Quinoa + Veggie Casserole

Happy belated Valentine’s Day!  I hope your weekend was filled with tons of love and affection.  And, if it was anything like our weekend, filled with food.  TJ and I never celebrate Valentine’s in the most traditional of ways. We always celebrate a day or two (sometimes a week) before or ahead (who needs to fight all those crowds?!).  We have opted for cheap, delicious meals in lieu of fancy shmancy overpriced restaurants.  We have gone to Disneyland instead of doing anything too romantic.  We’ve even done a scavenger hunt race.  Now, that we have Olivia, we wanted to continue our non-traditional celebrations, but also sprinkle in a little of that cheesy heart stuff that a little kid loves.  

So, our weekend was full of food.  It is the way we would celebrate, after all!  Instead of boring you with all that we ate, I’ll share with you what we had last night.  We went to an incredible restaurant downtown, Marugame Monzo.  They specialize in handmade udon noodles. Oh man.  We had such a fantastic time.  Olivia had a whole bowl of Zaru Udon (chilled noodles with a dipping suace) to herself! Man, can that girl eat!  After dinner, we headed to The Pie Hole, a fantastic place that specializes in all things pie, both sweet and savory.  We, of course, had a little sweet treat to end the night.  Needless to say, we need some healthy meal alternatives to counter-balance all those indulgences!  If you’ve read some of my past posts, then you already know that I’m heading straight to our Quinoa.  It’s such an easy choice for us. High in fiber and protein and, best of all, Olivia loves it!  We chose to make a casserole dish.  We saw a recipe that was similar to this that used brown rice, but since we’re on our quinoa kick, we decided to substitute it.  This is a lovely cheesy casserole dish with tons of vegetables.  It’s super easy to make – which is always a great perk!  As always, you can substitute whatever veggies you have on hand.  Today, we used carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and peas.  Also, Enough chattin’ – let’s get started!

What You’ll Need

1 small onion, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 cup of cauliflower florets, chopped

1 cup broccoli florets, chopped

1 cup peas

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

1/3 cup + 1/2 cup of your favorite tomato sauce

1/3 cup + 1/2 cup ricotta cheese

8-ounces of mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 cups cooked quinoa (we cooked ours in chicken broth)

salt, to taste (we omitted the salt due to the sauce + chicken broth + cheese, but if it’s for a mainly adult audience, go ahead and pop some salt in for added flavor!)

What You’ll Do:

Preheat your oven to 375.  Grease an 8×8 baking dish.  We greased ours with a little coconut oil.  Make sure your veggies are chopped up into bite-sized pieces.  

DSC_0064

Heat your oil in a large saute pan and add your veggies.  Saute the vegetables until the vegetables are tender.  

DSC_0065

Transfer the cooked vegetables to a large bowl.  Add 1/3 cup of pasta sauce, 1/3 cup of ricotta, and 1 cup of the mozzarella.  Stir to combine.  

DSC_0066

In another bowl, combine your quinoa, salt (if you’ve chosen to include it), 1/2 cup pasta sauce, 1/2 cup ricotta, and 1/2 cup mozzarella.  

DSC_0067

In your baking dish, press half of your quinoa mixture into the baking dish.  Spread all of the vegetable mixture on top, followed by the remaining quinoa mixture.  

DSC_0068

DSC_0069

Bake for 50 minutes.  Once it’s done, allow it to cool for around 30 minutes before you serve it up.

DSC_0070

DSC_0071

Fiber? Check! Protein? Check! Veggies? Check! Healthy? Check! It passes a bunch of tests!!  And, more importantly, it Tastes Oh So Good!  Enjoy!

~ M ~

Advertisements

Cheesy Quinoa Bites

DSC_0004

Have you been reading a few of the posts I’ve written?  If so, you’ll remember that I posted about a Quinoa “Mac” and Cheese.  Have you tried it yet? Isn’t it yummy? It really has all the indulgence of macaroni and cheese, but some goodness of the extra fiber and protein from the quinoa.  Since we’ve been on a quinoa kick around here (it is just so nice to be able to buy it in bulk!), I wanted to think of another recipe that I could make that Olivia could eat for lunch while I was at work.  Enter the Cheesy Quinoa Bites.  I know, you’re probably thinking that these are just another spin on the Mac and Cheese – just in smaller ‘bites’ form.  I promise you – although there are some similarities (cheese + quinoa), the addition of some white beans and the absence of the panko crust take it to another flavor dimension..whoa…flavor dimension. So deep.  

These little cheesy quinoa bites are packed full of protein and fiber from both the quinoa and white beans, packed full of nutrients from all the vegetables, and packed full of yummy taste from oh-so-yummy cheese.  Honestly, you can’t lose!  Another big perk is that they’re crazy easy to make and you can easily pop the whole batch in the refrigerator and warmed up.  I haven’t done it myself, but you probably could even freeze them and just warm them up when you and baby are ready to eat them.  Enough typing – let’s get started!

What You’ll Need:

2 cups cooked quinoa (again, for extra flavor, we cooked our quinoa in low-sodium chicken broth)

8 egg whites

1 cup of shredded carrots **

1 (15 oz can of white beans)

2 cups of chopped up broccoli **

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

4-6 teaspoons of garlic powder (you know darn well I’m going to put in way more than this!)

1 teaspoon of onion powder

Parmesan Cheese to top

Cooking Spray (we just used coconut oil and took a paper towel to grease up our mini-muffin tin)

What You’ll Do

Grease up your mini-muffin tin.  Grease up your tin.  

DSC_0001

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients.  

DSC_0002

Portion out the mixture into the mini-muffin tins. They won’t really expand, so feel free to pack up each little muffin “well”!  If you’re cheese lovers like we are, then feel free to sprinkle some Parmesan Cheese on top, or even some more shredded Cheddar cheese.

DSC_0003

Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the edges are starting to brown.  Let them cool and pop em out! That’s it! So easy!  This makes about 48 “bites”.  

** ALTERNATIVES **

Honestly, throw in whatever chopped veggies you have! Shredded zucchini? Yup! Cauliflower? Why not? Go veggie crazy!  

Whatever veggies (or even variety of cheese) you choose, you’ll take comfort in knowing you and family are eating something packed full of fiber, protein, and nutrients!  Plus, they’re cheesy so you know they’ll Taste Oh-So-Good!

~ M ~

Meatloaf “Cupcakes”

Hey, what day is it? What day is it? Mike, Mike…what day is it? HUMP DAAAAAAY!  And hump day means that I need to think of what I can prepare Olivia for lunch for the remainder of the week while I’m at work.  I was trying to think of what to make when meatloaf kind of popped into my head.  I remember pinning a Turkey Meatloaf “Cupcake” that Tyler Florence had posted on Parenting.com. [I co-admin on a fantastic closed group on Facebook that is all about “Feeding the Littles” and part of our page includes a Pinterest board that a few of us pin to – feel free to follow our Pinterest board!]  I decided to try out the recipe tonight with the small tweak of adding in diced carrots.  Yes, I know I have said I don’t want to have to sneak in vegetables all the time to baby.  But, I also believe that there is always a place for adding in extra veggies wherever you can – just tell your kid that there’s yummy veggies in it, too!  The recipe also calls for crumbled cornbread (mmm…cornbread), but since we had none on hand, we used regular old breadcrumbs we had on hand from Trader Joe’s.  And the last variation we had on ours – no bacon. I know…that’s the part of the recipe I wanted to keep in! But, again, we didn’t have any bacon on hand – so this will have to do for now!  Next time, bacon for sure!  I thought this recipe was so cute, too, because it has the added option of ‘frosting’ your ‘cupcake’ with mashed potatoes.  Adorable.  

What You’ll Need:

Few tablespoons of Olive Oil

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 cup carrots, chopped

3/4 cup breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons buttermilk

1 pound ground turkey

1/2 cup (a generous 1/2 cup) barbecue sauce (we got the All-Natural BBQ sauce from Trader Joe’s)

1 egg

A few tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley

2 Potatoes

What You’ll Do:

Line your cupcake tin with cupcake liners.  

DSC_0067

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  You may want to go ahead and make your mashed potato frosting first so that it has time to cool so you can handle it while you’re “frosting” the cupcakes.  Peel and cube the potatoes.  

DSC_0066

Put it in a pot of salted water and bring the pot of potatoes to a boil.  Boil for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.  Drain and just mash away.  I added a little milk, a pat of butter, and a sprinkle of garlic powder.  

DSC_0079

I decided not to use any salt (as I normally would in mashed potatoes) since 1) Olivia doesn’t need all that extra sodium and 2) there’s already enough flavor (and sodium) in the meatloaf from the barbecue sauce.  

Next, prepare your meatloaf cupcakes.  Saute your onions and carrots in the olive oil for a few minutes until soft and tender.  Put aside when done.  

DSC_0070

In a large bowl, combine your breadcrumbs and buttermilk.  Wait for about 5 minutes, or until the buttermilk has fully absorbed into the breadcrumbs.  Add in your sauteed veggies, the ground turkey, the barbecue sauce, egg, & parsley.  

DSC_0071

Here comes the fun part (or the gross part, depending on who you’re asking!).  With clean hands, get in that mixture and massage it! Get all in it and make sure it’s mixed thoroughly.  

DSC_0074

Divide the turkey mixture into the cupcake tin evenly.  

DSC_0076

Pop into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until the meat is thoroughly cooked.  Let the “cupcakes” cool a bit and then frost with mashed potatoes!  

DSC_0081

DSC_0082

DSC_0083

You’ll definitely want to wait for it to cool a bit, otherwise your mashed potato frosting will kind of…melt a bit.  

And there you have it!  An adorable way to eat some yummy + healthy meatloaf!  

I’m not gluten-free nor do I have egg allergies, but a mom in that Facebook group I mentioned above gave me a great tip. If you’re either allergic to gluten or eggs (or both), just omit the breadcrumbs and eggs. Instead, substitute 1/3 cup flaxseed meal for every 2 pounds of meat. Just dump it in dry into your meat mixture. And voila! A great breadcrumb AND egg substitute!

No matter what route you take – breadcrumbs/eggs or flaxseed meal, it will be a meal your family will enjoy! TJ and I tried one tonight. And trust me when I say…it Tastes Oh-So-Good!

~ M ~

Quinoa “Mac” & Cheese

I know. It’s January, which means all of us are still trying to eat healthier for the new year. Am I right? We are supposed to be eating yummy salads all the time and feeling super fantastic about it. BUT let’s be realistic. I’m not eating salads left & right and baby girl sure would be mad if I just tried to feed her nothing but salad all day long.  Yes, we all love some good salads and veggies. But we all need a little indulgence!  So, instead, I’ve been trying to lighten up some comfort food and classics.  That’s where this Quinoa “Mac” & Cheese comes in.  Super indulgent with that yummy, creamy cheese sauce. But just a little less guilt-inducing using quinoa and throwing in some chopped veggies. I know, you’re saying to yourself “There’s cheese in that recipe!”  “There’s butter!” You’re right. There’s all of that. But everything in moderation, right?  It really is a win-win!

Sure – maybe it doesn’t taste exactly like macaroni & cheese. But I can guarantee you this. It’s still yummy, the whole family will still love it, it’s filling, and it won’t make you feel like you’ve broken those New Year’s resolutions just yet!

Ready to get started? Let’s do it.

What You’ll Need:

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cup Whole milk

A large pinch or two of nutmeg

A large pinch of salt

8 ounces of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

3 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup uncooked quinoa – we cooked our quinoa in chicken broth for a little extra flavor)

1 cup of shredded & diced up carrots **

1 – 1 1/2 cups of diced broccoli **

FOR THE TOPPING:

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

4 Tablespoons of butter, melted

3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs

What You’ll Do:

Preheat oven to 350 F.  In a saucepan add 3 tablespoons of butter and melt it down over medium heat.  Add the flour.  Whisk continuously until a paste forms.

DSC_0055

Whisk in milk. Increase heat to medium/high and bring to a boil whisking the whole time. Stir in the nutmeg, salt and cheddar cheese. When sauce is smooth remove from heat.  Throw in your veggies and quinoa into the cheese sauce.

DSC_0060

Transfer the mixture to a baking dish.  We used an 8×8 baking dish.  If you have a smaller cast iron skillet, I’d throw it in there.  Since we have a larger cast iron, we didn’t want the mixture to turn out too thin in the skillet, so I would only throw in our Quinoa mac & cheese into our cast iron skillet if I 1.5x or 2x this recipe.  In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter, Panko breadcrumbs, and Parmesan.  Sprinkle over the casserole and pop in the oven for about 20-25 minutes (until it’s bubbly).

DSC_0062

DSC_0064

** ALTERNATIVES **

You could easily substitute in your favorite veggie in this dish – a few bunches of spinach? Kale? Mushrooms? Go veggie crazy! Add in those nutrients you crazy animal!

No matter what veggies you use, no matter if you use a cast iron skillet or casserole dish, no matter if you use the more common white quinoa or less common black quinoa – I assure you this is a comfort dish you can feel less guilty about.  Healthy comfort food that Tastes Oh-So-Good.

~ M ~

Jumuk Bap – Leftovers Edition

It certainly has been quite a bit since I posted a recipe, right?  Miss me? Hope so. Before I continue with tonight’s recipe, let me start by saying – I am no Korean cook.  I’m not going to try and convince you that this recipe is in any way authentic.  But what it lacks in authenticity, it makes up for in simplicity, deliciousness, and convenience.  Jumuk Bap are sort of the Korean version of the more well-known Japanese Onigiri.  Both are essentially little rice balls of goodness.  My version of Jumuk (meaning “fist” in Korean) Bap (or Ju-Mok Bap, however you’d like to spell it in English) , I love making when there are leftovers around.  It’s an easy way to incorporate those leftover veggies and meat you have laying around from last night’s meal.

I would also like to say that today’s recipe may frustrate you a bit.  You know when you read those recipes with no real measurements? A dash of that, some of this, and a large heap of that over there? Yeah…this is one of those recipes.  Don’t worry, use your cooking skills and judgment for this one.  I promise you it isn’t as daunting as you may think it is right now.

Tonight’s version of Jumuk Bap, I used carrots, onions, spinach, and ground pork as the veggies + meat.  I would’ve ideally loved to have incorporated some bulgogi (recipe here), but alas, ground pork is what we had.  Go ahead and use whatever veggies and meat you think would work well in this or whatever you have on hand.  Go crazy – experiment!  Now, let’s get on with the details, shall we?

What You’ll Need:

1 cup of short-grain rice (Sushi rice would be ideal)**

1/2 cup of minced carrots

1/2 cup of minced onions

1/2 cup of diced spinach

Toasted Sesame Seeds (maybe a generous tablespoon or so)**

Chopped up Seaweed (I used about one sheet)

Sesame Oil

Soy Sauce (optional)

1 tsp (or so) of Rice Vinegar (optional)

What You’ll Do:

Cook up the rice.  I use a rice cooker (what Asian girl do you know doesn’t own a rice cooker?!), but if you cook your rice stove top, you’ll cook the rice according to the package (or 1 cup of sushi rice and 1 1/4 cup water).  Toss in the sesame seeds and the rice vinegar (if you’re using the rice vinegar) into the rice at this point and mix well.  Once the rice is cooked, set it aside to cool a bit (enough so that you’ll be able to handle it with your hands).  Coat a pan with a bit of sesame oil, enough to coat your vegetables.  I sauteed my carrots and onions first since those take a bit longer to cook than the spinach.

DSC_0013

Once those softened a bit and the onions became a bit translucent, I added in the spinach.

DSC_0017

I don’t like to add too much salt to our food, but if you’d like, go ahead and add soy sauce or salt to your veggies.  I personally think the meat (especially if you’re using one that was already prepared with spices and some salt, like bulgogi, flavors up these rice balls just wonderfully without added sodium.  I’m assuming at this point, since you’re using leftovers, the meat is already cooked.  If not, just go ahead and cook up your meat.  Like I mentioned earlier, I’m using some ground pork we had leftover.  Add your veggies and your meat to your rice and mix well.

DSC_0020

 

DSC_0022

Sushi rice (or other short-grain rice) is pretty sticky, so before you delve on in and get your hands dirty, you’ll want to wet your hands with some cold water.  Otherwise, the rice will just stick to your hands.  Scoop up about a few tablespoons of the mixture and form it into a ball.  Just keep shaping it – it will come together nicely.  Keep going until your mixture is all gone.  Once the Jumuk Bap are room temperature, they’ve probably set quite well.  Wrap each ball with saran wrap – how easy and portable is that?!  Serve warm or at room temperature.

DSC_0023

**VARIATIONS**

I usually include a “Variations” section, but I suppose this one is more of a “Miscellaneous” section this time.  I really urge you to use a short-grain rice/sushi rice.  It really sticks together much nicer (that’s why your sushi stays together so nicely).  If you must, must, must use another rice, instead of forming the balls with your hands, you’ll want to rip a little saran wrap and place that in your hand. Scoop up the few tablespoons of the rice mixture into the saran wrap and pull the saran wrap around the mixture.  Shape it into a ball and then twist the rest of the saran wrap to close it on up.

My other tidbit is about the toasted sesame seeds.  Toasted sesame seeds are super easy to find, especially in an Asian grocery store.  However, if you happen to come across just regular ol’ sesame seeds, don’t worry!  Toasting sesame seeds is so quick and easy!  In a pan, just sprinkle your sesame seeds and turn up the heat.  Shake sesame seeds so that the bottom doesn’t burn.  Remove them from the heat once your seeds have browned a bit and when they get fragrant.  Voila!

DSC_0008

This is a great picnic snack, a great way to stuff in some extra veggies, and, like I said, a great way to use up those leftovers.  Sure, you may be using leftovers, but this is a great way to transform those leftovers into something that Tastes Oh-So-Good!

~ M ~