Spinach and quinoa casserole

Greg and I are on vacation this week. We’re still at home, but Greg has the whole week off before he starts a new job. We’ve gone out to lunch and shopped for furniture, and on top of that, the weather has been idyllic. Is this what retirement feels like? I think we would become both bored and very poor if we lived this way long-term, but I am really enjoying having a few easy days.

Eleanor is still off to school, though she is happy to see her friends. That means I’m still having to come up with lunches for her. Packing school lunches is a challenge. She’s not allowed to bring nuts to her school because of allergy concerns, so PB&J is out. She turns up her nose at nearly all meat (except bacon!), so she eats a lot of mac and cheese and a lot of hummus with pita bread.

I’ll admit that I try to pack healthy lunches not because I’m worried about Eleanor’s health but because Eleanor’s teacher has a degree in nutrition. That is a lot of pressure, people. Is she judging me for the Goldfish crackers?

Eleanor only goes to school two days a week now, but next fall she will go every day. I am going to need some new tricks. I’ve made this spinach quinoa casserole several times, and every time I pack it as a lunch, someone asks for the recipe. I’m not normally a casserole person, largely because it’s difficult to find healthy casserole recipes. Sometimes life calls for a heaping pan of food though, either to take to a family in celebration or sadness, or to feed your own family for several days when life is too hectic or tiring for daily cooking.

I like this recipe because it’s relatively healthy and children will eat it. It can adapt to whatever veggies and cheese you have on hand. Plus, Eleanor’s teacher asked for the recipe. Is it pathetic that I’m 33 years old and still desperate to impress the teacher?

Spinach and quinoa casserole via Eat, Live, Run

1 1/2 cups dry quinoa
3 cups chicken broth
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1 t. minced garlic
5 oz chopped frozen spinach, defrosted and liquid squeezed out
1 T canola oil
1 cup milk
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated mozzerella cheese
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. dry mustard
1/2 t. black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the pepper, green onions, and spinach and saute until the pepper starts to soften, about four minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 30 seconds.

Add quinoa, broth, salt, dry mustard, and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the cheddar cheese and milk. Pour the mixture into a greased 9″x 13″ pan.

Stir together the breadcrumbs and mozzarella, and sprinkle over the casserole. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until top is golden.

Spinach and quinoa casserole