It's easy to think of Skratch Labs as a hydration company. Their drink mixes are, after all, their most visible product and what they're best known for. And sure, I knew that they had a cookbook in the first few months that I was regularly using those drinks, but I didn't think I had much need for it. Then I picked one up. Then another. Now I have all three, and there's hardly a moment when they make it back onto the shelf.
When I visited the Skratch headquarters last summer, it was immediately apparent that food was as big a part of their lives as the drinks they made, whether fueling cyclists through intense races or just cooking for each other at the office. Delicious and nurturing food was as important as any ride or run or climb, and a big table to share it with friends was a key ingredient in any good meal. Behind the products that sustained my workouts was a larger lifestyle that I'm happy to have discovered.
The Skratch Labs recipes were developed and tested over years of supporting some of the most competitive races in the world, often made on the road under non-ideal circumstances, and now refined and distilled into these three great cookbooks by chef Biju Thomas and Skratch Labs founder Allen Lim. Each has its place, and any athlete or non-athlete will probably find one that resonates most with their lifestyle.
The Feed Zone Cookbook
The one that started it all. The preliminary section gives a user-friendly summary of how endurance athletes need to fuel, including advice on navigating the ever-changing sea of diets, as well as a breakdown of the ingredients and equipment most frequently used. With chapters laid out to mirror the primary nutritional portions of a training day, and lots of carb heavy meals like pizza with potatoes, or pasta on top of salad, this is clearly a cookbook meant for those who either have a very active lifestyle or a well developed sense of portion control. I still haven't made much from this one yet, but the pork green chili was a great start.
Feed Zone Portables
The first of the series that I picked up, and the one I use the most. Like the original Feed Zone, this one also leads off with a crash course in fueling, but goes into much greater detail about calorie expenditure. While much of this detail was less applicable to me as a primarily non-endurance athlete, I did find the bits about hydration and solid versus liquid food to be extremely useful in my own training. Every recipe I've tried has been fantastic too. Designed to be portable (obviously), the foods are all tasty and generally high in water content, making them easier to chew and digest than the packaged bars I used to carry in my climbing bag and then forget about for months. The mochi cereal bars have proven especially easy to make as last minute climbing food, and it's been fun to switch up the cereal, like these ones with a fall harvest mix.
This has also become my go-to breakfast cookbook, and with so many of the recipes baked in muffin tins at the same temperature, it's easy to make our breakfast guests think I worked way harder than I actually did!
Feed Zone Table
The newest and probably the most traditional of the three, this is also the one most suited to non-athletes who want to make good food without worrying about how to burn it off. Rather than dealing with nutrition as in the previous books, Lim instead uses the introduction to discuss the self-imposed isolation faced by many athletes due to their particular eating habits, and the importance of cooking and eating together in promoting well-being. The recipes are simple and generally lighter than in the previous books, and perfect for either entertaining larger groups or just making sure you have plenty of delicious leftovers on hand.
All three of the books are well laid out, full of easy to follow recipes with a wide international flavor and mouth watering photos of nearly every one, as well as complete nutritional information. The recipes are designed to be adaptable seasonally or depending on what ingredients are on hand, and I love the fact that specific substitutions are given to help those who may not have a sense of what is replaceable and what isn't. For example, the French toast cakes were great when I had a couple of croissants to use...
But when I didn't have any bread on hand, the same batter mixed with leftover rice and quinoa and some shredded coconut was just as delicious.
Likewise, I started off making the rice cakes as given in the recipes, but after learning the basic technique found myself branching out more frequently into whatever combinations sounded good at the moment. These ones with almonds, black sesame seeds, and rose water were a particular favorite.
If you're considering picking up one or all of these books, but aren't quite ready to commit, Skratch Labs has several of the recipes posted on their blog to try out. They also have several recipes posted for their outstanding cookie mix, which even with my minimal baking experience I've used to make both regular and vegan batches that I could happily live on.
So there you have it. Good recipes from good people who love good food. Check it out!