A few months ago, a co-worker told me a story. One day, her six-year-old nephew realized that the meat he was eating—chicken, beef, pork—came from an animal that used to be alive. This concept upset him so much that he immediately declared, “I’m not eating meat anymore.”
At first, the family thought he would forget about it within a few days, but several months later, he’s still holding strong. Knowing that I follow a pescetarian diet (the only “meat” that I eat is sustainably-caught fish and seafood), my co-worker asked me for vegetarian recipes that her nephew might enjoy. I told her the first thing the family should do is introduce quinoa to his diet, since quinoa is a great source of non-animal protein, which is something her nephew would be lacking without consuming meat.
My favorite quinoa recipe for kids is for quinoa pizza bites. They’re a good source of protein and vegetables with the kid-friendly convenience of handheld delicious eating. My co-worker and her nephew made them that weekend and even he loved them!
I made these with mushrooms and spinach, but you can add any vegetable you want, as long as it’s chopped into small pieces (when dealing with picky eaters, I find that the smaller the vegetable is chopped, the more likely it is to be eaten). I’ve modified the original recipe, but it used pepperoni, which would work for the meat-eaters of the group.
½ cup quinoa
1 cup water
¼ tsp. salt
1 tbsp olive oil
8 cremini mushrooms, chopped
3 handfuls of fresh spinach
3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
Marinara sauce to serve
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Rinse the quinoa in a sieve under cold water until the water runs clear.
In a small pot, add quinoa, water, and the ¼ tsp. salt and bring to a boil.
Once boiling, cover the pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for approximately 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed.
While the quinoa is cooking and the oven is preheating, you can prepare the rest of the ingredients.
In a skillet, coat the pan with the olive oil. Add the fresh spinach and lightly sauté until just starting to wilt. Leaving as much oil/moisture in the pan as possible, put the spinach in a medium bowl.
In the same pan, lightly sauté the mushrooms until they start to brown. Drain and discard the liquid and add the mushrooms to the bowl with the spinach in it.
In a small bowl, whisk the two eggs gently. Add the eggs, garlic, basil, cheddar, ½ tsp. salt, and red pepper flakes (if using) to the medium bowl with the mushrooms and spinach. Add the cooked quinoa when it’s done and mix all these ingredients together.
Lightly grease a muffin tin and add a large spoonful of the mixture to each muffin cup. Press down on the mixture gently to ensure it reaches the bottom of the pan.
Bake for 20-35 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the accuracy of your oven temperature and how much of the mixture is in each cup. Use a rubber spatula to scoop the bites out after they have had about three minutes to cool outside of the oven.
Serve with marinara sauce for dipping.