As I mentioned last week, Jorge and I are getting ready to pack our bags (and boxes and cars and a big moving truck) to head back home to Tampa — Sayonara, Jacksonville! The countdown is here and we are 3 weeks away from the move. We went down this weekend and found a rental house that has a nice big kitchen with an island and a big backyard for Brody. Happy Wife + Happy Dog = Happy Husband. So it’s all set…now I just have to get started packing.

In preparation for the move, I went through my pantry and got rid of everything that was near it’s expiration date.  And then I started a list of things that I want to use up before we move. It just makes no sense to go out and buy more food to just have to pack it up and move in a few weeks. And when I realized I have an abundance of quinoa, couscous and lentils, I turned to Facebook and asked you guys for ideas on how to use them all up.

One of the recipes that really jumped out at me (from Eating Well, Living Thin) was for a casserole that is a spoof on the classic Broccoli and Rice Casserole. That casserole has made it’s appearance at just about every potluck since the beginning of potlucks. I loved the idea of swapping out rice for quinoa, but did not want to use a can of cream of crap (not that cream of crap isn’t tasty, but I would rather not use it!) and I hate mayo. I also wanted to use more quinoa and wanted some heat and flavor added. So with some seasoning and cooking process changes, I made a Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole that was perfect for us.

Jorge and I both really enjoyed this and I am happy to have a tasty gluten free side dish in the new weekly rotation. You don’t miss the rice at all and the cheesy crusted top is possibly the best part!

Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

Yield: serves 4-6

Recipe Note: To save on time/effort, I bought one of those bags of the broccoli florets that you just steam in the bag in the microwave. Yes, it's lazy...but it's fast!

Ingredients:

2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on your heat tolerance)
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup fat free half & half
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
2 heaping cups steamed broccoli (can also boil & drain broccoli)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 9x9 baking dish and set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add quinoa and salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for 18-20 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

While quinoa is cooking, melt butter. Whisk in cornstarch, cook for 30 seconds. Add onion and garlic, sauté for 5 minutes - stirring as needed. Stir in seasonings (mustard and cayenne pepper) and cook for 30 seconds more.

Slowly whisk in cold milk and half & half. Simmer for 7-9 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese, stirring until completely melted.

In a large bowl, toss cooked quinoa and steamed broccoli together. Carefully pour sauce over quinoa/broccoli, stirring to coat. Transfer to prepared baking dish and top with grated parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is slightly browned. Serve immediately.