For vegetarians, it can be tricky to get all of the protein you need every day. Especially if you have just committed to a vegetarian diet and are learning to cook all over again. Eating proteins with whole grains is important. Combinations like rice and dahl, or corn and beans, provide all of the amino acids necessary for a ‘whole protein’ which your body needs to survive. Quinoa is a seed (not a grain) that contains all of the amino acids necessary for a whole protein. So it’s very good to include in your diet.
On the other hand, it’s a small seed with a very mild, nutty flavor, and can be somewhat boring on its own. It’s easy to prepare, cooked almost exactly like you would cook rice, and quite versatile. So rather than serve it at home like I would serve rice, I had to make it a little fancy to convince my family to even try it at first.
As a general rule, I know my family will eat almost anything with cheese on it, so I came up with this cheesy quinoa recipe to get them interested. By now they’re used to the many ways I make quinoa, but this is still a family favorite. Like I said, cheese is always popular!
1 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons soup starter*
1 3/4 cups water
2 tablespoons butter / olive oil
1/2 teaspoons salt
Pepper to taste
1/2 pound shredded cheddar cheese
*You can use the soup starter from our recipe, or your own, or use vegetable bouillon or vegetable stock. You can just use water with salt and pepper, but preparing your quinoa with a broth or stock gives it a much richer flavor. Essentially you want to start with 1 3/4 cup of liquid to make the quinoa.
1. Put the soup starter and water into a 1.5 to 2 quart sauce pan, and put this on a medium heat. Pour in the quinoa (depending on the type you have, you may need to rinse this first) and stir until all of the seeds are wet. Cover and bring to a boil.
2. As soon as this comes to a boil (or starts bubbling), turn down to a very low heat and let cook until there’s no more water in the bottom of the pot. This is exactly how you would cook rice, but it cooks just a little faster. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
3. Remove from heat and add butter (or olive oil), salt, and pepper. Once you stir this up, add all but about ½ cup of the shredded cheddar, and carefully mix this up. The cheese will probably start melting, but keep mixing until it’s evenly spread throughout.
4. Transfer your cheesy quinoa to an oven-safe casserole dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top (or add even more!). I usually top with a little more pepper before putting this into the oven.
5. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese looks all melted and delicious. When you take this out of the oven, let it sit for about 10 minutes to settle before serving (after offering to Krishna of course).
Quinoa can be a little heavy, so I suggest making it part of a balanced meal, with some lovely veggies and interesting sides, or a big salad.