Monthly Archives: June 2008

How-To Videos For Bike Repair and Maintenance

The Bicycle Tutor - Bike Repair Video Tutorials.jpg

Thank you, Lifehacker, for introducing me to The Bicycle Tutor, a website that shows you how to fix just about any kind of bike problem.

Run by a photography enthusiast and serious bike geek, the site offers plain-English tutorials in both hi-res video and full text. The streaming videos are free to watch on the site, but you can buy QuickTime videos for a buck or two to load on your iPod and bring out to where the work is. It’s a good bookmark for everything from changing a flat to replacing your chain rings.

I so need to watch the How To Tune Up Your Bike video.

The Bicycle Tutor [via Lifehacker]

Four-Seed No Knead Bread


If you’ve ever wanted to bake bread but were always too chicken to try, then please visit Jim Lahey’s article and give No Knead Bread a whirl. I’ve been baking bread this way for months and I swear it’s the best thing ever. Why? Because fresh homemade bread is like sliceable heaven. There is a certain beauty in its simplicity: water, salt, yeast and flour. That’s all it takes! This is whole, natural food, folks. No preservatives needed. All that hippy stuff aside, what really gets me baking are the flavor and the time. Jim Lahey’s recipe turns out a seriously delicious loaf of bread, and because there’s no kneading involved, it’s super quick to throw together (aside from the 18-hour rise time!).

I’ve made dozens of no knead bread loaves, and with each new attempt I usually try something new such as added seeds or different flour (I highly recommend Dove’s Organic Strong Wholemeal Flour). Last week I was feeling ambitious and went for a variation of the Seeded Sour loaf posted on The loaf contains quinoa, millet, amaranth and poppy seeds, plus a bonus seed coating on the outside. I didn’t have sourdough starter so I used yeast. The resulting loaf had a nice texture and I discovered how much I love poppy seeds. The only think I’d skip next time is the amaranth in the seed topping – it was a little crunchy for my tastes. Otherwise, the seed topping is awesome and I think I’ll use it for all of my loaves because it makes it easy to get the dough out of the bowl.

To make sense of what I’m talking about, visit Breadtopia and check out their recipe and video. I highly recommend watching the video; I learned so much just by watching the baker handle the dough and manage the seeds. It also gave me extreme baker envy as he had all these useful tools like a dough scraper and a “proofing” bowl. The same page also contains three other no knead variations that might suit your fancy.

Tempting Textures: Quinoa, Amaranth, Poppy and Millet

Four-Seed No Knead Bread

30 grams rye flour
70 grams strong whole wheat bread flour
370 grams strong bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/2 tsp. quinoa
3 1/2 tsp. millet
2 Tbs. amaranth
1/2 Tbs. poppy seeds
1/4 tsp. yeast
350ml water
2 Tbs. yogurt

Seed Topping Ingredients:

1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 1/2 Tbs poppy seeds

Combine all dry ingredients (except the topping ingredients) and mix with the combined wet ingredients. Stir until the dough has the consistency of a shaggy ball, adding more water if necessary. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest in a warm place for at least 12 hours (and up to 24 hours. The dough is ready when it’s about double in size and spotted with big bubbles.

Give the counter top and your hands a generous sprinkle of flour. Turn the dough onto the counter. Pull the dough at either end to form a strip. Fold this strip into thirds (like a business letter). Give the dough a quarter turn and fold in thirds again. I’ll refer to these folds as “seams”, i.e., “right now your dough is on the counter, seam side up.” Cover with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Oil a large bowl with olive oil. Add the seed topping ingredients in the bowl and swish the bowl around until the inside is covered in seeds. Put the dough ball into the bowl seam side down. Cover with the plastic wrap and let sit for 2-3 hours. The dough is ready when it has more than doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, remove the HOT pot and pour in a bit of olive oil. Swirl it around so that oil covers the entire inside of the pot. Now, take the bowl containing the dough and quickly turn it upside down over the pot so that the dough falls in seam side up. Cover the pot with a lid and bake for 40 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake another 5 or so minutes, until the loaf is browned and the seeds are toasted. Cool on a rack at least 45 minutes before slicing.

No Knead Recipe Variations
No knead Bread – Jim Lahey’s original recipe

Beautiful Bircher Muesli

skitched-20080629-203012.jpg You may already know that I’m bonkers for Bircher muesli. This week, I continue to spread the word over at Diets In Review. Check out the post for a little history lesson and a tasty recipe.

Here’s a snip:

In 1900, Bircher invented the now famous “muesli cereal”. His original recipe is vastly different from the sugar-coated, toasted muesli we typically find in the grocery store today. Instead, Bircher combined soaked oats, fruit and nuts with grated apple and lemon juice to create a naturally sweet breakfast cereal designed to energize and heal the body.

For any raw foodies in the audience, be aware that rolled oats aren’t raw (they are usually steamed before packaging). However, you can sub sprouted buckwheat or whole oat groats for a totally raw breakfast treat.

Read on for the recipe…

Veggie Breakfast Bircher Muesli [Diets in Review]

Is fructose fueling the obesity epidemic?


It’s a bad week for the Corn Refiners Association. First, the Center for Science in the Public Interest slammed the CFA’s PR campaign to convince susceptible consumers that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is “natural”. Now, a new study suggests that fructose-based sweeteners, including HFCS, may be worse for your health than other sweeteners.

Scientists at UC-Davis tested the impact of fructose against other sugars by studying 33 overweight individuals, half of which received a quarter of the their calories from fructose and the other half from glucose.

The findings show that both groups put on the same amount of weight, around 3.3 lb, over the 20 week experiment.

However, while those eating high amounts of fructose accumulated fat around their middle, in the glucose group extra weight was spread across the body.

Previous studies have shown that people with “pot-belly” fat are at greater risk for developing heart disease and diabetes.

Corn Refiners’ Ad Campaign Called Deceptive
Sugar from fruit ‘encourages a pot belly’

Yoga: Not Just For The Flexible

This is a guest post by Heather Ashare. Heather has been a dedicated practitioner and instructor of Ashtanga yoga for the past six years and is a staff member of the website, Diets in Review. Read her previous guest blog about the 5 things beginners should know about yoga.

There is a misnomer that in order to do yoga, you have to be able to touch your toes. Feeling that you have to be flexible in order to take a yoga class is on par to feeling like you have to be an Indy 500 winner to drive a car. It is just simply not true.

If your stiff joints are keeping you from doing yoga, here are three tips to quell your fears:

  1. Yoga practitioners come in all shapes, sizes and ranges of motion. I’ve often heard that those who are the least flexible are open to gaining the most in yoga. Their bodies will respond so well to the opening of the joints and the extension of the muscles and ligaments that yoga requests of each student.
  2. You can only improve. By not doing yoga and not stretching your muscles, you will only continue to develop more rigidity. Even if those first few classes have your hamstrings feeling like sore taffy the next day, over time, you will create more length in your body and that will make the postures easier to do.
  3. No one is looking anyway! In yoga, rather than looking at the person next to you, you focus on what is called the drishti or focal point. Each posture has a drishti point whether it is your nose, your navel or your toes. The idea behind having this set gaze is to keep your attention focused and not distracted by what your neighbor is doing or even by what you may look like as you stay in a posture. A drishti quiets the mind and prevents your thoughts from racing which happens when we start to flick our eyes back and forth at things and people. So remember, no one is looking at you.

The main idea behind any yoga class is to have fun and set your fears aside. When you tune out what is going on around you and tune into your own body, you might be amazed at what you discover.

You can read more from Heather at the Diet Blog.

Top 10 Summer Cycling Tips

Best cycling tattoo ever: the classic chain ring smudge on the inner calf.*

The always useful tredz blog shares ten great tips for summer cycling. Most of the tips are great advice all year round, such as staying hydrated and carrying a quality bicycle lock, but they do point out one thing that I always manage to forget when the sun is out: SUNBLOCK! Very important stuff for keeping your skin happy and your tattoos bright.

Talking of sunburn, and I will be for the next three months being ‘strawberry blonde’, don’t forget to slap on plenty of sunblock. Cycling not only makes the rider vulnerable due to the typically long periods of exposure, but also the sweat on your skin will increase the effect of the sun. And of course you’ll look like a wally with the tan lines from your cycling gear.

My advice: keep a small container of sunblock with you. My sis gave me a stick of SPF 18 Hemp Tattoo Balm that I keep in my bag. It’s pretty good and the stick makes it easy to apply without getting my hands all nasty.

Top ten summer cycling tips [Tredzblog]

* This groovy tat belongs to my buddy, Michael. I was there when he had it done, using a picture of my real-life chain ring smudge as a template. I felt honored.


Red Lentil Dal with Panch Phoran


It’s no secret that I’m a dal fanatic. Rich in protein, low in fat, and very high in flavor, dal is one of nature’s perfect foods. It’s quick and easy to make and tastes like a dream. I didn’t think it could get any better than this, but Susan proved me wrong with her recipe for Cauliflower Dal with Panch Phoran. I love the way she describes this dish:

Sometimes a recipe comes along that’s so spectacular that you feel compelled to climb your way up to the top of the nearest alp and sing like Julie Andrews, giddy and overflowing with such love for the world that the power of your emotions threatens to send you skidding down the mountain on the backside of your lederhosen.

I can’t say I was singing, exactly, but the dal did make me extremely happy. The secret is in the Bengali spice blend called “panch phoran” (also spelled panch phoron and panch puran).

Panch Phoran is easy enough to make from spices readily available at most grocery stores. Simply mix equal parts of fenugreek, mustard seeds, onion seed, fennel seeds and cumin seeds. Make a big batch because I guarantee you’ll be using it again.

Panch Phoran

Here is a simplified version of Susan’s recipe. I’ve subbed the cauliflower with spinach and use tinned tomatoes instead of fresh.

Red Lentil Dal with Panch Phoran

Serves 6

250 grams red lentils (masoor dal)
4 cups water
1 teaspoon turmeric
olive oil
1 tablespoon panch phoran
10-20 curry leaves
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
400g tinned diced tomatoes
pinch of chili flakes (optional)
salt to taste
1 cup chopped spinach

Combine the red lentils, water and turmeric in a pot. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer until the dal is tender, about 20-30 minutes.

While the dal cooks, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the panch phoran and curry leaves. As soon as the seeds start to pop, add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook until the onion is soft (it should not brown). Add the tomatoes, cooked lentils, chili and salt. Cook for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to bend. Shortly before serving, add the chopped spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted.

Serve hot with basmati rice.

Panch Phoran

DIY Healthy Prepackaged Soups


I’ve been meaning to do this for some time: make up baggies of ready-to-make lentil soup for easy peasy dinners, especially at the campsite. Luckily, Diet Blog has me covered with some excellent directions for How to make Soup in a Bag.

The article includes a few bonus recipes for lentil soup, split pea soup and quinoa soup! So stop spending money on spendy store-bought soup mixes and check out the article for some soup ideas that’ll save you money and taste way better than that Knorr stuff.

So what is “Soup in a Bag?”

Simply put, it’s all the ingredients you need for a big (or small) pot of soup. Although summer is right around the corner, you might not want to have the stove on for hours and hours. For this reason, I’ve included some soup recipes that won’t take you too long to cook.

The best part of this is that you don’t have to dig in all of your cabinets the next time you want to make soup; you’ll be able to just pull out a proportioned bag, add a few fresh vegetables, and you’re good to go.

How To: Make Your Own Pre-packaged Soups [Diet Blog]

Smarter Snacking: Popcorn


One of the best things about living in London is the theatre. There are dozens of shows to choose from every night of the week, from grand big-budget productions to small-scale acts performed in cozy local playhouses. The best part is the price – even the big shows can cost less than £20 if you don’t mind sitting amongst the gods. Recently, I’ve been taking advantage of this and indulging in one of my top-secret guilty pleasures: musicals. A few months ago I saw Wicked (loved it) and last Thursday I took Tim to see Hairspray (liked it). In both cases I paid less than £20 for my ticket and snuck in some homemade popcorn and bottled water to cut costs even further.

There’s something wonderful and nostalgic about munching on salty popcorn in a dark theatre while watching an old dude in polyester fondle the fake boobies of a fat man in drag, all the while singing “you’re like a stinky old cheese babe / just gettin riper with age.” It got me thinking about how sad it is that popcorn has developed a horrible reputation for being a fat-laden butter bomb. Without the grease and the fake cheese, popcorn is actually a pretty healthy snack choice. It’s a natural, whole food and if you air pop it with one of those cool air-popping gizmos, two cups of popcorn has just 61 Calories and 2.4g fiber. Best of all, you can augment your popcorn with whatever tasty seasonings you like, such as salt, pepper, or my favorite, cayenne pepper.

Even if you don’t have an air-popper, you can do like I do and make it on the stove (see recipe below). “But what about Microwave popcorn?” you ask. Like many things that come out of a factory, microwave popcorn is riddled with controversy. There’s some evidence that the bags used for microwave popcorn contain a carcinogenic acid, and the EPA is studying potential bad things associated with the fake butter used to flavor “buttered” microwave popcorn. I say it’s best to stick with whole foods, even if (or especially if) one of those foods is real butter tossed with natural, unadulterated popcorn.

Stove-Top Popcorn Recipe

Makes 2 quarts

  • 3 Tablespoons peanut, grapeseed, or other high smoke point oil
  • 1/3 cup of organic or non-GMO popcorn kernels
  • salt and seasonings to taste

Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan on medium high heat. Put 3 popcorn kernels into the oil and cover the pan. When the kernels pop, add the remaining popcorn kernels in an even layer. Cover, remove from heat and count 30 seconds. Return the pan to the heat. The popcorn should begin popping soon, and all at once. Once the popping starts gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner. When the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove it from the heat, add salt and seasonings, and serve.

Is low fat popcorn a healthy snack? [World’s Healthiest Foods]

100 Pushups or Bust

A little over a week ago, JD at Get Fit Slowly announced that he was starting the “one hundred pushups” training program. Loads of people have followed his lead and I think I’m inspired to join them.

It’s been a while since I’ve done any resistance exercise, over a year, in fact. Since I I quit the gym, I’ve been swimming, cycling and walking up a storm. And though I’ve been meaning to work in some sit-ups and pushups, I never quite got around to it. I optimistically hoped that swimming would keep my upper body strength up to snuff, but this morning I learned otherwise.

I set off to do my first pushup, body raised off the ground, straight as a board. I lowered myself down and encountered a bit of a surprise: it was really hard to push myself back up. I was shocked by how difficult it was.

I know I have more pushups in me. I’m not sure about 100 – this isn’t a numbers game, after all. I’d rather be able to do a few pushups with good form than a whole bunch of jerky, pointless excuses for pushups. The “one hundred pushups” program seems like a good place to start. So why not?

More blogging about 100 pushups:

Anyone else got pushup fever?