Quinoa Spinach Croquettes, Toddler Approved

February 17, 2016 at 2:59 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, Dark leafy greens, Grains, Monthly menu plan, Monthly menu plan - brunch, Necessarily nonvegan, 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 the author calls them muffins or mini quiches, the recipe is actually pretty similar to the previous recipe, except that it calls for spinach instead of broccoli, has more eggs, and uses feta in addition to cheddar. It also calls for sautéed onions and herbs. 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 give it 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 cup dry quinoa, white or multi-colored
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1/2 – 5/8 tsp. salt
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 large onions, chopped (About 8 ounces per onion, or 2.75 cups chopped onion.)
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely chopped (optional)
  • 16 ounces / 450g frozen 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 (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 or 7 extra-large eggs (eggs should total 400g out of shell)

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. Ideally you’d make the mix and let it cool in a few hours before baking. Or you could 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 1/2 tsp. 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, letting the grains steam for 10 minutes. Remove lid and transfer quinoa to a very large bowl. Let cool.
  2. Cook the veggies. Mince your garlic and chop your onions and (optional) celery. If cooking for a toddler that doesn’t love the texture of onions, chop your onions finely. Sauté your onions in 2 to 3 teaspoons of olive oil. When translucent or even slightly browned, add the garlic for a minute and then add the frozen spinach and cover. Cook on medium heat until the spinach is just about fully defrosted. Remove the lid and push the spinach to the side of the pan. Cook over high heat until all the excess liquid from the spinach has evaporated. Be careful not to overcook the spinach, or it will lose its brilliant green color. Alternatively, you can let the spinach cool and try to squeeze some of the excess water out.
  3. While the veggies are cooking, add the eggs to the bowl with the quinoa in it. Mix. Add the cheddar, feta, herbs, pepper, and 1/8 tsp. additional salt (if desired). Mix well.
  4. When the veggies are done cooking mix them in with the other ingredients.
  5. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F, about 200 degrees C. Oil a cookie sheet with 2 to 3 teaspoons of olive oil. Use an 1/8-cup ice cream scoop or 1/4-cup measure to form the croquettes. Use a knife or spatula 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 1/4-cup croquettes on my smallest cookie sheet. That will use up about half the mix, so you’ll have enough for a second batch. (In total the recipe makes about 7.5 cups of mix.)
  6. 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. You might even have to rotate the croquettes on the outer edge with the ones on the inside, to ensure even browning.

My notes:

Grain: The original recipe called for 2 cups of water (for 1 cup of dry quinoa), but I reduced the water to 1.5 cups, because I find that the croquettes come out better if the quinoa grains are a little more al dente and a little less wet.

I often cook more than a cup of quinoa and freeze the extra for another meal. If you cook a larger amount of quinoa, then 1 cup dry is equal to about 1 lb. of cooked quinoa I think (maybe as much as 20 ounces? I will measure next time), or about 3 cups of not too tightly packed cooked quinoa.

I’ve considered using a little less quinoa and topping up my cup of dry grains with other small grains like amaranth and millet. The only issue is that they generally require more cooking time than quinoa. Maybe if they were soaked overnight they could cook in 15 minutes? Or maybe it’s possible to start them cooking first, then add the quinoa when there’s just 15 minutes of cooking time left?

Salt: If you are cooking for a young toddler, you’ll probably want to cut the salt down to 1/4 tsp. or even less, since the cheese already adds salt, and toddlers aren’t supposed to have that much salt.

Oil: The original recipe called for 4 Tablespoons of olive oil, but with all the cheese the croquettes end up too rich for my taste. I like to cook the onions with just 2-3 tsp. of oil, then I use another 2 to 3 tsp. of oil per tray to grease the pan.

Veggies: The original recipe calls for the onion to be thinly sliced, but I chop the onion, since Alma doesn’t like long, stringy onion pieces.

The original recipe called for 8 cups of fresh spinach leaves, but that’s so much work to wash and chop. The recipe already feels complicated enough, so I prefer to use frozen, chopped spinach.

The original recipe doesn’t call for celery, but I often have it lying around because I need one stalk for a recipe, and the I never use it up fast enough. I tried adding in one stalk and no one noticed any difference in flavor, so feel free to add celery if you have it lying around.

Herbs: The original recipe called for 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, which is about 1 ounce.  I like more herbs, especially dill. I often use a mix of dill, parsley, and chives, since those are all pretty mild herbs that Alma doesn’t object to. I’d like to try the recipe with other herbs like basil or cilantro or oregano or thyme, but Alma (at age 4) still isn’t a fan, so I’m nervous about changing the recipe and having her not eat it.

Size: The original recipe is actually for muffins, and is supposed to make 16 1/2-cup muffins. I actually prefer these croquettes a bit smaller, as there is more crisp outer and less softer inner portion. If I’m feeling energetic I will form them with my 1/8-cup ice cream scoop. Then the cooking time is closer to 20 minutes rather than 25. But usually I am lazy and make them with my 1/4-cup measuring cup.

Prep and clean-up: I usually prep everything by hand, and then I have to wash the quinoa cooking pot, a large bowl, a grater, a knife, and a baking sheet. To speed things up, you can use a food processor to chop the onions and mince the garlic, and to grate the cheddar. I’m not sure if it’s worth it though, because washing out the food processor is a pain.

Quantity, cooking ahead, and storage: What’s listed above is a double recipe. If you make 1/4-cup croquettes you will have enough to fill two cookie sheets, each with about 15 croquettes. I usually cook one sheet, we eat it for dinner, and I put the leftover croquettes in the fridge for another day. Then after dinner I cook up the rest of the mix on the same cookie sheet.  I freeze that second batch. If I’m in a rush I’ll pull a few out of the freezer and defrost them in the microwave. But if I plan in advance I will reheat them in the oven for maximal crispiness.

Note you can also just leave the second half of the mix in the fridge and cook it up later, but I find that it tends to get watery and doesn’t work as well after a day or two in the fridge. I do, however, like to make the mix and then refrigerate it a few hours until it’s cold. I find that the eggs tend to leak out of the croquettes less if the mixture is cold. Otherwise you get these rings of egg white around the croquettes.

Menu suggestions: We often eat these croquettes for breakfast with fresh fruit, or sometimes we have them for a quick lunch or dinner with just a simple steamed veggie like broccoli or green beans or carrots. Occasionally if we’re very hungry I’ll serve the croquettes alongside lentil soup or dal or a bowl of soupy black beans.

Original notes from Feb 2016

Note: The recipe above is my doubled version of the original recipe. For my first attempt I followed the (original, undoubled) recipe, but not perfectly. Instead of fresh spinach I 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.

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 croquettes are 22% protein, 23% carb, and 55.5% fat.

2 Comments

  1. My time-saving kitchen tips | The captious vegetarian said,

    […] I make quinoa spinach croquettes I make a large batch and freeze them for quick weekday […]

  2. Healthy vegetarian breakfast ideas | The captious vegetarian said,

    […] vegetable-containing breakfasts we occasionally make are quinoa spinach croquettes and cauli-tots. Both freeze and reheat well in the oven. Both contain some veggies and a little egg […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: