Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Quinoa


I have been asked to teach an upcoming class with The Hunger Coalition on healthy cooking in the slow cooker according to the guidelines of MyPlate.  We are going to teach this class at the Wood River YMCA, and I think it is going to be tons of fun.  I have been asked to de-mystify cooking with quinoa across different flavors.  So I’ve been experimenting at home with some quinoa dishes inspired by various ethnicities.  My first is a “tex-mex” type flavor that my husband described as a “comfort food”.  My son liked it (he is a big fan of quinoa), and my daughter was a fan of everything except the spinach.  She asked me to replace the spinach with bell peppers next time, which I think is a great way to keep more in the “tex-mex” theme.  I’ve set up the recipe based on Nurture’s Recipe Framework for a Slow Cooker and MyPlate.

One thing I’ve learned about cooking quinoa in the slow cooker:  it works great, but it cooks fast.  So for best results, think of cooking everything else (broth, veggies, protein) on Low for most of the day (6-7 hours), then add the quinoa at the end and turn to High for about 1.5 to 2 hours.   If you leave the quinoa in the slow cooker all day, it will turn to mush.  Adding it at the end and turning up the heat works great and keeps your dish to a one-pot meal, which I love!

Tex-Mex Quinoa (to be served at the September 17 Nurture/The Hunger Coalition Class)

 Whole grains (~1/4 of your plate)
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed (I rinsed it ahead of time and left it in a bowl right next to the slow cooker, to add at the end)

Protein (~1/4 of your plate)
2 cans black beans, or any type of favorite bean—drain them and rinse them well

Fruits and veggies (1/2 of your plate)
2 cans of diced tomatoes* (I used fire roasted) –add with the liquid, don’t drain
2-3 bell peppers, various colors, washed and chopped
Chopped spinach (I put in a bag of frozen spinach, but my daughter asked me to leave this out next time; up to you)
*In our house the kids are not huge fans of onions, but I’d add some (maybe 1/2 onion, chopped) to the recipe if your family likes this flavor.  Another idea is to substitute one of the cans of tomatoes with an equal amount of jarred salsa, which already has the onions in there.  I think this approach would yield a more flavorful dish.

3-4 cups chicken broth (I used a 32 oz container of broth; use veggie broth if you’d like to make this dish vegetarian)

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder-more if you like
1/2 teaspoon cumin- more if you like
salt and pepper, if you like
If you are really into hot spices, go ahead and add some jalapeno peppers or even some tabasco sauce.  My kids are just not up for these kinds of spices in our house so I have not included them here.

 Dairy:  Sprinkle a shredded cheese (we used a 4-cheese Mexican blend) over the dish right before you serve it;  delicious! (Omit the cheese if you are going dairy-free).

 Directions.  Combine everything above EXCEPT quinoa and the cheese.  Cook in slow cooker on Low for about 7 hours, or if you make a double batch you can leave it at least another hour.  About 1.5-2 hours prior to serving, add the quinoa and turn to High.   Cook until you see the quinoa’s little white tails.  That’s the signal that the quinoa is done.  Add the cheese right before serving if you like.   

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