Monday, October 20, 2014

Setup Events' North Carolina Triathlon Series

Ever since I started racing triathlon back in 2008, the Setup Events North Carolina Triathlon Series (NCTS) has been the premier triathlon series in this state.  I can't even count how many of their races I've done and I can say that being a participant in these events has been a great experience!  In addition to awesome race venues - Wrightsville Beach, White Lake, Over the Mountain, Belews Lake, Stumpy Creek, etc - the NCTS has garnered prestige for being highly competitive.  Historically you could show up at any given event and race against the best of the best in NC.  That fact made the NCTS special.  I don't think it was a coincidence that this set up (pun intended) spurred tougher training & stiffer competition.  It gave North Carolinians their own triathlon microcosm from which many elite amateur and professional triathletes emerged.

It makes me a little sad to see that this has changed.  In 2014, NCTS stopped offering prize money for the top series finishers.  This may not seem like a big deal, especially because it wasn't a ton of money, but I believe it has had the result of diluting the series.  There were not as many people at races this year and the depth of the open fields was staggeringly shallow.  I've spoken to a few people about the change and the main reason I was offered was that it was made to increase participation.  Instead of prize money to top competitors and prize packages for top age groupers, the NCTS now offers a prize package (tri bag, sunglasses, t-shirt, etc) to anyone who completes 5 races.  Theoretically, this incentivizes triathletes of all speeds to race more NCTS races.  But isn't this just like the receipts you can collect from Food Lion in November?  Yes, if you spend enough money you earn a free turkey, but couldn't you have just bought the turkey alone for cheaper?

I guess you can probably tell that I don't think this new approach is optimal.  Here is some more food for thought about why the NCTS prize money should be reinstated:

*The most successful triathlon production brand (IM) is also the most competitive.  When Rev3 stopped offering prize money to the pros, they stopped coming to races.  I think this resulted in many top amateurs choosing other races, and in turn may have had a trickle down effect on other age groupers.

*People love going to races where they can see the pros, race against the pros, and compare their own times against the pro times.  I believe this holds true on a smaller scale for local competition.  I remember when I was just starting out in this sport, I knew all the names of the best local athletes and I thought it was cool to see them on the course, talk to them after the races, and of course compare times - even if I was 30+ minutes behind the leaders I still got a thrill if even one of my splits was relatively close.

*I don't know a single triathlete who is satisfied to remain at their current speed.  It is part of the triathlete mentality to constantly push themselves to be faster and try to work their way up the age group ladder.

*The athletes who race the most frequently have a direct and an indirect influence on other athletes who are deciding what races to add to their schedule.  Regardless if this is through personal interactions or social media, the impact is there.  In general, the more competitive athletes compete more frequently.

*Competing regularly against the best makes you better and also serves as a measuring stick for your progress.

*There was a certain appeal to racing in the NCTS series because of the high quality of the competition.  It just feels flat without it.

I guess the central theme to my overall point is that good competition is important for the vitality of a race series.  The best way to draw competitors is to "show me the money."  I would bet that if another series comes along and does this, participation will increase immediately.  I think it's great when race companies make the events more family & spectator friendly, but I'm starting to think that this alone will not result in higher participation.

I hope this blog doesn't make me sound like an arrogant a$$.  This is just something that's been bouncing around in my head recently and I had 3 hours to try to figure out how to articulate it while I was running my 22-miler this morning!  Will I race the NCTS in 2015?  Yes.  Will I enjoy it?  Of course. But, if I had another local option that fostered the same type of magical allure as the previous NCTS, I would not hesitate to sign up right now.

This may not be my most popular post, but I'd love to hear what other people think about this, especially those who have raced both pre-2014 and in 2014.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Best Way To Cook Tofu

Organic tofu is one of the healthiest (and cheapest) proteins that you can incorporate into your diet.  When I talk to people about eating tofu, I often hear that maybe they've tried it in a restaurant and liked it but are intimidated to cook it at home because they just don't know what to do.  This blog is intended to bridge that gap by showing you the easiest way to cook tofu and how to incorporate it into a meal.

I've been shopping at Trader Joe's a lot recently because I discovered that they have the best prices on produce and I eat a ton of produce!  Here are the ingredients that you will need for this recipe:

1 package of organic firm tofu
1 bag of mixed frozen veggies
Trader Joe's Island Soyaki sauce (or any other low-fat sauce)
brown or black rice (not pictured)

1.  Cut open the package of tofu and drain the water.

2.  Cut off 1/4 of the block of tofu if you are making 1 serving (use 1/2 of block for 2 servings) and put remaining 3/4 block of tofu back in original packaging.  Fill original packaging with fresh water and store in refrigerator for up to 1 week, changing the water daily.

3.  Slice tofu into 6 pieces.

4.  Heat non-stick pan to medium-high (I like to use my crepe pan for this because it's completely flat and the tofu never sticks to it).  Place tofu into pan.

5.  Cook for about 1-2 minutes until tofu just begins to brown.  This step helps get some of the excess water out of the tofu and prevents you from having to press the tofu prior to cooking.

6.  Pour your sauce of choice over the tofu.

7.  Cook for another 1-2 minutes, until the pan side of the tofu browns. Using a sauce that has a little bit of sweetness to it, like Trader Joe's Island Soyaki, helps the caramelization process and gives your tofu a nice color.

8.  Flip tofu and cook the other side for another 1-2 minutes, until lightly browned.

9.  Serve over rice & veggies and pair with an apple for a healthy energizing meal.  This is GREAT for athletes!!!!

This is a very simple and quick cooking method that uses NO OIL!!!  It is also very easy to package this meal into a tupperware container and bring to work and heat up in the microwave later.  You can vary the types of sauce, veggies, and grains used in this recipe for literally endless possibilities.  Another idea that I've done recently is cook the tofu in BBQ sauce and then use it as the filling for veggie fajitas - I love the BBQ/Tex-Mex combo of flavors!  

I hope this helps inspire you to try cooking tofu at home because it really is easy peasy :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Race Report: Carolina Beach Half Marathon

I love doing new things and I got a chance to do something new on Sunday by being a pacer in the Carolina Beach Half Marathon!  You've seen pace groups before - they are the herds of runners in a race clustered around a runner carrying a big sign with a time on it.  Running with a pace group is great because a) it's fun, b) it helps prevent you from going out too hard, c) they help you keep pace when the going gets tough, and d) you get to forge a little camaraderie with cool peeps who happen to be the same speed that you are.  If you're a spectator in a race, it's nice to have pace groups because you know where the runners are in the race that are going by you and it can help you know where to look for the person that you're trying to spectate.  The role of the pacer is to finish the race in exactly the time that is printed on the sign that he or she is carrying.  People are relying on you to carry out this duty - their PR's depend on it.  The best way to do this is to run the perfect negative split.  This can be tricky because you don't want to go out too fast and risk people blowing up at the end of the race, but you don't want to go out too slow such that you don't reach the goal time.  The pressure is on and you better be able to deliver the goods.

When I originally agreed to pace for the Carolina Beach Half I signed on for the 1:40 group.  However, upon seeing that this race was a month out from my A race (Savannah marathon), Tom Clifford told me to switch into the 1:30 pace group so that I would get a good marathon-pace workout.  I was nervous about doing this because I wasn't 100% sure I'd be able to run a 1:30 half in the midst of 65-mile training weeks on fatigued legs.  But he said, "If you can't run a 1:30 half, how are you going to run a sub 3 hour marathon?!"  So I dropped into the 1:30 group.

Come to find out I would be pacing the race w/ Eric Torrey, a veteran 1:30 pacer.  This was good because I knew that if I couldn't maintain pace he'd be able to finish the race easily.  I did a mile warm up with a few pick ups and felt good.  The weather was cold (50s) and there wasn't much wind.   We gathered at the starting line with our sign (Eric carried it for about 1 mile before ditching it to volunteers) and a 4-5 people huddled around and spoke of hopes of breaking 1:30.  I remembered back to when I first broke the 1:30 barrier and how impossible it seemed at the time!  It was a good group and everyone stayed together for the first half-ish.  Local celebrity Richard Segal was amongst us and there were people cheering for him at every turn!  When runners in our group broke off and ran ahead it was kind of hard not to go with them, but it was our job to stay on the 1:30 pace so Eric and I ran together from mile 7-12.  I was surprised to find that I felt really good for pretty much the entire run.  Within the last mile we caught back up to Steven Dees and tried to give him a final push of motivation to get to the finish.  He gave a gutsy performance and ended up with a PR by over a minute!  Just awesome!  I spent the remainder of the morning chillin' by the lake and watching friends finish the race - fantastic job everyone!!!

Overall it was a great race, well-organized, and very enjoyable.  Weather was perfect and post-race Moe's hit the spot.  I'm super pleased with how well this run went.  We nailed the pace and finished right at 1:29:07.  While I can't say that it was easy, I can say that it was not difficult.  I feel like this is a good sign that my training is working.  It bodes well for Savannah and I'm starting to get really excited for that race.  I believe I can crack 3.

Congrats to Amanda & Kristina on their first 1/2 marathon!

Mr. Enoch does it again!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hideaway With Me At TrySports Wilmington

In case you haven’t heard, I started a new job at TrySports Wilmington about a month ago. Around that same time Kurt introduced me to a song that I have been completely obsessed with ever since: Hideaway by Kiesza. I just love the 90’s vibe that the music has and I really dig the outfits & dance moves in the music video!!! So, one day when I was in the midst of one of my many 10 milers that have been the staple of marathon training diet for the past 12 weeks, I had one of my best ideas ever! I had been wanting to write a blog about how awesome my new job was, but then I realized it would be about 1,000 times more awesome if I made a vlog about it to accompany my new favorite song! Over the next 5-10 ten-milers I daydreamed about the video and I never found myself lacking in the number of creative ideas that flowed into my brain while I listened to the song on repeat :)

Thank you to Kiesza for making this fantastic song (if you ever come to Wilmington we will gladly fit you for running shoes!) And a huge THANK YOU to everyone who participated in the making of this video and allowed me to video tape your sweet dancing skillz and publish them on YouTube!  We had a ton of fun!

Here is my version of Kiesza’s Hideaway with a TrySports twist!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Race Report: Belews Lake Sprint Tri

When I was in Colorado visiting Sharon she told me that she was going to be in Greensboro in September for work and that there happened to be a triathlon that weekend.  She said she was going to sign up and suggested I make the trip and race w/ her.  Given that the tri was taking place where I used to live, in a lake that I used to swim, and on roads that I used to bike, it didn't take much convincing for me to sign up.  Since then I've been pretty excited for this race, though my training has continued to be run-focused [understatement] for Savannah.

Week          Run            Swim             Bike
8/11            51 mi          1000 yds        0 mi   [at altitude]
8/18            60 mi          1000 yds       20 mi
8/25            65 mi          0 yds             31 mi
9/1              65 mi          1300 yds        0 mi
I got to Greensboro on Friday and found out that Sharon is still having IT band issues and wasn't going to be racing.  But she was more than happy to sherpa for me on her mountain bike.  We went to the Battleground Greenway and I did a little 5-mile trot to loosen up my legs from the drive.  It was really fun running there again and as I retraced thousands of old steps, my mind was flooded with all the crazy workouts I'd previously done on that trail.  We went to packet pickup at Off 'N Running and I was very pleased w/ the bag 'o swag I got:  very nice super soft brushed cotton race design t-shirt, pair of tech socks, water bottle, sport beans, gel, and the usual coupons/flyers.  This was my very first impression of my very first Jones Racing Company experience and it was a very good one that made me even more excited for the race.  That night we ate dinner at my all-time favorite restaurant, Boba House, then called it an early evening.

When I woke up on race morning it was raining.  I had been envisioning a warm & sunny day, but the rain didn't dampen my excitement for the race!  We got to the race site and ran straight into TriGuy!  He was working the race and also came through for me, letting me borrow a race belt, which I had forgotten to pack (hey I haven't done this in a while!)  He was busy but we still had time to compare guns.

I set up transition, tested out the gears on my bike, used the porta potty about 5 times, and lined up at swim start.  I don't know why, but I felt nervous!

The Swim (750 m) - 13:46 [1:41/100 yds]
The swim was a TT start, which was fine w/ me.  I was happy to avoid the mass chaos of a group start since I haven't been swimming much.  It was pretty chilly standing in line waiting to get in the water and when I put my toes in the 80+ degrees water it felt like an inviting bathtub.  The horn went off and I was off!  My goal was to swim the course as straight as possible to minimize swimming any additional yardage.  Thanks to my very first triathlon coach ever, Karen Buxton, I think I did a good job of accomplishing this.  I caught up with her right before the swim started and she pointed out how wide people were swimming from the buoys, and that the fastest route to the turnaround buoy was to split the first two sighting buoys.  Thanks Karen!  That strategy worked out really well!  Nothing eventful happened on the swim.  I got to the level of an aerobic effort and held that the entire time.  My arms got tired half way through, but that was to be expected.

T1 - 1:16
T1 was smooth.  I got out of the water, ran up the hill into transition where I had counted the number of racks to my bike, and found it waiting for me in the easiest gear.  Perfect.

The Bike (14.5 mi) - 43:05 [20.2 mph]
I'll admit I was a little tentative the first few minutes of the bike.  The roads were wet and I still have memories of crashing in the rain at Knoxville a couple years ago.  BUT, I also have memories of coming back and crushing Over The Mountain in the rain a few races later.  I mentally made the decision that the rain & wet roads were going to be a non-issue for me and got into a good rhythm on the bike.  I rode my Felt F series road bike and it handled great.  I thoroughly enjoyed the bike portion and for whatever reason the course didn't even seem that hilly to me!  There were a few times when I got slowed down by cars.  Theoretically this would have been a good chance to draft off of them, but they were going so slow that I was forced to pass them on the left (sshh don't tell anyone I did that).  I passed quite a few people during this portion of the race which was a fun confidence booster.  By the end my legs were feeling fatigued and I was starting to think about the hilly 5k coming up.

T2 - 1:19
I definitely lost time here.  The night before the race I had debated putting Yankz into my shoes and I totally should have.  It felt like it took forever to tie my shoe laces!

The Run (5k) - 20:18 [6:31/mi]
I have run this 5k before and I would not say that it's easy.  It starts with a long climb, which persists for about 1/2 mile out of transition.  From there the course undulates through some neighborhoods until you hit the turnaround.  I didn't feel so hot climbing up that initial hill.  Legs were tired.  I figured I'd make it up that hill without completely burning up and then see what I could do from there.  I felt better and better as the run went on and I passed a lot more people.  It was cool seeing all the collegiates out there!  The last 1/2 mile of the run was a blast b/c you can fly down that final hill; I glanced at my watch once and was cruising at 5:45 pace.  Overall I was expecting my run to be faster since I've been running so much ... maybe I should have pushed harder ... maybe I was just tired from swimming & biking beforehand?!

Total Time - 1:19:42 (1st AG, 8th OA)
The finish line was set up like a little party - music, food, & all the college teams hanging out.  I was surprised to find out that I finished 1st in my age group and 8th overall!  I got a sweet coffee mug that I am drinking out of as I type this report :)  I really had fun at this race and was impressed with the event that JRC put on.  Chances of me doing another one are high.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Leadville Experience

Last week I had the amazing experience of flying out to Colorado to visit my friend/mentor/former triathlon coach Sharon McDowell-Larsen and spectate the Leadville Trail 100.  My trip started in Colorado Springs and since I was determined to get in 60 miles of running, the first thing I did after landing was run 10 miles on a relatively flat trail.  Colorado Springs sits at about 6,000 ft which doesn't sound like that much, but trust me it's a lot higher than sea level!  I felt the altitude and my legs felt heavy from the plan ride so I just re-adjusted my pace goals (a theme throughout this trip) and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

Hard to be too upset about your pace when this is where you're running!
While in The Springs I also got to collaborate with Sharon on some food demos at The Center for Creative Leadership!  This was soooo much fun!  We picked out a few healthy recipes that are quick n' easy to make and video taped some cooking tutorials.  Here is the first finished product:  Asian Quinoa Slaw :)  Recipe courtesy of Heidi Bucher, thanks Heidi!!!

From Colorado Springs we traveled up to Breckenridge.  From my last trip to Colorado back in Jan 2013 I remember Breckenridge as being a winter paradise, a snow-covered playground.   I had skinned up mountains, snow shoed, down hill skied, nordic skied, and more.  This time around I got to experience the cute little ski town in the summer time and it did not disappoint!  I hiked and ran as much as I could in the thin air of 10,000 ft ;)  Being out in the wilderness on those trails you really feel like you could keep going forever.  I felt so calm and at peace in the throes of nature.

Sharon at home on her mountain bike
I also got to visit America's highest running store!  Cool!
Then we drove to Leadville and things started getting real.  We began prepping for the main event:  The LT100!  Sharon had been training for this race for quite a while and unfortunately had developed a severe case of IT band syndrome.  She had been getting massage, physical therapy, and giving her legs complete rest 3 weeks prior to Leadville.  We were all hoping that come race day she would feel good and be able to complete the beast.  If you are unfamiliar with Leadville, it is a 100-mile running race on trails.  It starts at about 10,200 ft and goes up and over Hope Pass (elevation 12,600 ft) twice. It is a grueling test of fortitude and endurance.

Leadville was an interesting town.  Back in it's heyday it had a population of 30,000 people, fueled by the mining business.  When that industry dwindled some 30 years ago Leadville literally became a ghost town.  There were no jobs so people simply left their homes.  The economy was broken.  Then Ken Chlouber, an avid marathoner, had a brilliant idea that put Leadville back on the map.  He created the Leadville Race Series, starting with a 100 mile mountain bike race.  This eventually expanded to the Leadville Trail 100 and the Leadman Competition (which includes the 100-mi mountain bike race, a trail marathon, 50-mi mountain bike race, trail 10K, and the LT100).  His vision was to allow people to "race across the sky" and experience the beauty of mountainous terrain of Leadville.  Because people are crazy his idea caught on like wild fire and now Leadville is one of the most well-known ultra events in the country.  Nowadays Leadville has a population of 2,700.  The inhabitants generally take vacation during the race series; they leave town and rent their homes out to racers like us!

The Official Leadville Race Series Store
The energy at Leadville was contagious.  There was certainly some nervous excitement in the air the day before the race as we went to packet pickup, the pre-race meeting, and shopped around at the official Leadville Store.  The drop-out rate for this race is ~50%, so I'm sure everyone had the same question on their mind, "Can I do it?"

The evening before the race we finished packing up all the gear that Sharon would need.  Prepping for this race was like getting ready for a triathlon with 20 transitions!  There were about 10 aid stations at which we would see Sharon throughout the race and we had to make sure we knew exactly what to have ready to give her when she came through.  When I say "we" I'm talking about the "race crew."  For these ultra type events, most people gather a few friends to comprise their "crew" and they have the job of "crewing" for the racer.  The crew's job is to wait for the racer at each aid station, provide necessary fuel, equipment, & motivation, and also take turns pacing the racer in the back half of the race.  Matt, Sharon's husband, was our crew chief, responsible for delegating tasks to everyone else, driving us from aid station to aid station, and generally making sure that we all carried out the plan.  Larry DeWitt was another member of our crew - as a 3 or 4 time Leadman overall champion he has invaluable experience in this race!  And Marry Barry was ever-shining ray of light in the group.  Her bubbly personality and positive spirit was a source of energy to all!  This was my first time being part of a crew and I couldn't have asked for better people to crew with!

And they're off!
The race started at 4 am, which meant we had to get up at 2:45 am!!!  That is definitely the earliest I've ever had to get up for a race, haha!  I'd describe the race start as a bunch of maniacs let loose with head lamps :)  At 4 am someone fired a shot gun up into the air and the race was off!  Any racer who finishes under 30 hours gets a shiny belt buckle!  Any racer who finished under 25 hours gets a bigger and shinier belt buckle.  Any racer who finishes the race 10 times gets an even bigger and shinier belt buckle!  Well you get the point - we saw one man who has finished the LT100 THIRTY times!!!  His belt buckle was the size of his entire torso, LOL!

Sharon was off and we crew drove to the first aid station and set up camp for a couple hours to wait until she came through.  Time went really fast due to all of Larry's stories of previous years of racing!

Chillin' at T1
I saw Mr. Jeff McClintock from Greensboro come through.  Way to represent NC!!!

Jeff McClintock of Greensboro NC
When Sharon came through I could tell her leg was really hurting her.  I felt so gutted for her - it's not a good sign when your leg is hurting 13 miles into a 100 mile run.   We swapped her pack and encouraged her and she's such a machine that she kept going!  We caravanned with the rest of the crews over to T2, which had an incredible back-drop.  Posting up there and watching all the runners go by was certainly not a bad way to spend the day!

While at T2 we got a phone call from Sharon.  She was on her way down one of the climbs and said that the pain in her leg was excruciating.  When you have an injury like that there is really nothing you can do but listen to your body.  While I was so disappointed for Sharon b/c I know how hard she had worked and how much she was looking forward to this race, I was also really proud of her for making the right call.  In a way it would have been easier to push on, creating more damage than make the smart call of stopping.  Anyone who's been racing for a while knows what disappointment feels like.  I remember how terrible I felt after getting my first DNF back at Rev3 Knoxville in 2013.  I felt like a failure and I felt like I let everyone down who had helped me and taken time out of their schedule to come to that race.  But, I really believe experiences like that make you a stronger athlete. So much of what we do requires mental toughness and it's only when you are really tested that you develop mental grit.  As per Ken Chlouber, "you don't know how strong you are."  It's easy to have a bad experience and then just hang up your cleats.  It's much more difficult to process everything (including the bad feelings), get back to training, and come back to your next race with even more confidence.  But that's what we do and that's why sports are so helpful in life.  They teach you how to get back up again after you fall down.

Sharon - you are an amazing athlete and have accomplished so many incredible athletic feats!  We are all proud of you and support you 100% in all your endeavors.  Thank you for having us be a part of your race crew!  Whether the race is 2 miles or 200 miles, we've always got your back!  :)

Vertical Runners!
The rest of that day we just chilled out, had a pic-nic at Turquoise Lake, and then Matt, Larry, & I ran 11 miles on the Leadville course back to our rental house.  OMG that run just about killed me!  Running at 10,000 feet is hard.  Really hard.  I don't know how anyone can complete Leadville without first acclimating to the altitude!

Turquoise Lake
I spent my last day in Colorado back in Breckenridge.  Matt had the genius idea that we do a 14er!  Of course Mary agreed and we decided to hike up Mount Quandary.  The three of us spent 4 hours completing the challenging hike and it was so much fun that I had to make a video about it :)

Overall, I had an awesome time out there and can't wait to make a return trip!  Oh, and even though I only got in 50 miles of running/hiking, I can live with that given how much harder it was to run up there than I thought it would be ;)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Best Quinoa Salad Recipes Ever!

Last Thursday we held the first annual TOPS Quinoa Cook Off and it was a huge success!  Thank you to everyone who submitted recipes, cooked up your delicious dishes, tasted & voted for your favorite!  I was amazed at how varied all the quinoa salads were - you guys are so creative!  Everyone has been asking for me to post the recipes so without further ado here they are.

There was a tie between Mrs. Jennifer Summers and Mrs. Cara Myatt for the first place prize of a 1-month unlimited membership to TOPS Athletics.  Here are their winning recipes:

Veggie Quinoa Fried Rice (#8 at the quinoa cook off)
By:  Jennifer Summers

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup water
1 block tofu
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup of chopped onion
1 cup shredded carrots
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger powder
Cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to taste

Cook quinoa in 1 cup water 
Scramble the tofu in a nonstick large pan over low heat. Set aside.
Add oil to a large pan and heat over medium heat. Once hot add onion carrots and garlic and cook until soft. Add peas and corn next and he and till warm throughout.
Add the quinoa and scrambled egg to the pan and mix to combine.

Add soy sauce and spices and stir to combine serve warm and store in an airtight container in a fridge for up to one week.

Black bean and Corn Quinoa salad (#6 at the Quinoa Cook Off)
By:  Cara Myatt

1/2 red onion chopped
1 lg can of black beans
2 cans of corn (mixed with corn on the Cobb)
Pint of cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
Balsamic vinagar
1 1/2 cups of cooked red quinoa

Mix all together and refrigerate 

Here are the rest of the awesome recipes from The First Annual Quinoa Cook Off :)

Quinoa Pilaf With Cranberries & Almonds (#1 at cook off)
By:  Marie Crabtree

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow sweet onion, chopped
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Heat oil in a medium pot over medium high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until just softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add quinoa and toast, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in broth and salt and bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in cranberries, cover again and continue to cook until liquid is completely absorbed and quinoa is tender, 8 to 10 minutes more. Toss with almonds and serve.
Cherry Berry Quinoa Salad (#3 at the quinoa cook off)
By:  Holly Cunningham

1 cup whole wheat Quinoa
1 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 cups pitted and quartered fresh cherries
1 bunch of green onions chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Put cooked Quinoa, water, lemon juice into a large, heatproof bowl. Cover and set aside for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and let cool slightly for 5 more minutes. Gently fold in cherries, green onions, pepper. Then scatter almonds over top and sprinkle with lemon zest. Serve Immediately. Can also serve cold.

Savory Apple Quinoa Salad - Amanda Dickens (#2 at  cook off)
By:  Amanda Dickens
1 cup quinoa
1 ½ cup water
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ cup dried cranberries
2 tbs diced spring onions- the whites
2 cups diced apples (fuji or granny smith work great)
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs cider vinegar
1 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs honey Dijon mustard
1 tbs Mrs Dash lemon pepper (or any salt-free variety)
1-2 tsp black pepper (per taste)
¼ cup diced spring onion (green parts mostly)

Toast quinoa in a sauce pan over high heat, stirring, until it is crackling and smells nutty. Add water, salt, coriander, cranberries and the 2 tbs onions. Bring to a boil and then reduce, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Whisk or shake all of the dressing ingredients together. Pour dressing over apples and toss. When quinoa is cooked, mix all ingredients together. In the winter, serve as a warm side, in the summer, cool in the fridge. 

Quinoa Fruit Salad (#5 at the quinoa cook off)
By:  Leslie Tudor

1.5 cups Blueberries
1.5 cup Mango
1.5 cup Strawberries
1 cup Quinoa

juice of 1-2 limes
3 tbsp honey
2-3 tbsp fresh mint

Cook quinoa as per package directions.  Toss with fruit & top with dressing. 

Summer Quinoa Salad (#7 at the quinoa cook off)
By:  Lee Eatmon

Red Quinoa - 1cup
(All veggies are in bag) frozen 

Cook quinoa as directed and sauté veggies with olive oil. 
Cook veggies until done. Season to taste (ie. pepper, garlic, Italian seasoning)
Add veggies and mix. 


Mediterranean Quinoa Salad (#4 at the quinoa cook off)
By:  Roxanne Pearson
½  cup tri-colored quinoa,
1 cup broth (vegetable or chicken)
1 12 oz. package of Trader Joe’s frozen edamame, shelled
1 medium Gala apple, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 medium red pepper, chopped
¼ cup slivered almonds (optional)
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice (fresh is better)
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt

Rinse and drain quinoa.  Stir rinsed quinoa into broth and cook until broth is absorbed (15-20 minutes).  While quinoa is cooking, chop apple and red pepper.  Put apple and red pepper into serving bowl.  Mix cooked quinoa in with the apple and red pepper.  Set aside.  Cook edamame according to package directions (cooks in 5 minutes).  Drain cooked edamame and mix with quinoa mixture.  Whisk all sauce ingredients together and pour over quinoa/edamame mixture.  Mix thoroughly.  Allow to cool.   Top with almonds (optional).  Serves 10.