I’m always on the lookout for quick-fix breakfast options and ways to prepare tasty meatless meals. I’ve recently been experimenting with incorporating more quinoa (say KEEN – WAH) into our meal plans, so I’m pretty enthusiastic about blending all three goals into this yummy recipe. Switching up or adding even more veggies is going to make this a completely customizable favorite for your family.
Most people think quinoa is a grain, but it is actually the seed of an herbaceous flowering plant, called goosefoot (Chenopodium). Beets and spinach are other common chenopods. Quinoa was a valued staple as far back in history as the Incan Empire. It is protein-rich and nutrient-dense. A 1/4 cup serving of quinoa boasts 58.5% of the DV of manganese, 31.2% of tryptophan, 29.6% of magnesium, 28.1% of phosphorus, 20.7% of fiber, 19.4% of folate and 18% of copper. Quinoa isn’t just high in protein, it is a COMPLETE protein, meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids. This delicious, nutty-flavored seed is a powerhouse of nutrition that lends itself to all different types of recipes. I am only just beginning to scratch the surface of all the ways to use it.
IMPORTANT: It is important to thoroughly rinse and drain quinoa before cooking it. The outside of the seeds is covered in saponins, a naturally occurring substance that has a bitter taste. A quick rinse rids the seeds of this outer coating and leaves the yummy seed behind. Please don’t try to cook quinoa without rinsing it. You’ll decide you don’t like it, without ever tasting the real thing and be missing out on a delicious and healthy protein option for your family.
I got the inspiration for this recipe on one of my favorite foodie blogs, Iowa Girl Eats. Kristin created Ham and Cheese Quinoa Cups, and as always, her pictures were so deliciously inspiring, I had to get busy. I wanted to try to make a similar sort of breakfast or brunch option, but without meat. Here’s the trick. I still sort of wanted my carnivore family to think it TASTED like meat. I wondered what would happen if I included seasonings that are great for making sausage and then incorporated some healthy veggies, too. If I had had any color of sweet bell pepper in the fridge, I definitely would have added them. I think some grated carrot would be good, as well! As it was, I had a zucchini, some spinach, green onions and some fresh cilantro. I baked these up in muffin tins and this batch would have made 38 minis, but, I only have one mini muffin tin, so I got 24 minis and 7 regular size.
Here’s the cool thing we discovered. Not only do we love how these quinoa frittatas taste, they would be gorgeous used as appetizers and they would be tasty in salads. You could serve them in pitas, or with dip or with sauces. The possibilities are limitless. I would also bake this as filling in stuffed bell peppers. I think it could be formed into patties and served on English muffins or bagels for a breakfast sandwich on the go, too. The texture of the quinoa with the eggs, gives the mouth feel of ground meat, so with the right seasonings, you can really fool your tongue into thinking you may be eating meat! I haven’t tested this theory, yet, but I am also convinced that these little quinoa bites would freeze well, so they would be great candidates for a bulk/freezer cooking session. Enjoy!
- 2 cups cooked quinoa (about ¾ cup uncooked)
- 4 eggs
- 1½ cups zucchini, shredded
- 1 cup spinach, chopped
- 2 T. fresh cilantro
- 2 green onions, sliced
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
- 1½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon sage
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- 1 Tablespoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seed
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- Mix all ingredients, except for the eggs.
- Beat eggs lightly and then add to the veggie mixture. Combine thoroughly, so all ingredients are moistened and evenly distributed.
- Spray your muffin tin generously with non-stick spray.
- Spoon quinoa mixture into muffin tin. I used my cookie dough scoop and one scoop was perfect to fill the mini cups to just under the rim. (I used two scoops for the standard muffin tin.)
- Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes (minis). (For standard muffin tins bake 20 minutes)
- Allow frittatas to cool at least five minutes in the muffin tin, then remove to a cooling rack. You can serve these warm or cold, in a salad or a pita, on a bagel or an English muffin, as an appetizer, a side dish or a quick snack. They're incredibly versatile and whether you need breakfast-on-the-go or something for lunch, you'll find them to be a satisfying, nutrition-packed and delicious option! Enjoy!