When I first started out on my journey to fitness, I spent a lot of time online looking for healthy recipes. One thing that I came across frequently was this newly-popularized superfood called Quinoa. It sounded too good to be true (even if it was impossible to pronounce… it’s KEEN-wah, by the way, not kin-no-a if you are looking to avoid my embarrassment)– a seed that is high in protein & fiber, loaded with antioxidants & nutrients, and cooks up and tastes just like rice. I headed down to Trader Joe’s to grab a bag to try out and never looked back. To be honest, I am a bit obsessed.
While the texture, when cooked properly, is very much like a rice, I find that it is much more flavorful. The taste is similar to a brown rice or couscous- a bit nutty but it absorbs flavors well. It tastes good on its own, but I primarily use it to add texture and flavor to my dishes. I look forward to sharing more of my family’s favorite quinoa recipes, but I couldn’t help but lead off my recipe posts with my go-to weekday breakfast – CRUSTLESS QUINOA QUICHE CUPCAKES. My old neighbor can attest to the frequency with which I made this dish. “Smells like it’s quiche day!”
I love to eat… like, it’s my favorite thing to do. I can’t sip coffee and nibble on a pastry to start my day. If I don’t get a solid, protein-filled breakfast in my stomach in a timely fashion, I am not a person you want to be around by mid-morning. I make this dish as part of my weekly meal prep for an easy and nutritious heat-and-go breakfast. (When I say “weekly meal prep,” what I really mean is the day that I run out of premade quiche or leftovers and I’m not running late to whatever my morning activity is). I originally tested out a few different recipes for quinoa quiche, but the one I will share is what I developed myself over the years. I actually had to stop and think about each step to make the tutorial, because I have made it so many times I didn’t even have a recipe around to refer back to.
Firstly, you will need to know how to properly prepare quinoa to get the proper texture. Calm down! It is easier than you think. Firstly, you must rinse the quinoa in a fine strainer to remove the bitter outer coating or saponin (I like to drop in complex, hard-to-pronounce words so you trust that I am marvelously skilled in the kitchen and value my expertise). You can prepare it easily on the stove top by bringing the water and quinoa to boil, simmering it uncovered until it absorbs most of the moisture, letting it sit a few minutes covered, and then fluffing it with a fork. However, I constantly get distracted by my children and other tasks and let it sit too long on the stove. My Super-Mom advice in this situation is to invest in a rice cooker if you haven’t already. I rinse the quinoa, toss it in my rice cooker coated with non-stick spray, add the water, put on the lid and walk away until you need it. It helps if the cooked quinoa has cooled a bit to work with, so remove it from heat once it is done until you are ready to use it.
Now for the quiche! A good chef always gets their ingredients ready to go before they begin cooking (mise en place if you are fancy, which translates to “everything in its place”). I am neither a good chef nor fancy so I typically rush to grab each ingredient just as I need it. I advise you to have everything ready to go at least the first few times you make it, so you don’t end up pulling out carrots and peas from the previous night’s quinoa fried rice after you realized you used the last of your supply. (Yes I really did that once. I reallllly wanted the quiche and already had the onion chopped). And just remember, you aren’t making a fancy soufflé… if you are slightly off on some of your ingredients or need to make a substitution, the result will still be edible.
For this recipe you will need:
One medium to large-ish white or yellow onion, garlic or garlic powder, black pepper, 3-4 big handfuls of spinach chopped, nine large eggs, cooking oil, one cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and approximately 1 ½ to 2 cups of cooked & cooled quinoa. Fresh veggies are best, but frozen can be substituted; just be sure to take a little more time toensure the moisture is cooked out of them before adding to the mix. For the cheese, sharp cheddar is my favorite, but I have used pepper jack & Mexican blends with success too. Also don’t get too caught up in the measurements… it isn’t rocket science. Just be sure not to short yourself on the number of eggs! I use whole organic brown eggs for the nutritional value, but if we bought the wrong eggs, I don’t panic. I never use any egg substitutes so if that’s your jam, you will have to figure it out on your own but egg whites do not provide the fluffiness this quiche needs in my opinion.
The first step rinse and cook the quinoa. Allow to cool slightly before mixing.
Preheat the oven to 375*F. (This is one of my least favorite steps to forget short of not ensuring I have all the necessary ingredients BEFORE I begin.)
Chop, dice or mince the onion as desired. I typically mince the onion because it makes it that much harder for my kids to pull it out if they find it in the dish. Heat the onion in your choice of cooking oil until it is translucent. We can debate the merits of different oils another time, but I typically use vegetable oil, olive oil or butter depending what is easiest to grab.
As the onion is cooking, I mince fresh garlic cloves and add it to pan after a minute or two. Cook until fragrant. A normal person would probably use 1-3 cloves in this recipe, but I typically go for 5-7 and maybe even add some garlic powder to top it off. (Garlic is one of my favorites! I often nibble a bit of the raw garlic as I am preparing dishes. Raw garlic combats the common cold and unwanted advances).
While those are cooking, I chop the spinach and stir it in as I remove the pan from heat. You just want to wilt it a little bit to help it mix more smoothly. Allow all of these to cool for a moment while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Combine the cooked & cooled quinoa and cheese in a large bowl. At this point I occasionally add some supplements to boost the nutritional value, but it is not necessary. Here I used kelp granules (about a teaspoon), ground flax seed (about 2 teaspoons), and nutritional yeast powder (about a teaspoon). I am not 100% sure what these all do, but they were in my doctor-recommended super-baby-food cookbook as easy ways to boost nutritional value so I throw them into anything I can. It makes me feel like a better mom and seem more pretentious when guests peruse my spice cabinet.
Stir the sautéed vegetables into the quinoa mix until thoroughly combined. Be sure that the onion and quinoa isn’t too warm or it is difficult to get the cheese to evenly incorporate into the mixture.
Beat eggs in a bowl with black pepper until blended. I occasionally add a splash of milk to the eggs, but it is not necessary. If you are looking for a time saving tip (or a trick to get a toddler from tugging on you throughout the process), have them mix the eggs for you. My toddler is a super good “cooker” as you see pictured. I just don’t recommend letting them crack the eggs for you if you… unless you are a fan of fishing out egg shells and washing multiple surfaces after cooking. Pour the eggs over the mixture and mix until combined.
Spray a standard cupcake pan with cooking spray or line with silicon baking liners. I do NOT recommend using paper liners. Using a ½ cup measuring cup or ice cream scoop, divide the egg mixture evenly between the 12 cups.
Bake in the 375* oven for 20-25 minutes until firm and slightly browned. Let sit until cool and use a butter knife or spatula to gently work the quiche out of the cups. At this point, you will curse yourself if you forgot to use cooking spray or silicon liners. Trust me… it is not fun trying to scrape broiled egg bits out of each little section.
Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. Between my 2-year old foodie and I, we typically finish eating a batch in about 6 days. I wouldn’t suggest storing them any longer than that. You can reheat them easily in the microwave for about a minute. They travel easily if you are on the go and also freeze well.
Well there you have it, my super delicious and nutritious way to keep your breakfast healthy and filling on those busy mornings. I hope that you enjoy the recipe and look forward to seeing your feedback on it. I really think that you will love it, but if you don’t… well it’s ok to be wrong. I won’t be mad at you.
If you like to plan ahead to save yourself some time, I have a few tips on getting two-weeks’ worth of materials almost entirely prepped in one day. Firstly, split the cooked quinoa in half and store the half you don’t use in a freezer bag. If you lay it flat in the freezer, you can thaw it easily on the morning you need it in a dish of warm water. You can pre-dice onion to freeze or buy it ready to go in the freezer section. But again, remember to cook out all of the moisture before adding it to the mixture to avoid a soggy, separated finished quiche. I also throw a few handfuls of the fresh spinach in a freezer bag. It prevents the waste I often get when buying a Costco-sized container of spinach (how can you beat that value). But the best part is that frozen fresh spinach shatters. Which means you can pull it out of the freezer, take out your aggression on the bag with a rolling pin, and skip the chopping step entirely.