Gretchen McKay

26.2 Food: How to eat right while training

An occasional series on how to fuel for the Pittsburgh Marathon.

Most serious runners will stop at nothing in the race to maximize performance.

High-tech trainers that keep your feet happy while logging serious miles, the latest fitness watch or app that provides feedback in real-time, specially formulated goos and chews that promise to energize your body for hours — any edge you can get, you’ll take.

What it really boils down to, though, is healthy eating, before, during and after your workouts.

To do your best in an endurance event such as the UPMC Pittsburgh Marathon on May 4, you should be maintaining an appropriate nutrition plan not just the week or so before your race but throughout your training. And yes, that includes weekends, when diets easily can go the way of the devil.

One mistake some runners make going into a marathon-training program — and maybe the reason they decide to attempt the 26.2-mile race in the first place — is to use the race as a vehicle for weight loss, by fueling runs on a reduced-calorie diet. I mean, hasn’t it been drilled into our heads that the key to taking off extra pounds is to consume fewer calories than you burn?

I know that was my plan when I signed up this winter for my first full marathon: To shed that small but still irritating spare tire I’d been carrying around since the holidays.

Working with a nutrition coach provided by my Highmark insurance, I learned that might not be the best idea.

While the body recovers pretty easily after the 13.1 miles of a half marathon, it’s a different story with the grueling 17- to 22-mile workouts marathon training entails.

“It’s very damaging to the body,” my registered dietitian, Andrew Wade, told me. “Your muscles tear during those long runs.”

By restricting calories, you prevent muscles and other vital body systems from recovering or performing properly, he explained. Not only that, but also the muscle fatigue that comes from running farther than you are used to can linger, often for days. Deny your body the energy it needs during this tired state, and you’re at a higher risk for many of the overuse and impact injuries that can vex a runner.

Pig out whenever you feel like it as a reward for all that hard work, on the other hand — and God knows you’re famished after running for three-plus hours — and you can sap your energy while playing crazy with your digestion system. Especially if you fill up on refined, processed goodies instead of natural whole foods. Don’t know the difference? Think McDonald’s vs. grilled chicken and brown rice whipped up at home, or a handful of mixed nuts or a cup of yogurt with homemade granola instead of Oreos or a bag of potato chips.

One way to avoid this sabotage is to eat a small number of calories (primarily carbs) as soon as your stomach feels back to normal — say, a whole-wheat bagel with peanut butter or a smoothie made with fruit and yogurt. A glass of low-fat chocolate milk also will take the edge off. Then, when you’re ready to eat a “real” meal, you won’t be tempted to overdo it.

What’s a good way to stay on track the 231/2 other hours a day?

A meal plan that helps you break the day’s food into countable calories and into grams of fat, protein and carbohydrates can help organize and motivate runners who want to think more seriously about what they put in their mouths in the weeks leading up to a race.

For instance, a runner my age and size (don’t ask, because I ain’t telling) should be taking in between 1,800 and 2,000 calories per day, with an additional mostly-carb 400 calories split into the meals before and after a workout on easy training days (approximately 100 calories per 10 minutes of exercise). For long run days (more than 90 minutes), I get to add an additional 200 calories per hour of exercise.

I know. What an absolute pain to have to marry math with food. Even Mr. Wade acknowledged good nutrition is a “complex topic” that can be very difficult to navigate; it took more than a week of scribbling every last calorie down to get the hang of it, and that was with recipes that provided nutrition information. I’m sure food editor Bob Batz, who sits within earshot, has gotten pretty tired of me debating aloud the merits of quinoa vs. brown rice.

But once I got used to putting pen to paper, well, it really has made me more conscious of making healthful choices.

Especially since Mr. Wade stressed the plan he gave me was a “perfect world” list.

“Your main priority should be your pre- and post-exercise meals [mostly carbs with some protein] and your intra-exercise snacking,” he said. “The rest of the plan is just healthy lifestyle suggestions, and an idea of how many calories you need without exercise.”

In other words, don’t eat junk.

And if you go overboard at lunch or dinner, or mindlessly spoon in the Haagen-Daz while you’re watching TV? It’s OK to stray here or there with a few extra calories, so long as you make up for it by cutting back on future portions.

“It’s not cheating if it’s accounted for,” Mr. Wade reassured me, “as long as you’re eating good foods most of the time.”

Runners differ, of course, on energy sources. Tim Lyman, a running coach at PNC YMCA, Downtown, swears by a peanut butter-and-banana sandwich on whole-wheat before a long run and a whey protein shake after. But during workouts, he only recharges with Gatorade. As for the rest of his training diet, well, whatever.

“I’m pretty sure I ate an entire box of cereal since last night,” he told me one morning.

Then again, he’s 28, and has that long, lean physique that makes you think he could nosh on Big Macs 24/7 and still manage a sub-three-hour marathon, the lucky dog.

Me, I’ve had to learn to eat better in the morning (a glass of OJ provides a quick source of carbs) and work in an afternoon snack that doesn’t come from the vending machine. Along with thinking about portion control, I’ve also learned to identify foods I can eat easily while I’m running to keep my energy level where it needs to be at mile 15. Dried apricots, dry cereal and pretzels, to name just a few.

It’s a daunting journey, this marathon thing. But I’m learning it still can taste delicious, even if you’re wearing the muffin top instead of eating it.

Butternut squash oatmeal

Feel free to play around with the spices in this carb-rich, tummy-friendly breakfast dish from Nick Fischer, in-house dietitian for Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. He says, “It’s only oatmeal, so if you mess it up, start again.”

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup rolled oats (instant are fine)

2 teaspoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon and ginger

1/4 to 1/2 cup pureed butternut squash

Add water and milk to a small pot and bring to a boil. When liquid is boiling, add remaining ingredients and stir until everything is evenly mixed and distributed. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes or until the oatmeal is at the desired consistency. Stir often.

If cooking in a microwave, put water, milk and oats in microwave-safe bowl and cook on high (power level 10) for 2 minutes, or until desired consistency. Then add in the rest of the ingredients. The reason that we add the spices, sugar and pumpkin after cooking in the microwave is because you can’t stir while it is being cooked. Also, it is easier to stir the pumpkin into a hot liquid rather than a cold liquid.

Serves 1.

— Nick Fischer, Fischer Nutrition

Nutrition: 215 calories, 38 grams carbs, 10 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 6 grams fiber

Breakfast Smoothies, Three ways

Healthy, easy to make and oh-so-portable, smoothies are a terrific pre- or post-workout drink. For added protein, substitute Greek yogurt, or a scoop of vanilla whey-protein powder (available at health food stores). I swapped a little orange juice for the sugar. If you want to use fresh fruit, that’s fine — just add a handful of ice cubes.

1½ cups plain low-fat yogurt

1½ cups frozen strawberries and 1 sliced banana OR 3/4 cup frozen pineapple chunks and 3/4 cup frozen mango OR 11/2 cups frozen blueberries and 1/2 cup pomegranate juice

1 tablespoon sugar, plus extra for seasoning

Pinch salt

Place ingredients in blender. Process on low speed until combined but still coarse in texture, about 10 seconds. Increase speed to high and continue to process until mixture is completely smooth, 20 to 40 seconds. Season with extra sugar to taste and serve. Serves 2.

— “The Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook” (America’s Test Kitchen, April 2014, $29.95)

Nutrition: 230 calories, 43 grams carbs, 10 grams protein, 2.5 grams fat, 4 grams fiber

Curry Egg Salad Sandwich

Swapping low-fat Greek yogurt for mayo in this tasty egg salad not only lowers the fat content but also adds protein.

1/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons golden raisins

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 scallions, sliced

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper

4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

2 whole grain bagels, cut in half

4 slices avocado

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

In bowl, stir together yogurt, raisins, mustard, scallions, curry powder, salt and pepper. Gently stir in chopped eggs.

Divide egg mixture between 2 bagel halves. Top each with an equal amount of avocado and cilantro. Top with remaining bagel halves.

Serves 2.

— “The Runner’s World Cookbook: 150 Ultimate Recipes” (Rodale, Oct. 2013, $26.99 or $9.24 Kindle edition)

Nutrition: 421 calories, 51 grams carbs, 22 grams protein, 9 grams fiber, 17 grams total fat

Quinoa Pilaf with herbs and lemon

Paired with grilled chicken breast or fish, this makes for a quick and healthful meal for tired or time-challenged runners; I made it at 9:30 p.m., after a taxing speed workout. Toasting the quinoa gives it a rich, nutty flavor — my daughter accused me of “cooking with peanut butter” when she got a whiff. Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods you can eat (24 grams per serving), and it’s also rich in anti-inflammatoryphytonutrients.

1½ cups prewashed quinoa

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces

1 small onion, chopped fine

3/4 teaspoon salt

13/4 cups water

3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Toast quinoa in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until quinoa is very fragrant and makes continuous popping sound, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer quinoa to bowl and set aside.

Return now-empty pan to medium-low heat and melt butter. Add onion and salt; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened and light golden, 5 to 7 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high, stir in water and quinoa, and bring to simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until grains are just tender and liquid is absorbed, 18 to 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking. Remove pan from heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff quinoa with fork, stir in herbs and lemon juice and serve.

Serves 4 to 6.

— Cooks Illustrated, Jan./Feb. 2014

Nutrition: 384 calories,59 grams carbs, 13 grams protein, 7 grams fiber, 10 grams total fat

Beef and snow pea stir-fry

Pasta is classic runners’ food. Satisfy your need for noodles with this Asian dish, which comes dressed in a (slightly) spicy peanut sauce. If you don’t eat red meat, feel free to substitute chicken or firm tofu that’s been pressed and cut into 1-inch chunks.


9-ounce package soba noodles or whole-wheat spaghetti

1 tablespoon canola oil

3/4 pound sirloin beef, thinly sliced into 2-inch pieces

1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed

1/2 cup Peanut Dressing (recipe follows)

8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained

Bring large pot of water to boil over high heat. When it boils, salt the water and add noodles. Cook according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Add snow peas and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Add peanut sauce, water chestnut and cooked noodles. Toss to coat everything with sauce.

Serves 4.

— “The Runner’s World Cookbook: 150 Ultimate Recipes” (Rodale, Oct. 2013, $26.99 or $9.24 Kindle edition)

Nutrition: 538 calories, 67 grams carbs, 35 grams protein, 15 grams total fat, 8 grams fiber.

Peanut Dressing

1/3 cup peanuts

3 tablespoons sesame oil

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger

2 teaspoons sugar

Juice 1/2 lime

1 clove garlic

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend/process for 1 minute, or until smooth and creamy.

Makes about 1/4 cup dressing.

Quick Caribbean chicken

Perfect for those times when you need a really quick meal to bring you back to life. I added chopped red pepper and canned pineapple for extra color and crunch.

12 ounces chicken, cut into thin strips

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 to 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 teaspoon cooking oil

1 medium sweet potato, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (I cut it into small chunks)

1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper (about 1/3 pepper)

1 small banana pepper, seeded and chopped

3/4 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

2 unripe bananas, quartered lengthwise and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1/2 cup canned or fresh pineapple chunks

2 cups hot, cooked brown rice

Season chicken with salt and red pepper. In a large, nonstick skillet, cook chicken in hot oil for 3 to 4 minutes. Add sweet potato, chopped red pepper and banana pepper. Cook and stir for 5 to 6 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink and potato is just tender.

In a small bowl, stir together pineapple juice and cornstarch; stir into chicken mixture. Cook and stir gently until slightly thickened and bubbly. Stir in bananas and pineapple chunks, if using. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Serve over cooked brown rice.

Makes 4 main-dish servings.

— Adapted from

Nutrition: 326 calories, 50 grams carbs, 20 grams protein, 5 grams total fat, 4 grams fiber

Shrimp with Israeli Couscous, Spring Peas, Mint and Lemon

The most popular seafood in the U.S., shrimp is a lean source of protein. It’s also a good way work into your diet selenium, a mineral which may help reduce the joint inflammation that runners can experience from training.

2 lemons

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cups almonds, blanched

3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 bunch mint leaves (about 1 cup)

1 pound Israeli couscous

1 pound large shrimp, cleaned, peeled and deveined

2 cups fresh or frozen spring peas

Salt and ground red pepper, to taste

For garnish

1 bunch mint leaves

1/2 cup toasted almonds

Zest and juice 1 of the lemons; reserve the zest. Make a pesto by combining the lemon juice, pamesan cheese, almonds, 3/4 cup olive oil and mint.

Boil liberally salted water in a large pot. Add couscous and cook for 6 to 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat a large skillet with remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add shrimp and saute quickly, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add peas and continue cooking. Add 1 cup pesto, followed by the couscous.

Juice the second lemon and season the couscous with the lemon juice, salt and ground red pepper. Finish with the mint leaves, reserved lemon zest and toasted almonds.

Serves 6.

Nutrition: 650 calories, 77 grams carbs, 32 grams protein, 24 grams total fat.

— “The Athlete’s Palate Cookbook” by Yishane Lee and the editors of Runner’s World (Rodale, $13.09 Kindle edition)

Low-Cal Oatmeal cookies

It’s just not a meal without something sweet for dessert, don’t you agree? I need chocolate to get through the day, so mixed 1/2 cup of chocolate chips into the batter, adding about 400 calories (or about 10 calories per cookie).

The first time I made these cookies I substituted mashed banana for the applesauce and my running group gobbled them up. But I think they’re better with the original recipe, especially if you ditch the Splenda for real sugar to get your family to eat them, too. Perfect for a quick after-run pickup.

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats

1 cup dark or golden raisins

1 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped

1/2 cup reduced-calorie, trans fat-free margarine

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup Splenda

2 large eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Coat 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with cooking spray.

In another large bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Stir in oats and then the raisins and nuts.

In another bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed, beat together margarine, granulated and brown sugars and Splenda until well blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in applesauce, vanilla and chocolate chips. With mixer at low speed, add dry ingredients in 2 batches, just until blended.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Bake until crisp and lightly brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

— Adapted from “The Men’s Health Big Book of Food & Nutrition” by Joel Weber (Rodale, $26.99)

Nutrition: 84.7 calories, 11.8 grams carbs, 1.9 gram protein, 3.5 grams fat.


Quinoa: A high-octane fuel for hungry runners

The food of the Incas, quinoa is considered a "superfood" because it's so nutritious/Gretchen McKay




This time of year when so many are obsessing about eating less in an effort to fit into warm-weather shorts and bathing suits, it’s all I can do not to think about food and how much of it I can possibly stuff in my mouth. Spring ushers in the start of racing season — the city’s biggest running event, the Pittsburgh Marathon, is May 6 — and with it, the long weekend training runs that make my fellow distance runners and me feel so very hungry.

This year, a record-breaking 25,000 have signed up for the city’s full and half marathons, the majority of them (56 percent) women. That means there’s a whole bunch of people rooting around in their refrigerators and pantries looking for something tasty with which to fuel and refuel their hard-working bodies.

Pasta and other high-carb foods are obvious choices in the weeks leading up to an endurance event such as a marathon to assure adequate stores of glycogen, the muscle’s primary fuel source during exercise. But runners need protein, too, to help build and repair muscles, along with fat and fiber to keep them regular during training. And don’t forget lots (and lots) of water.

In other words, that power bar that hits the spot so perfectly after a morning on the trails ain’t gonna cut it over the long run.

It’s time to get your game on with a one-stop food that’s not just super delicious, but also super nutritious: quinoa.

A member of the goosefoot family, which include beets, spinach and chard, quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) has been nourishing people for thousands of years. It was particularly revered by the ancient Incas, who considered the sacred seed grown in South America’s Andean mountain region chisaya mama, or the “mother of all grains.” It was so prized, in fact, that leaders planted the first seeds each season using a golden shovel and planned celebrations around the harvest, write Jessica Harlan and Kelley Sparwasser in “Quinoa Cuisine” (Ulysses, March 2012, $16.95).

Spanish explorers who conquered the Incas in the 16th century destroyed the fields in which the plant was grown along with the rest of their civilization, and as a result, quinoa — declared illegal — almost disappeared from Andean dinner tables. Even after those South American countries won their independence in the 1820s, and the plant again could be freely grown, its comeback was slow. Only the poor and provincial fed it to their families.

Introduced commercially to Americans in the 1980s, quinoa is still relatively unknown in many home kitchens. Which is unfortunate, because few foods can match the seed’s nutritional profile.

You name it, quinoa’s got it. It’s a complete protein that contains all eight essential amino acids, it also is rich in calcium, iron, fiber and potassium, and is an excellent source of folate, magnesium, vitamin B6, thiamin, niacin, potassium, and riboflavin. And all for 222 calories a cup.

Quinoa also is gluten-free, so it’s a good choice for people with celiac disease or those who are sensitive to gluten, wheat and other grass-based food products.

If that doesn’t sell you on the food, consider this:

Because it’s higher in protein and fiber than corn or wheat (the germ in its seeds makes up about 60 percent of the grain), quinoa will help you feel fuller longer. So you may actually end up eating less. Well, theoretically, at least, because once you try it, you’re going to find that you like it, even in recipes as disparate as chili, lasagna and cookies, as my family discovered.

Quinoa is prepared much like rice or pearled barley in about 15 minutes — you can boil it, cook it in a rice cooker, bake or microwave it, using one part grain to two parts liquid — but the results are crunchier and nuttier tasting. It comes in four colors with varying flavors — white, which is the most common, mildest and cheapest; slightly nuttier-tasting red; black, which has the earthiest flavor and a seedlike crunchiness; and tri-color (also called rainbow), which is a mix of all three.

It’s not your cheapest grain — I paid $3.99 per pound for bulk white quinoa at Giant Eagle Market District Robinson, and $8.99 for a 16-ounce bag of Eden organic red quinoa — but keep in mind that it triples in volume when cooked. Though it’s harder to find, some stores also carry quinoa flakes — good as a substitute for oatmeal or breadcrumbs — and quinoa flour.

Often served as a side dish (it makes for a wonderful pilaf, especially when paired with fruit and nuts), cooked quinoa also can headline a meal in soups, chili, stir-fries, casseroles, stews and salads. Surprisingly, it’s also a great addition to baked goods and desserts. For instance, I subbed cooked red quinoa for dried cranberries in a batch of chocolate chip cookies with pretty good results.

Whatever you plan on stirring quinoa into, make sure you rinse the seeds under cool running water before cooking them, to remove any traces of a bitter coating called saponin that might have escaped manufacturers’ pre-washing. Store quinoa like other grains, in a tightly closed container in a dry, cool place.

The following dishes will help you fuel up for your long training runs, or bring your weary body back to life after you’ve put in the miles.

Gretchen McKay








Two-bean quinoa chili

PG tested

I couldn’t find black quinoa so substituted red.

  • 1/2 cup black quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 pound ground turkey or chicken
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
  • 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano

Chili “fixings” such as shredded cheese, sliced green onions, sour cream

In a small saucepan over high heat, bring quinoa and water to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook until water has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender, 18 to 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let quinoa sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork, cover and keep warm.

In a large heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven, heat canola oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until transluscent and beginning to brown, 7 to 9 minutes. Add garlic and saute, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add turkey or chicken and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up the meat into small chunks, until meat is cooked, about 5 minutes.

Add tomaotes and their juices, kidney beans, black beans, cumin, chili powder, salt and oregano. Bring to simmer over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes to allow flavors to meld.

Stir in cooked quinoa and simmer until quinoa is heated through, about 5 minutes longer. Serve hot in bowls, letting each person garnish their chili with the fixings of their choice. Serves 6.

— “Quinoa Cuisine: 150 Creative Recipes for Super-Nutritious, Amazingly Delicious Dishes” by Jessica Harlan & Kelley Sparwasser (Ulysses Press, March 2012, $16.95)

Gretchen McKay








Quinoa Lasagna

PG tested

This creamy pasta dish is made with bechamel, a white sauce of cream and butter, so it’s not necessarily low-cal. But it tasted great.

  • 1/2 pound lasagna noodles, cooked according to package
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/2 pound ground chicken
  • 1 cup diced canned tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour or cornstarch
  • 2 cups cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Set aside cooked lasagna noodles and cooked quinoa.

Heat vegetable oil in a medium saucepan and saute onion, carrot and celery until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the ground chicken and brown, stirring, breaking it up into chunks. Add tomatoes and sugar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer for 25 minutes, or until meat is cooked through.

In the meantime, make a quick bechamel sauce by making a roux with the butter and flour. Cook for 2 minutes and whisk in cream. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

When the meat sauce is cooked, fold in the cooked quinoa.

To assemble, grease a loaf pan with butter or oil. Cover bottom of the pan with 2 tablespoons of bechamel sauce. Layer with a strip of pasta noodle and then top with meat-quinoa sauce. Drizzle bechamel over meat-quinoa sauce, and repeat layer(s) of pasta and sauce. Finish with bechamel sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cheese and bechamel sauce are browned. Serve with a salad of greens and crusty bread.

Serves 4.

— Adapted from

Gretchen McKay








Spicy Tropical Fruit Salad

PG tested

This easy salad would be delicious with a variety of fresh fruits, too.

  • 1 cup white quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 medium oranges, segmented, juice reserved
  • 2 tablespoons diced dried apricots
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried pineapple
  • 1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 cup cubed jicama
  • 1 small banana, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons frozen pineapple juice concentrate, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon spiced rum (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgina olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

1/4 cup diced fresh herbs, such as chives, mint or basil

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring quinoa and water to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Turn off heat and let quinoa sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and allow to cool.

Place orange segments in a medium bowl and the orange juice in a small bowl (you should have about 1 tablespoon). To the orange segments add cooked quinoa, dried appricots, raisins, dates, dried pineapple, hazelnuts, jicama and banana, and stir to combine.

To the bowl with orange juice add the pineapple juice concentrate, honey, spiced rum (if using) and chili powder, and whisk to combine. Slowly add olive oil while continually whisking to emulsify the dressing. Add dressing to quinoa-fruit mixture, stirring to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until cold. Just before serving, garnish with fresh herbs.

Serves 4 to 6.

— “Quinoa Cuisine: 150 Creative Recipes for Super-Nutritious, Amazingly Delicious Dishes” by Jessica Harlan & Kelley Sparwasser (Ulysses Press, March 2012, $16.95)


Almond Chocolate-Chip Quinoa Cookies

PG tested

Who knew you could fold quinoa into cookies, and not have your family gag? I’m guessing it’s because I substiuted chocolate chips for the craisins in the original recipe.

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanillla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup slivered unsalted almonds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter, both sugars and honey in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and extracts; beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 mintues. Beat in flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time. Stir in quinoa, oats, chocolate chips and almonds. Spoon dough in 2-tablespoon portions onto prepared sheets, spacing 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 day or freeze for up to 1 month.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

— Adapted from