Cheesy Mexican Quinoa Bake

Cheesy Mexican Quinoa Bake 1

Because I couldn’t stop with last week’s Cheesy Cauliflower Spinach Quinoa Pesto Bake, today we have: another quinoa casserole!

I’ve deferred from using the word “casserole” in these recipe titles because of the connotations it has for me. It conjures up images of garish 1950s-era concoctions or dishes swimming in cream-of-chicken soup. OK, cream-based-soups have their place in my heart – I did come of age in the ’90s in the Midwest – but you won’t be seeing them as an ingredient here. We value freshness and the use of whole ingredients here at A Cookable Feast! My philosophy is to include processed foods not as a staple of my diet, but as a sporadic indulgence (I do have a fondness for Cheetos, for instance, but I don’t keep them in the house. However, I’ll gobble them at every barbeque and birthday party they’re set out at).

The Postwar era was a cray-cray time for food here in the U.S., with home-cooked meals often relying heavily on then-newfangled processed ingredients and oft-zany brand-sanctioned recipes (Google “Crazy 1950s recipes,” and you’ll see what I mean – an excellent diversion when you’re rendered useless by post-lunch drowsiness at work). But I’ll take one lesson from that time: as long as a not-repulsive combination of ingredients is used, the casserole is an excellent format for a quick and easy meal. You can mix a bunch of healthful stuff together – whole grains, some protein, veggies – throw it into a baking dish, pop it into the oven and voilá! Twenty-five to forty-five minutes later, you have this amazing meal that can feed a bunch of people.

Cheesy Mexican Quinoa Bake 2

Why is today’s recipe, the Cheesy Mexican Quinoa Bake, so especially great? Well, for one, it contains quinoa, a whole grain most of you are likely familiar with at this point as being a nutritional powerhouse. It’s packed with protein and fiber and nutrients such as magnesium and iron, and it has a lower glycemic index than pasta, which means it’s more likely to keep your blood sugar steady and your stomach feeling full longer. It’s got chicken, which provides a lean source of protein; beans, which provide more protein and fiber; and veggies (onion, tomato, jalapeño, garlic), which we all know are just plain great. It’s got a rich spice blend, and it’s got CHEESE.

Cheese, which provides calcium and deliciousness! This is a casserole, after all. I had to throw something creamy in there. 🙂

Cheesy Mexican Quinoa Bake 3

Convenience tip: Make and shred a bunch of chicken, whether a whole bird or boneless breasts, all at once, shred it, and freeze it in the measured increments you find most helpful, such as one- or two-cup batches. Then you’ll have cooked meat on hand to make casseroles such as these. Or you can do what I often do and use an already-roasted bird from the grocery store. Aim for free-range, hormone-free, organic chickens whenever possible.

Cheesy Mexican Quinoa Bake

-1 cup quinoa (I used red quinoa)

-2 cups water or  broth

-1 tbs. high-smoke-point cooking oil, such as grapeseed or avocado

-1 medium onion, diced

-2 cloves garlic, minced

-1 large jalapeño, seeds removed and diced

-1 cup diced tomatoes

-2 tbs. chili powder

-1 tsp. cumin

-1 tsp. garlic powder

-1 tsp. salt

-1 tsp. black pepper

-1/2 tsp. coriander

-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

-2 cups cooked shredded chicken

-1 1/2 cups drained black beans

-2 cups shredded cheese (I used pepper jack)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer. Add with the two cups of water or stock to a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 15 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed.

To a large pot over medium heat, add the oil, onion, garlic, and jalapeño; let sauté until softened, about four minutes. Add the tomatoes and let cook for another three minutes. Stir in the spices. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and combine with the cooked quinoa, chicken, beans, and half of the cheese. Distribute evenly within a 13×9-inch baking dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Bake until the cheese has melted and a nice crust has formed, about 25 minutes. Serve garnished with toppings such as sour cream, salsa, cilantro, extra shredded cheese, and tortilla strips. Makes about 8-10 servings.

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