Stuffed Zucchini with Arugula Quinoa

Call me strange, but I’m not always in the mood for pasta. Unless it’s freshly made, I feel like it’s just a filler most of the time. Food that is meant to fill me up without actually adding much itself. A vehicle for the sauce! 

So last night when I made thick Bolognese sauce, I loaded it into hollowed out zucchini. Instead of pasta, though, I paired it with spicy arugula quinoa. It's heavier than a salad, but lighter than a portion of pasta. And the flavors melded so well… spicy arugula, salty feta and bright lemon juice. Yum!
Not to mention quinoa is kind of a superfood*:
  • Great source of protein: It is one of the few plant-based foods that contains all nine essential amino acides necessary for our body to make protein.
  • Rich in iron: Helps transport oxygen to cells in our body. This also helps improve brain function, because our brain requires around 20% of our body's oyxgen. (Read more here)
  • High in fiber: Improves digestion and helps you stay full.
  • Contains Vitamin B2: Improves energy metabolism in the brain and in muscle cells.

Another fun thing about this meal is you can adapt the sauce. Want a meat-free meal? Skip the ground beef and add squash or spinach. Want a richer, creamier dish? Add a scoop or two of mascarpone cheese.

*For nutrition data on quinoa click here.

Stuffed Zucchini with Arugula Quinoa

(Serves 6) 
Total time 50 mins.

Stuffed Zucchini
3 medium zucchini
2 T. olive oil
1 large carrot, grated
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 ½ cups mushrooms, sliced (optional)
½ tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper
1 lb. lean ground beef
15 oz. canned crushed tomatoes
 ¾ cup gouda, shredded
¼ cup parmesan, grated

Arugala Quinoa
1½ cup quinoa
3 large handfuls of arugula
1/2 cup (200g) feta, crumbled
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Juice one lemon


Stuffed zucchini:
1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Halve zucchini lengthwise and use a spoon to hollow out the insides. Coarsely chop pulp and squeeze out extra moisture over sink. 
2. Bring pan to medium heat, add olive oil, zucchini pulp, onions, carrots and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes until they sweat off their moisture. Form a well in the center of the pan, add in sliced mushrooms and sauté until they sweat off their moisture.
3. Form a well in the center of the pan and add the meat, folding the other ingredients in as it cooks.
4. Add oregano, basil, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Add crushed tomatoes, stir and cook on med-low until it is a thick Bolognese sauce. (Start on Quinoa below)
5. Place hollowed out zucchini in a baking dish and generously fill with meat sauce.
6. Cover with cheese and bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.

Arugula Quinoa: 
1. Cook quinoa according to package.
2. Roughly chop the arugula and fold into warm quinoa.
3. Add in crumbled feta and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

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