Due to my position at PowerBar, I am often traveling during the week and over the weekend. Brett doesn’t love to cook, although he would tell you he loves to cook pasta, chili and hotdogs. Quite the repitoir…So, what I do, and what you can do if you leave home and want your family to still eat healthy is to cook a meal, or several meals for them to eat while you’re gone.
Here are two recipes that are easy to make, and can be used for both a meatless Monday, and a healthy lean protein meal. I made them for Brett prior to leaving for a race in Virginia Beach last week. Using quinoa (a fantastic seed high in protein and fiber) and sautéed veggies, I created both quinoa stuffed zucchini and a sautéed veggie and quinoa ragu sauce. Ragu sauce is typically a meat sauce, but in this case, I made both a meat and a quinoa macaroni sauce. This was the first time I’ve ever tried adding quinoa to a macaroni sauce, and even Brett agreed, it worked well and was quite tasty.
Last week my mom gave me an abundance of late summer/early fall zucchini and the largest carrots I’d ever seen. She loves to go to an Amish farm market and had bought too much for her to use. So, there I was trying to think about what to make with the veggies. The first thing that came to mind was a zucchini, carrot and apple muffin. But, I’ve made a lot of muffins lately, so I decided a main dish was a better option. I had some mushrooms and celery still in the fridge, so I decided on stuffed zucchini. Brett likes stuffed zucchini, but he gets more excited for meat dishes. We don’t eat a lot of meat, and not very much red meat. So, while I was gone for 4 days, I thought it would be a nice treat. Plus, if you buy lean high quality (organic/pastured/grass-fed) beef, you are getting good quality protein, zinc, iron, B vitamins and other quality nutrients.
Sometimes I make my own macaroni sauce, and other times I create a semi custom sauce. This time I created a semi custom sauce. Look for a lower sodium and lower in sugar tomato sauce and use this as a base. This can make your meal come together faster and still be fairly healthy.
First I sautéed the veggies (carrots first, they are the hardest), in a bit of olive oil and garlic. To the olive oil and garlic I added the carrots and cooked for 5 min. Then I added the onion, celery and mushrooms and sautéed an additional 10 min. Set aside when done.
While the veggies were cooking I cooked 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups of water. I let this cook and set it aside while finishing the rest of the recipe.
After getting the quinoa started, you can prepare the zucchini by cutting in half lengthwise and taking a spoon and “gutting” the zucchini. Set aside.
Once the quinoa is done cooking, add half of the sautéed veggie mixture and 1 cup of tomato sauce to it and stir. The rest of the veggies should be left in the saute pan. To this, re-heat to medium if it was turned off and add the meat. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Stir in 3 cups of tomato sauce.
At this point you should have one pot of quinoa, sautéed veggies with tomato sauce, the meat/veggie tomato sauce and the prepared zucchini. Since I was done with the meat sauce, I put in a bowl in the fridge for Brett to eat later(he had 100% whole wheat macaroni with the meat sauce). Then, I stuffed the zucchini and baked. Delicious.
Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini and Quinoa Beef Ragu Sauce
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, cooked in 2 cups of water according to package directions.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 large carrots, minced
- 3 stalks of celery, minced
- 8oz of mushrooms, minced
- 4 large zucchini-cut lengthwise and seeds/some flesh removed
- .75 lb of lean (90% or less fat) grass-fed/organic beef
- 4 cups of tomato sauce, divided
- Pepper and other seasonings to taste (Italian would be good)
- 1/4-1/2 cup Parmesan or 2% Mozzarella cheese (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Cook quinoa according to directions. Set aside
- Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and carrots and saute for 5 minutes. Add the onion, celery and mushrooms, and continue to cook another 10 min, until veggies are tender.
- Clean zucchini and cut lengthwise. Remove the seeds and some of the flesh with a spoon. You can add some of the removed flesh to the veggie mixture if you’d like to. Set aside.
- To the quinoa add half of the sautéed veggies. Add 1 cup of the tomato sauce and stir. The picture I took was before I added the sauce.
- To the other half of the veggies left in the saute pan, add the meat. Cook stirring till cooked through. When cooked, add the 3 cups of tomato sauce. Set aside.
- On a foil lined baking sheet, place the 8 zucchini halves. Stuff with the quinoa/veggie mixture. Cook for 15 minutes. (You should have quinoa mixture left, add this to the meat sauce. At this point you can refrigerate or freeze the sauce).
- At the 15 min mark, sprinkle with cheese and cook an additional 5 minutes. If not using cheese, cook for 20 minutes, or until the zucchini is somewhat tender, but not mushy.
- You now have 4 servings of stuffed zucchini and at least 4-6 servings of meat sauce for pasta, or spaghetti squash.
Nutrition for 1 serving of the Stuffed Zucchini= 2 halves:
- 34g carbohydrate
- 7g fat
- 8g protein
Nutrition for 1 serving of Veggie Ragu Sauce served with 1/2 spaghetti squash:
- 47g carb
- 19g fat
- 30g protein