is fake -- no engineered sugar substitutes or fat-free products. As I said, the authors give some suggestions on how to "build your plate" to make the recipes work for people with different energy needs.
Because the authors designed these recipes while feeding a team, most of them are designed for crowd appeal -- nothing seems too "out there." There aren't many difficult-to-find ingredients and the spice levels recommended make the food flavorful but not excessively spicy. I think they could appeal to whole families. Because most of the recipes are quick to make, they can take the place of takeout on busy nights, and I guarantee that even the heavier après recipes are lighter than the average pizza or delivery option.
|Roasted beet salad -- not exactly the way it's pictured in the book|
|French Toast Cakes|
Many of the other items, like mini-quiches and muffin-tin pies, would be good to bring to a party. They'd also be a lot better snacks to bring for kids' games and team practices than the typical cookies and chips. Jesse wanted this book to see if there were things he could make for cross-country team events, and I think a lot of these would work. The portables are really designed to be eaten during training, so as long as you have water available they could be slipped into a jacket pocket or into a bike bag to fuel a long training session.
I know some people who read this blog follow paleo-inspired plans. There probably isn't enough in these cookbooks that would work within their boundaries, though there are a few that use sweet potatoes as the base instead of grains or bread. Because different kinds of milks and bread can be used in most of the recipes, there are plenty that would work with a gluten-free or dairy-free diet. A pretty high percentage of the recipes contain eggs, so vegans might not find these books worth the money. Obviously anyone who wants to avoid or strictly limit carbohydrates would want to look elsewhere.
|(Amazon affiliate link)|
|(Amazon affiliate link)|
|The packaging on my books -- love the artwork!|
There are a few recipes on the Skratch Labs blog to give you a preview, if you are interested. You can purchase both cookbooks through the Skratch Labs website, like I did. The books came nicely packaged and included some promotional items -- see the website for details and current offers.
You can also, of course, get The Feed Zone Cookbook and Feed Zone Portables through Amazon.com (affiliate links).