Friday, April 15, 2016

"The Mountain Biker's Cookbook by Jill Smith-Gould" - Sausage-Beef Stew

Date I made this recipe:  April 10, 2016

The Mountain Biker's Cookbook written and compiled by Jill Smith-Gould
Published by:  Velo Press
ISBN:  1-884737-23-4; © 1997
Purchased at Bloomington Crime Prevention Association's annual sale
Recipe:  Sausage-Beef Stew – p. 48 by Chrissy Reden, Milton, Ontario (profile p. 92)

"Wind is an artificial hill and yesterday, it was a mountain."

Thus saith my husband, Andy Martin, after an absolutely grueling bike ride with some friends around Ames, Iowa this past Saturday.

Andy is a member of the Minnesota Randonneurs, a group of long-distance bicycling enthusiasts who take great pleasure and pride in participating in day-long rides.  This past Saturday, the Iowa Randonneurs group kicked off the spring season with a 125-mile bike ride around Ames, Iowa, home of Iowa State University.

And so it came to pass that Friday night, we motored our way down I35W to Mason City where we spent an overnight with friends, Doug and Emily.  Although both of them ride bikes, Doug and Andy like to do the long-hauls and since the ride started at 8 a.m. in Ames, requiring them to leave by 6 a.m. to get there on time, we gladly let them.  We are such accommodating spouses, I cannot tell you.

The weather in Minneapolis when we left was probably a sign of the apocalypse to come as it was windy as all get out with periodic snow showers to boot.  Seriously—one minute, it was clear and the next minute, it looked like someone split open a bean bag chair and threw the contents in the air.

When we arrived at Doug and Emily's, the wind velocity was nearly (Dorothy) Gale-force (I reference the Wizard of Oz) and we felt the need to batten down the hatches even if we weren't in Kansas or Oklahoma where the "wind comes sweeping down the plain."

And it continued to sweep down the plain, or at least the cornfields of Iowa, into the next morning and throughout the entire day.  And by the time the ride was done, in most cases a couple hours later than anticipated, the guys and gals who participated were all done in.  Most felt like they biked standing up which is what you'd feel if you were pushing against a major headwind from the north all day.

Although I suppose one could do these randonneur rides on a mountain bike, it is usual and customary to use a "regular" bike which is to say a "touring" bike, as opposed to a racing bike.  And Andy has a mountain bike but who would of thought that he would need it in Iowa which is pretty much hill-less?  Answer:  nobody.  (PS—I must have show-tunes on the brain because as soon as I re-read "hill-less," I thought of Professor Harold Hill's character from The Music Man.  The Music Man's writer, Meredith Wilson, is from Mason City, Iowa which is where we spent an overnight.  Anyway, now I have a hankering to listen to that soundtrack Which. I. Love.  "Oh-o the Wells Fargo Wagon is a comin' down the street, oh please let it be for meeeee.....")

So as Andy said after the fact, wind creates an artificial hill and by Saturday morning, it created a monster mountain.  By mile 50, all participants (about 20 in all) were spent and every mile thereafter was sheer torture.  When Doug called Emily in early afternoon, he stated that this ride was worse than another one he and Andy completed in Wisconsin a few years back called, appropriately and hilariously, Arcadia's Brute. During that ride, they climbed hill after hill after hill in Wisconsin (who knew it Wisconsin was hilly) and swore never to do that ride again.  But there they were, on a worse ride than that, all because of the wind.  ("They call the wind Maria – pronounced 'Mariah.'"  Yes, folks, another show tune – Paint Your Wagon.)

But when Emily inquired as to whether or not we should hit the road in our car to pick them up, Doug said "WE ARE FINISHING THIS RACE!!!!"  leaving us in no uncertain terms that the elements would not have the best of them that day – or any day bwahahahahaha.... 

Meanwhile, Andy's ride was no picnic and he probably could have finished had not his knee started aching somewhere around mile 50.  By the time he got to mile 100, he was screaming in pain and so when he got to one of the checkpoints – a bar called the Flat Tire Lounge (ha!)- he propped up his knee, ordered a beer, and called for reinforcements.  Poor guy.  But if he bailed out on the ride, at least he did so in a bar where he could ask for, and was granted, a bag of ice for his knee.

So that concludes the story of the guy's wild "What the hell, Mother Nature?" randonneur ride, the first ride of (ahem) spring.

 Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Emily and I had a leisurely day.  After getting coffee at a local coffee shop, we hit the road in a car (what are we nuts) for Ames.  Unfortunately, the wind was again whipping across I-35W making it seem at times like we were stuck in place.  And even though Emily filled up the tank before we left, the wind sucked out any decent gas mileage, that bastard!

When we got to Ames, we took a leisurely tour of ISU's campus, a place last visited by me circa 1985 (some friends are alums) and strolled into some of the buildings, partly to get out of the wind, and partly just to see the sights.  As is the case in the Midwest, when spring (or something akin to spring) makes its presence known, building facility management has a hard time keeping up with the usual and customary yo-yo temperatures (freezing one day, balmy the next) and the buildings we were in were saunas.  And so we spent the afternoon taking off jackets, putting them on, rinse and repeat.  Still, this was better than being on the open road, amiright?

And after our leisurely tour of all that was Iowa State (we also saw Ames' high school prom get underway at the Union - awwww), we shopped and strolled in downtown Ames.  And what a cute downtown it was!  Unfortunately, most stores closed at 5 so we didn't get much of a chance to peek in, but we managed to stop at three of note:    Ali Cakes for a "tide-us-over" snack of cookies and cupcakes; Random Goods, a store selling used and vintage apparel and knick knacks (I found a fabulous wooden tray and coasters from Puerto Rico, circa 1970?) and Chocolaterie Stam where, inexplicably, an adorable older man in his 80's was playing a grand piano of "pop standards" (songs sung by Sinatra, Ella, Bing, etc.) while shoppers perused then purchased their chocolate.  He even let me select a song from his song list and then played it beautifully, his fingers dancing across the keys.  The last time I was near a piano, my fingers danced because I was dusting. ;) 

And so this concludes the guy's biking (and cursing) portion of our program and Emily and my takin'-life-easy moment in Ames.  Guess who had the better time?

And with that, we hit the road, and as we were driving back to Minneapolis, I recalled that I had a mountain bike cookbook in my collection and since we now know that wind creates artificial hills and mountains decided to find it and cook from it for Sunday dinner.

As these things go, sometimes it takes me forever to settle on a book, never mind a recipe, for this blog but this time it took me mere seconds to settle on a "winning" recipe – Sausage-Beef Stew.  I ran it by Andy who said it sounded good (and it was) and so while off to do a few (low-impact) errands, we stopped and shopped for groceries and I came home and put this together.  Of course, this type of meal is best made before the ride to prime the muscles and carbo load but we didn't have time and frankly, I think it was a tasty reward for a job well done (past tense).

As to this cookbook, author Jill Smith-Gould, pictured on the cover seated at an elegantly appointed table in her muddied and dirty mountain biker gear, is a professional mountain biker who apparently also enjoys cooking.  I can get behind that.  Some of the recipes in this book are hers while others were submitted by mountain biker brethren.  As you might imagine, these are fairly nutritious recipes, perfect for an amateur or professional athlete both pre- and post-event and speak to vegetarians as well as meat eaters. Recipes range from "Veggies and Main Courses;" "Pasta and Pizzas;" "Baked Goods;" and Miscellaneous that includes soups, salads, breakfast items, sauces and dips and "Quickies" i.e. food made in a hurry (so as best to get back on the race course).

So hmm, what to choose, what to choose?  Many of these sounded great such as "Awesome Veggie Enchiladas" (p. 33), "One-Dish Chicken Pilaf," "Ratatouille Bake" (p. 44), or even "Sweet & Sour Chicken" (p. 49).  Several pasta and pizza dishes also sounded good and the Baked Good section was mighty tempting!  Still, I tend to like to make a main dish, especially on a Sunday night, and so went with the stew.

Also included in this cookbook were profiles and photos of mountain bike racers, the recipes they submitted, and an section about nutritious eating. 

Not included in this cookbook?  Serving sizes!  I looked and looked and looked but there's either some secret handshake section that I missed or we're supposed to guess.  And if you read my blog, you know how I feel about guessing!

But guess I did and seeing that the recipe called for six Italian sausages and 1 pound of stew meat, I decided to halve the recipe as that sounded like a lot of meat for two people, never mind the rest of the ingredients.  As it turned out, we had a decent amount of leftovers so half this dish could probably serve four unless you are a mountain biker in which case...I have no idea!

Still, even though I decided to halve the meat, I was at a loss for what to do with the two green peppers included in the recipe ingredient list.  The recipe instructions said "...add green pepper" and I was pretty sure they did not intend for me to just throw a whole green pepper into the pot so I diced it into medium-sized dices.  You should do the same with the potatoes and (if used) turnip or sweet potatoes as you won't find direction beyond "peel and cut."  I ask you:  how is that helpful?

My version of this dish then, was composed of three Italian sausages, one-half pound of stew meat, 2 regular potatoes, 1 sweet potato (I skipped the turnip) and half of everything else.  This bakes in the oven for a little over an hour and it was great and oddly rejuvenating but then it would be given that our get-out-of-Iowa Saturday dinner consisted of a sandwich on the run from Jimmy John's (subway/sandwich take-out)! Andy took the recipe-submitter and mountain bike racer, Chrissy Redden's serving suggestion to pair this with crusty bread and beer to heart (we skipped the salad) and was a fairly happy, if not sore, camper come Sunday night. 

With all that, you'd think the man would wait a while before hoping on a bike again, right?  Oh no, in addition to riding to work this week, he's back in the saddle for another group ride on Saturday, April 16th.  Here we go again.  I keep trying to remind my man  that Nature is NOT your friend (my life motto) but he's not having any of it.

This then concludes our post-bike (mountain or wind-created mountain) bike repast or, as I posted on Facebook "Yesterday In Iowa."

Sausage-Beef Stew – serving size not given but estimates are serves 4 if you make the  full recipe below and 2 if you halve it (still with leftovers)
6 sweet Italian sausages
1 lb stewing beef, cut in 1" cubes
1 large onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 medium green peppers (Ann's Note:  diced)
4 potatoes, peeled and cut (Ann's Note: cut into a large dice)
Turnip or sweet potato (optional) (Ann's Note:  cut into a large dice)
2 cans red kidney beans
1 tsp basil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 beef bouillon cubes in 1 cup boiling water
Beer (optional)

Brown sausages well.  Cut each link into thirds and place in 3-quart casserole dish.

Brown beef cubes in same frying pan or skillet.  (Ann's Note:  the next instruction is to cook the onion and garlic but it didn't say if I should leave the beef in the pan or not.  I decided "Not.")

Cook onion and garlic until tender, add green pepper and cook one minute longer.

Turn into casserole dish.  Add potatoes, drained kidney beans, and, if desired, turnip/sweet potatoes.  Sprinkle with seasonings and mix lightly.  Add bouillon mixture.

Cover and bake at 350F for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until beef and potatoes are tender.

Add beer for an interesting flavor!  (Ann's Note:   Andy said he'd rather drink a beer than include it in the recipe so we made is sans that "interesting" flavor.)

Ann's Note:  I had some celery that I wanted to use up so I sautéed it with the onion, garlic and green pepper.  You could probably do that with other vegetables if you wanted.

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