Shaving 22 minutes in 10 lbs…

(Wherein Matt approaches his food as a form of training to help improve his running.)

The inspiration:

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=elite+runner&iid=6319374″ src=”9/1/8/5/AgeAFL_Fun_Run_c455.jpg?adImageId=10387254&imageId=6319374″ width=”380″ height=”229″ /]Apparently, it’s common knowledge in the running community that loosing one pound can increase a runner’s speed by about two seconds a mile (in Canadianese, that would work out to be roughly 3.2 seconds per kilometer). That can be huge for elite runners who need to shave (or shed) precious seconds off their race times. This is generally referred to as their “race weight”.

Generally, I aim to do the best I can (as hokey as that may sound) — so why not finish my race with a better time? It may not smash any world records, but I could aim to smash my PB (or set a challenging one in the case of the marathon).

This got me thinking, why not us non-elites? I want a race weight damn it!

A little background:

In May 2008 I was 85lbs heavier then I currently am. Over the last couple of years, I’ve managed to loose a considerable amount of weight that was done in a healthy, sustainable manner that didn’t include anything gimmicky or invasive. It’s become incredibly cliché, but it truly was a lifestyle change that also included taking up running and adopting a plant-based diet. I’ve developed a strong fascination with all thing nutrition, and  love learning about how different foods affect the body. I have no academic credential in nutrition, but day dream of getting some.

The starting point:

This is me last Friday:

I’m currently at what I (and my physician) consider a healthy and manageable every day weight of 185 lbs at 5’11”.

The how:

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=vegetarian&iid=5079696″ src=”7/6/a/3/Cardboard_box_of_ad2c.jpg?adImageId=10387700&imageId=5079696″ width=”337″ height=”506″ /]A pound of fat is comprised of 3,500 calories. I’m aiming to loose a total of ten pounds of fat before I run the Ottawa Marathon. That’s a total 35,000 calories that are gonna go!

The basis of weight loss in no secret (despite what infomercials would have us believe). Calories in must be less than calories out in order for the body to shed weight. The challenging part of this will be to do this while also maintaining an adequate nutritional basis from which to train for my marathon.

I’m going to do this by focusing on three specific areas that will become future installments in this series of me acquiring my race weight:

  • Food: nutritionally rich, dense, filling and whole foods
  • Training smart: building strong, lean and efficient muscle
  • Mental: treating food as a source of fuel with purpose

The goal:

My race weight goal is 175 lbs, which according to those studies should shave an additional 22 minutes and 35 seconds off whatever my marathon time would otherwise have been. Not too shabby for 10 lbs lost!

So that’s the plan I’m looking at — acquiring a race weight so I can run faster! I’ll keep you all updated in coming posts within this series, and welcome any crazy souls who want to join me in acquiring their own race weight.

10 reasons to run a half before a marathon…

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=marathon&iid=119854″ src=”0116/aa661eb6-0a36-47cd-acb7-2f8aee4375ce.jpg?adImageId=10294109&imageId=119854″ width=”234″ height=”154″ /]1. Learning through experience

The learning curve between my first and second half marathons was steep. Nothing can quite prepare the first timer stepping up to the start line of a longer road race, and there are a lot of pit falls that they are prone to. For this reason alone, it can be incredibly beneficial to get as much experience at shorter races so that you can step up to the start line of your first marathon with a better understanding of pacing, water stations and pre-race nerves.

2. Balancing life and training

Before running my first half marathon, a friend said, “you can still have a social life while training for a half marathon, but it becomes much harder once you’re training for a full marathon.” So far I’ve found this to be true. Often times a runner can get away with three or four runs a week in preparation for a half marathon, while many marathon training programs call for five or six. Learning to balance the demands of family, work and training with the half marathon can go a long way to getting a runner ready to do that with the demands of a full marathon.

3. Fast(er) recovery

Many marathons (such as those in this video) find it preferable to take the day after their marathon off from work to recover. Half marathoners are generally in pretty good shape after their event and generally don’t require much more than some stretching and maybe a nap. This can be a very appealing aspect of the half marathon.

4. Lots of selection

Each year, there seem to be more and more half marathons popping up all over the place, including many stand alone events. A quick survey of the Running Room website showed that in Ontario there are 19 half marathons and six marathons for 2010. Of course not all races are represented on that website, but it’s an interesting sampling to show the many opportunities, locations and types of half marathons that are available in our own back yard.

5. Blending quality and quantity

The half marathon is certainly a respectable distance, and with so much selection available to runners and quick recovery times, you can have your race cake and eat it too! Several half marathons a season isn’t unheard of or even unusual, and the distance is such that it can easily be tagged onto a trip.

6. Same expo and race add ons

Whether you’re running a half marathon or marathon, you have the same access to the other parts of the race, including the expo. Expos are lots of fun with many things to see, do and try. A good number of races also have options for pasta dinners, massages, and other add ons that are available to all participants.

7. Getting friends involved

The only thing better than running a road race, is running a road race with friends. Recruiting friends to run a race with you can be made a much easier task with a half marathon, especially if you drop the “marathon” part and just call it a 13-miler! The distance is challenging, but not undoable, and many are willing to try it out as a group.

8. Cost

If you’re a runner who enjoys the fun and thrills of a race, the costs can definitely add up. The half marathon is often much cheaper, and while not half the price (wouldn’t that be nice!), you can save yourself a pile of dough by opting for the half.

9. Bling

Chances are good that if you’re entering an event with medals, the half marathon will also have them! These medallions can be wonderful mementos of your racing accomplishments, and are usually only four letters different then their full counterparts.

10. A great sense of achievement

Most importantly, there is a huge sense of achievement in setting a goal and achieving it. The half marathon is not really half of anything, it’s an event unto itself with its own challenges and rewards like any other distance. Whether using the half as an incremental step or as a goal unto itself, you’ll be the better for it!

Five common running injuries…

Sooner or later, we all seem to deal with an injury, and sometimes they can become prolonged nagging nuisances. The following information was prepared by Chiropractor Dr. Elizabeth Douglas as a resource for runners to better understand some of the common injuries that they may face, how to treat them and more importantly, how to prevent them. Of course, it’s always important to consult your health professional of choice when making decisions about your body and any potential injuries you may have. There are many opinions on running injuries and the following is presented for informational purposes only.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=stretching&iid=5068665″ src=”8/0/8/4/Woman_in_running_c6ec.jpg?adImageId=10205690&imageId=5068665″ width=”234″ height=”299″ /]1. Achilles tendonitis: Inflammation of the Achilles tendon — a large tendon connecting the two major calf muscles (the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles) to the back of the heel bone. Under too much stress, the tendon tightens and is forced to work too hard causing it to become inflamed. If the inflamed Achilles continues to be stressed, it can tear or rupture.

Symptoms: Dull or sharp pain anywhere along the back of the tendon, usually close to the heel. Limited ankle flexibility, redness or heat over the painful area.

Causes:

  • Tight or fatigued calf muscles (due to poor stretching, rapidly increasing distance, or over-training excessive hill running or speed work).
  • Inflexible running shoes.
  • Runners who over-pronate (feet rotate too far inward on impact).

Preventative measures:

  • Stretching of the gastrocnemius (keep knee straight) and soleus (keep knee bent) muscles.
  • Correct shoes should be worn — specifically motion-control shoes and orthotics to correct over-pronation.
  • Gradual progression of training program.
  • Avoid excessive hill training.
  • Incorporate rest into training program.
  • Address muscular imbalances early with the help of a health professional.

2. Iliotibial Band Syndrome: Pain and inflammation located on the outside of the knee due to continual rubbing of the band over part of the femur (thigh bone). The rubbing occurs during the bending and straightening motion of the knee and can result in irritation. Initially, a dull ache on the outside of the knee one to two kilometers into a run, with pain remaining for the duration of the run. The pain disappears soon after stopping running, later, severe sharp pain that prevents running. The pain is generally worse when running down hills, or sloped surfaces and may be present when walking up or down stairs. Iliotibial Band Syndrome can be the result of poor training habits, equipment and/or anatomical abnormalities.

Training habits:

  • Running on a banked surface.
  • Inadequate warm-up or cool-down.
  • Increasing distance too quickly or excessive downhill running.
  • Worn out shoes.
  • Over striding.

Abnormalities in leg/feet anatomy:

  • High or low arches.
  • Over-pronation of the foot.
  • Wide hips.
  • Uneven leg length.
  • Bowlegs or tightness about the iliotibial band.

Muscle Imbalance:

  • Weak hip abductor muscles.
  • Limited ankle flexion.

Prevention:

  • Change running shoes every 500 to 800 kilometres (300 to 500 miles), or every three to four months, when they have lost approximately 40 to 60 percent of their shock absorbing abilities. High mileage runners should have two pairs of shoes to alternate between, to allow 24 hours for the shock absorbing material to return to its optimal form. Do not underestimate the importance of good shoes in the prevention of many types of injuries. It’s worth the cost in the long run. Always slowly increase running mileage and if adding hills, do so gradually. Downhill running especially increases friction on the IT band as well as fatiguing the quadriceps, which are the main stabilizers of the knee.
  • Avoid training on uneven surfaces, as the down leg may be predisposed to ITBS.
  • After a run, cool down and stretch; ice if necessary.
  • Foam rollers can help keep the tissue mobile.
  • Strengthen stabilizers of your iliotibial band. Seek a health specialist for individual assessment of muscular imbalances.

The prognosis is generally good with appropriate treatment and correction of precipitating factors.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=knee+injury&iid=5245099″ src=”b/8/1/2/closeup_of_a_f15b.jpg?adImageId=10205344&imageId=5245099″ width=”234″ height=”234″ /]3. Patello-femoral Pain Syndome (PFPS): Patello-femoral Pain Syndrom is a degenerative condition of the cartilage surface of the back of the knee cap, or patella. It procues discomfort or dull pain around or behind the patella. It is common in young adults, especially soccer players, cyclists, rowers, tennis players and runners. The condition may result from acute injury to the patella or from chronic friction between the patella and the groove in the femur through which is passes during motion of the knee.

Symptoms:

  • Pain beneath or on the sides of the kneecap.
  • Crepitus (grinding noise), as the rough cartilage rubs against cartilage when the knee is flexed.
  • Pain is most sever after hill running.
  • Swelling of the knee.

Causes:

  • Muscular imbalances — weakness of the quadriceps (specifically VMO), tight ITB, tight hamstrings, weak or tight hip muscles, tight calf muscles.
  • Over-pronation/over-supination.
  • Wide hips.

Preventative measures:

  • Stretching of the quadriceps, hamstring, ITB and gluteal muscles. Remember to stretch well before running, strengthening of the quadriceps, hamstring and calf muscles.
  • Correct shoes.
  • Orthotics to correct over-pronation.
  • Avoid excessive downhill running and cambered roads (stay on the flattest part of the road).
  • Gradual progression of training program.
  • Incorporate rest into training program.
  • Address muscular imbalances early with the help of a health professional.

4. Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome): The term “shin splints” refers to pain along the shinbone (tibia) — the largest bon in the front of your lower leg. The pain is the result of an overload on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach your muscles to the bone.

Pain or tenderness along the inside of the shin (usually about halfway down the shin) that may extend to the knee. Pain is most severe at the start of a run, but may disappear during a run, as the muscles loosen up. This is different to a stress fracture, where there is pain during weight bearing activities (walking, stair-climbing, etc.).

Causes:

  • Inflexible calf muscles and tight Achilles tendon place more stress onto the muscle attachments.
  • Over-pronation.
  • Excessive running on hard surfaces such as concrete pavement.
  • Incorrect or worn shoes.
  • Overtraining or a rapid increase in training load or intensity.
  • Beginner runners are more susceptible to this problem for a variety of reasons, but most commonly due to the fact that the leg muscles have not been stressed in such a way before they started running.

Prevention:

  • Prepare for exercise/activities — understand what muscle groups will be used and slowly start conditioning them by strengthening them. Talk with a PM&R physician to determine the appropriate type of exercises.
  • Properly stretch muscles before running — muscles and joints need to warm up before beginning a run. Also be sure to allow for a “cooling down” period afterwards.
  • Use an appropriate running shoe — there are several brands and models of running shoes. Make sure you are using the type best suited for your feet and your running style. Running shoes should also be replaced regularly. Consult a specialty running store to choose an appropriate shoe.
  • Incorporate hard days and easy days into your training program — mileage should only be increased approximately 10 per cent each week. Runners should make sure to decrease their mileage slightly every third week as a way to allow for recovery prior to additional mileage increases. Runners should also be patient with their development, being careful not to push themselves too far or too fast.
  • Active Release Therapy (ART) or Soft Tissue Therapy can be used to correct muscular imbalances.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=sports+injury&iid=5167506″ src=”9/1/d/9/Closeup_of_a_3034.jpg?adImageId=10205489&imageId=5167506″ width=”234″ height=”234″ /]5. Plantar fasciitis: An inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick fibrous band of tissue in the bottom of the foot that runs from the heel to the base of the toes. When placed under too much stress, the plantar fascia stretches too far and tears, resulting in inflammation of the fascia and the surrounding tissues. The tears are soon covered with scar tissue, which is less flexible than the fascia and only aggravates the problem.

Symptoms:

  • Pain at the base o the heel or bottom of the foot.
  • Pain is most severe in the mornings on getting out of bed, and at the beginning of a run. The pain may fade as you walk or change running stride, in an attempt to alleviate the pain.

Causes:

  • Stress, tension and pulling on the plantar fascia.
  • Inflexible calf muscles and tight Achilles tendons (placing more stress onto the plantar fascia).
  • Over-pronation (Feet rotate too far inward on impact).
  • High arches and rigid feet.
  • Incorrect or worn shoes.
  • Overtraining.

Preventative measures:

  • Stretching of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. Repeat stretches two to three times per day. Remember to stretch well before running and to stretch the plantar fascia.
  • Place a golf ball under the foot, and roll the foot over the ball. Start with the ball at the base of the big toe, and roll the foot forwards over the ball, then back again. Move the ball to the base of the toe and repeat. Always exert enough pressure so that you feel a little tenderness.
  • Correct shoes.
  • Orthotics to correct over-pronation (can try taping to see if this provides relief prior to orthotics).
  • Active Release Therapy (ART) or Soft Tissue Therapy to calf musculature.

For more information on stretching, or to learn different stretches to help prevent some of the above injuries, check out Runner’s World’s page on stretching here.

Toronto hills and cake…

This post is a little bit random, but I’m feeling a little random at the moment, so bear with me.

First some housekeeping. It’s been a month or so, and I keep forgetting to mention it, but I acquired an actual domain name for the blog. So http://www.fartlekrunner.com is all ours! No more .wordpress.com! I’ve also put up a new page on the blog to archive previous installments of the Toronto Runner series. You can check this out by clicking on the link above or by clicking here. Also, if you haven’t already, you should really venture on over to the right hand side of this screen and click on the Facebook link and become a fan of the Fartlek Runner. I post to that page when there are new blog entries and other random stuff that comes up between posts. All the cool kids are doing it, and you’re a cool kid… right?

Today is February 10th, and the novelty of winter running is starting to loose its panache. We’ve been pretty lucky so far and it’s been pretty mild and dry, but I have the feeling that my honeymoon period with this season is drawing to a close. Also, it’s amazing what a season can do to the volume of running-related laundry one has! The silver lining (or golden as the case may be) is the amount of daylight we’re getting is now noticeably longer, and I try to keep in mind that “spring” is just around the corner (39 days and counting to be exact).

Toronto Hills

The hill in Hoggs Hollow

I’m looking to start a new kind of profile on the blog — one that looks at the best hills in the city for doing hill repeats on. I know of a couple, but I figure there has to be some real gems out there in the different areas of the city. So I’m looking to you to help me out. Please click here and send me your suggestions for the best hill(s) in the city and I’ll go out and run them and report back with a rating system and pictures. This most likely won’t be weekly, but I hope for it to be regular.

Cake
This has nothing to do with running, other than running can provide the caloric room to eat it! Tonight I made a chocolate orange bunt cake with orange and chocolate icing all over it. The recipe comes from here, and it’s really good. I made it to take in for a potluck lunch my work is having this week, so we’ll see how it goes over, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there won’t be left overs.

Toronto Runner: Dave Emilio

After a very active childhood, Dave Emilio found that his activities had taken on a more social nature. “By my late 30s’ I realized that I was not healthy and not feeling well all the time,” he said. “I set out a plan to run as part of a weight management and overall health improvement strategy.”
Now running five to seven days a week, Dave is usually putting somewhere between 65 and 110 kilometres in a week depending on the time of year and what race he is training for. “I follow a combination of several plans,” says Dave. “It’s not far removed from any one plan and involves the pyramid structure of base, strength and then speed.
“I believe a lot of potential is built up between programs with steady, high mileage easy running. Most people drop off their mileage after a race and then start from scratch with each new race and wonder why they don’t improve their race times.”
Since May 2007, Dave has run 14 marathons and one 50k ultra marathon. “My favourite should be Mississauga, as that’s where I first qualified for Boston,” says Dave, “but I will always think fondly of my first marathon in Ottawa. Nothing beats crossing that marathon finish line for the first time.”
Last May, Dave achieved one of his running goals when he qualified for the Boston Marathon with one minute and 49 seconds to spare. “Now my short-term goal is to run a personal best of a sub 3:19 marathon this April in Boston,” he says. “After a three-week layoff with a broken toe in December I have my work cut out for me, but I’m working hard.”
When asked what advice he had for those of us who hope to one day qualify, Dave said, “If you want to qualify for Boston, be patient. Run lots. Lots of easy miles, warm up and cool down and you will stay healthy. Then, work hard and don’t be afraid of the dark mornings. Fast marathons are run with proper training, not just positivity. Massage, cross training, good food, good sleep and time management are all necessary, whether or not your goal is to qualify for Boston.”
In addition to Boston, Dave will also be running the Around the Bay 30k Road Race in March (he hopes to get a silver medal, which are award for completing the course in under two hours and 15 minutes) as well as a second attempt at the 50k distance. Mississauga and Ottawa marathons will round out the spring racing season and he is the four-hour pace bunny at Ottawa, his fourth time as a Marathon Pacer. On top of these plans, Dave will run four to five more marathons this fall and hopes to finish one of them in three hours and nine minutes or better — his ultimate goal is to complete a sub three hour marathon.
“Running was a way to get healthy, but now it is a way to remain healthy,” says Dave. “I feel better than I ever have. Yes, sometimes I’m sore from workouts, but overall, running has made me feel good all the time. Racing keeps me well rounded, eating and sleeping better than I normally would. I will race as long as I can!”
In addition to his own personal running goals, Dave has also looked for ways to engage with the running community in Toronto. In 2006 he launched a running blog that would eventually become Running with Scissors. “It’s a place to share running thoughts, notes, data, and basically keep track of my own running,” says Dave. “It is also partially to compliment the Running Room clinics with a place to hold info like training schedules and documents.”
This past January, Dave announced a new project he’s piloting — The Beaches Runner’s Club. “The Beaches is a great place to run and the people who run around here are great,” says Dave. “Why not bring them together.” His hope is that the club will allow the many little groups within the running club to come together and to see that people always have someone their pace to train with. “I’m also looking to see about getting younger runners out there,” said Dave. “I think there are a lot of young people who do not know the value and enjoyment of running — let’s see if we can help them see the light.”

Finding motivation…

Sylvia Ruegger sports her 1984 Olympic jacket. She takes time out of her busy schedule to speak to running clinics using her story to inspire others.

I’m a motivation junkie. I love having goals, a training schedule and a clear focus, but it’s the motivation that gets me through the nitty gritty of it. The 5 a.m. alarms on a -23°c before the wind chill morning where I’d rather just hit snooze and crawl back under the covers like all the other sane people in the world. But that fire in the belly, the need and desire to do something more is amazing.

Tonight I had the opportunity to hear Olympian Sylvia Ruegger speak during our weekly clinic session. This is the second time I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Sylvia — the first was about a year ago when I was in the Learn to Run clinic. The talk that Sylvia gave was more or less the same, but both the passion and enthusiasm with which she delivers her talk, combined with a new perspective and a year of experience on my part, made this time all the more rich.

Sylvia Ruegger ran for Canada in the first ever women’s marathon at the 1984 Olympics, finishing 8th. The Olympic marathon was her second marathon event ever, after running her first in Ottawa to qualify for the Olympic team. Sylvia still holds the Canadian women’s marathon record that she set when she won the 1985 Houston Marathon in 2:28:36. Now retired from professional running, Sylvia continues to run four times a week and founded the Running and Reading program with Kidfest, which look to foster physical activity, self-confidence and literacy in the country’s most disadvantaged kids.

The upper portion is Sylvia's bib from her Olympic run. Below is the piece of paper she retrieved from the floorboards years later.

Sylvia began her running career chasing cows on her family’s farm outside Newtonville, Ontario. While watching the Olympics in her home in 1976, she decided that she wanted to be an Olympian and run in the games. Writing her dream on a piece of paper and hiding in the floorboard of her bedroom, she pursued her love of running on the country roads with her mother driving behind her to provide light.

Whether we’re a recreational runner or we run at an elite level, Sylvia believes that we can each learn and be inspired by our stories. The struggle and tenacity of the human spirit that is inherent in endurance sports allows us each to dig deep and find what it is that motivates us to keep at it even when things get tough. This struck me, because it was this that was behind the inception of the Toronto Runner’s series that appears here weekly. I love Monday posts for that reason — another profile to draw inspiration and motivation from. Another person with goals, and hope that is out there pounding the pavement and pushing themselves — and all right here in our very own backyard.

When things get tough during a race, Sylvia says she thinks of it as a dark tunnel – like the ones you might drive through under a bridge – you’ll come out the other side shortly, all you have to do is hold on and remember that anything really worth doing is going to be hard, and all the richer for it.

One of the most memorable parts of her talk for me was when Sylvia talked about one of the common questions she gets: “you’re goal was to run in the Olympics and win a medal – aren’t you disappointed?” She says what gives her perspective on it is a quote by John Ruskin who said, “the highest reward for a man’s toil is not what he gets for it but what he becomes by it.”

Which begs the question, who have you become by your running?

I’ll finish this post with one final quote that I think is excellent. It’s from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and how, at worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Happy trails.

P.S. This is the only video I could find of Sylvia speaking. The first part of it is her story:

Marathon politics and food…

Toronto Marathon(s?):

The 2009 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon start line boasted an impressive display at city hall.

After a week of speculation and intrigue over the future of the two Toronto fall marathons, the city has extended a final opportunity for the two groups to figure it out. They now have two weeks to decide which of them will move to the spring, or the city will begin accepting RFPs, including third party bids.

If you’re not familiar with the situation, Toronto has two marathons — the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon and the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon — that are three weeks apart from each other. This past fall saw  years of rivalry between the two races come to a head when many in the city were fed up with the various Sunday road closures being so close together. I’m sure that it’s an election year in our grand ol’ city doesn’t help the situation either.

Aestus, myself and Thomas at the starting line of the 2009 Goodlife Toronto Half Marathon.

So now we Toronto runners get to wait some more to see what happens. There seems to be progress according to the story appearing in the Toronto Star yesterday. Jay Glassman of the Goodlife marathon is quoted as saying, “we’re open to moving.” Given the self-described “grass roots” feel of the race, it might make more sense for it to move to the spring, despite being the older of the two races.

Allan Brooks of the Scotiabank marathon talks in the same article of bringing in more elite athletes from around the world to add “star power” to the event.

Regardless of promises, both camps have until the February 22 city council meeting to come to a resolution.

Now on to lighter topics…

Quinoa:

A while back I heard about how great quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”) is. Shortly after, I picked up a small bag of organic quinoa that has sat in my pantry. That was, until last week.

Last week, while reading in the blogosphere, I came across a post on Frayed Laces, where she mentioned that she cooked her quinoa in a rice cooker. This peeked my interest, because I thought it had to be done by some miraculous method that I had no clue had to do. I had a rice cooker. I had quinoa, and I had water — I could do this.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=quinoa&iid=5281095″ src=”1/f/e/2/Quinoa_full_frame_d6ab.jpg?adImageId=9839986&imageId=5281095″ width=”234″ height=”236″ /]If you don’t know what I’m talking about, quinoa is a seed that originated in the Andean region of South America and is related to beats and spinach. It functions much the same way as rice, but is known for being somewhat of a super food. It is very high in protein and contains a balanced set of essential amino acids (making it a complete protein). It is also easily digested, gluten free, a good source of dietary fibre, phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron.

Frayed’s instructions are to put 1 cup of dry Quinoa to 2 parts water (or vegetable broth) into the rice cooker. It turned out perfectly. Last week was all about putting something on a bed of quinoa.

This week’s theme is somewhat similar, but with a small difference: it’s all about mixing things into the quinoa.

Enter Mr. Carrot and Ms. Leek. I bought a bag of the ginormous carrots this week, so I took one of those and grated it (yielding roughly 2 cups). I then took the leek and chopped that up. I heated a tablespoon of oil in a skillet and combined the carrot and leek with is and sautéed for 5-10 minutes. When it was done I mixed this with a batch of the quinoa. It looks like this:

It tastes fantastic! Once this batch is gone, I’m going to try a Mediterranean theme — sun-dried tomatoes, black olives…

If any of you have quinoa recipes and are holding out, please share!