The most common way of thinking about ride food is to take a calories-in, calories-out approach, to look at the bite of processed energy food in your hand as fuel that’s only good for keeping your legs moving around in circles.
But chef, cyclist and Rapha Ambassador Lentine Alexis sees things differently. For her, ride food is a jersey pocket-sized chance to create a snack that’s as tasty as it is nutritious. Here, she shares two recipes that will put any store-bought energy bar to shame.
Homemade on bike nutrition
The food in your jersey pockets should be a small, delicious reward for the work you’re doing on the bike. Here in Colorado the winters are particularly harsh and after a spin along the snowy trails on my cross bike, I know I’m going to return home feeling depleted. The only remedy for that is good food and warmth.
There are plenty of reasons to make your own ride food. For a start, these recipes are far more nutritionally dense than bars you’ll find in a store, and far cheaper too. They’ll also happily double up as part of another meal (my spare frittatas will become part of my dinner this evening), and neither recipe takes longer than 20 minutes to make once you have the technique down. You can even substitute any of the ingredients for something you prefer, as long as the ratio of wet to dry ingredients is kept the same.
And if that doesn’t convince you, think of it this way – the next time you’re on a group ride with someone who is really struggling, give them a homemade Winter Mushroom Frittata or a Spiced Apple and Date Bar and you’ll have a friend for life.
Spiced Apple and Date Bars
This recipe makes eight bars, but it’s very easy to make a double batch, and you can use the same 8×8 pan to shape the bars. Everyone likes a different amount of winter spices here – make these as wintery you like.
- 1 cup (210g) Medjool dates, pitted and sliced in half
- Half cup (77g) dried apples
- Quarter cup (30g) dried currants
- Half cup (70g) walnuts and pecans
- 3 tbsp. (42g) organic maple syrup
- 2 tbsp. (14g) finely ground flax seed
- 1 or 2 tsp. spices (Any combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and chinese 5-spice or pumpkin pie spice)
- Preheat the oven to 350F/175F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil
- Toss the pecans and walnuts in 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup and add a pinch of the spices. Spread over the prepared baking sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes until the nuts are just toasted. Remove from oven, turn off heat, and set aside.
- Next, line an 8×8 pan with parchment or wax paper. Dust with ground flax seed, then set aside.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the dates, currants, apples, toasted nuts, maple syrup and a few dashes (about ½ tsp) of the spices. Pulse just until the mixture is chunky. Taste the mixture at this point – add spice to taste.
- Once you approve of the amount of spice, remove ½ of the mixture and reserve (this chunky portion will add texture to your bars!) Pulse the remaining mixture until it comes together and is smooth. A few remaining chunks are ok.
- Return the reserved chunky portion to the food processor, remove the blade and – with a plastic spatula or your hands – mix the chunky portion into the smooth paste.
- With the plastic spatula, scrape the mixture out onto the flax-sprinkled pan. Press the mixture out in the pan until it’s the same thickness all over, about half an inch. You won’t fill the entire surface of the pan – what is important is that it’s this shape that you’ll soon need to cut and wrap. I like to make my bars thick, so they’re easier to slice.
- Sprinkle the remaining ground flax seed over the bars. Then, cover the shaped bars with plastic wrap and allow to chill for three hours or overnight until firm. Remove from refrigerator, slice into bars or squares and wrap with parchment paper. You can store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Keep the bars in the refrigerator if you prefer a harder texture, or store at room temperature if you want a softer bite.
Winter Mushroom Frittatas
These egg and vegetable frittatas are a nice alternative to traditional ride foods and will go well with a pastry at your favourite bakery along the route. Bake them in a deep square baking pan, or in a muffin tin with paper liners. Either way, these are portable snacks and are equally delicious as quick breakfasts, or part of your post-ride meal.
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 2-4 kale leaves stemmed and finely chopped
- 6 large shiitake or cremini mushrooms, chopped
- 6-10 small spoonfuls of pumpkin pureé
- 2 sprigs each thyme and sage, chopped finely
- Juice from half a lemon
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 small handful crumbled goat’s milk or feta cheese
- 10 large eggs, beaten
- Preheat the oven to 350F/175C. Grease the sides and bottom of a square 8×8 pan with olive oil then line with a piece of parchment paper. (You can use a muffin tin lined with papers but these are harder to keep un-squished in jersey pockets.)
- In a medium sized bowl, place the kale, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and massage with your fingers to wilt the kale. Allow to sit for a few minutes.
- Add just a bit of olive oil to a skillet and warm over medium-high heat, then lower to medium heat and add the shallots and chopped fresh herbs. Sauté gently until the shallot is translucent and the herbs are fragrant. Then, add the chopped mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms are soft and brown. Remove from heat and add to the kale.
- Next, beat the eggs in a medium sized bowl. Add half of the crumbled cheese and more salt and pepper. Add to the kale mixture and mix until well combined.
- Pour the egg mixture into the prepared square pan (or divide evenly among muffin tins.) Dollop the spoonfuls of pumpkin evenly over the eggs and top evenly with remaining cheese. I like to add a bit more salt and pepper at this point.
- Pop the pan into the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes in a square pan of just 15-18 minutes in muffin tins – until the egg mixture is firm in the center when you jiggle the pan. The eggs will be nice and puffy all the way through the pan, and there won’t be any liquid on the surface of the fritatta. The cheese will be lightly toasted.
As soon as the frittata is out of the oven, it’s ready to serve. However, if you’re going to be wrapping the frittata for a ride cool completely then wrap in parchment paper, Scratch Paper or foil. You can also allow to cool for 20-30 minutes, wrap a few portions for your ride and finish wrapping upon your return. Expect the frittata to last for up to two days when wrapped or stored in an airtight container.
Find more of Lentine’s recipes at lentinealexis.com