Creamy Quinoa Casserole with Chicken and Mushrooms

Creamy Quinoa Casserole with Chicken and Mushrooms - a frugal, lovely comfort food that's full of nourishing ingredients too! -- The Nourishing Gourmet
This casserole’s aroma and visual appeal had my kids ogling: first the smell of the easy roux cooking (think browned butter and cream!), then the grating of the Gruyere, the toasty smell of quinoa bubbling in bone broth, and, of course, the redolence of sauteed mushrooms with garlic and herbs.
I first made this casserole when we were phasing off of a grain-free diet, to see how we’d do with quinoa. I soaked the gluten-free grain overnight, to reduce phytic acid and improve its digestibility. (That’s an easy step- just a little salt water overnight: instructions below.) We all loved it and pronounced it an instant creamy classic.
Although the recipe is topped with a roux (homemade cream sauce), I hope you’ll know this is one quick-to-assemble casserole that provides 8 big servings; so it’s great for guests or a weeknight meal. Melted cheese atop chicken and cozy, high protein quinoa (that cooks while it bakes!) provide a comfort food that’s fun to make and sure to please.
The main ingredients are all accessible at Trader Joe’s- an easy way to grab what you need for a plentiful dinner. (There are a few additional basic pantry or fridge ingredients you may already have on hand at home.) The ingredients aren’t all inexpensive, but they’re high quality and relatively affordable; (let’s face it: organic chicken isn’t cheap). When you buy a couple of the ingredients, the Gruyere cheese (or jack, for a milder flavor) and quinoa, you’ll be able to use leftovers of these ingredients another time as well; the recipe only uses half of what you’ll buy. Or perhaps you already buy quinoa in bulk?
The whole casserole costs about $18.25 to make. If you serve 8 people, each servings costs about $2.25.
Here’s the price breakdown if you purchase your ingredients from Trader Joe’s:
$4.58- 1 pound organic mushrooms
$1.75- 1 cup quinoa
$8.50- 1.75 pounds organic chicken thighs
$3.15- 1-1/4 cups grated Gruyere (or less for jack cheese)
$.25- 3 cloves organic garlic
The additional ingredients you’ll need are bone broth, a cup of cream or milk (we use raw cream), a teeny bit of white rice flour, butter, herbs, salt and pepper. The casserole is loaded with chicken; so if you want to save money, make a really big salad and give smaller portions of the casserole, or use less chicken, if you’re really stretched budget-wise. It’s the spendiest ingredient by far.
Enjoy!
Creamy Quinoa Casserole with Chicken and Mushrooms
Serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1-1/2 cups water + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup bone broth
  • 1 cup organic, grass-fed cream (or raw cream or milk)
  • 1/4 cup white rice flour
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1-3/4 cup bone broth or water
  • 1.5-1.75 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1″/bite-size cubes/pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  •  1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (or use jack for a milder flavor)
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons animal fat, butter, or avocado oil (for sauteing)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence or mixed Italian herbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a medium size bowl, soak the quinoa in the 1-1/2 cups water and apple cider vinegar overnight. When ready to assemble the casserole, rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and set aside. It will cook in the oven.

Grease a large casserole dish (9″ by 13″ or similar) and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place 1/4 cup butter in small saucepan and melt over medium heat. Add the 1/4 cup rice flour and cook, whisking for 5 minutes, to cook the raw flavor out of the flour. (This part smells really good.) In a steady, thin stream, constantly whisk in the bone broth, then the cream, allowing the liquid to absorb the flour, as it becomes a creamy sauce. Simmer over low heat for 3 minutes. Add the 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon white pepper, stirring, and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt the 2 tablespoons preferred fat over high heat. Add mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, stirring briefly. Cover for 2-3 minutes, to produce steam. Uncover and add herbs. Saute over medium-high heat for 8 minutes more. Set aside and allow to cool slightly for about 10 minutes. Add cubed chicken and stir to combine.

Place soaked, rinsed quinoa (uncooked) into greased casserole dish, spreading it out evenly. Top with chicken mushroom mixture, spreading it out over the quinoa. Add about 3/4 of the total grated cheese to the roux (cream sauce), stirring briefly to mix. Top chicken and mushrooms with cream sauce. Spread the sauce to within 1″ of the edges of the casserole. Pour the 1-3/4 cup bone broth or water in around the edges. Carefully transfer dish to oven and bake 45 minutes, until edges are bubbling rapidly and all water is absorbed.

Serve with an optional side of wilted greens or a green salad.

Creamy Quinoa Casserole with Chicken and Mushrooms
 
Author:
Serves: 8-10 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1-1/2 cups water + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup bone broth
  • 1 cup organic, grass-fed cream (or raw cream)
  • ¼ cup white rice flour
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1-3/4 cup bone broth or water
  • 1.5-1.75 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1"/bite-size cubes/pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (or use jack for a milder flavor)
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons animal fat, butter, or avocado oil (for sauteing)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence or mixed Italian herbs
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
Instructions
  1. In a medium size bowl, soak the quinoa in the 1-1/2 cups water and apple cider vinegar overnight. When ready to assemble the casserole, rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and set aside. It will cook in the oven.
  2. Grease a large casserole dish (9" by 13" or similar) and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Place ¼ cup butter in small saucepan and melt over medium heat. Add the ¼ cup rice flour and cook, whisking for 5 minutes, to cook the raw flavor out of the flour. (This part smells really good.) In a steady, thin stream, constantly whisk in the bone broth, then the cream, allowing the liquid to absorb the flour, as it becomes a creamy sauce. Simmer over low heat for 3 minutes. Add the ½ teaspoon sea salt and ½ teaspoon white pepper, stirring, and set aside.
  4. In a large skillet, melt the 2 tablespoons preferred fat over high heat. Add mushrooms and ½ teaspoon sea salt, stirring briefly. Cover for 2-3 minutes, to produce steam. Uncover and add herbs. Saute over medium-high heat for 8 minutes more. Set aside and allow to cool slightly for about 10 minutes. Add cubed chicken and stir to combine.
  5. Place soaked, rinsed quinoa (uncooked) into greased casserole dish, spreading it out evenly. Top with chicken mushroom mixture, spreading it out over the quinoa. Add about ¾ of the total grated cheese to the roux (cream sauce), stirring briefly to mix. Top chicken and mushrooms with cream sauce. Spread the sauce to within 1" of the edges of the casserole. Pour the 1-3/4 cup bone broth or water in around the edges. Carefully transfer dish to oven and bake 45 minutes, until edges are bubbling rapidly and all water is absorbed.
  6. Serve with an optional side of wilted greens or a green salad.

Greek Sweet Potato Hash – $15 Meal from Trader Joe’s

$15 Trader Joe's Meal - Sweet Potato Hash -- The Nourishing Gourmet

By Natalia Gill of An Appetite For Joy

What could be better than diced sweet potatoes fried up with garlic and green onions, then topped with wild peppery arugula, salty feta and a sprinkle of sumac? Not much in this world if you ask me.

This Greek sweet potato hash is also versatile – delicious on its own or stuffed into a pita pocket or lettuce wrap!

One thing I love about the direction Kimberly takes with this blog is learning to save money while eating right. She came up with the idea of buying meal ingredients at Trader Joe’s with $15 in pocket and I thought it was a fun challenge!

I didn’t include cooking fat and spices in the cost. To more than offset this, know that there will be plenty of leftover sweet potatoes, arugula and sheep feta. My son loves packing the feta with olives in his lunch. And the extra sweet potatoes come in handy for our favorite dessert – Sweet Potato Pie with Lemon Zest.

3 FAVORITE TJ’S FINDS

When creating the recipe, I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite items at Trader Joe’s:

Sweet potatoes – I find TJ’s to have good prices on basic organic sweet potatoes.

Wild arugula – This was a new one for me. I like that there are a couple of wild-grown foods in the store as a cost-saving option compared to organic (wild blueberries and now wild arugula). This bagged arugula was amazingly fresh and the best arugula I have ever purchased from a grocery store. It was almost as tasty as the one I buy from a local farmer.

Sheep feta – I love this stuff. It comes in a sizable block that is pre-cut into manageable pieces. This cheese is much creamer than cow-milk feta and easier on digestion, like goat’s milk. It lasts all week for us!

COST BREAKDOWN

3 lb bag of sweet potatoes – $4.49
wild arugula – $2
green onions – $1.29
sheep feta – $6.49
lemon – 50 cents

TOTAL – $14.77

This meal comes together in a flash, especially if you can grab a few minutes earlier in the day to prepare the sweet potatoes (I like breaking up cooking tasks). I just cut them into french fry shape (a good knife makes this easy!) and soak in ice water in the fridge til I’m ready to cook.

$15 Trader Joe's Meal - Sweet Potato Hash -- The Nourishing Gourmet

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Greek Sweet Potato Hash - $15 Meal from Trader Joe's
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Greek-inspired
Serves: 4-6
 
This Greek-inspired sweet potato hash makes a great light meal for spring or summer. Enjoy it on its own or stuffed into a homemade pita, tortilla or lettuce wrap. A cup of bone broth on the side completes the meal.
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 large), peeled and diced small
  • 4 scallions, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons dried oregano, to taste
  • unrefined salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons cooking fat (ghee, bacon fat, coconut oil, etc.)
  • OPTIONAL TOPPINGS:
  • chunks of sheep feta
  • arugula
  • sumac
Instructions
  1. This is a one-pot meal if you halve the recipe. But with the quantity of sweet potatoes, it's necessary to make it in two skillets.
  2. Heat two skillets over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon cooking fat to each. When hot, add diced sweet potatoes and cook until they start to soften, about 5-10 minutes. Add a little salt.
  3. Add the scallions and cook another 5 minutes, or until they start to get a little crispy. (Add extra fat if needed.)
  4. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic and oregano and cook another 5 minutes being careful not to burn the garlic.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve with a lemon wedge, a pile of arugula on top and some feta if desired. I also like to sprinkle on a little sumac.

3 Tips for Sharing Food with Others (Even When Life is Crazy)

It's so important to offer hospitality and to bring food to those going through hard times. But how do you do that when your life is crazy? I'm with you there. I share 3 tips here on how to get it done. -- The Nourishing Gourmet

We’ve had some very peaceful time periods. But if I’m honest, more often than not life has seemed very busy, hectic, and at times, stressful too. During the midst of stressful times, it can be hard to rip your eyes off of your own situation and share and serve others. I know it is for me.

But I want to share food with others (and serve them in other ways too). Why? Because people have done that for me. For example: When I was 16, I was in charge of my younger siblings while my mother recovered from a serious surgery and my dad helped take care of her and worked regular long hours. Our community rallied around us by bringing us dinners for weeks on end. To this day, I remember the support and help that brought us during a stressful time and am thankful for it. Years later I was pregnant with my second child and went through premature labor. I was hospitalized for two weeks until I stabilized. Friends brought me dinner every night so that I wouldn’t have to live off of hospital food. Once again, I still remember and am thankful for that tangible support.

That’s why for my very first Periscope, I shared on the topic of Sharing Food with Others During Busy Times. It’s a topic dear to my heart not because I am a rockstar in this area (I’m not), but because I have been greatly blessed when others have done that for me.

I loved sharing these tips on Periscope, so I wanted to share them here too!

(You can follow me here to watch future scopes! For those who aren’t familiar, it’s an app that allows you to broadcast live stream videos, and it allows you to respond in the text box in real time too! It’s very fun.)

Don’t be a perfectionist when sharing food

It can be easy to allow fears to derail our good intentions. We may wonder if others will like our cooking, or whether they will think our food is good enough, for example. When you are known as a “good cook” or (the horror of it) are a food blogger and cookbook author, expectations can be high, and that can put a lot of pressure on you. Once we invited a couple over for dinner, and when the husband walked through the door he said, “I feel like I’m in a dream. I can’t believe I am eating dinner with The Nourishing Gourmet.” I just about died right there and hoped that dinner was especially good. (I think it was a success, or perhaps my guests were just very good actors as they talked about how yummy it was!).

Sometimes that pressure has held me back, because, in all honesty, we eat plain and simple food most of the time! Nothing fancy! But then I realized that it was my pride holding me back. I don’t have a responsibility for people’s reactions to my actions, but I do have the responsibility to share and serve those around me. And you know what I’ve found? People are always thankful for you sharing food with them. I think our fears are unfounded. Even if they don’t love the food you brought to them, they will love the heart behind it.
Sometimes it takes a small amount of courage to share with others, and that’s okay. It’s worth the bravery to share life and love with others.

All you need is one meal

Some of the people who are the best at bringing food to others during times of need have one meal they always bring. It’s delicious, they know the meal so well they could make it in their sleep, and it’s generally frugal and family-friendly. For example, one lady I know cooks up a pot of rice, steams some vegetables, and bakes teriyaki chicken. She then layers the cooked rice, vegetables and chicken in a casserole dish to bring to someone. It’s delicious! Another brings makings for a healthy taco salad, and that’s always popular too. Another brings a big pot of hearty soup and homemade bread. Homemade pizza is popular as well.

The point is this, if you just figure out just one meal that is well-liked and that you can fit in your budget, it won’t be stressful at all to share that meal with others – whether they are coming over for dinner, or you are bringing them a meal.

Bonus points if the meal is allergen-friendly, as then you can serve it to a wider base of people. For example, it’s easy to make gluten-free teriyaki and even soy-free and gluten-free teriyaki!

Make it serve you (and your family) too

My sister recently had a baby, and although my life seemed very chaotic at the time, it was important to me that I offer help and support. While I wasn’t able to do all that I wished to do (I also have a nine-month-old baby, and she had a runny nose at the time, so we didn’t want to expose her newborn), I at least wanted to help provide meals for her during that happy, but fragile newborn stage.

So this is what I did. I set aside a couple of hours and got in a good cooking rhythm. I whipped up some hearty soups from my cookbook, Ladled: Nourishing Soups for all Seasons. I made a homemade marinara sauce with Italian sausage, and bought some nice organic noodles for her husband to cook up to go with it. I made teriyaki chicken and rice. I made granola and bought a whole milk organic yogurt to go with it for breakfast or snacks. I picked up some fruit too. My sister-in-law made another soup to add to the box, and then I was able to send over a whole box of food for her.

But here’s the deal. While I was doing all of that cooking, I doubled everything so that my family also had plenty of food for the upcoming week. It was heavenly to have all of the food already prepared and ready to be enjoyed. I was able to serve not only her but my family as well.

If you deal with health issues, or just have a busy lifestyle, being able to kill two birds with one stone will be very helpful.

Finally, this list of gluten-free freezer meals may come in handy as well when sharing food with others. I often share freezer meals with others. This allows me to cook when I am able and then share when a need comes up.

What meals do you like to share with others? Has there been a time when people brought you meals? I’d love to hear about it!

Spaghetti Squash Pizza Pie

Spaghetti Squash Pizza Pie

By Andrea, from It Takes Time

With just four ingredients, you can create this kid-friendly real food Spaghetti Squash Pizza Pie for $10!

Spaghetti squash is the basis for this simple kid-approved recipe. This popular alternative to pasta is a variety of winter squash with a mild taste and is low-carb. It is quickly transformed into a crust that can be topped with a variety of vegetables, cheeses, and tomato. This recipe is gluten-free, grain-free, and dairy-free!

I purchased all three ingredients at a local health food store. I like Bionaturae tomato paste because it’s organic and packaged in glass. I love Applegate meat products for their commitment to real food and label transparency.

Spaghetti Squash Pizza Pie ingredients for $9.46

Where ever you derive your ingredients for this meal, your family will love it!

Spaghetti Squash Pizza Pie

  • 1 medium/large spaghetti squash
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter or ghee.  (Olive oil may be substituted.)
  • 1 egg
  • 4 ounces tomato sauce or diluted tomato paste
  • 4-6 nitrate-free pepperoni
  • sea salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • optional pizza seasonings

Directions

Pierce whole spaghetti squash with knife or fork.

Place in shallow baking dish with water.

Bake at 400 degrees till soft.

Cut and remove flesh. Discard seeds and skin.

Place squash in nut milk bag or cheesecloth. Squeeze to remove moisture.

Place squash in a bowl. (You’ll need 3-4 cups of flesh. If you have extra, save for another use.)

Add lightly beaten egg and desired seasonings.

Blend thoroughly.

Press into pie plate.

Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and top with tomato sauce and pepperoni. (Feel free to add raw milk cheese, onions, or vegetable toppings.)

Cook in the oven for another five minutes till done.

Enjoy!

Spaghetti Squash Pizza Pie
 
 
This kid-approved recipe is readily made with just 4 ingredients. Add or subtract depending on dietary needs and preferences.
Ingredients
  • 1 medium/large spaghetti squash
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter or ghee. (Olive oil may be substituted.)
  • 1 egg
  • 4 ounces tomato sauce or diluted tomato paste
  • 4-6 nitrate-free pepperoni
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • optional pizza seasonings
Instructions
  1. Pierce whole spaghetti squash with knife or fork.
  2. Place in shallow baking dish with water.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees till soft.
  4. Cut and remove flesh. Discard seeds and skin.
  5. Place squash in nut milk bag or cheesecloth. Squeeze to remove moisture.
  6. Place squash in a bowl. (You’ll need 3-4 cups of flesh. If you have extra, save for another use.)
  7. Add lightly beaten egg and desired seasonings.
  8. Blend thoroughly.
  9. Press into pie plate.
  10. Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven and top with tomato sauce and pepperoni. (Feel free to add raw milk cheese, onions, or vegetable toppings.)
  12. Bake for five minutes till done.