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Who would have thought that I would have a post entitled, Mac and Cheese.  But don’t worry this is not a post about an unhealthy splurge, in fact these new and improved mac and cheese recipes are packed full of whole-grains and vegetables!  I am telling you healthy, delicious and nutritious can work together simultaneously, in fact they do all the time! (especially on this blog :))

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Ok well interestingly enough, there is no macaroni at all in these three recipes. I substituted quinoa and farro for the macaroni. Quinoa and farro both are whole foods, not processed like macaroni, and contain fiber, protein and complex carbs which will help stabilize our blood sugar.

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I went to a lecture by Joy Bauer at my local YMCA yesterday.  I had doubts before going because I knew she was a big shot, on the TODAY show and wrote books in which her face would be plastered. I assumed she was just a face, however, she was great!  She really understood the details behind the nutrition of foods and the studies to support or negate it.  I was very impressed!  After watching her my inspiration to become a nutritionist was once again sparked (like it is everyday, three times a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner, but anyways).  Anyways, Joy Bauer gave a lecture about 10 foods we should include in our diet on a regular basis, and guess what one of those foods was…QUINOA.  Quinoa is great for everybody, but can really aid diabetics or people struggling with pre-diabetes because it does stabilize blood sugar levels, giving the overworked glucose a break.

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Now quinoa is not actually a grain.  Although it is grain-like, it is actually a seed and more closely related to spinach or beets than it is to wheat.  Quinoa is a good source of a complete protein.  Usually complete proteins are only found in meats or a combination of foods, like rice and beans or bread and peanut butter, therefore quinoa is a great addition to vegetarian or vegan diets, which may lack in complete proteins.  Also, quinoa is gluten-free, so all you celiacs out there, eat up that quinoa.

Where Farro on the other hand is not wheat either, rather farro is a grain of its own.  It is similar to brown rice, yet has nutty hints and maintains its bite even after long cooking (which is why it is often used in soups).  When describing the lightness of the grain in her article in the New York Times, Suzanne Hamlin writes, “farro tastes more elegant than earnest.”  It is light and fluffy and a perfect substitution for arborio rice when making risotto, which is sort of what we are doing in the farro bake recipe here.

Ok so once again I went crazy and made not just one, not two, but three recipes for you guys.  Now I would not suggest making all three of these in one day, unless you are very hungry and have a lot of time on your hands, but pick the one that looks best to you and try it!

Cheddar and Broccoli Quinoa “Mac and Cheese”

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs flour
  • 1/2-1 cup low-fat milk*
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Bring the quinoa and two cups of water to boil in a pot over the stove.
  3. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. While the quinoa is cooking prepare the broccoli by washing it and cutting the head from the stem.
  5. Place the heads in a microwave safe bowl with 1 Tbs of water and microwave it for 2 minutes, until the broccoli is fork tender
  6. Remove from microwave, chop broccoli and set aside
  7. Begin making the cheese sauce.  Start by melting the butter in a pan over medium heat
  8. Once the butter is melted and begins to froth add the flour and whisk vigorously for 1 minute to ensure no clumps develop
  9. Slowly add the milk, a few glugs at a time, whisking in between each addition.  1/2 a cup will result in a thicker sauce whereas 1 cup will give a thinner texture to the sauce.
  10. Once the milk is added to the desired texture season with salt and pepper.
  11. Take off heat and whisk in the cheese until fully incorporated in the sauce, reserving some for topping
  12. By this time the quinoa should be done.  Fluff with a fork and mix in the chopped broccoli.
  13. Pour the cheese sauce over the mixture and distribute mixture to separate ramekins, or a broiler-safe dish.
  14. Sprinkle reserved cheese over top and put in oven for 15 minutes.
  15. After 15 minutes is over turn the broiler on HI and broil for 5 minutes. The cheese should be slightly browned and bubbly on top.
  16. Take out of oven, let cool and enjoy!

Caprese Farro Bake

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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, mashed
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup heirloom tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups chicken stock, or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 cup mozzarella, diced
  • 1/2 cup basil, julienned
  • Bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, for topping
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, place 1 Tbs of extra virgin olive oil
  3. Add onion and celery and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes
  4. Add the garlic and cook another  minute or so, until you smell the fragrant garlic
  5. Add the farro.  Stir with wooden spoon until all the grains are coated with the oils and toasted, about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the wine and cook until the grains have absorbed all the liquid, about 7 minutes.
  7. Add the stock cover and bring to a boil.
  8. Once it reaches a boil turn down and cook on low for 45 minutes
  9. When the farro is cooking, mix the red pepper, mozzarella, basil, pinch of salt and pepper and 1Tbs of extra virgin olive oil
  10. Mix well and let sit, covered.
  11. Once farro is done cooking take off heat and add the red pepper mixture, stir until mozzarella just begins to melt.
  12. Place in separate ramekins and top with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.
  13. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 and then turn on the broiler to HI and broil for 5 minutes.
  14. Top should be golden and crusty, warm and mushy inside! Enjoy!

The last one, oh gosh guys, this one is a dousey!

Pancetta encrusted Quinoa with Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onions and a Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce (Told ya it was a dousey!)

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Ingredients

  • 2 slices pancetta, chopped
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs flour
  • 1/2- 1 cup low-fat milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Add the pancetta to a pan over medium-low heat, until crisp and cooked through, 6-8 minutes
  3. Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate. Reserve the fat in the pan
  4. Add the onion and sugar to the pan in which the pancetta was cooked and sauté over low heat for 20-30 minutes, or until the onion has wilted and has a golden-brown color.
  5. While the onion is cooking, add 1 Tbs of olive oil to a sauce pan over medium heat on the stovetop.
  6. Add the diced butternut squash and sauté on medium for 5-8 minutes. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Add the quinoa and stir, coating each seed with the oil and butternut squash, about 2 minutes
  8. Add 2 cups of water to the quinoa squash mixture and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover for 15 minutes
  9. While the quinoa is cooking begin making the sauce. Melt 1 Tbs of butter in a skillet.
  10. While the butter is frothy add the flour and whisk rapidly for 1-2 minutes, until no lumps appear.
  11. Slowly add the milk, stirring in between each addition.  The less milk the thicker the sauce. Season with pepper.
  12. Whisk in lemon juice
  13. Remove pan from heat and stir in the crumbled gorgonzola until it has melted through
  14. Once quinoa and onions are cooked through toss them together with half of the pancetta bits
  15. Add the gorgonzola sauce to the mixture and pour in separate ramekins, top with the res of the pancetta bits
  16. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 then turn on the broiler to HI and broil for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and enjoy!

Notes

  • So after taking all day to make these delicious creations I had my family taste test each.  They became connoisseurs let me know about all the details of the flavors and how they didn’t/ did work together, and here are the results:
  1. Cheddar and Broccoli- yes the classic cheddar and broccoli combination came out above the intricate flavors of the other two.  They said they could really taste the cheddar throughout which complimented the broccoli well.
  2. Caprese- They enjoyed the bite of the farro, however, they said overall it was a little bland.  The next time I would add a slight bit more salt and use fresh smoked mozzarella to really bring out the flavors throughout the dish.
  3. Pancetta Butternut Squash- I know, I thought I had this one in the bag!  So they said they liked all the flavors, however, there were too many flavors going on at the same time. They said maybe I could nix the caramelized onions.

But try them, experiment, and let me know what you guys think!  Stop by the farmers market and pick up the craziest cheese you see, or the strangest squash and replace it for the ingredients here.  You cannot go wrong with fresh!

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