The Weekend Warrior

It has been a busy two months. The weeks have been dominated by sitting in a chair and on the weekends, never sitting down. This season I was introduced to the joys of west coast skiing and the related thigh burn. Tahoe has gotten somewhere around 40 feet of snow this season, so my skinny jeans are about one ski day away from bursting at the seams. And it's happened before, thanks to Coach Steel, my college weigh training coach, and his repetitious hang cleans. Skiing on the West Coast has been a bit of an adjustment for me, as an East Coast girl who learned to use her edges at age 3. My first powder day (an entirely new term for me) I found myself repeatedly head-over-heels with a mouth full of snow until I learned to sit back a little and enjoy the ride. Even my skis needed an overhaul - my razor sharp toothpicks sunk like a ship, binding my legs hopelessly in waist deep powder until my ever-patient boyfriend could dig me out. When I finally strapped on some powder skis - which looked like giant canoes to me - it was a whole new ballgame. I also picked up some tire chains while I was at it, an essential item I learned after sitting on the same square of pavement for two hours while everyone put snow boots on their car. And then we sat again due to an avalanche warning - no big deal. But the 12hr trip quickly slipped from our minds when we were waist deep in powder the following morning. Now that the transition's over and I'm a tried and true pow-pow vet, I fear the day I have to make the transition back. Back to ice. Back to cold. Back to the biting wind of the great North East.

It is a scientific fact that your skin gets thinner when you're not exposed to drastic temperatures for a period of time. No? Okay, maybe not. Maybe I have just become a West Coast wuss. I traveled back to New York for work last week, and while it was record highs for NYC (fantastic timing on my part), I was dressed for the Alaskan tundra. And no matter what I did, I just couldn't get warm. I also couldn't sleep due to noise. I've lived in California for seven months and I'm soft already! My first year in Manhattan I lived on the second floor of a building on First Avenue. I slept with my head on a pillow on a pothole that was continuously bottomed out by a mac truck. I slept like a baby and I was damn proud of it! Now I'm that girl who wears ear muffs and a parka on a 40º day and travels with earplugs. What has become of me?! My brother warned me that the second I use the word 'hella' in any sort of context I will be boarded on the next flight home. I fear I might be close.

Besides gnarly new lingo, California has also introduced me to a new health food to power me through the days - whether sitting in a chair at work or 'sitting-in-a-chair' riding the pow. Quinoa is a new addition to my plate. The word is also new to my palate. Pronounced 'Keen-wah' and apparently not 'key-no-ah', as the über-hip server at my local salad bar pointed out to me in an absurdly loud manner. I swear I heard nearby patrons gasp in horror at my uncouth pronunciation. But for those that didn't grow up on a commune, quinoa can now be found amongst the lentils and rice at your local grocery store. I recommend giving it a whirl for multiple reasons:
  1. It appears to be the healthiest food on Earth. Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but there's not much this little seed lacks in terms of nutritional content. It has high levels of magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron, riboflavin, phosphorus, copper, triptophan, B6, thiamin, and niacin. It's a 'complete protein' meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids. Plus it has 5 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. And it;s only 220 calories per cup. Convinced yet? No? Keep reading...
  2. It costs less than $1 per serving. 
  3. The taste is mild, yet nutty and takes on the flavor of whatever you mix in it.
  4. It cooks start to finish in about 15 minutes.
  5. The texture is glorious. Like biting into tiny eyeballs. What, that doesn't do it for you? Okay well how about this: it is actually a type of goosefoot (chenopodium). Drop that at your next dinner party.
  6. It was called 'the gold of the Incas' and served to warriors before battle. And everyone knows that Incas were badass.
Maybe that Inca needs to eat a little more quinoa.

My love of the goosefoot started with a dish I routinely ordered for lunch from a place called Fleur de Sel in downtown San Francisco. Their salad was an amazing mix of quinoa, roasted beets, mandarin oranges, arugula, crumbled goat cheese, slivered almonds, and a handful of dried cranberries, served with a simple vinaigrette. I had a sick obsession with it until they ripped the rug from under me and began serving a different concoction of feta cheese, cucumbers, beets, and red onions. The nerve! (Although it is admittedly almost as delicious - almost). Now I create my obsession at home and share it with thee in hopes that even just one of you becomes a believer:

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Beets, Oranges, Almonds and Cranberries:
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa. (1 part quinoa, 2 parts water, cooked for 15min. Tips here).
  • 2 medium sized beets
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil: 1/4 to drizzle on the beets, 1/4 for the dressing.
  • Couple pinches of salt and pepper: pinch for the beets, pinch for the dressing.
  • 3 naval oranges: Section one, juice the others for the dressing.
  • 1t red wine vinegar
  • 2t soy sauce
  • 1T agave nectar
  • 2 handfuls of arugula
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 375º
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, roast the beets. Place trimmed, cleaned beets in a square of tinfoil, drizzle with olive oil, a crack of pepper and pinch of salt. Fold up tinfoil and place in center of heated oven for 30-45minutes or until fork tender.
  3. Meanwhile make the salad dressing. Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, soy sauce, agave nectar, salt and pepper in small bowl. Set aside.
  4. Set aside to cool, rub off skin when cool enough to handle (I do this under a running faucet to avoid staining my hands and everything else around me). Coarsely chop.
  5. Combine warm quinoa, arugula, orange sections, with the dressing in a large bowl and mix liberally. Top with roasted beets, almonds, and cranberries.
Eat like a warrior,
The Heat