One of the things that I noticed more often, when we were doing a gluten elimination with L., was that it seemed like a common theme among gluten-free families was trying to find a pasta that was a decent substitution for the wheat-based stuff. Like us, they were missing noodles; unlike us, they were mainly looking for a great noodle that could be used in macaroni and cheese.
It’s no secret that my boys (NEITHER of them, to my everlasting puzzlement) are not mac and cheese fans. Ordinarily this fact doesn’t bother me much, other than those two or three times a year when J. and I just get a yearning for the stuff and I put it on the meal plan and force it down the kids for an evening just to test, yet again, whether they might have changed their minds. But mac and cheese IS a great thermos item for a lunchbox, and it IS something that lots of kids enjoy, so I’ve been determined to figure out some spin on it that would be acceptable to at least one of my children.
The gluten-free trial, and thinking about GF pastas (we found one we like, incidentally), got me turning the problem around in my brain in a totally wheat-free direction. And then I figured, well heck, as long as I’m at it I may as well go PASTA-free. I know, weird, but that’s me. Plus, the biggest problem with mac and cheese, at least in the opinion of most people I know, is that even a quick and easy homemade recipe can feel sort of time consuming.
Not so with this recipe. This quinoa TASTES very much like macaroni and cheese — seriously, it’s delicious, and I had to stop myself from eating it straight from the pan — but it’s a quick fix, made with just a few ingredients, and so low-labor that you can actually even make it in the morning and have it cooking away without you while you prepare the rest of the lunchbox and preheat your thermos. Plus, it’s somewhat healthier, it’s got tons of good stick-to-the-ribs protein in it, and it’s even a darned good simple hearty side dish for your dinner as well. I call that a win all the way around.
In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa, milk, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and allow the quinoa to simmer, covered, until cooked through and the liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes). Stir in the cheese and butter until thoroughly melted and creamy. Serve immediately or spoon into preheated thermoses.