A couple weeks ago my husband and I joined about 20 other people for a weekend cycling trip around Masstown, N.S. Our accommodations were at the "hub of the wheel" from where we started each day's ride. Spectacular weather - a bonus at any time of year but especially in May - awesome scenery, and meeting new friends of "like activity" were components to the perfect launch for our cycling season.
Coming home with a new nickname was a surprise freebie.
Eating (and drinking) is energetically linked to long distance cycling (our days were from 70 - 130 kilometres/day) so naturally the focus on fuel (food) is big. Our paniers were stuffed with trail mix, fruit, homemade fig bars and raw peanut butter cookies
, water - and on the first day, tuna sandwiches and carrot sticks for our picnic lunch. Foodie that I am, I'm always keen on what people eat - and listening for what will be their treat for the end of the ride. Could be chips and a cold beer, for others a fresh cinnamon bun, or a double-scoop ice cream cone. Or a combination thereof! My treat choice is usually salty - nachos, pistachios - with an apple or banana, then lots of water to rehydrate before opening a cool "anything" - unless I want to end up with a dull headache.
On day two we linked up with a couple cyclists compatible with our pace and personality. A fantastic ride - rolling hills along quiet roads, wild enough country for a black bear sow and two cubs to feel at home. Terry had brought her standard lunch along - the rest of us decided to "eat out". A certain Big Al's
was getting a lot of pull because of their "best pies in the land" but my husband and Dean obliged my request that we check out a "revived" railroad dining car.
Perfect. The guys enjoyed their smoked meat on rye sandwiches and my chicken and veggie quesadilla was "yummyliscious" - the salty goat cheese just hit the spot.
Here's where my two road-and-lunch mates fell off the rails. They had polished off their lunches - plus what was left of mine - all the while contributing to our conversation about the benefits of healthy food choices, including eliminating sugar. With this disclaimer: if you do indulge in a treat, it should be worth it in taste and quality.
"Do you think Big Al's pies are really as good as they claim to be?"
The pie was scarfed down in record time - I helped with a taste of each. My husband loves lemon (anything) and the other kind was coconut cream. My idea of pie is fruit-something but according to these two taste-testers, the indulgence lived up to the restaurant's claim.
By this time it's 3:00 and we're still on our lunch break!! And we've got 50-plus kilometres to pedal.
We weren't ten minutes on the road and the guys were feeling awful - groaning and questioning whatever possessed them to eat pie on a full stomach with miles left to ride on a bike! No sympathy from me - but a lot of "what did you expect?!" - and I was branded with my new name.
Miss Healthy Pants.
My husband and our new-found friend were vowing never to eat pie again - well, at least not for lunch during a long bike ride. I was feeling fresh, showing and telling them I felt absolutely wonderful and ready to rock. Which I did.
Of course my lead was short-lived - they eventually worked through the discomfort of the combined fats and sugar's delayed digestion - and then Miss Healthy Pants was cycling hard again to keep up.
I love being a nutrition nut - but I don't aspire to be a nutrition snob.
This whole pie affair was in great fun. But at the end of the day, my goal is to encourage people to make healthy changes by sharing nutritious food facts, the consequences of poor nutrition, and that the choice is up to us. It's your body!!
In all fairness, my cycling buddies are generally healthy eaters (I think they're aiming for the 80% good -- 20% not-as-good rule). They liked these fig bars. Check.
Fig and Pumpkin Seed Snack Bars
(the extra step of chilling the dough in the freezer before baking helps these bars hold together - excellent travellers for camping, cycling, work lunches, etc.)
4 Tbsp. ground flaxseed, divided
3 Tbsp. warm water
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup organic millet puffs (or puffed rice)
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup figs, very finely chopped ( I used Calimyrna figs)
1/3 cup currants
1/ 4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. unsweetened almond butter
2 Tbsp. unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
Line an 8x8 baking dish with plastic wrap. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 Tbsp of the flaxseed with the warm water. Set aside.
In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the remaining 3 Tbsp flaxseed with the pumpkin seeds, millet cereal, buckwheat, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Process until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the figs and currants.
With an electric mixer, or by hand, beat together the almond butter, almond milk, maple syrup, vinegar, and reserved flaxseed slurry until smooth. Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.
Using slightly wet hands, press the dough evenly into the plastic-lined baking dish. Freeze for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lift the dough out of the pan using the plastic wrap. Cut the dough into bars. Place the bars 1-2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15-18 minutes until firm to the touch. Cool completely before serving. Store in an airtight container.
I kind of like my new nick name. You never know - Miss Healthy Pants may show up in future Q&A phone-in shows, as a newsletter title or a cookbook - or any other ideas out there?