Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cabonara Quinoa Mac

Are you feeling like some of your old recipes need a makeover? I don't really ever feel this way since I am constantly trying to invent or adapt new recipes to post on the blog, but I do sometimes get in a recipe rut. Sure everyone has staples. You need "go to" recipes whether it be for picky eaters or when you-know-what hits the fan and you have no idea what to feed yourself, let alone a family, to sustain some sort of nutritional balance without relying on the nearest restaurant. I have my staples too. Soup, a funky sort of deep freeze items usually consisting of chicken and whatever leftovers are around, and my funky assortment of pantry items which includes quinoa.

You've probably heard me talk a lot about this quinoa stuff right? It's all because quinoa is so versatile. It cooks up to be like rice or that fancy couscous stuff. It's not really a grain, but acts like it. As a gluten-free girl, I heart quinoa. While you might gasp at the price, chill out. Explore the bulk section and buy what you need if you are seaking a recipe makeover. You can substitute it for rice or that fancy couscous stuff. You can substitute it for pasta. I've even used it as a base for a healthier pizza crust a time or two before. If you decide you don't like it, try it again. Try it in these stuffed peppers, try it in a salad like this Chicken, Berry, Quinoa Salad, or better yet try it in one of now two quinoa macs such as my Broccoli Quinoa Mac or the recipe I am about to share. You may even get your kids to like it. Then if you decide you like it or hopefully already love it, you can purchase quinoa at places such as Costco or Sam's Club in a nice huge resealable bag for a fraction of the price compared to the boxed stuff they are marketing next to the Uncle Ben's rice at your grocery store.

Now that I've peaked your interest, how about another quinoa recipe? By the way, you can also make this dish ahead and store it until you are ready to bake and serve!!

I know it wasn't totally necessary, but thought I'd play with my Cabonara Mac'n'Cheese penne bake a little just for kicks. Believe it or not, I managed to slash a few calories and maintain all the taste, but friendlier all through the use of substituting quinoa for the pasta. The quinoa still added the bulk, but with fewer calories. Amazing!! 

Cabonara Quinoa Mac
inspired by my Cabonara Mac'n'Cheese

Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup dried quinoa
1/ 3/4 cup reduced sodium, fat-free chicken broth
1 cup skim milk
4 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 8 oz. box baby bella mushrooms, washed and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen peas
6 slices center cut bacon, cooked and crumbled (divided)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fat-free mozzarella cheese

Spray a medium sized casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. In a large stock pot, bring chicken broth to a boil. Add the quinoa and stir to combine all the quinoa with the broth. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and leave covered.

While the quinoa cooks, bring a medium sized non-stick skillet to medium heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add the onions, mushrooms, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent in color. Add the mushroom mixture, milk, cream cheese, Parmesan, bacon, peas, salt, and pepper to the quinoa. Stir until creamy and combine. Pour mixture into the casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese on top. At this point you can cover and store in your fridge for baking later in the week. When you are ready to bake, let the dish sit uncovered at room temperature for 15 minutes while your oven preheats at 375 degrees. Then place the dish in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes and serve. 

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