It’s hard moving across the country when you’re in your mid-twenties, out of school and on your own. Truth. I’d say for the first year and a half of me living out here in California I really struggled with finding good friends. I’m a natural introvert (can you tell?) and really missed my group of girlfriends back home. I had to force myself to break out of my shell a little bit and meet people here—it wasn’t easy! However, the moment I met Ashley in a small group last year I knew we would be friends….I probably knew that before she knew did, actually. And because I was so sure she was my new best friend (sometimes you just get a feeling, right?!), I decided to take a leap and bring some homemade chocolate peanut butter granola over to her house a few days after she had her baby and asked if she wanted to grab some coffee together sometime. Apparently she liked the granola because we started hanging out more, chatting about our life more, and soon I finally had that close friendship that I had been missing so much since I moved. You know those type of friends that will have your back no matter what, let you borrow their favorite shoes, will drive across town for hair emergencies and will always be honest with you? Yep, she’s one of those. She’s also a community leader at Influence with me in October..it’s going to be a blast.
Now, I’m definitely not the expert on how to make best friends, but homemade granola certainly can’t hurt. Yes, I bribe people to like me with food, why do you ask?
Every week, Ashley and I meet at Panera for breakfast and good old fashioned girltalk! Panera makes me miss college in a big way. And their hazelnut coffee? I die.
Last week she was telling me about some quinoa macaroni and cheese concoction she had made that both her baby and husband adored.
“You should make it and blog it!” She said. I told her I couldn’t steal her winning idea but she insisted….as sweet friends do.
So, I took her basic idea and added some things here and there…a little dry mustard, pepper, breadcrumbs and more cheese (can you ever really have enough?). I ended up with more of a casserole than classic macaroni and cheese, but it was DELICIOUS. Absolutely delicious!
This spinach and cheese quinoa casserole is cheesy and delicious, but still has that nutritional punch from all the veggies hidden in it. I think it’s the perfect meal on its own, but would also be awesome alongside some meat. Leftovers reheat wonderfully, too! And it is definitely kid and boyfriend approved.
Now go call your best friend….and your mom, while you’re at it, just to say hi. Virtual hugs!
Spinach and Cheese Quinoa Casserole
1 1/2 cups dry quinoa
3 cups chicken broth
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
5 oz chopped frozen spinach, defrosted and all liquid squeezed out (about half a box!)
1 tbsp canola oil
1 cup milk
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cups grated mozzerella cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp black pepper
Preheat oven to 375.
In a large saucepot over medium high heat, add the oil. Once hot, add the chopped bell pepper, scallions and spinach and saute for about four minutes—just until bell pepper has started to soften. Add the garlic and continue sauteing for another 30 seconds.
Add quinoa to the pot, followed by the chicken broth, salt, dry mustard and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until all liquid has been absorbed. Stir well.
Now, add the grated cheddar cheese and milk. Stir to combine then pour into a greased 9 x 13″ casserole dish. In a small bowl, combine the Panko and the mozzerella cheese. Sprinkle on top of casserole and bake for about 30 minutes until golden.
Let cool for 10 minutes before serving (or not).
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