Without a doubt, this cheesy spinach quinoa is one of Theo's favorite dishes. He inhales it in impressive quantities! Although it is cheesy and rich, it is also full of nutrients, particularly from quinoa, an ancient grain and superfood. According to Medical News Today, "Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and contains iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E, and fiber. It is one of only a few plant foods that are considered a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids." Yay! Quinoa is such a versatile, healthful food that blends well with a variety of components.
This cheesy spinach quinoa is a fun riff on mac and cheese. It's delicious and nourishing, as well as easy and quick to make. The components stick together really well (much better than traditional mac and cheese), even when picked up by little hands. The dish freezes well and can be cut into squares or even rolled into balls! It is a great addition to meals at home or on the go. It could also serve as a dairy snack! We hope your little ones love it as much as Theo.
Adapted from Healthy Little Foodies
For babies 6+ months – and kids and adults of all ages!
Makes 8-12 servings for babies and kids
Prep time: 3-5 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
- 1 8-ounce pack of cream cheese
- 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup of grated cheddar cheese (for the sauce)
- ½ - ¾ cup of grated cheddar cheese (for the topping)
- 1 cup of uncooked quinoa (which yields about 3 cups of cooked quinoa)
- 2-4 handfuls of baby spinach (organic if possible)
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Grease or spray a square nonstick baking dish (8"x8") and set it aside.
- Cook the quinoa according to the package instructions and set it aside.
- Meanwhile, add the cream cheese, mozzarella and a ½ cup of cheddar (for the sauce) to a medium-sized pan over medium-low heat.
- Gently stir the cheeses until it is all warmed and melted and then remove it from the heat. The sauce will be fairly thick.
- Add the spinach to the sauce and stir it until it has wilted.
- Add the cooked quinoa and mix it thoroughly with the sauce and wilted spinach.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Flatten the top with a spatula and then sprinkle the top with the extra cheddar cheese.
- Bake it for approximately 15-20 minutes, until the cheese on the top has melted.
If you want to make this dish lower in fat, use low fat cream cheese and low fat cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. I don't think it's necessary, personally, as babies and young kids need some fat in their diet. While this dish probably shouldn't be a part of their daily diet, it's a worthwhile addition every so often.
Another leafy green like kale would work well in this dish. Because kale is tougher and takes longer to wilt, I would recommend sautéing it in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. This will allow it to cook down and soften sufficiently before being added to the quinoa and cheesy sauce. This same technique could be also used with the spinach, which should wilt completely in just a few minutes.
After 4-5 days in the fridge, freeze any remaining quinoa! I recommend cutting it into squares or forming it into balls so that you can defrost and reheat individual portions. Simply wrap each square or ball individually in aluminum foil and then put them all in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag with the date written on it. They should last in the freezer for about a month, and can be defrosted/reheated in the microwave.