During a weekend getaway a few years back a friend of mine told us that her two daughters had decided to espouse a vegetarian diet. This new way of eating posed a problem for my friend for two reasons: one, her husband grew up on a cattle farm and thus was a carnivore to the core, and two, her daughters were about 13 and 9 at the time. Fortunately for all of us (and, obviously, for my friend), one of the members of our group was a pediatrician and offered invaluable advice on how to prepare nutritionally-sound meals that respected the girls’ commitment to their vegetarian way of life.
In addition to the more popular non-meat protein sources such as beans and nuts, our pediatrician friend gave us the skinny on a newly discovered (at least by commercial retailers) food: quinoa. Quinoa boasts the highest protein content (between 16 and 20%) of all grains, is gluten free, easy to prepare, tastes delicious, and is usually organically grown. All in all, it makes a great substitute for those following either a vegetarian or low-carb diet.
The good doctor’s advice piqued my interest in this “super-food” and I decided to test some quinoa recipes of my own. What I found was that my family is unable to distinguish between quinoa pasta products and those made from wheat-based flour. This discovery is important to our family because some of us try to keep our carb intake to a minimum while others are gluten-intolerant.
Last weekend I made the following exquisite side dish for dinner that had us all returning to the pan for second and third helpings. Hope you enjoy!
Truffled Mac & Cheese (Adapted from the Curvy Carrot)
1 Cup breadcrumbs (or Panko)
½ Cup grated parmesan cheese
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed or pressed
2 Tablespoons truffle oil
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Cups milk (I used 1%)
8 Ounces grated smoked gouda cheese
8 Ounces grated havarti cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste
8 Ounces quinoa elbow macaroni
Preheat oven to 500 degrees and grease a casserole dish (I used an 8X8 glass baking dish). In a medium bowl, combine bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic, and 1 tablespoon of truffle oil. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. At the same time, begin cooking macaroni according to package directions. Whisk in flour until a paste forms. Slowly whisk in milk. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens (about three minutes). Using a wooden spoon, slowly add cheeses and stir until melted. Add the remaining truffle oil and salt and pepper. When macaroni is finished cooking, drain and add to sauce. Stir until noodles are well coated and pour into casserole. Place in oven and top with bread crumb mixture. Bake until top browns – about 5 minutes – checking occasionally to ensure topping doesn’t burn.