Thursday, June 6, 2013

Creative Craving Cures - Quinoa "Mac" and Cheese

I absolutely love a good bowl of homemade mac and cheese.  Who am I kidding, I absolutely love nearly all things involving cheese, period.  I do however openly admit that most mac and cheese dishes are completely void of any nutritional value.  Yes, you can add broccoli, peppers or other vegetables but let's face it, you're still talking about a big bowl of pasta drenched in melted cheese.  Stop kidding yourself.

When you're talking about a dish with two primary components, creating a healthier alternative becomes a bit tricky without loosing the integrity of what you're making.  I've tried a few vegan recipes that substantially cut down the fat content but along with that, they destroy the texture and flavor.  Sorry, I love raw cashews but don't even try to pretend that they're a substitute for melted gruyere and béchamel sauce.  Since I concluded that the cheese wasn't going anywhere, I had to address the mac portion of the dish.  Pasta, by definition doesn't bring a lot to the table in the way of nutrition.  It's a classic pre-endurance workout carb load, but unless you're running a marathon tomorrow, probably not the best option on the dinner table (apologies to all of my die-hard Italian friends).

Enter, quinoa.  I know I've written about this fabulous little seed in the past.  Heck, you'll probably see it again too.  I love quinoa.  Contrary to popular belief, this little wonder is a seed, not a grain, hence why it ranks in as one of the best plant sources of protein.  Eat more quinoa people.  There, I'm done with my pitch.

So I found a pretty fabulous recipe for a Cheesy Quinoa Mac and after a few tweaks and adaptations, I'm pretty happy with the outcome.  Granted, you can add anything you like and really make it your own [If I'm invited for dinner, I'm a sucker for a good lobster mac and cheese].

Cheesy Quinoa Mac

1 1/2 cups of white quinoa
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 egg
1 cup cold low fat milk
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (I used a gruyere, smoked gouda and cheddar blend)
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs, for garnish
1 tablespoons chopped scallions, for garnish

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- In a large skillet, toast the quinoa until it takes on a light, golden color, about 7-8 minutes
- Bring the chicken stock and white wine to a slow boil
- Add the toasted quinoa and garlic, reduce the heat to medium and reduce out the liquid, about 15 minutes
- In your skillet, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until a roux forms
- Add the milk and remove the skillet from the heat, continuing to whisk until there are no lumps
- Whisk in your egg and grated cheese
- Once the quinoa is finished cooking, stir it into your cheese sauce, mixing well to incorporate all the ingredients
- Transfer to a baking dish and top with breadcrumbs
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until breadcrumbs are a golden brown color
- Top with scallions and serve

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