Spicy Cheesey Quinoa Casserole – recipe

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March 5, 2013 by E.

The inspiration for this recipe goes wholly to Iowa Girl Eats.  I have become addicted to her blog, so when I found myself with a few cups of cooked quinoa (A. and I cooked a large batch last night to use over the course of the week) that needed to be used, I turned to her recipe box for ideas.

Her Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Mac and Cheese recipe is genius.  Absolutely amazing.  I never in a million years would have thought to sub quinoa in for the pasta in a creamy, melty comfort dish make-over, but it absolutely works.  Her recipe looked delicious, but I wanted to make my version without the meat and with some additional vegetables.  Here is my version of her awesome recipe.  (Selling point – if you start with already cooked quinoa, this recipe uses just one pan!)

The Ingredients

2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1.5 cups broccoli, cut into large florets

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks

1/2 medium onion, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

4 garlic cloves, diced

1 Tbsp of butter

1 cup milk or milk substitute (I used almond milk)

1 cup cheddar cheese, freshly shredded

2 cups cooked quinoa (about 2/3 cup uncooked quinoa)

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp mustard powder

1/4 cup hot sauce, or to taste (I used Texas Pete)

soft crumbly cheese, for sprinkling on top (I used bleu cheese)

green onions or chives, for garnish

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

The Method

1.) Preheat oven to 375.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and arrange vegetables in a single layer on your baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on how you like the doneness.  I wanted mine less done, so they would still have texture in the casserole, so I only cooked mine for 15 minutes.

2.) Meanwhile, you can prepare your onion, garlic, and celery.

Diced celery and garlic

3.) Heat an oven-proof skillet or pan over medium heat.  (If you don’t have an oven-proof pan, you can cook this in a non-stick pan and then transfer to a casserole dish.)  Add 2 Tbsp olive oil to the pan.  Add onions to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, until translucent.  Add celery and cook for another minute.  Lastly, add garlic and cook for 1 minute more, stirring to ensure it doesn’t burn.

4.) Add butter to pan and melt.  Add flour to pan and stir to ensure the flour is distributed evenly and all the liquid is absorbed.  (We’re making a “roux” of sorts, to help our sauce thicken when we add the milk.)  Cook, stirring constantly, for a minute.  As it cooks, the flour will produce a “nutty” smell.

Onion, celery, garlic, and flour "mush"

Onion, celery, garlic, and flour “mush”

5.) Whisk in the milk/milk substitute, and continue whisking until the sauce is smooth.  Still whisking, bring the sauce to a simmer.  Once the sauce has thickened, turn off the heat and whisk in the cheese.

Keep whisking until all the cheese is melted

Keep whisking until all the cheese is melted

6.) By now your broccoli and carrots should be ready.  Remove from the oven, drizzle with just a touch of salt (unless you did that before they cooked) and allow to cool, then roughly chop.

Slightly roasted vegetables7.) Fold the roasted vegetables, cooked quinoa, hot sauce, onion powder, mustard powder, and salt and pepper into the sauce. (You may want to taste the sauce before you add the salt, because the hot sauce and cheese are fairly salty on their own.)

8.) Smooth out the mixture so it’s in an even layer in the skillet (or transfer mixture to oven-safe casserole dish).  Sprinkle bleu cheese (or feta or goat cheese, whatever you’d like), onto the top.

Almost ready!

Almost ready!

9.) Pop this baby under the broiler for 3 – 5 minutes, until cheese is nice and bubbly.  (Keep an eye on anything you put under the broiler, it can go from aaaalmost ready to well crap, guess we’d better order takeout in a hurry.)

See you soon!

See you soon!

10.) Once it’s bubbly and melty and you just can’t wait any longer, remove from the oven.  (Sorry for the bad picture quality, yellow/orange tinted foods never seem to turn out very well in photos.)

Taking it out of the oven11.) Last step – garnish with green onions (or chives or parsley or cilantro or…you get the idea).  And eat!  (Bowls optional.)

Low maintenance comfort food

Low maintenance comfort food

Impossible to resist
Impossible to resist

Despite the creamy-gooey-goodness, comfort-food feel of this recipe, it’s actually quite healthy for you.  This recipe makes 4 full meal sized servings, which calculates out to be 398 calories per serving.  It has 24 grams of fat (mostly from the cheese and olive oil), which is about 38% of your daily value (based on 1,600 calories per day) and 15 grams of protein, which is between 21% – 38% of your daily value (depending on your age, weight, and activity level).  And best of all, it tastes delicious!

A. came home from a working dinner meeting, having already eaten an entire meal, and stood over the stove with a spoon for a good 5 minutes, talking with his mouth full about how much he loved this dish.  Best of all, this is a “technique” recipe instead of an “ingredients” recipe.  You can substitute whatever vegetable or cheese you have on hand, and it will still be perfectly delicious.  I think next time I’ll try with kale or swiss chard and a mixture of pecorino and asiago.  The possibilities are endless!  Thank you, Iowa Girl Eats, for this incredible idea!

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