Fact: in the past, quinoa has not particularly been my jam. Eating a big bowl of quinoa to me is comparable to eating a big bowl of air.
Fortunately I have found a few recipes that have caused me to see the error of my ways.
This looks like a good starting point, doesn’t it?
While an avid reader of food blogs, the irony is when I actually end up cooking a new recipe, it’s typical that I have an ingredient on hand and google it to figure out what to make. Often I end up on food blogs, but not necessarily ones that I read.
Anyway, having some oldish pineapple and mushrooms on hand led me to this recipe for pineapple fried quinoa. Yknow, pineapple fried rice minus… the rice!
Let’s be real: we love Chinese food fried rice, but does it ever leave us full? No. No it does not. Does it ever leave us feeling good the next morning? Regretfully no.
Not so with this tasty fabulousness.
I made a few modifications to the recipe (my starting veggies were green pepper and mushrooms, I added edamame later on, I finished with a little seasoned rice vinegar since I love it so, I didn’t have any maple syrup, etc.) but none that seriously changed it, and it’s really one of those recipes you can tweak to your heart’s content.
Like any recipe, it is beautifully finished with peanuts and Sriracha. Yum! (If you have fresh basil, you should definitely add that!)
Once I had quinoa on the mind and realized that a quinoa-based dish could be rockin’ as long as I bulked it up with additional flavors and textures, I wanted more. Enter a blog I actually do read, Iowa Girl Eats, where I read a few weeks prior about a scrumptious sounding recipe for quinoa mac and cheese. I am a huge fan of recipes with healthy ingredients that make you feel like you are eating something much less healthy!
Start with onion, sweat it out.
I opted to add butternut squash for the vegetable addition, since I love it and the colors blend so nicely.
Went ahead and tossed the quinoa around in the pan so it could toast for a minute. Extra flavor never hurt anyone.
Then I added water and let all that cook.
MEANWHILE, I shredded some cheese. (Shredding things is one of the most tedious things a human can do, in my opinion. Thank goodness for food processors. Also, I have a real propensity for injuring myself with graters, mandolines, knives, etc.)
Annnd mixed up the milk and egg mixture that binds everything together (this is more like a casserole-style mac than a stovetop style mac- fairly dry and cohesive). I added sage because orange squash plus sage is a very happy combination indeed.
And now we have reached the phase of this story where my camera is dirty and I did not notice. Because I am classy that way. Pardon the blur.
Quinoa and butternut were all done and tender.
And got shmeared into the pan to bake.
Out it came, not especially crusty on top but nice. If you are a crust aficionado, I recommend baking at a higher temperature.
To balance out the meal and bring in some more veggies and a little healthy fat, I made a simple kale-avocado-lemon-paprika salad on the side.
This was one of those ridiculously healthy meals you feel so virtuous eating.
Does the quinoa casserole taste like down home macaroni and cheese? Frankly, no. Would you really expect it to? However, it does taste GOOD. One of those thoroughly pleasant and flavorful stick-to-your ribs dishes. And, it actually makes you feel good AFTER you eat it, rather than leaving you in a (admittedly, this is sometimes pleasant) post mac- and cheese food coma. So you can have this for lunch and then have some afternoon energy.
*High fives self on hiding the camera blur between bowl and plate* I have got to get better at taking care of my camera.
Final comment: did everyone enjoy the inauguration? Fact: the Obamas dancing with the soldiers at the Inaugural Ball, which I watched in the middle of writing this post, basically left me sobbing weakly and unable to function for a few minutes. So. Beautiful.