Who doesn’t love a delicious casserole? It’s a one pot meal that usually has six or more ingredients in it that when combined and baked together create an Oscar worthy meal perfect for leftovers. Most casserole recipes include a meat, a starch, a creamy sauce and a few veggies. Well, as a rarely meat eater and seeker of everything healthy, I chose the all powerful grain, quinoa as my main source of protein in this dish. With a mix of bold spices and southwestern flavors, like corn, black beans and peppers, along with an even layer of melted cheese and a dollop of avocado cream…need I say more?
If you are a quinoa newb, don’t run and hide. If you can make pasta, you can make quinoa. It’s as simple as boiling water and waiting, but just in case, here is a great Quinoa Cooking 101 guide from The Kitchn to get you well on your way. I choose quinoa over rice, couscous or pasta in this dish because of its nutritional benefits. Quinoa has 8 grams of protein in each cup, cooked, and is low in fat and naturally gluten free. I find that it keeps me full for longer which is great if you’re looking to drop a few pounds. Try quinoa as a substitute for pastas and other grains in some of your favorite recipes and see what you think! Okay, now back to those black beans and things.
As our wonderful summer comes to a close, I find that cooking when I get home from work is the last thing I want to do. I want to be outside, soaking up as much Seattle sun as my skin can take before I turn into a boot wearing, scarf covered ghost during our 8 months of hibernation. Oh, how I love Fall and Winter and yet I hate translucent Lindsay.
Since I don’t feel like cooking, leftovers are crucial. I’m not very good at math, but I know 100% that Casserole = Leftovers. I also know that Leftovers = Happy Husbands and Happy Husbands = A Happy Marriage, so really, Casserole = A Happy Marriage. There you go. No need for couples therapy or marriage counseling, just make a freakin’ casserole. And make this one.
So this casserole is really good. It has a lot of bold flavors (I started saying “bold flavors” after my 900th episode of Chopped), spicey spices (that’s clearly not from Chopped), and hearty vegetables, but when all is said and done, it’s all about the Avocado Cream.
I don’t know if it’s just because I made this recipe, but avocado creams, dips and sauces are viral right now. I thought I was cool and found a new recipe that would blow people’s minds, but variations of this yummy green stuff are popping up everywhere. Seriously, I think it’s hotter than Miley Cyrus, but that’s just because it’s that good. It is the crowning jewel of most Mexican dishes because it calms the heat of peppers and spices without losing any flavor. It is the cream to your coffee and it will blow your mind if it has not already been blown.
Choose one night this week to make this casserole, double the recipe if you’re really lazy, I mean awesome, and enjoy days worth of flavors that will leave you full and happy and not single.
What to Bring to the Store
You will need reusable produce bags for those produce items that you can’t fathom touching the conveyor belt (maybe the peppers?) and a reusable bulk bag for your quinoa. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, like my Black Bean Burger post, you can buy dried black beans in bulk as well, you just have to make sure you properly cook them before you add them to the recipe. Everything else will come in a nice recyclable package, well almost everything…
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup of vegetable broth or water
- 3 ears of corn (just kernels), or 1.5 cans
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 orange bell pepper
- 3 cups of cooked quinoa
- 1/2 of a lime, juice only
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup shredded cheese (I used medium cheddar)
- 2 ripe avocados
- 1 1/2 limes, juice only
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/3 cup of parsley or cilantro
- 1 1/2 tbsp greek yogurt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- In a large frying pan on medium-low heat, add in 1 tbsp olive oil with the garlic. Let the garlic cook for 2 minutes, until it becomes aromatic.
- Add in the black beans and vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce it to a simmer and let it cook for another 5-7 minutes until the broth has thickened. Lightly mash the bean mixture and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a separate medium frying pan, heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil on medium heat. Add in the bell peppers and corn and let them roast on medium-high without stirring for 5 minutes. Give them a quick stir, then let them roast again for another 5 minutes without stirring. This will give them a nice brown, toasty texture.
- In a large bowl, toss the cooked quinoa (best if warm) with the juice of the lime, paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper.
- Add in the bean mixture, corn and peppers and toss well.
- Lay out the mixture in a glass baking dish (13 x 9) and top with the shredded cheese.
- Place on the middle rack of your oven and bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
- Put the garlic, avocado, lime juice, herbs, yogurt, olive oil, salt and black pepper in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, yet thick. Adjust amounts of greek yogurt or olive oil to reach your desired consistency.
- Place a dollop on your southwest quinoa casserole and enjoy!
Your yogurt container and black bean can will go into your recycling bin for a future life. Cheese wrapping is the bane of my existence. If you can, get your cheese fresh from the deli and ask them to put it in your own container. Some stores see this as a health code issue and can’t use your own container, so in this case you have to toss your cheese wrapper. Blast. Next time, try your local farmer’s market and see if they can do better!
By choosing a recipe with mostly bulk and produce, you’re saving needless packaging from entering the waste stream. Always look for your grains in bulk and please, for the love of all that is holy, do your best to not buy pre-packaged produce. Images of individually wrapped bananas still haunt me to this day. Think before you bag. Don’t fear the register conveyor belt, just wash it when you get home!
Cheers to casserole and happy relationships.