I’ve been obsessed with going to Greece for as long as I can remember. I have dark features and olive skin so people have always asked what my ethnicity is. I really am just-an-American-mutt-with-dark-features, but that’s boring. So I’ve always secretly wanted to lie and say “I’m Greek”. Because how cooool would it be to be Greek. They live on a beautiful island and eat the best food. You never see a picture of Greece that isn’t drop dead beautiful. And don’t get me started on my love for Tzatziki sauce. Yes, I am aware the country is in economic turmoil… But that doesn’t make their scenery any less spectacular or their food any less healthful and delicious.
The star of this post has to be the quinoa (keen-wah). This is one fad food that I am all about! Quinoa can be kind of confusing and intimidating at first but I promise that it is an awesome food to add to your pantry considering it’s widely called one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Mix that in with foods from one of the healthiest diets on the planet, the Mediterranean diet, and you’ve got yourself a pretty darn healthy dish.
Quinoa is super versatile and as easy to cook as rice. While it is a member of the grain family, quinoa is a great addition to meatless meals because it is a complete protein. That means it has all nine essential amino acids: the building blocks of protein that our body can’t make itself and we have to get from food. Meat, dairy, and eggs are complete proteins, but there are plant-based options as well such as quinoa, soy, chia, hempseed, and buckwheat. You can also combine foods to get all nine essential amino acids such as rice and beans or hummus and pita. Vegetarians tend to eat a wide enough variety of foods throughout the day that they get the protein combinations they need without having to worry (doesn’t have to be in the same meal). But if you eat this quinoa casserole, you can be totally confident!
A few tips when it comes to cooking with quinoa:
- Rinse the dried beads with cold water in a fine mesh strainer before cooking to remove a bitter coating
- Cook with vegetable broth instead of water (Adds more flavor but always consider the added sodium!)
- Red, black, and white quinoa have little difference. Black is slightly more crunchy and earthy, but they have the same nutrition benefits and flavor. (I suggest choosing based on availability & color preference for the dish. I used tri-color here!)
- While quinoa is a complete protein, it’s important to note that it’s not as high of a source of total protein as legumes so mix your quinoa with beans for a yummy and protein packed combo!
- Try substituting quinoa anywhere you normally have rice or pasta
- Beware of the AWESOME nutritional benefits including low calorie, high fiber, low glycemic index, and high in minerals and antioxidants!
I made this casserole for Jono’s family Christmas party and another holiday party…and not trying to brag BUT… I had people ask me for the recipe at both parties. Validation at its finest! It has all kinds of healthy ingredients that you’d typically find in a Mediterranean dish like olive oil, spinach, sundried tomatoes, feta, and dill. I have a recent obsession with navy beans so I threw those in too adding to this dish’s awesome protein profile at over 22g per serving! And as much as I want to move to Greece and seamlessly integrate into their culture, I would probably be called out as an impostor pretty quickly when they realize I don’t like olives. That’s just a requirement at birth, right? Well I have tried and I just don’t, but if you do, I think that a handful of black olives would be a welcome ingredient in this recipe.
It really is a coincidence that this dish is gorgeously red and green and posted the week of Christmas but it gives a perfect opportunity for me to wish everyone a very MERRY CHRISTMAS! And plenty of peace, love, and happiness. I hope to be a part of your New Year to help make 2016 a healthy, happy, and sustainable one. Happy Holidays everyone 🙂
Mediterranean Quinoa Casserole
This vegetarian casserole has tons of healthy ingredients like spinach, sun dried tomatoes, white beans, quinoa, and greek yogurt. SO GOOD!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Rinse quinoa in a fine strainer with cool water. Add to a pot with 2 cups of vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook until water is absorbed.
Heat olive oil over medium heat and add onions and garlic. Cook 4-5 minutes and add spinach and combine. Cook for another 2-3 minutes then remove from heat.
In a large bowl, combine and fold together the cooked quinoa, onions, garlic, spinach, sundried tomatoes, and navy beans.
In a medium bowl combine Greek yogurt, eggs, feta, and dill and carefully mix together.
Add the egg mixture to the quinoa mixture and fold until the egg mixture is evenly distributed.
Place the casserole contents into a 1 quart dish and cook in oven for 30 minutes.