I really love one-pot meals. Chili, casserole, soup, pretty much anything that can be made and refrigerated/frozen ahead of time for busy workout-filled evenings is high on my list. Preparing a multi-dish dinner often is the last thing I want to do when I get home from the pool or gym. It sounds boring, but there are ways to get creative with plain ol’ pasta or beans. See: Butternut Squash & Quinoa Lasagna. Quinoa is an incredible thing. It’s a protein-filled faux grain, which is perfect for gluten-free diets or vegetarians who overdose on other plant-based protein sources. It can be used in place of pasta or rice or on its own or in salads or basically anywhere. It tastes kind of nutty (which sounds weird, I know) but basically takes on the flavor of whatever you put with it. I use it so much that I buy it in bulk quantities at Whole Foods. So when this Cooking Light recipe surfaced, complete with spinach, caramelized onions and my favorite winter veggie, I had to try a quinoa variation.
- 6 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- 12 garlic cloves, unpeeled (about 1 head)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Cooking spray
- 1 large onion, vertically sliced
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 (9-ounce) packages fresh spinach
- 5 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 thyme sprig
- 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded fontina cheese, divided
- 3/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
- 3-4 cups cooked quinoa
For quinoa: Use 2 cups water for every cup of dry quinoa. Place in saucepan on stove, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Same process as rice. It expands a lot, so you won’t need much to get 3 cooked cups. Or you can put the unused portion in the fridge for later!
Preheat oven to 425°.Combine squash, 1 tablespoon oil, sage, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper in a large bowl; toss to coat. Arrange squash mixture on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes or until squash is tender. Cool slightly; peel garlic. Place squash and garlic in a bowl; partially mash with a fork.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté for 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; continue cooking for 20 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Place onion in a bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons water and spinach to Dutch oven; increase heat to high. Cover and cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Drain in a colander; cool. Squeeze excess liquid from spinach. Add spinach to onions.
Heat 4 1/2 cups milk, bay leaf, and thyme in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; remove from heat. Let stand for 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf and thyme. Return pan to medium heat. Combine remaining 1/2 cup milk and flour in a small bowl. Add to pan, stirring with a whisk until blended. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 1/4 cups cheese, red pepper, and nutmeg.
Spread 1/2 cup milk mixture in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 1/3 of quinoa over milk mixture; top with half of squash mixture, half of spinach mixture, and 3/4 cup milk mixture. Repeat layers, ending with quinoa. Spread remaining milk mixture over top. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes, and remove from oven. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.
Preheat broiler. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese is melted and lightly browned. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Again, like rice, quinoa soaks up liquid around it. If you don’t want your casserole to be soggy, use more of it. This doesn’t hold together quite as nicely as noodle-based lasagna, so you won’t get perfect squares as you cut into it. I kind of like that about it though because it blends all of the flavors in a single bite.
Another reason I love recipes like this is that they feed me for days. I’m not the kind of person that gets bored with food, so I *can* rotate between just two or three dinner options over the course of a week if I have to. But because I live alone — this was all for me — I was able to get a few meals out of it and then freeze individual portions to be reheated later (ie. rotated in with other meals). Talk about bang for your buck.
Any favorite training-friendly recipes out there?