Jell-o for adults

I’ve been looking for some gluten-free desserts lately and I got to thinking about Jell-o.  It was always a childhood favorite.  Looking back I think the real attraction was that it was the only food you were allowed, even encouraged, to play with, or maybe it was just the neon colours and all of the sugar.  Over the last few years I’ve been learning of the many health benefits from the gelatin contained in Jell-o so I was excited to see it on sale last week for just $0.59 a box.  Then I read the package on the strawberry flavoured Jell-o:

Ingredients: Sugar, gelatin, adipic acid, sodium phosphate, sodium citrate, artificial flavour, fumaric acid, colour (E010B).

Okay, to be fair, you could do a lot worse when selecting a dessert but there is a lot of sugar and have you seen how “artificial flavour” is broken down?  Listing all of the chemicals involved would fill the side of the box.  I believe I first saw the break down in the book ‘Fast Food Nation’ and it looked a little something like this for the artificial flavour in a strawberry milkshake from a popular fast food restaurant:

“Amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenyglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerbate, heliotropin, hydroxyphrenyl-2butanine (10% solution in alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenythyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, y-undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent.”

I really don’t want to consume all of those chemicals even if they are generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by those that produce them.  So my ‘jello for adults’ is not made with vodka or shaped into something that you have to hide from your kids ’cause they “won’t understand until they are older”, it is simply a jell-o dessert with less sugar and less additives, a recipe that puts you in control of its contents, of how potent the flavour may be, of how sweet it is, a slightly more natural version and perhaps one you will appreciate if you are trying to avoid some chemical exposure while minimizing your sugar intake.

Okay fine I still bought eight boxes of the $0.59 J-ello, but now I’m moving on…

You’re going to need some gelatin (vegans can find vegan sources, I went with Knox gelatin), some juice and some water.  I chose Kedem’s Concord grape juice because it seems to be the most pure.  Just two ingredients, Concord grape juice and a preservative (if you can find a better one, use it).

Directions: Bring 2 cups of grape juice to a boil, stir in 3 packs of Knox gelatin until dissolved.  Remove from heat, stir in 1 cup cold water (or cold juice if you want a more concentrated flavour), carefully pour into the serving container(s) of your choice and chill until it sets.  This could take a couple of hours to set completely in your refrigerator.  You can use any juice that you like just don’t use fresh pineapple or the gelatin won’t set.

Want to know about the health benefits of gelatin?  Or how it can contribute to healthy joints, skin, bones, digestive track and a healthy immune system?  I was going to write about it here but I would just have to quote the heck out of my favorite article on the subject, so instead I’ll encourage you to go straight to the source, the article “Why broth is beautiful” from the Weston A Price Foundation:

Now go ahead – play with your food and feel like a kid again (while appealing to your adult sensibilities).  Enjoy!

Toronto to Hamilton: My first century ride on a fixed gear

For the last few years I have cycled very little other than to get to work.  This year I have started ramping things up again.  I trained fairly regularly on a Wattbike over the winter (but that’s another story) and by spring I was ready for some longer rides again.  From Yonge/Eglinton I have been riding south to the lake and then west pretty much every time venturing a little further as my legs allowed.  At first my turnaround was the Humber river.  After a few weeks I’d venture as far as Port Credit where I’d stop for an espresso before the ride home.  Eventually my usual espresso ride would take me to Oakville (95-100km), a handful of times on my own and once a week with a friend from mid-June through most of July.  After 8-10 rides to Oakville my riding buddy and I decided to explore a little further.

Here our bikes wait patiently for us to finish our drinks and to keep riding:

So with no particular destination in mind we set off from Oakville to the west along the Lakeshore.  After a few kms we agreed that we might as well make it official and ride right into Burlington. So we followed Lakeshore to North Shore Blvd East and did a quick turn around at the Burlington Golf and Country Club figuring that we’d gone far enough for one day.  So that loop worked out to around 145km, and definitely the longest ride I’ve ever done on my fixed gear bike!

145km.  Phew!  But that was a week ago.  Time to move on.  I was working on extending our route while keeping it interesting so I decided a ride around Hamilton Harbour might be best.  It would add about 30km to the ride.  See my earlier post for that part of the route (  Unfortunately my riding buddy was away this weekend so I decided to go it alone.

I set off from Yonge/Eglinton around 645am, after launching the GPS app on my Blackberry and stuffing it into my jersey pocket.  I checked my phone as I rounded the base of Bayview and turned onto King St East and it had yet to acquire the satellite signal.  Ugh!  Oh well, I guess there’s about 10km that won’t be captured in my ride history.  Into my jersey pockets I also stuffed a patch kit, a small pump, a couple of water bottles and a couple of my home-made energy bars.  I also brought a camera but I placed it, my house keys, some cash and a few allen keys into my frame bag.

I stopped briefly at my usual spot in Oakville for a double-long espresso.  As I enjoyed it I sat and wondered why I would stop with 120km to go.  It might have made more sense to stop later on, maybe closer to the 1/2 way mark, oh well, a habitual stop I guess.  I stopped again at the Burlington Golf and Country Club on North Shore Blvd at 9:15am for a quick photo op about 70km in, but otherwise I didn’t check my watch all day, so I’m not entirely sure how long each leg of the journey took.

The ride around the bay was a great.  Well, most of it. Riding through Hamilton’s downtown and industrial sector is just a section to get through, but the rest of it is incredible!  North Shore Blvd is a beautiful road, quite smooth, with some small gently rolling hills and with very little traffic on a Saturday morning.  This leads you to County Road 2 (Plains Rd W) and finally to York Blvd, taking you right around the western side of the harbour, mostly along bike lanes.  Once through the downtown and industrial sector you get to the best part of the loop, the Waterfront trail.  If you know of a more bike friendly route please offer it in the comment section.  See the map link at the end of my post for all of the details of my ride.

Why oh why does this picture get rotated 90deg when viewed in full size?????

In this section of the Harbour loop you’ll cover about 10km along the lake on the Hamilton Beach Recreational trail.  The path is smooth and offers a great view of the lake.  There are also plenty of benches to soak it all in from should you need a break.  If you you need a nature break along here there is one washroom about 4km down the trail, almost as far as the Burlington Lift Bridge.  There is also a water fountain there so be sure to stop, this is your last chance to fill up for a while.  At this point it is tempting to just keep on riding, to get ‘er done, but stop, relax, savour the moment.  You’ve got about 70km to go, but this can wait another moment, you’ve earned a break.

You’re on the home stretch now, the Toronto skyline is calling you home and is but a muted spec in the distance.

So there’s my first century ride in about 12 years and my first century ride ever on my track bike.  The total distance worked out to about 170km, but my gps app only recorded 160km worth, making it an official century ride either way, 100 miles or 160km.

…but only averaged 28.6km/hr 😦

Ugh!  And my average was not even 30km/hr 😦  Oh well, I’ll blame that on the headwind that picked up on my way home, on stopping many times to enjoy the view and to take pictures.  Total trip time was, according to my stop watch, 6.5hrs.  Either way the century is a milestone to many a cyclist.  It was a milestone that I had reached at least 15 years ago, but probably haven’t repeated since.  So there it is, a little reminder to my legs and mind (and butt) of what it takes to cover that distance again.  If a 6.5hr ride doesn’t sound like fun to you then just ride faster, ride a bike with more than one gear, one that allows you to coast, go with a fast friend and take turns drafting or if this doesn’t sound like something that you would be interested in trying in its entirety then check out Go Transit schedules.  They offer service to Hamilton all the time and depending on which station you’re leaving from and the time of day you can usually bring your bike on board.  From the Hamilton Go station you can then tour the Harbour and transit home again, or ride back to TO from there.  You have plenty of options and hopefully one less excuse.

Here’s a link to the full map of the ride, which by the way could not be saved into google maps because Google keeps guessing which way you’d want to go which never makes any sense so you have to keep moving points along the route from Google guess to the actual route until you literally run out of points that you are able to enter….  So, I had to use the gmap-pedometer, which is far more user friendly:

Have a safe ride!