This last year I have been questioning my diet for a few reasons. Basic health, boredom with what Ive been cooking and exercise supporting nutrition to name some. I was not getting super motivated to do a lot about it though. When my parents asked me if there was anything I wanted for Christmas I threw out a few cook book titles on a whim that Id seen on Amazon and low and behold, what was under the tree but The Feed Zone Cookbook, Feed Zone Portables and the Racing Weight Cookbook!
My parents rock.
So why am I writing about these books 5 months later (besides the fact that Im a slacker?). Well, I wanted to give them an honest run for their money. Here is what I found:
Racing Weight Cookbook
This has been my "go to" book since I got it. The recipes are easy, prep times very accurate, use basic ingredients and simple prep and are flavorful. Additionally, this book is set up in 3 sections for "dont cook", "kinda cook" and "love to cook" or as I call them, "no time", "some time" and "more time". Each section has breakfast and lunch/dinner sections with a great variety of options. I have prepared most recipes multiple times and have found only a few duds. Most of these rock and Ive enjoyed them over and over. The variety ensures you will find something that works fro where you are from a smoothie to a filling one pot meal. The salads are really excellent and I have enjoyed adding those to anything I prepare. Most vegetarian meals augment well with meat. There is some guess work with meals as to what to pair them with but usually the photograph gives a hint or two.
One recipe that impressed me were the cottage cheese pancakes. I LOVE baking and breakfast and these recipes looked totally alien from the whole grain pancake recipes I almost can recite from memory. I gave them a go and LOVE them, especially the banana walnut one.
Also, the meals are marked vegetarian, carb, protein and/or recovery. Pretty handy for quick reference.
And the whole family enjoys these recipes. Very important.
Instead of listing the good recipes which would be most of them, Id just say it is hard (not impossible) to go wrong with this book. And most recipes are so fast to make that you too may keep it on the kitchen counter almost all the time. Highly recommended- Im not sure who this book could dissapoint.
I should point out that this book was intended to be part of some weight management program to attain your optimum racing weight. You can check out the author's website for more info. Personally, this is all too much to add to the few free brain cells I have available and as a fair to middling competitor, Im happy just getting out there and racing! Anyway, the book goes into all of this in the beginning but I kinda lost interest fast. YMMV.
The Feed Zone Cookbook
First, aesthetically, this is a beautiful book. The binding is durable as heck, it has one of those built in book mark ribbons and stays open easily. I wish more cookbooks were like that!
On to the meat of the book (ha ha). The authors are focused on feeding pro cyclists from the kitchen of an RV and most of these recipes dont need a lot of fancy gadgetry or high end cooking techniques. They are big fans of rice cookers and a blender or food processor and that is about it besides the kitchen essentials for oven and cook top use. This makes the meals easy to prepare on the road and Ive started using them on car camping trips like going climbing for the weekend. It is impressive to whip up Orange Chicken while those around you are doing burritos...AGAIN.
The book is organized by meal with breakfast, "apres" for after your workout and dinner as well as portable snacks for during the workout and a bunch of basic recipes for adding flavor or more carbs or such. There is also a dessert section. I have used a number of breakfast, apres and dinners out of the book, some multiple times and they are really good as well as easy to prepare. I have not really gone through the book super thoroughly and there are many good meals waiting for me to discover them, Im sure. There are some however that just dont appeal to me for whatever reason. For instance, a cold orzo based chicken dish just doesnt fire me up but mid summer who knows?
I have not tried any of the desserts since I rarely eat more than a few pieces of chocolate from time to time and if I do it is gonna be home made chocolate chip cookies not some low cal slightly sweet thing. Sheesh!
Also, while I really want to try out some of the "portables" or mid workout food options I have not yet tried any from this book. Some seem pretty good though so that will come in good time I think.
The meal prep times are pretty accurate. The serving sizes seem fairly accurate for adults usually being "serves 4". However, I dont have 4 ravenous adult athletes in my house but a modest family of 4. Therefore I find the servings just a little large- I usually have enough left over for lunch the next day which I like. Im sure as my kids turn into teenagers this little luxury will dissapear though.
A note here- the meals are all enjoyed by my young kids- no complaints. An important consideration!
A few of my favorites: Biju's Oatmeal (who knew oatmeal could be this awesome - and I love the stuff and eat it all the time!), Orange Chicken, Chicken and corn cakes, Turkey Lettuce Wraps (with rice), Chicken Masala, the Empanadas (the sauce is the key- dont skimp!), Rice and eggs (a favorite from decades ago when I was stationed in Asia and had forgotten what a treat it could be!), Sweet potato cakes and Bacon potato cakes. There are more but those are good to get started with!
Bottom line, this cookbook is easy to use and has a wide variety of tasty meals that are great for folks engaged in endurance type workouts.
Feed Zone Portables
This is basically an elaboration on the "portables" chapter from the Feed Zone Cookbook. The most interesting part of the book is the intro which basically questions if you even need the book. I love that critical thinking kind of mind set. The end result of all the math and talk though (which is very interesting) is that if you are exercising for over 2 hours you probably need to augment the calories you already have on board and you probably need about 200-300 calories/hour to do that. Nothing you dont already know but it is interesting to see why.
Also, there is great discussion on why solid nutrition is a must after a small number of calories an hour in liquid form. Interesting reading and something I have found to be true even though I love liquified carbs.
The recipes all make large batches of home made energy bars. Some sweet and some savory. The sweet ones are OK but the savory ones ROCK. My kids, wife and I all agree on this even though my son and I are carb junkies and go for the sugar every time in most settings. However, the sweet ones are OK so add a nice bit of variety.
The batches are easy to prepare but take a little time which is why I know a few people with this book who tried it once and have never gone back to it. I have not used it much but plan on continuing to use it for a while to keep experimenting.
Some of the recipes are more time intensive than others though and might never get tried in my kitchen.
Also, the large batches are problematic since the servings will start to dry out in the fridge if not consumed quickly.
One thing about all these recipes is that they dont work like store bought energy products. Real food takes time to release so plan on starting to eat well before you need it and keeping the intake going at a steady pace.
Finally, the fancy parchment/foil paper used for wrapping servings is really cool but hard to find. If you look for the book on Amazon it sometimes pairs it with "Reynolds Consumer Pan Lining Paper" which is great since my local store doesnt sell anything like this. Parchment paper works OK but is not as durable.
Bottom Line- this is an attractive book but honestly the lowest on my list of what I actually use. If I was single, didnt have kids, didnt have 2 jobs, didnt work out and/or wasnt in school (again) Id probably use it more. I think.
Being mindful in what I have eaten had led to dropping a few pounds which was unintentional but welcome. Im back to what I weighed about 15 years ago and feeling strong. I have also, by sticking mostly to the recipes in these books altered my dietary habits to rely on more lean and healthy sources of sustenance. Its a lot like endurance training- consistency is key. While I still LOVE the occasional pizza and a beer, this change in routine eating habits, extended over a long period of time has added up to a good thing for my wife and I and helps us model healthy habits for our kids better to boot.Something to think about!
As always, Im interested in your thoughts, please leave a comment with your own thoughts on nutrition!