Quinoa Spinach Croquettes, Toddler Approved

February 17, 2016 at 2:59 pm (Alma's faves, B plus, breakfast, Dark leafy greens, Grains, Vegetable dishes, Website / blog) ()


Last month I made broccoli cheddar quinoa bites, and liked them. So I decided to try this recipe for “Quinoa quiche muffins with spinach and cheese.” Although they are called muffins, the recipe is actually quite similar to the previous recipe, except that it calls for spinach instead of broccoli, has more eggs, and uses feta in addition to cheddar. Like before, I made them on a cookie sheet instead of in a muffin tin, to save on cleanup time. Although they are called “quiche muffins,” the way I made them they didn’t have the texture of a typical quiche or of a typical muffin. The texture is more grainy and crumbly, similar to the texture of these five-grain croquettes.

Alma really likes this recipe, and Derek and I enjoy it as well. The croquettes freeze well, and along with a piece of fruit they make an easy quick breakfast. I’ve made this recipe at least 5 times since I originally posted it (often with a slight variation), and it’s always a hit. It also works well as a take-along snack—just bring the frozen croquette with you and it will probably be defrosted by the time you get there. It’s fine room temperature. Just don’t giveit to your toddler inside without a plate because it can be a bit crumbly.

Below is a doubled version of the original recipe, with my own personal changes added. This doubled version makes 30 1/4-cup croquettes. If you don’t plan on freezing some of the croquettes, you should probably should halve the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups water (The original recipe called for 2 cups of water, but I find that the croquettes come out better if the grains are a little more al dente and a little less wet.)
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/4 – 3/8 tsp. salt (1/4 tsp. tastes low salt, but is plenty for a young toddler. Personally I prefer more salt.)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided (The original recipe called for 4 Tablespoons of olive oil, but the croquettes end up quite rich.)
  • 2 large onions, chopped (About 8 ounces per onion, or 2.75 cups chopped onion.)
  • 16 ounces / 450g frozen spinach leaves (Original recipe called for 8 cups of fresh spinach leaves.)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups crumbled feta cheese (300g)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (230g)
  • 3 to 4 ounces mixed herbs, minced (The original recipe called for 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, which is about 1 ounce.  I usually use frozen, pre-chopped herbs. Last time I used 2 ounces of dill, 1 ounce of parsley, and 1/2 ounce of chives.)
  • 8 large eggs (totals 400g out of shell), lightly beaten

Instructions:

If you can, start quite a bit ahead of time, so that the quinoa and spinach have time to cool down. Otherwise the batter is very loose and hard to shape. Or use muffin tins, in which case it matters less because the muffin tins hold the shape.

  1. Cook your quinoa. In a 1- to 2-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid, combine one cup of quinoa with 1.5 cups of water and 1/4 tsp. of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat as low as it will go, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off heat but leave the lid on, in order to let the grains steam for at least 10 minutes. Remove lid and transfer quinoa to a very large bowl. Let cool.
  2. Saute your onions in 2 to 3 teaspoons of olive oil. When translucent or even slightly browned, add the garlic and frozen spinach and cover. Cook on medium heat until the spinach is defrosted. Remove the lid and cook until all the excess liquid from the spinach has evaporated.
  3. Add the vegetable mixture to the large bowl with the quinoa in it. Let cool. When the veggies are cool, add the remaining ingredients—cheddar, feta, eggs, herbs, pepper, and salt. Mix well.
  4. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F, about 200 degrees C. Oil a cookie sheet with 2 to 3 teaspoons of olive oil. Use a 1/4-cup measure to form the croquettes. Use a spoon or knife to pack the batter firmly into the measuring cup, then invert it and drop the formed croquette onto the cookie sheet. I can usually fit 15 croquettes on one cookie sheet. The recipe makes about 30 croquettes, so I end up making two batches and freezing half of the croquettes.
  5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the croquettes are lightly browned on the bottom and have specks of brown on the tops and sides. If your oven heats unevenly, rotate the pan halfway through the cooking time.

My notes:

You can use a larger measuring cup and make larger croquettes, but you will have to cook them longer. If you use a 1/2-cup measure, for example, the baking time will probably be 35 to 40 minutes.

You can also use a little less quinoa and top up your cup with other small grains like amaranth and millet. The only issue is that they generally require more cooking time. So I recommend soaking them overnight in the water, boiling them a bit, then adding the quinoa about 15 minutes before the other grains should be done.

Original notes from Feb 2016, when I made only 1 recipe (not the doubled recipe above):

We followed the (original, undoubled) recipe, but not perfectly. Instead of fresh spinach we used about 6 ounces of frozen spinach, which was around 3/4 of a cup of defrosted, drained frozen spinach. But 8 oz / 1 or more cups would probably have been better.

Also, I cooked the quinoa with less water. I wanted extra quinoa, so made 1.5 cups of quinoa with 2 and 1/4 cups of water and 1/4 tsp. salt. I cooked it for about 17 minutes, then left on the burner with the lid on to steam for 10 minutes. We used 1.5 cups of the cooked quinoa in the recipe.

The original recipe calls for the onion to be thinly sliced, but I chopped the onion, since Alma has trouble eating long, stringy onion pieces.

I packed the mix into a 1/3 cup measuring cup, then plopped the formed croquettes out onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet. The recipe says it makes 6 muffins (presumably each muffin has 1/2 cup of batter, so 6*1/2 = 3 cups of batter) but I got 8 croquettes out, so a total of 8*1/3 = 8/3 = almost 3 cups for one recipe. We only ended up baking them for about 25-30 minutes I think, until they were starting to brown on the outside. Maybe they cook faster on a cookie sheet than in muffin tins?

Everyone liked these croquettes. Derek said they were very tasty and Alma ate one happily for lunch. We were disappointed that we hadn’t doubled the recipe, as we wanted to have some leftovers to freeze for quick breakfasts or lunches. We froze one as a test and left the rest in the fridge to eat.

I ate a little of the quinoa, but the rest was just sitting in the fridge, and so I decided to use the rest in a double batch of these croquettes. This time, however, I was out of spinach, so I used broccoli instead. I added 3 cups of quinoa and 3 cups of very finely chopped raw broccoli (chopped in my mini-processor). I left out the onion but added some frozen chives along with the frozen parsley, and two small ice cubes worth of frozen, pre-chopped garlic. Since I didn’t saute the onion, I didn’t add any oil. Also, I cut down on the feta a bit. Instead of 2 cups of crumbled feta I added maybe 1 3/4? I made a first batch with a half cup measuring cup, and fit 8 on my cookie sheet. They took about 35 to 40 minutes to bake. For the second batch I used a quarter cup measuring cup, to increase the crispy to soft ratio. I made 11.5 of the 1/4 cup ones. So 8/2 + 11.5/4 = almost 7 cups for a double batch. That’s a bit more than I got last time, presumably because I added about twice as many cups of uncooked broccoli as I added of cooked spinach. I’m not sure yet which size we like better. They’re both tasty. The final dish was still quite rich and salty and held together well, so I think the cheese could be cut even further. Next time I’d add more herbs too. With broccoli or spinach, I think dill, parsley, and chives works well.

The croquettes came out very tasty. We froze a bunch this time. I’ll report back about how they held up once we defrost them. I’m hoping that something like this could be a good quick breakfast to make on a Sunday and keep in the freezer for mornings when we have no time to cook. I can imagine mixing up the veggies too. Instead of broccoli or spinach, maybe next time I could try cauliflower, mushrooms, winter squash and/or brussels sprouts. In the summer I could imagine making them with eggplant, bell peppers, tomato and/or zucchini.

I’d love to try to up the veggie quotient a little. This time I used equal amounts quinoa and broccoli (3 cups of each), but next time maybe I’ll try 4 cups of veggies and 3 cups of quinoa. I’d also like to try adding some other grains in, primarily amaranth. I’d add teff too, if I could find it here. Maybe a little millet? Chopped nuts or seeds could be another nice addition, but right now I’d have to chop them very finely, almost to a flour, since I don’t think Alma can handle any pieces of nuts yet. Maybe roasted pumpkin seeds ground to a flour with chunks of cooked pumpkin and sage as the herb? Finally, I could try varying the types of cheese.  Obviously, the possibilities are endless. If anyone finds a nice combo, post it in the comments!

Nutritional info:

With 2 tablespoons of olive oil, each croquette (1/30th of the recipe) has about 118 calories, 7.3g fat, 6.9g carbs, 6.5g protein, and 1.3g fiber. The calories are 22% protein, 23% carb, and 55.5% fat.

 

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