Comfort food. What that means to us is probably dictated by where we grew up, what our families enjoyed and what we have come to love over the years. It’s different for every person.
I think that for those of us here in the States, and likely in other countries as well, macaroni and cheese is pretty universally considered to fall into the comfort food category. I know it does for me, anyway. But mac & cheese is carby and as we get older, carbs have an annoying habit of wanting to stick around too long – like on my hips. My hips don’t need any company at all, trust me.
There has to be a way to enjoy a cheesy, creamy bowl of that same kind of comfort though, right? With fewer carbs, higher protein and fiber? Yes is the answer to that question.
I know it is one of those “trendy” ingredients that you see everywhere. And I have heard plenty pf people say that when they tried it – as a substitute for rice, maybe- they didn’t care for it. And, if you just boil up quinoa the same way you do rice, it might not be the best tasting thing ever. But, use it in a cheesy, creamy casserole packed full of your favorite vegetables – then, I think you might agree it is pretty tasty stuff.
I was thinking about busy parents when I worked on this recipe – I wanted to make it relatively simple, with a lot of the time involved being unattended oven time. Everything is started in a saute pan on the stove, then moved to a casserole dish for about 35 to 40 minutes. It’s also gluten-free which can be a big plus for a lot of families.It is also very flexible. I used mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots because those are all vegetables that we really like, but you can change those around to whatever your family will enjoy. Even frozen vegetables will work well, and they will cut down on the prep time.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 ounces cremini or while button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 1 medium stalk celery, chopped
- ½ medium onion, chopped
- 1 cup [about 2 small] peeled, sliced carrots
- 1 heaping cup small broccoli florets [about 4 ounces]
- 1 heaping cup small cauliflower florets [about 4 ounces]
- 2 cloves garlic, minced [or ¼ teaspoon garlic powder]
- ½ cup quinoa
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- ½ cup white wine [optional - you can use an additional ½ cup of chicken stock instead]
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ¾ cup half & half
- ½ cup milk
- 5 ounces grated Italian or Mexican cheese blend, or cheddar cheese, divided
- ½ cup panko, or gluten free bread crumbs, toasted in 1 teaspoon butter [optional]
- Preheat the oven to 350º
- Heat the oil over medium high heat, in a wide saute pan, and when it starts to shimmer, add the mushrooms, spreading them out into as close to a single layer as possible. Cook until they begin to get some color on the bottom side.
- Stir the mushrooms, lower the heat to medium, and add the celery and onion, cook a couple minutes until the onion begins to get soft.
- Add the carrots, broccoli and cauliflower and cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the garlic and qunioa and cook for a minute.
- Stir in the cornstarch and cook for another minute.
- Stir in the wine and cook for a minute, stirring constantly.
- Continue stirring, and add the chicken stock, cream and milk.
- Bring to a light simmer, and stir in 4 ounces of the cheese, reserving the rest for the top.
- Pour the mixture into a 3 quart casserole dish, cover and bake for about 30 minutes.
- Top with the reserved cheese, and if desired, the toasted panko crumbs. Bake, uncovered 5 minutes. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
- As a meatless meal, this will serve 3 to 4 people, as a side, up to 6.
- Refrigerate leftovers.
Mmmmmm – look at that: creamy, cheesy – comfort!It really is enough to make a meal all on it’s own, but it also makes a great side dish, alongside a burger or some roasted chicken maybe.
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