Healthy Quinoa Bake

I originally found a recipe on Pinterest for a Creamy Caprese Quinoa Bake. The photos just made me want to take a huge bite out of the casserole dish immediately (hopefully one day I'll have the proper lighting and camera to take photos like this… patience, patience). I decided to give the recipe a try myself and sure enough, the dish tasted as good as it looked. While I initially loved the first bake I made, there were definitely some changes I had in mind to tailor the dish to my own taste. 

As y'all know, I've been on this healthy kick lately. While this particular meal is made with quinoa, it wasn't entirely the healthiest once you added all the cheese. So, I decided to change a few things up a bit. Instead of using mozzarella, I decided to use a healthier option from Trader Joes. Trader Joes has a soy milk based mozzarella, that is healthier and offers less fat calories than regular mozzarella cheese. I also cut down on the amount of parm cheese I used and doubled (almost tripled) the amount of tomatoes I used. I definitely think you can add some protein to this as well, maybe with some fresh ground chuck or turkey for an even healthier dish. Scroll on down for my version of the recipe I found on Pinterest.

What you need:
2 cups of cooked quinoa
1 cup of your favorite pasta sauce (whether that's homemade or store bought)
6 oz. can of tomato paste 
1/3 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 table spoon of fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Half a block of soy mozzarella
1 pkg of cherry tomatoes
1 large fresh tomato (from your garden or local farmer's market)
1 bunch of fresh basil
Fresh ground basil (for garnish, not required)
1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (for a spicier version, double the amount)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper 

Now follow me:
Cook your quinoa based on directions given on the bag or box. Typically one cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water, boil covered for 17 minutes or until water has disappeared. Once the quinoa has cooked, set aside to use later. 

While your quinoa is cooking, slice all of your cherry tomatoes in half. Then slice half of your large tomato into slivers. Also go ahead and grate your Parmesan cheese and slice up your soy mozzarella into strips. 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large saucepan, heat your tomato sauce and tomato paste. Once the sauce is heated up, add your whipping cream, parm, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Combine ingredients and then add your quinoa. Stir again, covering all the quinoa with the sauce. Shred half of your soy mozzarella and throw into the saucepan. Dump all of your cherry tomatoes into the saucepan as well. Stir up all ingredients and throw in a few basil leaves, torn up, into the pan. Mix again and then use Pam to spray your baking casserole dish. Dump the saucepan of ingredients into your casserole dish. Top the bake with the remainder of your soy mozzarella, freshly grated parm, and your sliced tomatoes.

Bake for 12 minutes or until it's bubbly and the edges are starting to crisp.

Let cool for 5 minutes, plate your dish and garnish with remainder of basil.

Now grab your favorite glass of wine and enjoy!!

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