Wheatless Wednesday – Quinoa ‘Mac’ and Cheese

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Let’s face it – it’s all about the cheese, yummy, oozy, bubbling, crispy deliciousness, creating the ultimate in comfort foods. Much of the country, the east coast in particular, is trapped inside due to piles and piles of snow and in great need of something warm and cozy. The rest of us just like comfort food.  How about everyone’s favorite Mac and Cheese but with a twist? Macaroni and Cheese was a childhood favorite of mine.  My mom used to make is from scratch (none of that boxed stuff) and bake it in the oven until the top was brown and crispy.  What a treat!  It wasn’t until I was in college and looking for cheap food to make in my dorm room that I discovered Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (along with that other ubiquitous college staple, Ramen Noodles).  That tasted pretty good to a starving college student too but I’m not sure how much actual food is in there. It would be a game changer to find a Mac and Cheese that we love that loves us back.  I know quinoa isn’t a traditional ingredient in Mac and Cheese but it’s so much healthier than macaroni which is a delicious foil for the cheese but  really is just empty carbs, providing very little nutrition, mostly calories.  But maybe we can have it all.  I spotted this recipe for Quinoa ‘Mac’ and Cheese from Just a Pinch Recipes and decided to give it a whirl, since I appear to be on a quinoa kick (there are worse things I suppose).  My recipe below is an adaptation of the original.

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This recipe calls for white quinoa, which is fluffier than the colored versions.  I will not make you read about the virtues of quinoa again, since I did that on Monday when I posted my recipe for Quinoa Salad with Artichokes, Olives and Chickpeas which was quite tasty, however if you want to read about why you should be eating more quinoa click HERE.  I used sharp cheddar, whole milk from, Strauss Family Farms, and pasture raised eggs, both local growers, whom I am becoming quite passionate about supporting.  Please, please, please think again before buying factory farmed milk and eggs.  Our animals deserve better.  Every time you buy organic products of any kind that have been raised or grown out in a field or pasture you are encouraging more farmers to do the same.  This recipe can be made vegan by substituting vegan cheddar cheese, almond milk and a thickener like flour.  For another wheatless ‘Mac’ and Cheese recipe, check out my Cauliflower “Mac’ and Cheese post, yum!

TIPS:  If you like it extra creamy, use  a bit more milk, or cream ,and cheese as quinoa absorbs more liquid than pasta does.  It will look runny when you put it in the oven but will firm as it cooks.   Next time I will be tempted to use a variety of cheese.  This would be a great use for those odds and ends of cheeses left in your refrigerator.  Just grate them all together and toss with the other ingredients.  For a larger portion double the recipe and use a 13×9 pan.

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QUINOA ‘MAC’ AND CHEESE

3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese (plus more if desired for topping)
3/4 cup milk (or cream)
1 large egg
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

  • Rinse and cook quinoa according to instructions. Cover and set aside.

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  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat 8×8 inch dish with butter or cooking spray.

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  • Whisk together eggs and milk in large bowl. Add garlic, salt, red pepper flakes.

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  • Fold together quinoa, egg mixture and cheese until cheese is evenly distributed.

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  • Pour into prepared baking dish and bake 30-35 mins, until top is browned.

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  • You can top with more cheese to make a cheesy crust  10 minutes after cooking, if desired. To test for doneness, press a finger into top.  If liquid appears, cook a bit longer, or until the casserole is firm.20150127_124304

 

Quinoa 'Mac' and Cheese

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 50 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese (plus more if desired for topping)
3/4 cup milk (or cream)
1 large egg
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

  • Rinse and cook quinoa according to instructions. Cover and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Coat 8×8 inch dish with butter or cooking spray.
  • Whisk together eggs and milk in large bowl. Add garlic, salt, red pepper flakes.
  • Fold together quinoa, egg mixture and cheese until cheese is evenly distributed.
  • Pour into prepared baking dish and bake 30-35 mins, until top is browned.
  • You can top with more cheese to make a cheesy crust  10 minutes after cooking, if desired. To test for doneness, press a finger into top.  If liquid appears, cook a bit longer, or until the casserole is firm.

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