Real Food: Adventures in Food – Mac & Cheese Quinoa

Author: Boho

real food

As I’ve said before  this blog is all about you, it’s about your experiences and your life, and that covers everything! So today we are taking a trip into one of my friends world of food. The blog isn’t all about giving you recipes and telling you how amazing the outcome is, it is about real food and your real experiences!

Today Jaye from Tux and Tales Photography is telling us all about her food adventure with Quinoa and she is very honest with her views as she talks us through her experience of making Mac & Cheese Quinoa.

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A Bit of Background

First, let me start by saying that I love crunchy granola food as much as the next girl. In fact, I love breads that contain extra bits of bark and seeds and general forest forage. I google super foods and have been known to sneak lentils into mince beef and wheat germ into cake batter. I mean, foods with super-powers, what’s not to love?
But when everybody started talking about quinoa – really I couldn’t stop thinking that it reminded me of the kind of foods eaten by the smugly healthy. You know who you are – busy eating your range free tofu and pesticide free carob.

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So, I hate to admit it – but on those grounds alone I decided it wasn’t for me.

Fast forward a year or so and I have decided to make quinoa our first adventure in food. As a family, we decided we would try one new type of food a week – or at the very least, give a go to at least one recipe that challenged the foods or food combinations that we had gotten used to.

When I considered what out first new food taste would be, I thought that perhaps quinoa had gotten a bit of a bad deal from me. I mean – it is a grain with protein. A carb-like thing without the carb. There is no denying that it is associated with the kind of hipster food regularly consumed by people who need 10 minutes to complete an order for coffee. But I could be a hipster too….right?
So after scouring Pinterest, Google and my cookbooks for a recipe, I have to say I wasn’t getting excited. Most of the recipes I found were tailored for vegans and that just seemed liked too much healthy all in one go. Finally, we came upon a recipe given to us by a friend for quinoa Mac & Cheese and I figured that if there were ever a chance that I was going to like quinoa, the odds improved greatly if it involved cheese.

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The Cooking Experience –

Well, it was certainly a learning curve, I will say that. Here are a few things I learned:

  • Researching the internet told me I should be looking to achieve a light, fluffy texture.
  • Chef google also told me that I really, really needed to rinse the quinoa before cooking with it. There were a lot of different reasons given – so I am just assuming it is a good idea, but I am still not 100% sure why.
  • The Tesco packet lies. Like a dog. The original recipe I worked from just said to prepare the quinoa as usual but adding a stock cube and garlic to the water. So, not having a ‘usual’ method of preparation, I decided I would use the packet’s instructions. It says ‘5 parts water to 1 part quinoa’. LIES ALL LIES. That is how you make quinoa goop. After a lost batch and a trip to google, it turns out that the correct proportion is 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa.
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The Verdict –

A Mixed Bag.
Honestly? After taking an age to cook it thanks to the lying quinoa packet debacle – I really, really wanted to like it. If I liked it, I would be young and hip and cool and I would want to go jogging.
However, the very first bite was disappointing. The texture was ‘different’ and it felt like the quinoa had no taste (despite being cooked with stock and garlic) and the sauce just sat on the top. As we served it with Frank’s wing sauce (personal favourite), there was a bit of a zip – but the flavours never seemed to mesh together. What little taste the quinoa had was very earthy and I wasn’t sure I liked it. It lacked the robustness of barley or the fabulous texture of brown rice.

I am, however, glad I went in for a second bite. I gave myself 6 bites and by the end, I decided that the quinoa was ‘okay’ and that perhaps I just didn’t like the recipe. Maybe if the cheese had been stirred in? I could definitely see trying it again in something like stuffed peppers where I would usually use brown rice. I am also not totally sold that quinoa and cheese go together.
Matt had a similar opinion to mine – if not slightly worse. He didn’t like that it looked like frog spawn. However, he reckons it tasted better than frogspawn even if he didn’t like it very much.
However Garrett, our 12 year old son, LOVED it and asked to have a plateful of it. He thought it was fabulous and wants to have it again. High praise from a kid who didn’t like gravy just 2 years ago.


The Recipe I tired…

  • Mac & Cheese Quinoa
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1 clove garlic diced
  • 2 cups mild cheddar
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup fresh parmesan
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of flour
  • Breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Hot Sauce (to taste)
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To Cook Quinoa-
Add stock cube and garlic to water and bring to a boil. Rinse the quinoa and add it to the boiling water. Cover & simmer for 20 minutes.

To Make Cheese Sauce –
Add milk, cheddar, parmesan, flour, pepper and mustard to sauce pan. Simmer slowly, stirring constantly until combined.
Preheat oven to 200c. Place cooked quinoa in an oven proof dish. Pour over cheese sauce. Cook for 20 minutes uncovered. Top with breadcrumbs and cook a further 10 minutes. Let cool and serve with hot sauce.

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So that’s my experience, I’d love to know what you think if you have tried it your self.

Love Jaye xx



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  1. Harriet | The Zoots

    It actually looks delish! Shame about the taste :/ Loved reading about your experience cooking it! “LIES ALL LIES” haha, brightened up my Monday morning! Thanks Jaye x 😀

  2. Laura {Babb Photo}

    It looks good. Although admittedly the cheese helps with that…

    I really like quinoa in salads. It adds a nice texture and bulks it out a bit. I would imagine the size of the grain means it gets lost in a mac/cheese type dish though.

    Well done for trying something new.


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