wildcard wednesday: cheesy quinoa with power greens

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Greetings from the ice storm, or something like it!  Alex and I have both had the day off because of the threat that the roads could be icy, so other than a jaunt to Pure Barre, I’ve been reacquainting myself with our sofa, blankets, cats, and the almighty Netflix.  Luckily I had already purchased the ingredients for this week’s Wildcard Wednesday, so I knew that despite the icy rain, we’d be in for a treat with this week’s nutrient-rich comfort food.  Instead of good ol’ mac and cheese, we had cheesy quinoa with power greens.

I’ve cooked with quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) for the blog before, but let me just remind you of its nutrient-rich benefits.  One cup of quinoa has 24 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber–MUCH more nutrient-dense than elbow macaroni.  I’ve also thrown in some power greens, more specifically the petite varieties of kale, swiss chard, and spinach.  These young greens fold in so smoothly and do not alter the smooth and creamy flavor that you crave with traditional mac and cheese.  I also used 2% milk and reduced fat cheese to cut down on the richness, but I promise you that this dish is plenty rich and will satisfy the masses.  I don’t pretend to know anything about child-rearing, but I even think that picky eaters would like this dish (yes, even with the greens).

You’ll notice from the photo that I topped this dish with a dash of crumbled bacon–yeah, I know, not too healthy sounding, right?  It’s certainly optional, but I cooked up a couple of slices to add a little bit of crunch and flavor.  A tiny bit of bacon never hurt anyone, can I get an amen?

Here are a few more photos and the almighty recipe:

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Cheesy Quinoa with Power Greens

3 Tbsp. butter

3 Tbsp. flour

1 1/2 cups 2% milk

7 oz. reduced fat sharp cheddar (get a block and shred it yourself–the pre-shredded stuff doesn’t melt as well)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 large shallot, minced

3 cups cooked quinoa (cook according to package directions–I cooked mine with chicken broth instead of water for added flavor)

4 oz. baby power greens (just use spinach if you can’t find a mix)

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

4 Tbsp. butter, melted

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

2 pieces of cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)

2 Tbsp. picked parsley leaves (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Melt 3 Tbsp. butter over medium heat in a large pan.  When butter is melted, whisk in flour to create a roux.  Slowly add the milk and increase the heat to medium-high.  Next, add the cheese, salt, nutmeg, and shallots.  Whisk until smooth, then turn off the heat.  In a large mixing bowl, mix the cooked quinoa, power greens, and cheese sauce together.  Pour into a casserole dish, dutch oven, or cast iron skillet (I used an 8-inch dutch oven, but didn’t use the lid).  Add the parmesan cheese evenly as a top layer.  Mix the melted butter with the panko breadcrumbs, then add this mixture evenly over the parmesan.  Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly, then serve.

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