RECIPE: 3 Cheese Quinoa Cups

Quinoa is a staple at our home. It's a great grain with a giant protein punch. My daughter groans when we make a quinoa pilaf, however. She thinks it has a bitter aftertaste, and I have to agree. The bitter aftertaste is on account of the natural coating on the grain itself. Aggressive prewashing can take that down a bit, but when we make it at home, it seems to always linger. I have even bought the prewashed sort, and it still  is a bit bitter. I gave up trying to "fix it", until I had a delicious lunch at a hot chain restaurant in the city called "Protein Bar". The quinoa tasted nutty and delicate with no bitterness at all. So I recommitted to figuring out how to make quinoa less bitter. And I discovered it!

We used the prewashed kind from Trader Joe's, but didn't stop there. I soaked it in cold water for 20-30 minutes, jostling it a few times in the water as it sat. Then I drained it and rinsed it through cold water twice in a strainer. Then I cooked the quinoa in chicken broth (ratio 1 part quinoa : 2 parts liquid) and a dash of olive oil. I rose it to a boil, lid off. Then lowered the heat to simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes. Fluff with a fork and you are ready to make your cups. The quinoa was the mildest yumminess I had ever had.

3 Cheese Quinoa Cups

1 cup ricotta cheese
2 cups cooked quinoa (read notes above)
2 egg whites
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
A sprinkle of salt
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup diced, cooked smoked Canadian bacon
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 green onions, chopped
2 Tbsp. fat free half and half
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350˚.

Whip the eggs and whites with a whisk. Add the half and half, ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, salt, pepper and onions, and mix well. Meanwhile in another bowl, sprinkle a little salt over the zucchini to draw the water out. After about 20 minutes, the zucchini will be ready to be squeezed dry. Squeeze the water out of the vegetables, tipping the bowl to drain off the water. Do it a few times, then add the zucchini into the egg mixture. 
Next add the quinoa to the egg mixture, and mix well. Add the cheddar cheese and the diced bacon. Mix well again. 
Spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Ladle the quinoa mixture into the muffin tins to the tops of the molds. Bake the cups for about 15-20 minutes. They will puff up slightly and sizzle, as well as have a light golden top when ready. After a few minutes of cooling in the pans, they should pop right out. Serve warm, or store for a few days in the fridge for easy lunches. They can easily be frozen for up to 3 months.



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