Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake

Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake | A Sweet SpoonfulI just finished washing out Oliver’s lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I’d have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now — these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam’s hard ciders. Except now the back door’s closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it’s the first day of fall. 

Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake | A Sweet SpoonfulI’m at the point in my pregnancy now where everyone wants to chat about it – strangers, grocery checkers, bank tellers, everyone. And while I know many friends who are annoyed by this, I like to try to give people grace: they’re all coming from a good place, either remembering their own small kids or grandkids or the kids they wish they could have had. People are just trying to connect. The one thing I’ve found interesting this time around is at any given moment, I’m not entirely sure how far along I am. With Oliver, I had that little app that tracked the changes in your body each week with fruit and veggie graphics: “this week your baby’s the size of a blueberry!” I’d eagerly await Tuesday morning when the app would update, and I’d have news to share with Sam and my lovely employees who at least pretended to care. This time around I just haven’t gotten around to re-downloading it, I guess (much to Sam’s disappointment) and weeks seem to go by without a deliberate effort to count or log them.

Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake | A Sweet SpoonfulWith Oliver, I kept a pregnancy journal of how I was feeling. I took belly photos each week, and was really diligent about prenatal fitness, eating enough salmon, reading all the books. This time, none of the above have been true and if I think too hard about it, it makes me a little sad. I bought a journal a few weeks back to try to encourage myself to just write down a few things, but once evening rolls around and I have those precious few minutes to rinse out O’s lunchbox and catch up with Sam, other things feel more immediately pressing.

Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake | A Sweet SpoonfulIt’s not for lack of excitement or enthusiasm, it’s just that there’s far less time to focus inwardly on myself and my feelings and experience during this pregnancy.  There’s post-workday dinner to throw together, birthday parties to plan, new shoes to buy for Oliver’s school, breakfast with friends, oil changes, Halloween costumes – you get it. But there’s also the sweetness in between: Oliver putting his stuffed manta ray under his pajamas and telling me he’s growing his baby, too. Sometimes he even sleeps with her under his pj top and lately he’s started asking her if she’s hungry for some milk or a snack. Over breakfast last weekend, O told me he’s going to teach the new baby guitar. Sam’s gearing up to move out of his home office so we can turn it into a nursery. I’m going to paint the walls and hope to make new curtains.

Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake | A Sweet SpoonfulI went to my first prenatal yoga class this past week; I recall it being a bit too slow for my taste during my first pregnancy but thought this time around it might be different. And while it was still too slow and still not to my taste, it turned out there was an unexpected bonus I hadn’t thought of: a full hour of quiet to connect with the new baby, not something I’ve really gotten a chance to do.  So I may return. Not for the sloowwwwwwww stretching or pillow-laden poses, but for a chance to lay my hands on my belly, chant a few “om’s” and say hi to this new little person. I may not know the size in vegetable or fruit icons or the exact week, but as Oliver says, the baby is “growing” and we all couldn’t be more excited for that fact alone.

Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake

Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake

  • Yield: 8 servings
  • Prep time: 15 mins
  • Cook time: 1 hr
  • Total time: 1 hr 15 mins

To make this a weeknight recipe, cook the quinoa and cauliflower the day before (or even a few days before) so then you’ll really just be cooking down the greens, assembling and getting the casserole in the oven. You’ll notice I cook the quinoa in broth here, a great way to add an extra boost of flavor to your savory cooking.

Ingredients

1 cup (170g) Bob's Red Mill tri-color quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 large head of cauliflower, sliced into 1-inch florets, about 6 cups (555g)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup/35g)
2 cloves garlic
1 small bunch lacinato kale, rinsed, stems removed and chopped (about 4 cups/70g)
8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated, divided
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup (30g) capers, drained
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon ground thyme
1/2 cup (45g) panko breadcrumbs

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

While the oven’s preheating, cook the quinoa: Add quinoa and vegetable stock to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover, and simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until the water’s absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to sit, covered, and steam for ten minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Lay the cauliflower onto the baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast for 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender (it’s ok if it’s not super roasted looking; it’s going to continue cooking when you bake the casserole).

In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the shallot. Cook for 3 minutes, or until shallot is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the kale and saute until wilted, 2-3 minutes.

Turn cauliflower out into a large mixing bowl. Fold in the kale, quinoa, 1/2 of the cheese, milk, capers, Dijon, salt, red pepper flakes and thyme. Mix well. Scrape mixture into a large oven-safe baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs and remaining cheese.

Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until cooked through and golden brown on top. If you’d like a crispier top, turn the broiler on high at the end of your cooking time and continue cooking for 2 minutes, or until nice and crispy.

Leftovers are great if covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Comments

  1. Tara Tubb

    Making this right now for a party tonight!

    1. megang

      Wohoo! Hope you guys liked it!

  2. Anne

    I thought this would be too obviously healthy to appeal to my teenagers but they both loved it! Despite visible kale! That is a win.

    1. megang

      Wohooo! Thanks for the feedback, Anne!

  3. mary

    This looks SO good - I"m bookmarking it now and putting it on the menu!

    1. megang

      I hope you love it, Mary!

  4. Kankana Saxena

    I love such baked meal, so perfect for the season too! Really where did all the months go? The year just flew ! Anyways, am saving that recipe to give a try :)

    1. megang

      Awesome, Kankana. I hope you enjoy it!

  5. Angelina

    I'm not sure where I went wrong with this. Definitely not what I expected. I'm not a novice cook but this was horrible! Looking back, not enough milk to finish steaming the cauliflower. Or maybe make a cheese sauce and mix in. The cauliflower wasn't soft and the whole dish was dry. Plus, the thyme just didn't work in my opinion. Maybe another spice - basil or dill? I had such high hopes for this and it took a long time to make. Ended up throwing it away. :(

    1. megang

      Oh gosh, I'm so sorry to hear it, Angelina! We've made this many times in our house. The cauliflower actually roasts in the oven before you even put the casserole together - the milk doesn't do anything to steam it, so perhaps that step got cut short? It sounds like that's the case as the cauliflower roasts first until it's soft as the recipe states. Regardless, so sorry it wasn't a hit at your house. Hopefully the next one will resonate better. ~Megan

  6. Lynne

    Great recipe and such a nice one for the cold season! It also makes superb leftovers.....
    I loved reading your thoughts on your second pregnancy. Same experience here. I remember feeling guilty that I wasn't as absorbed and focused on the the baby, then my wonderful pediatrician gave me some great advice (she was one of a family of 7!!!!!). She offered that I might keep in mind that the second baby would not only NOT have less attention than the first child, but would have the advantage of having a built-in buddy/sibling who would more than make up for any time constraints my husband or I might have as parents of 2 young kids. I can still remember the sense of calm this brought me and sure enough, she was spot on. Twenty-eight years later, our boys remain best friends and are in almost daily contact though living on different continents. It sounds like Oliver is going to be a super-duper big brother and you are going to have so many sweet memories of your little ones together. Enjoy and make sure to rest up!

    1. megang

      Oh this was so nice to read, Lynne. Thank you so much for sharing. You're absolutely right about having a built-in playmate, and I'm really looking forward to that (for Oliver's sake and selfishly my own!). That's so wonderful to hear that your boys are best friends today. I text with my two younger sisters every day, too, and hope that Oliver and his brother or sister will be just as close :) Thanks again for the sweet comment, and have a great weekend!

  7. Liz Baldwin

    This turned out so delicious! My husband really enjoyed it. I used Extra Sharp Cheddar, and Unsweetened almond milk instead of the whole milk. And just plain quinoa. We will definitely be keeping this in our repertoire!

    1. megang

      Yay! So glad to hear it, Liz. I love this recipe, too!

  8. Jennifer Hemmer

    I’m thinking about making this to deliver to a family in need. Would you recommend me cooking everything and deliver it for them to reheat or what do you think would be quick and easy?

    1. megang

      Hi, Jennifer! It's really easy to reheat - you're essentially just warming in a low temp oven (300 or so), so I'd deliver it fully cooked and just include a note about reheating. Happy New Year!

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