Everyone grows up with their own personal comfort foods. These provide consolation when we are sad or a feeling of well-being when we are discouraged or “blue” and are typically associated with home-cooking and childhood. They make us feel warm and cozy the way a warm blanket feels fresh out of the dryer and emotionally transport us back through the years.
Eating our favorites can be a lovely way to relax after a particularly difficult day; but, because of their typically high sugar or carbohydrate content, they are not necessarily healthy.
The good news is that we can change all of that so you can continue to enjoy your favorites and make them healthy at the same time. Simply start packing in the nutrients by incorporating quinoa into your classic comfort foods – start creating your very own high-nutrition comfort foods that your family will love even more.
By using quinoa you not only add nutrition, but you also add delightful new flavors and textures.
To introduce this concept, let’s work with three of the most common comfort foods. We will add quinoa to each of them to create a new tasty version of these all time favorites.
Mac and Cheese
This is probably at or near the top of everyone’s comfort food list – especially for the youngsters. When it is well-prepared (sometimes even it is not), most kids gobble it up and ask for more.
Stuffing your children with white flour macaroni and pre-packaged cheese filled with additives is not an ideally healthy dish. Even if you boost the nutrition with whole wheat or spinach macaroni and natural cheeses, you can do better.
Gold quinoa has the perfect texture to mix into a batch of mac and cheese. As the cheese melts, it engulfs the tiny protein-packed seeds and no one even knows it is there. Its protein richness is buried in cheesy goodness.
If you prefer baked mac and cheese, be sure to slightly under-cook the quinoa to keep it from over cooking during the 30-minutes of baking.
You will be absolutely delighted with the crunchy texture and nutty taste that quinoa adds to your recipe. Be prepared for the first bite – it is heaven!
For even more crunch, add a buttery bread crumb or toasted almond meal mixed with cooked red quinoa as a topping. Both toppings add a finished look to the casserole and the red quinoa topping adds extra nutritional value to this very popular comfort food.
Casseroles and Pot Pies
Every cook has a few casseroles that they make over and over again, such as Scalloped Potatoes and Ham, Green Bean Casserole, Chicken and Rice, or Chicken Divan – all are perfect choices for adding quinoa into the mix.
Casseroles are typically blended ingredients with some kind of rich, thick sauce, which make them ideal for adding quinoa. It not only adds texture and flavor, it also helps bind everything together.
Members of my family always fight over the crunchy corner pieces with the crispy edges. When you add quinoa, you will delight the family with crunchy all the way through – not just on the edges.
Adding quinoa to the mix for pot pies works the same way because they are simply mini-casseroles.
Pot pies are the perfect place to test your skill at using quinoa and discovering its unique and surprising qualities. As you take that first delicious bite, your taste buds will squeal with pleasure as you savor the creamy, yet crispy texture with a yummy nutty flavor.
If you grew up in an American household, you undoubtedly had some variation of meatloaf as one of your family standards. Regardless of the ingredients, meatloaf is a combination of ground meat (protein), binders (crackers/bread crumbs), moisture (eggs/milk/catsup), and spices.
There is a chance that for some of you the dish was relatively flavorless except for the catsup that you spread on top. When you add quinoa, you not only add an interesting flavor in addition to the meat and spices, the meatloaf will bind together much better and not collapse into a crumbly heap.
For those who are on gluten-free diets, a handful of quinoa is a great substitute for the typical binders – flour, crackers or bread crumbs.
Quinoa is the perfect ingredient to change this simple, budget-wise family dinner into a tasty, nutritional powerhouse.
By adding quinoa to your family’s favorite comfort foods, you increase their taste profile, give dinners a nutritional boost, while adding a delightfully different texture to some of their most loved dinners.