Mexican Quinoa Casserole

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When I meal plan for the week, I always think of what types of veggies I will use whether in salads or in entrees. I tend to cook 1-2 different proteins like ground turkey, bison, or chicken that I can easily pair with the veggies. I also like to think of a plant-based entree or plant-based foods that could be quickly paired for a quick, go-to meal. I’ve been pairing lentils and quinoa together a lot over the last few weeks with salads and sautéed kale. I decided it was time to put a new spin on things and actually pair these two plant-based, hi-protein foods together for a Mexican Quinoa Casserole. I love quinoa because it’s so versatile in dishes and packs a good protein punch (did you know it’s actually a seed, not a grain?!?!) and lentils are wonderful because they cook so quickly and they pack so much protein along with being a wonderful complex carbohydrate…great to refuel after longer endurance workouts and such!

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The first time I made the casserole –take 1– I used corn in the mix. While it tasted good, I didn’t like the consistency. Therefore, we have take 2 here where I used chopped sweet potatoes in place. The overall texture was much more agreeable the second go-round. I actually used frozen sweet potatoes to cut down on prep for this dish and used the brand listed below. This is a very adaptable recipe that can be modified to suit your own taste buds so feel free to have fun and adjust tastes/textures as needed. To make meal prep more efficient, I recommend cooking the quinoa and lentils ahead of time. You can also make extra quinoa and lentils and store in the freezer so you have the prepared for your next lentil, quinoa combo party!

Mexican Quinoa Casserole (gluten free)

1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 sweet onion (small/medium), chopped
3 c. kale, washed and chopped
2 c. sweet potatoes, chopped (I used this frozen brand)
1/2 T. ghee
1/2 t. herbamare
1 t. Adobo seasoning
4 oz. green chiles (I used this brand)
1 1/2 c. quinoa, cooked*
1 1/2 c. black lentils, cooked*
4 oz goat cheese, *save 2 oz. for the end

Sauce

15 oz. tomato sauce (I used this brand)
1 T. chipotle salsa (I used this brand)
1 T. cumin

Preheat oven to 350F. Sauté the minced garlic and the chopped sweet onion together, adding a tablespoon or two of water so the veggies don’t burn. Once the water has been absorbed, add 1/2 T. of ghee or butter and add the chopped kale & sweet potatoes along with 1/2 t. of herbamare & 1 t. Adobo seasoning. I used frozen sweet potatoes by Stahlbush Island Farms. Next, add the green chilies as well as the cooked quinoa and cooked lentils. *Note the lentils were drained and rinsed then covered with veggie both to cook along with a few dashes of herbamare. The quinoa was soaked, rinsed & drained and covered with boiling water and a couple dashes of sea salt (see specific directions for cooking quinoa here). Combine mixture well then add the cheese and once again stir to mix evenly. Coat the base of a glass pan (I used a 9X7X2.5″ pan) and add quinoa mixture, spreading evenly. Add desired amount of sauce on top – I used the entire amount which was about 1 cup. Spread the remaining goat cheese. Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes or until the cheese melts. **While I spread all of the sauce over the top, next time I make this I am going to do 2-3 layers of the quinoa mixture with the sauce spread evenly on top of each layer so you can get a more even bite of the sauce with each bite of the quinoa mixture – just in case you want to try this method!

For the sauce, combine ingredients into a sauce pan, simmer for 3-4 minutes.

*Note: the first time I made this casserole, I used red lentils which tend to have a very different texture than the black lentils. For this recipe, the black lentils worked much better.

This has been a great dish to have on hand and pair with a salad for a quick and satisfying lunch or dinner!  I hope you like it!

Interested in learning more about my services as a health coach or wondering if a Detox is right for you, let’s chat! Sign up for your FREE Jumpstart Session and let’s get started!! Make sure to sign up for my newslettertoo (at top of page) as I will be doing a couple of upcoming events this summer and by signing up, you’ll be in the loop. The next event will be a Local Favorites tasting with Whole Foods Market in Highlands Ranch on July 16th from 4:30-5:30. You’ll be able to taste some of the delicious local products Whole Foods carries and learn how you can easily incorporate local products into your lifestyle + why it’s important. I’ll be making Chicken Cabbage rolls with local chicken, goat cheese and marinara sauce. Plus, we’ll have local coffee, kombucha, and fresh juices. It doesn’t stop there, we’ll top it off with something sweet and healthy!  I hope to see you there – space is limited so sign up by emailing liz@elizabethdennison.com or calling 720-722-0246.

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