Mexican Quinoa Bake

{keen-wah}

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I am assuming by now everyone has heard of quinoa.  It’s the new black of the grain world, even though some others are trying to stomp it out (barley, bulgur etc…)  I can’t really remember when I first tried it, but I know I liked it.  I mean, it really doesn’t taste like anything.  The little granules have a nice little crunch to them, but not that “ew this is a raw piece of rice” crunch.  They also allow sauces and spices to adhere well to the pieces therefore taking on great flavor.

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So like I said you probably heard the name quinoa, but do you know how great it is for your health?  No?  Well read on for some fun facts about the grain.

+  Did you know the grain is from the GOOSEFOOT species?

+  Quinoa is actually a seed.

+  The food  has earned it spot on the prestigious SuperFood list.

+  It is a great source of protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids

+  Gluten allergy? No worries here, quinoa in gluten-free.

When it comes to grains, I typically am grabbing the couscous off the shelves at the store.  Lately, I try to avoid carbs so rices and pastas haven’t made an appearance on my dinner plate.  However, after religiously documenting my food intake with My Fitness Pal I noticed my daily fiber being rather low.  After reading some articles, I decided that quinoa would be the best grain to add to my diet – high in fiber (keep me full longer), high in protein, and lower in calories.

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So be prepared to see the good old quinoa around this blog here often in upcoming posts.  First on the menu, Mexican Quinoa Bake.  Hearty enough for a meal or satisfying as a side dish served with tacos (leave out the black beans).  This casserole has a bit of a heated punch to it, but not too powerful. The quinoa absorbs the flavors and gives tremendous texture.

Mexican quinoa bake

Recipe By:  Sara
Servings:  6-8 [depending on entrée or side]   ///   Prep Time:  5 minutes   ///   Cook Time:  30 minutes

Ingredients:
1 cup dry quinoa
1 can Southwestern style dice tomatoes
2 Tbsp taco seasoning or 1 packet
1 small can of diced green chilis
1 cup frozen corn
4 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese + 1/4 cup for topping
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 can black beans, drained [optional]
sour cream, hot sauce

Directions:
1.  Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Add the quinoa and stir to combine.
2.  Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook covered for about 15-20 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
3.  In a casserole dish, combine the diced tomatoes, chilis, seasoning, corn, 4 oz. cheddar and beans if using.
4.  Add the cooked quinoa and cilantro, stirring everything together.
5.  Top with more shredded cheddar and a bit of the cilantro.
6.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
7.  Put on broiler and let cheese brown for about 30 seconds.
8.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream or hot sauce.

IMG_3857Enjoy!

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Tomato & Goat Cheese Endive Cups

{healthy & vibrant snack}

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As you know, I am a big snack & appetizer fan.  Sometimes I get really sad when out to dinner if I accidentally max out on the appetizers.  No room for dinner!  However, it is really hard to pass up appetizers so I try to opt for healthy, less filling ones.

When we go out Bryan and I are always suckers for mussels or seared Ahi tuna bites.  If I am not having seafood for dinner, these are my go-to appetizers.  I am never left full and ready for dessert.  Veggie appetizers are few and far between so I have been experimenting with some ideas.

I have been compiling a list of some apps that I would like to serve when I host a Sip Happens party.  I am all about balance… a protein app, a sweet app, sweet & savory combo app, veggie app etc.  Since I am on a healthy and clean eating kick, using the endive leaves as scoops instead of crackers makes for a low carb, practically calorie free alternative.

This appetizer is a beautiful one to present with its vibrant colors.  The mixture can easily be adapted to your likes as well.  I love tomatoes anytime of the year so that was the main veg here.  I paired it with creamy goat cheese and thyme.  As summertime approaches, I will definitely be making this again as a caprese version!

tomato & goat cheese endive cups

Recipe by: Doughie
Hands on time:  15 minutes   ///  Servings:  about 18

Ingredients
3 endive bunches
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup of goat cheese crumbles
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp Agave nectar (or honey)
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper

Directions
1.  In a bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, thyme and spices.
2.  Drizzle over the tomatoes.  Refrigerate until serving.
3.  Gently, remove each endive leave for the core.
4.  Add the goat cheese to the tomato mixture.
5.  Spoon a bit into each endive cup.
6.  Serve immediately.

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Three Cheese Pasta with Italian Sausage

{oh so cheesy}

Nothing beats comfort food like macaroni and cheese.  The cool & breezy weather called for something warm, comforting & also quick as it was pumpkin carving night [see here for post]!

So I have a confession about my experience with this recipe… Confession #1:  my sauce did not turn out as I had planned.  Confession #2:  when I cook I sometimes go really fast because I can’t wait to try it in the end.  The latter resulted in the first confession.  In the recipe directions, you will notice that I BOLDED the word slowly when I talk about adding the cheese.  My hastiness and urge to pile spoonfuls of creamy, cheesy macaroni into my mouth resulted in me dumping the cheese in all at once.  BAD. IDEA.  My sauce immediately separated and the cheese became one giant clump.  I was so mad.  I flapped my arms (like my sister usually does during spouts of frustration) and claimed the recipe was a failure.  After significant arm flapping, I calmed myself and began to fix the sauce.  I add a bit more milk and increased the heat and vigorously whipped the sauce.  It slowly came back together, but it was not as it should have been.  So in conclusion to my confession, definitely add the cheese in slowly!

I added a few bits of fresh spinach to the baking dish to add a little veggies.  You can add any type of vegetable really and any type of meat to this dish.  It is very adaptable to your current cravings or dietary needs.

Chase deemed this dish his first, second, THIRD (he could not decide) favorite dish I make, spaghetti & Cincinnati chili taking first and second place.  All three pasta dishes… hmm, doughie?  So there you have it, firsthand evidence that this dish is kid friendly!

What is your go-to comfort food?  Share with me – I am on a mission to try to not so doughie-ize  comfort food favorites.

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{Click here for the recipe}

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Cauliflower Bake

{the new potato gratin}

Lately, cauliflower has been all the rage.  I love veggies, but cauliflower is on the bottom of my list.  I like it, but it doesn’t do anything for me.  It is so bland and I always think it is a rejected broccoli.  However, I wanted to try something out to see if all the hype is really worthwhile.  I was going to try out the mashed cauliflower, but due to my sacred love of mashed potatoes I just couldn’t sway from a comfort food favorite.  I decided to try it as a gratin or casserole of sorts.  I made a not so doughie cheese sauce and baked the dish in the oven.  I am not sure I can call this a gratin as gratins typically consist of a layered arrangement.  Cauliflower can’t really be layered smoothly.  I really liked this dish.  Cauliflower grew a little more on my vegetable like list.  It satisfied my starch craving and was nice to add a new side dish to my plate.  The cauliflower can also be substituted for broccoli and if you must, potatoes.

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{Click here for the recipe}

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