September 2, 2012

Baked Quinoa & Broccoli "Mac n' Cheese"

I love it when an entire dish evolves into being because of a single ingredient. I guess you could call it "ingredient inspiration," when you've got one star ingredient and so you create the meal to spotlight and elevate it.

That's how this dish came about for me. I'd like to say that it was because I wanted a really healthy meal, but that's a lie, so I'm not even going to go into all the crazy health benefits of this bowl of gooey goodness -- you already know quinoa is a perfect protein, cheese is high in calcium and protien, too, and broccoli is basically super food of the universe.

To be honest, it all started with my favorite cheese, a sale, and a checkout girl.

Now I know that a lot of people call Whole Foods "Whole Paycheck" because it can be quite pricey to shop there, but I wander its aisles often enough to have noticed that there are certain Whole Foods products that are priced daily at a cost that is more economical than regular grocery brands (and is likely much better quality). But that's in in-depth discussion/love story for another day.

One example, though, is this cheese that keeps going on sale.  This particular Tilamook Farms natural white cheddar cheese is staring me in the face when I walk in the door. And its once again $2.99/lb. When I see this my eyes do that cartoon thing where they bug out. (I think there is a sound cue that goes something like baroooga!) I run to the stack of beautiful, creamy blocks of tightly wrapped cheese and begin to cradle them, deciding which weight I'll be coming home with.

It's a happy love story where I devour the cheese daily in any form I can. Like right now, as I write this, I keep pausing because I'm slicing off giant hunks and eating it atop crisp slices of Pink Lady apple. AMAZING COMBO!

But, back to another amazing combo. This dish. So I'm checking out and the check out girl goes:
 "Isn't it awesome when this cheese is on sale? It's soooo good. I use it in Quinoa Mac n' Cheese and it's, like, the best. I mean, what's not healthy about Quinoa mac n' cheese?"

A credit card swipe later and I'm running home, cheese in arm like a football, and heading straight for the kitchen. NEED-QUINOA-MAC-N'-CHEESE-NOW.

And so do you.

Baked Quinoa & Broccoli "Mac n' Cheese": serves 4
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance butter
1/2 large Spanish onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed well and drained
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (vegetable stock for vegetarians)
salt & pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 lb. frozen broccoli florets (cut into smaller pieces)
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese 
1 cup shredded cheese, for topping

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the butter and swirl to coat pan. Add the onions and saute until translucent and slightly golden. Add the garlic and stir, one minute, then add in the quinoa and cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add in the chicken stock, salt & pepper, and nutmeg, stirring well.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. During the last 2-3 minutes of simmering, add in the frozen broccoli. Turn the heat up to return to temperature, then allow the broccoli to warm through.

While the quinoa is cooking, preheat the oven to 400ºF and lightly grease an 8" or 9" square baking dish.

When the quinoa is done, let it sit off the heat for about 5 minutes and in the meantime, whisk together the milk, egg, and Parmesan cheese. Add 1 tablespoon of warm quinoa mixture to the egg mixture to temper it, then quickly stir the liquid into the pan of quinoa. Add the 2 cups of cheese and pour it all into the baking dish.

Top with the remaining cheese and bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown on top.


  1. Just gotta say I LOVE this stuff! Been making your recipe (doubled) for months now, and it turns out divine every time. Sometimes I throw in sauteed mushrooms, sometimes I use aspargus or zucchini instead of broccoli (whatever is in season and growing in the garden)but the base recipe is just perfect.
    Thank you.

    1. Dana, how wonderful that you've been able to reproduce this recipe time and time again, and adapt it to meet the delicious produce you have on hand! That's the joy of cooking (and eating!)!
      Thanks for taking the time to stop by the blog!

  2. Hi! Just wondering if you've ever tried prepping and then freezing it (before baking) for a few days?

  3. Ariana, that's a good idea, but I haven't tried it. I am unsure if it would impact the makeup of the dairy in the recipe, but I bet it would be just fine. My Aunt once froze lasagna with a bechamel sauce, and it baked up perfectly, so I'd give it a try!



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