The holidays have come and gone, and somehow I still find myself entertaining! Don't let my attitude fool you though, I LOVE cooking for family and friends—especially when I can get my loved ones eating healthier and actually enjoying it!
Today I had a few of my co-workers over for lunch and to catch up before we all have to go back to work in a few days. It was a little bittersweet because as much as I missed them, my holiday break is almost over. What better time than to pull out the comfort food!
When I entertain, I don't like being stuck in the kitchen the whole time. For that reason, I usually opt for something where I can do most of the prep ahead of time. Today I served slow-cooker pulled pork sandwiches with a vinegar broccoli slaw, and my own healthy take on mac and cheese - baked quinoa and cheese. The pork shoulder cooked overnight in my crock pot and the baked quinoa and cheese was easy to do before hand so I could pop it in the oven when my guests arrived.
While I used this as a sidedish today, this recipe makes a hearty entree given all the protein from the quinoa and cheese. This recipe can also be made to be vegetarian by substituting the chicken broth for vegetable stock. The nutritional analysis as printed below reflects this dish as a full entree (6 servings rather than 8-10 servings).
My pasta alternative in this recipe is quinoa. I see tons of recipes flipping pasta with squash, spiralized zucchini, and cauliflower but quinoa added a great texture to this one. Quinoa is a protein packed grain that originates from Peru and until recently it was still pretty obscure. From a diabetic standpoint it boasts tons of protein and amino acids for only 31 grams of carbohydrates per serving. While I am not crazy about the taste of it plain, it’s delicious when added to salads and casseroles.
I've also found yet another sneaky way to add a nice helping of veggies in here! This recipe boasts spinach (my favorite super food!), red and green bell peppers, and a nice helping of green onion. As I mention in my Italian Baked Spaghetti Squash post, spinach is considered a superfood because it has so many fantastic health benefits; not only is it high in iron and potassium but it has protein, magnesium, and folate and it is great for skin and bone health.
The red and green bell peppers in this recipe not only add a nice depth of flavor but the red pepper contains almost 300% of your daily recommended value of vitamin C! Interestingly enough, the highest concentration of Vitamin C is in red bell peppers, but I love the flavor green pepper adds as well. The capsaicin in bell peppers can help to control cholesterol, ease inflammation, AND control diabetes!
Those cute little green onion stalks in this recipe also pack a powerful punch! 1 green onion stalk has 15-22% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin K, a vitamin essential to bone health. Green onions also contain significant amounts of Vitamins A and C.
Click here for my Baked Quinoa & Cheese recipe. Buon Appetito!