Cyclecation in Idaho

September 23, 2010

In August we spent two glorious weeks bike riding in Idaho’s panhandle. We stationed ourselves in Wallace, a small historic mining town whose claim to fame until the 1980’s was the host, (or should we say, “hostess?”), to more than a dozen brothels. Now the most notable red light in town is the Red Light Garage where huckleberry milkshakes are the claim to fame and locals play live music on the weekends. Aside from 300 miles of bike riding in two weeks we enjoyed swimming, tubing, fishing, hiking and eating huckleberries.

The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes is a 71 mile paved bike trail following the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way. The trails are smooth and wind through small towns, forests, rivers and around Lake Couer d’ Alene. The scenery is spectacular and the trails are easy to ride since the steepest grades are ones that trains used to summit. The trails are very safe for our seven year old to ride on his own bike and restroom access is readily available. We began our 20-40 mile rides at a different point on the trail each day ensuring an ice cream stop on just about every ride. The weather in August is ideal for bike riding: sunny, with temperatures in the low 80’s. Squirty’s longest ride was 40 miles! Once he tasted speed on his new Felt road bike, we couldn’t stop him. This is family bike riding at its best.

Cycling Chef Cycling

Cycling by the river

Harrison Trail

Bull Run Trail












The other bike riding highlight was mountain biking on breathtaking scenic stretches of railroad trails on the Route of the Hiawatha which winds through 10 train tunnels and 7 train trestles. The route is 15 miles downhill beginning at over 4,000 feet elevation. Aside from riding through pitch black, cold, drippy tunnels (the longest is 1.6 miles) the descent is fairly easy. The ascent on bikes was a sweaty, challenging 1,000 feet!

Trees! and more trees!

Hiawatha train trestle

A short train tunnel

Domestique in training

Stamina in the VeloKitchen

March 7, 2010

Mole Poblano

Ride a hilly Metric Century on my bicycle (62 miles) or prepare a Mole Poblano? Each takes about 5 -1/2 hours to complete, and both are epic events. Standing in the kitchen can be nearly as tiring as pedaling for that duration. I’ve had the pleasure of eating many kinds of moles of pureed spices, chiles, seeds and a myriad of other ingredients in Mexico many times. I had heard that preparing this Mexican haute cuisine dish from scratch was time-consuming, but I had no idea of the effort required.  The recipe I chose is from Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years of Food and Art (available on and is very similar to the one in Frida’s Fiestas, Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo a lovely, beautiful cookbook.

22 dried chiles

My preparation began by shopping at the Mercado Latino which sells the dried chiles in separate bags for about $2.50 each. Nearly every one of the 20+ ingredients in this mole needs pre-treatment before being combined into one of three distinct purees. I toasted, roasted, blanched, blended, plumped, chopped, popped, husked, ground, soaked, fried, … you get the picture. In my pre-cooking research, I read many warnings against taking shortcuts to avoid a muddy-tasting mole.

My husband helped out after his 30-mile bike ride by de-veining and de-seeding 22 dried chiles: 9 mulatos, 7 pasillas and 6 anchos. The dried chiles are black with specks of red and give the Mole Poblano its color. Chef Ravago strongly advises using exactly 22 chiles, and although you can vary the number of each, you may never substitute any other kind of chile. I counted out the chiles three times. I never question cooking superstitions, especially on such an elaborate dish.

Ibarra chocolate

In the spirit of keeping my blog posts at around 500 words, I will summarize the next few hours of the preparation process which challenged all of my cooking know-how and followed with heavy-duty pureeing to ensure smooth pastes. By the end of the afternoon, even my VitaMix and food processor were tired, their motors heating up in protest! I can certainly empathize with cooks from the days of old when the ingredients were hand-ground in a molcajete. After combining half a round of Ibarra Mexican chocolate with the purees, the mole quietly simmered in a dutch oven for about an hour requiring frequent stirring to prevent scorching. My fear of ruining four hours of food preparation and needlessly splattering the VeloKitchen and dirtying countless dishes counted toward my day’s upper body workout.

Mole Poblano is commonly served over chicken in Mexican restaurants. Frida’s recipe calls for turkey. Since we prepared this dish as an appetizer for a chocolate-themed wine dinner with foodie friends, we decided to present the mole over three kinds of meat: poached turkey, roasted duck and grilled pork, and served with a dark Mexican beer: Negra Modelo. My husband handled the roasting and grilling.

The result was a divine Mole Poblano: well-balanced, smooth, spicy, but not too hot, and no flavor overpowered another. By far, the duck brought out the virtues of the mole’s flavors and the beer nicely complimented the spices and textures.

If you are interested in more photos of the mole preparation process, please visit my Cycling Chef Facebook page and share your Mole Poblano cooking and eating experiences in the comments below!

Originally published on March 7, 2010.

©2010 Cycling_Chef’s Velokitchen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. All Rights Reserved

A Curry Love Affair in the VeloKitchen

November 22, 2009

I haven’t always had a love affair with curry, especially Indian curries. In fact, when I met Tony and we began our long distance, (7,253 miles or 11,671 km), year long courtship between Seattle, Washington, and Wellington, New Zealand via email, I learned Indian food was his favorite. The thought crossed my mind that we might not be as compatible as we had seemed in person. I now realize my Indian curry experience had been quite limited.

Hundreds of emails in 12 months where his burning question EVERY day was, “What are you having for dinner?” made me realize the way to this man’s heart was through his stomach. It wasn’t until after we were married and he moved many jars of assorted spices, seeds, pods, sticks, peppers and leaves into our spice cupboard that I learned he was quite serious about his curries. I made a mental note that to have harmony at our dinner table, I should learn to embrace Indian curries. As it turned out, he introduced me to my first homemade Indian curry via his favorite recipe book “Indian Curries” by Madhur Jaffrey. Timatur Murghi (Chicken with tomatoes and garam masala) was delicious! This dish is what I now call my “comfort curry.”

With curry peace achieved, my husband cooked about two curries a week. I started reading curry recipes but felt intimidated by the long lists of ingredients. It’s not unusual for a curry recipe to call for 10 to 15 spices PLUS another five or more other ingredients (meat, tomatoes, onions, etc.). Most curry recipe instructions are fairly precise of when to add each ingredient and the duration to stir, cook or simmer each before adding the next which makes them seem complicated, but once I got brave enough to cook the first few, the steps became logical.

I don’t remember which curry recipe I chose first to prepare on my own and without a pre-made curry mix, but I found cooking Indian curries quite enjoyable. That led to our next step, our 50 Curries Project, where we are cooking our way out of a curry rut of preparing the same 6-8 recipes. We decided to stretch our apron strings and are experimenting with different curry flavors by cooking our way through Camellia Panjabi’s “50 Great Curries of India” cookbook. The photos in the cookbook are mouth watering.

We are cooking the curries at random, and a few weekends ago we prepared our eighth curry from Panjabi’s book, Malabar Shrimp Curry (Konju Curry). The photo of this curry graces the cover of the cookbook and is a beautiful combination of red and orange accented with green curry leaves and hot peppers. We made this curry with U15 prawns. The most interesting and different preparation step from other curries we have cooked was heating two teaspoons of oil in a ladle over the stovetop burner and adding sliced shallots and curry leaves to infuse the oil which we poured over the prawns just before serving. We rated this dish 8/10 and will indeed be preparing this curry again.

Next weekend we invited friends to dinner for the ninth curry. I’m pretty sure we will delay making the egg curry, (I’ve got to get my head around hard boiled eggs and curry), or the Aab Gosht (Lamb Cooked in Milk). The photo of Aab Gosht shows white meat, apparently from the milk, served on white rice which doesn’t look too appetizing. But every curry in this cookbook has surprised our taste buds, so stand by for the next curry post and the rest of this book. We are committed to cooking all 50!

Do you enjoy preparing and eating Indian curries? Check out our Curry Crazy Project on our 50 Curries Project page where we are cooking our way through Camellia Panjabi’s 50 Great Curries of India cookbook!

©2009 Cycling_Chef’s Velokitchen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. All Rights Reserved.

Death Row Meal in the VeloKitchen

October 31, 2009

The D.C. sniper’s execution date is set for Nov. 10th, but I’m not here to debate the death penalty. Nor is this post meant to be morbid or macabre even though it’s published on Halloween. However, the topic brings up the question, if you were able, “What would you choose for your last dinner?”

death row mealMy husband has a menu he has long called his “Death Row Meal.” (He’s not planning anything sinister. Neither am I). His ultimate comfort food meal is braised lamb chops with onions and gravy served with boiled potatoes, green peas and cauliflower with English cheddar cheese sauce. This supper is a straightforward and hearty dish he insists on preparing whenever I bring home lamb chops. If I were choosing my last meal, I think I might like someone else to cook my dinner. In my research for this post, it seems that inmates on death row choose comfort foods or foods unique to their culture rather than meals that are exotic or rare. Some do not make a final meal request. Reportedly the most requested meal by death row inmates is a cheeseburger and fries.

Last year, at a wine dinner with our foodie friends, we went around the table and asked each person to describe their Death Row Meal. Because we are cooking and food enthusiasts, our conversation took a couple of hours and we ended up going around and around the table describing our “last” entree, appetizer, dessert and salad. The wide variety of choices, some simple and others rare, made for fascinating debate and quite a few laughs.

Feel free to leave a comment below of your Death Row meal!

Originally published on October 31, 2009.

©2009 Cycling_Chef’s Velokitchen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. All Rights Reserved.

35 Green Cardamoms in the VeloKitchen

October 25, 2009

35 cardamomsIn my research to write this post I learned that cardamoms are part of the ginger family. There are three types: green, black and Madagascar. The Indian curries we cook usually call for green cardamom and we use two to three whole pods which are cooked in the sauce and then discarded. Sometimes we forget to remove them before serving and we find out when we bite into something crunchy and bitter. This recipe, Elaichi Gosht, (Meat cooked with Cardamom), on p. 86 on Camellia Panjabi’s cookbook “50 Great Curries of India”, caught our attention because it is prepared with 35 ground green cardamoms, ten times more than any other curry we have cooked.

The other ingredient curious to us, as compared to other Indian curries we cook, is that this recipe calls for two teaspoons of ground black pepper. Our cookbook explains that in many parts of India this dish is prescribed to women who have recently given birth and in the Sindh region new mothers eat this curry every day. It makes me wonder how this primes the palates of breast-fed babes in India.

Elaichi GoshtMy husband prepared this curry with lamb, although it could be prepared with chicken. He ground the cardamom pods in our coffee bean grinder. The black pepper flavor was very intense and overpowered the other flavors, (tomatoes, turmeric, chile, coriander powder). This is our fifth adventure in our “50 Curries Project” and we have no regrets about trying something different, but it did not rate anywhere near one of our favorite curries. If we prepare this dish again, we would season it with about 1/2 tsp. black pepper, add garam masala before serving and garnish with a flavorful chutney.

Do you enjoy preparing and eating Indian curries? Check out our Curry Crazy Project on our 50 Curries Project page where we are cooking our way through Camellia Panjabi’s 50 Great Curries of India cookbook!

©2009 Cycling_Chef’s Velokitchen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. All Rights Reserved.

Thick as Fog in the VeloKitchen

October 16, 2009

pea soup

Fall has arrived in the Pacific Northwest which means rain, showers, drizzle, … I’ve heard that Native Americans in this area have 100’s of different words for the drippy stuff that falls on us pretty much constantly from October through April. I usually garage my bike for the season and opt for other exercise since I don’t like to be cold and wet. My husband is a year-round rider. Me? I prefer to buy my winter clothes at Nordstrom rather than Performance Bike.

This recipe is for a hearty split pea soup. I make it after my cycling season ends because it’s no fun being the stoker on a tandem bike after the bike captain eats this meal! I prefer not to puree the veggies for this recipe, so I chop them in small pieces before cooking. If you prefer a pureed soup or a vegetarian version, leave out the chopped ham and remove the ham hocks before putting the soup in your blender. This soup can be cooked in a slow-cooker or in a dutch oven. Both methods turn out a tasty meal. Enjoy!

Split Pea & Ham Hock Soup
Serves 8 (nice for leftovers)

2 cups dried split peas
2-4 ham hocks
1 lb. of ham, cubed
3 chopped leeks (use the white & green bits)
2 cups chopped carrots
2 cups chopped celery
2 bay leaves
Thyme – 3 tsp fresh or 2 tsp dried
1 tsp cracked black pepper
dash of cayenne pepper
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
6 cups water

1. I always forget to soak beans the night before so I quick-soak them by covering with cold water, bringing to a boil and letting sit for 1 hour.
2. Combine all ingredients. Slow-cook at low 8 hours or high 4 hours.

©2009 Cycling_Chef’s Velokitchen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. All Rights Reserved.

Rocking the Casbah in the VeloKitchen

October 12, 2009

About every three months we get together with three couples who enjoy fine food and wine for a homemade, gourmet meal of a specific cuisine. We rotate the preparation of each course, appetizer, salad, main dish and dessert. Recently we began stretching our cooking fortes by choosing cuisines out of our cooking comfort zones. At each dinner we continue to raise the bar of excellence! This weekend’s meal theme was Moroccan food and we prepared a Lamb Tagine. From my research I concluded that tagines differ in style and ingredients, especially in the selection of vegetables and fruits. For example, some recipes called for potatoes and peas and others for sweet fruits such as prunes or dates. The recipe below has none of these. If you already cook Indian curries, you will find the steps to prepare this tagine very similar. Below the recipe of my version of our tagine are some preparation tips.

Moroccan Tagine

1. Toss 2 lbs of lamb (or chicken) cut into bite-sized cubes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil to coat.

2. I used the spices recommended in the following Lamb Tagine recipe ( for the marinade making the following adjustments: I cut the cayenne pepper by half and, instead, added a hot pepper to the sauce and used about 5 cloves of fresh garlic instead of garlic powder. Here’s the marinade link:

Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients. Most are probably in your spice cabinet. I marinated the meat for about six hours.

3. Brown the marinated meat in a heavy bottomed pan. We used our trusty cast iron fry pan.

4. To prepare the sauce the meat will simmer in for 2 hours, I used some of Jamie Oliver’s recommendations from this recipe, Here’s my version:

In my cast iron dutch oven I sweated the following vegetables for about 15 minutes until they were soft and reduced in bulk by half.

2 cups onions, 1 red onion and 1 Walla Walla sweet onion
10 quartered carrots cut into three inch slices
6 celery sticks chopped thinly
5 garlic gloves
1 T freshly grated ginger
1 small hot chili (or more, or less, to your preference for heat)

5. Add 1 T balsamic vinegar and 1 cup of white wine. Simmer for a few minutes.

6. Add:
2 cans of chopped tomatoes with their juice
Zest of 1 lemon
6 anchovy fillets (Jamie Oliver says these bring out the flavor of the lamb and I agree. You won’t taste the anchovies in the sauce when the meal is cooked).

6. Add the cooked meat, bring to a boil and put in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 2 hours.
7. Serve over couscous and with Moroccan bread (or pita bread).

Preparation Tips:
– I attempted to make Moroccan bread from scratch, but mine turned out like hockey pucks, so, obviously, I need more practice.
– This recipe could easily be made in a slow-cooker. I would skip marinating the meat and add the spices to the meat and sauce. I haven’t tried this yet, but if you do, please leave a comment below.

Fig TartThis tagine was warm without overbearing heat from the chili. Each course of our dinner burst with flavors. We ate interesting appetizers of risotto cakes and chicken wings, a beautiful, colorful salad of roasted vegetables, an amazing fig tart with cardamon cream and nine bottles of fine wines. We enjoyed many laughs and another delightful wine dinner with our friends and we got to eat the leftover tagine which was just as tasty the the next day.


©2009 Cycling_Chef’s Velokitchen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. All Rights Reserved.