Monday, February 26, 2007

We're Back and Why We Left

We're back. We landed in Syracuse Saturday night around 10:30, having left Tucson, AZ around 1:30 Mountain time. The pictures in this post say enough about why we left Syracuse in the first place.

Two years ago, we examined the average temperature records for the places in the U.S. with the warmest February temperatures. The place also needed to be interesting for bike riding, so Tucson, AZ and southern California topped the list. We took our mountain bikes to Tucson and explored some great trails for a week. We hammered ourselves riding several hours each day.

This year, we decided to go back, but this time we spent far more time in the hot tub at the bed and breakfast and less time in the saddle. We still took our mountain bikes and hit the great trails there, but we acted much more like average tourists this time. Check back later for a thorough account of our adventure.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sweet Potato Burritos

It's so cold outside, the locker room at the local Y is filled with frightened turtles. This is exactly the kind of weather when it's nice to come home and pull something filling and tasty out of the fridge, already made. These sweet potato burritos fit the bill perfectly. Cook them up then freeze or refrigerate them for later. We made a mess of them last Friday and then ate them Saturday after skiing and then again on Sunday. We still have enough in the freezer for a couple more dinners when we're feeling lazy. I've been enjoying them so much, I thought I'd share the recipe.

Sweet Potato Burritos

(For you trivia buffs out there, I believe "burrito" means "Little Ito", which I'm guessing is a nickname that Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Lance Ito earned during the O.J. Simpson trial. But then again, my Spanish is a bit rusty.)

Olive or vegetable oil
3 T chili powder
2 t ground cumin (careful pronouncing that one lest you ruin the recipe)
1 pinch cayenne pepper (little less or little more depending on how hot you like it)
3 T soy sauce
4 t prepared mustard
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 15oz cans red kidney beans, drained
2 15oz cans black beans ("frijoles negros", a fun food to say), drained
1/2 to 2 cups of water
3-4 pounds sweet potatoes, mashed
16 10-inch flour tortillas
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese

1) Prepare the sweet potatoes. Peeling, then dicing, then steaming for about 20 minutes, then mashing is a good way. Or if you're more ambitious and want a little more flavor, rub the skins with Crisco then bake the whole potatoes for about 50 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until soft, then peel them (ouch! hot!) and mash.

2) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

3) Saute the onion and garlic in the oil in a large skillet or wok until soft (the onion and garlic should get soft, not the wok)

4) Fold the beans in and mash them up a bit until it's a nice lumpy paste with some beans still whole or almost whole.

5) Stir in the water until the mixture is just a little sloppy and easy to slap onto a tortilla. Continue heating it at least until it's nicely warmed, if not a little hot.

6) Pour the chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, and mustard onto the beans. Admire the color combination from putting them in in that order, then pour in the soy sauce and stir it all up.

7) Sprinkle some water on the tortillas, stack them on a plate, and nuke them for 30-40 seconds to make them warm and pliable.

8) Smear a large spoonful of the mashed potatoes on the middle of a tortilla, followed by a large spoonful of the bean mixture, then topped with some cheese. Fold it up. Repeat until you run out of the fixins or the tortillas. It may take a couple tries to get the portions right, but we find we can get about 12-14 burritos out of the recipe.

9) Stack the folded burritos in a 9x13 glass or metal baking pan and bake them for 12-15 minutes, until the tortillas have your desired amount of crispiness.

10) Eat them until you can't eat anymore. Refrigerate or freeze the rest. They warm up just fine by nuking for a little while then re-crisping in a toaster oven.


Friday, February 02, 2007

It Begins

Yesterday marked a fresh beginning in my training. After 15 seasons of bike racing, I apparently needed a vacation. I put the bike away in late August of last year and since then rode maybe five times. I started running infrequently, and found that there were all sorts of stabilizing muscles that had been dormant during my cycling years. After the first couple runs, they complained miserably but came around eventually. I've been playing volleyball in a city recreation league over the winter too. After the first few games, my shoulders would seize up for a couple days and it would take a lot of effort to simply raise my arms above my head. As they strengthened and felt better the more I played, I realized they'd just been very weak and the demands I was placing on them playing volleyball was too high. I spent the time between volleyball games and infrequent runs working on house projects and generally sitting around watching Battlestar Galactica. In the middle of the cycling season, my weight hovered around 153 pounds. I am now at 162 pounds. I wouldn't mind the gain except that I know it's not muscle. There's this slightly squishy little band of flesh encircling my waist. I'm not used to being squishy. Running and volleyball served as a wake-up call telling me that, except for the few muscle groups dedicated to cycling, I was very much out of shape.

With a newfound desire to get into generally good physical condition, even if I have to gain some pounds of muscle and sacrifice my cycling climbing ability, I stepped into the attic last night, pumped up the tires, and hopped onto the rollers. I threw around some iron as well. The situps burned, the pullups and pushups completed numbered low and the reps fell off quickly with the dumbbells. But it felt good.

I put in an hour on the bike, with a 20-minute sub-maximal test I plan on doing weekly for a while. After warming up for ten minutes, I then rode for twenty trying to keep my heart rate at 175. In competition, I usually time trial around 185, so 175 is working somewhat, but not a killer. I will watch my average wattage at that heart rate go up as I become more fit. Last night, I spent the twenty minutes at 175HR at a paltry 205W average. I expect to see that number rise quite rapidly over the next few weeks. It had better, or else I'm going to suffer horribly on the mountain roads around Asheville in April.

See you on the road!