Spicy Quinoa Mac & Cheese

“It tastes like bird seed, right?” That was my initial thought about quinoa too, until I realized that it will take on the flavor of ANYTHING you make, and pack a whole lot more nutritional punch than rice, pasta, etc. So with that in mind, a love of homemade macaroni and cheese as well as a dedication to eat better and get some more protein in my diet, I found this recipe online and decided to tweak it by combining it with parts of this recipe. I was truly surprised by the end result, but in a good way!

SPICY QUINOA MAC & CHEESE

{Ingredients}

– 1 1/4 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained

– 1 chicken breast

– 1-2 jalapenos, de-seeded and minced

– 1/3 C onion, minced

– Garlic powder

– Onion powder

– Cayenne pepper

– S & P

– 2 Tbsp flour

– 1 1/2 cups milk, divided (I used Fat Free)

– 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used sharp cheddar, pepper jack, and monterey jack)

– 1/4 cup goat cheese, feta, bleu cheese, crumbled

{Directions}

1. Prepare the quinoa as directed and set aside.

2. While the quinoa is cooking, add a splash of butter or olive oil to a saute pan and cook onions and peppers for 5-7 minutes over med-high heat, until tender.

3. In an additional pan, season the chicken breast with cayenne, S & P, garlic powder and onion powder and cook over med-high heat until cooked through. When chicken is cooked, dice into pieces, combine with sauteed vegetables and set aside. {I shook some hot sauce on my chicken while cooking as well. Loved it!}

4. Whisk together flour and 1/2 cup milk in a separate saucepan over medium heat. Pour in remaining milk. Switch to a spatula and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, then cook for one minute while boiling.

5. Remove the pan from the heat then add in cheeses. Stir until the cheese is completely melted, then add in cooked quinoa and chicken and stir to combine.

6. Pour into a non-stick sprayed casserole dish and top with chosen crumbled cheese. Broil for 5-7 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown and sauce is bubbly.

* I cooked my quinoa, chicken, and vegetables earlier in the day. Then I simply prepared the cheese sauce, mixed it all together, popped it in the oven and I had dinner in about 15 minutes!

DISCLAIMER: Yes, this was good. But my heart will always belong to homemade macaroni and cheese.

SOURCE: Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats.

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