Oven Baked Mexican Quinoa Casserole

During my vegan experiment week one of my favorite new recipes was this delicious concoction that I found on Vegangela. The blog is a treasure trove of tasty looking vegan recipes. My friend Eric was nice enough to direct me to the site and afterward I had a field day looking for my next recipe. This Oven Baked Mexican Quinoa Casserole is exactly what I was looking for.

One pot meals are always great options since they require little cleanup.  Those meals that require little interactive time are also great because it frees you up to do other things while the food is cooking.  Any recipe like this that requires baking times however is going to require you to plan your meals out accordingly.  In the end this takes a little over 15 minutes of time to do (I infact made a batch of cupcakes and a pizza all while hanging out with a friend) but a little over an hour of actual time.  The good news is this stores well so can probably be made on a weekend and eaten over the rest of the week.

The original website provided excellent directions on how to prepare this dish.  Please go to the original link since they provided a nice recipe card for it. I’ll just walk through the directions briefly and elaborate on how I did it or my notes on the recipe.

Like a lot of rice dishes you are going to start off by sauteing onions and garlic.  To keep this a one pot recipe start with a dutch oven that is at least 3 quarts in size.  Mine is a three quart as requested, and it filled up almost all the way.  If you’d like to have a little wiggle room use a larger dutch oven or make less food.  Once you’ve heated up the dutch oven on a stove on medium heat (between 4-5 on my stove) pour your tablespoon of olive oil in.  Let it heat up for a minute or so and then throw in your chopped onions.  The onion is going to cook at this temperature for 8-10 minutes, until they are translucent.  I threw the chopped garlic in for just the last minute or so.  I used to put the garlic in first, but I’d often have a problem with oil being just a little too hot thus causing some burning of the garlic.  That just imparts a bitter flavor to the dish.

Once the onions are done take the dutch oven off and add in your quinoa (although I suspect rice would work just as well) and spices.  I like to mix together the onions, garlic, quinoa and spices so it gets a nice coating of everything. I then pour in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste (I just used a bunch of sauce I had out for the pizza so not exactly the same thing) and the half cup of water.  I skipped “nutritional yeast.”  It is my understanding this is often used as a cheese substitute in vegan dishes. I was okay without the cheesiness.  After you mix it all together some more you put the lid on it and throw it in your pre-heated 350 degree oven.

After half an hour take it out and make sure it has plenty of liquid. Mine did so I didn’t add anymore.  If you find yourself needing to add more, I suggest you microwave the water for a couple of minutes to get it nice and hot.  You don’t want to put cold water in the pot.  Will it be a disaster if you do?  No, probably not, but why bother worrying about it when you can just nuke it for two minutes and be done with it.  At this point you are also going to add the beans and corn.  The corn is literally just unsweetened canned corn (not the creamy kind) that you just pop the can and pour the ingredients in.  The beans on the other hand you want to open and rinse in a strainer, repeatedly.  Often it’s not the beans that are the magical fruit, it’s the liquid that they are coated in that are making your childhood limerick come true.  If you rinse them off very well you won’t find yourself tooting much if at all.  Once they are all in you stir everything to get it well incorporated and put it back in the oven for another half an hour.

When you take the cover off after the half hour is done you will want to be careful, especially with a smaller dutch oven.  Steam, and a lot of it, will probably be coming out in great volume.  It’s a wonderful recipe for getting a nice steam burn.  Another thing to consider is that while this makes four servings, these are four enormous servings.  That’s great because you will be stuffed at the end of eating this meal. However it also means that your dutch oven is going to weigh a ton.  I made this a two handed operation in my case.  The end result looks very delicious however (especially with some chopped avocado on top:

Now for really tasty pictures I suggest going back over to Vegangela’s page.  She is a far better food photographer than I am, but you get the point.  The dish however is something I could see making on a regular basis.  Before this I had turned a variation on a risotto recipe into a similar thing but with rice instead of quinoa and with squash added.  I will probably end up converting that over to this methodology too.  It just is a lot easier to make and the suggested spices created the perfect flavor.  Being a fan of some heat I added a teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the spices assortment.  Definitely one to try :).