Tuesday, August 16, 2011

3-Step Baked Quinoa "Mac" & Cheese from Vegetarian Times

If there is a person alive who does not like macaroni and cheese, I hope never to meet them, because we would not be friends. I mean real rich-and-slightly-brown-on-top macaroni and cheese, not that weird gloopy chemical soup that tries to pass for macaroni and cheese. In my opinion, this quinoa mac and cheese is much closer to the "real" thing in its relative deliciousness than that runny, goopy, neon-orange tragedy. This baked cheesy quinoa is seriously nutritious besides being delicious, hearty and easy. Obviously cheese is not without it's nutritional downside (fat, duh) but the fiber and protein of the quinoa combined with the fiber and other good stuff in the veggies make up for that. In my imagination. Either way, it is a delicious and fairly balanced meal, and a great gluten-free alternative to mac and cheese. This recipe has the makings of serious comfort food.

The basis for this recipe came from VegetarianTimes.com, and I haven't changed it much, except to pare it down from a 9"x13" dish because 1) I love leftovers, but not that much and 2) My baking dish is 8"x8". If you're cooking for a crowd or only have a 9"x13" on hand, I'd just use the original. This will make about 4 meal-sized servings. If you're in my solo-dwelling position, you might want to cut it down further, but since I am a fan of the leftovers, I didn't.

1 cup quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated (or a blend) plus more for sprinkling
1/4 large onion, chopped, or 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
1 cup milk
2 eggs

Spices for sprinkling - I used about 1/4 tsp paprika and 1/2 tsp cumin

1. In a medium saucepan, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add onion (or leek) and bell pepper, and saute for about 5 minutes, until tender. Stir in garlic and quinoa and cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until quinoa turns opaque.
2. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and add salt and pepper. Cover, turn heat down to medium-low, and simmer for another 3-4 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat the inside of an 8"x8" baking dish with cooking spray.Whisk together eggs and milk in a large bowl. Add in quinoa mixture and cheese. Transfer to baking dish, sprinkle with spices and cheese and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until edges and top are browned.

It will seem impossibly soupy going into the oven, but it will not come out that way! Mine wasn't getting quite browned enough for my taste so I ran it under the broiler for a couple of minutes at the end. Just be sure to let it sit for a reasonable amount of time before cutting into it. I have a tendency to skip this step and burn my face in my impatience. Don't be like me.

I used a mild white cheddar, but I see no reason why you couldn't use Swiss, or a blend of your favorites, if that's what's hanging around in your refrigerator. I also used soy milk instead of the regular type. I doubt this had much impact on the flavor, but you'll definitely want to check out the ingredients on your soy milk to make sure it's not sweetened, if you decide to go this route. If you are inclined to use an egg substitute and dairy-free cheese, this can definitely be made vegan-friendly.* Vegan or not, I expect that you could add almost any fresh veggies that you wanted. Peas and broccoli would probably be good choices. I had mine with ketchup and hot sauce.
This held together much better than I was expecting, but was also plenty moist.
And, since I can't seem to make a post without sheepishly admitting something weird that I did in the cooking process, this evening my admission is this: I forgot to get myself a cheese grater after the move, so instead of grating the cheese I slivered it into skinny little pieces as best I could. This doesn't much matter except for the fact that if you are measuring your cheese in volume, slivered cheese will take up a lot less space than grated, which is why I included the measurement in ounces for anyone else in my position of graterlessness.

Quote of the Day: How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese? ~ Charles de Gaulle

*Of course, what and how you eat is totally an individual decision, but many vegan cheeses (not so unlike many of the cheapest "regular" cheeses) are made mostly of soybean oil and palm oil combined with thickeners. I'm not hating, just recommending as always that everybody read their labels. Do yourself a favor on all fronts and use all-natural cheese!

1 comment:

  1. This will be in our oven before too long-- thanks!