Quinoa ‘n’ Cheese with Cauliflower

Cooking in a hotel kitchen is a fun challenge. With two small burners, horrible knives, and no oven, I’m always trying to find ways to improvise.

I really wanted some kind of healthy-ish mac ‘n’ cheese the other week, but didn’t feel like buying butter, milk, and a whole bag of flour to start a cream sauce. So, with a little research and experimentation, I came up with a sauce using grated sharp cheddar cheese and non-fat evaporated milk. I couldn’t believe how well it turned out! It had the creaminess of Velveeta (don’t lie, I know the kid in you loves Velveeta), but the cheesy bite of sharp cheddar.

To take the healthiness one step further, I used that cheese sauce this week to make a quinoa ‘n’ cheese. I did a quick Google search to see if (1) anyone has done this and (2) if it could actually be any good. I came across Run Emily Run’s recipe that looked yummy and even included cauliflower. I love cheesy cauliflower, so I borrowed her idea and came up with this Quinoa ‘n’ Cheese with Cauliflower.

The recipe was a success overall, but I would make some tweaks next time. It could have benefited from some crunch – maybe by adding some peas, or even baking with breadcrumbs. I also would spice it up a little with a pinch of dry mustard or smoky paprika, neither of which I wanted to buy while traveling.

Quinoa ‘n’ Cheese with Cauliflower

I made way too much of this, so this recipe yields quite a bit of servings (I would guess 4-6).

  • 1.5 cups dry quinoa
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced (mine was “roughly” chopped because of the knife situation.)
  • 1 12 oz. can non-fat evaporated milk (Not sweetened condensed milk. Also, you probably won’t need this much, but this way you can make the sauce as thin or as thick as you want.)
  • 6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (Again, you can use more or less depending on how cheesey you want the sauce to be. Whole Foods didn’t have shredded low-fat sharp cheddar, but I would be curious to see how that would turn out.)
  • Cauliflower, cut into small florets (I didn’t actually measure how much I used because I bought pre-chopped, but it was a lot!)
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Scallions (green parts only), thinly sliced

Cook the quinoa in the chicken broth according to package directions and steam the cauliflower florets. I had to steam in the microwave because I ran out of burners, which was not ideal but worked.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the onion. After a couple of minutes, or when the onion starts to get translucent, add the garlic. Cook for another minute or so until the garlic is soft but not browned. Add about a half cup of the evaporated milk. When the milk is hot, turn the heat down to low and slowly start adding the cheese, stirring to incorporate. Add as much or as little as you want. If the sauce thickens too much, thin it with additional evaporated milk. Taste for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper if necessary, along with a dash of hot sauce.

When the cheese sauce is to your liking, add the cauliflower. Stir to incorporate, and then then add the cooked quinoa.

Right before serving, stir in the sliced scallion greens. Enjoy!

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