"Creamy" Spinach, Quinoa, and Yogurt Bake

One week in Paris. An apartment to myself. A schedule of my own to construct.
spinach and yogurt
I know you're in there, Secret Spinach. Don't try to pretend that this isn't healthy.
So why am I making a vaguely-origined “spinach bake” that really has nothing to do with Paris or Parisian cooking?

baked spinach
There are more steps than this. Why do I always
forget to take photos of the other steps?
Because I have no money. Because it’s easy. Because, hello! It's yummy. And healthy. And pretty.

I know that it may appall some of you that I have one week in Paris and I only plan on going out to eat twice, but if I paid for my meals at dining establishments all the time, I wouldn’t be able to travel anywhere. That $1 croissant starts to add up. Skipping seven croissants could pay for a grocery-store-purchased dinner that would cover two nights. Skipping 300 croissants just might buy me a flight to a new country. Just sayin'.

So at the expense of dining in, I am stepping out to see the world. I’ll stop waxing philosophical; let’s get down to business.

Overall, France seems to have missed the organic spinach train (it can be pretty soggy and biodegradable as far as trains go), so I was excited to see organic frozen spinach in a store in Paris. About $3 later I was home free.

Spinach is your friend. He (she?) has lots of connections (iron, calcium, protein, etc.) and can get you far in this world of evil foods. Make a salad, throw it frozen into pasta sauces, make spinach bakes, you know, run with it. 

So, what to make? Remember, John and I had a budget of $60 for groceries, so I had to make it work with limited supplies. And what goes well with basically anything?
cute chubby kitten
Nope, I’m not talking about kittens!
Quinoa! Quinoa is the answer!

OK, what else was in the fridge?

Yogurt (check), goat cheese (check)...

That’s all? Ok. Not Parisian, not French. Turkish? Greek? No place to call home? My little orphan spinach dish. Rich in flavor and low in fat, the yogurt adds the moisture but leaves behind the tang. You could even fool some people into thinking you used cream cheese, you trickster. Let’s Chow.
Yogurty Spinach Quinoa Bake 
(aka Cheesy "Creamy" Spinach Quinoa Bake)
·         16oz. frozen organic spinach
·          ½ c quinoa (just a bit for texture—if you'd rather make this more of an appetizer "dip" than a meal, omit the quinoa)
·         8 oz. plain yogurt
·         8 oz fresh goat cheese, room temperature (you can sub cream cheese or even feta, but note that the feta flavors will take over—which may or may not please you)
·        Hefty  ¼ cup golden raisins (or whatever color suits you)
·         2 tsp cumin
·         1 tbsp turmeric
·         Pinch cayenne
·         1 tbsp dried chives (or a handful freshly chopped)
·         Scant ¼ c red wine vinegar
·         1 tbsp Dijon (or not—I’ll be the first to admit that I currently  might have a unreasonable obsession with Dijon)
·         2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced into 1/4th-inch-thick rounds (or just enough to cover the top)
·         2 slices stale, dense dark bread, cut into little cubes or run through the food processor for crumbs (there's something I like about Mestemacher...)

Let the spinach thaw by setting it in some water an hour beforehand and squeezing it out when ready. Use those muscles, you chef, you.

Mix the raisins into the quinoa and make according to package directions. Throw the dry spices in with the quinoa to cook. Or throw in half and save the other half for the breadcrumbs, whatever.

Preheat oven to 350 at some point
bake raisins
The raisins are the odd duck here, but do not doubt their role in the scheme
Now, this is easy: mix everything together minus the tomatoes and bread once the quinoa is ready. You might have to slice the cheese up to help it blend with everything.

Line the tomatoes across the top, then the bread “crumbs”
spinach bake
You guessed it, this is the tomato layer part
Sprinkle salt, fresh cracked pepper, and a couple glugs of EVOO on top, then pop in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

Once it starts to get crispy-looking at the edges, turn the broiler on for 4-5 minutes (including the time it takes to preheat) for a little char action (charction?) on that bread. Keep an eye on that stuff.

Voilà! Take it out and pretend to be (or actually be) a vegetarian for a night.

The Savings: How much was this whole meal? Five, maybe six dollars total. It's cooking like this that enables me to eat well, but still save up for those occasions where I want to spend extra money on something exotic. This dish has a lot of flavorful yet cheap ingredients that combine for a very unique and foreign-themed dish. Make ya body feel good.

Oh, and don't be afraid to add this to your Meatless Monday routine (wink, wink).

Find more of my original vegetarian recipes by clicking here!

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