Runners Plate: Cooking with Quinoa + a Fall Recipe
Quinoa, the grain (or technically the seed) du jour, seems to be everywhere – from restaurant menus to potluck dinner parties, you’ll even find it at the hospital salad bar! It’s a great addition to a runner’s diet – full of muscle fueling carbohydrates, muscle repairing protein, and lots of fiber to keep you full on fewer calories—all for only 110 calories per half cup of cooked. Quinoa is also packed with a whole host of vitamins (primarily B vitamins) and minerals (iron, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper). It’s naturally gluten free so it’s a perfect option for those with a gluten allergy or sensitivity, and the only “grain” that is a complete protein, making it a great addition to vegetarian or vegan diets.
Added bonus? It’s easy and quick to prepare.
The trouble with quinoa is it can be bland if not prepared well. The good news is it doesn’t take a gourmet chef to create a delicious quinoa dish – just the right ingredients.
Quinoa’s earthy flavor pairs well with slightly sweet or acidic flavors. You can add a touch of sweetness by adding fresh or dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, figs, apples) or adding a touch of honey or orange juice to your dressing. To choose a savory route, I like fresh and acidic dressings made from lemon and lime paired with fresh veggies like peppers, tomato, and cucumber. Another way to add a blast of flavor is fresh or dried herbs like sage, mint, or tarragon. Its versatility makes it a great base for lots of different flavor profiles and many different taste preferences. It can be eaten as a main dish or as a perfect side to roasted chicken or a piece of fish!
Fall squash, cherry, and sage quinoa
- 1 cup cooked tricolor quinoa
- 1 cup butternut squash, cubed and roasted (see directions below)
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- 1/3 cup diced dried cherries
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Dried rosemary
- Dried sage
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Peel and dice butternut squash into ½-1 inch cubes. Brush about 1 tbsp olive oil on the squash (or toss it in a bowl), top with a bit of salt (I used lavender salt, but plain salt or another flavored salt will work just fine), and sprinkle with dried sage and rosemary (about a teaspoon of each, but use your judgment). Place on a baking sheet and place in oven for 20-25 minutes, or until squash is cooked but still slightly firm.
- In the mean time, cook quinoa per package directions (I used Trader Joe’s tricolor quinoa – but any type will work!).
- When squash is done, mix together quinoa, dried cherries, walnuts, and squash. Mix in remaining tbsp olive oil and top with salt and pepper to taste. Feel free to add more dried sage for flavor if you like!
What’s your favorite way to prepare quinoa?
(Sarah is a future registered dietitian and is completing a nationally recognized dietetic internship at The Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston She also holds an MS in Nutrition Communication from Tufts University Friedman School in Boston. Sarah is a certified spin instructor, a new triathlete, and an avid runner who regularly participates in road races from 5k to a 1/2 marathons. Follow her on Twitter @SpinnerSarah and at her personal blog Food and Fitness Friend.)