[Recipe] Summer Quinoa

I posted this picture on Instagram and Facebook a couple days ago and got such a good reaction that I decided it was blog worthy. I’m still eating the batch I made and it’s just as delicious.

Driving home from work on Sunday evening, I was hungry, tired and craving a shower. My mind turned to “what the heck am I going to make for dinner?” I had not the patience for a long cooking extravaganza. Luckily, quick math reminded me that quinoa only takes 15 minutes and I could definitely multi-task and either shower or get other food thrown together in that time.

I seriously started out thinking I’d just toss some grape tomatoes (my love!) in with quinoa and OH! OLIVES and just splash a little vinegar and oil, sprinkle a little sea salt and pepper and that would totally suffice. But then I got thinking about all the other veggies I could add. Gee, I really needed to get some green stuff in there. And wait, I still had mini peppers. Hmm, mushrooms are nice. OH, and cashews add a nice texture.

So, that’s how this was born.


The veggie chopping is the hardest part, and I have this handheld chopper/scissors like thing from Pampered Chef that made it really easy. I didn’t really measure anything except the quinoa, so these are all estimates. [Vegan and gluten free]

1 cup (dry) quinoa

Wonderful Plants
½ large cucumber
¾ container of grape tomatoes
½ – ¾ of a large red onion
¼ – ½ cup raw cashews
¾ container of baby bella mushrooms ( had the whole ones)
½ – 1 cup olives (I used half green, half black and I used the natural no weird chemical added kind)
5 or so mini peppers (the kind in the bag that are just like lovely little bell peppers)

Sea salt (to taste – I didn’t use very much)
Ground white pepper (didn’t use very much)
Extra virgin olive oil – approx. 1 TBSP
Balsamic Vinegar – approx. 1-2 TBSP
Coriander (a few sprinkles — like everything in this category, it’s to taste)

Garnish – ½ avocado
1-2 cups chopped kale


  1.  Cook quinoa. [Cooking quinoa is 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa. Put it in a saucepan and boil. Once it boils, reduce heat to simmer and cover. It takes about 15 minutes to cook down. Let sit for a few minutes and fluff.]
  2. While quinoa is cooking, combine all the wonderful plants in a large bowl and chop! If you don’t have the hand chopper thing, chop in whatever fashion works for you to get the plants bite-sized.
  3. Once quinoa is finished cooking and has fluffed, dump it in the bowl with the veggies and mix it all up!
  4. Add seasoning items and stir! (I didn’t really measure when I added them, but I didn’t use very much. Definitely adjust to taste.)
  5.  Add some chopped kale to a plate to make a bed for the quinoa-veggie combo and serve it up! I added some avocado slices because they are delicious.

In Full Swing

RACE ELEVATION. Hospital Hill Half Marathon. Main goal: Don't die. Secondary goal: Finish.
RACE ELEVATION. Hospital Hill Half Marathon. Main goal: Don’t die. Secondary goal: Finish.

So, a little over two weeks ago I ran the Hospital Hill Half Marathon and PR’d. Woo! It was one of my favorite races so far and even though I’d previously feared I was ill-prepared, I glided through the first half of the race joyously. Pain for me came around Mile 10 and I had to drop back a bit, but I was able to gather up the hutzpah to charge through that last half mile well under my pace and pull out the PR. This is a tough course for a PR.

Here I am rounding JC Nichols (fountain in the background) and pretttty ready for that water stop just up the way about 200 yards. [I'm the one on the far left jazz handsing it up and looking really happy for someone who has to get up another 1 mile hill.) Also, pictured: Nice girl I kept accidently bumping into because I was looking around and Brian, one of our awesome pacers. As we were running up one of the earlier hills we learned that he'd finished his first ultramarathon -- I later found out it was the Western States. Woahza.

Here I am rounding JC Nichols (fountain in the background) and pretttty ready for that water stop just up the way about 200 yards. [I’m the one on the far left jazz handsing it up and looking really happy for someone who has to get up another 1 mile hill.) Also, pictured: Nice girl I kept accidentally bumping into because I was looking around and Brian, one of our awesome pacers. As we were running up one of the earlier hills we learned that he’d finished his first ultra marathon — I later found out it was the Western States. Woahza.

Now, I am in full marathon training mode. MY FIRST MARATHON. Instead of feeling insecure, I’m just really excited. I can’t wait for October 19th!  To make it even better, several people I know are doing the half, including my good friend Gen. Maybe I’m enjoying this training more because I have some confidence built up but I think it has more to do with the fact that I found out how nice it can be to run with someone. An hour goes by much faster, it’s easier to push a longer distance and helps get me out there in my shoes. Once I get into the long, long runs, we’ll check back in on my level of excitement.

I’ve been following the Level 1 training plan that the local running group’s coach built for the KC Marathon. It works well with my training schedule with Cheryl as the days I train with her are actually marked as cross training days. I’ve also reviewed a number of other plans and I will likely adjust mine a tad to accommodate. In particular, I plan to read up on the Run Less Run Faster plan. It appeals to me because I do have trouble with pacing and not running hard.

Because it’s my first marathon, I know the main goal is just to finish and setting a hard time goal might be foolish; however, I am really hoping to finish in under 5 hours and somewhere around the 4:45:00 mark. Faster than that will be the work of the Universe and might just sell me on plant based training forever. (Oh yeah, I’m currently in my vegan challenge — don’t forget it! I am adjusting and I might stick with it past the month of June.) One of my training challenges has been lack of knowing what paces to use. When the workout would say “5k pace” I’d just try to run hard. Thankfully, Runner’s World has a handy little pace calculator that gives you training paces based on your projected distance and time. I will be using this to help me train. I’ve run faster than the paces generated for me, and I’ve been able to maintain all of the listed paces so I should be able to do this.

My training paces based on the Runner's World calculator.
My training paces based on the Runner’s World calculator.

One of the pace hurdles might be the weather. Summer training. In the Midwest. Yesterday, it was sunny, humid and just under 80 degrees. It felt at least 10 degrees hotter. I still got a good pace going by the end of my run and I know if I’m diligent with hydration, cooling (I am not above dousing myself with water to cool down) and giving my body some time to acclimate to the weather, I’ll be just fine.

Fun fact: my old high school chemistry teacher, Mrs Haley, is one of the testimonials on the Kansas City Marathon website!

Those Challenges Sure are Challenging

I sure do like those monthly challenges! So, for June I decided to go completely vegan. I’m already a vegetarian and have basically given up all animal products except dairy and honey (and occasionally eggs.) But after picking up a copy of a book about another vegan ultra runner I decided I should try a full on plant only diet to see what happens. Ultimately, I’m hoping to feel better, look better (my skin has not been a fan of my poor choices aka sweets and cheese) and maybe lose some body fat before I start hardcore marathon training. I felt rough in the last couple miles of the Hospital Hill Half Marathon. I know I have to run some of those same streets in October. Less body fat = faster.


The other part of this challenge is NO PROCESSED FOODS! I think this is actually going to be the big key to feeling better. I noticed my reliance on processed foods increasing over the last few months and as that happened I felt less awesome and my progress seemed to falter. Additives, sugars and gunk in my food meant gunk in my body.

GOODBYE GUNK! SO LONG JUNK! *awkward hula hoop dance*


So how did I do with my May challenges and goals?

My list of May challenges and goals:

  • Reduce my reliance on peanut butter. This means limit myself to one serving per day, at most. I ended up running out of peanut butter a few days before the end of the month so I made my own nut butter (which ended up really being nut paste.) So far, I’ve only used it a few times in my oatmeal and never more than 1 tablespoon at a time. It’s a proprietary blend of plain old peanuts, almonds and a teaspoon/tablespoon of coconut oil. NAILED IT!
  • Because I obviously didn’t change my habits, continue with my sugar challenge. This time, I’m not going 100% no sugar, but I’m putting boundaries on my “treat” consumption. No more than one treat per week. I’m also still going to avoid foods with added sugar (except for an occasional Chobani because those are delicious or protein bar.) I generally feel gross if I eat foods that are packaged or processed and oh, I’m in major budget mode, so I need to limit my food spending and processed foods are spendy. FAILED THIS ONE SO HARD. 
  • Decided yesterday: I’m going to do a plank a day. I think I should work on building up the time. I had to do 3 this morning as part of my workout and I should have asked how long the holds were. Probably a minute. When I started they were 15 seconds. I know I can hold longer than a minute, but I should set a numeric goal to hit by the end of a month. TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT THIS ONE AND THEN JUST DECIDED TO SKIP IT.
  • And the funnest of the fun, a group challenge! Cheryl and Jason decided to do 45 minutes of cardio 6 days per week for 4 weeks and if I succeed at this also, I get a free session! Most of my workouts in April were at least an hour, so I have a good base. ANOTHER LOSS. I WAS ON FOR A COUPLE WEEKS AND THEN DROPPED OFF. IT DID MAKE ME MORE MINDFUL OF DOING CARDIO AND I DID STILL ADD MORE THAN I WOULD HAVE HAD I NOT COMMITTED TO THE CHALLENGE.