Introducing… Birding Bikes and Bites
Living with a hangry cyclist-birder means either being over-prepared or having a hard stop to the birding adventure due to a grumbling gut and shortened attention span. It’s a true thing, brain fog. It can be especially distracting if you can’t focus on birds or, sometimes in my partner’s and my case, if you’re miles away from home and using human-powered means of transportation.
Although birding is a low-impact outdoor activity (cycling, too), you do need to think about being physically and mentally prepared for the day. That’s why it’s important to fuel up properly – before, during, and after – so that you can enjoy longer birding hours.
Plan for the Unexpected
Take this experience as an example. One spring afternoon, you receive an alert for an American Bittern at an emergent wetland inside a business park. You drop everything to get there in time and, after half an hour of looking, you finally relocate it. On your way out, you hear a rail—a Virginia Rail that leads you to a Sora. You look up and spot some Yellow-rumped Warblers. “Maybe there are more warblers in the vicinity,” you think, just as a Palm Warbler appears in the periphery and a Yellow Warbler sings in the distance.
Turning around, you notice the flooded forest across the way, which looks like a fine habitat for Rusty Blackbirds. As you walk through the woods, brain fog sets in and you remember that you forgot to eat lunch before you left the house.
That’s basically what happened to us last weekend on a beautiful day of birding our five-mile radius (more on that in a future post). Back at home after the bittern chase, I was in the middle of preparing an early dinner – a spiced lentil stew – when I saw an alert about a Wilson’s Phalarope in a nearby flooded field. Every birder knows that you can’t dilly dally when chasing birds. So, everything went back into the fridge.
We were famished when we got home. But the ingredients were already chopped, prepped, and ready to go, so out came the dutch oven (a kitchen dynamo). The stew was absolutely delicious with a robust flavor. It hit the mark!
The recipe for this one-pot stew originates from the blog of a registered and licensed dietitian. It’s filled with flavor, protein, and fiber to keep you going longer. You can serve it with any variety of rice and top it with some fresh avocado chunks (recommended) or serve it on a toasted pretzel bun like a sloppy joe. If you’re cooking for two, there will be leftovers to help streamline lunches for the next few days of birding.
Even though we didn’t follow our own advice on this occasion, the bottom line is that birding should be paired with good food (and drink) that will fuel your adventures. What you’re going to see in these Birding Bikes and Bites posts is just that and more. Tasty recipes tried and tested by outdoor living, bike-pedaling, green-minded birders with a particular emphasis on small ways to live more sustainably for the birds.
A Final Note
If we didn’t mention that people, including ourselves, are spending more time cooking during the coronavirus pandemic, we’d be remiss. Cooking is one of several ways of social distancing, so now is the time to get creative in the kitchen from the comfort of home. Just don’t forget to practice social distancing when you’re out birding.
Stay tuned for more recipes from Bikes and Bites! You’re bound to find something you like between my veggie improvisations and Jonathan’s sandwich badassery.
Spiced Lentil Stew
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 ½ cup dry red or green lentils, rinsed
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- ½ medium red or yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 1 medium sweet potato, diced
- 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tsp. sazón seasoning
- 2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 2 tsp. dried basil
- ¼ tsp. cinnamon
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tsp. sugar (optional)
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- Place a dutch oven or a large pot over medium-high heat and add the oil. Heat until the oil flows easily.
- Add the celery and onions and sautée until softened.
- Add the green pepper, sweet potato, garlic, and ginger, stir and sautée for about 3 minutes.
- Add the spice mixture (sazón, paprika, ginger, basil, and cinnamon) and sautée until the spices become fragrant.
- Add the lentils, diced tomatoes, and broth and stir together.
- Bring to a boil, then add the bay leaf.
- Reduce to a simmer and cover the dutch oven or pot with a lid, stirring occasionally.
- Cook the stew for 35 minutes or until the lentils and sweet potatoes are tender.
- Remove from heat and let cool before serving.
- It’s not hard to buy sazón seasoning online, and spices aren’t price gouged.
- Before you begin cooking, measure out the spices and mix them in a small container.
- If you’re prone to heartburn after eating tomatoes, adding the sugar reduces acidity.